Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Last First Tooth

Carter pulled his first tooth today. *Sigh*.  When Tucker and Sawyer did this, I was so darn thrilled.  It  IS exciting, don't get me wrong.  It's just different with your last child.  He was brave.  Didn't even flinch when it was pulled.  Me, however.....I had a lump in my throat the size of Texas.  The whole time I was choking back the tears thinking, "This is silly!  It's just a tooth."  But now that I have lovingly tucked him away into his bed for the night, I have had time to think about the events of the last few days with Carter.  Thinking late at night does not do well for my emotions.  I honestly am not an emotional person, but those kids of mine sure can tug at my heart.  I think the issue is that I love having children so much, that I can see that their childhood is too temporary.  I can't stand the thoughts of it ending.  So, as I sit here late at night....not being emotional.....I think back over Carter's last few days.
        Earlier in the week, Carter tossed his beloved blanket to the side of his bed and said, almost with disgust, "I don't want that anymore."  This blanket has been a favorite of his, just as Sawyer had his VERY special blanket and Tucker had his pillow.  Each child at some point became ready to put the special item away....never to be thought of again.  This week, Carter was ready.  It laid untouched on his bed, pushed into the corner for 4 days.  I thought he would pull it back out, but he didn't.  On the 5th day, he said, "I don't want this!  When can I put it up in the box of special things?".  I told him that he could put it up whenever he got ready.  He grabbed the blanket and skipped to my bedroom, placing his blankie inside.  It hasn't been mentioned by him since.
       Yesterday, I was standing in the kitchen and Carter grabbed me around the legs and gave me a squeeze.  I asked, "Are you needing some loving?"  He said, "Yep!" and jumped up into my arms and wrapped his legs around me.  He laid his head on my shoulder and I rubbed him on the back.  I smelled his little boy smell and squeezed him even tighter.  I asked him, "How many more years will you be jumping up into my arms like this?"  Carter said, "In 6th grade, I will be too tall."  I asked, "Well, then what about in 5th grade?"  He said, "Too big." I said, "4th grade?"  Carter said, "Nope.  I will be too big for you in 3rd and 4th.".  Then, hanging on to hope, I asked, "Ok, then what about in 2nd grade?  Will you jump into my arms then?"  Carter said, "Maybe I still will in 2nd.".  So, with a smile, I gave him another squeeze and he scurried off to play.  I have only couple of years left of those moments, then those too will pass.  He will be "too big, too tall, or too cool" to jump into my arms.
       And then we get to today.  The tooth.  Maybe it was just the icing on the cake, but it was almost too much to bear.  It was the last time one of my boys will pull their first tooth.  Sure, there will be other teeth to pull, but none are quite like the first.  Many of the firsts at our house are over.
     A favorite book of mine definitely comes to mind tonight as I sit here writing this blog not being emotional .  I stumbled across this book years ago and it has really changed the way I look at things with the boys growing up.  The book is called Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury.  Part of the note from the author in the front of the book says this:
         "We spend our children's days celebrating the firsts. First step. First tooth. First words. First day of kindergarten, first homecoming dance, first time behind the wheel. But somehow, along the way, we miss their lasts.  There are no photographs or parties when a child takes his last nap or catches tadpoles for the last time. For the most part, it's impossible to know when a last moment actually occurs.  Nothing signals a mother to stop and notice the last time her little boy runs and jumps into her arms.  If I'd known it was the last time, Would I have held on longer?"

As Carter climbed into his bed tonight, he was toothless and without his blankie.  I couldn't help but to kiss him and hug him and hold on a little longer than usual.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chore Champs

Bradley and I started the new year of 2011 with a goal.  We wanted to begin to eliminate our debt and become better stewards of what God has blessed us with.  After a fabulous suggestion from our dear friend Kristy, we read the book "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey.  We became very motivated to make some changes in our lives.  We started with a budget.  This was something we had never done in the past.  We began to spend less that what we were bringing in and started to pay off some debt.  We are definitely still learning and getting better control of our personal finances.  I could write an entire other blog on just this.  During our own path, we became to realize that we never really learned the lessons that we should have on how to take care of our money.  It was not the fault of anyone but ourselves.  We are definitely intelligent enough that we should have taken the initiative to learn more about money management ourselves.  We still have a lot to learn.

Very early on in our discussions and budgets, we agreed that we needed to do something proactive to teach the boys how to be good money managers.  Of course, we couldn't begin any kind of system until we had the ball rolling with our own debt reduction.  After a couple of months, we were ready to start something.  I had given the idea of implementing a system A LOT of thought.  I read some books seeking knowledge and inspiration.  I sought out bible verses for guidance.  I was finally ready to start something.  I knew that starting anything was better than starting nothing.  Our goals for the boys were for them to learn some basic knowledge of money.  We wanted them to learn:
Money does not come without work in real life.
Some things are worth saving for.
It feels good to give your money to someone in need or the church.

I had a meeting with the boys at the table to teach them about our plan.  I explained the point system to them. They would earn "points" throughout the week that would be worth money on payday.  They could earn 5 points per day. A morning point is awarded for getting up and dressed on the first request, eating breakfast, and getting backpack ready and out the door. A school point is awarded for good grades, no problems with behavior, and doing homework without being asked.  Two chore points are awarded for completing two chores per day. A "round-up" point is awarded at the end of the day after we "round-up" all of the things that were left out during the day, such as shoes, cups, toys, etc.  The boys are also given the opportunity to earn bonus points for doing more difficult jobs.  The bonus points are optional, the regular chores are not.  I was not prepared for the reaction I got from the boys.  They were so excited to get busy earning their points.  they were already looking forward to payday.

To help manage the payday system, we bought this tiny drawer system that is just big enough for their "time-card", pencil, and the chore sticks.  Each child keeps up with their own points by marking it on their timecard.  They must total it up and have it verified by Mom or Dad on Sunday before payday.

About 25 different chores are written on craft sticks and are inside a paper sack.  After the boys do their homework, they draw out 2 chores to complete.  They put those 2 sticks in their drawer.  They keep the completed sticks in their drawer until all the chores have been drawn out of the bag and have been completed.  This ensures that all the chores get completed within about 4 days.  With this system, my toilets, tubs, floors, windows, mirrors, counter tops, and more.....all get cleaned every 4 days.  After all the chores have been drawn out and completed, they go back in the bag to start over.  There are definitely some jobs that they enjoy doing more than others.  Carter enjoys cleaning tubs and showers, the other boys grimace when they draw those chores.  Sawyer's favorite job is to gather up all the dirty laundry.  Tucker doesn't mind cleaning the toilets.  He says it's an easy job.  I also have one stick in the bag that says "Paid Vacation Day".  That has been a fun one to have!  The day Sawyer was on crutches for having an injured knee, Carter stood next to him with his fingers laced together in front of him while Sawyer was drawing out his chore  chanting, "Please get paid vacation! Please get paid vacation!"  It just so happened that Sawyer did draw out "Paid Vacation Day" that day that he was on crutches, much to his brothers delight.

Our payday system is based on age.  The thought process behind this is that an older child will be financially responsible for more things.  

Our payday night is somewhat of an event.  We do it on Sunday night after dinner.  The boys do last minute calculations and I get out the money box that is only used for their payday.  I also award bonus "worker bee" points for the child who worked the most meticulously and pridefully throughout the week.  For the first 2 weeks, Carter has earned this award both times.

After payday, we talk about the things the boys are saving for and what they might want to spend their money on.  Tucker is currently saving everything to buy a dirt bike.  At this payday, we were discussing some events coming up at school in which the boys would have to decide to spend or not to spend their money.  We had a bookfair this week at school as well as nacho day at p.e.  Carter decided that he would probably buy the nachos for $2.50 and both the other boys decided that nachos were't worth $2.50.  They were all 3 trying to decided on some books that they might want to buy at the book fair. There was no right or wrong decision on either of these events.  It was their choice whether or not it was worth their money.

 After a couple of weeks of implementing this program, I have been dazzled by the abilities of my sons!  On the first payday night, I made a formal apology to all of them.  I told them that I never gave them enough credit for being capable of so many things.  They have completed their chores beautifully, never once complaining or doing a poor job of their work.  The house has been kept clean for over 2 weeks, which doesn't sound like much I guess to many people, but around here we are so busy that I was never able to keep it really clean for more than 2 days at a time.  We only invest about 15 minutes a day on chores and the boys complete them as soon as we get home and we still have plenty of time to play or go to ball practices.  I absolutely cannot imagine going back to the old way again.  The payday system will probably still have to be tweeked and changed, but it is working perfectly to get us started.  I am so proud of my boys and all they are learning to do and all they are becoming.  They are my little chore champs!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Life As a Cheerleader

 Ok, so I am not actually a cheerleader. At one time, yes, but that was many cellulite bumps and wrinkles ago. This past weekend, as I sat in the stands of yet another sporting event, I realized that much of my life revolves around sports. We literally move from one sport to the next with our boys. With 3 boys, who are all very much "into" sports, we spend endless hours jumping from one practice to the next. Last weekend, our hopes of having a free weekend were dashed when we finished up our basketball tournament on Saturday and started baseball practice on Sunday. Tucker, now 12, plays football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer. Sawyer, who is 8, plays soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer. He also ran track last season in the Junior Olympics. Carter, who is 6, plays t-ball in the Spring and is anxious for the day when he can join in on the other sports. Baseball season is just getting into full swing. We spent the last couple of days at baseball practice and getting gear to fit what has been outgrown. This seems to be the toughest sport to manage timewise. It is next to impossible to shuttle 3 kids to 3 different parks on the same days. Practices and games always seem to overlap. Although having the boys involved in sports takes a huge chunk of our time (and money), I truly enjoy being there to cheer them on when they make a great play or score those points. I sit in the stands beaming with pride when one of my sons step up to bat and smashes the ball for a homerun. I love to watch my speedy Sawyer steal the ball from the opponent like a flash of lighning and send the ball into the goal. I relish in watching Tucker lay out another player when he makes an amazing tackle. Seeing Carter tag a player out on his little tball team makes me cheer with delight. I am their biggest fan. I am their greatest cheerleader. It is one of my favorite parts of being a mother.