Dwarfism Awareness Month

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This is a guest post from my sister, Lynn, about my adorable nephew, Charlie. 

Meet my son Charlie.  He is a cheerful, smart, handsome 7 month old – an overall great guy.  On the day that he was born, Charlie was diagnosed with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.  As his mother, one of my greatest fears is how he will be treated, by a sometimes unkind world, simply because of his stature. You see, Charlie is like most other 7 months old, only a bit shorter. (Note from Aunt Amy: Charlie is actually one of the sweetest and most joyful babies I’ve ever encountered.)

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Prior to my son’s diagnosis, I knew almost nothing about dwarfism.  I had seen the occasional TV show – some exploitative and some not.  Though I had sometimes seen Little People (LP) out in the community, I have never actually had a conversation with an LP.  When I learned about Charlie’s diagnosis, I initially struggled with our new reality.  Though it was certainly an unrealistic expectation, I imagined having an easier time with a second child.  Suddenly, I had a baby with a genetic condition about which I knew very little.  I was concerned about the possible medical complications associated with achondroplasia.  I worried that Charlie’s potential would be greatly limited by his stature.  I wondered about how he would be received by the world that still feels free to openly mock Little People.  Before even leaving the hospital with my new baby, I was lucky enough to be connected with the Little People of America.  This amazing organization provides a variety of services to Little People and their families.  I have connected with many people through our local district and around the country.  They are a source of support, resources, and social connection.

The last seven months have not always been easy but Charlie is an amazing guy.  He is sweet, social, and charming.  He is a great addition to our family.  He has introduced me to a world of amazing people – LP’s, parents of LP’s, and families of children with medical special needs.  I have learned more than I ever could have imagined.  As an advocate for Charlie, I believe that it is important to share some of this information with others.

Here are some basic facts about dwarfism:

  •  Charlie’s form of dwarfism, achondroplasia, is the most common.  However, there are over 200 different types of dwarfism with an estimated 30,000 Little People in the United States and 651,700 LP’s in the world.
  • 80% of Little People are born to average sized parents.  Most often, dwarfism is the result of a spontaneous genetic mutation.  My husband and I are both average height.  Neither of us have any family history of dwarfism.  One set of Charlie’s genes are now altered and carry the mutation for achondroplasia.  Should he choose to have children with an average height partner, there is a 25% chance that each child will have achondroplasia.  If his partner also has achondroplasia, the chances increase to 50%.
  • People with dwarfism are usually no taller than 4 foot 10 inches.  The average height of a man with achondroplasia is 4 foot 4 inches.  The average height of a woman with achondroplasia is 4 foot 1 inch.  People with achondroplasia have an average-sized torso, a larger than average-sized head, and shorter than average arms and legs.
  • The word “midget” (often referred to as the “m” word) is considered highly offensive.  The term was used to describe LP’s who were put on display in sideshow acts.
  • Most types of dwarfism have medical complications, some more severe than others.  Charlie has severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  He was oxygen dependent since he was three weeks old.  Just last month, my husband and I made the difficult decision for Charlie to have a tracheotomy.  This immediately eliminated his OSA.  Learning to care for an infant with a trach has been a bit overwhelming but we are all literally sleeping easier.
  • Dwarfism occurs in all races and ethnicities.
  • Such terms as Little People, LP, Person of short stature or Person with a form of dwarfism are all acceptable. Most people with dwarfism see the word “dwarf” as acceptable. Most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label.  When he is older, Charlie will decide what language he prefers.  For now, we refer to him as a Little Person.
  • In the dwarfism community the word “average” is used instead of the word “normal.” Example: “Average sized parents” rather than “normal sized parents”.
  • Dwarfism is not a reason to assume that someone is incapable. Little People can do just about anything an average sized person can, just sometimes in a different way.  Charlie will live in an averaged-sized world.  My husband and I will make some accommodations at home and in school.  Beyond those, we will encourage Charlie to try anything he would like to do and be resourceful to make it happen.
  • Dwarfism is not an intellectual disability. A person who has dwarfism is typically of average intelligence.

October is Dwarfism Awareness Month

Sometime this month, please take a moment to educate yourself and make the world a kinder place for Charlie and all Little People. Here are some fantastic resources to learn more:

When I first learned about Charlie’s diagnosis, I did a little research, since, like Lynn, I was not particularly at all knowledgeable about achondroplasia. I was relieved to learn that Little People have average lifespans and no intellectual limitations. The only differences are physical. At the same time, I was concerned that people could be unkind to Charlie, because somehow a social acceptance of making fun of Little People seems to persist. Please share the information in this post with others, and help ensure that Charlie and all Little People receive the love and respect we all deserve. Many thanks!!

What’s Up Wednesday: September, 2016

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I’ve been reading What’s Up Wednesday posts for a while, so I’m very excited to do my own this month…

What We’re Eating This Week: I dusted off my slow-cooker when the temps cooled and I went back to work. This week I’m using it to make two, new-to-me recipes. We’re also having taco salads and breakfast-for-dinner, two family favorites. You can see my full meal plan for the week here.

What I’m Reminiscing About: Because my daughter’s birthday is coming up,  I can’t help but reminisce about her arrival in our lives. She hung on for a few days past her due date, my doctor induced me, and she ultimately was born via c-section, seven years ago. Sniff, sniff…

What I’m Loving: Apples, and pumpkins, and squash – oh my!

What We’ve Been Up To: Settling back into our school-year routines. In addition to my daughter being back in school, I’m back at work two days per week, and my daughter is doing several extracurricular activities (hip hop dance, gymnastics, and Brownies). I’m also blogging (obviously), and in the midst of my semi-annual purge of my daughter’s outgrown clothes.

What I’m Dreading: Darkness. Even though the days have been getting shorter since the summer solstice, I only really started noticing a difference in late August. By the end of next month, it’s going to be very noticeable, and once we set the clocks back in early November, well, I don’t even want to think about that…

What I’m Working On: This week I’m tracking how I spend my time in 30-minute increments. I’m reading I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam, and she suggests that better time management starts with tracking how you’re already spending your time. I’m also trying to complete an editorial calendar for October for this blog, and starting to understand my least favorite social media tool, Pinterest. (I consider it a black hole, where I end up spending way too much time, and come out feeling incredibly uncreative.)

What I’m Excited About: Fall decorations!! It took me a while to warm up to them this year, but I’m thrilled to have mums, corn stalks, and pumpkins out at our house now.

What I’m Watching/Reading: I don’t really watch any TV shows, but I’m a bit of a news junkie. However, I’ve scaled it back this summer and fall, since I just can’t take any more election coverage. November 8th cannot come soon enough for me! As I mentioned above, I’m currently reading I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam. (You can see everything on my fall reading list here.)

What I’m Listening To: Podcasts galore! In particular, I just started listening to Her Monday with Jean Chatzky, and I’ve been binge-listening to catch up on the episodes I missed.

What I’m Wearing: Fleece, sweaters, long-sleeve tees, jeans, and boots – my kind of clothes!

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Saturday is my 11th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, I didn’t schedule a babysitter on-time, so we’ll be enjoying a family anniversary dinner, followed by a date night next weekend. Other than that, we don’t have any plans at this point. (And that’s just how I like it!)

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month: Our anniversary, my daughter’s 7th birthday and two parties to celebrate it, and Halloween!

What Else Is New: Work, school, fall… isn’t that enough?!?

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Monday Meal Plan

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Monday! I hope your holiday weekend has been fantastic!

My family has enjoyed doing a whole lot of nothing this weekend. We considered driving to visit various people and places, but opted to keep it low-key and home-based. My husband has been putting in a lot of hours at work lately, so he needed some time to relax and recharge. He did some yardwork, I finished school supply shopping – what, me procrastinate?? – we took our daughter to play mini-golf for the first time, and did some planning for the upcoming months.

One weekend highlight was a party with good friends last night. We met when  our daughters were in the same kindergarten class, and fortunately we, the parents, are as good friends as our daughters are. And as a bonus, all three girls are in the same class this year!

The Week Ahead

This week is kind of a sweet-spot week. My daughter starts second grade on Wednesday, but her extracurricular activities don’t start until next week. Also, I have a couple of additional weeks at home, before I return to my part-time job in a local college career center, on the 20th. Basically, this week is about gently easing into the new school year, before things get hectic again.

With that in mind, here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

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Yesterday I shared on Instagram this great meal planning tool I found on Amazon. It’s the Mead Organizher Magnetic Shopping List. I can jot down my meal plan and shopping list together in one place, and display it on the fridge throughout the week. (I know there are higher tech tools for this sort of thing, but I’m a low-tech gal and prefer writing things down by hand.)

How was your holiday weekend? What’s for dinner at your house this week? 

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Summer 2016 Recap: Highs and Lows

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

This is my daughter’s last full week of summer break. Although fall doesn’t technically begin for a few more weeks, once the school bus rolls up, summer is essentially over. (Cue the sobbing.) Summer, 2016 is, sadly, in the books. Here’s how it went for me:

Highs

  • I started a blog! But you already know that. Thank you so much for reading!! And for following me on Facebook. And Instagram.
  • I came close to achieving the balance of regular, fun activities for my daughter, without driving myself crazy, that I described here. Every day wasn’t a barrel of monkeys, but I feel good about the amount of socialization, fun, and educational activity my daughter got this summer.
  • I read some great books. I didn’t read a single book that I didn’t enjoy, but some were better than others. Overall, I’d have to say The Nest was my 2016 summer-reading favorite.

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  • Summer camps were a success. My daughter has a long history of disliking summer camps of all kinds – even the ones she clearly enjoyed. (She’s an anxious homebody. I wonder where she gets these traits…) This year we tried two new camps – theater and art – and she has said she’d like to do both again next year. Whew!
  • We all survived the LONG drive to Bar Harbor, Maine, and back. We split the drive up over two days, but we drove home all at once, and those 9.5 hours in the car almost broke me. Fortunately, I’m able to read in the car, and we brought a bunch of DVDs for our daughter to watch. And we stopped at one of the many conveniently located New Hampshire Liquor Store rest areas.
  • I went to some great shows at SPAC. My husband has a contact in the SPAC box office who has gotten us free tickets for orchestra and ballet shows there the last two summers. This year we saw one New York City Ballet show, and a fantastic Philadelphia Orchestra show. Then I balanced out that culture by taking my daughter to the Kidzbop show last week.

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  • I ate lots of ice cream and kettle corn. Thanks, Dairy Haus, Humpty Dumpty, Plum Dandy, and Broadway Kettle Corn!

Lows

  • Getting my daughter to read and practice math was a near-constant struggle. I registered her for several summer reading and math programs, to keep her motivated to practice her skills over the summer. She was enthusiastic for about a week, and after that it became like pulling teeth.
  • My garden was something of a let-down. I didn’t get things started early enough, and I didn’t dedicate enough time to gardening throughout the summer. As a result, my veggie-garden yields were pretty low, and my flower gardens are full of weeds.
  • I didn’t bring my daughter to several places I intended to. I had planned to bring her to a variety of new-to-her local landmarks and attractions this summer, but we didn’t make it to any of them. What can I say; I’m a creature of habit.
  • The new behavior system didn’t create much behavior change. I created a summer positive-reinforcement plan to get my daughter to adopt some new (and overdue) habits this summer. Like the summer reading programs, she was very motivated for a couple of weeks, and eventually lost interest. Next up: a fall negative-reinforcement plan!
  • I ate way too much ice cream and kettle corn. Damn you, Dairy Haus, Humpty Dumpty, Plum Dandy, and Broadway Kettle Corn!

How was your summer? What were some of your highs and lows?

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Monday Meal Plan

Monday Meal Plan

I do not enjoy cooking, I’m not a creative person, and I consider grocery shopping to be a real chore. As a result, for around 18 months, I religiously created a weekly (dinner) meal plan for my family. On Sundays, I sat down with the calendar for our week ahead and my favorite cookbooks and recipes I’d recently found online, and jotted down a list of what we’d be eating for dinner for the next seven days. At the same time, I put together my weekly grocery shopping list. I dreaded doing this every week, but it made my life a lot easier. I no longer found myself at 4pm, wondering what on earth I was going to make for dinner. I no longer came up with an idea, only to discover that I didn’t have all of the ingredients I needed. I no longer ran to the grocery store three times a week.

So, a reasonable person might ask why I stopped this sanity-saving drudgery activity. I don’t have a good reason, other than that I got tired of forcing myself to do something I dreaded, every. single. week. But I find new school years invigorating, and I’m excited to get back to a more scheduled and organized way of life. Thus, the weekly meal plan is making a come-back! And publishing them here will give me some accountability, so thanks for coming along for the ride!

First, a few guidelines:

  • My meal plans are a framework. While I might say that we’re having pot roast and mashed potatoes on Monday, I just might make it on Wednesday, instead, if that ends up making more sense for our week. I’m crazy like that, people.
  • My meal plans are dinner-only. My husband rarely eats breakfast, and I’ve got making school and work lunches down to a pretty simple system. It’s dinners that are a struggle for me.
  • I aim to make reasonably healthy, well-balanced meals most of the time, but sometimes a high-fat, high carb, and/or high sodium dinner will show up on my meal plan. Please avert your eyes, if necessary.

Okay, without further ado, here’s this week’s plan!!

Monday: Pasta Florentine (This is my somewhat loose interpretation of Chicken Florentine Pasta from Ree Drummond.)

Tuesday: Southwestern oven omelet with toast (Brinner – breakfast for dinner – is one of my absolute, favorite dinners! What I make depends a bit on what’s in the fridge and freezer, but pancakes, bacon, and/or eggs are generally involved.)

Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese with squash from my garden (m&c recipe from Real Simple Easy Delicious Meals)

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I LOVE this cookbook.

Thursday: Leftovers (Can you hear the angels singing??)

Friday: Chicken enchiladas (I don’t like chicken very much, unless it’s in small pieces and covered in sauce and cheese. Plus, I have a bunch in my freezer, that I have to use up.)

Saturday: Grilled fish, farmers’ market veggies, and couscous (Why does cooking on a grill seem so much easier than cooking in the kitchen??)

Sunday: Burgers on the grill, with leftover veggies

Do you meal plan? What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Getting Decked Out

Getting Decked Out

Our biggest – and most costly – project of this summer is replacing our deck. We’re only two days into it, and I’ve already learned quite a few things.

  1. Make a plan upfront. We decided to replace our deck last winter, and since we live in the frozen tundra upstate New York, there’s a limited window of time when such a project can be done. To cut costs, my husband decided to dismantle the deck himself. Knowing this would take quite a while, he started in April. But we didn’t start the process of contacting contractors, gathering estimates, and selecting materials, until mid-May. At that point, we learned many contractors have already started filling their schedules. For a couple of weeks, it looked like we’d be spending the entire summer without a deck.  Now I know to allow plenty of time to find a contractor at the outset of a project.
  2. Contractors are not always as professional we might like. My husband spoke with five contractors about our deck, and four came to take measurements and provide estimates. Only three of them ever got back to him with their estimates. One of them eventually declined the job, and offered to provide the names of other contractors he would recommend. We never heard from him again. One gave a firm date by which he’d get his estimate to us, and missed it by five days. One scheduled a call to discuss the job with my husband and didn’t actually call until four hours later. My expectations for contractors have definitely been adjusted.
  3. Expect unanticipated costs. Anyone who’s spent more than a nanosecond watching HGTV knows that there are ALWAYS unexpected costs once a home building or renovation project has begun. We’ve been lucky thus far, but even two days into this project, demolition has taken twice as long as was estimated, and a couple of support pieces that we intended to save have turned out to be rotten and need to be replaced.

The deck is supposed to be finished at some time next week, and I can’t wait to set up my lounge chair, grab my summer reading list, and kick back with an iced tea.

Do you have big home projects planned for this summer? How have your experiences working with contractors been?

Frogs Legs, Math, and Tears

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Frogs Legs

We had a nice weekend at home. Friday was my husband’s birthday, so he left work a little early, and we went out to dinner to celebrate. We went to The Wishing Well, which is a lovely restaurant, with delicious food, and wonderful service. It’s a nicer restaurant than we would usually bring our daughter to, but they have a children’s menu, so we decided to give it a shot. I mentioned to the manager that it was our daughter’s first dinner at a “nice” restaurant, and he surprised her with a strawberry, followed by a plate of… frogs legs! He said he had been given frogs legs when he was a child and went to a nice restaurant for the first time, so he likes to do the same for children now. Needless to say, my daughter wanted no part of them. Ditto for my husband. I never would’ve ordered them, but I  was curious… I took two bites. They were served in an absolutely delicious sauce, and that’s basically all I tasted. The meat was tender, and, no, it did not taste like chicken.

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My delicious skillet cookie at The Wishing Well

Saturday, my husband took my daughter to Peerless Pool in Spa State Park, while I hung out at home to do some cleaning and read my second summer reading book. Later on, I took my daughter to the library to report on a book she had read, for the library’s summer reading program. (She decided to save the “book buck” she earned for a larger prize, likely a moustache key chain.)

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Math

Speaking of summer challenges, my daughter got to work on her school’s summer math challenge on Saturday. To receive a certificate in the fall, she has to work on her math skills for at least 15 minutes, at least 30 days over the summer. In an attempt to make it a little more fun for her than simply completing math worksheets, I picked up the game, Math Dice, Jr. at Target. We cracked it open this weekend, and she absolutely loved it! (It may have had something to do with the fact that my husband and I let her win most of the rounds…)

Yesterday, we took my daughter to Spa State Park to practice riding her bike. (Our driveway is slanted and unpaved, requiring us to go elsewhere for bike lessons.) The lesson ended abruptly, with my daughter in tears, and my husband walking the bike back to the car by himself. We all recovered at the Spa City Farmer’s Market, though. I had a huge berry lemonade, my daughter had a smoothie, and we brought some pasties and summer squash home with us. (Summer squash balances out pastries, right??)

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Some fun before the tears….

Tears

Speaking of summer squash… we finally cracked open the grill for the first time, and my husband cleaned it for the season. Thank goodness!! I do not enjoy cooking in the slightest, but grilling seems so much more manageable to me. The planning, prep, and clean-up are all pretty minimal, and the food is always delicious. Our burgers and grilled squash last night did not disappoint!

How was your weekend? Did it include frogs legs, tears, and/or math games?

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She’s Up for a Challenge

My daughter is HIGHLY motivated by rewards. As a Girl Scout this year, she was pretty disinterested in how many boxes of cookies her parents she sold, but very interested in what prize level she had achieved. (My behavior plan for this summer is an attempt to harness this tendency to get her to make habits of things I’ve been pestering her about for years.) As a result, I’ve got her participating in not one, not two, not three, but FOUR summer reading challenges, plus a summer math challenge, as a way to keep her academic skills fresh while school is out.

The last two summers, she has participated in the New York State Summer Reading Program at the Saratoga Springs Library, and she’s doing so again this year. We I track and log how many minutes she reads daily. Once she’s read for a total of 60 minutes, she goes to the library and reports on one of the books she’s read to a “Book Buddy”. After each report, she receives a “book buck”, which can be redeemed right away, or saved for larger prizes. She reported for the first time this year today, and chose to spend her book buck on a peace sign eraser. (Because if there’s one thing we need fewer of, it’s erasers.) Kids who read for 1,500 or more minutes over the summer are eligible for a grand prize. She’s never achieved grand prize status, but this could be her year…

The other summer reading challenges she’s doing are:

  1. From her teacher next year. She records the books she reads this summer, and will receive a glitter stick for each. The glitter sticks are redeemable for prizes.
  2. New York State Assembly’s Summer Reading Program. She tracks the number of days she reads (or we read to her) in July and August, then submits the form to our Assemblyman’s office, and she receives a certificate.
  3. Northshire Book Store Summer Reading Bingo. Northshire is a fantastic independent bookstore in Saratoga, and this program looks really fun. They provide a bingo card filled with age-appropriate reading and reading-related activities. She checks the boxes once she’s completed them, and brings her card in for prizes.

While it may seem a little over-the-top to have my not-quite-seven-year-old daughter participating in four summer reading challenges, there’s tremendous overlap among them. Whatever she reads can count for three of othe four, and some will also count for the last one (Northshire). Having prizes to help motivate her will minimize the prodding and arguing my husband and I will have to do to keep her reading this summer.

Are you kids participating in any academic challenges this summer?

 

To Pooch, or Not To Pooch

Last winter, we said goodbye to one of my first babies, Tony. He was a very special cat, and he and I had a very strong bond. His 16 year-old sister, Sophie, is still with us, limping along with kidney disease and inflammatory bowel disease.  (I’m certain these two cats have paid for at least one year of college for our vet’s children.) I love her, but she’s more sterotypical-cat than Tony was; she loves me, but she shows it when she feels like it.

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Wasn’t he a handsome fella??

For behavioral reasons I won’t bother to go into here, Sophie is confined to the master bedroom. Between this and her age, I’m starting to think about getting another pet. In order of preference, here’s what I’d like to get:

  1. A llama (See my Facebook profile picture.)
  2. A (litterbox-trained) rabbit
  3. Ten cats (I could SO be a crazy cat lady, if my husband let me!)
  4. A dog

A llama isn’t particularly practical for our yard, my husband thinks rabbits aren’t interactive enough, and a cat (or 10) seems kind of mean, while Sophie is still alive. Both my husband and my daughter would love to get a dog, but I’m not sold on one yet.

I like dogs, I really do, but that doesn’t mean I want to own one. (It’s kind of like how me liking babies doesn’t mean I want to have another child…) Sure, they’re man’s best friend, they’re adorable, and having one would force me to get more exercise. But I have some reservations:

  1. Dogs smell. I’m sorry dog-lovers, but they do. Every time I pet a dog, my hand reeks of dog afterwards. Unless a dog has just been bathed, they smell.
  2. (Most) dogs bark. When I go to people’s homes and a dog starts barking its head off, it’s a little off-putting. So is the thought of having to haul a barking and/or jumping creature into a closed-off room or a crate whenever people come to my home.
  3. Picking up dog poop. Enough said.
  4. Dogs are high-maintenance. When we go away for a weekend, we leave out extra food and water for our cat, and she’s fine on her own for a few days. (For all I know, she may even prefer it this way!) But dogs require dogsitting or boarding arrangements, which I understand are pretty costly.
  5. Smart dogs tend to be high-energy, and who wants a dumb dog?? We would walk a dog daily, but between our jobs, school, activities, and life in general, we won’t have a lot of time to provide intellectual stimulation for a smart dog. And based on my limited understanding of animal behavior, under-stimulated dogs can wreck havoc on things like coaches and chairs.

All that said, I know I’m going to acquiese, eventually. I love furry creatures, and stinky dogs are no exception. But I’m never picking up the poop.

Do you have one or more dogs? (Or cats? Or llamas??) What do you think are the best and worst parts of being a dog parent?

Summer Behavior Plan

My daughter is very well-behaved. I don’t say this to brag or take credit, because I really can’t; it’s just who she is. She’s very rule-bound and risk-averse – both of which are generally good personality traits, but pose challenges, too.

Despite her typically good beahvior, there are a few things I’ve literally been telling her to do FOR YEARS, to no avail. These include:

  1. Sit correctly at the dinner table.
  2. Bring your dishes into the kitchen when you finish a meal or snack.
  3. Clean up after yourself, before moving onto another project or activity.
  4. Tidy your room every day.
  5. Put your clothing/pajamas away or into the laundry after you take them off.

With summer vacation beginning next week, I’m thinking about things I’d like to accomplish before September. Getting my daughter to make habits out of these behaviors is at the top of that list. As a result, I’ve been thinking about a plan for doing so, that will also keep frustration and conflict to a minimum.  I found some good ideas here, and I’m sure Pinterest is full of great ideas, too. Ultimately, I opted to borrow what my daughter’s kindergarten and first-grade teachers used for classroom behavior. They each had a glass bowl into which pom-poms were placed whenever a student or group of students was “caught” behaving well. I like this idea because it rewards – and hopefully reinforces – good behavior, rather than punishing bad behavior.

I’ll also have an accompanying prize bin, filled with dollar-store type items. When my daughter receives 10 pom-poms, she can choose a prize from the bin. She’s strongly motivated by rewards, so I think this will work well for us. I told her about it last night, and she liked the idea. She even suggested adding a “grand prize” reward for the end of the summer. That would involve tracking pom-poms earned throughout the entire summer, which may be more than I want to take on, but I’ll keep thinking about it…

Do you have summer behavior goals for your kid(s)? What are your favorite positive reinforcement systems?