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Super Sisters

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Jen, Kristen, and Patience

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July 2009 Archives


Road Tripping With the Kids

Posted by Kristen on July 20, 2009 at 6:44 AM in Family ActivitiesRoad Trip
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I went to the craft store to pick up some things for the trip. It was only when I reached for the glue that I realized I had lost my mind. Glue? In a car? The worst thing that has ever happened to me is getting a minivan. I treat it like it is the living room. Derek freaked out and said, "You can't give the kids a glue project in the car. That is crazy." He is exactly right so I put that glue right back and bought those alphabet stickers in the tub. I think there are about 500 in there and there appears to be an inordinate amount of X's. Whatever. There will be a lot of kisses on paper then.

I also bought those dollar paddles with the ball attached on the stretchy string. I envision getting to the West Virginia border before someone figures out how to bounce the ball so hard that it extends to his brother's seat and most likely on his head.

I proposed an elaborate tubing system between the seats so the boys could send their cars back and forth but then I was reminded of that special on television about people getting impaled in car accidents with things like tissue boxes. I think we'll have to settle for the usual imaginative play instead. When I told Ethan we were going away, the following conversation ensued.

K: Ethan. Did you know we are going on a road trip this week?
E: What do you mean?
K: We are going to drive to Chicago this week.
E: Where is Chicago?
K: About 700 miles away.
E: But we can't, Mom.
K: Why can't we?
E: I'll probably have to go to the bathroom.
K: We can stop if you need to go.
E: Mom. I needed to go to the bathroom for so long today and you wouldn't stop the car.
K: That's a good point. But I promise that I will stop to let you go to the bathroom on our road trip.
E: After a long time?
K: Probably.

I'm really going to work on that. No one wants to be remembered as the parent who wouldn't even let the kids out of the car on gas stops (looking at you, Grandpa). Did your parents stop the car when YOU needed to go?


Supersisters Weekend Roundup

Posted by Jen on July 18, 2009 at 7:00 AM in JenSupersister Weekend Roundup
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brian reading-1

Getting a little worried that school re-entry is going to be brutal with all the bike riding instead of book reading? Here are a few little activities that are a gentle, playful reminder of the kind of structured learning your kids will be asked to do in the coming school year.

For your budding readers, try this little letter recognition game from our friends at Super Why.

Get this summer-friendly primer on following directions (a school success must) with this treasure hunt from the reading experts at Between the Lions.

And it's never too late (I promise) to get back on track with the book reading for summer--these helpful tips and a quick trip to the library are all you need to get your early readers remembering how much they love the page as much as the pool.


Why I Skipped the M-n-Ms and Other Reasons Not to Reward

Posted by Jen on July 17, 2009 at 7:00 AM in Jen
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anders and jaron 2  068

Okay, I hear some sisters are breaking out the candy in hopes of getting some little people on the potty along with some practice at making the grade so they'll be ready to perform in the big leagues when the time comes. Well, I've got no complaint with rewarding kids for little things here and there to get the ball moving when it comes to cultivating interest in new skills, but I've found with my kids that the road to rewards is pretty slippery. Here's why I ultimately abandoned rewards as a way to get my kids on board.

Rewards set you up for constant negotiation. No problem if you're raising a future lawyer (cough cough Kris), but not the happiest of things to live with on a day in day out basis. Do you really want argue with your kids about whether or not your price for this grade or that mastered skill is worth their effort?

Rewards shift the focus to the outcome versus what can be gained in the process.
What prize can compare to the experience of gaining mastery over something difficult or new? My kids could obsess on what they'll get when they finish, but I'd rather they set their eyes on the prize of solving a problem or learning something new for the sheer joy it brings.

Rewards train kids to gauge progress by an external measure instead of learning what's right for them. I want my kids to be the judge of how they're doing--and I believe with or without the reward to push (or repel) them--they already know. This is an important skill that can only grow when we give them the chance to deeply engage in the task instead of fixate on the outcome.

Rewards steal the happiness you can get from doing something well just because you want to. My kids are truly miserable when I bring my praise to the mix--especially when they are engaging in a skill-building activity that they chose on their own volition. There's nothing more exciting than watching your own skills deepen--rewards divert you from the real prize of learning how to do something you chose completely on your own.

Rewards undermine your intuition which may give your kid essential information about where their interests and talents truly lie. How many jobs have you had because the paycheck was right or the benefits couldn't be beat? How many of those same jobs ended up having absolutely nothing to do with your core interests or talents? Let's give our kids a leg up by letting them experience their true potential without roping them into a rat race that will ultimately leave them feeling less talented or free.

Rewards are ultimately demotivating as inevitably the joy of the prize doesn't quite seem worth the effort.
This is a real shame because kids need to learn that the act of learning is a reward in and of itself and rewards completely minimize a task's intrinsic non-material payoff. I think a lot of the time our kids miss out on lots of possiblities simply because they've been confronted with a reward for mastery that hardly seems worth the trouble.

Do you use rewards with your kids? Where do you draw the line?


Pay-For-Performance Potty Training

Posted by Kristen on July 16, 2009 at 8:14 AM in Potty Training
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pt.JPGI have a sister (she knows who she is) who once gave me a book that discussed all the ills of reward-based parenting. The book poetically waxed on and on about how children should just be expected to do things that were expected of them. That by rewarding them you were teaching them that they deserved a reward for things they should already be doing as members of a family unit. That life doesn't give you treats if you clean up your room.

I read it. I studied it. Then, frankly, I threw it in the trash. I threw it in the trash because it's cr@p. Your boss does give you a treat if you do your work that you are expected to complete. It's called a paycheck. In some jobs, you get a bigger paycheck if you did better in school. In some jobs, you get a bigger paycheck if you do a better job than everyone else. This salary plan is often called Pay-for-Performance. Pay-for-Performance is a pay plan of which I am all too familiar with from my former life.

I decided to implement Pay-for-Performance Potty Training at my house. One M&M for the easy stuff, a handful of M&M's for the more complicated parts of successful potty training and NO M&M's for peeing on the bathroom wall just because you thought it was so cool that you could actually pee on a wall. It's kind of like getting a good review for peeing in the appropriate place but getting a really great review for pooping in the potty. I think that a reward be given commensurate with your success. I really don't think that doing the bare minimum should earn you a GS-15, a corner office and the right to give out really, really BAD reviews to your employee who had the HIGHEST RECOVERY OF THE YEAR while your preschooler sleeps under the conference table in your corner office because she was too sick to go to daycare but not too sick to come into the office and cough on all the door knobs. Not that I'm bitter.

Another controversial Pay-for-Performance subject, the jury is still out on Pay-for-Performance for high school grades here at my house. My husband says "no" but part of me says "yes." I mean, if your kid gets a 4.0 in high school, it's less money you'll have to pay for his mediocre college education since you won't have the $100,000 a year to pay for his Ivy education (assuming he gets accepted). I don't think you should give a kid a $20 bill for a C, but maybe there is something to giving them an incentive to do well. I'm not saying your kid should get paid for everything he does. I'm just saying it might not be a bad idea to create an incentive to do something that results in good habits being formed. Like not peeing in your Bob the Builders, if you know what I mean. Luckily we have another 10 years to argue maturely discuss paying for grades.

Now is a good time to tell you that reward-based parenting doesn't work with my kids anyway. Apparently they have a very high price on their personal freedom and decision-making. Sticker charts? My kids spit on sticker charts. They laugh at sticker charts. They draw on sticker charts with rogue Sharpies found hidden away in drawers. Which means I'll be changing diapers until these kids go to college. Hopefully they'll be going with a 4.0 average.


Kids Everywhere

Posted by Jen on July 15, 2009 at 9:30 AM in Jen
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Play hide and seek.

i see you-1

Love a good thumb war.
Know how to dance.
Want you to watch them put on a show.

dancing queens-1

Need to know.
Want to have more play time.
Never want to go to bed when you ask.
Love to learn.

brian reading-1

Love to laugh.
Need to play.
Need to be.


I'm home from a twelve day trip to Rwanda, trying to reconnect with my own kids while recovering from playing with kids halfway around the world. Glad to be back and wondering what's new with the sisters. We're exactly at the halfway point of summer. Are you ready for it to end or just starting to hit your stride?


The New Safety Queen

Posted by Patience on July 14, 2009 at 7:00 AM
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little farm19

I have to confess I've never been one of those worried mothers regarding safety. I generally let my kids explore with an eye on them but some distance. They haven't really been accident prone, and usually listen to me. Today though, I had a very scary moment that kind of rearranged everything in my head.

We have street parking in my little neighborhood and today I parked across the street for early morning street cleaning tomorrow. It's a very narrow street and there isn't much traffic. I crossed and turned around to wait for Jack and Lucy who were getting out on the other side. While Jack just started to tell me he didn't want to cross the street alone, Lucy darted right into the path of a car. Jorge looking on yelled, the driver slammed on her breaks just missing my little girl.

The worst part was right before I was telling Jack to wait and all would be fine. His little intuition was on, mine, the mother, was not. I just wanted to get in the house so I could cry, instead I couldn't stop shaking for the rest of the night. Lucy and I spent the next half hour practicing crossing the street together.

I'm sure it will take awhile to shake this feeling of terror in my heart . I think we'll be much more aware and careful over here. I'll take the gift of her safety, hold her tight and try not to think about what might have happened.

Have you ever had anything scary happen with your kids? Are you generally laidback or more intense when it comes to safety? Maybe somewhere in the middle? Tell us your stories in the comments.


Why Can't The Kids All Just Get Along?

Posted by Kristen on July 13, 2009 at 7:27 AM in Siblings
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Actually these two did get along. In fact, when all of the cousins were together this weekend, they all got along most of the time. However, it is difficult to navigate the Big Kids/Little Kids dilemma that always occurs. How often do you get together with family or friends and there is a friend for everyone?

The big kids just want to play with each other but their mothers have taught them to be inclusive. Ethan just wants to play with the big kids but he also wants to take a turn at bossing all of them around. They will tolerate his presence and even be kind to him, but I noticed that no one was going to be bossed around by a four-year-old. I understand how they feel completely.

Nate wanted to be with Lucy and luckily Lucy graciously allowed him to do just that. He enjoyed running after her and doing whatever she told him to do. I guess he thought it was a small price to pay to be with her. Nathan is not even remotely complicated. Ethan and Lucy are closer in age but Lucy could not have cared less about the big kids. She was on her own program and perfectly happy.

Lyra kept trying to sit on Mason's head but I imagine that will all change when she is no longer 10 months old and Mason is no longer 4 months old. Clearly Patience was not used to all the "man-handling" because she kept apologizing. Mason just seemed glad that Lyra was only trying to sit on his head and not trying to get him to play catch with a regulation-sized basketball like his brothers do when their mother turns her back for one little second.

I probably should have told Ethan to leave the big kids alone but I didn't do it. Would you have?

Photo by Marmie.


Supersisters Weekend Roundup

Posted by Jen on July 11, 2009 at 8:08 AM in JenSupersister Weekend Roundup
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delia camping-1

If your summer days are needing to dial down to something a little calmer, a little quieter, check out this sweet button hunt for all your kids who are beyond needing the heimlich maneuver every five seconds. A perfect past time for your favorite sorters and sifters.

Having a bout of doubt about the next round of development tasks for your "terrible" two, your super spilling five year old or sassy school girl at seven? Let the scariest parts be your guide all the way home with this sweet story from master storyteller and mom Meg Casey.

Knit Simply Knit mama Amy has a lovely photo essay about her summer evenings that will remind you these later bedtimes are worth it all. And if you're looking for summer nighttime fun, here's a little game that will make for lots of flash light fun.

Here's hoping your summer days (and nights) are especially sweet this weekend.


Parenting A Difficult Child

Posted by Patience on July 10, 2009 at 2:28 PM in Raising BoysRaising Girls
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museum kid3

Chances are the kid that makes you the most crazy will turn out to be the president of the United States, or at least this is what I keep telling myself. Spirited children are challenging, smart, funny, strong, tender and well sometimes, hard.

Here's what I've learned so far after many mistakes and triumphs:

Everybody knows but you. Well meaning friends always know what you should do to help the struggles you have with hard kids. Sometimes they are right and have a perspective you can't see because you are so "in it." Other times, not so much. It's okay to blow off or spend less time with the expert parents, grandparents, friends every now and then.

You are tired. This is an understatement. Parenting is hard and parenting harder kids is exhausting. I would even venture to say you need more breaks and time away than the average to be the parent you want and need to be to this child. Take the time, ask even if it feels hard to, you'll be glad you did.

The world expects children to be little adults. We are only 50 years from the "children should be seen and not heard" way of thinking. Our society is often unaware of behaviour that is purely developmental. The expectations are high and we often set our kids up for failure. Read up on your kid's development, it might help.

The great push. The truth is, these kids push us to be better parents. We have to aquire skills to make it work and to meet their needs. They can teach us loads about ourselves if we hang in there and keep trying.

So the comment section is open to your thoughts on extreme parenting, vent, send us tips, tell us your stories. Or at least weigh in telling us you are in the same boat, we'll throw you a life vest.


I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

Posted by Kristen on July 9, 2009 at 6:25 AM in Raising Boys
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049.JPGSomething happened along the way and now I'm stuck in this crazy place. Three times in a row I promised my kids dessert if they ate all their dinner. Now they are saying crazy things like "can I have a popsicle?" After breakfast.

Um, no. You can't have a popsicle after breakfast. I realize it is summer but a mom has to have her limits. And a chocolate marshmallow ice cream in a waffle cone? Definitely not. Ok, maybe this once.

You are a slacker mom during the summer too, right?

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