Friday, July 3, 2015

|Parent Tip| Vocabulary Overload

Feeling dumb was not the expectation when I made the decision to begin reading the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. This series was recommend to me since I am always on the lookout for great writing. When I embarked on page one of my journey I quickly realized that this novel was well out of my intellect league. Not only did I plunge into a pool of vocabulary challenges, but also the slow, steady, and deliberate cadence of sentence absorption proved too much for my brain. After page three I gave up and went to sleep. I have a degree in art, folks. We are visual learners. Who has the movie?

The rule of thumb for children is if there are more than 5 words per page that are unfamiliar, the book is too difficult. This book had at least two words per page that were too difficult so I had to make a decision. Although there were no AR (Accelerated Reading) points for me to accrue, I decided to look up the unfamiliar words in the dictionary while accepting the challenge to read onward instead of giving up indefinitely. My not giving up allowed Mr. Lewis to teach me an important lesson about properly placed vocabulary, poignant description, and great writing.

Though some children are less competitive, and prefer juvenile jargon to a terminology tussle learning the new words is a valuable asset. In a world of typos, misplaced letters, acronyms, and misspelled words, a vocabulary challenge increases their intelligence and improves their writing skills.

I will let you know how well I like the story. In addition, I will be tossing out some new vocabulary words for you to grasp. And, if you already know words like, “malediction” and “sanguine” you should try your hand at Out of The Silent Planet by CS Lewis. Don’t tell me how it ends though; I won’t be done until 2020.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

| Parent Tip | Just Listen

I happen to have a child who remembers very little of what I say, especially if said child is engaged in something other than giving me his undivided attention, which is often. If I throw in the word "baseball," or "ice cream" he perks up, but only for a short moment, until he discovers my decoy. 
Giving him one instruction at a time, or writing a list is always best if I want results. I let him check off the list when tasks are completed and keep a personal list when he has schoolwork to accomplish. “Make your bed” and “brush your teeth” are a poster size list that never changes.

He isn't a big talker about school, friends, or church either. His word count is incredible low. I have found that the best way to gather information is to get him one on one. With siblings in the mix this often poses difficultly but with some strategic Tetris maneuvering I succeed. 

Beginning with subjects that interest are best. "Do you think the pitchers should be required to hit as well?" or "When is the best time to use a driver in golf?" get the vocal chords lubricated for the real conversation and questions like "What happened to your grade in language arts?" or "Why don't I see Luke around anymore?" One-word answers are his specialty so I construct open-ended questions for greater results.

For adult children, the same is true. If I want to have worthy conversation I need to discover their communication style and timing. Do they prefer e-mail or phone conversations? Do they respond to text message or a message on Facebook? While one child gives little information when he is hungry, another rattles on endlessly when we take the dogs for a walk. My daughter has unique timing. She could talk for hours at 10:30 in the evening or right in the middle of the workday, inconvenient at best, but rarely shunned.

Talk, converse, share, collaborate, seek, and ask, but always keep the conversation going. Do what works best for their style; feed them, take them on a date, make a list, send an e-mail, draw a picture, play a card game, or go for a bike ride. Fight through the grunts and groans, push away the one-word answers, encourage, question, and consult. Getting some children to talk is tough, but it is rarely impossible, unless you begin with a bullhorn.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

| Parent Tip | Carpool

I am a huge fan of silence. As a mother of four children, silence is a luxury therefore, when I was offered a coveted position in the carpool mafia my acceptance was met with reservation. Having to only drive 2 out of the 5 days to school was appealing yet suffering through 20 minutes of incessant preteen boy babble would be painful. Carefully weighing my options was a must.

With the promise of dessert after dinner or candy in between meals I can coax our children into studying for an upcoming quiz on the way to school, turn up the radio so as to drown out their voices, or make them count the number of black vehicles they observe. Other people’s children aren’t as easy to persuade. Although candy may be their favorite meal, since I am not their parent, I wasn’t in a potion to make them the offer.

While I admit to succumbing to the offer, my heads still rings as a painful result. I grossly underestimated boys and chatter, and noises, and potty talk. Grossly. However, this experience provided huge learning opportunities. You will be edited to me for sharing these ideas with you whether you have boys or girls. You’re welcome.

1.     Listen. Children will forget that you are in the car and will inadvertently share thoughts with their friends while you listen. They will enlighten you to situations at school they would not normally share with you. Wear one of those disposable surgical masks so you are not tempted to interject your words of wisdom. Your kids won’t be embarrassed at all.

2.     Question. As they share responses to the conversation take time after school to encourage, lead, and guide. I will often say, “I noticed that Jack said he doesn’t like Ben because he is annoying. How do you treat Ben?” This provides a great way for you to share your thoughts about how we are to treat difficult people.

3.     Watch. I noticed that my children are critical of other kids. They had to learn this from someone. As I examined my own character I realized that they learned their critical behaviors from me. Yuck. As I grow and develop spiritually I need to be cognizant of what I am teaching my children and make changes in my life for the better.

4.     Take good notes. I have learned tons about upcoming tests, field trips, lunch bag ideas, behaviors from teachers, and classroom expectations. This is invaluable information for a parent whose child can repeat very little about the six + hours they spent at school.

5.     Fart. If you have boys this will always and forever be hysterical. Whether in word form as in, “Did you hear Lauren fart yesterday?” or the actual act of flatulence, laughter will ensue and your car will smell. If you have girls, this will always and forever be revolting and reserved. Always.

I may not be a huge fan of carpool chatter but I am a huge fan of learning. I highly encourage you to join forces and enter the ranks of carpool, but, don’t forget the air freshener.

Friday, June 5, 2015

| Parent Tip: | The Power of Prayer and Tickling

| Parent Tip: |
The Power of Prayer and Tickling
Every night we pray with our little kids. We pray about our family, school anxiety, having good beach weather, grandparents who need healing, and if I am disappointed in them, I ask God to help them make better choices when Mom asks them to do something. They don't always like when I throw that last request into our prayer time but I am the one who prays so I get to say what I want.
We rarely pray with our bigger kids. Since they no longer require the closet doors shut, back tickling, and "wear your retainer" reminders, we typically open the door to their bedrooms and say, "Hey, we are going to bed. We love you, good night."
I am uncertain as to when the good night prayers ended, but I am certain that I am sad about it. I think, if our bigger kids were completely honest, they would admit to still enjoying their Dad or myself lying in bed next to them and praying out loud while we tickle their arms and back. As they mature though, we expect that this is no longer a requirement. Who made that decision? Our bigger kids need our prayers just as much as the little kids.
Prayer is an amazing gift that we can give to our children. When we pray for them and with them they get to witness, first hand, God's miracles, faithfulness, grace, and mercy. They get to rest in the arms of our Savior knowing that with prayer, anything is possible for those who believe. They get a peek at the workings of God and how He cares for our EVERY need.
Perhaps it is too late to begin again the regime of night time prayers and tickling with a 21 year old girl and an 18 year old boy, but I am certain, that tonight, our typical cadence of good nights will have an additional sentence, "How can we be praying for you?"

Saturday, May 30, 2015

| Parent Tip: | Sharing is Dumb

| Parent Tip: |

Sharing is Dumb

I don't share well, especially my dessert. This has been a challenge lately since I make myself some pretty great desserts. The ice cream gets topped with whipped cream, always, and if there are M&M's nearby, a sprinkle on top is a must. Is your mouth watering?

I also seem to be the one who chooses the best dessert when we are out at a restaurant. It's a curse.
The reason that I don't like to share is because I am afraid that when I am finished sharing there won't be any left for me to eat, or that the goober saliva they leave behind will repulse me enough to push aside what is left on the plate. I live in fear.

Kids, too, hate to share. They share the same fear as do I. What if they break something? What if there is nothing left for me? What if it gets lost? What if they goober saliva all over it? What if?

I have come to realize that none of the fears I have come true. I always have enough desert, there is always plenty left, and more than likely, I get too full to finish my dessert when I share and have plenty left over for others. They goober part may be intact, but I am not repulsed.

I try to encourage this revelation with my own children, though sometimes there is difficulty. "God loves it when we share. God will honor your sharing by giving you more. When we share, we feel better and our fears never develop." These are my go to sayings to my kids when the non-sharing monster needs slaying. Eye rolling or screams still erupt, however, I will often push sharing, even if there is a fight. 

The battle is real, but the words will soak in eventually. Don't give up. Encourage sharing, model selflessness, and banish fear. You can do this. We can do this.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

| Parent Tip | What's for Dinner?

    Because of the fact that I don't normally have the evening's dinner planned out by 7:00 in the morning is the exact reason why I loathe the question, "What's for dinner?" If our 21 year old daughter is not calling after work to ask the question, then our little ones will ask until I come up with a dinner option that is palatable. 

    To combat my intuitive reaction to spout out some sarcastic response like, "crow's feet with mustard relish and a side of roasted squirrel," I came up with a plan. Although this plan took effort and time, it was a perfect solution to the seven a.m. question, the 4:00 p.m. phone call, and the first question out of our 18 year old's mouth when he came home from school.

    I found large sticky notes like these and created a menu for the week. Sticking this list in a visible spot for our kids to see not only helped me to plan well for a week's worth of dinner, but the kids then knew in advance what was planned and no longer asked, "What's for dinner?" If they had a sudden urge to ask the neighbors if they had room at their dinner table for one more body, I carried on, ready to supply a bowl of cereal for those particular children. 

    The question asking has stopped, and, if I can figure out a way to get them to shop for all the food, prepare the meals, cook the meals, and consistently chew with their mouths closed, dinner time would be perfect. Oh, and having them do all the dishes would be helpful as well. I don't ask for much.
    What are you serving for dinner?

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    | Parent Tip | "I'm Bored"

    | Parent Tip | 

    "I'm Bored"
    After our boy told us that he was bored, I ignored him while he ventured into the backyard. Armoring himself with a black and gold swimming life vest and a golf club from his father's bag, he began climbing around the grassy area, stopping every now and again to wield his club and shout at the trees. I watched for a moment and was somewhat annoyed. Why the swimming vest? What is he doing? Is he planning on swimming in the dirt or golfing in the pool? 
    I continued to watch as he jumped off the short ledges of the bricked in grassy area and climbed steep, short, inclines leading up to a row of tress and bushes. Knowing that he had homework to do and noticing that the sun was slowly approaching the horizon I slid open the glass door and asked, "What are you doing?"  He was hunched to a squat poking at the dirt and didn't hear me at first so I shouted, "What are you doing?" Returning to his upright potion he came closer and replied, "playing pretend." 

    Being bored isn't such a terrible thing. When kids are bored it forces them to get creative. Before feeling the pressure to shove an iPad in their hand, begin another episode of Doc McStuffins from your recorded list of television shows, or create a verbal list of 62 things to do when you are bored, pause. Let them figure out an option, let them stroke their imagination, cause them to create, or to play a round of pretend. If after 10  minutes they are still incessantly demanding an option from you, give them something to clean: the dog, their toys, the tires on your car, the widows, the iPad screen. There is always something that needs cleaning--even if they just pretend.