I’ve Been Noticing That You . . .

TRINITY
Trinity + Gizmo
We’ve been noticing that you wake up every morning thinking something is wrong (“Oh, my back hurts!” or “I think I’m sick”). At least that’s what Dad tells me, since he’s usually the one who wakes you. But then he sends you off to shower, and somehow you always come out just fine. Maybe it’s really just the waking up part that unsettles you? 🙂

I’ve been noticing that you . . .

  • Want friends who don’t gossip, use inappropriate language, or get catty.
  • Want to shave your legs, start wearing makeup, and do other things that you’re still too young for.

* * *

BLAKE
Blake
We’ve been noticing that you start most every sentence with, “I just realized . . .” You’ll even start two or three sentences within a single conversation that way. We’re glad you’re realizing so much all the time. 🙂

I’ve been noticing that you . . .

  • Have gotten so independent, heading to the school wrestling matches and basketball games with no idea whether your friends will be there.
  • Ask me how I’m doing all the time, or about the progress or results of something I’m working on. That makes me very happy.

* * *

AIDEN
Aiden
We’ve been noticing how much you love oragami. You love to find music and viral video mash-ups, or music with cool graphic animations on YouTube.

I’ve been noticing . . .

  • That we let you get away with not cleaning and doing your jobs or reading.
  • That you’re still a sweet little mama’s boy. You still need to make sure I know that you think I’m beautiful. You still tell me you have a crush on me and refer to me as “The Cutie.” You still want me to snuggle you to sleep at night. But you’re getting better about letting other people sit next to me at meal time.

* * *

NOELL & IZ
Lunch at the Pita Jungle.
We’ve been noticing that we are constantly asking each other questions like, “Are you excited to . . . (fill in the blank with whatever is next on the agenda)?” It occurred to me how comical it is when you asked me if I was excited to do something on my task list that was especially mundane. I guess we’re the type of people to generate enthusiasm about even our everyday life. But really, it was you started the, “Are you excited to…” questions. And you do it the most. 😉

I’ve been noticing that . . .

  • We go out for wine or a beer once or twice a week.
  • That much of our sense of humor together is in making up hilarious and outrageous scenarios, as if they might happen. And in taking common phrases people use for serious, deep, or sacred events and apply them to the most mundane activities. “Let’s go do this thing we call, ‘Picking up the kids from school.'”

I’ve been noticing these little things — little things that came sneaking into our lives recently, and will soon go sneaking away.

Why Nobody Died When We Got Rid Of TV.

kids_in_hallway
I mentioned recently that we don’t have TV. Readers reacted. It was cute.

Our decision to remove television from our daily lives was not entirely for the reasons you might think. Also, our kids are actually allowed to watch it a little from the internet. But they rarely choose to. So here’s how that phenomenon came about and why…

The Reasons: A Combo of Old-Fashioned Values, Creativity Values, & Futurist-Techie Geekiness

Old Fashioned Values: It’s probably obvious from my blog that I only embody some old-fashioned values while many others I shun. I’m quite strict and traditional when it comes to what I think is appropriate content for children — more strict even than many of the religious families I know. There are a lot of “children” shows that are surprisingly not really child-friendly.

Restricting content is the easy part, though. You just tell the kids why they can’t watch a certain show and then empathize with their wishes that TV producers wouldn’t deliver that kind of content to children. Kids understand honest reasoning, and they respond well to your empathy toward their unfulfilled wishes.

Creativity Values: It’s the general limiting of time on the television that I found difficult. For years we let our kids watch TV, more than I ever thought I would as a parent. I am an avid non-watcher. I always thought I’d be good at limiting the amount they watched. It turns out that if you’re also distracted with an exciting lot of projects you enjoy, it’s hard to monitor amounts. And when a child sinks into the TV habit, it’s hard for him or her to motivate themselves to do creative stuff.

Plus, all day, everyday, our kids were constant infomercials to Izzy and me, pitching sales lines like, “At Best Western, if you drop a towel, they’ll pick it up for you!”

We supposedly needed this mattress, and that kitchen device, and a million different other things. The kids were adding items to their own Christmas list every single day starting Dec. 26 of each new year.

Futurist Techie Geekiness:
Then something amazing happened. Television shows began to appear on the internet! Izzy loves diving into the future headfirst before anyone else has gotten there, and as soon as a handful of shows became available online he sat the family down and made a proposition. He told the kids that we would let them each buy a TV show episode from Netflix every week in place of the TV. They could also watch some shows online.

The kids agreed. We canceled the satellite. For probably four years now, absolutely zero shows feed though the big black box in our living room. It only works for gaming and DVD’s now. We don’t even have local channels.

Then The Magic Happenend

Something truly magical and amazing happened two or three weeks after we got rid of TV — the kids lost interest! They stopped requesting the weekly show we promised to purchase for them. Since that time, internet television has grown and shows are easier to access than ever (and are usually free) but our kids only sit down to watch them around once a month or so. It’s amazing.
dinner_outside
A few weeks ago we were having dinner and one of the kids piped up, “It’s so weird how a bunch of my friends will start talking about some toy that they all know about but I’ve never heard of it. It’s because they learn about all this stuff on commercials.”

The other of our older two children agreed to noticing the same thing.

Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought. They’re going to tell us that it bugs them how weird and different we are from everybody else.

“So, how do you feel about that?” I asked.

“It’s okay,” one said.

“Yeah, I don’t care,” said the other. “It’s just weird that they all know about the same things.”

Wow. I was not expecting them to be cool with that. I mean, I personally have never minded being different all my life. But I don’t know many other people who are cool with it.

So we talked about how much time they have to be creative and make things — which they do daily — and they said it’s a good trade.

We may be secularist, vegan, non-materialist, non-TV weirdo’s, but we’re a bit Leave It To Beaver, too.

How to get kids who will make your breakfast for you

muffin
. . . In two easy steps.

Step 1 –

Introduce them to an amazingly delicious but healthy breakfast, like these Jam-filled Oat Bran Muffins.

Step 2 –

Make oatmeal. Over and over again.

Enjoy!

If your kids are anything like mine, you will eventually wake up to them begging to make breakfast for you. And you’ll get to enjoy those muffins again, but without the effort.

Jam-filled Oat Bran Muffins

from The Joy Of Vegan Baking

16 muffins

2 Tbsp. ground flasseed
6 Tbsp. water
2 cups oat bran
1 cup unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 non-dairy milk (try oat milk!)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, or use less if desired)
1/2 cup strawberry (or any fruit) jam preserves, or fruit spread, preferably unsweetened

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease your muffin tins.

In a food processor or bowl with electric hand mixer, whip the flaxseed and water together, until you have a thick and creamy consistency. This can all be done by hand, but a food processor/hand mixer does a better job in 1 to 2 minutes. It also makes it creamier than can be done by hand. ( I use my Braun hand-held mixer).

In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed mixture, milk, and oil. Stir in the walnuts, if using. Add to the dry ingredients, and mix just until blended.

Fill the prepared muffin cups less than half full with batter. Place a dab of jam or preserves in the center of each cup. Add more batter to fill the cups two-thirds full, concealing the jam. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool in the tins for 3 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire.

People Watching

swim_bag
I’m a people-watcher, and the best place to go people-watching is the community pool. I’ve been going to the pool to watch people about twice a week since the kids got out of school in May.

This week, among my finds, I saw a group of young moms with their tiny toddler and preschool-age kids, and I was thinking about how lucky those moms are to have each other. Later on, while Izzy and the kids and I gathered to have a snack break, I commented on the group of moms and we wondered out loud for a while how the group came together.

“All the kids are mostly the same age,” I reasoned. “I doubt they just all happen to be friends on their own. I bet they’re part of a mom’s club or something.”

“Or maybe their kids all go to the same preschool. That could totally be it…” one of us suggested.

We came up with three possibilities before our six-year-old, Aiden, cut into the conversation with, “But the real question is whether they have iPads and iPhones.”
iphone_ipad_ds
Clearly, those are the all-important issues in our household right now.

* * *


Ella Publishing Co. has nominated me as one of the nine Most Influential Scrapbookers of 2010. You can learn more about this award, the nominees, and the blog tour at ellapublishing.com/misa or ellapublishing.com/blog.

Please help me honor my fellow nominees by visiting their blogs throughout the week. You could win one of 100 cool prizes! Click below to say hello to today’s spotlighted bloggers.

and

The Ripple Effect

Trinity asked for the camera when we sat down to dinner at Chipotle’s the other night. I handed it to her and made a face. I guess people liked it because the face caught on and took many dips and turns along the way.

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act . . . Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
faces
So true, Scott Adams. So very true.

Why We Don’t Pay Our Kids To Do Their Chores

boys_at_computer
My 12-year-old son, Blake, recently invested $150 in the development of skills that will enable him to be a professional graphic animator, possibly by the time he is sixteen. Part of this comes from the fact that we got rid of television in our home a few years ago, which leaves our kids a lot of time to develop artistically. Part of it, in my opinion, has to do with our philosophy on allowance and chores.

Izzy and I do things a bit different from how most other parents do them (no surprise there). We don’t pay our kids for doing their regular jobs:

  • 5 minutes minimum daily bedroom cleaning.
  • Daily bathroom cleaning.
  • Daily vacuuming of the living room.
  • Daily kitchen cleaning after dinner.
  • Dog mess clean-up

We also expect Blake to babysit the kids without pay while we run errands (although we pay him when we go out for fun).

Slave Labor?

I suppose that’s debatable.

We do pay our kids an allowance, but their allowance is in no way tied to their responsibilities around the house. It’s a philosophy I believe in. If they forget to do their jobs they either get a lucky break or they have more to do the next day. But we pay them their allowance.
blake_gets_paid

My Philosophy

It was important to me that my kids never associate their responsibilities with getting paid. They clean because it is their responsibility as a member of the family and a resident of our home. If they ever get to a point where they refuse to clean, they will just lose all of their privileges, like:

  • computer use
  • friend dates
  • desserts or snacks, or any foods not necessary to sustain life
  • clothing that is not necessary to maintain modesty or health
  • toys or fun stuff
  • extra-curricular activities

So far the kids have never refused to clean, and complaints are fairly minimal. They forget a job here and there, but for the most part they just do them. If they forget and get on the computer, they run the risk of losing their computer privilege for the day. Blake often has his jobs done before we are even out of bed in the mornings. The kids understand that they have to do their part. Once their regular jobs are done, they are allowed to perform extra jobs for pay if we can use the help.

Allowance With No Strings Attached

We pay our kids allowance because we want to help them learn to use money. We refuse to pay them to do the things they should do. We have never, ever said they would lose their allowance for any reason. They don’t earn money for good grades or good behavior. They don’t lose their allowance for inappropriate behavior or poor grades.

  • We expect them to be decent human beings because their actions effect others.
  • We insist they get good grades because they are fully capable (or if they were not, we would expect them to get the kind of grades they could reasonably get), and because they will need to get scholarships.
  • We can see they are capable of scholarships, so if they want to go to college, we require them to live up to their abilities and earn one. We have told them a number of times that we will not pay for their college tuition.
  • We expect them to share most all of their belongings with each other. Having their own allowance enables them to buy some things that are truly their own that they do not have to share.

How They Can Spend Their Money

We have a collection jar for the purpose of donating to an organization called, Kiva. Kiva advances micro-loans to individuals in third-world countries who are trying to start or sustain a business. The kids are only allowed to donate a percentage of their money to this cause. We match their donations times 7.

We gave them a cap because:

  • Trinity would give away most of her money and feel guilty about any she kept for herself if we didn’t cap the amount.
  • We like the reverse psychology of telling them they’re limited in how much they can donate.

To help them learn to spend well, we have these rules for how they can spend their money:

  • They have to declare to us their intention of purchasing something. We have the right to tell them no. For example, Blake can only buy one or two video games in a row, and then he has to buy something else before he buys more games.
  • After declaring their intentions to us they have to post those intentions, along with the date, on the fridge.
  • They have to wait 2 weeks after “declaring” before they can actually buy their items. This is the part that gets the most resistance, but they have realized how quickly they change their minds about what they think they want. They’ve also learned from this how seductive advertising sways them to make unwise spontaneous buying decisions. The 2-week requirement forces them to be sure they’re not acting from the gut when it comes to money. Every time they change their mind they see how the two-week wait prevented a poor buying decision.

Once in a while, when there was no real way to plan, we let them make spontaneous purchases.

Responsible People

I love the messages we send our kids every day with our method. As they get older, we see them invest more and more of their time developing their talents and skills. In my (biased) opinion, they’re growing up to be pretty awesome, independent individuals who understand their place in the tribe, as well as how their choices effect themselves and others. They’re very cool people.
three_kids