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Mom Life Hack: Mom Bucks

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I have found the perfect combination of allowance, chores, consequences and screen time!

Since Adelynn turned 8 this spring, I was trying to come up with good solutions to balance allowance and chores. In addition to that, I was looking ahead to the summer and all the begging for screen time and lack of structure that comes with it. I knew I had to get plans in place before the summer began. I searched around on Pinterest and I found something called Mom Bucks. Mom Bucks have transformed our family over the last few months. I’m serious!

“HOW?! Tell me all your secrets!” You say. Well, I will do just that! This isn’t my idea, so linked here is the credit to mom-genius who came up with it.

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This is our super fancy Mom Buck station. It is made out of a chicken wire frame, mini clothespins, and leftover, mismatched envelopes. Smile (Please know I don’t take myself seriously when I say it’s fancy). This is just where they go to be visible and out of little brother’s reach! Just know that if you do this – the only thing that matters is that it’s in a safe place.

Each day my girls have Daily Responsibilities – which you can see listed below. These are their expectations for each day. If they do them, I deposit one Mom Buck in their envelope at night – which is after they have gotten their clothes in the laundry. If they have not succeeded in completing those tasks for the day, I take a Mom Buck. It’s a happy medium between chores and allowance because it’s something I wouldn’t pay them cash to do, but they do get a little incentive to get it done.

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Of course there are exceptions, like if they don’t take their dishes to the sink after a meal because we were at a restaurant, no harm no foul. This hasn’t happened – but if they chose to stay in their pajamas all day, then they would lose a Mom Buck at the end of the day. Pretty simple.

You can also see the rules above. They are pretty standard. Do the job all the way to be paid and turn over your Mom Bucks if you are asked to do so.

One of the cool things about Mom Bucks is that they can be exchanged for cold hard cash. The transaction rate really works in the parent’s favor though with it being 5 Mom Bucks for $1.00 US Dollar. (That means about $0.20-$0.40 per chore… but no one has called me on that yet!)

Adelynn and Ava have both exchanged their Mom Bucks for real dollars. We went to the store and they each picked something out. Their approaches were different though. This may be based on personality or age – time will tell. Adelynn worked so hard ahead of time. She practically begged for chores to do so she could earn enough money to buy the rainbow llama she saw at the grocery store. Ava really just followed her sister’s lead on payout day Smile 

How do they earn Mom Bucks? The very first day we started the Mom Buck System, my house was exceptionally clean. The front and back windows were washed, the dishes were done, the bathrooms were wiped down, etc. Adelynn did ALL of the dishes by hand. And that was an exceptionally large mountain of dishes. I gave her extra MBs that day.

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Of course, in the meantime her brother was making an epic mess.

IMG_2114IMG_2115IMG_2119… but was entertaining himself at least.
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Is this a perfect science? Nope. And we have had to adjust some things as time has gone on. IMG_2994

For example… we figured out that the girls are capable of changing the litter box (cue angel choir). So they each earn 2 Mom Bucks when they do that.

Honestly, sometimes, there are things I don’t want to do. Or there are things I want them to help me with. If I need their help, sometimes I just expect them to do it because they live here too – even if they ask to be paid. So that’s a good learning opportunity. But other times I can use it to my advantage. For example, one day we washed Ollie’s car seat cover. Dave had taken the seat belt clips off and they were sitting in the back yard with the car seat shell. Somehow though, one of the buckles disappeared. We searched all over the yard. I told Ava if she helped me look, I would give her a Mom Buck… and if she found it, I would give her a second one! Oh man, her eyes lit up! We didn’t find it, but she helped me out. Either way, we are finding the balance between the fact that they can be given incentive to help around the house, and the fact that they live here too and working together is part of the deal!

We had to adjust our payout amounts also. Some things we were paying too much for and other things we weren’t paying enough for. Also, some things were removed from the list and some things were added. Trial and error, you know.

How do they spend Mom Bucks? Well, sometimes they lose them, to be honest. Not like they physically disappear, but we take them if they disobey. But mostly they spend them on screen time.

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Other things on the Spending list include: Getting in trouble at school, lying, etc. Getting in trouble at school is –3 MBs. Lying is a big deal at our house. Satan is the father of lies and we don’t tolerate it. Also we want to cultivate a culture of honesty in our home so our relationships have the best potential. So the worst thing they can do is to lie and that’s –5 MBs!

How have we seen this work? Well, I can tell you that when I tell Ava her consequence for arguing or disobeying will be taking away a Mom Buck, she usually straightens right up.

This also has been amazing for the forethought process. If Adelynn asks me to take them out for a special snack, she knows she has to have enough MBs in the bank if she also wants to watch TV when we get back. Ava actually turned down a special snack once – at the restaurant, after Adelynn had asked to go – because her Mom Buck was precious and she wanted to redeem it for screen time instead. Will power right there! Now, she could have done a chore to earn her screen time, but she made a choice that was well thought out for a 5 year old.

I’ve watched their priorities shift. They earn their Mom Bucks by doing chores. So they have to decide if they want to spend their time working to earn their MBs, or they want to spend their time playing and do the work later. They have to make the decisions about how they want to spend their time and their hard earned money!

This has shown the girls to think ahead. They aren’t looking directly at cash like they would in a piggy back. So they aren’t seeing money and suddenly asking to buy things. Instead they are looking at Currency Of The Home and deciding if they want special snacks (like slushies or shakes), screen time, or to save their money to buy something they really want. This also means they aren’t asking to buy more things to fill up the house… which I like!

It works well as a consequence at this stage of life. We don’t spank, and we do talk about our problems, so sending them to their room to be upset AND alone isn’t the tone we want to set. If we tell them they lose screen time, or we try to make the “punishment fit the crime”, there’s not always a fitting solution. There’s only so much screen time I can take away, and they can’t see it in front of them before they make their choice to misbehave. The reason this works is that kids can predict their consequence when it is always the same. The way their brains are wired when they are little does not coincide with seeing the future. Then when it’s time for screen time and they don’t get it, they realize they screwed up and they are crushed. The gravity doesn’t set in ahead of time and it can blindside them because of their inability to predict the pain they will feel at that point. I feel like they are better set up for success to see what is in front of them, and to know what is at stake before making their choices.

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This isn’t a rigid system. If they ask to go to the park or the local nature center, I don’t ask if they have Mom Bucks. If I offer to take them for a snack, they don’t have to pay up. I try to balance between enjoying things they have earned and doing fun things sometimes just because.

We talk about it like cash though, so Adelynn will say “Mom can I pay you to play video games for 30 minutes?”… I am hoping she doesn’t ask me this in public or people will think I am either the worst or the best mom ever!

If you are looking for a solution to implement this summer that covers allowance, screen time, consequences and chore incentive… give this a try! And let me know if you do!

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Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava. Oh, Ollie. Oh, Dave.

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::DISCLAIMER::

These quotes might appear seasonally outdated since I’m pretty behind on these!

… and 6 months later, here we go again!

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While in the back seat of the car Ava sneezes.
”Ew! I got myself all dirty!” She exclaims.
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I tell the girls to sing Ollie a song because he is mad about getting in his car seat.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night….” Ava serenades.
She said it is from the movie Boss Baby, but I wasn’t expecting that and it cracked me up!
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Adelynn from the back seat of the car: “I have two napkins back here that are both dirty.”
No one really knows why she is saying this.
Ava replies- half-scolding, half-annoyed “Don’t say that out loud…”
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Ollie is sick with a fever and has been wearing the same diaper all night. I make a comment that he smells like hot pee. Dave had been holding him for quite some time.
”Daddy, you smell like hot pee!” Ava informs him.

Then a few hours later…
Dave lays down on the couch. Ava gives him her giant horse.
”Here Daddy, you can have my horsey… even though you smell like hot pee.”

FIVE hours after that…
Ava sits down by him on the couch.
”Daddy did you know you smell like hot pee?”
This girl keeps us in stitches! Her commitment is everything.
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Ava says to Adelynn “Pretend we are so polite that we always say excuse me when we toot.”
Adelynn looks confused. “… but you always point to yourself…”
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Adelynn pointed out someone’s tattoos on their arm. I told her it was called a sleeve. A few days later we were walking and she saw someone with a calf full of tattoos.
”Mom, when someone has tattoos all the way up their leg, is it called a boot?”
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Ollie picks his nose and eats his booger.
”I taught him that!” Ava brags.
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While blowing bubbles Ava says “The bubbles are concentrated together!”
”You have quite the vocabulary” Dave compliments.
”What does that mean?” Ava asks.
Really, one of these times I will post her vocabulary. I have been keeping track of words she has used correctly over the last couple years. I’m so impressed with her! Even if she doesn’t know the word “vocabulary”!
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Lightning and thunder were happening at the same time.
“Fireworks!” Ollie exclaimed.

The next morning more thunder clapped. We thought it was so cute what he had said before about the fireworks. So Dave coached “What did that sound like?”
”Loud!” Ollie answered.
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The kids are rowdy after being cooped up in the car. They were being loud and Dave rolled down the windows to get their attention. It was a good idea, but they reacted by squealing louder!
A few minutes later they are loud again. Dave puts his finger on the window button again.
”Remember the last time you did that they only got louder?” I remind.
”Yeah… I really wish I had an eject button…” He says.
Oh, Dave.

Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava.

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Talking with Ava about her upcoming dentist visit and how they will x-ray her mouth.
“I think they will x-ray my eyes too.”
”Well, they really just want pictures of your teeth.”
Her eyes get big.
”Mom if they x-ray my eyes, I will have x-ray eyes!”

We are in a public restroom. Both girls are in stalls. Adelynn asks “Ava, are you right beside me?”
”No! It’s me! Ava!” She says.
It cracks me up how you think there’s only one way to respond to something and Ava finds a new one!

Ava’s hair was half dry after bath. I kissed her on the head.
“You kissed bath water hair!” She laughed.

Ava had a huge sneeze with lots of snot. Cheerily she concludes “I’m allergic to my own boogers!”

Ava sings “I’ve been working on the rainbow, all the Thursday long!” (Over and over…)

“There’s a wasp that always visits me! He’s just flying along! I like his loop de loops.” – Ava

Adelynn asks me “Where does dad work?”
I answer her. “Why do you ask?”
”Because my teacher asked me where he works and I said I didn’t know.”
”Do you know what he does?” I ask.
”Yeah.”
”What does he do?”
”He makes money.”
That doesn’t sound sketchy at all…

“Do bottoms have bones?” Ava asks.
”Well… no.”
”Oh! They are like squids!”
Can’t say I ever would have equated the two. Or that she’s wrong.

Ava is talking about all the other girls she knows named Ava. We are talking about how her name is spelled. Adelynn jumps in “My name isn’t like that. Because every time Nana texts you about me, there’s a red line under it!”

Adelynn has lost her screen time for the rest of the day. Ava encouragingly says “Don’t worry, sissy. You can have some of mine.”

Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava.

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We are at the zoo and there’s a Rafiki-style monkey. “That’s a mandrill.” My mom says.
Completely seriously Ava corrects her “No, that’s a red butt monkey.”

“Where is my toy?” Ava asks.
I don’t answer her.
”Mom, where is my toy?” She repeats.
“I don’t know which toy you’re looking for.”
A few minutes later…
”Oh! It’s in my hand!” She acts like it’s completely normal.
I didn’t think those things happened until we got older…

We are watching a spider wrap up a fly in her web in our window. I explain to Ava what is going on. She watches for a bit and then notices a second spider. She observes the smaller one doing nothing.
“That is the kid. That one is the Mom. She is fixing supper!”

Ava is watching TV. “Mom if your dishwasher doesn’t get the dishes all clean you need Cascade!” She calls.

Then a little while later, I open the running dishwasher to get out a dish that I need so I’m going to wash it by hand. Ava comments how dirty everything is still and lovingly suggests “You should get Cascade.”

I walk into the playroom where all the kids are. Ollie clearly found the markers while I was in the other room. I ask the girls “Why didn’t you stop him from getting into the markers?”
Ava responds cheerfully “He was trying every flavor!”
His  mouth indicated that green was the winner.

We had talked about letting the beast grasshopper go free. We called him “free range”. Ava saw some horses as we drove by and said “Those are free ranch!”

Adelynn asks “Mom, when is Ava’s real birthday?”
I respond with my stuffy  nose “In March.”
Ava corrects me “It’s not in Barch, it’s in March! Silly Mommy.”

“I think it’s called a Cherry Limeade because it’s a cherry, and a lime, and then it’s made!” – Adelynn

From across the room I see Ava quickly move her finger away from her mouth.
“Ava, are you biting your fingernails?”
”No.”
”What’s in your mouth?”
”Booger.”
As I stifle laughter, ”Do you think that’s any better?”
She licks her lips.
”Well, it tastes better!”

Out of the blue Ava says “I think when we love, our heart loves.”

Red heart

Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava.

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I have not had an Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava. post since October! This one will be a special – long – edition of Oh, Adelynn. Oh, Ava.

Dave had met some people at church to work on some tech stuff. As we were leaving I noticed one car I didn’t recognize. “Whose car is that?” I ask.
He couldn’t think of the owner’s name and said “Ohhh…. Phil!”
Ava sweetly asked “Who is ohhhPhil?”

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We walk over by the vulture at the zoo and it stinks nearby. Dave points and says “It’s a vulture, girls!”
And I say “No wonder it smells like death over here.”
Ava pipes up “Death is stinky!”

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Ava shows me a stack of about 5 books and says “Nana read all of these books to me.”
”All of those?”
”Yeah. And then her breath was tired.”

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Ava walks into my room after being in her room that is just across the hall.
“Hi neighbor!” She says.

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In talking with Ava about hair colors and Nana asks
“What color is Oliver’s hair?”
”The same color as his skin!”
It’s not entirely untrue.

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Ollie startled Ava right after she woke up in the morning “Ollie, you gave me a fright!”

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Ava is tired and sucking her thumb more than usual. “Hey Ava has your thumb turned into a prune yet?” Dave asks.
Ava examines it.
”No, it’s still a thumb!”
Whew!

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My mom is standing near a mirror with Ollie. She asks him where his nose is. He turns to the mirror and points to it!

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We drive through a big puddle and it splashes up on the car. From the back seat Adelynn yells “I didn’t do it!”

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Ava brought me a play cup full of water.
“Ooh. What drink is this?”
”It’s your favorite kind of drink!”
”Oh, thank you.” I pretend to drink it.
A minute later she comes back with another cup full of water.
”What is this kind?”
”Caffeine.”
Ha. That’s all I need to know!

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Ava is wearing a navy shirt with a bunch of bright butterflies on the front. She changes into her swimsuit and then changes back into her clothes but when she does she gets her shirt on backwards.
”Ava, why is your shirt on backwards?”
”Because I want to be a ninja!”

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Ava has a mosquito bite that she thinks is bigger than normal. “I got bited by the queen mosquito!”

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Adelynn hears banging-echoing sounds and asks if it’s fireworks. I tell her I don’t think so. Ava says “Yeah! I think they are baby-you’re-a-fireworks!”

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Ava gets run into by a friend while playing in the backyard. She yells and uses her hands for big expressions “I am a human too!”

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Ava says “I want breakfast.”
Dave corrects “Can you get me breakfast, please.”
Ava says “No. I need breakfast!”
”But that’s how I want you to ask me.” Dave explains.
”It’s like Who’s On First.” I say.
”I’m on first!” Ava exclaims.

Motherhood: The best kind of exhausted

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Why do parents feel overwhelmed and exhausted? Surely it doesn’t solely come from the lack of sleep, because at some point sleep becomes pretty regular again. (Moms of littles, I promise you there is a light at the end of the tunnel!) On the days before kids you never knew a tired like this.

You know why you’re tired? It’s because you answer questions all day long. I have a very inquisitive seven year old and I know this very well. She is also on a medication that disrupts her short term memory, so a lot of the questions are the same. That’s why I’m tired.

You know why you’re tired? It’s because you listen to the same kids songs over and over again and you swear it steals a piece of your soul each time it plays. That’s why you’re tired.

You know why you’re tired? Because you wiped the table and swept the floor three times today. You know you’re going to be eating in the same place in a few hours and you know the definition of insanity is to do the same things over again expecting different results and that causes you to spend your time wondering if you fit that description. That’s why you’re tired.

You know why you’re tired? Because you can only read the same book or play the same game so many times per day before you want to chuck the whole thing out the window. That’s why you’re tired.

You know why you’re tired? Because you simply thought about what your afternoon errands are going to look like with a few little shadows in tow. You know the work it’s going to be to load up, then unbuckle, go in, keep them within eyesight, do your task, corral them out, buckle again. And then you think about how you can’t even go through the drive thru for your favorite afternoon drink because little voices in the back will cheer to see you driving to that establishment and they will request their favorite sugary drink and you will oblige so you don’t have to hear their sadness. And then you mentally brace yourself for the sugar crash to come. And you decide you are not going to do your errands after all. And after all of that thought process…. that’s why you’re tired.

You know why you’re tired? Because you gave it your all. All day long. Kids don’t just siphon energy out of you. For the most part you choose where you expel your energy.

You are tired at the end of the day – or even in the middle of the day – because you have chosen to give everything you have to your kids. You have chosen to answer their questions and kiss their owies. You have chosen to re-do the Barbie’s hair for the umpteeth time today. You have chosen to make them meals instead of stopping on your way home. You have chosen to get out the paints or the play doh while you occupy the littlest one. You have chosen to take them for a morning at the splash park or the library.

You chose to go the extra mile to help them with their school project or make them a snack instead of asking them to get it themselves.

You chose to help them put their shoes on because they wanted to wear the pair they can’t put on by themselves. You look in those eyes and you know that this particular pair of shoes means so much. You know they have a lot less to think about in life and that makes choosing a pair of shoes pretty high on the priority list.

Honestly some of the exhaustion comes from self control. There are times when you want to yell because they are fighting, but instead you calmly guide them by the hand to the piano bench to talk about the situation and their feelings. There are times when you want to snap at them because you saw the first dozen fancy somersaults they did and you don’t want to look away from the stove one more time. But you resist. Even all that pent up energy you didn’t exert can be draining.

At the end of the day you are tired because you chose to give time and energy to your kids and maybe didn’t leave enough for yourself.

AND THAT’S OKAY.

You chose the right place to give that time and energy. Give yourself some grace. Remember that some of those good-kind-of-exhausted days are so worth it. If you ask your kids if they were glad you created the butterfly out of the graham cracker and strawberries for snack, I bet they would say yes. If you ask your kids if they were glad you put your book down and played in the water with them (without sighing – and bonus points if you got your head wet!) they would enthusiastically agree.

So the next time you don’t want to move off the couch at the end of the day, just know you chose to give your energy elsewhere – to the right place even – and that’s okay. In fact it’s more than okay.

It is good.

Enjoy, Mama. Red heart

Motherhood: When you give a woman some children… part 3

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This occurred last summer. The kids were recently-turned 6, recently-turned 3 and about 4 months old.

Some of these days of my life I should refer to as “Ava days”… On this particular day, I woke up and I wasn’t ready to face the day because I woke up to two bickering sisters.

We had a heck of a time getting out the door to the water park that morning the way it was. It took an extra long time to get everyone dressed and ready. As we were walking out the door I said to the girls “Go ahead and go out the door so Bella (our cat) doesn’t run out.” And they walked around the table the other way and she escaped. We got her back in the house and left. Once there, everything went pretty well. Once we finished up, both girls had to go to the bathroom before we headed home. They each went into one of the single person bathrooms as I was buckling Ollie into his seat just across the patio. Once Ava was done, I looked up and she was standing beside me. I didn’t really pay attention to her because I was busy buckling her brother. When I finished, I looked over at her and her whole swimsuit was at her knees!! She couldn’t pull it up after she went to the bathroom, so she walked across the patio area with her buns hanging out! I pulled her suit up as quickly as I could!

As we left there, she fell down in the parking lot. We had to pause life and put on a Band-Aid. It was the wrong kind of Band-Aid of course, she wasn’t sure she could walk after falling down, you know the drill. It was probably the biggest catastrophe on the face of the earth. And if you know her, you know her cry is LOUD. I could only imagine how many other moms who were able to hear her even over the rushing water at the splash park.

We got home and had lunch. It was a mess because Oliver was crying the whole time because his diaper had leaked and he was hungry. So he cried while I got the girls settled with lunch because they were hungry from playing in the water and sun. It was a chaotic several minutes. Ava helped herself to the ketchup in that time. She was so proud of the “caterpillar” she made out of ketchup. It was huge and she had way too much. I told her I liked it, but next time she could try to make a smaller one. She reached over it to get her drink and got ketchup all over the whole front of her white swimsuit cover. As I was trying to tell here her that she was getting her cover dirty, she looked down at it and also got her hair in the ketchup! Of course after we survived lunch, I finally sat down and ate cold food, ya know.

After the lunch fiasco, I was downstairs doing laundry. I came up and saw Ava’s root beer cup spilled all over my new table. All over the floor and it splashed up on the new white chairs and white table legs. There was a towel on the floor that had been used in a small attempt to clean up the root beer. So that was a mess for me to clean up so there wouldn’t be sticky brown residue everywhere.

Later I discovered she had taken the root beer cup into her room after she filled it with water. Of course she isn’t supposed to do that and of course Adelynn knocked it over! I think that day my laundry was full of wet rags used on cleaning up drink spills… and one white, ketchup-covered, swim cover.

On this day, Ollie pooped twice. So the second time was about 5 minutes after I changed the first one. Because of course. I got the girls some snacks and then I went to change the second diaper. I finished changing him and when I went to sit back down with him, my snack had disappeared! Ugh. Ava. So I decided I would get another snack after I fed Ollie. I got settled on the couch and started looking for his bottle and couldn’t find it. I know it was just right here! I was ready to blame Ava when I realized it was already in my hand because I was already feeding him! (Can I just take that moment and not call it mommy brain, but call myself a subconscious super mommy?)

That evening, I went downstairs to move laundry and Ava was in the bathroom when I went. I came back up and she was still in there. Dave said “Ava is in the bathroom again. She was in there and then she forgot to wipe her bottom so she went back in.” I go in to check on her. She’s standing there and I ask if she wiped. She said she did and wanted to show me. So she pulls the wet hand towel off the counter and wipes…

 

If you give a woman some children, the day will probably begin and end with poop.

The End.