It Ain’t Always Easy

I would like for you to believe that The Bug and I are having a glorious summer full of play, learning, and creating memories.  While it is true that we have had some wonderful moments this summer, it’s possible that I may have left some stories out that were less than wonderful. Because… I don’t really enjoy airing out our dirty laundry for the Internet to read.

A couple weeks ago, I was losing sleep because I couldn’t get The Bug to do ANYTHING.  The Summer of Learning fell by the wayside due to lack of interest.  Doing chores was like a major battle.  Even things that she loves to do — like reading — took some major maneuvering to accomplish. And don’t even get me started on the home improvement projects that I was going to tackle this summer.  I was starting to feel like a failure Daddy when I talked to my wife. She’s so smart.

Here is the plan we created.

  • It’s all about earning stickers.  If she wants to earn stickers, she can help around the house, do chores, do learning activities, and other great stuff.  If she doesn’t want to earn stickers, she can be a slug in her room.
  • Each morning and some afternoons, we create at a list of 3 things she needs to do to earn a sticker.  These are consolidated from the original schedule we started the summer with, but these are the super important items.
  • With each sticker, she can pick a fun activity like go to a park, swim in a neighbor’s pool, or eat candy.
  • At the 10 sticker mark, the prizes go big!! Visit the zoo, go to a park where we can play in water areas, go to a friend’s house to play, or go out for ice cream.

These papers are hanging on our fridge for quick reference.

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I’d like to tell you that it’s a stunning success, that I have a different girl who nails her work early in the day, but that’s not the case.  What it’s done for me is takes all the burden of getting work done off my back and it puts it on her. She knows the consequences of inactivity and chooses to live with them.  I no longer have to get super stressed, impatient, or lose my temper.  I just remind her of her sticker chart and her goal for the week and let her decide what she wants to do.  Sometimes I have to put my foot down.  Like, today, I told her that she had 2o more minutes of iPod time before I took it away.  She had to get work done.  I also don’t let her have screen time till her morning list is done, but in general, she lives by the consequences of her choices.

This also makes time for some fun things. Remember that mug she painted?  She earned that outing by getting 10 stickers. We also got her a book at Barnes and Noble when she hit her second round of 10 stickers.  Next up, I think we’re going to get to enjoy some Kona Ice real soon.  I’m pretty excited about that!

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!

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Here are some pro tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Lots of praise!  Always praise your kid for making good choices! It’s a lot more fun to give praise and hugs than to be a nag.
  • Don’t be stingy! Give out those stickers whenever possible.
  • Try to maintain structure in some way.  If I had this summer to do all over again, I would have still tried to stick to a schedule. Too much unscheduled free play isn’t good for my Bug, even when we try to give her independence.
  • Bring her into the process. One of the best things I did was have her help me brainstorm one- and ten-sticker rewards.  That way I knew she was shooting for things she wanted to attain.

How are you helping your kid through the summer doldrums?

5 Things I’ve Learned Already This Summer

I know summer break just started and I have less than a full week of “Mr. Mom” under my belt, but sometimes I’m a quick learner.  Here are some things I’ve already figured out.

  1. Seven-year old Bug is a lot more independent and helpful than 6-year old Bug.  This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but it was an utter light-shining-down-from-heaven-with-angels-singing-on-high revelation for me. I was pleasantly surprised the other day when this smacked me across the head. She was able to tell me where to find the play clothes. (#cluelessdad) She was able to run back into the house to get something she left on the table. She has been able to be my partner, not (always) someone to hold me back.
  2. The Bug loves to learn. I knew this already. But the end of first grade was rough, and she was exhausted. When I bought a Summer Bridge book, I didn’t expect her to start till next week. We got home, and she nailed two days’ worth of pages.  A day doesn’t go by that she hasn’t tackled that workbook.

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3. It’s OK to let her pick her own play clothes. It’s a battle I don’t need to fight, and she feels like a grown up. In the picture above, not only is she working on her summer bridge, but her clothes are hideously matched. I should have gotten a picture of her standing up, cause the shorts just didn’t work… and I didn’t care!  (I did make her change before we left the house though.)

4. She still has things to learn.  It’s not all peaches and roses.  I still need to teach her some things.  Like, how to spin a produce bag before tying it off.

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5. Sometimes you just have to raid your neighbor’s pool.  I could have fought her to stay awake and tried to get her to do something silly like a craft, or I could have done what I did.  “Get your bathing suit on!”  I made the right choice!

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I hope your summer is going well too.  What is your kid teaching you?

My First Day as Mr. Mom

As a teacher, summer is a glorious time of year when the days are lazy and things can get done around the house. Or maybe, that sentence should have been in past tense. My wife just started a new full time job at the same time that The Bug and I are starting summer break.  This, of course, causes some transitional issues on a few fronts.  Yesterday, was our first day together — Daddy and The Bug — and it was a doozy.

My day started around 5:30 when my wife woke me up.  If you think that’s an evil time to be up on vacation, you are absolutely right.  However, it gave me a nice quiet start to my day.  I sipped coffee, read my Bible, and chatted with my wife.  The tranquility ended around 6:15.  That’s the time The Bug normally got up for school, and we had just commented that it was weird to not have to wake her up.

Then, we heard a frantic, “MOMMY!” The Bug had woken up in a pool of dried blood.  She occasionally gets a nosebleed, and obviously one had happened in the night.  We are well-versed in nosebleed clean up.  She takes the kid and cleans up the face.  I take the sheets and clean those up.  Peroxide, my friends.  Peroxide is the #1 blood fighter!  (We learned that when one of our dogs made our living room look like a war zone. But that’s a different story and not for the squeamish reader.)  I think the nosebleed was an indicator for the next two hours of pure craziness.

I am not a multitasker.  Let’s just get that out in the open right now. My highest level of multitasking is listening to music while I type this blog.  Beyond that, I get some serious stress — like heart palpitation stress. Yet, my first morning as Mr. Mom was jokingly full of multitasking.

Here are some of the things that happened from 6:15 to 8:30.

  • Nosebleed and clean up.
  • I printed a copy of last summer’s schedule to review and update for this summer. My printer wanted to run diagnostics instead.  When the diagnostics were done, the schedule didn’t come. So I printed again… and got two copies.
  • Breakfast.  I’ll get the dishes later.
  • Walk the dog.  Four houses down, there was a dog loose in its front yard. I don’t do dog fights. I’m not much of a fan and I don’t want to be holding on to the leash of one of the dogs in the fight. We went to turn around and go a different route.
  • Norton’s gave me a warning about some sort of error. None of the automated fixes worked, but that didn’t stop me from trying two or three times.  (You know, the Neanderthal attempt to keep bashing your head against something hard with the idea that maybe you’ll win after a few bashes.)
  • My wife left for work.  (“Bye, honey! I will miss you more than you know!”)
  • The Bug wrote on one schedule and wanted me to print a third. She didn’t like my answer, so she ripped up the copy she wrote on. She got a timeout.
  • I’m still bashing my head against Norton’s.
  • The Bug comes out of time out. My wife calls.  She took the wrong car AND she has the key ring with the only key we have for the car she left behind.  The Bug tries to tap the touchscreen on the laptop. The Bug gets some harsh words, as I hear a quiet, “Is everything OK there?” (“Just fine, dear. We’ll be just fine.”)
  • I finally explain to The Bug the problem.  Fortunately, she has learned about computer viruses through BrainPOP so this makes sense to her. She miraculously gives me the space I need to do what I need to do.
  • I contact Norton’s support and they take over my computer.
  • I realize I need to put dinner in the crockpot.  I use my phone to look at the recipe while the Norton guy does his thing.  The Bug is creating her own schedule at the table while this happens.
  • Somewhere in there I text my mother-in-law about the car key.  She opts to go get the key for me so we’re not stranded.
  • I clean up the kitchen about the same time The Bug sticks Just Dance in the Wii and exercises on her own.
  • The Norton dude finishes on the computer.
  • I hop in the shower.

This is enough to wear me down to nothing, but of course I had things to do that day.  Just about nothing on that happened was actually planned to happen.

I have vague and hazy ideas of telling The Bug to clean up her mess, so she made a bigger one. I found her organizing her hair accessories. I refer to the Battle of the Bun. Why does one girl need so much stuff for her hair?  I have shampoo.

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Not that long after this picture was taken, my mother-in-law showed up and offered to take The Bug to the park for an hour. Did I look that stressed?!?! That was a good hour to relax and catch my breath.

I think I blocked out the rest of the day. I’m sure I did meaningful things and laughed with The Bug often, but I don’t remember much.  I do remember two things clearly.

The Bug and I knocked out some errands.  We went into Toys R Us for play sand. I lifted 150 pounds of sand into the cart, and she left with a free balloon.  What?!?!

On the way home, she was singing happily in the backseat till the moment that she wasn’t.  I hollered back, “You’re not sleeping back there, are you?” Nothing. I tickled the knee.  Nothing.  She WAS out of it!  I was able to wake her up in the driveway enough to here, “Oh. Hi, Mommy!” Then, she slept like a mummy for an hour straight.

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And that, my friends, is how my summer break started.  I love that kid!

Here are some Pro Tips for you:

  • Have a minimum of two keys per car. I blame the Toyota dealer who told me he only had one key AFTER I signed the paperwork, but we don’t need to get into that.
  • Don’t bang your head against Norton’s. The tech support dude was super nice and did all the work with a smile.
  • Just Dance. Seriously. Greatest video game ever. We have the Disney edition.
  • Never let the kid near the hair accessories. ‘Nuff said.
  • Your mother-in-law can be your best ally. It’s OK to let her spoil the kid once in a while.
  • Get your own balloon.  The nice Toys R Us lady won’t give one to a bearded 40something dad.

How is your summer going? Lots of fun?