Sunday, November 28, 2010


Our children are Rachel and Ben. From the bible, or characters connected to Ross on Friends? If we have a third child named Joseph, you still won't know.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Milking It

Rachel apparently forgot to get a milk with her lunch at school. So what did she do? She didn't go back and ask for her forgotten milk.

No, she shouted "Someone bring me a milk!" and in no time flat another student surrendered their milk.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Philip Johnny Bob and Delores 2

Rachel's asked that we make sure everyone knows that the gray elephant formerly named Philip Johnny Bob has a new name. Her name is now Ella. (As an aside, Rachel and I gave my brother a similar elephant a few years ago when he was teaching fourth grade so that he could go on WebKinz and see what all the kids were talking about. And if you know my brother, you'll appreciate this even more -- he named his elephant "Tusken.")

And from the I-Can't-Believe-This-Worked file, tonight Rachel was in bed and had Delores, I could hear a constant stream of squeaks coming from her room. I went up there and asked her to tell Delores not to be naughty and keep Rachel awake, because if she did, she was going to have to sleep on the top bunk, instead of down on the bottom bunk with Rachel. I hear Rachel dutifully instructing Delores and I haven't heard a squeak since.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dinner Conversation

"Dad, you want to know what's weird about [friend]?"
"No, not really."
"Why not?"
"It's not nice. You wouldn't like it if [friend] was telling her ads what was weird about you."

Now... It's either knowing our how our daughter's mind works, or maybe it's all children at this age, but we had a split-second to anticipate what was coming next, but not long enough to steel ourselves (or maybe we knew what was coming and didn't want to steel ourselves.)

She got a puzzled look on her face and said "But there's nothing weird about me."

To which we burst out laughing.

She looked perturbed and exasperated and gave her mom - sitting next to her at the dinner table - a cute elbow in the arm in protest.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chores and Responsibilities

Cross posting on Dad2Be and tvjames x blog.

A friend from work described this to me, so we've been working towards it for some time now. We're finally hitting the next big phase, so I thought I'd describe the process we're using for getting children involved in helping around the house.

The premise boils down to two distinct and different sets of tasks: Responsibilities and Chores.


These are day-of-the-week specific tasks assigned to a specific child. They start out simple and progress with complexity and number of tasks per day as the child gets older and more able to help. These tasks are unpaid - they are responsibilities, things that are expected of the child as a member of the family, their way of helping out.

In the beginning, the child has only responsibilities. There is a carrot - something that they want to do. For Rachel, it's television/computer-time. In order to get to watch TV or play on the computer, she must first complete her responsibilities. And since we don't allow "screen time" after dinner in our house (except for movie nights), she has incentive to get them done early as that means more time for what she wants to do. (There is also a limit on how much screen time she can have - no getting up at 5 am and doing everything and then watching TV for 12 hours.

Currently, her responsibilities include things like:
* Make bed (before lunch) - six days a week
* Take down laundry to laundry room (before lunch) - daily
* Empty bathroom garbage (before dinner) - twice a week
* Remove sheets from bed and take to laundry room (before lunch) - Saturday
* Bath or shower (before dinner) - three times a week (don't worry, she has extras when she needs them. It might be four to start with, can't recall.)
* Put away any folded laundry - a few times a week

Currently there's 4-5 tasks each day.

In order to watch TV or play on the computer, the responsibilities must be done. In the case of ones required before lunch, they may be done after lunch but before screen time. There are a few exceptions, where we may decide to do her bath after dinner, in which case, she still gets to do screen time, but she's very aware that there will be a bath later in her immediate future.

The "before lunch" requirements are new, and they play into the chores.


Chores are non-child specific in most cases, except where skill level exceeds the younger children. Right now, only Rachel has chores and responsibilities. They are to be completed on specific days. They are paid. But, you can only do chores if you've completed that day's responsibilities.

Some chores include:
* Pull 25 weeds - a few times a week
* Help with dishwasher - a few times a week
* Sort laundry - a few times a week (the laundry goes into large bins by person, but then it needs to be sorted, folded and put away)
* Set table for dinner - daily
* Clear table after dinner - six nights a week (not Saturday)

There are a fixed number of chores, and as more children get to the age where they can do chores, there will be some competition as to who can get their responsibilities done first and move on to the paid chores.

Currently, there's 4-7 opportunities each day to make money. We're still working out the relative value of each. Most are 5 cents, then 10 cents and a few worth a quarter. Saturday is very light on responsibilities and very heavy on chores. It's a great way to rack up the cash at the end of the week.

Right now, there is $3.65 cents worth of chores on the list. If she completes all of them (that means all responsibilities and all chores), she gets paid double and she receives a marble. Marbles are from a different behavior penalty/reward system borrowed from SuperNanny and accrue towards ice cream at Dairy Queen.

I can picture once-a-month chores like washing the car or quarterly chores like Lysol-ing door handles and light switches, but those are obviously too challenging at this point.

But even if we are supervising her work, it does allow us to do other things and it is encouraging to see her helping out. She is so far hot and cold on the whole thing, so we'll see what happens when she's competing with Ben for chores and money.

The Chart

There are two charts on the refrigerator. One identifies the responsibilities, the other the chores. We cross off each responsibility as its completed. If she completes a chore, we circle the payout. If the day ends with chores incomplete, we cross off the payout.

Eventually Ben will have his own responsibilities chart as well.


On Saturdays, before dinner, it's payday. We count up all the chores completed that week, and we divide into three groups - 10% her to church and put in the offering, 40% for long-term savings (we hang on to, to later put in the bank for her) and 50% she gets in her little hands to take upstairs to put in her piggy bank. Last week was her first week (and a partial week at that), and I paid in pennies, so I'll probably need to buy a few rolls of pennies, and some larger coins if she gets hooked on it. After I had the three piles of coins in front of her, I put in enough extra pennies to round each one up to the nearest 5 cents.

This wasn't a big math lesson yet (I breezed through the percentages), but hopefully there'll be some in that as well as we go along.


We have, since birth, given each child a $20/month allowance as an automatic transfer from our checking account to their savings account. At some point, we may revisit how that works, but right now from time-to-time, Rachel may ask for something at the store. If we think it's ok, then she is allowed to have it and we transfer money back out of her savings account and into our checking account to cover it.


This is not my idea, I got it from a friend at work who had attended a money seminar at his church and learned of it there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Philip Johnny Bob and Delores

In addition to "Polar Bear" (aka "Pohlie") Rachel's recently grown very attached to two of her other stuffed animals - a WebKinz elephant she's named "Philip Johnny Bob" and a little infant pink security blanket (maybe 6-7" square with a little pink bear head that squeaks in the center) named "Delores."

Not sure why. But calling either of them by the wrong names (especially Philip Johnny Bob, just because it's fun) sets her off on a stern warning to us about their correct names and she gets indignant that we seem to be unable to remember them. (And forget about calling her Rachel Johnny Bob.)

And I just heard her telling Lori that Philip Johnny Bob is a girl.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Conversation With Rachel

Rachel will often express her love for me in over-the-top terms. Tonight she was in the midst of doing that, and here was our conversation.

Rachel: "I love you so so so much, and I think you're the best person in the world. {whispered} Even though you're a little crabby sometimes."
Me: "Well, thank you. I love you, too. I've worked on that and I think I've gotten a lot better, but I'll keep working on it."
Rachel: "Okay. Good luck with that!"

Friday, May 14, 2010


Apparently Ben knows what "angry" means. He was being so cranky and fussy this morning, especially after he and I got back from dropping Rachel off at school. He kept asking for crackers, even though I was sure he'd had enough to eat. I think eating is one of his coping mechanisms to deal with feeling frustrated, especially since he's too young to know why. (Plus I still do that, and I'm old enough to know better.)

He asked for applesauce, and since he hadn't had much fruit yet, I was happy to put him into his high chair and get some out. But then when I had the applesauce ready on a spoon, he didn't want it. He'd keep saying "Applesauce!" but turning his head away when I tried to give some to him, so I'm not sure what he was actually wanting.

I got him back down, and he just walked around, looking for something to get into or bang on and fussing and wailing. I said "Are you angry and frustrated?" and he said "Angy! Angy!" I played with him for a little while and he was okay then, but if he didn't have my direct attention, he'd start fussing and looking for trouble.

That's a typical thing for him when he's getting tired and in need of a mid-morning break. Since he's outgrown morning naps, I sometimes take him upstairs and put him in his crib for a rest time, to give him a chance to wind down and give myself a break from the fussiness, and that has worked beautifully.

So this morning, I picked him up and told him "I think it's time for a rest," and as I carried him upstairs, crossways in my arms, he said "Angy!" The boy definitely knows what that means, but I'm glad that he was able to express it with a word, because I think that helped. And after his rest time, he was a much cheerier little guy, laughing and playing and singing along with me and making animals sounds.

I'm hoping for a really good nap today. I have a dish to make for our small group and Ben's birthday cake to bake so that I can decorate it tomorrow for his party on Sunday.

And now I'm feeling like a slacker parent because I haven't blogged anything about him turning 2. *sigh*

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Logic of a Child

Boy, parenting is a challenge. At Rachel's school, there's a thing called the "Think Chair" A student needs to sit in that chair to think about what they've done if they've been disobedient. Lately, apparently that's not been enough and a number of students have also found themselves missing recess.

That was Rachel the last two weeks, a number of think chair moments and missed recesses. The most recent parenting course -- the one that isn't "God's Way" (dun dun dun) -- says a problem and its correction (if correction occurs) stays where it happened. That is, we don't repunish when she gets home. But, we've still talked to her because it didn't seem like it was actually working. And after that, the next day Lori got a thumb's up from the teacher when she went to pick up Rachel. There were some good days.

Until today.

Apparently today Rachel colored all over her hands with the markers. This is something she's been talked to before. Who knows if it's a big deal in the grand scheme of things or not. Maybe it leads to coloring of other things like library books or desks or other students' clothes. I dunno. Either way, it's the rule of the classroom that you don't do that. When in Rome... So, yeah, she got to go to the Think Chair and lost her use of colored pens for the rest of the week. What she did next, in her anger, was much worse. I'm not sure how Lori found out about it, but I'm guessing it was a phone call home.

Needless to say, all the pens went away here at home as well. The incident unmentioned didn't involve pens, but it was obvious that leaving something like this at school really didn't make sense because at the heart of it, it's about disobedience and a lack of respect for authority. They also say "She's only five. She doesn't fully have logic figured out yet." I digress briefly as we wavy-screen-it back to a conversation we had a few months ago.

I don't know how to type the sound Wayne and Garth would make as they went back to something in the past, so, ummm... ~~~~~

(paraphrasing - I can't stop to look it up or I will get dinged for the "distraction" if I slow down or stop my writing. If I go under 55 words a minute the computer blows up)
Me: I'm going to need to take money from your account to pay for the lamp you broke.
Rachel: Well, I'm going to take all your money.
Me: You can't. It's not here. It's at the bank.
Rachel: Well, I'm going to go online and I'm going to get it all.
Me: You can't.
Rachel: I'm going to watch you when you go online and I'm going to get your password. I'm going to watch you all the time until I have your password.


So when they say that her logic isn't fully formed, that's a headscratcher to me. I mean, yeah, she's got her plan for how to fraudulently steal her own college money (there isn't much) but she doesn't realize that there are consequences for things.

I cannot tell you how many books I've taken away tonight. And I hate taking away books. But the little bookworm will not stop reading. She smuggles them into bed, she smuggles them into the bathroom, she will read them instead of doing just about anything we ask her to do. So I take them.

Fortunately, she's stopped throwing stuff at home. Because if she throws something that belongs to her, it's gone. For good. Until she flips that back around on me and starts throwing stuff she doesn't care about.

She's incredibly smart.

It's just going to be a challenge to channel that energy into positive things. I will give her credit, she's been extremely passive when her little brother's been aggressive. He seems to get moreso when he's sleepy, biting and scratching and pinching, but just in general, he's a little boy and he plays hard. Banging, headbutting, being loud, he plays hard. And when he's mean to her, she may protest, but she doesn't respond in kind. That is actually quite heart-warming. On the other hand, when she starts protesting, we do have to point out that if she weren't laying on the floor (that's what I was doing when he clocked me in the mouth the other day with something and drew blood) he wouldn't pull her hair or flop on her back. So she's not usually physically aggressive, which is great, but there's going to need to be a lot of work done to help her to cope with anger wisely, and to get back to being obedient and respectful.

I don't want this to seem all doom and gloom. Prayer is always appreciated, but this is not one of those "wit's end" situations thankfully.

(cross-posted from my blog )

Saturday, April 10, 2010

26 Minutes

11:46 AM me: UGGGGHHHHHH. So tired of her attitude. She needs to go to kindergarten boot camp.

That was the beginning of an IM conversation between me and James yesterday. Rachel got it into her head that she wanted to go to the Spring Fair in a nearby town. When told we weren’t going to do that but that we could probably go to the County Fair later in the year, she decided she’d rather act nasty and throw a fit.

It’s a pattern that keeps cropping up, but less frequently and with less severity than in the past. I think it’s something that she’s outgrowing, as her ability to exercise self-control catches up with her strong emotions. I’m encouraged that it doesn’t manifest itself physically like it used to, with kicking and spitting and hitting, as well as by the fact that most days she does pretty well. There was a time when every day seemed to bring some kind of mean-spirited outburst.

I got her to her room for some bedroom time, and that seemed to help reset things. I talked with her a little after she came out about how I wanted to have a great afternoon, and how I wanted to enjoy our planned movie night in the evening, but how neither of those would happen if she didn’t decide to have a better attitude. I asked for a hug, and she asked if she could finish her drawing first and then give me one, to which I said yes.

We talked about lunch and she agreed that a grilled cheese sandwich sounded good. I started to get things out and prepare the sandwich, and then remembered before starting to grill it that I hadn’t gotten my hug. I asked her for one, and she ran to me and gave me such a long, tight hug that I thought it might never end!

She said "I feel like I'm never going to stop hugging you!" And I said "This is really nice, but how will I make your sandwich if you don't stop hugging me?" and she said "I love you more than a sandwich, Mom!"

I reported that to James over IM, and this was his reply:

12:14 PM James: 26 minutes between your "UGGGGHHH" IM and that one where she loves you more than a sandwich.

12:15 PM me: :)

It’s interesting how quickly the emotions change at this age! Sometimes it’s frustrating, but moments like these are encouragements.

Rachel's List

Rachel recently heard a song and asked me to add it to her list. Turns out that Lori started a simple playlist in iTunes for Rachel and when Rachel hears a song she likes, she asks Lori to put it in her playlist. Rachel's never asked me to play her playlist, but I put it on just now since she's eating lunch and I'm about to go outside and work in the yard and Lori's upstairs cleaning and watching LOTR.

Surprisingly, Rachel's list only contains 29 songs so far and a number of them are Christmas songs (so they won't even play right now). But, it is an interesting list.

Deck the Halls (instrumental) - Garritan Volume 4
I Can Be Your Friend - Veggie Tales (Silly Songs for Rachel)
Zacchaeus - Various Artists (Play a Little)
Instrumental Christmas Sing Along - Twin Sisters Productions (Santa Songs)
Get'cha Head In The Game - Troy (High School Musical)
Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane (Mad Mad World)
Christmastime Is Here - Sixpence None The Richer (WOW Christmas)
What I've Been Looking For - Sharpay and Ryan (High School Musical)
I Want You - Savage Garden (Savage Garden)
Toy Packaging - Sara Groves (O Holy Night)
Angels We Have Heard On High - Sara Groves (O Holy Night)
Different Kinds of Happy - Sara Groves (Fireflies and Songs)
When Love Came Down - Point of Grace (Now That's What I Call Christmas!)
Home for the Holidays - Perry Como (Now That's What I Call Christmas!)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (instrumental) - Pat Azzarello - Garritan Volume 5
How Long Will Be Too Long - Michael W. Smith (Go West Young Man)
Let Everything That Has Breath - Matt Redman (Worship Together - Be Glorified)
I Do - Lisa Loeb (Firecracker)
I Am - Jill Phillips (WOW 2000)
A Wink And A Smile - Harry Connick, Jr. (Sleepless In Seattle)
Let's Go To Vegas - Faith Hill (It Matters To Me)
Come Go With Me - Expose (Exposure)
God's Got a Plan - Elizabeth Cook (Hey Y'All)
Because You First Loved Me - Children's Choir (Let the Children Praise HIM)
Everyday - Boddy Holly (Greatest Hits)
You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly! - Various Artists (Classic Disney, Volume 1)
I Want To Hold Your Hand - The Beatles - 1
Jingle Bells - Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked For The Holidays)
Joy To The World - Anne Murray (Christmas Wishes)

On an unrelated note, I'd like to know who's been letting Rachel watch Saturday Night Live. She's picked up "Oh My Goodness" as if she were channeling Tina Fey channeling Sarah Palin.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Conversation With Ben

3 nights ago, I had what I would call my first conversation with Ben. He's been spare with his words. Don't take that to mean that he's been quiet by any means. But he'll use a word for a while, then store it away as if he's done with it. Some words he's continued to use (Dada, Mama, Bath, Milk, Cracker, etc.), and others he used for a time and then is apparently done with them for now (Banana, More).

I suspect that he's both shy and stubborn. His shyness keeps him from trying words until he builds up a little confidence that he can get it right within a few tries. His stubbornness means he would rather screech or just keep saying "Milk! Milk!" when he wants something and doesn't know its name, or doesn't want to try saying it. But he loves imitating sounds he hears and sometimes surprises us, like when James answered "I don't know" and Ben repeated "I dohn-know." That's a phrase that he's actually been using semi-regularly, and often when it fits as an answer for a question we've asked him. So I have no doubt that he's capable of being more verbal and that we'll be seeing much more of that soon.

But I digress - 3 nights ago, I went in to check on him at about 10:00. I peeked in the door and didn't see or hear anything, so I figured he was asleep. But no - "Doo doo doo," he said, standing up and reaching for me. I picked him up.

Ben: Milk?
Me: No, I don't think you need milk. You need to go back to sleep, baby.
Ben: Cracker?
Me: No, you don't need crackers, silly. You need sleep.
Ben: Crunchies?
Me: No, no crunchies. You need to go back to bed, and Mama needs to take a shower.
Ben: Bath?

I loved how he kept coming up with different angles, not getting upset when I was saying no. And I figured he must actually be hungry if he was that persistent, so he did get to sit in his highchair and have some milk and something to eat before going back to bed.

He was up late the next night, too, asking for milk. I think he must be having a growth spurt. He also seems to be teething, since he's drooling like a champ and has been a little fussy at times, picking at some of his meals.

And he is apparently experiencing separation anxiety. He's quite unhappy most of the time when being put to bed either for a nap or at night, getting really upset and crying and reaching for me. It didn't used to be such a big deal. He'd fuss a little, but not sound like he felt he was being abandoned as he does now. And leaving him in the nursery at church brings much screeching, too, although it dies down pretty quickly once we're gone.

Rachel went through separation anxiety a few times, but it was always over in about a week. I think Ben's been going through it for a few weeks but am not sure when it started. I'm hopeful he'll work through it quickly, though.

Friday, January 08, 2010


Batchu means "feed me" - Ben will announce it after he's woken up, he'll announce it when he enters the kitchen and tries to climb into his high chair, he'll add "Juice" or "Apple" to it if you don't respond right away. He's also clapping and saying "yay" and now asks for "baths" and gets excited about having his teeth "brush"ed.

Rachel plans to live near us. And she intends for us to buy a house for her and her daughter. No husband? Not right away, she's going to adopt a daughter and get married later. (Wonder how this coincides with her other plans to not go to college because she's going to marry a husband who has a job so she can stay home with the children - and why should you go to college if you're not going to have a job of your own?) Why won't she buy the house with her own money? That's all being saved for candy and cookies and toys for her and her daughter.

When we began to talk of power bills and car insurance and phone and water and sewer and garbage and car payments and food and clothing and pet food, she swooned, exclaimed in an unhappy manner that "everything takes money" and that it made her so tired to think about that she was "going to die" as she laid down on the chairs in the lunchroom while visiting me for lunch.