Friday, November 29, 2013

Why Picking ABC Gum Out of the Garbage Can is a Bad Idea

Because apparently Extra brand gum does not get hard when it sits in the garbage can after someone has already chewed it...apparently it only gets stickier.  (And please note, it is also on his neck, under his chin.)  In case you are wondering, an ice cube does will harden the sticky stuff up.  Using a Kleenex-not such a good idea.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Ensure You Win the Community Coloring Contest

Send subtle (or not so subtle messages).

For those who don't read 6 year old spelling...upper left corner-Please pick me

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holiday Shopping with a Purpose

Consider making your money do double duty this holiday season by purchasing items from organizations that provides jobs to families around the world in need of employment or by supporting families who are fundraising to provide a home for a child in need.

Noonday Collection-fun, funky, and colorful jewelry, scarves, bags and more
The Noonday Collection supports over 1, 000 women in business from all over the world.

The Apparent Project-jewelry featuring Haitian metal art and recycled cardboard beads, also sell bags, Haitian metal art wallhangings, ornaments, and journals
The Apparent Project provides employment for Haitian men and women.

Compelled Designs-ceramic jewelry and ornaments
Compelled Designs supports a variety of ministries through the sales of their items.  For the month of November, 75% of the proceeds from sales will be used to support orphans who need heart surgery.

ViBella-Beaded jewelry, purses, and more
ViBella provides employment for women in Haiti, Mexico, and the US.

2nd Story Goods-Jewelry, home goods, and bags
2nd Story Goods provide employment for people in remote Haitian villages.

Trades of Hope-Bath and body products, jewelry, handbags, scarves, hats, ornaments, and more
Trades of Hope provides employment for women worldwide and also allows adopting families to fundraise by selling their products.  (If you'd like to shop this site and help an adoptive family, go to Angela's link which will help support the adoption of their fourth daughter from China.)

Supporting families adopting

Little Did I Know blog-adopting Macy, age 3, from Haiti
Currently doing a coffee fundraiser

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Wow! You're a Big Family" Controlling the Chaos Tidbit #2-Money as an incentive

Money seems to be a motivator for my kids.  I also want to teach them about managing money and good stewardship.  So while we have some jobs in our house that are chores that our kids do simply because they are a part of our family, other tasks in our house become paying jobs which my children can earn money for.  The more icky tasks like picking up dog poop out of the yard are worth the most while simple tasks like dusting are worth less.  The kids can offer to do those jobs at any time.  Often on Saturdays, when we are taking the time to do more of a deep clean, the kids can pitch in and get paid to help. 

The money also works as a consequence too.  If you ruin something that belongs to someone else, you need to pay for it or replace it which means you have to get a job.  (ie pick something off of the chore list so you can earn some money)  If you have been asked several times to put something away and have not done it, Mom and Dad pick it up and it goes into the basket on the top of the fridge and you have to pay to get it back.  

Regardless of whether they are earning it or spending it, I try to take the time to make them count out the money to practice their math skills.  For example, we just sold our play kitchen.  Each kid earned $3.33 since we sold it for $10.  So the two big kids had to count out their portion of the profits before they could put it in their banks.  Since my kids are just at the point in school where they are learning about money, I make sure to simplify it a bit so they are only counting like coins to start with.  So in this case, I made .33 with 3 dimes and 3 pennies which is easier to count that a quarter, a nickel, and 3 pennies.

We also have banks that have 3 sections to them for spend, save, and share.  I can't say we have any stellar strategy for consistently using this but I think right now, it's just important to get the idea in my kids' heads that you can do those 3 things with money.  The kids often will grab a handful of their money to take to church, will request to go to the store to spend their money, or will use their money to order books from a school book order or popcorn on the days our school does popcorn fundraisers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Learning Curve

I've been a mom for over 7 years with at least one child actually in my home for almost 5 of those 7 years.  However, it's easy for me to overlook certain things, to be frustrated by behavior and be a slow learner in terms of figuring out how to deal with that behavior.  This week was no exception.

One of my kids was being a real pain.  Sneaking candy out of the cupboard.  Taking a sibling's toy that was put away after being told to leave the toy alone.  Refusing to do even the simplest of tasks without a battle.  Being told to stop and quickly doing the action a few more times just because.

With this particular child, you cannot out consequence the behavior.  Think a spanking might change the behavior?  I'm willing to bet you could spank until bloody and the child would still not change the behavior.  Think taking away toys or priveleges will affect the behavior?  This child would end up spending every night alone in an empty bedroom and still be having behavior problems.  What about writing sentences or doing extra chores?  Um, all that gets you is a headache from nagging to accomplish the tasks because the child drags their feet and refuses to complete the tasks.

I am not saying this child does not get consequences.  What I am saying is that if you are trying to change the behavior by creating a consequence that is so negative, so awful that this child will think twice about doing it again, if that is your goal, you will fail.  It is instead about the heart.  For this child, when inclined, everything becomes a power struggle.  It's a way to maintain control.  And the response to consequences are no exception as the child wills themselves to outlast you (even if that has never happened and even though the child can verbalize how this type of power struggle never works out well for them.)

Consequences cannot be the reason the child stops; consequences instead are a natural outpouring of what happens because of a certain behavior.  If you take your brother's toy, you must apologize and do a kindness for him.  If you color on your dresser, you clean it off.  (And then the next time you want to get the crayons out at the table, I remind you that you have been having problems being trustworthy with the crayons so I'm not sure you can handle the crayons at this moment but perhaps tomorrow will be a chance to try again.)

So if consequences do not change the heart, what does?  And what does this have to do with Mama learning a lesson yet again?

The traditional parenting approach might find you as a parent becoming even more hard nosed.  The parent might continue to apply consequences until the child's will breaks.  But for me, this was a time to consider why these behaviors were surfacing.  The aha of "oh yes, Mama is leaving for 3 days.  This kiddo is feeling out of control because of that."

So how do you regulate that?  How do you empower your child to feel back in control?  By making them feel safe and secure and loved.  By spending more time with them.  By holding more and talking more and hugging more.

And sure enough, the words started to come with a few tears as well.  "I don't want you to go."  "Why can't I go with you?"  "I'm afraid you will get hurt in a car accident."

In no way does the state of the child's heart excuse the bad behavior.  The child still has to deal with how their actions affect others.  But if I as the mom can get to the root of the behavior, then perhaps I can reduce the feelings that are causing the behavior and reduce the bad behavior.

It's whispering in their ear at church as you sing a song about the very presence of God, reminding them that even if Mama is gone, God is always there.  It's encouraging that child to ask for a hug rather than feeling badly all alone. It's reminding them of a Bible verse like "When I am afraid, I will trust in You."   It's hearing the child say "Oh yeah!  There's our picture up there!  I can just look at that and see you!"  It's hearing the child say to their dad on the morning after I leave, "We're going to be just fine."  It's a papa who lets the child sleep in his bed while Mama is away.

It's shoring up the child's heart rather than breaking the child's will.

 (Now too bad I realized what was really going on the day before I left rather than the week before when all the power struggles were happening...)

Minnesota Trip

Zeke, Kai and I got back late last night from our whirlwind trip to the Minneapolis Shriner's Hospital.  We went up on Monday and came back on Wednesday.  Yes, it was 8 hours (or so) one way.  Yes, my children did amazingly well, even the baby.

We stayed with our friends who also have a little girl from China with limb differences.  (And her 4 brothers and sisters.)  Zeke had a ball.  He played so hard.  I also loved that I got to catch up with my friend, Hilary, and that she was able to help with the baby during the doctors' appointments.  She actually just returned from a trip to China so she was a bit jet lagged but I love that we are the type of friends who can not feel the need to make things "perfect" in order to be comfortable with each other.

Wrestling before bed

So cute to hear her yell at Zeke "Buddy!  Buddy!"
As to the appointments:

We met with a limb difference specialist and a prosthetic specialist first.  Essentially, we just talked about if there is anything Zeke can't do that he wants to do.  (Um, not really other than the monkey bars but he's only three and that's probably going to be a challenge always.)  The prosthetic specialist showed us the variety of devices that are available which gave us a better idea of what might help Zeke.  As of right now, I don't know that there is anything that Shriner's offers that Zeke needs to use.  For Zeke, he has a wrist on his side that is missing the hand.  This means that he has the ability to bend that and grasp things with that wrist.  Adding a prosthetic to that side might give him a pincher type grasp but it would also take away any sensation that he has on that side.  So he might gain a bit more fine motor ability for grasping on that side but he would lose the sensation of gripping which is one of his strengths.  They do have an electronic hand that would definitely help with fine motor tasks on that side.  However, because of the electronics involved, it's very heavy so it is more for an older child.  The other piece of equipment they showed us was a prosthetic with assorted "attachments" for the hand.  (Think Dremel tool attachments.)  Basically the "hand" unscrews and can be interchanged with a variety of tools to be used for specific tasks like throwing a baseball or catching a basketball.  At some point, we will probably have one of those made but right now, he doesn't have enough need for something like that.

The major part of our appointment was spent consulting with doctors on the possibility of a toe to finger transplant.  I haven't had a chance to fully talk it over with D but I do feel like I got a much better understanding of what the procedure would entail.  With this specific surgery, Zeke's second toe would be removed and placed beside his pointer finger to create a third finger on his left hand.  This toe would bend and create a tripod grasp for him on that hand although the bend would not be quite as good as what a finger would normally have.  The new finger has the growth plates from the toe in it so it will grow just like any toe would normally grow.  This means the toe would never be as long as a normal finger but the doctor thought that given Zeke has a shorter pointer finger, the difference in size would not be as noticeable.  They would also somehow shift his big toe and third toe so the toes would be closer together, thus reducing the gap created by removing the second toe.   The risk factor really consists of the toe dying and not successfully attaching to the finger.  For this reason, Zeke would be sedated for about a day after the surgery to give the blood vessels a chance to do what they need to do to connect the toe to the hand.  This risk is small though as the success rate for the surgery is approximately 95 to 97 %.  The surgery would be done at Mayo in Rochester and would require a 4-5 day stay.  When Zeke was ready to come home, he would have a cast on his hand and his foot for about a month.  We would then do another trip to Minnesota to remove the casts.  In terms of follow up care (physical therapy, the ability to walk and balance on the foot, etc.) there is essentially none.  The doctor just performed this surgery on another little boy and was hoping that his family would be willing to share their experience with us so I'm really hoping we will hear from this family soon.

So that's the the hard part-deciding what to do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tidbits for Family Living #1

"Wow!  You have a big family!"

Those aren't words I ever imagined having people say about us.  When we were dating, we did talk about family size and I thought that 4 kids seemed like a good number but I guess I never considered that having 4 kids made you a large family.  (Still don't but apparently a lot of other people think differently.)

Perception aside, I do think any family has their own way of doing things that makes their lives run more smoothly.  I am always curious how other families manage their lives and love hearing good ideas from other moms and dads.  So I though I'd start sharing some of the strategies we use around here to keep the chaos and noise to a dull roar.

"Wow!  You're a Big Family" Tidbit #1
I try hard not to do for my kids things that they can do themselves.  When I hear someone say that their kids don't do any chores, I am always amazed.  I want to say "Get ahold of yourself!  Make your life easier!  Put your kids to work!"  (Rationale about making your children responsible citizens aside.)  So that's strategy number one.  All of my kids (except Kai) have chores.  The big kids have a morning chore and an evening chore.  In the morning, one of them feeds and waters the dog and the other one empties the garbage and recycling.  After supper, one of them cleans off the supper table and sweeps under the table and the other sorts the laundry into darks and lights.  Zeke just earned the responsible of unloading the plates and bowls from the dishwasher.

Some tricks to making chores doable?  Rearrange things so that it works for your kids.  Our plates and bowls are not up high in the cupboards. They are in a bottom cupboard on a shelf so Zeke can reach them.  Our dog food is in a container with a lid that is easy to open.  The kids use a small hand broom to sweep under the table. Our laundry room is set up with two sorting baskets for lights and darks.

We also rotate chores each week for the big kids so they don't have to always do the same chores.

Be flexible.  Will your kids drop plates and break them?  Yep.  Will they mess around in the laundry room and throw your underwear up in the air and get it stuck on the curtain rod?  Yep.  Will they spill the dog food and drop the bowl full of macaroni salad in between the kitchen and the dining room?  Yep.  Just expect some goofy kid behavior and some mistakes.

And I don't always wait for them to do their chores.  If the garbage needs to go out and the kids aren't home, I take it out.  If I need the dishwasher unloaded so I can run another load of dishes, I unload it.

What about whining and being a slow poke?  It all depends.  Sometimes I just let them poke around and reap the natural consequence of being slow.  (ie missing out on another activity)  Sometimes, I consequence it by making them do the chore again the next week.  Sometimes I give grace and offer to help so it goes faster. Sometimes I try to lighten the mood by playing beat the timer or by asking them to pick a song to listen to and then turning to that on Spotify.  And sometimes I yell...but don't tell anyone.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Photo Dump-Kai

Watching the Huskers

Hanging with the big kids while they do Legos

What happens when you have older siblings who play with you-you end up with every toy you own on your lap

Just some shameless baby photos for the grandma-I'm a blue eyed, ginger haired boy

Looking like my grandpa on my mom's side, I think

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall is here...or maybe it's winter...

Within the span of a week the tree in our backyard went from green to brilliant yellow to completely leafless.  The kids love climbing it; however, maybe not today since there is snow in the forecast for tonight.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gender Issues

Apparently, we're not over the gender issues associated with the baby.

Conleigh:  Senora Sikorski (the Spanish teacher) is having a baby!

Mama:  Yes, do you know whether it's going to be a girl or a boy?

Kenson & Conleigh:  A girl!

Conleigh (very dryly):  I wish we could trade our baby for her baby.

Kenson:  Why?  I hate girls!

I guess that's slightly better than Conleigh's original reaction to having a boy which were about punching the boy baby in the face...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Build A Hand Workshop

In a few weeks, we (the baby, Zeke and I) will be traveling to Minneapolis to meet with the hand surgeon and a limb differences specialist at Shriner's.  Part of our conversation will entail discussing what the options are for prosthetics or other assistive devices for Zeke's right side which is missing the hand.  I do not yet know exactly what they will recommend but I do know that I will be bringing up the possibility of building our own hand for Zeke using the technology that is available with 3D printers.  It's crazy!  If you have access to a 3D printer, you can "print" your own hand.  The printer will layer layer after layer of plastic together to create the pieces and then you assemble it yourself.  The price tag would probably range from $65 to several thousand dollars but are much less expensive than a regular prosthetic.

Check out this video to see exactly how it works: