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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween on a Dime

Jules here-

Happy Halloween!! I'm awaiting Trick or Treaters as I sit and type this- though we have had a few, it has not been the onslaught I predicted.  So, as I am typing, I am taxing my over-full candy dish... mmmm... 

My children did not want to go with our normal "theme" Halloween and my budget was less than $15 for ALL of the costumes.... How did I manage? Beg, borrow, and steal (well, look for steals at thrift shops...)

First, Grace. She wanted to be a cowgirl.  Luckily, she was brave enough to ask a couple of classmates to borrow cowgirl boots AND a hat. Two items down, check! She already had jeans, but she needed a few additional accessories.
Costume cost:
$0- Borrowed hat
$0- Borrowed boots
$0- Previously owned jeans
$1.50- Flannel Shirt
$0.25- Bandanna

Total costume cost: $1.75
Second, Felicity wanted to be a chicken. Yes, a chicken- I don't know why.  I looked everywhere for a chicken costume to no avail.  So I had to be creative, and spend more money than I intended.  I bought a chicken hat on Amazon.  Turned out to be AWESOME.   We had white pants, an old white sweater of  mine, and a white long-sleeved undershirt.  I did have to buy a fluffy scarf for the wings/tail and some hospital sock chicken feet.

She could put hat up for visibility too.

$5.95- Chicken hat
$0- White accent clothing, previously owned.
$2.00- White scarf from thrift shop
$0.25- Yellow chicken feet hospital socks

Total cost of costume: $8.20

Lastly, James- who KEPT changing his costume idea. So, instead of asking him anymore, I borrowed a Spiderman costume from my awesome-former-neighbors!! So a FREE costume!! He loved being a superhero too!
$0- Spiderman costume

Total Cost of Halloween Costumes: $9.95--- Woo Hoo!!!
So, I bought an 8 pack of glow sticks for safety on their costumes AND 3 pairs of gloves to keep their hands warm tonight!

Halloween total: $14.95 (not including the ridiculously expensive candy that we have to hand out...)

Oh and my last minute Halloween costume? Clark Kent. 

$0- Old sunglasses with lenses pushed out.
$0- Superman pajama shirt- previously owned

Total cost of awesomeness- Free.
The group shot!


Easy Rule #1031002- You don't always have to make things from scratch for them to be cheap!! I spent less this year than last year's homemade debacle.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Picture it

Ems here:

Here are a few of the happenings around our home as symbolized through pictures .

1. My oldest two boys are now in "regular" school in 7th grade. We have mixed reviews :

Although academically and socially both boys are doing great, Theo resents the early wake up and the lack of free time.

2. In an effort to sneak in a healthy vegetable to my children this week, I put spinach in the dinner smoothie. 

My kids were horrified, and I heard the question "why are you making us eat grass and parsley?!"

3. I've recently been inundated by a flood of questions while about town with the kiddies, trying to ascertain if the children are actually mine. Someone asked if they came from my body. Others ask if I am fostering or if I have adopted all these children. One man asked if I run a home daycare! To all these folks, I present this handy cheat sheet:

4. Baby Gemma is starting to be trouble! She is crawling now and pulling up to stand using everything imaginable--tables, chairs, laundry baskets, siblings, etc.  Here she is eating illegally obtained cookies: 

5. I've rediscovered an addiction to Swiss Cake Rolls. Please pray for me.

6. The fall sports' seasons are wrapping up! Lacrosse mini-season is over, and the whole family came out to support my team for their scrimmage. Thanks, Hubby!

I'm holding Gemma while taking the picture, of course.

My soccer dudes:) Jojo and Tad have also joined the ranks of soccer kiddos this season, so we've been busy game-watching and cheering!

I think that pretty well summarizes life these past couple months (outside of this pesky cold that's been haunting us!). Hope all is well with you, Dear Reader(s).

Easy Rule #4552: Spinach is too visible to hide in smoothies. (Note to self:  Maybe try Swiss Cake Rolls?)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm a better Mom when...

Jules here-

Sometimes, I'm a better mom when I wear sweatpants.

When I wake up in the morning and throw on yoga pants for the day-  I am willing to snuggle on the couch and read stories. I am more likely to clean my home as I don't fear bleach stains or spills.I will chase them around the playground and sit on the grass with them. I don't worry about wrinkles, stains, or tears when I wear sweatpants.
Hair salon victim, I mean customer...

Sometimes, I'm a better mom when I don't shower.

 My imperfect hair is a perfect canvas for my little hairstylists to add dozens of bows and hair clips. Their "hair salon" leaves me with seven ponytails and a few braids and they love when I model in front of a mirror.  We head bang along to the Bohemian Rhapsody with wild hair. Unshowered, unwashed, we have more fun.

Pancakes- Not just for holidays!
Sometimes, I'm a better mom when I serve breakfast for dinner.  

Instead of laboriously making a well-balanced meal, I serve pancakes and waffles drenched in syrup.  The kids love the "no vegetable" dinner and they gleefully eat crispy bacon with sticky fingers.  We discuss their school days while flipping pancakes and I have the time to enjoy dinner without the huge mess in the kitchen. 
The mess of last years moving....AAHH! So glad to be done that.

Sometimes, I'm a better mom when I leave dishes in the sink.  

Some nights we have giggly dinners with Knock Knock jokes and silly stories- instead of rushing to clean the kitchen- I let it go.  I let the mess go to enjoy the fun tangential conversation that typically end with James drooling with laughter.  I let them take dozens of toys out and we create villages, train stations, battle scenes- we enjoy the imagination and creativity without the fear of mess.

Sometimes when I am not the perfect mom, I actually am.

Easy Rule #42342- Relax a bit, drop your guard, experience ever day.

Easy Rule #324234- When you aren't a "perfect" mom- you don't often take pictures. Sorry none of the photos really make sense....

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Teaching Respect

Jules here-

While at Marshalls the other day, I overheard (well, the WHOLE STORE overheard) a little girl (maybe 4 years old) throw an epic tantrum about wanting this Hello Kitty purse.  Apparently, the price was a bit too steep for the parents and they were trying to reason with the child.  Of course, the little girl wanted this purse and she did NOT want to wait until they went to Wal-Mart to see if it was cheaper...etc.... etc... etc...  The parents continued to promise this child the purse no matter what- and they were frantically searching on their smartphone to see if the "same exact purse" was available cheaper.

Now, I have had children throw fits in stores before; I have been blushing from my hairline to my toes as I sling a child over my shoulder and storm out of the store.  But, I would never ever acquiesce to a demanding, selfish, and unreasonable kiddo in a store.  Am I perfect about always disciplining? No- I will bribe a kid with chocolate bars to smile during a family reunion shot or continually let them eat lollipops at the doctor's office even when they are not behaving as expected.

Note the freaking out James. Even candy-bribe didn't work 

So after my viewing of the tantrum, I witnessed another family:  two teenage children at dinner with their parents.  It was a family-style restaurant: casual dining, noisy kids, cheap food- my kind of place.  The teens were glued to their phones the ENTIRE meal.  At one point, the mom sheepishly asked them to put away their phones- not only did they NOT acquiesce they smirked at her.  The father did nothing expect shrug.  Respect has left that family....

What has happened with families that the parents have lost complete control over their children? I think it's a few things combined in our culture:
  • Parents have been taught to "not trust" their instincts.  Online you can find ten different ways to handle every situation: from bottle feeding to spanking- parents can feel guilty about anything.  It used to be if your child acted up- you dealt with it. You didn't look online for "strategies" you just did it. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't look for support or advice- however, make sure you aren't just looking online to find excuses. It's really easy to laugh when someone says, "Oh you let your kids watch 4 hours of TV a day? So do I! Then that's normal!!"  Make sure you are challenging yourself to parent wiser not just look for people who support your not-so-great decisions.
    You better read all these so you can raise your kids.
  • The undermining of the family through "family" programming.  When we watch Leave it to Beaver now, we scoff at the portrayal of the family life: perfect wife & mother with a hardworking, knowledgeable father and respectful children.   Starting in the 1980s, the father became the buffoon.  Even family-friendly shows like Home Improvement or Everybody Loves Raymond- the mother's became the sole source of knowledge and family-management.  Once in awhile the father would have an insight, but usually the mother was the hero of the story. 
    This is hilarious though :)
  • Children's books, shows, and movies.  After all the wonderful picture books I have read my children, I looked forward to great "first" chapter books for Grace.  Though we love the Magic Tree House Series and a few others, many of the books have snarky lead characters. I really don't like the Just Grace or Judy Moody series because the stars are rude, disrespectful, and flippant with their parents. These books are geared for 5-8 year olds-- we are teaching children to talk back, make snide comments, and not listen to us!!  Have you tuned into the Disney Channel (not Disney Junior)? Parents are portrayed as idiots and the kids are constantly talking their way out trouble.
    Good fun reads! Great as an audiobook too.
  • Laziness. We have become the quick-fix society. I get impatient waiting for the microwave or my computer to load up. In our instantaneous society we expect our children to behave after 1-2 attempts at discipline.  It takes THOUSANDS of reminders to have your child to remember to say "Please" or "Thank You"-- imagine how long it takes to build a child's character? Umm.... literally forever. My mom is still working on me :)  I know that many times I don't feel like "dealing" with a kid, but I know that in the long-run, getting off the couch might save me tantrums later. 
    This happens to me too often....
  •  Culture of snippiness.  Stemming back to the "family programming," I often hear husbands and wives sniping at each other in front of the children.  It's fine to disagree in front of the kids- it's not o.k. to constantly disrespect your spouse in front of them.  Teaching your children to resolve conflicts in a respectful way is a wonderful skill to give them.  If you are constantly degrading each other, the children will learn that too.  As the children get older, they will mimic that same lack of respect in their tone and obedience. 
    Especially true with parents.
Create a culture of respect in your home- from being polite to each other to surrounding your kids with positive role models in books, movies and TV.   Be very aware of how this culture will later shape how your children will respond to you in their more "tricky" teenage years.  Learn to handle their outbursts, talking back, and frustrations- you are bigger than they are now.... use that advantage!

And you know you may have over-used a parenting strategy when this conversation was overheard in the shower:

"Don't complain about the water!" Said Lissie

"Why?" Grace said.
"Mommy will come in here and tell us about the children in Africa who have to bathe in mud puddles!"

Easy Rule #45445- Let your kids tantrum in public. Most people will smile knowingly that you are willing to "stick to your guns."  And who cares about the other people who are judging you.

Easy Rule #34234- No parents are perfect, but stay strong- every effort is worth it!


Here's a little Frozen bonus that Grace is INSISTING that I put on the blog... only for those of you who actually read the blog posts to the end shall enjoy....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Finding a Balance

 Jules here-

Milkshakes after surviving another week :)
I know I just posted a couple of weeks ago about how I am surviving the start of "real school", but I wanted to focus a bit on how my girls are surviving this massive life change.  First, as a mother AND an occupational therapist I have a unique perspective on school.  On one hand, I love that my children are getting the structure and routine of the academic world. My children have to learn how to sit still, follow multi-step directions, and attend to a variety of tasks-- which are all KEY to surviving in the workplace in the future.  However, as an O.T. I understand child-development- and much of the school day is often too structured for a child to experience the proper developmental milestones in a natural way. Plus, if a grown up can't sit through a half-hour meeting without getting 'spacey' how do we expect children to focus for so long?  Play is a child's job.  That is how human development works....
Controversial but interesting perspective!

Though Grace is doing well academically, she is overwhelmed with the rigidity of the classroom experience. For example, Grace said, "I love art class, but you have to make what she says, not what I want to make!"  Is that defiance or is it simply creativity? After Kindergarten, it's rare that a child has a chance to have any "free expression" time through art, writing, or music.  I think certain children might need a bit of a creative outlet without the structure- sort of like recess for the mind.

I am trying to find a balance for her- I am setting up more unstructured crafting for her- paint, glitter, sequins, etc.- so she can explore a bit after school.  So far, she has made several Christmas presents and she looks forward to that time each day.

I also find reasons for mini-celebrations- such as our Half-Birthday parties. Luckily, my girls are born five days apart so I can save half the cake.... I gave Grace the icing, sprinkles and food dye so she could dabble at the bakery arts for an hour.
Yummy half birthday cake!
Recess is fantastic for giving the children outdoor time and the gross motor/vestibular stimulation that children need- but, I would still recommend encouraging that wild, upside-down play their bodies crave when they get home.  From climbing mountains to hanging on the monkey bars, I challenge my kids to get moving when they get home.
Hay jumping!

Does she love school? Nope. Is she surviving? Yup. We are still adjusting and every week is a challenge.  I love that she has friends and she enjoys music and art- those are areas that homeschooling often doesn't provide as well.  I miss the freedom to explore topics that interested us but I am glad someone else has to force her to do daily math...  I can definitely see the perks in both lifestyles.

Easy Rule #54354- Sometimes your work can help your home life- I am blessed to have a career that complements my parenthood.

Easy Rule #7897- When life stresses you out, bake a cake. Or just half of one.
Time to eat!