July 31, 2010

Backyard Picnic!

There's something fun about picnics. Maybe it's the packing of food in a cute picnic basket. Or perhaps it's the the act of spreading out a favorite blanket and sitting on it with loved ones. Or eating fun, portable food. Maybe it's even the word picnic. Pick-nick. It's a fun word to say. Whatever the reason- I love picnics. Jason and I used to go on picnics often when we were dating and first married.  We don't go on them nearly often enough now that we have kids. Occasionally we'll pack up a cooler and head out to a nearby lake, sometimes eating right there on the boat in the middle of the lake. Those are fun days and sometimes its simple moments like those that really seem to bring our family together.

I didn't have school this past Tuesday and wanted to do something fun with my boys. My mom had recently given us an old picnic basket and I'd been looking for an excuse to use it.

Hayden & Jarrett were excited and helped me back the basket. We even made sugar cookies that morning & the boys thought we needed to pack a whole dozen for the picnic. I had originally planned on taking them to a park to eat, but they wanted to go swimming in the backyard after we ate, so we decided to toss a blanket out under the shade tree behind our house. It didn't matter to them that we were only three feet from the patio, it was a picnic all the same to them.

I noticed the boys were unusually kind to each other- sharing their food, not bickering. They were even taking their time eating, rather than rushing through lunch so they could get back to playing. After they finished eating they took turns pushing each other on a little swing that hangs from the tree. It was such a sweet moment. Sitting there in the shade on a quilt made by my mother, watching my two boys play on the swing, I couldn't help but think "This is the life. These are the moments I live for."

We went swimming after lunch, the boys running back & forth between the pool & picnic basket to get a snack. When Jason came home from work that day the first thing they told him was that mommy took them on a picnic. I think the boys enjoyed our backyard lunch just as much as I did, so I see many more picnics in our future.

July 26, 2010

Hamster Havoc

We recently acquired two pet hamsters, or "mice," as my mother likes to call them. Each hamster has its own cage which is kept in each of the boys' bedrooms. The number one rule we have for the hamsters is Only Mommy & Daddy are Allowed to Open the Cage Door. Actually that's the only rule we have. This rule came about after our last hamster met an untimely death in an accident involving a toy John Deere hay baler. But that's a whole different story.

Last week I had a day off from school and was looking forward to a whole day alone with Hayden & Jarrett. No plans, nothing to do but play and be together. It was a nice feeling and such a change from my usual busy weekday schedule. Unfortunately, this peaceful feeling didn't last long. Shortly after breakfast Hayden came racing downstairs & into the kitchen yelling that one of the hamsters was out. I think I muttered a word (or two) that I won't repeat here, before following up him up the stairs and into Jarrett's bedroom. I shut the door behind me, hoping the little varmit hadn't escaped the bedroom yet.

I glanced around the room, looking for any movement on the floor, and that's when I saw Jarrett curled up on his bed crying. The critter will have to wait for now (the hamster, that is, not Jarrett) while I attend to my son. I picked him up, asked why he was crying, and between sobs he muttered, "Mommy mad? Try to hold hamster." I could see he was feeling real awful and guilty, so I spared a lecture but did remind him of the one and only rule of hamster ownership in this household.

My next mission was to locate the furry firecracker and return him to his proper dwelling. I found him quickly, in a corner, behind the dresser. As I bent down to pick him up I saw a blur of movement and he was gone. Turns out the little boogers are quick. Very quick. The process of finding the hamster, reaching for him, and missing him happened over and over. Each time I'd miss the boys would squeal with laughter and dance around. They were quickly confined to the bed because I was afraid they'd accidentally squish the little guy.

After 20 minutes of playing Hide & Seek, I called for back-up, also known as my mother. Now, she hates the hamsters anyway, so to say she was less than enthused would be an understatement. She was kind enough to come over anyway and through a process of rearranging the furniture to create a path that the hamster couldn't squeeze out of & escape- we caught him! Whew! Safely back in his cage.

I looked around Jarrett's room & commented on how it looked like it'd been ransacked. A rocking chair was overturned, books had fallen off the bookshelf, pillows thrown on the floor. What a mess I had to clean up. And then it happened....

Hayden slowly walked up to me and, with his head hanging, broke the news to me: his hamster was also out of its cage and on the loose. I swear to you as my mother is my witness- this actually happened. At this point both my mother & I began a rant of some choice words/phrases. It honestly crossed my mind to let the stupid thing remain lost and starve to death. But I am an animal lover, plus I had a vision of us living with the horrid odor of decaying hamster & that was enough to snap me back into reality.

We marched into Hayden's room with a better plan this time around: Locate, barricade, create path, block all possible exits, place cage at end of path, catch hamster. It worked much smoother this second time and we were done within ten minutes.

I decided to reiterate to the kids the importance of having rules & I had them repeat to me the one rule. They both knew the rule and promised to never ever open the doors again.

Just to be sure though both cages now have small luggage locks on them...

The story doesn't end there though- I went downstairs after the Rodent Roundup, grabbed the fish food, and discovered one of our fish floating upside down. I know statistics say that owning a pet can be comforting, can actually lower blood pressure & reduce stress. I used to believe that, but I'm not sure that applies to our household.

July 15, 2010

Kids Really Do Say the Darndest Things

Some of you may remember Art Linkletter's segment titled Kids Say the Darndest Things. Bill Cosby hosted a show with the same name about 10 years ago. Turns out- it's true. Kids really do say some funny things. Yesterday both of my boys gave examples.

Jarrett, my three year old, had just woke up from a nap and I laid down with him to cuddle as he woke up. He had gone to sleep holding a little John Deere lawn mower toy and as I put my arm around him to cuddle he informed me my arm was on his grass that he was mowing. I repositioned my arm and soon noticed a funky smell. I asked Jarrett if he tooted and without missing a beat he looks at me and says, "Is not me mommy. Is smoke from my mower."

Also yesterday I was swimming with my nine year old, Hayden. We were taking a break by the pool and I noticed him staring into space as if he were in deep thought. I asked what he was thinking about and expected he might say he enjoyed spending time with me during the summer. Or maybe he'd say how much he loved swimming. Instead he answered with one word and took me by surprise, "Boobs." 

And so the fascination begins... 

July 14, 2010

Big Hearted Hayden

My dad owns some land along the Platte River near Central City. As a fun "male bonding" trip my dad took Hayden & Jason, my husband, fishing last week. They packed up all their poles, fishing gear and headed for river. Jason and my dad were already planning a fish fry out at the farm to serve all the fish they were going to catch. Hayden was just looking forward to spending time with his daddy and Grandpa.

They arrived at the river and, even though it was a hot day, enjoyed relaxing along the water's edge, baiting, casting, and anxiously awaiting for a bite. The fish were indeed biting, but most of them were too small to take home, so they were thrown back into the river.

By the end of the afternoon they had only caught two fish big enough to take home. No matter, they guys were happy and Hayden was tickled to have caught something!

Upon arriving home my dad was getting ready to take the fish out of the water they'd been transported in and Hayden suddenly got concerned as to Grandpa's plans with the fish. Dad explained how he'd take them home, cut them up and get them ready to be eaten. Hayden didn't like that idea so much, and even though both Jason & my dad explained the process of fishing...with the final result being, well, a meal, Hayden was still not convinced.

Turns out dad and Jason didn't have the heart to take the fish away from Hayden, so they were temporarily put in my mother-in-law's whiskey barrel water fountain, until a new home could be found. Later that evening Jason & Hayden took the two fish over to the farm of a family friend. Those two lucky fish now live in a pond on the Epp's farm. Deana Epp reported that the fish are doing well and she has named them Hayden & Jarrett. My dad & Jason, on the other hand, are still hungry.

July 13, 2010

Gumballs and Rewards

One issue I think every parent has to deal with is how to discipline their children. Whether or not you have a special needs child, you will come to a point where you will have to chose a discipline method. Some parents chose to use time outs, others take away favorite toys/activities, some send a child to their room to "think about" when he has just done, and others use a reward system. We use a combination of the above, but focus mostly on the reward system.

Now let me begin by saying I didn't start out liking the idea of rewarding behavior. I didn't think kids should be rewarded for behaving in a way or doing something that was expected of them. That was before I had kids.

We learned quickly that the time out method didn't work well for Hayden. It didn't seem to phase him at all, and I really think that because of the way his brain works, he couldn't see a connection between sitting on the stairs and the offense he'd just committed. In some cases, it actually made his behavior worse- as he sat on the stairs he'd grow increasingly angry and end up in a raging fit that would last for up to two hours.

After reading an article on the importance of rewarding children for positive behavior I decided to give it a try. I made a chart and would give him a sticker for any positive behavior I saw. Whether it was putting his toys away without being asked or taking his plate to the kitchen after dinner, he got a sticker. Hayden seemed to enjoy the positive reinforcement. I enjoyed it because it was an easy system to use and didn't take much time. The hardest part was staying consistent and really being on top of it and remembering to reward even if we were away from home. I'd send a small sticker chart to my parents' if he were spending the weekend with them.

The only downfall of the reward system is that Hayden tends to tire of a method after an amount of time. We used the sticker system for a while, then moved on to a Behavior Bank. I made a little bank out of an old can and he'd get pennies for each positive behavior. However, he didn't have a concept of money at the time, so that wore off quickly.

Through the years I've had to get real creative. My latest attempt has been to use an old laminated gumball machine poster that I had when I was teaching kindergarten years ago. I hung the poster on the back of our front door so it's visible throughout the day. Then I cut circles out of different colors of construction paper. Any time I catch him doing a positive behavior, I give him a "gumball." I write the behavior on the gumball and he gets to place it on the poster. Some of the things he's earned gumballs for are: helping mommy unload the dishwasher, being good at the grocery store, and giving up a toy he was playing with so Jarrett could play with it. Again, these are all behaviors we expect from him, but I feel so much of my time is spent telling Hayden "Don't' tease your brother! Don't throw balls in the house! No yelling in the house!" that I really do need to focus on the positive things he does. It makes him feel proud and know that his parents are aware of the great things he does. And it also reminds me that he really is a super kiddo. I sometimes get so wrapped up in the extra work he is that I forget to notice the fantastic things about him.

Now onto the reward part! This is the first time we've tried adding a material reward to the system. After he has earned 25 gumballs (which he just did yesterday!!!) he gets to chose a reward. It might be a small toy, or a special overnight trip to Grandma's, a trip to the park, or a train ride at the local zoo. He gets to chose and, within reason, we'll accommodate. Well...as most of you know we had to give up our dog last month due to Jarrett's severe allergies. Hayden wanted another pet and decided on a hermit crab. We took him to the pet store last night and after examining the hermit crabs he decided against it because they, in his own words, "don't move fast." He decided he'd rather get hamster, which works out perfectly because we have a friend who is wanting to get rid of his daughters hamsters. We're planning to pick up the hamsters tonight and Hayden is so happy. He even said, "Good boy, get hamsters."

It's important to note that we don't give the gumballs excessively. He earns about one or two each day. We started this system the first week of June when school got out and it's taken him until now (July 13th) to earn his 25 gumballs. The idea isn't how quickly he earns them, but just that he does progressively earn them.

For now this is working. We'll continue with this as long as he seems to enjoy it. Nevertheless, I'm already thinking of what his next reward system could include and I've got some ideas up my sleeve.

July 11, 2010

What's in a Name?

If you've ever had the task of naming your baby, a new puppy, or maybe even your own business, you can relate to the frustration & excitement of coming up with a unique, individual name that you will be pleased with and not tire of. Coming up with the name of my first ever blog was similar to naming my children: making lists, e-mailing mom my top choices, annoying my husband any time a new name came to me, and calling my friend Mandy to get her opinion.

Some of the names were quickly dismissed, such as Sweet T. A friend of my from school calls me Sweet T, because my name (obviously) starts with a T. However, after doing a google search on this name it appears there is another female out there using this name as her, uh, Stage Name. And by "stage" I am referring to the kind that has a pole and perhaps some fake smoke for special effects. Other names were good possibilities, such as Talkative, and Sometimes Tacky, Tricia.

After two days I was finally ready to just settle on a name to get the task over with. Then last night, shortly before midnight, I was sitting at the dining room table with the computer and decided to make it simple. What does my life consist of? I glanced around the room and saw a Tonka dump truck sitting by my feet with a bed full of Hayden's rock collection. Right inside the back door I could see where sand had been tracked in, most likely on the bare feet of Jarrett after he'd been playing in the sandbox. On the kitchen counter was a bug habitat that's currently housing a cocoon, as well as a plastic baggie full of locust shells that Hayden has been gathering.

Then it came to me. My life consists of dirt, bugs, and a house full of love. So the blog name was born. Finally.

I hope you will enjoy reading this blog. For years my father has been encouraging me to share my writing, and any of my friends will tell you I certainly have a lot to say. I have no definite plans for a "theme" of my blog, it will most likely consist of a potpourri of stories relating to my family, daily life, school, and the struggles of raising a child with special needs.

That will all come in time, but for now a name has been chosen and a blog is born!