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It’s ok to be the mean mom

Today was supposed to be my first day “back” to work after 2 weeks “away.” I put those words in quotations because I work from home. My kids have been on Christmas break for 2 weeks now. One week was spent out of town with family and it was glorious. The other week was spent here at home and it too was pretty great, but about 2 days ago my kids starting getting on each other’s nerves and because I’m not a saint, I’ll admit they were starting to drive me crazy too.

So I was looking forward to January 5th, the day when 2 of the 3 kids headed out of the house for 8 hours and I could head to my desk to dig back into work while the youngest played with all of his Christmas toys (and the toys his brother and sister got but won’t let him play with). I really love my job. I really love who I work with, even though most of our interactions are via email, text and conference calls. I love the creative work I get to do and the purpose behind it. I was not sad about going “back” to work.

However, we live in the Midwest. Lo and behold, snow swept through the metro last night and I woke up to find that school was canceled.

Sigh.

You’re going to have to believe me when I say that I love my kids. I really do. But having them all in the house today has made my non-mom job very difficult. God is good and gracious and reminded me of how precious they are, and that my role as their mom is to train them and disciple them to glorify God with their lives. He created them, after all, and Jesse and I have the privilege to steward our relationships with them well.

I adjusted my attitude, prayed for patience and dealt with interruption after interruption. Some were legitimate (“Can you help me get my glove on?”) and some were not so I had to gently remind them that I was working and they needed to figure out said problem on their own.

So this is my frame of mind going into the post-lunch clean up. At that time, the boys, ages 5 and 7, began to run around upstairs while they waited for me to get a movie set up. We have rules in our house (gasp!) and one of them is that all roughhousing, running and wrestling need to happen downstairs. As I watched them run through the kitchen (where I was cleaning up) another set of thoughts began to seep in:

“Oh don’t tell them to go downstairs. They’re just kids. Let them be. They just need to run off some energy.”

“You’ve been busy with work today. You’re not a good mom because you’re not spending this snow day baking cookies, making snow angels and snuggling with your kids on the couch.”

“Be a fun mom for once.”

So I let them keep running.

And a few minutes later I heard a loud crash. The 7-year-old had run into a large potted plant and the entire thing had fallen over. There was dirt and water all over the floor.

“Great,” I thought, “this is just what I need right now.” I tried to remain calm as I saw my son was near tears. He knew he had made a mistake. I confirmed with him that it was a mistake and mistakes are ok to make, but he needed to make it right. The clean up took FOREVER and I had to work hard at being patient at his somewhat pitiful efforts. As I helped him clean up the mess, I couldn’t help but reflect on how my thoughts had been thwarted.

it's ok to be the mean mom

This picture doesn’t do it justice. Really. I promise.

Jesse and I are the parents in our house. (I know, big surprise.) Which means we set the rules and expectations in our house, not the kids. So why is it that I failed to stick to a clearly set rule of not running around upstairs?

I gave in to one of my idols of being liked. It is my lifelong struggle to care too much what others think of me. I just recently have seen how that thinking sometimes seeps into my parenting. The reality is, I want my kids to like me. I don’t want them to be angry with me. I don’t want them to get mad at me.

So guilt infiltrated my thinking today. I felt guilty for working. I felt guilty for not doing ALL THE THINGS our Instagram feeds tell us other “good moms” are doing. I set aside the standards of our house in exchange for approval  . . . from a 5-year-old and 7-year-old, and from the non-existent observers that judge me as a “good mom” or “bad mom” based on what I do.

How ridiculous was my thinking today??

Fellow moms, fellow parents . . . do you ever struggle like I did today? Do you ever cave to what the world says we should be as parents? Our culture says we should give our children what they want. That we should make them the center of our lives. This kind of thinking is turning normal people into harried, stressed, and guilt-ridden parents.

Before we had our first child, my husband and I talked earnestly about the fact that we were already a family. The focus of our family was Christ. When children entered our family, they would not become the new focus. Instead, they were given to us as good gifts that we should disciple and train so that they will one day grow up to glorify God with their lives. This was how we thought 10 years ago and this is how we still think. Yet, it’s easy to let the cultural parenting norms of our day seep into our thoughts, especially when we see everyone else’s parenting displayed on social media for all the world to see (and approve of or judge).

The running boys and crashing plant today reminded me that it’s ok to be the “mean mom.”

After the whole ordeal was done, I actually talked with all 3 kids and told them that I was sorry for not being consistent. I asked them if they remembered what the rule was about running around upstairs. Every single one of them remembered perfectly.

When I decided to set aside out predefined rule, that was not me being a good or fun mom. It was actually me being a “bad” mom. I demonstrated to my children that the rules in our house are flexible. Sometimes there are consequences, sometimes there aren’t. Can you imagine living with that kind of inconsistency as a child? It’s anything but fair. It’s chaos for a child.

I apologized to the kids for not being consistent and then I asked them if God is consistent. The 5-year-old said no which tells me this whole conversation might have been a bit over his head. But I digress . . . This whole stupid plant ordeal (that is really not that big deal AT ALL . . . but also, my picture doesn’t do it justice) gave me an incredible opportunity to remind myself and the kids that God is NOT like me. He is consistent. He tells us how we can receive redemption from our sins in the Bible and that truth doesn’t change. He does this out of love for us. Everything God every does for us is out of grace and love.

So thank the Lord that He does not parent us like I parented my children today. I want to encourage you parents, but especially moms, that it’s ok to be the “mean parent” at times. You have such an amazing and precious task as you raise children. You get to partake in the glorious task of teaching a child about our consistent, gracious God who finds joy in us despite our sinful hearts. As you parent today, remember this:

Having rules and expectations for your children is GOOD.

Expecting your children to abide by those rules is GOOD.

Following through with consequences when those rules are broken is GOOD.

Following up with hugs, love and reconciliation is VERY GOOD.

We have the amazing opportunity to point our children to Christ by doing our best to model how He parents us. Yes, you will mess up like I did today. And because God is consistent in his love and grace you can know that the gospel is still true today, it will be true tomorrow and for the rest of eternity.

Oftentimes, when you feel like you’re a “mean” mom, you’re actually being a very, very good mom. Keep it up, fellow mean moms!

If you liked this post, you may like my other posts on parenting. 

Saying good-bye to the little years

Tonight, I tucked in my 4-year-old for the last time and as I left the room, it felt like I had tucked away an era of parenting.

Tomorrow our youngest and last child turns 5 which means I’ve become quite sentimental lately. What is it about the age of 5 that makes a child seem so much older than age 4? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Perhaps it’s because a 5-year-old can go to Kindergarten while a 4-year-old still qualifies for story time at the library with other preschoolers.

Maybe it’s because 5-year-olds can express themselves with words more easily than a 3 or 4-year-old who is more likely to throw a tantrum if things don’t go his or her way.

age 5 is an end of an eraAs I began reflecting on why I’m sentimental about my son’s 5th birthday, I noticed some things in our house. Or rather, I noticed some things missing from our house that had at one time seemed so permanent.

Our kitchen no longer has baby spoons and bibs shoved into a drawer with old rags and kitchen towels. I threw away the sippy cups when we moved a year ago. The lids were dinged up and I could see chew marks on almost every cup. Around the table, the absence of high chairs and booster seats is a fading memory.

Tucked away in a closet that used to hold a pack n’ play are games like Sorry, Chutes and Ladders and Connect Four. That stroller I used for our first child is long gone, as is the double stroller I replaced it with when our youngest turned 1.

Our car has booster seats where complicated car seats were once strapped in with hooks, buckles and a forceful test by my husband to make sure everything was secured correctly. If grandparents want to take the kids in their own car now, it’s a simple task to pull the booster seats out.

In the bedrooms, we no longer have a changing table full of diapers, wet wipes, creams, snot removers and extra burp cloths. The bins of clothes divided by months are long gone. I remember how full my 0-3 month bin of girl clothes once was. The bedtime songs have begun to fade away as well but they still creep up every once in awhile.

The bathroom is missing a potty chair and the toothbrushes on the sink look much older than the cute little baby toothbrushes we used to scrub at their tiny little baby teeth.

Don’t get me started on our books. I have entire shelves of board books that we haven’t read in over a year. You better believe I pulled one out to read tonight just because I’m the Mom and I can do what I want. And yes, I have “Moo, Baa La-la-la” memorized. Currently, my oldest  is reading Harry Potter books, our middle child is reading basic chapter books and the almost 5-year-old would rather look at an “I Spy” book.

With my youngest turning 5 tomorrow, I truly do see an end of an era in our parenting. I’ll never forget the day a few months ago when I was standing in the back of church watching a young mom hold her first and only child. It suddenly struck me that I wasn’t her anymore. I was no longer a “young mom” with a baby on her hip. I had moved beyond that phase in parenting.

While I knew the phase of endless diapers, sleepless nights, crying babies, potty training, and constant discipline would one day come to an end, (and there were days I hoped it would come sooner rather than later), I didn’t realize it had already snuck up on me so quickly!

I tried really hard to treasure the baby/toddler/preschool phase of parenting because that’s what every mom who has gone before has told me to do. And every mommy blogger guilts me into that same sentiment, too. So believe me when I say I tried.

I tried to treasure each squishy baby hand, toddler kiss, and late nights of nursing. I committed to memory (or my phone) as many toddler language mishaps as possible. With every “first” I tried as hard as possible to soak it all in.

But still, it all had to end.

Tomorrow I step into a new phase of parenting. One of my sister-in-laws told me that I’m entering the “golden years.” Tomorrow I will have a 9, 7 and 5-year-old. They are young enough to still enjoy being around their parents and old enough to be able to do a lot of things we can all enjoy together. Because let’s be honest: there is nothing to enjoy about Caillou if you’re 5 or older.

I’m excited about phase 2 of this parenting gig. I am grieving the loss of phase 1, but I am ready for phase 2. I know there are many more phases to come . . . oh my do I know this. And if you’re a mom a few years ahead of me, do a sister a favor and give me some pointers and advice, ok? Please tell me all those things no one told you about parenting elementary age kids. While we’re at it, I’ll take any advice from any mom who has successfully raised human beings to adulthood.

Someday, these 3 precious kids of mine will actually leave my house. It’s hard to imagine but I know it’s true. Now that I know these phases really do end, I can’t help but wonder how my mom did it. During my first week of college, I remember her either emailing or calling me to say how hard it was for her to go in and clean out my room after I’d moved out. I pictured her boxing up my things with memories of my childhood running through her head.

This is what I’m mentally doing now. I’m boxing up as many memories as possible of the baby/toddler/preschool years. I’m going back and rewatching videos of those cute toddler voices and funny baby faces. I will grieve the end of this season of life, but I will grieve with joy. It’s healthy to say good-bye to a hard but good season. They were good years in so many ways.

Ok. I think I’m ready to transition into phase 2 of parenting. Good luck to all of you parents out there still in phase 1. I won’t tell you how fast it goes because you already know fast it is going. Plus, you may want to punch the next person who reminds you of this and I’d prefer it not be me. I will tell you this, though: you can do it. Literally, millions of moms and dads have gone before you and come out ok. You can do this!

 

You be responsible for you. I’ll be responsible for me.

It’s that time of year again.

School uniforms are pulled out of the closet and washed. Curriculum notebooks are dusted off and piled on kitchen tables while a parent creates a lesson plan. School supply lists are printed and items checked off in the busy Target aisles.

Parents everywhere are planning for another year of school and moms are feeling all kinds of emotions.

Some (like me) are elated that kids are going to be shuffled out the door every day to trustworthy and reliable teachers. Other are crying tears as they prepare to say good-bye to an unscheduled summer routine with their kids.

Those that send their kids to private school feel the pinch of monthly payments. I have homeschool friends that are thrilled to be starting another year while some are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it all.

Another kind of emotion is also running rampant this time of year. Many moms feel frustrated and defensive. And that makes me feel sad for them. 

A homeschool parent posts a first day of school picture on Facebook and someone writes a comment that says they are starting too early.

A public school parent shares their excitement about the kids going back to school and someone comments on how they “can’t imagine sending their kids off to strangers all day” because they’d worry about them. The public school mom feels judged while the homeschool mom was just stating an emotion they themselves would feel.

The Montessori Mom posts a picture of her child walking into a unique classroom and some public school moms roll their eyes at the “hippy education.”

A private school Dad posts a picture of his kids in their smart school uniforms and others make comments offline about how “it must be nice to be able to afford a private education.” Sadly, comments like these are also made on social media, too.

This should not be.

Here is the deal, all you fellow moms and parents: You are responsible for you, and I am responsible for me.  

“Who are you responsible for?” is a question we ask our kids A LOT. We ask this when we notice them worrying unnecessarily about a sibling. We talk with our kids constantly about taking care of themselves because we know it’s in their nature to want to point out someone else’s faults rather than take ownership of their own actions. They love to make sure their siblings are doing what they think they should be doing.

I feel like we as parents need to ask ourselves this question when we are tempted to make judgments about another’s educational choices: Who are you responsible for?

I’m responsible for my time, talents and resources and I’m responsible for my kids’ education. I am responsible for me and mine.

My husband and I have talked and prayed about which educational choice is best for our family and each kid. The decision we came to is public school and we love it. It’s been good for our kids and family on so many levels. It suits us and our personalities.

One of my best friends from college homeschools her kids. It’s such a good fit for her. I honestly cannot imagine her enjoying all of the things I love about public school. And that’s not bad! It’s just different! She and her kids are thriving as a homeschool family.

Another friend sends her kids to a Montessori school. She is one of those persons who likes to investigate, research and do hands-on activities. She’d rather take her kid on a slow walk to explore every twig and bug. She is not rich but she and her husband make their budget work so they can send their kids to a Montessori school.

I also have a few friends and family who pay for private school. None of them are “rich.” They make different living and spending decisions so that they can send their kids to private school because that is what they feel is best for their kids. It works for them.

Each of these parents that I’m thinking of are fully capable of making a decision for their child’s education. Fully capable.

And you are too.

No one else is responsible for your kids other than you. Yes, lots of people help you raise your kids. Baby-sitters, teachers, doctors, grandparents, aunts and uncles all help you, but you are responsible for you and yours. 

So parents, post those first day of school pictures and don’t feel like you need to defend your choice of education.

Moms, (and a few Dads, I’m sure) try not to feel insecure/ashamed/offended when someone leaves a comment that (perhaps) wasn’t even meant to offend. In the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off.”

Who cares what someone else thinks of your choice to homeschool? You know you are doing what you feel is best for your kids. You know your kids and your family and your finances and your personality and your season of life better than anyone else.

Trust your instincts and don’t look to anyone on social media to affirm your choice in education.

You be responsible for you, and I’ll be responsible for me.

It’s not my responsibility to worry about what you are going with your kids each day from 8am-3:pm. It’s not my responsibility to determine whether your child should be pulled out of public school and homeschool for a year because he’s behind. That’s your deal. And if you’re my friend in real life, I will gladly listen to you as you process the pros and cons and when you decide what to do, I’ll bring you chocolate and hugs and tell you, “you can do this!”

For my friends on social media, here is what you can expect from me:

When you post a first day of school picture with all of your kids in bare feet, I’ll hit “like” because I truly love that almost all homeschool first day of school pictures have kids in bare feet. They don’t need to wear shoes to school! It’s awesome.

On Instagram, I’ll double tap the screen when your picture of 3 kids with matching uniforms passes across my feed. Those kids seriously look so cool. Mine probably have mismatched t-shirts and basketball shorts on. Just trying to keep it classy around here . . .

I love when a friend shares their first day of school picture on Twitter because I’ll reply back that I’m super excited to be sending mine off to the best school in the world too. (No seriously-our school has the best teachers in the whole entire world.)

You Montessori moms, I will like your picture out of pure admiration because I think it’s awesome that you’ve set your mind on making sure your child gets the education you think is best. I love that. I really do.

You be responsible for you, and I’ll be responsible for me.

This parenting thing is no cakewalk. Let’s all trust that our friends on social media are doing what they think is best for their kids’ education and applaud their efforts. We ALL need at least that.

Get your children to do chores this summer without going broke

Allow me to introduce my system.

Hey, all you parents out there about ready to embark upon a long summer of kids at their feet . . . this blog post is for you!

If you want to get your children to do chores this summer, you will need a good system in place. For the past 2 summers, I have tried to implement one. Both years, my system was a bit of a flop. 

We tried a system that involved a folder and a dollar bill for each day they completed their set list of chores. We tried a daily checklist and a weekly allowance. Both systems involved us needing cash on hand and it cost us more than we thought it was worth. Another reason these systems probably didn’t work was because of the ages of our kids.

But this summer . . . .

I was determined to find a system that worked!

And I think I did it. I finally developed the (almost) perfect system to get my kids helping around the house and doing it (mostly) on their own. Which is one of the most important parts of a good system, amiright??

You see, I’ve worked from home almost my entire motherhood and once the kids started going to school, working from home got a lot easier. However, that meant summers also became quite a challenge. I needed my kids to be more independent in the summer so that I didn’t have to micromanage their work or time. Of course on the front end, it’s required a lot of time and effort from me, but a week into it, I’m seeing this system manage itself.

So what is this “system” I keep talking about? I’ll go into way more detail in the rest of this blog post but here is the basic gist of it:

Each day there are “jobs” available for our kids. We post these on our Job Board. Each job is worth a certain amount of tickets. If they complete the job and do it well, we pay them in tickets. These tickets can be cashed in for certain privileges (special treats or screen time).

It costs us basically nothing.

Our kids help around the house.

Their screen time is limited.

What’s not to love??

Ok. So now you know the basics of our summer job system. I’ll take some time to explain in detail how we make it work. Stick with me. I know it’s a doozy of a blog post! If you just want the downloadable PDF, scroll to the end of this blog post.

The nitty gritty of the system.

First of all, you need to know the ages of my kids. They are 8, 6, and 4. This system is really designed for the 8 and 6-year-old. We’ve modified it for our 4-year-old and I’ll explain that in the Appendix. Overall though, if you have children between the ages of 6 and 12, I think my system will work for you.

**Anything in bold below is part of my free PDF.

Step One: Prepare your children.

A week before we began jobs, I posted the Job Board along with the various jobs and the Job Shop on the hallway wall. Of course, the kids were curious so we began talking about what jobs they’ll be able to do and how many tickets they will earn for each job.

Get your children to do chores

We explained how they would have to pay for certain privileges with the tickets they earn doing jobs. 

Spending a week talking about the summer jobs that were coming up got them excited. They asked questions and began dreaming about how they would spend their tickets. Our 6-year-old was determined to earn enough tickets to buy ALL the privileges in one day. He’s the ambitious one while the 8-year-old is the diligent one. So we’ll see how that pans out . . .

Get your children to do chores

The night before our training day, we actually had interviews. It was hilarious. I let the kids go into the oldest’s room and work on them together. My daughter (age 8) helped the 4-year-old with his application. Once they were done, I brought them out one by one and gave them some interview pointers like looking the “boss” (my husband) in the eye, smiling, and answering the questions clearly. I recorded the entire interview for the 4-year-old and I definitely caught some nose picking. He was still hired, though.

Step Two: Train your children.

Get your children to do chores

On the first full day of summer, I set aside almost an entire day to train my kids on each job on the Job Board. Here is how I ran my training day:

  • 9:00am-Kids gather around dining room table for part 1 of training
  • Pass out the Job Procedures Worksheet, Reading Log, and journals
    • Explain journals and Reading Log and where those will be kept. (I keep mine in a drawer in our dining room so all 3 kids can easily access them at any time they want to read or journal for 30 min.)
    • Teach kids how to set the timer for 30min using the microwave timer.
    • Show them how to fill out the reading log after they read for 30 min.
  • Work through the Job Procedure Worksheet.Get your children to do chores
    • Have kids cut out the pictures of the supplies from the bottom of the worksheet.
    • Glue the appropriate supplies to the corresponding job. (ie: to clean the toilet they cut out a paper towel, toilet cleaner and sponge.)
    • After they cut out and glued all of the supplies on the worksheet, we took a dance break! We cranked up Justin Timberlake’s new song “Just Dance” and danced our way around the house. I ended our break time with a cookie. This is an optional step. 🙂
    • After the break, we filled out the worksheet step-by-step until we’d explained how to do each job.
    • Then it was time to actually DO the jobs.

I’ll be honest . . . this next part took longer than I thought it would. In fact, I had to put the 2 boys to bed for a nap after we cleaned the bathroom because I realized they’d had a late night, were over tired and we were all low on patience. I made an executive decision to move the rest of training to the next day.

At the beginning of our Training Day, I told the kids they would get paid 5 tickets if they worked hard during training. That gave them motivation and was leverage I could use when they were losing interest.

Now that the kids were trained, it was time to see if this system actually would work.

 

Step Three:  Put your children to work!

Get your children to do chores

I created pictures of the jobs using clipart found on Google and PicMonkey. They sit on my kitchen counter near the “cash register” I made out of a cardboard yogurt box. Shortly after I wake up each morning, I grab some of the jobs that I want/need completed that day and place them on the Job Board. I’m using paper clips to attach them to the edges of my Job Board but you could use sticky tack or something else.

Around breakfast time, I usually announce to the kids that new jobs are up. One day this week I had all of the bathroom jobs available (toilet, mirror, sinks, bathtub) and only one kid claimed one job (the mirror.) While that meant I had to clean the bathroom myself, it also meant the kids saw that they earned hardly any tickets that day which meant they didn’t have much to spend the next day.

But guess what . . . . they spent that day playing outside, pretending in their rooms, and they earned tickets other ways by reading and writing in their journals. This is still ultimately a win for me.

 

Step Four: Pay your children.

Get your children to do chores

Our currency includes the faces of their cousins.

For us, we decided that a job has to be approved before they can get paid. This might not be the case in a few weeks when they are better at their jobs, but for now, I feel like I need to come in and check their work when they say they’ve cleaned a toilet.

Once I can see that a job is completed to my satisfaction (please note-that doesn’t mean it looks perfect),  I go get the appropriate amount of tickets from the cash register and pay them. I remind them to go put the tickets away in their ticket bank that they decorated after interview night.

Get your children to do chores

This is how the youngest decorated his ticket bank.

 

Step Five: Allow them to spend their tickets!

Here is our Job Shop. These are what we have as privileges in our house and how much they “cost.” (T=1 ticket)

get your children to do chores

The way we do this is that they can cash in their tickets any time of the day as long as their daily chores (see Appendix) and their chosen jobs are done. So far, the oldest is best at saving her tickets for the bigger items like Wii time and Netflix time, and the youngest wants to buy a special treat each day. 🙂

Now, one of my concerns was that I’d have kids coming to me every 5 minutes asking to buy something from the shop. I thought I may end up spending a lot of time organizing their screen time they’d paid for.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Really, they didn’t spend many tickets each day-only enough to buy a treat. It wasn’t until Friday when they cashed in most of their tickets for screen time. I think, all in all, we had the iPad on for 30 minutes once this week and the Wii on for an hour. That’s it! The rest of the time the kids were busy reading and writing to earn tickets, or pretending and making up their own fun since they knew they didn’t have enough tickets to have screen time.

This is what I love most about this system.

My kids know their parameters.

They know what is expected of them if they want screen time or a special treat.

They know what their options are for keeping busy during the long summer days.

In so many ways, it’s a self-managing system! I love that the kids can make independent choices. They don’t HAVE to do any of the jobs. But they chose to do a few so they can earn privileges. Then they get to choose how they spend their tickets on those privileges.

I love that my kids are learning independence.

I love that they are learning the value of work.

I really love that it’s not costing us hardly anything and it helps me with household chores. I really love that one. 🙂

That is the basic gist of my system. I’m going to go live on my Facebook page tomorrow at 2pm CST (on June 7th) if you want to jump on and ask me questions about all of this. It may seem a little overwhelming, but I promise it’s actually pretty straightforward once you get it up and running.

OK, are you ready for the FREE downloadable PDF?? 

In my FREE downloadable PDF you will get:

  1. The Job Board (what I use to post available jobs)
  2. The Job Shop (with my rewards and ticket prices)
  3. The Job Procedures (what I use for Training Day)
  4. The Job List and Instructions for Finding Clip Art 
  5. The Job Application (for your kids to complete before an interview
  6. The Reading Log 
  7. The Tickets 

Get the PDF here. You’ll have to enter your email to get it but don’t worry . . . I hate spam. Your email address is safe with me. I’ll never sell your email address and I won’t bombard you with emails. Promise.

Here is what’s NOT included in the FREE PDF:

  1. No clipart/images for the jobs or supplies. Sorry folks, but I don’t own the images I used for my own jobs and I can’t distribute those. You will need to find your own pictures/clip art or take your own. This is better for you, though. I’m all about the super powerful cleaning supplies that are laden with chemicals. If you prefer more natural cleaning supplies, you’ll want pictures of those things to show your kids. But don’t worry . . . included in the PDF are instructions for finding clipart.
  2. Personalized tickets. I made tickets with pictures of my nieces and nephews on them. These are the cousins my kids hardly every see because they live all over the world. If you’d like me to personalize your tickets with pictures of your kids, family, dog, whatever . . . go here.
  3. Fun and creative tickets. I also created a bunch of fun themed tickets (animals, aliens, flowers, etc). I’ll be adding more in over the next few days.

That’s it, folks! Below I have an Appendix that tells you a few miscellaneous tips to make sure this works well for you and your family. If you want to read another popular blog post read my guide for creating a safe and secure Gmail account for your child.

If you are someone who wants to learn the fundamentals of blogging, join my Blogging Facebook group or get my Blogging 101 Course! 

Appendix:

  • For kids younger than 6, this is what I recommend:
    • Many of the jobs on our job board require some prep work. We call this the Picker-Upper job. This entails picking things up off the floor before vacuuming, clearing off the sink to be cleaned, taking things out of the shower before cleaning, etc. While our 4-year-old can sort of clean a sink or mirror, it’s not the greatest job and it’s a little bit above his capabilities. So we told him that his job is to be the helper. If one of the kids chooses to do a job that needs the Picker-Upper, that’s his job and we usually pay him about the same as the person that does the actual job.
  • Rules for the day:
    • All daily chores must be done before any jobs are done and before they can play. “Chores” include picking up their room, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, making their bed, etc.
    • In general, all jobs must be completed by lunch time.
    • They can only buy one of each special treat per day. We have not had to enforce this one yet but they may eventually have enough to buy 2 ice cream sandwiches and 2 popsicles in a day and we don’t want that, now do we? 🙂
  • Sharing privileges
    • If one child pays for 30 minutes of Wii time, he/she is welcome to invite siblings to play with, but it is not required. Same for Netflix or movie time. If one child wants to play/watch alone, the others cannot watch.
    • Children can combine their tickets to pay for a bigger ticket item like a movie in the basement.
  • We only use this system on Monday-Friday. Though if we find it would be useful to run it on the weekends we may adjust and do that.

get your kids to do chores

A Mom’s Guide to the Apple Watch-Daily Life

a moms guide to the apple watchI’ve had my Apple Watch for almost a full month now.  I still regularly look at it and think, “This is AWESOME.” Yes, I could do life without it. Yes, it’s an unnecessary gadget. But it’s made so many aspects of my work/stay-at-home-mom life much easier. Today, I want to talk about all of the ways the Apple Watch has changed how I do life as a Mom. Stay tuned for more posts this week as I’m doing an entire series on the various aspects of the Apple Watch.

Siri-Siri and I have become really close lately. I talk to her multiple times a day. I’m that weirdo who now talks into her watch. But you guys . . . . I’m actually doing a lot more “hands free” mothering now! The watch screen automatically turns off when my wrist is lowered and it turns back on when I raise it. So as I kindly, but firmly, tell my 4 year old that he needs to stay on his bed for a well deserved time out, I walk out of his room, raise my wrist and say, “Hey Siri, remind me to get Colton in 4 minutes.” Boom. No more accidentally leaving a kid in time out for too long. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this.) This leads me to my next point . . . .

Reminders-if you already have an iPhone you’re probably familiar with the Reminders app. I had used it for grocery lists and to-do lists before but now I’m using Reminders like a mad woman. Some examples include:

“Hey mom, I’m nervous about the pacer test in PE tomorrow. Can you pray for me during PE time?” Said to me while my hands are dirty from a meal preparation.

“Mom, I’m supposed to bring money for popcorn on Friday.” Said to me while I’m driving.

“Julie, don’t forget to put the recycling out, please.” Said while my husband gives me a kiss good-bye in the morning and I’m busy getting 2 of our 3 kids ready for school.

In all of these examples, the last thing I wanted to do was interrupt the task at hand to go get my phone and type it in as a reminder. Now, I simply raise my wrist and say, “Hey Siri, remind me to send money with the kids on Friday at 8:30am.” I do it quick and move on with my task. It literally takes less than 5 seconds. Of all the things on my Apple Watch, I probably use Reminders the most.

apple watch listGrocery Shopping-Hallelujah, my Apple Watch makes me sing when I grocery shop! I previously owned a Pebble watch and loved it. Until it didn’t always work with my phone as both devices received multiple software updates. After a certain point, the list function on my watch stopped working. And on the Pebble, I could only see 20 items on any given list. (Ladies, when was the last time you went grocery shopping for your family and only had 20 items on your list??) So now that I have an Apple Watch, I can see my entire list on my wrist. Picture this: you’re walking through the store, pushing a cart full of food, trying to remember your menu for the week, and the kid in the cart keeps asking you a zillion questions. Sound familiar? Grocery shopping, though one of my favorite things to do, can be a bit chaotic with kids at times. Now I merely need to glance at my watch to check off an item and see what else is left. Both hands are free to push the cart, pick up food, and sometimes squeeze the cheeks of a certain 4 year old that is often with me.

Social Media-Admit it Moms, sometimes you just need a 5 minute social media break. And then it turns into 20 (or 30 or 40 . . .). You can check notifications and scroll through feeds for both Twitter and Instagram right on the Apple Watch. Which is nice, because I know I’m not usually tempted to spend more than a few minutes starting at my tiny watch face. So I get my social media fix, then I move back to the real world which involves answering an endless stream of questions and dealing with all the bodily fluids of my children.

apple watch textAutoresponder-As a mom, I’d almost always rather multitask, which is why I love texting over a phone call. I can be working on one thing, quickly respond to a text and go back to whatever I was doing. So my husband knows I’d prefer to text than talk unless it warrants a longer conversation. The auto responses on my watch are awesome since we are like most married texters. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t 90% of texting between a husband and wife about what to pick up at the store, an upcoming event and if it’s time to lock the children in their rooms for the night? One time, Jesse and I were at my parents and I was on the 3rd floor putting the boys to bed. He texted me from the basement to ask if our daughter should take a shower or go to bed. When I hit reply, I was given my regular list of options to reply (yes, no, no thank you, ha ha ha, etc) as well as the options he gave me in the text: shower, bed. All I had to do was select “bed” and it sent the text back to him! I replied to his question and went back to tucking our boys into bed. Efficiency at it’s finest!

I should mention that there are some disappointments to the watch. Maybe disappointment is the wrong word.  Perhaps, my expectations were wrong. I think I had hoped I could tell my watch to do almost anything, search for anything, all while I was around my family. No more stepping away to look at my phone. You should know that there are many tasks that you may ask Siri to do in which you will be told to use your iPhone. For example, you can’t search Google directly from your watch. But really, who wants to search for something on a small watch screen? If you think your watch is going to be a wrist version of your phone, you’ll be disappointed. If you think it’s a tool that will help do various tasks throughout out your day, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Stay tuned. I’m covering fitness, productivity and more with the Apple Watch every day this week!

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Christian mom, stop being so afraid.

Everywhere I go, I see it.

Fear.

It’s plastered on their faces like chocolate on a 3 year old’s cheek. It’s almost as if they don’t notice it’s even there.

Christian mom, you must stop being so afraid.  I get it. You’ve been told that children are a blessing. Rearing children is the most important thing you will ever do, they say. So you don’t want to screw it up.

All over the place I see Christian moms placing their children on a spit-up encrusted shrine in their hearts. They surround the shrine with bullet proof glass, baby gates and an amber teething necklace. Day and night these moms stand guard around the shrine to make sure nothing bad happens to this very precious child. They live in fear of some person or event breaking through their levels of protection to destroy the exalted child.

Christian mom, you MUST stop being so afraid that something bad will happen to your child. Your main job description as the mother of your child is not to simply protect him. Rather it is to “train him up in the way that he should go, so that when he is older he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). There are lots of other instructions for parents in the Bible and they all seem to say one thing: teach your children to love, worship and obey the Lord.

Somehow, along the way, American moms have become terrified for their children. We no longer let them play outside by themselves. We no longer let them get 50 feet from our line of vision. We are controlled by fear in America. Facebook is rampant with posts from moms warning other moms of a kidnapping 5 states away or a chemical or a kind of food or a parenting style that will surely destroy the lives of all children everywhere if not put to a stop. And this has seeped into the Church in America. Christians moms are seeking to protect their child from any possible harmful situation and failing to place their trust in the almighty God who has a plan and a purpose to accomplish HIS will. He has already numbered your days and the days of your children. Us Christian moms seem to have a distorted understanding about how much of our lives and our children’s lives we can control. I remember sitting with my friend as she held her newborn child who was born with cleft feet. We discussed how we, as a culture, have reached a point where we truly think we can control every aspect of our lives so when something unexpected happens, like a baby being born with feet that are turned the wrong way, we almost don’t know what to do. Thankfully, this friend is a woman who doesn’t have her child on a shrine that she worships because Jesus has already taken that place. My friend cries every time her child endures pain during procedures to fix the cleft feet. She grieves that she hasn’t been able to have the”normal’  newborn life most babies and moms have. But she doesn’t fear because her hope is not placed in her child, her child’s health or her child’s future. Her hope is in Jesus.

Christian mom, stop being so afraid. Do not center your entire life around protecting your child from harm. Center your life on Jesus, and show your children what it looks like to follow Him, even when life is hard, scary or even dangerous. Always remember that God is a God with a mission. For centuries, He has been putting into place a plan to redeem people from all over the world to Himself. He wants to bring glory to Himself. Our lives, and our children’s lives are all for Him. I know I have a hard time remember this truth, but God really does know what He is doing. When my daughter fell from a tree last fall and cracked open her skull, after the initial shock had worn off and the ride in the ambulance was over, I remember thinking that God had a reason to allow this to happen. And fellow moms, I cannot even begin to describe the sense of peace that flowed over me. There is great joy and great peace in knowing that nothing happens outside of God’s control and He can turn tragedy into something amazing and eternally awesome. Be wise and discerning as a mom, FOR SURE. But please, don’t be  afraid. Our God has got this! He has your children, He knows what He is doing, and you can be sure that whatever He allows will be a part of the bigger picture of God’s eternal purpose.

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