Thursday, August 27, 2015

Decluttering Tip: Only Display Photos That You LOVE

I have a confession: my house still looks like a model home. Since we took it off the market earlier this summer, I dreaded unpacking the boxes of personal pictures, so they sat in the boxes. And sat. And sat. 

I finally unpacked the boxes, but I haven't gone through and re-hung the pictures throughout my house. Part of me wants to trim down the number of photos I display and part of me wants to rethink my decorating strategy altogether. So they are piled up in stacks in my bedroom. It's an eyesore, for sure.
I was thinking the other day about which photos I want to put back out in our home. In our downstairs bathroom, there are two personal pictures. One of them is on a table that I look at every time I do my business. This picture genuinely makes me happy. 

I remember the day we had this photo shoot - Kaylin was struggling to warm up to the photographer, but as soon as we started walking around and swinging Ryan with a "1…2…3", everyone lightened up. My favorite part of this picture is an almost-two year old Kaylin putting her arms in the air too, pretending she was the one flying through the air. I just love this picture. 
Then there's the one above the toilet on a little shelf. I stuck this up there because I needed to fill the space and I do NOT love it. A friend offered to take pictures of my family while the kids all had chicken pox, so she had to use a million filters to make their skin look normal. The kids didn't feel well, so they weren't cooperating that day, and this was the only decent picture we could capture of the three of them together. I felt obligated to display it, at the time, but that was more than three years ago…why is it still out? It just never occurred to me to take it down, I guess.
I am finally ready to get our personal pictures back up on the walls of our home, but I have made the decision to ONLY display the ones that bring me joy every time I see them. If we were to have moved to Dallas, I wouldn't display photos that I didn't love!  So why do that, now that we're staying???
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Friday, August 7, 2015

#12 - Sign Jason up for football

Earlier this year, when we were still relocating to Dallas, I couldn't sign the kids up for a sport that lasted for many months, so I put them all in gymnastics. Shamefully, this was Jason's first activity. (my poor 3rd kid!)
All of the kids enjoyed it, but once we decided to stay in Phoenix, they all asked to give indoor soccer a try.  Jason loved it!  He is such an athletic kid - he was the first to sit down when the coaches called everyone in, the first to run to the correct field, the first to get in position. He just loved it!  
Not to mention that he was actually quite good. He was a great goalie, but scored tons of goals throughout the summer, too. Keep in mind, this was 3-5 year olds and he's nearly 6, but that shouldn't make too much a difference. Every Saturday, he took bets on how many goals he would score. Our guesses of 3, 4 and 5 were usually blown out of the water. Last weekend, he scored 9 goals and one of them was from the goalie box that he was guarding! 

He has the same reaction every time he scores a goal. It finally occurred to me to get my phone ready to take pictures when he had the ball. This precious face, arms in the air, is his celebration stance with every. single. goal. Priceless. 
All this was going to be a distant memory after we signed him up for football this fall. Unfortunately, when he found out he can't play tackle until 3rd grade and would have to play flag for a few years, he asked to play soccer again. 

I'm considering #12 crossed off my to do list because my kid is in a sport he enjoys. The point of "signing him up for football" wasn't for him to play football, specifically, it was to sign him up for a team sport of some kind. Which I did. 

Not to mention that in every other country on the planet, soccer IS football. So there!  Check, done.
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Thursday, August 6, 2015

#20 and #21 - Pray for Mike (and the kids) every day for a month

Some of the items on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list were included to create a habit. #20-21 fell into that category.

Sadly, I had to set an alarm on my phone every morning to remember to pause and pray for Mike and the kids. But it worked!  Usually, while I'm still in bed in the morning, I'll pray for their days, pray for direction as a mom, pray that the kids will get along and that I can respond to them gracefully.

Hopefully, I'll keep up this habit because we could all use someone out there praying for us!
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Sunday, July 5, 2015

#70-72 - Say three encouraging things to Ryan, Kaylin, and Jason every day for a week

I mentioned last week that I've been struggling with my kids' behavior. One of the actionable items I decided to try was to avoid focusing on (OH SO MANY of...) the negative issues with each of my kids and encourage them in areas where they were doing well. 

At first, this was not easy. The selfish, nasty, disobedient moments were so glaringly obvious, and I was so incredibly frustrated, that finding the positive was difficult. I'm not that it wasn't there, I was just having trouble seeing it. 

I put an alarm on my FitBit to go off four times each day. My wrist got a little vibrating reminder thoughout the day to give the kids a compliment or point out a reason that I was proud of them. All three kids weren't always around me when the alarm buzzed, but it helped me stop and be intentional about looking for something positive RIGHT THEN in that moment. 
It's been more than a week and I've seen a great response from each of my kids. Focusing on the positive has helped them step into the role with pride. 

Unfortunately, Mike has been working like crazy, so I wasn't able to cross him off of this task (just yet) because I barely saw him enough each day to say three encouraging things to him. BUT #70-72 are crossed off my 101 goals in 1001 days list

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Death to Super Mom

Wanna know a secret? I have gone through periods of wanting to be Super Mom. (*gasp*) Able to emerge from a phone booth with a beautifully lattice-topped pie! Able to leap large piles of folded laundry in a single bound!!  My cape would be an embroidered apron, worn backward.

Maybe it's the Type-A in me. Maybe it's because I like the occasional nod from others on a job well done. Maybe it's because I'm an only child and am an attention-hog at heart. 

Regardless, attempting to be Super Mom is a pride issue, whatever the actual reason. I feel like I've gotten better over the years, but I'm sure I still have a long way to go. I need to intentionally get out of "that mode" and focus on what really matters: the hearts of my children and my relationship with them. 

I know I've come pretty far on this journey. Ryan's birthday party is tonight and, although he chose a Clash of Clans "theme", do you know how much planning I've done? Exactly none. He wants Little Caeser's pizza for his friends…easy. He wants bowls full of horrible, processed snacks…fine. He wants a layered cake with gobs of frosting…done. 

We will have no color-themed table cloths or paper plates, no games or activities, in fact, I completely forgot about party favors until this very minute. (Uh, oops!) All he wants to do is hang out with his friends, play video games and gorge on junk food. Quite different from his Carnival-themed 5th birthday party with popcorn bucket cupcakes, volunteers to run the games, and face-painting clowns, wouldn't you agree?

It's great to make memories, it's okay to like things orderly, it's even fine to get a little over-the-top crafty from time to time, but we should all check our motives. Who are we trying to impress? How will our mood change if things don't meet our expectations? If a kid has a meltdown at the park…or that awesome new recipe is a flop at the BBQ…or if our house isn't immaculate when an unexpected guest drops by. What then?
I would challenge each of you to check your motives for doing anything on the Super Mom side of the chart above. Personally, I'm claiming DEATH to my internal Super Mom!!!
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Creating Character by Focusing on the Heart

I'm going to be honest: These last few weeks have been rough. I'm not sure if the problem is that the kids aren't doing well without the structure of a school schedule…or if it's actually (through clenched teeth) ME. 

I've spent so much time thinking about what is going wrong and how I can better handle it…nothing I do to help correct the situation seems to make a difference. I think I figured out that the root of the issue is the fact that the older kids have so many friends to play with (now that school is out for summer) that Jason seems to be lost in the shuffle. His playmates no longer give him the time of day, so he acts out to get negative attention. (Just to name a few examples: cheating at games, boldly lying, whining and crying when he doesn't get his way, even walking alone to a friend's house after I specifically said he would need to be walked over by a sibling because it was too far.)
It feels like I've been taking away everything of value to get everyone's attention: screen time, friends, I even told Jason he couldn't go to his beloved soccer practice one night because I just couldn't handle his attitude anymore. I gave him dinner in his room and told him I'd see him in the morning. 

I was out of ideas. 

Finally, I sat all of the kids on the couch and we talked about character traits that we should have as Christians: Kindness. Self-Control. Honesty. Obedience. What are they? Why are the important? I asked each child to pick one to work on. The conversation ended with Jason sent to his room, me yelling at the older kids, and I was in tears. What was I doing wrong?!?!

Then I found this article, which basically said that punishment does not change behavior. Interesting…and it clicked!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that parents with multiple children aren't constantly grounding their kids from friends or screen time for a day or a week…I was losing track of who was restricted from what just with two of my kids!!!

Then what do I do? I felt as if I've lost control as the parent.

Until I remembered Kevin Lehman's book "Have a New Kid by Friday". There wasn't enough time to re-read the entire book, but I remembered that I had blogged about the highlights years ago. It was exactly what I needed. 

I was spending so much time punishing my kids into good behavior (and wondering why it wasn't working) that I wasn't focusing on their hearts. Sure, they may behave for a while after they had their freedoms back, but their reasoning was to avoid getting in trouble again, not because it was the right thing to do. 

So I'm taking a different approach. I'm going to stop punishing my kids for bad attitudes, disobedience, and poor choices. Instead, I'm going to sit down and talk to them about what they did wrong, why it was wrong and help guide them into coming up with a better alternative for next time. I'm also intentionally going to focus on encouraging my kids in the things they're doing right instead of focusing only on what they are doing wrong. I've been wanting to cross that item off my 101 in 1001 list for months! Last, I'm committing to pray for them daily. Every morning, before I get out of bed, I'm handing control of this whole mess over to God. He's much better at dealing with it than I am!!!

This new method is taking much more time and energy, but I am positive it will be worth it in the long run. I'm already seeing small, but encouraging, results!
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Mom and Me Journal Idea

Recently, I have been looking for ideas for connecting with Kaylin in a special way. I want to make meaningful memories with her while she still thinks I'm cool, which might not be much longer.

A few weeks ago, I set aside some time for the two of us to do a self-esteem craft activity together. It was awesome!  My amazing, creative girl had no problem at all coming up with compliments for me, but when she was supposed to make a list of all of her best qualities, she was stumped. It was really interesting to work through that struggle with her. I strongly recommend that project to moms of tweens!

Then last week, I was poking around on Pinterest and found this gem. The idea is for a Mom and Me Journal…a private communication between a mom and child about anything and everything. Since I was always big into journalling, and I obviously love to blog, I fell in love with this idea. 

I stole the verbiage for the opening letter from the original link, then gave it to Kaylin and she lit up. She's already written me back about a friend-triangle situation that she doesn't know how to handle. I wasn't expecting so much depth so quickly!  

At the end of her note, she asked me not to share the journal with Dad or the boys…it's going to be just between us. She told me she wants to keep it in her keepsake box when it's full of letters so she can show her kids someday. She is SO my child.
I can't wait to see where this little project leads. Kaylin is my quietest child, by far…I can only imagine what that could turn into during her teen years. I hope we never get to a place where I have no idea what's going on in her head!  

I'm wondering if I should also start something like this with Ryan? But I get the sense that this is a huge deal to my sweet middle-child. 

I think I'll keep it just between us girls. 
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Friday, June 19, 2015

Finding the Rhythm of Our Summer

On June 1st, we began our "summer break" from school. Without any transition time, we just shut school OFF. The sudden change did not meet my expectations at all.

The doorbell rang constantly throughout the day. 

The kids immediately forgot how to play with each other or even within the walls of our home. 

There was no routine. 

No schedule. 

Griping and complaining when I'd need to run errands or take the kids with me anywhere. 

By the end of the first week, I couldn't handle it anymore. I wasn't able to get anything productive done, the kids were discontent all the time, everyone was getting on each others' nerves, it was a mess. 

I made a new rule: no friends until after lunch. You would have thought that I had announced that we were never going to leave the house again! But it was the only way to save my sanity. I cut 5 hours off of their (assumed) 12 hour play day and instantly got the impression that I had ruined their lives. But my mind was made up: We could spend the mornings going to the gym, running errands, getting chores done and doing a little reading, then after lunch was cleaned up, they could be free to roam the neighborhood. Boom, done.

It's been working out pretty well, so far. The kids have learned to play together again, I've instituted the routine of making a daily list, and on that list, they must play with their siblings and get along without fighting before I'll allow them to play with friends. It's a wonderful motivator. 

Jason has been struggling to get along with Ryan and Kaylin, so there have been a few days where he's been grounded. I'm trying to help him learn to play independently without the need for constant entertainment, but that's hard for the youngest child. I'll play Go Fish, Chinese Checkers or Sorry with him, but not all day.
Something else I had the kids do was to pick 4 books off of an age-appropriate reading list and I reserved them at the library. I'm hoping to broaden their reading horizons a little, plus, it gives them something new and different to read for the Summer Reading Challenge at the library. They're suddenly REALLY into earning points and stopped groaning at the idea of reading, knowing there are prizes involved. Thanks, Phoenix Public Library!!!

We're not taking the whole summer off…we never do. After 4th of July, we'll be back at it again. Personally, I'm looking forward to the structure again. In the meantime, the kids don't know that they're continuing to learn by watching science videos online, learning to draw by watching YouTube videos, learning to cooperate and follow directions by playing board games together, and increasing their reading speed by reading daily. Long live summer!
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