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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Family Meetings

"family meeting", "family home meeting"

As I was telling you about Positive Discipline, I mentioned that we started doing family meetings, and a lot of you were very interested. I hope this gives you the push you need to start your own family meetings!! I'm a big believer in them - when they're done right (which we're always tweaking).

Family Meeting Agenda
Every meeting requires an agenda. Whoever is the "conductor" writes out the agenda and assigns roles to each of the family members.
"family meeting", "family home meeting", "family meeting agenda"

ConductorYou can call this whatever you want: chairperson, leader, M.C. I thought that since our kids were into trains, Conductor was fitting (and Michael said they used it when he used to be Mormon as a kid). We take turns being the "conductor", but we definitely let the kids do this more often than we do it. The only exception is Isaac; at 2 1/2 he's not quite ready to lead a meeting. Levi doing it at 5 is just right, though.

Opening PrayerThis is pretty self-explanatory. Even Isaac (2 1/2) can do this.

SongEven if you're not a musical family, you can do this. We just sing one or two verses of a favorite song. This seems like it wouldn't serve much of a purpose, but it actually really works well to build unity and sets the meeting apart as something special - special enough to sing a song at. I'm looking forward to when they get older and can play instruments!

LessonThis is typically taught by me or Michael and only lasts about 5 minutes. (Toddlers are encouraged to go play at this point.) Topics have typically been things having to do with house rules and whatnot.  Samuel (7) actually wanted to teach a lesson once on having family nights. He wanted to reimplement them into our routine and told us what they should look like. He loved getting to do it.

CalendarI always handle this. We just go through the week and talk about what's going on, what's needed to keep all of our commitments, etc.

Air of GrievancesThis is everyone's favorite part and quite possibly the most important portion of the meeting. Everyone gets a chance to say what they're not happy about or what's not working. It's great because the emotions are not high so we're actually focused on solutions. No one's a victim; everyone's a team player. Oh AND, when the conductor announces this part of the meeting, he has to use a British accent and say it as if we're about to see a performance at Medieval Times.

EncouragementsWe added this in later, so it's not on the above agenda. We go around the table, and each person gives a brief encouragement to every person, even themselves!

Closing PrayerYou get it.

RefreshmentsThis is non-negotiable. The kids so look forward to this, even if it's just popcorn or smoothies.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Some ways to make it not suck  let them take ownership over it:
(Seriously, it's gonna suck if you don't let them take ownership, and they'll hate it.)

Let them announce it. My kids like to go up to the top of the stairs, preferably with a paper towel roll, and holler, "FAMILY MEETING TIME!!!!!" so that everyone knows to go to the dining room.

Let them create the agenda. We definitely help them with it, but they write it out and give input.

Let them lead it. You'll be tempted to let them "lead" it (only in quotes), but then you really do it. But don't! Really let them lead it. A gentle reminder to keep it serious is fine, but only do it so as to remind them of the big responsibility that you're entrusting to them.
"family meeting", "family home meeting"

Keep it super formal. Make sure the conductor thanks each person that speaks. Each person with a role thanks for the conductor for the floor. Stuff like that. They love it. :) Our time in Toastmasters helped us out with that, but you can also google meeting etiquette.

Have it weekly.  We have our meeting every Sunday - even when we're crazy busy. If we start skipping it, then it totally loses it's power. Consistency is totally important.

So that's that! It might seem daunting at first, but it's really not. It takes almost no time to prepare for it. Sure, it's better when you prepare well for it (and you likely will the first few times). But if it comes down to not doing it or just poorly planning for it, then just do it poorly planned.

Having a family meeting communicates to your family that they're important, that you care what they think, and that you're a team.

What about you?  Do you have a family meeting?  Would you add anything to our agenda for your own meeting?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Splurging...And Its Affects On This Week-Willed Girl


I've discovered something about myself:

I can't splurge on my diet.

Now, it's not that I can't splurge. I can. Oh yes, I sure do know how. I'm not one of those people that can't reward myself or cheat on a diet or enjoy one more glass of wine. I can. Trust me, I can.

The problem is in the stopping of said splurge. The...stopping....it's just so hard. It's also in how it affects my body.

First of all, once I start throwing caution to the wind, it's hard to stop.

We were on vacation last week, and I did so incredibly good the first four days. I tracked my calories. I ate my limit. I jogged. I was feeling quite proud of myself. I actually thought to myself, 'This'll be the first ever vacation that I will have lost weight.'

And then splurge day came; some of you may call it "Wednesday". Pizza was for dinner, and appetizers, including (God help me) hummus AND guacamole, were on the counter with pita chips AND tortilla chips. Oh, and drinks were served, drinks that included...wait for it...lime sherbet and tequila. It was all kinds of yum.

But then the next day came...and I didn't get back on track. Then the next day came...still not on track. Long story short...the next five days became a huge splurge. (I did taper off that fifth day, after some buttery popcorn.)

What's wrong with me!! 

And secondly, it's not just a vanity thing. Sure that's part of it, of course, but the other thing is that when I have a string of bad eating days, particularly with sugar, I *feel* terrible. It exacerbates my allergies by suppressing my immune system, and then I'm down (physically and emotionally) for a few days afterward. I lay around on the couch, achy, fatigued, bloated, with a headache. So I can't exercise feeling like this, and it just sucks all the way around.

It's total insanity, as my 12-stepping friends would say - doing the same thing over and over, knowing that it's caused me pain in the past, but expecting it to not affect me this time. And let's just call a spade a spade - STUPID really.

Well, needless to say, I didn't lose weight on this vacation. No. No. I gained.

"Every healthy diet requires a splurge day," they say. Well, not for this girl with no self-control. A whole splurge day sets me way too far into overeat mode. Then limiting it to one meal, even, is too messy. One "meal" could last 6 hours if it's a party, and then that starts my whole ridiculously INSANE cycle.

SO...My plan of attack is to get back on track and contain my splurging to ONE HOUR. Is that how you normal people do it? You people without food issues or 12-stepping parents or general dysfunction? You probably do it without even having to think about it. Oh you normal people. Are there even any of you out there? Do you exist?

Anyhoo, I'll letcha know how it turns out.  ;)

Anyone have this problem??  Have you tried limiting the splurge to a shorter time period?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Road Trip Car Money

"Car Money" "road trip money" "road trips with kids" "car store" "things to do with kids on road trips"

As I type this, I’m in the front passenger seat of the van on the last day of our road trip with a killer headache, ear buds in listening to NPR’s This American Life, and the kids are watching a Redbox movie while Michael drives through the southwestern portion of Tennessee.  

All that to say – the best laid plans are meant to be broken and certainly require flexibility. 

HOWEVER, the first leg of our trip was met with such energy and enthusiasm, and that’s when the car money worked best.  It worked really well, too.  The first leg of the trip is also when the kids are getting used to being in the car for so long and there's still some excitement about it all.  So here’s how it all worked.

First, I discovered this play money online (there are more denominations, too), and found a couple of pictures of me and Michael to put in there.  I edited the pics to be textured and green, and baddabing-baddaboom – car money.  I then employed a certain 7 year old to cut them all out at home, which he was thrilled to do.

"Car Money" "road trip money" "road trips with kids" "car store" "things to do with kids on road trips"

Then I went to the store and bought a bunch of snacks and activities, letting the boys pick out a box of snacks each. 

The easier thing would have been to have prepackaged food, but some of the stuff wasn’t, so I divvied it all up into Ziploc bags.  After I had laid it all out on the kitchen table, I was able to make this.
 "Car Money" "road trip money" "road trips with kids" "car store" "things to do with kids on road trips"
Notice that the healthy stuff is free and the crappy stuff and toys require purchase.  

I had given them each a 3-bradded folder with a ton of printable road trip activities, like road trip bingo, coloring pages, license plate bingo, etc.  (Google "Road Trip Printables", and you'll get a plethora of resources.)  The boys kept their money in the pockets of the folders, and it worked out great. 

The trick was to be pretty generous with payment so that they were excited about.  All in all, it worked great!  I just asked Samuel how he liked it all, and he gave it a resounding review.

Another trick is to save a box or a bag of "Car Store" stuff for the way home.  I had done that, but we actually ran out because we dipped into it while on our trip, and it was a big-time drag.  Stay strong.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Family Road Trip

So we just took the longest road trip we’ve ever attempted, and let me tell ya, I feel like I just ran a marathon – in a good way.  It was a challenge; it was exhausting; but it was just so cool. 

We have friends that moved from Texas to Maryland, so we went to go visit them in their beautiful corner of the country, and they were awesome enough to let us stay with them.

The drive was 21 hours of straight driving which we broke up into two days there and back.  So of course, I gotta do a retrospective, and here it is.... 

ANNIE’S ROAD TRIP RULES OF THUMB 

1)  Attitude is EVERYTHING. 

Dude, when we were in Texas, it was HOT and not raining.  When we left Texas, a cool front blew through with beautiful rain, and everyone on Facebook was glorying in the majesty of the 80 degree temps and rain soaking the parched land.  When we arrived in Maryland, they were having a heat wave with 95 degree weather and about 130% humidity.  In a word, it was HOT.

"taking family vacations" "taking kids on a road trip" "how to survive road trips" "how to survive family vacations"

So naturally, we decided to spend our first day on an outing to Washington, D.C. Was it miserable, you ask?  Well, every single one of us was totally not into it. It was definitely enough to get us in a funk (not to mention we spent a boatload of money).  However, Michael and I decided that it wasn’t worth it to let it ruin our trip. 

Since we were staying with our very dear friends, the objective wasn’t to cram in as much as we possibly could.  The point of the trip was to reconnect with our friends and experience Maryland.  So once we let go of any other expectations, we had the best time. The kids played; we enjoyed great company and beautiful Maryland; and we totally enjoyed the rest of the week. Which brings me to my next point….
"taking family vacations" "taking kids on a road trip" "how to survive road trips" "how to survive family vacations"

2)  Don't put too much pressure on your vacay.

Any vacation with children is just not going to be as relaxing as without.  Period.  But we love our children and want to experience life with them and want to show them the world, so we take them with us when it’s appropriate.  And since our friends have kids their ages, it was most definitely appropriate.  

We still got to go to cool restaurants and see cool things, but we definitely didn’t get to where we were going very quickly and had to stop at a few more parks than I would have cared to.  But whatever.  It’s not the end of the world if we spent a few extra hours on the road, especially if it means everyone will tire out more readily.

And it was actually really cool discovering all these really awesome parks along the way.  (I don't think I could have managed that before iPhones!)  Also, when we were there in Maryland, if staying in and letting the kids play in the water in the back yard is what works, then go with it!  Having a peaceful and fun evening is much better than stressing out at a nice restaurant while my kids ruin everyone else's night.
"taking family vacations" "taking kids on a road trip" "how to survive road trips" "how to survive family vacations"

3)  Car Money

"taking family vacations" "taking kids on a road trip" "how to survive road trips" "how to survive family vacations"
I saw this tip on one of the many websites I consulted, and it was genius.  I made car money with me and Michael’s faces on them, and they could earn it and use it as currency in the car.  Genius.  Pure genius.  Thank you, random road trip guru from the internets.  (If enough of you wants a post about this, let me know, and I’ll tell you how we did it.)

All in all, we loved our trip.  We're so grateful for our friends for letting us stay with them all week.  It was such a great time, and we're thankful for great friends.  :)
"taking family vacations" "taking kids on a road trip" "how to survive road trips" "how to survive family vacations"

Have you taken a road trip with kids?  What's the longest you've travelled? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Choices

If you missed me raving about Positive Discipline, then here it is again - so excited about this.

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When I moved into my house I knew that it was *fine*.  It wasn't perfect; it needed work; but it would get us by (design-wise).  What I totally underestimated was my desire to CHOOSE everything in my house.

The wallpaper in the kitchen was *fine*, but I didn't choose it, so...it had to go.  

The wall color in the guest bathroom was neutral and *fine*, but it wasn't a color that I would have chosen, so...it had to go.  

The carpet was new (albiet extremely cheap), and it was *fine*, but I began feeling so trapped by it, so...it had to go.

I like choices, and I don't think that's abnormal.  Lack of choices makes us feel trapped and out of control, and pretty soon we freak out.  

What I've also learned in my old age is that.....wait for it.....

KIDS LIKE CHOICES, because, THEY'RE PEOPLE, TOO!!!

It's true!  I don't know how many times we've had this exact conversation in our house: 

MAMA: Okay, it's bath-time!
TODDLER: NO! I no wanna take a baff!
MAMA: Well, you have to, so let's go.
Mama procedes to take baby kicking and screaming to said baff OR Mama gives in and baby goes to bed with no baff.  Which is it gonna be - depends on the night and how much energy Mama has.  

The solution, you ask?  CHOICES!  

MAMA: Alright, it's bath-time!  Do you want to use your Spiderman body wash or your Jake and the Neverland Pirates body wash?
TODDLER:  DAKE!!!
MAMA:  Sweet, let's go get it!

I'm not exaggerating, either.  I swear to you that works 99% of the time.  It's like a Jedi mind trick or something. 

We can give our little kids choices ALL day long.  And giving them choices shows them respect and kindness.

We don't have to control every little thing and make them into little robots whose wills we've broken (I have actually heard it taught that you have to break a child's will - kills me).  Nor do we have to give them free reign.  

We can give them the framework to make good decisions but still let them grow their choosing muscles because it gives them confidence, self-assuredness, and a healthy will.  This will help them for life.

Here are some more choices I use daily:

Would you rather get dressed yourself or do you want me to pick out your clothes?  
The Tiger, especially, ALWAYS chooses to pick them out himself, and this solves the dilemma of getting out the door in time (and I get the joy of seeing just what he comes up with when he walks out of his room and asks me if he looks handsome - which he ALWAYS does).

Do you want oatmeal or toast and eggs for breakfast?
Suddenly they can't just dream up something else that I don't have time to make because they're preoccupied making this choice. 

Do you want yogurt or peanut butter on your pancakes?
If the option isn't given, then they don't even think of syrup.

Do you want to climb in your carseat yourself or do you want Mommy to help you?
When he has that choice to make, the option of roaming the van until we're late is suddenly off the table.

Do you want to walk into gym or do you want Mommy to carry you?
It can be either, but the option to not go is not there.

Do you want to turn off the light (at bedtime) or do you want me to?
He usually wants to, and if it turns into a game of strobe light, then I tell him that I'll turn it off if he doesn't want to. 

Kinda fun, right?!  I swear it works.  If you don't do this already, try it consistently for a week and you will SO see the fruit of PEACE in your house - I promise!!!

Anyway, I hope this helps some of you out there that are at your wit's end.  Parenting with kindness and firmness is where it's at.  ;)

Do you practice giving choices in your family?  What's the most common choice you give daily?

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