Strange title, huh? Well, just this morning we started a brand-new system with our kiddos! And….you probably guess it, it has to do with sticks!

I went to MOPS this past week and heard a great speaker ( and she inspired pretty much all of us I am sure:) Not only did she have a great sense of humor (a must when you are a mother!) but she had a really great system she came up with years ago to get her kids organized and NOT relying on parents to tell them every little thing to do.

Once I heard her system, I just knew it would be a great thing for us, tailored to our own family, of course. We have done many charts over the years and lots of them have worked really well but all too often, the chart just becomes another thing blending in to the surroundings on the wall and we slowly forget about it. The boys have a beautiful Clean Room Chart on their wall…but they forgot it was even there! And I am not the best at reinforcing it, especially on 3 nights a week I am flying solo. I’m just too darn tired to think about enforcing the chart and doling out consequences. Bad maybe but it’s the truth!

So yesterday, Ben and I sat down and made our list of things the kiddos need to accomplish each day and wrote them all on popsicle sticks! The boys have big sticks for the morning and smaller sticks for the afternoon/evening time. They lay them all out in the order they need to accomplish things and as they finish each thing, they pop the stick into their cup and at the end of the day? If they finish all of their sticks, they get a colored stick (Yellow for Z, Blue for S and Red for E). After they collect 10 colored sticks, they get a prize!

Since Eliana can’t read yet, we did pictures on her sticks. She has “Get Dressed,” “Brush Teeth,” “Quiet/Rest Time,” “Clean up Dishes,” “Read a Book,” and “Clean Up.” We will add more as she gets older but this is good for now! She was very happy to put her “Get Dressed” stick in her cup this morning;)

Zakkai very carefully arranged his last night in the order things need to get accomplished and I heard the first stick being plopped in the cup before I was even out of bed this morning! We told them that if they finish their morning tasks early enough, they may be able to do a couple of their optional afternoon ones. There are a few things that can be done in either the morning or afternoon.

One stick that I am very excited about that we are incorporating is the “Spend 15 min with your sibling” stick. So, for example, Zakkai finished all of his morning chores super early this morning (yea!)  and had extra time. He decided to spend 15 minutes with Eliana. We told them they are to go to the sibling they chose (they have their names on each side of the stick) for the day and say, “Would you like to play with me for 15 minutes?” and then “What would you like to play?” The point is to teach them to think about someone else and to hopefully, foster a closer relationship between all of them. They are going to have to stick with each other for a lifetime and learn to work together and love each other through all sorts of experiences. We’d like to start that early!

Zakkai went to Eliana and asked her if she’d like to play. At first she said “No” (little stinker!) but then she quickly changed her mind and told Zakkai she would like to play with her dollhouse. They went up and spent about 10 minutes doing that and 10 more minutes working on her lacing boards. What a great start to the morning!

When I peeked in the boys room before heading downstairs, I found beds made and jammies put away. I think I’m going to really like this!! The boys are very excited about it and we are determined not to just make it “One more system” but something that will become part of our routine. Our goal is to get all of them to be doing the things they need to do without constant reminders or nagging. WE don’t get people reminding us to brush our teeth and get our shoes on and clean up our dishes so sooner or later, they need to figure out how to do it without reminders, too!

I love how proud they are already about how much they accomplished by 8am this morning. This will be especially good for Zakkai, who is easily distracted. To have a tangible way to do his tasks and see what he has already done and needs to do is going to be so helpful!

Now the flip side is, this will require just one more chart to be able to administer consequences. I will post a picture of the chart when I finish it. The chart will have each of their names and 3 pictures of ears and 3 pictures of mouths by each name. Why ears and mouths? Because most of the time when they get in trouble, it’s for not listening or for talking back! When they do either, they will have to take the corresponding card down and that will earn them an extra chore. Boo!

If they have to take 3 down in one day, they will lose one of their colored sticks. I have a sneaking, really smart Mama suspicion that that won’t happen too many times once they get into the system. Who wants to lose a colored stick that they worked so hard for?!

It was so nice this morning not to be reminding every 3 minutes that I almost forgot to do my own things! The boys were packing up to leave and they said, “Mommy? Did you pack our lunches today?” Oops! Maybe I should have made that a stick…..;)

Eliana has a cold and is a little bit on the grumpy side. We finished her lacing boards, got dressed and painted her nails! We haven’t done that in so long and she keeps saying, “It’s so pretty, Mama!” She came to me while I was writing this and said, “Mommy, you need to put on some Paul.” I was really confused for a minute until she pointed to her nails and I realized she was trying to say “Nail Polish.” Gosh, she’s cute:)

Hopefully, the rest of the day will go just as smoothly! Maybe I’ll have extra time in my days now to sit on the couch and eat my chocolates and be fanned with palm leaves. Just kidding! I wish…

First Day of School!

 This morning was an absolute whirlwind, trying to jump back into a morning school routine! Samuel woke up feeling sick to his stomach, probably from nerves. Unfortunately, I can easily identify with that since I suffered from terrible “school sickness” when I was growing up. I still remember throwing up all over my desk in school….

Thankfully, he was much better after a good breakfast. The baby came about 10 minutes before we had to walk out the door so we were busy, finishing packing lunches, brushing teeth, putting school supplies in the bookbags, etc!

Here are my big boys! Third grade for Samuel and first grade for Zakkai! Aren’t they so cute?!

Zakkai is SO excited to be in first grade and in Samuel’s school now. The boys lined up in different sections of the parking lot so Ben went with Samuel and I stayed with Zakkai. It’ll be tough from now on when it’s just me dropping off and going between the two!

Here is Z with two of his classmates and his teacher, Mrs S! She said she was SO excited it worked out to have Zakkai in her class and have us as one of her families. We are so thankful for her!

Ben said Samuel’s teacher, Mrs D, is very, very sweet and Samuel really likes her already. He had a tough time last year because he had a rowdy class and his teacher, whom we really really liked, was very loud, something he doesn’t feel so comfortable with. His new teacher said she doesn’t like loud noises and yelling and he was thrilled about that:)

Eliana wore her backpack to school, too! She really missed her brothers a lot today. Thankfully, she was a bit distracted because I took her and the baby to my MOPS bible study so that helped. She said she wants to go to preschool and I told her next year she gets to go! (sniff!)

The boys were so happy when I picked them up. Zakkai was so excited because he gets his very own desk for the first time (he always sat at a table before) and I thought that was really cute! He mentioned like four times that he gets to use his new scissors and earbuds tomorrow. It doesn’t take much to make him happy!

Samuel got his promised stuffed animal so he was thrilled about that and this year he has a classroom that is upstairs, instead of down like the previous two years. He already left his lunchbox at school and it was only the first day……

This morning at MOPS, it was one of the mornings that really felt God-orchestrated, for lack of a better description. I was heavy hearted from last night and feeling a little chaotic from the morning. It was supposed to be our last meeting of the summer and instead of starting the video right away, the ladies got to talking. Imagine my surprise when the topic strangely turned to children and when to give them “THE” talk about the birds and the bees. Coincidental? I think not.

I don’t usually talk too much during the meetings, instead preferring to take things in. But I did speak up and shared briefly what had happened last night with our boys and that we were struggling with this very thing and how much sooner you have to talk to kids nowadays. Now we just have to figure out how to reel things back in and start at square one instead of square 14. Oh, I pray they can forget the things they were told and exposed to!

The moms were so incredibly encouraging and I think it opened a lot of their eyes to how you cannot sit back and just pretend it all doesn’t exist anymore. You have to be incredibly proactive as a parent these days, if you don’t want your kids to be bombarded with adult content and/or wordly filth at a young age.

I got a little more of the story this afternoon from one of the neighbor kids who passed the information on to my boys and I am going to have to go talk to two of the neighboring mothers tomorrow. Please pray I have the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it and that these kids can be protected! We haven’t decided how to or if we will even approach the parents of one of the children involved. It’s really complicated.

Samuel is the one my heart hurts for the most. I found out that he has been carrying this around for at least a week and a half or two, which would explain some very unusual and confusing behavioral changes we have noticed in him. He is so sensitive that it is easy to tell when things are bothering him and my heart breaks to know that he has been afraid to tell us because he knew something was not okay and he was embarrassed. Please pray for him to find peace and for us to keep reassuring him how much we love him and that none of this is his fault! He is such a sweet boy.

And to end on a lighter note….tonight at dinnertime, we were discussing school year bedtimes. We decided Samuel can now stay up until 8pm, since he is older and often likes to read in bed before falling asleep anyways. But we were trying to decide what time to get Z to sleep, as he is often much more tired than Samuel. Zakkai broke in and said, “You can put me to sleep whatever time you want!”

Ben said, “Okay, your bedtime is 6:15pm. You have 6 minutes til bedtime!” Zakkai backpedaled really quickly and said, “Well, you can put me to bed anytime after 7 o’clock, okay?”

To which we immediately responded, “Okay, then 7:01 will be your bedtime!” He jumped in again with, “Anytime after 7:15 or 7:30 is okay for my bedtime, okay?” We had a lot of fun teasing him because he started out so willing but then kept pushing it back farther and farther. He is such a funny boy! We ended up deciding on 7:15, since he really does need the extra rest, but he is still holding out for 7:30pm.

Always, pushing the boundaries….

Wisdom through Heartache.

When you hold a new baby in your arms and look down at that sweet face, you are struck by their pure innocence and guilelessness. It is something you want to last forever in those big blue eyes that stare up at you. You want to protect them from skinned knees and bruised foreheads, being teased, tears of sadness, evil.

But sadly, eventually, the world creeps in and one day the innocence is stripped away a little bit. And as a parent, your heart is broken. We’ve experienced this little by little over the past two years here. Mostly due to neighborhood children, sadly. You may remember my blog post when the boys came running in to tell me the very bad words that they were being taught. A little innocence gone.

Or the stories I’ve shared of them being teased, bullied or punched, leaving physical and emotional marks. A little more innocence gone.

Tonight, another big chunk of that innocence was taken away and my heart, my mothering heart that longs to protect and keep harm and evil away from my children, is broken. I am not talking about just bad words or teasing or even bullying, all of which we have experienced. I am talking about true worldly filth.

I had to turn away to hide my tears, although I did not hide my shock well. I never have hidden my emotions well. Tonight, please pray for us to have wisdom in how best to protect our boys and what steps to take to do that.

Being a parent is hard enough. Being a parent who is trying to instill Godly values and principles in an increasingly moral-less world, is even more difficult. Everything that we teach them, everything that we try to model for them, everything that we try to shield them from, goes against what the world is teaching. Everything.

Kids are exposed to way too much, way too early and they are not capable of knowing how to process what they see and hear at such young ages. Technology is a HUGE part of this problem. The kids running around our neighborhood, ages 6-10 all have their own ipads, smartphones and kindles. With no supervision or limits. Samuel has started to ask when he can have his own phone (um, not till you’re 30! 😉 and tonight I was able to get it through to him a little bit more why we are so strict about what we expose them to. Whether having their own phones or unlimited computer time, to spending time at other kid’s houses who are regularly unsupervised.  Not to be ogres. Not to be harsh and unfair. To protect. To love.

Kids need guidance and good role models. They need limits and boundaries. They crave limits and boundaries, whether they will admit it or not! The question is always how to find a good balance between protecting and sheltering. They are going to learn this stuff eventually but dear Lord, not when they are eight and six!! Please, not now.

How would you as kindly as possible cut off certain friendships from your children, especially when they live close by? Is it possible to do that kindly?

Please do say a prayer for us to parent with wisdom and love and to trust our kids to God, especially now that a new school year is beginning. We would really appreciate it!