Friday, June 20, 2014

Lost My Marbles (follow up)

So, the marble program is now well established in our household, and we have found it to be a very useful, low-maintenance tool for improving the quality of life in our home.  It takes us about 3 minutes per day to keep it up to date and running, and it has had a drastic impact on our home.

Here's how.

First, the marble system fundamentally boils down to a physical reward for doing something that mom and dad like.  Rewarding kids is important, and they need a wide variety of positive reinforcements for good behaviors to turn into habits, which build into enjoyable personalities, and the marble system is meant to be used as an add-on to praise, treats, affection, quality time, and entertainment as rewards.

My kids have now learned that marbles are valuable.  They owe me 14 marbles per week for their room and board, which has helped them learn to take initiative (particularly on the weekends before rent falls due).  V grows much more helpful on the weekends just before Rent is due, whereas N gets more conservative with her spending habits.  Y, the 2 year old, has just learned that she gets more freedom and goodies when she does what she's told, and I think she understands that marbles translates to good things happening for her.  Each trip to the store becomes a thrill to the kids, because they're looking to spend their marbles on toys, or candy.  The best part about the marble system is that mom and dad have no say in how they chose to spend their marbles, or when they can play with the toys that they bought.

Ownership seems to be a lot more important to kids than I thought.  I'm not talking about gifts and birthday toys, though those are important.  I'm talking about the process of working, saving, and earning something.  It's theirs, and no one can take it from them.  Having those havens of ownership has cut down on fighting significantly.

N has things that are specifically hers, and if Y or V ask to use them, we say, "talk to N."  Giving kids this dominion has become a tool to actually teach sharing, because Dani and I will never infringe on our kids genuine property rights for the items that they earned.

If you'd like to try the marble system in your own home, here's how we got it started.

Create a chart of things that improve the quality of life in your home, and things that kids do that decrease the quality of life in your home.  Some examples:

Good Stuff Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Showing kindness without being asked
Helping with the dishes
Living room cleaned before bedtime
Getting dressed (morning)
Getting Breakfast On Your Own
Brushing teeth

Costs Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Hour of TV
1 Hour of Computer Games
Making Mom or Dad Ask More Than Once
Not taking care of yourself

This is a baseline for our "marble" chart.  Dani put pictures by each task to remind the kids what each one was, and laminated it.  We use a dry-erase marker to keep track of what they've done during the week, and then jars that contain their running totals.  Usually, we try to give them the marble right when they finish doing something good, but N and V really like the accounting part of it, so we keep track of their money with both their running-total marble jar, and their tally points on the chore board.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I've been the sole provider for our family since we were married.  I've worked very hard so Dani could be a stay-at-home mom.  That's what we discussed when we were engaged and that's what we wanted.  It was mostly because we wanted to champion traditional family values and show, through the way we lived, the benefit of following them.

That was about 8 years ago.

Now I've been working a day job for the better part of a decade.  If social pressures and dogma get their way, then I'm almost done with decade 1 with 3 or 4 more to go.  When it's all over, I get to spends the last few years of my life traveling, serving missions, playing with grandkids, and so forth.

I do believe that we all have to work to be happy and successful in life. But, when it comes to the conventional wisdom of how we need to go about work, I don't buy it.

I don't buy that just having mom accessible to the kids is what's best for them.  Why have we designed our entire society around taking fathers out of the home?

What is wrong with designing a social structure where kids, who are old enough, study and learn right next to dad each day as dad works to provide?  Can't I both provide for my kids' present needs and teach them to provide for their own in doing so?

I realize that doing this would sort-of predetermine what kind of jobs my kids would be good at, and becomes the foundation of a class-based society, but I'm just conceptually sick of this idea that a father is an appendage to their kid's development.  I want more than that, and I just don't know how to fill that role.

For the time being, I'm just content to be my kids' tutor for their school work.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fitness After 4 Kids

One goal I tried to keep between pregnancies was to get back to pre-baby size and weight.

That didn't happen after my 3rd. I was actually on a diet plan when I then fell ill with an awful stomach bug that went around causing me to not be on plan but on an I.V. drip at the hospital. I then found out less then a week later I was pregnant. Stop the diet and prepare for baby.

Pregnancy 4 was the one where I gained the most and because I didn't loose all the weight from baby #3 I weighted the most I had ever weight in my entire life.


How to fight it? I started working out. I found that it helped with the depression, gave me a little "me" time and helped me be happy because I was working on getting to my goal of pre-baby #3.

Now of course it hasn't come off nearly as fast as I have wanted it to and I still can't fit into my jeans with out a comical dance that includes a lot of jumping, sucking it in and strained finger tips as I try to button up my jeans. Oh, I've gotten them buttoned but the over hang muffin top is enough to make me cry.

Keep going I'm doing great.

But exercise is not enough. My major obstacle is eating. I'll eat if I'm bored, stressed, depressed, mad, or just out of plan habit. Does that taste good? Yes? We'll then don't mind if I help myself to more then my stomach can handle.

So I'm working on that.

I talked to my doctor and he told me things like this take time. I have to develop the habits and just because it doesn't come off now doesn't mean it wont when conditions are better.

"What other conditions?" I asked him.

Turns out, sleep. Yeah a 3-month-old who was waking me up 4 times a night and the occasional random scream from the 2 year-old who can't find her sippy was wearing me thin emotionally, but did nothing for my waist-line. Thus creating a very tired mommy.  The doc said that getting enough sleep, and keeping your stress levels manageable play a big role in weight loss and fitness.  Yeah, add the juggeling act of 4 kids and my stress levels were up too.

It's not all neat and orderly how I would like. I don't get to the gym the same time every day and get 2 hours to myself. My 8 hours of sleep are still out of reach (we're working on that) but I'M DOING WHAT I CAN.

And that is what counts.

Oh I still beat myself up and slip and then beat myself up some more. But everything takes time and work and I have a great hubby who is helping me along, because it's something I want. He likes how I look. I just want what I had before and I know it is possible. So here I go.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pavlov's Children (follow-up)

Well, it didn't go exactly as planned--but few things do when it comes to parenting.

Y and I spent a lot of time figuring things out, and here's what I learned:  kids can't process emotions the same way adults do.  When I'm angry, she doesn't pick up on those queues unless I deliberately exaggerate them.  I remember readings some studies showing that teenager's minds didn't process emotions shown on people's faces in the same way adults did.  It stands to reason that toddler's process emotions in a different way too.

This training helped her learn four audio queues.  Y now recognizes my approval, regular communication, agitated, and angry vocal inflections. Before this week and this time training, she really didn't respond to me at all.  She is responding very well to those now.  The treats and negative reinforcement were hardly needed at all, and the entire process took about 3 sessions ranging from 5 minutes to 2 hours.

Since Y went through the training, she has started cleaning up when asked and doing what she is told by the time I reach my agitated inflection.   I call that a miracle.  Before, she was very disruptive when it came time to cleanup--running around, dumping the toys, and so forth.  Now she is looking for ways to help and no longer trying to make things hard for her older sisters.

I'm looking forward to rewarding Y for the next few room cleanings. I also think Y and I will start getting along much better.

Why I'm (still) a Mormon

I don't expect much more to ever be posted on this blog, and I'm largely just posting this to share it with some particular friends....