What NOT to Do During A Temper Tantrum

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July already? Where is the summer going? Heather here, from FamilyVolley.com, and today I am sharing a few “what not to do’s” when it comes to temper tantrums. Because even though school might be out for the summer, our parenting gig never gets a summer break.

Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood. For a complete step by step guide on how to prevent and deal with temper tantrums, check out these posts. Temper Tantrums Part 1 and Part 2.

In the heat of the tantrum, there are few things most parents try, that just don’t work. Here is a quick reference guide of 4 things you should NOT DO when the tantrum breaks out.

First, Don’t Ask Questions. Ugh, I find myself guilty of this one. In the middle of a tantrum I want to ask “why are you throwing a fit”, “what happened”, “talk to me and tell me what is wrong.” But, small children don’t have the mental development or language skills to express what they are feeling. So asking them questions in the heat of the fit, will most likely add frustration and prolong the tantrum.

Second, Loose the Empty Threats. Don’t threaten to take away the treat, or put them in their room, or take them to sit in the car, if you are not going to follow through. Just don’t do it. Empty threats actually teach kids to misbehave. Plus, not following through sets us up to loose our position of authority with our children. If we are going to threaten, we have to follow through. Quickly and without emotion. The key is to be consistent. If you can’t follow through with the threat, don’t threaten.

Third, Don’t Use Reason. In the middle of a temper tantrum is not the time to explain to your two year old that eating a 6th piece of licorice is not a great idea because of the red die in the candy. Or that the weather man says it is going to rain and she is going to need to wear the coat she is refusing to put on. There will be time for reasoning and explaining later on. During the tantrum, our children can’t access their rationalizing and reasoning skills. Tantrums are about emotion, not reason, so trying to use reason won’t help us.

Fourth, Don’t Yell. Our kids are looking for attention when they throw a tantrum. They want a reaction and it doesn’t matter if it comes from positive behavior, or negative behavior. Yelling gives them the attention they are looking for, so we can’t do it. Instead we need to take a deep breath, count to ten in our head, and remember that we are the adult, and then act like one. Solid research shows that parents who yell and get angry, have children who demonstrate the same behavior. So when we yell, we are actually teaching our children to yell and be angry too. Teaching them to do exactly what we say we don’t want them to do.

Tantrums are challenging. Instead of yelling and throwing out empty threats, give your child a hug, or stay close to them and assure them you are going to stay with them until “they are done”. Remember, Compassion is always more powerful than anger.

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Family Game

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Happy Summer! It’s Heather from FamilyVolley.com, here again to share with you a fun game to play with your family and friends.

All you need for this game is a squirt bottle full of water.

To Play

Have everyone in your family sit in a circle on the floor.

One person will start in the middle of the circle with the squirt bottle. The person in the middle picks a category (for example, colors, ice cream flavors, Disney movies, Harry Potter characters, breakfast cereals, etc…), and then think of an item within that category. Without telling anyone what they have chosen, they need to go around the circle while each person takes a turn guessing what that item is.

So… if the category is colors, each person would say a different color. Trying not to say the color the person in the middle has secretly picked. When someone does guess the item in the category, they get sprayed in the face with the squirt bottle. And they become the next person in the middle. (In this game you are actually trying to not guess the exact item and become the next person in the middle.)

For example. I am in the middle, the category is colors, and I have secretly chosen the color red. I start with my husband who guesses blue (so he is safe), then our daughter guesses orange (she is safe). And then our other daughter says red (so I squirt her in the face with the squirt bottle-because she guessed the color I had chosen.) She is then in the middle with the squirt bottle. She chooses a category, and then an item in that category (keeping it to herself). And we start going around the circle again. 

Two Rules…

1. If someone repeats a guess that has already made, then they get squirted in the face, so always pay attention.

2. If you take more than 3 seconds to make your guess, you get squirted in the face. No stalling.

This game is perfect for all ages. Kids especially! We are giving them an excuse to squirt one another? What kid doesn’t like that. Our family loves to choose fun and silly categories, but we also use the game to work on our colors, numbers between 1-20, we use it to practice multiplication facts and even to work on vocabulary words for our kids school vocab tests.

Time to grab your squirt bottles and have some fun. With all the heat outside, cross your fingers the family game turns into a family water fight and start making memories together.

So, how many breakfast cereals can you name?
Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Surviving Summer With Kids

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Successful summer break

 

It’s Heather, from FamilyVolley, here to share some tips to help your summer break run a little more smoothly. With the kids out of school, and under our feet, it can be tough to know how to keep everyone sane.

Here are 3 suggestions for Surviving Summer with Kids at your house.

Have Realistic Expectations- We Don’t Have to Keep Up With The Jones’.

Media and the internet tell us that summer vacation must be filled with a million field trips, snow cones every night, crafts, water parks, the aquarium, zoo trips every week, and the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that a successful summer doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, or run your family ragged. The most important thing about these summer months is that your children know they are loved (this is important every day of the year), and that they get a break from the stress they feel during the school year routines. There will be other goals that you family has for summer, and that is good. BUT… Don’t let all the Pinterest pins and blog posts make you feel that you are “less than” if you stay home, run through the sprinklers in your backyard, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together on the front lawn. Take a few minutes to talk to you children about what summer break expectations are. Understand how to best give them the stress relief they need for the next few months and then do what is best for your family. Period.

Keep a Schedule

One of my favorite parts about summer is that our everyday schedule is not so strict. I LOVE the fact that I don’t have to have kids to school every morning at 7:45 and 8:20. I love that most of the extra curricular activities that our children participate in are taking a summer break also. I love that no one ever needs clean socks because we live in flip flops and I revel in the flexibility in our days. BUT… Keeping a schedule is still a very important part of the summer months, just like it is during the school year. Although there will be more exceptions, stick to a morning and bedtime schedule (even if bedtime is just a little later). For little ones, stick to that nap schedule as best you can. Keep meal time routines and eat dinner together.  Schedules make things predictably. When things are predictably, they provide stability and security. Children are better behaved and happier when life is stable and routines and schedules are in place. It is a proven fact. So although summer invites a more relaxed lifestyle, we can’t let that turn into laziness, or we will have a bunch of crying and whining kids on our hands. Which translates into a stressed out momma.

Decide what your schedule looks like. There are many different approaches, but here are 3 that tend to be popular. Before you choose the best approach for your family, create a “basic schedule” of how each day will run. (Wake up, breakfast, housework, lunch, play time, reading time, snack, etc… you get the picture). Then you can….

1. Write out a list of all the things you and your family want to do this summer. A bucket list of sorts. Grab a calendar and fill in the days with your bucket list ideas. Creating a summer plan and calendar filled with your ideas. Put the calendar where everyone can see it so they can follow along and know what is going to happen, and when. This will also help with the “Mom, what are we doing today” question.

2. After creating your everyday schedule, assign each day a different theme and them follow along through the summer weeks. For example…

Make it Monday (crafts, creations, creativity)

Time To Read Tuesday (library day, reading time, fun activities or projects related to books and learning)

Wet and Wild Wednesday (anything water related. could be a water activity or game, or learning about how water works)

Thoughtful Thursday (do something nice for someone else)

Fun Friday (time to have some fun)

Your categories can be anything you want. For example, it could be “Take a Trip Tuesday” instead. You could give your kids each a week to plan. Filling each day with an activity that fits the theme assigned for that day.

3. Keep a general schedule and then don’t worry about filling the days with certain things. Keep a few hours open each day and enjoy the freedom of filling your time however you want. With something, or nothing.

Limit Technology

One of the quickest ways to watch the summer slip through your fingers and spend your days with ornery and grouchy kids, is to let technology take over. Technology is a part of life and there are so many benefits to its usage, but too much will hurt us. Make it clear how much technology is allowed each day so that things don’t get out of control. Some families like to allow their kids to earn their technology by doing extra work around the house and yard. Or by doing extra things to serve and help others. However you decide to monitor your technology, be mindful of the time your kids are spending in front of it.

Happy Happy Summer!

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Helping Children Deal with Death (and other stressful life events)

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Hi Idea Room Readers. It’s Heather from FamilyVolley, back to share a few helpful parenting tips with you.

I had something planned for this post, but when I woke a few days ago to start writing, everything changed. My Instagram feed was covered with images of a sweet little boy who was tragically killed last week. His mother is involve in social media, and the community has been posting in support of her, her husband and their family. I haven’t been able to shake the image of that little boy. I can’t help but look at my own children differently and think about my role as their mother differently too. I don’t know this family, but my heart hurts for them.

As I was following along with the story, tears running down my face, our daughter walked in the room. She looked over my shoulder and asked who the little boy was and the conversation about life and death began. It hit, like it does so often, that as a mother, I am there to help them get through tough things. To help them understand even when I don’t. To put aside my hurt, to help them with theirs. I would guess that many of you have needed to have a similar conversation with your children. The how’s and why’s are tough. How do you explain why a child is hurt, or taken so young.

So this weeks post has changed. In an attempt to offer you some answers and some help when these tough conversations arise, lets chat about how we can help our children deal with the stress and uncertainty of death. These tips can be used for any stress our families are faced with, (a new sibling, moving, starting school, etc…)

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First, remember that everyone in your family deals with stress differently. When our children are very young, we can be more limited with what we tell them, but we never want to lie, or deceive. Be honest, don’t make things up.

We want to try and recognize how the stress is affecting our children (and the adults) in our family. Some children become violent or disobey. Some, like our daughter, become very quiet and withdrawn. There are almost always behavioral manifestations when dealing with stress. Be patient. Think about how hard it is to deal with these things as an adult and then put yourself in your child’s shoes.

Now… more specific suggestions.

1. Stick to the basics and eliminate stress. When there is a death or other stress in your family life, we need to do all we can to keep as much stress out of your home as possible. If we can’t keep up with the every day chores, we should ask for help. Eliminate ALL unnecessary activities and events. Get back to the basics.

2. Stick to the schedule. This is one of the most helpful things we can do for our children and for our families. Keep life consistent and keep doing what you have always done. Routines make life predictable. When things are predictable, they make us feel safe and secure. If we change everything up all of a sudden, it creates uncertainty with our children and that adds more stress. It will also make them feel that the death or stress has caused the instability.

3. Be a good example. When my grandmother died unexpectedly, I wanted to yell and scream and spit and throw something. I wanted to be so mad. But I couldn’t. Not like that, and not in front of the kids. We have to stay calm ourselves. Our children will be upset by outbursts and yelling. I could see our daughter watching me this morning as I scrolled through my social media feed. This will not be the last time she has to deal with death, or stress. It is my job to be a good example for her now, so as she grows older, she has the tools she needs to deal with these tough situations. I save my anger and hurt for when it is just my husband and me, and then I can be a little unstable.

4. Be a good listener. It is our job to protect our children. We need to give them a chance to talk, share their feelings, let them cry, be angry, and we need to listen. Listen without telling them to feel differently. We need to just let them feel the hurt and pain and emotions.

5. Teach our children coping skills. This might include how to handle anger, how to communicate and talk about feelings, how to take deep breaths, and how to relax.

6. DO THINGS TOGETHER AS A FAMILY! This is a big one. A really really big one. Do all you can to do things together as a family. When a loved one passes away we usually don’t want to get out and do anything. But we need to. There is solid evidence that shows that it is necessary to feel grief and pain, but that families who get out and do active things together, get over the loss faster and in a more healthy manner. Being active helps us heal.

7. Celebrate life. Help your children and family members do activities that will help them remember their loved one. When our children lost their great grandfather, who they were very close to, they each got to choose a special memento to keep in their rooms to help them remember him. We also talk about him on his birthday and holidays, and frequently pull up pictures of him and recall stories about his life. You can also put together a scrap book about their life that your kids can look through. Find ways to remember them and celebrate their life and the memories you hold so dear.

8. Find personal time to grieve. It can be easy to get so caught up in helping our children deal with death (or stress) that we don’t take time to grieve ourselves. I found myself doing this when my aunt died. She was very young and left behind three girls. I quickly became suto-mom to two of the three. One day I broke down in the shower. Filled with pain and grief. I had yet to take time to process the loss. And although I was needed to help them and my own family, I had to take some time for myself.

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers and women everywhere. Mother’s who do hard things. Who wipe tears, who comfort when children are hurting, and who bring joy and love to children and families. And mother’s who loose children, and still find a way to get out of bed each day and strength the women around them. It is by far, the most difficult responsibility I have ever undertaken. But it is also the most rewarding.

Happy Mother’s Day to each of you, and to the mothers in your life. May we all have more strength and confidence in helping our children deal with the difficult situations life brings us. And may your hearts be light. We are all in this together.

How do you explain death to your children?

How do you help them, when you need to take time for yourself also?

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Helping Children Prepare for End of School Year Testing

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Hello Idea Room readers, it’s Heather from Family Volley. With the end of the school year right around the corner, it’s time for end of the year testing. Here are a few tips for helping our kids handle test week.

1. Explain to our children why we take tests. Help them understand that tests are used to show how much we have learned. Encourage your child to do their best, but don’t put so much emphasis on them that they feel stressed. Help your child understand that they are not meant to trick or trouble your child. Only an opportunity to share what they know.

2. Practice the test format ahead of time. For example, your child might have to read a paragraph and answer questions. Using one of his text books, have him look at the questions at the end of the section first and then read the passage. That will help him know what to read for and how to find the answers. Maybe the test is going to be multiple choice. Put together a few fun multiple choice questions for your child to answer. Help them understand how you mark the correct answer and how to work through the process of elimination. This will take much stress out of test taking.

3. Limit activities the night before the tests. Most of our children’s teachers are really good about letting parents know ahead of time, when tests are going to be taken at school. But, if your child’s teachers are not sending that information home, ASK. Know when tests are going to be taken and limit the activities that your child participates in the day/night before. Avoid having guests over for dinner the night before, or even consider having your child skip their siblings sporting event if it means they are going to get home late.

4. Get a good night sleep. Although this is obvious, it is a good reminder. Sleep is one of the most important ways we can help prepare our children to take tests. And not just the night before. Sleep builds on itself, so be sure that they few days before those big tests, children are getting enough sleep and rest.

5. On test day, give them a good breakfast, full of energy. Try to include both protein and carbohydrates. So eggs, yogurt, milk and fruit, oatmeal and toast.

6. Ensure a stress free morning. The morning of a test is not the day you want to point out how slow your child is at getting ready for school, or fill the morning with stress and contention. We never want to send our kids to school that way, but on test day in-particular, steer clear of arguments and disagreements before kids head out the door. It will be hard for them to concentrate on their tests, when they are replaying arguments and trying to make sense of the disagreement you just had. It is also not the morning to have to rush. Be sure there is adequate time to get ready and get to school so no one has to rush and push.

Take a few minutes to think about ways you can make end of school year testing less stressful for your children. The extra preparation will help them get ready for the any test questions thrown their way.

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.



Parenting Mistakes We All Make and How to Avoid Them

Did you enter our Better Life Bags Giveaway? Be sure to check it out!

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It is really easy to blame our children’s negative behavior on our children. And there are times when their behavior is not a result of something we have done. But… there are also lots, and lots and lots of times when their negative behavior is actually a response to our parenting through some common Parenting Mistakes. Yes, it’s hard to digest, but we actually bring out the misbehavior. We actually bring out the behavior we say we don’t like. Yikes, that is tough to consider. SO, in order to make family life that much better, and if you want to see major improvement in your children’s behavior, avoid these patenting mistakes.

Parenting-Mistakes

Stop the … Paranoid Parenting

Not doubt that there is a lot of negative and horrible things in the world. Many things that could harm and hurt our children. As parents we need to watch over and protect them, but being paranoid is not a good parenting approach. Obsessively controlling our children will not make the world more safe. Constantly worrying about dangers that “could” happen only makes our children afraid. In fact, the tighter the reins we put on our children, makes the more anxious and less confident. It can also make them feel so controlled that they rebel.

Do you hear yourself saying, “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t go over there!” Stay right next to me!” “Don’t do that!” “Don’t go too far!”, “Stay close!, Stop!?

If you are saying these things All. The. Time, it needs to stop. Today’s generation of kids is more paranoid than any other. As parents we need to relax, and let our children deal with life. It is important not to pass our fears on to our kids. Constantly reminding our children of all the dangers in the world is not a good way to parent.

I have been guilty of this. Sometimes more than others. I especially run into this when something horrible happens. A few years ago there was a deadly mall shooting about 40 miles from where we live. My poor kids. They couldn’t even let go of the shopping cart at the grocery store. In fact, if I recall, I made all three of them at the time, get IN the cart. Just so I had them all close. When I watch the local news too much, I become so paranoid I am sure my kids feel like they can’t even breath. Paranoid parenting undermines a child’s ability to make their own decisions with confidence. Not a good way to go about raising kids.

Stop the …. Best Friend Parenting

Kids need parents who set rules and boundaries and don’t muddy the line between parent/adult and friend.  Remember we are their parents, the time to be friends will come later in life when they are grown adults. We need to stop avoiding making the unpopular decisions because we want our kids to “like us.” And stop avoiding disciplining our kids because we don’t want them to resent us. If you want spoiled children, seek to be their “best friend.” If you want kids who are secure, resilient, compassionate and responsible, be a parent.

Set clear limits and boundaries, and be in control. Our children need moms and dads, not best buddies. They will find those at school.

Stop the … Do Everything for them Parenting

Do you solve every one of your child’s problems? Do you finish their homework for them and do their school projects? Are you always swooping in to rescue? Do you finish their sentences and micromanage their lives? Do you answer for them when people ask them questions?

This parenting practice teaches kids to be dependent their entire lives. They grow up to be unprepared to handle life’s difficulties. Kids raised with this parenting technique have trouble developing self-reliance, problem solving and decision making. They also tend to avoid responsibility.

The goal is to be involved, lead, and teach. But not intrude, take over, or do it for them. Then your child can develop independence and live on their own one day.

Stop the … Quick Fix Parenting

Remember last time when you were at Super Target and your child threw a temper tantrum. So instead of leaving the cart and removing your child from the situation, you bribed your child with an ICEE and bag of popcorn? Maybe even a new toy. It fixed the situation that day, but in the long run it will make things worse. We are all guilty of quick fix parenting. We find ourselves willing to do anything, as long as it works right now. We warn, we threaten, and we give in.

Being tired, stressed, and over scheduled can lead to quick fix parenting, as well as being in public. :)

These techniques teach kids to act right…for the wrong reasons. It might be a temporary solution, but never brings lasting change.

We will be most effective as parents, when we take a few minutes to help our children understand what is wrong and make things right.

Stop the … Substitute Parenting

It seems that in this day and age, everything but parents are teaching kids. We are letting someone else parent our children. Media and television. Kids are spending so much time in front of the television, computer, on their phones, and with video games, parents have taken a back seat.

When was the last time you saw a T.V. show you would trust to teach your child? Young children are especially at risk because they believe everything they see and hear.

All this technology means less real time with parents. Technology takes over and as parents we begin to lose power and influence with our children.

This type of parenting makes children vulnerable to outside pressures and teaches them to rely on someone else to guide them, instead of you. They are also more likely to adopt someone else’s values.

As parents, we are the most powerful influence for teaching our children values, attitudes, morales, and appropriate behavior. We need to find more ways to be in our children’s lives. The first place to start, limit technology.

I am guilty on all accounts of the above parenting practices. Some more often than others. But acknowledging I have a problem is the first step, right? Take an honest step back and evaluate when these practices take over your parenting life. And then make a commitment to change some things up. As we eliminate these practices from our families, we will see huge changes in our children’s behaviors and attitudes.

Raise your hand if you have bought ICEE’s and popcorn at Target?

So, which practices are you guilty of? 

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Tips for Communicating with Your Children

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We talk to our children on a daily basis. But communication is much more than conversations about schedules, if the chores are done, and sibling conflict. Successful communication involves honesty, feelings and understanding. It means we are having a series of talks. It means that we are starting conversations that continue over weeks, months, even years, to help our children prepare for what they might face, and what life has in store.

Although there are different styles of communication, and each of our children are different, one approach which is universally successful, is communicating by sharing stories about ourselves. By sharing positive stories that help teach our children and help them relate to us. 

When our daughter was 4, she asked me for the first of many stories. After a confusing play date with a friend she came home with lots of questions. As I was trying to help, she stopped and asked, “Mom, did you ever feel like this when you were my age”? I knew at that moment that she needed a story. A situation she could relate to. She needed to know that I understood because I had been there and experienced the same things. I shared with her a time when I had faced the same situation. It provided the understanding she needed. 

Growing up, my dad always told us stories about when he was growing up. He used stories to relate to us, teach us, and inspire us. I LOVED it. I think about his stories often and appreciate that he tells them to our children. They are being passed down through the generations and continue to bond us together through the ages, while teaching and solving problems at the same time. It seems that most, if not all the lessons and principles I was taught as a child, were taught through personal stories.

Now, my husband and I do the same with our children. Our children want to know about us. They want to hear our stories. They find strength in being able to relate to us and find similarities. It is comforting when they can realize that we were kids once too!

We have seen our family relationship strengthen as we have worked harder to weave stories into our conversations and communication. It is a good challenge for all of us.

It is easy as parents, to get preachy when we communicate. To get caught up in telling instead of listening. To try to make our “point” because there is so much more that needs to be done in our day. And to forget that these experiences are new to our children and they need us to be compassionate.  

Think back to your own personal experiences and relate to your children on a new level. 

Tips to having your own “conversations”.

  • Start early. Open the lines of communication when they are very young so they always know you can talk together about everything. Children will be prepared when situations arise and we won’t feel like we are always playing “catch up” with our conversations.
  • Remember, communication is more than just one talk. It is a series of dialogues, an ongoing conversation.
  • Share stories with your family. Focus on sharing positive experiences.
  • Sharing stories about challenges are also great, just be sure you focus on how you overcame the challenge.
  • There is room to talk about mistakes also. Focus on how you fixed the mistake, learned from it, and righted the wrong, more that the actual thing you did wrong.
  • There are some things we don’t need to tell our children. Think twice.

Research suggests that the more children know about their parents and grandparents, especially their successes and failures, the more they are able to overcome setbacks. Start communicating through stories in your home today.

Do you use stories to communicate with your children?

What is a favorite story your parents/grandparents told you when you were younger?
 
Have a question or just want to say hello.



Family Game Night

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The sun in shining here in Utah and the warmth has given me new energy to get moving and have some family fun. Whether you are enjoying sunshine, or still battling the cold, here is a great game for you and your family. It’s a little more of a problem solving game and is perfect for kids of all ages. It is also a great game to get your family to communicate and work together.

Play this one inside or outside, big group or small family, and have some fun. Remember, families that play together, do stay together!

p.s I will leave the solution to you and your family. Just remember not to break any rules. ;) Have Fun.

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What You Need

All you need are paper plates, or pieces of paper will work great also. Anything you can put down on the floor as place markers is perfect. You will be standing on them so be sure they aren’t breakable. We have even been known to use pillows and paper towels.

How To Play

  • Split players into two groups
  • The two teams should line up vertically and then the teams should face one another.
  • Put a paper plate under each persons feet, AND THEN put an empty paper plate between the first players on each team. So it would look like this.
A  B  C  (Empty Paper Plate) 1  2  3
  • THE GOAL OF THE GAME: is to get Side A to Side B and Side B to Side A, all facing forward. So you are looking to get teams to trade sides.
Rules
  1. NO moving Backwards
  2. A person can only “jump over” their own team mate.
  3. Only one person may move at a time.
  4. One spot per person, no sharing.
  5. If any of these rules are broken, the group must begin again.
STARTING ORDER
  • A  B  C (Empty Paper Plate) 1  2  3
ENDING ORDER
  • 1  2  3 (Empty Paper Plate) A  B  C

Good Luck!

Have a question or just want to say hello.



A Valentine’s Day Story

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Valentine's-Day-Story

Our first Valentines Day together was magic. The one you wait for and dream of.

I had clues stashed all around the city. They were located at all the places where we had made significant memories together. First date, first kiss, you know.

My roommate helped me hide the clues. They were big red hearts taped up with red masking tape. They rhymed.

I had ordered his favorite cologne from Germany. A few other things were wrapped and waiting. He was to scour the city following the clues and end up back at my apartment. Dinner was waiting and so was I.

The wait was unbearable. When you are madly in love with someone every minute apart seems like a million years.

I left the door barely cracked open so he could walk right in. Like in the movies. The clues worked and I can still see him walking through the door. He had on my favorite shirt. It was a pink Polo dress shirt. At 6’4″and 220, you can wear pink.

He already knew. He had know for months. He already knew that we would spend forever together. Up to this point, I didn’t know yet.

I knew that I couldn’t breathe without him, but, on the surface we came from very different places.

On the inside we were the same. Our beliefs, our hopes and dreams, we were the same.

As he walked through the door that night, in that moment, I knew too.

He gave me a big hug and kiss. We ate. And then I gave him his cologne. He still has some left. I bought a big bottle and he uses it sparingly. We can’t ever get any more. When he wears it I am immediately taken back to that night.

Then, he gave me a ring. Not a wedding ring. It wasn’t time for that yet. He didn’t know that I “knew.”

It was a beautiful band for my right hand. Three small sapphire baguettes (his birth stone) separated by two small diamonds. It cost him everything he had. He had scrimped and saved. My graduate professor noticed it the next day at school. Or maybe he noticed the giant smile on my face that I couldn’t erase.

Every Valentines Day that memory comes back. The emotions are still tender and real.

We haven’t had a Valentines Day like it since. (They have all been better.)

No scavenger hunts, no dimmed rooms with waiting packages, no pink Polo shirts.

Now, there are five children. First there was one and we took him with us to Valentines Dinner.

Then there were two so we stayed home and I cooked my husbands favorite meal.

Then came three, four, and five.

We eat a special Valentines Dinner the kids will love and cut hearts out of construction paper. There are countdown chains and glue and tape as we make homemade Valentines to be delivered to classmates. There are sugar cookies with pink frosting and too many sprinkles. And a special reading of the Berenstain Bears “Funny Valentine.” followed by the story of “how mommy and daddy met.”

Everyone gets cards. My husband writes in mine. I wait all year to read what he has to say. He knows that. He is really good with cards.

We finish by 6:30 because bed is at 7:00. Teeth are brushed, stories read, more stories read, and our girls usually sleep with their Valentines next to their pillows.

Then my husband and I work to finish dishes, I do laundry and we hope to go to bed early.

On our way to bed we check on the kids again. We straighten them out and cover them back up. We talk about them while we brush our teeth. We talk about how we will get a sitter in a few days and go out just the two of us. The few days usually turns into a few weeks, but we go. It is always special.

Then as I lay in bed I remember THAT Valentines Day. The first one. I am grateful for it. But just as soon as I remember it, it is gone. New memories flood my mind. I KNOW that every Valentines Day since has been better. They have been different but so much better.

Now I really know Valentines Day. Now I really know love. It is our children’s laughter, the crooked red cut out hearts, the messy faces. It is standing by my husband doing the dishes. It is worrying and praying together about up coming decisions. It is being tired from nursing babies. It is trying to juggle schedules and wipe tears (and bottoms). It is the humility I feel when I realize I can do better. It is my husband running into my pregnant round belly and the laughter I just heard from our daughters crib upstairs.

Valentines Day is every day now.

It is every day I get to be a wife and a mother.

It is every day that I get to make our house a home.

It is everyday as I recognize how much love abounds when two people have committed to be together for eternity.

The gifts are different too. Not so much big, shiny or imported. Not just on Valentines Day.The gifts are the kind things we do for one another each and every day.

It is coming home and seeing that my husband has emptied the dishwasher. It is his hard work in supporting our family. It is his listening ear that he willingly shares, even when I tell him the same concern over and over. It is the toothpaste he puts on my toothbrush at night.

The memories are priceless. But that night in my apartment 11 years ago, I thought I had the Valentines Day of my dreams. Little did I know, the best was yet to come.

Now I know what it is like to have a true Valentine. Void of the commercialism, void of gimmicks. My true Valentine and I have a full house and a busy life. Filled with worries and stresses and joy and laughter.

Most of all, my Valentine and I have every day together, filled with love.

I still can’t breath without him. And every minute apart, seems like a million. 

Happy Valentines Day to you and your family.  Be sure you are creating your own Valentine’s Day Story.

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Teaching Children Money Management


Money management is a vital part of a successful family. Keeping an open dialogue about money not only sets our children up for a healthier future as adults, but it teaches communication and relationship skills along the way. Use the following tips to keep your family financially strong.

money-management

First, understand that most disagreements over finances aren’t really about the money itself, but instead a result of miscommunications about expectations. One family member expects that money can be spent a certain way, on certain things, while the other family member expects money should be handled a different way. It isn’t so much about the money itself, but what the money represents and how we feel about it.

The only way to overcome this first obstacle is to make sure you keep an open dialogue and have conversations about those expectations. Be sure that everyone is on the same page. For example, if there is extra money at the end of the month, can it be spent, should it be saved? Can it be used to by “Wants” or only “Needs”? What is considered a want and need. Talk about it and include your children in the dialogue when age appropriate. They have expectations too. Maybe they expect to be able to sign up for any and all extracurricular activities that they want to, while you feel that two extra activities are expensive enough. Or maybe they feel they should be able to go skiing every Saturday, but you feel that money should be spent on other things instead. It can take quite some time for children to really understand that money doesn’t grow on trees. So talk open and often about expectations and keep everyone happy and on the same page.

There will be disagreements about money. Use the situations to teach children how to communicate, handle disagreements, listen to other opinions and compromise. These are life skills they will always need.

Respect Money. I will never forget when I was around 8, I was helping my dad with a project on the kitchen counter. There were scraps of paper and lots of bits and pieces that needed to be thrown away. As he held the trash bag, I used my whole arm to sweep the trash into the black bag. Mixed in with the papers was a penny. I saw the penny, and so did he, but I swept it into the the trash anyway. After all, it was only a penny. Well, not to my dad, he had me go right down in that black bag and find the penny. He helped as we sifted through all the scraps. He taught me such a good lesson that day. One I have never forgotten. Money is to be respected. Even a penny. It is still money and has worth. We never throw it away. We teach our children to respect money by respecting it ourselves.

Set financial goals and include the entire family in setting, working towards and achieving those goals. We all have financial goals for our families. Some of us are trying to pay off car loans, saving for a family vacation, trying to save on groceries, or maybe just trying to keep our heads above water. Although we are not looking to scare or burden our children with our financial woes, we can include them when appropriate it fun and creative ways. Get your whole family excited about what you are doing. This will teach them that handing money is not bad, how to set goals, how to accomplish goals and bring you closer together as a family.

Avoid impulse buying. This is a great way to not only save money, but is also teaches our children delayed gratification. Hopefully as adults, we are good at making smart money choices, but this is a great way to teach our children also. When they want something, instead of getting it for them right away, or letting them buy it right away, teach them to do research, cover all their basis and make sure they know all their options. The delay will not only teach them, but make their purchase even more worth it when they do finally get it.

Don’t use money to control your family members. We never want to use money to control our family members. Using it as a bribe, or holding it over someones head is not healthy. This is often common between spouses, but we do it with our children also. Steer clear of bribing kids with “5 dollars if you get an A”. Or saying, “if you don’t ______ then you loose your money.” etc… Although it might get you the results you want right then, the outcome will be short lived. This will teach our children to use money to control others and they wont do things for intrinsic reasons. (I know this is a touchy subject and there are many different philosophies, but findings are consistent that there are other ways to motivate our children that have better, long term effects.)

Don’t hide money from one another.

Teaching our children to “buy secretly” does not develop a healthy money relationship and teaches them it is okay to hide things from one another and be dishonest. Reminding them “not to tell daddy” as you are leaving Super Target wont help them in the long run. :)

Help them understand how money works. This could be through teaching them to save and spend, or even including them in some of the financial planning for the family. I know with our son, he didn’t understand the cost of things for our family. We laid out basic living expenses and then compared that to an income so he could see how the two worked together. It stopped most of the asking and begging for “wants” because now he has a better understanding of how money works. Knowledge is power.

Above all things, we want our children to understand how money works, and how to have a healthy relationship with money. This comes from setting a good example ourselves, and including our children in the family finances when appropriate.

How do you teach your children about money?

 

 

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