Category Archives: parenting

First Day, 2014 Edition

It’s here. Already. The first day of school.

First grade and fourth for Jack Henry and Bennett at our beloved elementary school; sixth grade, and whole new world for Luke, at the middle school.

All have reported that they had good days, even sullen Bennett, who will be getting his own post soon. Jack Henry said he had an “AWESOME!!!” day, which is saying something because he absolutely adored his kindergarten teacher, and I was a little worried he’d be missing her today.

No homework, which is good, because JH has a baseball game this evening!

And, um, I had a great day. I’ll be driving Luke to school (about 7 minutes from our house), and his drop-off time is about 40 minutes after the other boys leave with Matt in the morning, so my day is shorter than last year. However, I made the most of it with some volunteering at the elementary, a complete workout with no interruptions, driving around with the windows open and the music up a little too loud, celebrating the fact that a) I chose the songs I wanted to hear and b) I didn’t have to edit salty language that little ears would hear and repeat. Grocery shopped, baked some cookies for first day after-school snack, and it was time to get the younger boys. These days are going to FLY by.

The One Where I’ve Got to Give Them Props

We got home last night from a week-long vacation in Colorado (lots more to come on that!). It came on the heels of a long weekend in Wisconsin, as we had about 36 hours at home to regroup and get on the plane to Colorado.

Therefore, this morning has consisted of unpacking, laundry, and getting ready to grocery shop. The boys caught up on American Ninja Warrior until I was ready for their help.

Then it was time for a few errands. While at Sam’s Club, in line to buy the boys (ahem, cough, lunch) pretzels and cheese, Bennett came up to me and said this:

“Mom, you know the wall by the couch in the basement? There are some cracks in it. From us playing American Ninja Warrior and jumping off the wall.”

Me: “when did this happen?”

B: “Um, a while ago. Before vacation.”

I walked over to the table where the boys were sitting and asked why no one told me when it happened.

Luke: “Well, it wasn’t really a good time. You were busy getting us ready to go.”

Me: “And now, at Sam’s Club, seemed like a good time?”

L&B in unison: “Yes.”

So. I’m anxious to get home and see exactly what happened…

—–

Update: so the damage is actually really minimal. Thankfully. Which means that the parenting I’ve been doing the last 2 hours is based on honesty and not being deceitful, etc. I did not really have the energy for this today, but obviously, it had to be addressed fully now.

Dear Parenting: you are a delight.

Jack Henry’s New Dream

Toward the end of his baseball season, Jack Henry played catcher in a few games.

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It was adorable.

After the first time, he said he didn’t really like it. But after a few more tries, he was sold on being a catcher.

I went to garage sales one time early this summer, and found a practically-new kids’ catcher’s mitt for five bucks. I bought it simply because we have 3 baseball players in the house, and I thought when someone was doing pitching practice, whoever was catching could use the mitt.

Honestly, I’ve never much wanted any of the boys to be a catcher. It’s the position with so much potential for impact and concussion (which is why I don’t want them playing football, either!), and it’s bad on your knees. However, if any of our kids are built to be catchers, let’s face it, it’s Jack Henry.

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Well. After the season ended, and Jack Henry made his announcement that he was going to be a catcher, that mitt became his. It’s been on his hand for hours and hours during the last 3 weeks, including the times his brothers have taken out into the side yard to teach him some basic catching skills. Luke and Bennett were surprisingly patient and gave some really good instruction…it was a summer parenting high for me to watch :).

The glove had obviously not been oiled or broken in very well by its previous owner, so the other day I found this note on the counter for Matt.

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I just don’t want to forget the sweet little-boy writing, the passion behind this big ambition, and the time he’s already spending trying to get better. Maybe he won’t end up loving being a catcher, but for now, it’s his dream. And I’m loving being able to watch it.

Life Skills 101

“So, Mom, did you know that there was like a TOTAL CASCADING WATERFALL OF MILK off the counter this morning? Right here. My sock got some on it, but I still wore it all day.”

This was a conversation I had with Bennett this evening while he was working on making dinner for himself and his brothers. It came up because as he was making grilled pj&j, he dropped glob of jelly on his sock, and I told him to just take it off since it was almost time to shower anyway.

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And actually, I did not know about the milk waterfall. I was upstairs getting ready for the day, and B and Luke were eating breakfast together (Matt and Jack Henry were already on their way to baseball).

They’d done a pretty good job of cleaning it up, but you know, didn’t do it in a way that would truly pass Mom-inspection. So, I pulled out my newest trick: telling him I was going to teach him a Life Skill, instead of correcting what wasn’t done right.

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“Life Skill” has become a frequently-used phrase around here this summer. A couple of months ago, I realized that there are SO MANY THINGS – all the things – that a kid needs to know and know how to do. It’s not like you can just put them in a book and have them read it. It’s things that pop up in day-to-day life that make you think, “hey, a kid needs to know this.” Maybe I should make a list.

Like being able to take a few bucks into a Quik Trip and buy a bag of ice (don’t worry, I sent 2 of them in together). Or how to do a load of laundry start to finish, or use the dishwasher. Or how to go up to a concession stand with your water bottle and politely ask for a refill, and say thank you when they give it back to you. Or how to order in a restaurant, giving the waitress your attention.

Or, figuring out how to put the dishes away that you can’t reach.

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So this evening, instead of correcting the cleanup that was done in the morning, I said, “Hey, buddy, I’ve got a Life Skill to teach you. Remember that little ant problem we’ve had in the kitchen? Well, ants like leftover food that’s on the floor. And if you don’t wipe up a spill like milk with a wet paper towel, they’ll find it.”

Easy peasy. Doesn’t sound judgmental. Problem solved.

WHY IN THE WORLD DID I NOT THINK OF THIS APPROACH BEFORE NOW?

—–

My favorite Life Skill teaching happened this morning though. Bennett, Luke and I were in the van on the way to Jack Henry’s last baseball game of the summer season. I had a bracelet I couldn’t put on myself, so I reached my arm behind me and told B what to do, then said, “You know, this a good skill for you to have when you’re older. Your girlfriend or wife might sometime need help with this.”

Bennett’s immediate response: “Well, the bracelet is on, but this is one skill I’m not going to need. Because I’m going to be single, and be a baseball player, and live with my dog.”

This has literally been his mantra all summer long. About not getting married, having his buddy Connor as a roommate since they’ll both be professional baseball players, and having a dog. (I’m all: “Life Skill: someone needs to take care of your dog while you’re on the road all the time with the MLB, cowboy. Maybe a wife would be a good idea. Also? I want grandchildren.”)

—–

So, help me out. What are some other things my boys need to know how to do on their own?

Telling Time.

Sunday night, after the last of the boys’ baseball games was officially rained out, we hopped in the van to go get frozen custard.

Jack Henry grabbed this book on his way out the door:

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It’s a handmade quiet book that my mom’s beloved sister, my Aunt Dee, made for me when I was really little. It has all sorts of fun little activities, and my boys have all enjoyed it, too, as preschoolers. I thought they’d outgrown it for the most part until the other night, when Jack Henry pointed out the clock page.

JH asked if we’d teach him to tell time, so on the 15-minute drive, we taught him the hour and minute hand, and how to count by 5’s around the clock. Then he wanted me to give him times to put on the clock with its moveable hands, so I did.

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Matt decided to complicate it a bit and taught him quarter after and to and half past the hour…I thought that was too hard for him, but he got it!

It just made me so happy to know that this book is still being used and teaching another generation!

Thank you, Aunt Dee!

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Glimpse.

Real-life, unembellished, overheard conversation in the van between 2/3rds of the brothers, who I’m not going to identify for reasons you’ll understand in a moment:

Thing 1, giggling: “Remember that time when you scared me, and you were supposed to be in the shower so you were naked and you were wearing a Luigi hat and holding the top of the blue Lego box and an old stick?”

Thing 2: “Oh, yeah. That was hilarious, man!”

Ser.i.ous.ly.

Note to self: monitor shower time better.

On Kids and Media.

Clearly, time is not standing still for me, keeping my boys young and innocent and not wanting to own technology. Those days are long gone.

For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to come up with a contract to use with the boys that spells out exactly what our rules for usage are. There have already been guidelines in place; now, I’m going to have them sign a contract. Using the internet, iPad and iPod are a privilege, and they’re going to have to follow our rules or not use them at all.

I fully realize that people are all over the place on kids and media, and that I fall under the extremely protective category…this will be too much for some of you. However, I know too much, from real-life situations of people I am close to, to let this be an area in which we’re lax. I haven’t yet, but will also be adding NetNanny or similar to our computer.

I attended a presentation by Jim Burns from HomeWord earlier this spring called “Creating a Media Safe Home” that was really informative. Sidenote: if Jim Burns is speaking near you, go listen to him. He’s a very engaging speaker, full of knowledge about parenting and marriage, and very enjoyable to listen to.

More than anything, though, it got me thinking about all the things that need to be addressed in terms of media usage, mostly regarding purity and honesty, and also giving Luke (the other 2 aren’t old enough for this yet) an understanding of the legal ramifications of his actions online. And yes, kids as young as Luke (11) are old enough to know this, because they’re old enough to be charged with a crime. A contract isn’t enough; kids need to know why these rules are to be followed, and unfortunately, that often means educating them on some of the darker truths about the internet. Some parts of parenting just totally suck.

I used a phone contract in the packet of information from the presentation (a colleague of Mr. Burns’, Doug Fields, came up with the contract, I believe) to guide me as I wrote, and then Matt and I just discussed a few other key points that we included. Here it is in list form, and here’s a PDF of what the boys are signing: Media Usage Contract

1. Mom/Dad can check the iPad/iPod at any time, read texts, and view anything you’ve searched, because they will always have all passwords. This is not a violation of your rights.
2. You may not use the iPad in your room…it may only be used in shared family spaces (kitchen, living room, office).
3. You are allowed to use your iPod in your room for listening to music only.
4. You are not allowed to join any social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, etc). We don’t care how many of your friends are allowed to.
5. Do not take inappropriate pictures or videos, or send them to anyone. Ever. If Mom/Dad wouldn’t approve, it’s not a picture/video you should take. Even if your brother dares you to do it.
6. Likewise, do not look at anything that you wouldn’t look at if Mom/Dad were sitting next to you.
7. Don’t just Google something you are curious about. Ask Mom/Dad. That’s what we’re here for.
8. We will discuss all songs and apps before downloading.
9. You are not allowed to play any games that allow for online interaction/chatting (ie Clash of Clans, etc). This is non-negotiable.
10. No YouTube videos without permission first.
11. Time limits given by Mom/Dad are to be obeyed…when the timer goes off, time’s up.

So, there it is! Thoughts?