Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stickers, Charts, Rewards…Oh My!

School is starting and it’s time that all of us here in this crazy house get into some sort of routine…myself included. By nature I am not an organized person but I knew that if we were going to survive our first year of cyber school with two students that would have to change. At least a little bit.

I had a wonderful talk with my sister-in-law this past weekend about reward charts and such. She really lit a fire under my butt and got me motivated to get something set up for the boys. Thank you for that!! :)

Here is what I ended up with….

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This is our behavior chart. It not only helps the boys know where they are and how close they are to trouble but it also helps me keep my cool. So far it’s been a huge hit with the boys. They do NOT want to be in the yellow or red. Poor Monkey was crying when I was making it because he didn’t want to be in red! Silly boy! After some explaining though I think he understands now. That said, they all understand that if they get in the red zone more than twice in a day they get an X. If they go directly to “Lose Privilege” they get an X. If they have more than three Xs in a week they do not get to participate in that week’s reward.

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This is the boys’ chore chart. They have to do these every day. They also know that there will be some days that I will add to this list as needed. For instance, this morning their play room needed cleaned so they had to complete that before they could say they were finished with chores. They also know that this is an ongoing daily thing. Picking up toys once during the day doesn’t give them a sticker for chores.

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And here is their reward chart. (They each have their own…this one is just a general one for example.) If they complete a task then they get to put a sticker in the corresponding box. The extra is for things they do on their own that are either helpful to me or helpful to others. For instance, Bubba swept and scrubbed the kitchen floor for me this morning all on his own. Earning extras can count toward negating any Xs they have for the week. I’m also thinking of offering payment if one of them has stickers under extra with no red lights for the whole week. (Sort of like an allowance I guess…probably something small…like a quarter for each extra sticker.)

And of course the best part…the reward! This will be a weekly thing that we choose together. This week is….

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The boys LOVE to dress in their past Halloween costumes but I rarely let them because frankly they get C.R.A.Z.Y.! Needless to say, when we picked this as this week’s reward they were all pretty pumped! Now we just have to find something new each week that will get them equally as excited and motivated!

Soon I will be working on a loose schedule/routine for the day so we make sure we get everything in. You know, something like free time and breakfast from 8-10 am., 10 am chores, 10:30-11:30 crafty/coloring, etc. I say loose because just like I am not an organized person I am also not big on a tight schedule. I know some people thrive on them but I just don’t care for them. I’m much more a “fly by the seat of my pants” kinda girl and I love to be spontaneous.

Hopefully these things will help our school year go smoothly and help us all get through the cabin fever that will surely set in once dreaded Winter comes! I hope that seeing what we’ve done will inspire you to try something similar in your own home. :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

End of Summer Fun–DIY Sidewalk Paint!

The weather here has been beautiful the past couple of weeks which means the boys have been spending a lot of time outside (can I get an AMEN?!). They’re always looking for something new to do though and today we found something fun! Zim has been begging me to paint but honestly I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to deal with the mess. (Bad Momma!) Then I remembered how my friend Kate had her kiddos painting outside for easy clean-up…ok, that’s what we’d do! THEN I thought, why not let them paint ON the sidewalk?! So, I went to my good friend Pinterest and found a great and super easy sidewalk paint recipe! All you need is cornstarch, water and food coloring! Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

First, you gather your ingredients and get something to put your paint in. I used an old muffin tin…emphasis on old…I mean, just look at the thing!

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Put 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch in each cup plus a few drops of food color. The more color you add the darker the paint will be.

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Add 4 Tbsp. (or 1/4 c) of water to each cup and mix with a fork.

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Finally give those kiddos some paint brushes, set them up on the sidewalk and watch the fun!

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As you can see the boys LOVED this! It’s a great activity for any age and if you use a muffin tin or multiple cups it provides plenty of colors to share. They also loved mixing the colors on the sidewalk to see what different colors they could make (great way to teach the color wheel!). I’d post a picture of their finished work but they’re still out having fun! We’ll definitely be doing this again!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Happy 4th birthday, Monkey!

Four years ago our family was completed with the birth of another beautiful baby boy. Monkey came into our life on August 18, 2009 at 1:08. He was a healthy 8 lbs. 13 oz and 21” long.

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To my spunky little man…I feel so blessed and proud! You have shown us so many amazing things and bring so much joy and love into our life. You’ve shown us your amazing strength and I am so proud of how you are overcoming the difficult things life is throwing your way. I know some days are hard but through these hard times you are growing and learning. You are definitely a Momma’s boy and that’s ok with me. I love all the cuddles, snuggles and kisses I get….I know some day you’ll be too big for that so I’ll soak it all up while I can. We love you so very much, Monkey!! Happy 4th birthday!!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Silver Linings–Guest Post by Kim Poston Miller

Today I’m sharing an awesome guest post from a fellow JA mom, Kim Poston Miller. I met Kim through one of the JA support groups that I’m part of and I’m so thankful for the friendship that I’ve found in her. Some days I still struggle with Monkey’s diagnosis but reading her posts truly help me. She has such an amazing view on living with JA and has helped me see things differently. She also has a book being released soon called ‘Living with Juvenile Arthritis – A Parents Guide’…I cannot wait to read it! I love that this book is written not from a medical standpoint but from a parent’s view. I love my doctors, don’t get me wrong, but getting advise and knowledge from others who’ve been on the journey is priceless. I hope that even if you aren’t living with JA that this post speaks to you and helps you to see the silver linings in your life. Thank you so very much, Kim, for sharing with us! xo

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Silver Linings

Funny thing. Five years ago I never would have guessed that I would be here…

I am a planner, a worrier, and a self -professed control freak. The chain of events that unfolded in my life (and even more importantly, in my children’s lives) has sent me on a roller coaster ride that I never would have anticipated. Not in a million years. That stuff happens to other people, not me. I had a pretty good life! My husband was a player for the Chicago Bears. We had two healthy kids (or so we thought) owned our home, and had a dog. We were the poster family for living the American dream, and I wasn’t going to let anything derail that. I had a plan, and a contingency plan for any foreseeable “bumps in the road.” Actually, in the old days I even had a backup plan for the contingency plan that would keep us “on track.” Five years ago, I was cocky and didn’t even know it yet. I was so na├»ve.

In November of 2008, my older son began to complain of pain. Of course, we brushed it off as growing pains. Get tough! We are a house full of boys after all, and there was nothing remarkable about his routine medical exams. It was something we would keep an eye on, but no one, not even the doctor was concerned.

By 2009, things had gotten worse, and we had seen a pediatric rheumatologist on the suspicion that a condition identified almost ten years earlier might be coming back to haunt us. By February of 2010 things spiraled out of control, after a severe reaction to anti-rheumatic medications which ironically triggered a flare of JA that has taken us nearly 3 years to come back from.

We nearly lost him. He spent time in and out of the hospital, and missed months of school. He endured treatments of chemotherapy, biologics, and physical therapies all in a time that seemed like one long nightmare from which we were unable to wake. Then in 2012, we found out my younger son had it too. Things were going all wrong, and I couldn’t fix it. It was one of the darkest times of my life, but my children needed me to step up, so I did. It was one of our hardest times, but it forced us to slow down and look at things differently, and that my friends, changed everything.

It’s a cheesy colloquialism, I know. In the midst of the storm, you see the cloud’s silver lining. Cheesy or not, it perfectly describes what happened to us. We tend to take our children for granted- we may think about our own mortality, but rarely do we think about theirs, especially during their childhood. When my son started making a bucket list in the hospital, it hit me hard. I realized that he may NOT realize those things, and every day is a gift. The amazing thing is that at the tender age of 11, so did he….and what a gift! Most people muddle through life until middle age (and the mid-life crisis) before the enormity of this gift of life hits them. My 11 year old “got it” well before he entered into puberty. His 9 year old brother “got it” too, after realizing that his sibling was so sick that he may not be there to share his room, throw a ball with, or even have one of those ever so frequent sibling, ahem, disagreements. I found myself getting less irritated when interrupted by my kids. So what that I was chatting with someone on Facebook or on the phone when they ran in the door, breathless and excited because they taught the dog to shake with the other paw? That was the greatest part of their day, and they were excited to share it with me. The moments that I used to um-hmm my way through took center stage again. I realized how much I would miss them if they weren’t there, and how fleeting these moments are. I may not be perfect in this area, but I am much better than the pre-JA mom that I was.

The vacations we missed and the social events we skipped because the disease was rearing its ugly head were replaced with family movie nights and board games, reading snuggled up together on the couch, or just stroking their hair while I watched them sleep.

Some people felt sorry for us, and sometimes we did feel sorry for ourselves. But, I can tell you this. Although I would never choose this for my family, having it has brought us many blessings that we otherwise would have missed. My life is different now, and better in many ways. I hug my kids tighter, I fly by the seat of my pants more, and I have learned to “let go, and let God,” in most areas of my life. Admittedly, I am still a worrier, still a planner, and still have plan a,b and c… BUT I have relaxed, let go of the control, and learned to enjoy and appreciate my life and my family so much more. THAT is my silver lining.

Living through JA has been hard, and it has been more than horrible at times, but without JA I never would have:

1) slowed down to appreciate the small stuff with my kids

2) embraced every good day for the gift that it truly is

3) truly understood the difficulties faced by those who are chronically ill

4) met lifelong friends who are on the same journey with their JA warriors

5) written a book

Five years ago, I thought things would be different. I had NO idea how much my life would be changed. That would drive the me from five years ago crazy, but the new me is at peace with it. As I sit here, watching my children sleep in a Vegas hotel room (driving home from the JA conference and a subsequent surgery at UCLA for one of my sons) I am grateful that we are stopping by Hoover Dam today, to see one of the modern engineering wonders of the world, a one hour pit stop that never would have happened if this “wrench” hadn’t been thrown into our lives.

For us, it’s all about silver linings now.

You can read more about Kim, her family, and parenting a child with Juvenile Arthritis in her new book by Spry publishing Living With Juvenile Arthritis: A Parents Guide, available through most online booksellers. Also visit her at www.livingwithjuvenilearthritis.com

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First day of school! First day of school!

I’m sure last year I shared this video but it’s just too cute not to share again. That and it’s exactly how Zim’s been acting about starting school. Saying he’s been excited is a huge understatement!

Zim has been asking since the start of LAST school year when he gets to start school. Finally, his time has come and the kid could not be happier. We were able to get him all registered for PA Cyber like Bub and all his tech equipment and curriculum finally arrived this past weekend. He begged me all weekend to start. Seriously, every five minutes, “Momma, can I please start my school now? No? Why? I want to start now? Monday? Promise?” Then it turned into, “I’m SOOOOO excited to start my computer school on Monday…that’s only one more sleep!” I thought the poor kid was going to have a heart attack Monday morning when we woke up with out power…"Wait, if we don’t have power I can’t do my school! But you promised I could do it today!” Oh.my.goodness! haha

I’ll admit that I’ve been nervous about Zim starting school. He is a very stubborn little man and I was concerned as to how he’d take to me telling him that he had to do certain things a certain way. He likes to do things his way in his time you see and the more you try to get him to do something your way the less likely he is to do it. So far though he’s doing great! We’ve only got two days under our belt but I’ll take it! He actually loves it so much that he reminds me that he has to so school. Technically he didn’t have to start classes until September 3 but I figure if he’s enthusiastic about it now why not just let him go ahead and start. Ah, the beauty of Cyber Schooling!

Here are a few pictures from his first day!!

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Zims First Day of K