Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Ladder

We have started a new system in our house that has been working miracles.
My kids are suddenly doing jobs without me asking them to.
If I don't make my bed as soon as I get up, some little person is in there making it for me.
Dubs went to bed distraught one night worried that there would not be enough jobs to do the next day.
What 5 year old do you know who's worried about not having enough jobs?
My kids are generally more kind to each other.
Arguing? Gone.
Back talking? None.
Rolling of eyes and general disrespect?
No more.
When I ask them to do something they say, "OK, mom!" with a smile on their face and they run to do it.
Sound too good to be true?
Well, let me tell you, it's really not.
It's ever so much simpler than I could have ever imagined.
It's called The Ladder.
It's heaven sent.
I stole the idea from a friend, then modified it to fit our family.
I am thinking about modifying it again now that we've been doing it for a few weeks, just to tweak a few things to better suit us.
The Ladder is basically a list of privileges, I have listed 10.
Things the kids like and that are super cool are at the top of The Ladder.
Things that are boring and even undesirable are at the bottom of The Ladder.
Each child has a button (stuck on with poster tack) on The Ladder to mark where they are.
They move up The Ladder for good behavior as invited to do so by either myself or Mr Bird.
If we notice a child being kind or sharing without being asked, we invite them move their button up one level.
If two children are fighting or if they argue after being given an instruction they are invited to move their button down one level, thus losing a privilege.
The children can have any privilege that his button is on or any of the ones below his button.
Here's what our Ladder looks like right now.
  1. Alone time with Mom and Dad (if a child has his button on this level they will be invited to make a run to the hardware store with Daddy or may be invited to go on date night with mom and dad or some other sort of one on one time with one or both of us.)
  2. Screen Time (computer or movie)
  3. Play Day with Friend
  4. Personal bedtime story (after prayers and the family bedtime story, I pull each child who is at or above this level one at a time to read a story of their choice. Beano and I are reading Indian in the Cupboard and he loves it. He is never below this level for fear of missing this.)
  5. Make Dinner with Mom (my kids love to do this and fight over whose turn it is. Doodle's night is Monday, but if she's below this step on The Ladder she will have to miss her turn. Beano gets Tuesday, Dubs gets Wednesday, Baby gets Thursday and Friday is date night. We just wing it on the weekends.)
  6. Family activity (park, museum, Ogden Nature Center, hike, etc. All the kids must be on or above this level)
  7. Play outside during free time
  8. Snacks (I put this pretty low on The Ladder because I wanted them to all be able to have snacks, but it they are really naughty they miss eating a snack, which is a fate worse than death in this house)
  9. Fold a batch of laundry (I always can use help in this department)
  10. Dish Duty! (When dishes need done the person at the bottom of The Ladder gets to do them, no questions asked)
To them it's like a real life version of a board game.
They have a visual of where they are and it has been miraculous for us.
Here are some tips and general rules for our family.

  • Any hitting or pushing or biting or pinching or anything of that nature is automatically 3 steps down.
  • Telling a lie is 3 steps down.
  • Most any other bad behavior is one step down. Such as back talking, eye rolling, arguing, yelling at sibling, unkindness and selfishness, etc.
  • Good behavior is one step up, such as doing something for the family without being asked, sharing, obedience, using kind words, helpfulness, etc.
  • Our world does not stop to accommodate a privilege. They are only allowed to have screen time after dinner is cleaned up, not anytime they want it just because their button is there. Play days with friends must be arranged before hand and will be canceled if the child does not stay at or above that level. These privileges must fit in our regularly scheduled programing.
  • If someone moves someone else's button they go down one.
  • If they ask if they can move up because of some deed or kindness the answer is automatically no. They must wait to be invited. They are allowed to tell me that they did an extra job, then I determine if they go up or not.
  • If a child is at the bottom and ends up falling off The Ladder that means they have earned a 24 hour consequence. That means no privileges for 24 hours. The only things they are allowed to do during those 24 hours are jobs, SODAS (I'll post about those later), and school work. Their world literally stops for them and they do not have the opportunity to get back on the ladder or start going back up until the 24 hours are over.
  • Where I put them back on after the 24 hours depends on their behavior during the 24 hour consequence. If they were horrible and thew fits at every instruction or refused to be helpful, I'll put them at the bottom level where they risk falling off again and must work hard to get back up. If they were super obedient and had a good attitude and were kind to the family I'll put them at or near the top. If they are just OK, but not horrible, I'll put them near the middle.
  • If a child is near the bottom it usually means they need a little more love and attention from me or Mr Bird. In that case I spend time looking in their eyes and talking to them, it seems to be just the boost they need and before I know it they are kind and I can find opportunities to invite them to move up.
  • If I'm grumpy they all seem to end up near the bottom, go figure.
  • This has given them personal responsibility for their actions. It shows them immediate consequences for their choices. I don't have to get upset, I just let the lack of privilege do the teaching.
  • Baby has a button, too. he moves it around willy nilly, but does not really understand the concepts yet. He has to be part of it though. I'm training him for later.
This is really long.
I hope it makes sense.
I really love it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Confessions of a Desperate Housewife

Some days I just feel exhausted.
Like someone has connected a wire to my insides and just started sucking all the life out of me.
I feel drained and unmotivated.
I had a million things to do today and only got to about 1/3 of them.
I have been walking around since I woke up with my work out clothes on in hopes of getting my work out in.
But it never happened, so I never showered or bothered to change out of them or even comb my frizzy ponytail hair.
By the time Mr Bird got home I was ready for some quiet.
But since our baby sitter canceled I knew our weekly date night was out of the question.
So I did what any desperate house wife would do.
I thew on some shoes and made my way to Wal-Mart.
How sad is it that I look to Wal-Mart for a refuge of peace and quiet.
That must tell you how my day was.
I would have gone to Target, but I was not dressed for Target.
You know those web sites with pictures of shamefully dressed people walking the isles of Wally World?
I could have put some of those people to shame.
My hair was haphazardly thrown in a ponytail, my workout clothes were limp and ugly from a day of cooking and cleaning.
I did not realize how much pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes I was wearing on my shirt until I looked down in the store.
I spent the rest of my shopping trip Praying I would not see someone I know and crossing my arms over my shirt to hide the stains.
I looked like a home school mom.
I looked like one of those cats that has been thrown in a tub of water with an awful expression, whose eyes seem too big for the rest of its pitiful little self.
If you had seen me today you would have either laughed or stared in utter amazement.
I was truly a sight to behold.
Tomorrow, I am showering first thing!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Go Brad!

Yet another dream come true!
Not only did I get to be in a parade, I got to be in charge of the float and boss people around.
As head of the parade committee, I also was in charge of organizing all 5 local parades in the span of 2 weekends.
Man, what a ride!

We all had a total blast, most of the time.
Between an unexpected death in the family just a few days before the first parade and finding a new lead fiddler, we were definately feeing the pressure.

As you can see, we opted to forgo the equestrian route.
We did not feel any of our horses were parade ready at this point.
You know horses and loud unexpected sounds.
Some horses are used to it after lots and lots of training, or they get a big dose of tranquilizers before such big events.
Since we were not willing to drug our animals, we opted for the next best thing.

Live country music, of course!
My cute nieces Jeni and Jordana we on fiddles, Mr Bird on his coolest ever bass, Mama Lisa on guitar and Justin the Great on banjo.
It was an all out moving Howe Down complete with near deafening sound system!
My job was to walk beside the trailer and giver Otter Pops and American flags (with Brad Galvez stickers attached) to the cute kids in the crowd.

And there he is, the man himself, larger than life.
Two Saturdays in a row we had an early parade and then we rushed to the next local city just in time to sneak in their line up and do it all over again.
The mornings were early (even for us) and the heat and excitement of it all was exhausting.

Baby Cakes (whose not really a baby anymore) had the very important job of waving the flag from the back seat of the truck at all the cute girls.
He rocked!
As you can see, it was too much for my little man.
As soon as we hopped in the truck to head back to our vehicles, he was out like a light.
It seriously only took 3 seconds!

Even so, who can resist a spontaneous post parade horse ride party in grandpa's shady back yard?
Not my little man, he's never happier than he when he's on a horse!

Was it all I dreamed it would be?
Will I ever do something this crazy again?
Were my kids on a sugar high for the next 3 days straight?

Yes, Yes and YES!

Only next time, one parade per year is good for me!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Back to Basics

Have you noticed that I love food?
I love to make food, I love to eat food and I love to feed those I love the wonderful creations I create.
I have been on a sour dough kick again.
Yesterday it was sour dough waffles for breakfast.
Today I made sour dough bagels.
They are to die for.
I could eat those everyday for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy.
Tonight for dinner we will have tortillas made with sour dough and tomorrow I'm making sour dough English muffins.
I can hardly wait!
I love nothing more than making healthy food and then watching my family enjoy it.
I love how these recipes have such few and simple ingredients, yet they taste divine.
I am ruined forever.
I started this journey in a quest for a healthier life style, but now I think I'm just spoiled.
I can't eat store bought bagels any more.
They taste like cardboard.
Homemade ones are chewy on the outside and super soft and moist on the inside.
They are not all the same exact cookie cutter shape.
They look hand crafted, I can see each imperfection in their shape and it makes me happy.
It's the same with everything I make.
The store bought version just seems like a sorry excuse for the real thing.
It's like the difference between picking a super red and juicy tomato from the vine and eating it while it's still warm from the sun's rays and then getting a tomato from the store that is almost red and has been sitting in a warehouse refrigerator for heaven only knows how long.
They are both a tomato, but if you've ever eaten one fresh you know what I'm talking about.
Pulling a warm, chewy cookie off the still hot cookie sheet is ever so much more satisfying than opening a package and eating the sad excuse for the same thing.
Sometime people give me flack for the way we eat.
I wonder why?
Really, store bought and fast food has only been available in the massive quantities that is today for the last 50 years or so.
Think of the whole rest of the history of the earth.
What did people eat then?
There were no Super Wal-Marts filled with man made flavors and preservatives at people's finger tips.
People ate what they could grow or what they could trade for.
And you now what? That simple way of eating not only works, but it tastes better and is infinitely better for you.
I know you all think I'm crazy, and I admit that I probably am.
But honestly, it seems a lot more crazy to me to fill my kids full of additives just because I'm too busy or tired or lazy to make them real food.
I mean that with all the love possible, but seriously, it's time to get back to basics.
The American diet is killing us.
It's making us fat and depressed and sick.
Did you know that if the current trends continue our children's generation is the first generation on average whose life expectancy will be significantly shorter than their parents.
That means that our children will die before us.
That is totally backwards.
Here's another scary fact.
If a child eats 2 bowls of sugar cereal a day until they are 12 years old, they are 100% sure to have diabetes by the time they are 18 years old.
Sad. Scary. Totally Unnecessary.
The good news? 100% preventable.
Make a change, any change.
Start small.
Stop buying cereal.
Make breakfast for a week straight.
It's summer time, we have time.
Make granola or muffins or a smoothie or pancakes or french toast or oatmeal (not the sugar boxed kind!).
Make anything, anything would be better than almost any cereal you can buy.
Try it for a week, even if the kids complain.
Trust me, you'll be glad you did!
We have got to see it for what it is and make a change.
At least Jamie Oliver agrees with me!