The mornings are cold and frosty, the colorful leaves are starting to drop, and Christmas decorations are already in stores…
Although we don’t go crazy with holiday parties, there are so many fun “extras” this time of year, so our schedule is usually more full than normal.
This year, we have the extra excitement of celebrating Nora’s 10th birthday — yes TEN! — and Dave’s 40th birthday in the midst of all our other festivities!
I still remember taking this picture so many years ago — Nora loved that little yellow chair!
As the years continue to slip on by, I’m so grateful for the time we have together as a family.
One of my favorite things about Dave’s teaching schedule is that he’s almost always home whenever the kids are home — including Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
There are certainly some not-so-awesome things about the life of a teacher, but the fact that he never needs to “save” vacation days for the end of the year or worry about taking time off during the holiday season is a big perk (even if we’re just planning to stay home)!
FAVORITE MOMENT = Fall Fest
Over the weekend, our church participated in a local “Fall Fest / Trunk or Treat” with the community library.
The weather was a bit dreary, but the night turned out to be a huge success and we all had a bunch of fun. I’m so thankful for our small church community and how much they love on our kids.
In case you can’t tell, Nora dressed up as a Whoopie Cushion, Simon and James were rival football players, and Clara was a cow.
Apparently, I donated our plastic pumpkins after last year — we made do with reusable produce bags for our candy. They worked out just fine (and I like them for produce too.)
FAVORITE ROUTINE = Family Point System
A while back, I realized that our children (like most of us) were more motivated by positive consequences than negative consequences.
So Dave and I implemented a “point system” that offers dozens of opportunities for the kids to earn points each day.
They continue to accumulate daily points and then every 2 weeks they can “cash in” their points for a variety of prizes, candy, and other special treats.
Yes, it means extra work on my part to remember to dole out the points. Yes, it means extra tchotchkes and trinkets cluttering up their bedrooms. Yes, it means extra expense buying candy and prizes.
BUT… it works so well!
The kids love finding ways to earn more points and they very regularly do many of the things we had to nag them about before, now without even being asked.
Some of the things on our points list are:
- make your bed
- eat the meal without complaining about any of the food
- put all dirty laundry in basket every night
- do homework
- practice piano
- pratice Bible memory
- take a quick shower (they were getting SO long)
- read for 20 minutes
- be extra helpful and encouraging (sort of subjective — but it works)
- have a positive attitude in the morning (even if you’re tired)
- empty your backpack immediately after school
- obey / help / listen the first time
- do an extra chore
When it’s time to cash in their points, I have a few different boxes filled with prizes at different point levels (5, 10, 25, 50). I break out the boxes, they “shop till they drop” and it’s a happy, happy day!
Another perk to our points system is that they learn basic math and shopping skills as they need to figure out how to divvy up their points to get what they want (sometimes they don’t have enough).
So far, the points system has been a very positive addition to our household and it’s one of my favorite things.
I know the kids love it too because when I asked what they wanted for Christmas, they all asked for more points! We had already told the kids we were going to scale back on gifts this year, but I said they could all have 100 extra points — they were thrilled!
RELATED READING: Why I don’t stress about kids and chores.
PAST FAVORITE = Chunkies Paint Sticks
It’s been a few years since I shared how much we love the Chunkies Paint Sticks — and since Christmas is coming up, I thought I would re-share them (especially since my kids still use them on a weekly basis).
The Chunkies Paint Sticks are SO much brighter and more vibrant than markers, and SO much less messy than actual paint.
Plus, they are extremely easy for little hands… and really fun for bigger hands too!
They come in a variety of colors and “styles” (metallic, bold, pastel, classic, etc.) We love them all!
RELATED READING: My Favorite Non-Messy Activities for Toddlers
FAVORITE CLOTHING = Fleece Lined Leggings
I wear leggings/yoga pants (whatever you want to call them) constantly around the house… and my favorite pair for winter is the fleece-lined ones I purchased years ago from ThredUp (an online used clothing store).
The leggings are so soft, warm, and comfortable, and they’ve held up marvelously after hundreds of washings (and you know I don’t take the time to line-dry them either!)
The exact leggings I have are currently available on Amazon for as low as $10 (with free Prime shipping)… so if you’re in the market for amazingly comfortable leggings, I’d recommend giving these a try. They come in a whole bunch of color options too!
FAVORITE BOOKS = Franklin
Ever since Nora was a baby, I’ve enjoyed reading the Franklin books to my toddlers and preschoolers. Clara is now in the thick of her obsession with Franklin… and it’s not uncommon for the boys to curl up next to us when I’m reading these books to her.
Despite my hesitation to actually BUY books, we now have quite a collection of our own Franklin books, thanks to various thrift stores..
If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift for someone age 2-7, I’d suggest this collection of 8 Franklin stories in one hardcover book.
GET THE BOOKS: Here’s a big set on Amazon
FAVORITE MEDIA = Securly
At our children’s school, they get a school-issued email account in 4th grade — and just like that, their entry into the online world begins.
Their access to the internet is still very limited and it’s all done through a specific child-friendly educational search engine.
However, I still like to know what’s going on in Nora’s online world… which is why I’m so thrilled our school uses Securly as a way for parents to see virtually everything our kiddos are doing online each week.
Not only can parents set very strict “rules” as to how our kids can and can’t spend their time online, but we can also completely block as many website URLs or specific categories of URLs as we want.
Parents also get daily updates on their children’s search history via the free App… and weekly emails containing every single picture, video, article, etc. our children have viewed over the past week.
If they try to search for anything deemed inappropriate, the school and parents are notified immediately.
I’ve been super impressed with Securly so far, and I hope our school continues to use it!
RELATED READING: A Balanced Approach to Children and Screens
FAVORITE RECIPE = No-Fail Roasted Turkey!
If you’ve never roasted a whole turkey before, I beg you to buy one this month and give it a try using my no-fail roasting tips (even if you’re not hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house).
I make 3 – 4 turkeys every year, roasting them this way each time, and then using the extra meat and homemade bone broth for soups, stews, casseroles, etc. all year long.
The finished bird is not necessarily Pinterest-worthy in apperance, but it is amazingly juicy and full of flavor with almost zero effort or mess!
Note: Make sure you buy the oven bags that are big enough for a turkey to assure your bird will fit inside.
RELATED READING: Making The Most out of a Whole Turkey.
“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be — not what you nag them to be.” ~ Max Lucado
I recently read “How Happiness Happens” (one of Max Lucado’s many great reads) and this quote stuck with me.
It’s an excellent reminder for anyone in any type of relationship — but especially for parents. How often don’t we nag at our children’s bad behavior instead of encouraging their good behavior?
I suppose this is what I’m trying to do with the points chart I mentioned above… reward positive behavior instead of only punishing bad behavior.
I imagine this would have quite a positive effect in the workplace and the classroom too!
What could you do TODAY to encourage someone instead of nag them?
FAVORITE ARCHIVED POST = How to Simplify Holiday Meals
I’ve hosted my fair share of large gatherings, birthday parties, and holidays meals and I have a few tips and tricks to simplify the process.
If you’re hosting anything this holiday season, I’d love to help you simplify and de-stress the prep work and have more time to enjoy your guests and participate in seasonal activities.
That’s all for me this month.
If you’re interested, you can scroll through ALL my Favorite Things posts HERE… and feel free to share your favorites in the comments below!