We took our first road trip together last weekend. I was a little nervous about driving a full seven passenger mini-van four hours away, but we accepted the challenge. I booked two adjoining rooms (because we are apparently that family now), bought a third car-friendly video game device, and packed our essentials. We woke up early, attended 8AM Mass, and headed west. We saw my sister's family, spent a couple hours in the hotel pool, visited Crown Center, and did some quick shopping before heading back home.
We started an experimental reward system with the youngest three kids. Hourly (or close to hourly), I assess each child's behavior toward others. Each child who has used only kind words AND a loving tone to speak earns a star on my phone app. Kids who ear all of their stars get to play video games on the next car ride that is longer than 30 minutes. So far, the system seems to have produced more loving relationships-- and more peaceful van rides. I am praying that 1) I am able to keep up with it and 2) that the newness of the system and games holds out long enough for the loving words to become habit.
Mr. J called Noah his brother the other day. I wish I would've captured Noah's face. It made me smile and want to cry all at once. That sweet kid is dying for acceptance from his little brother. He is doing an amazing job of hanging in there and being patient. I've watched Noah mature in leaps and bounds the last few weeks. It has been amazing to watch. Don't get me wrong. He's still an 8-year-old boy, but his self control alone has matured a year's worth in just a few weeks. My sons aren't best buds yet, and they may never be, but they are learning to live with each other. For now, I'll take it.
Miriam had us pretty worried at school when she started showing some signs of stress there. We hadn't seen much of anything concerning at home, so we were blindsided when her behavior at school spiked. A meeting with the teacher. Typical Miriam issues. Strategizing. Lots of praying. Her behavior coincided with end of our honeymoon at home, and for that I was thankful. I bought her a sketch book and was startled to see how much she poured into the pages. All her sadness and frustration that she'd been saving up spewed out in words and pictures on her pages. After that day, she was back to her best self again.
My teenagers are doing well. Miss J is helpful as ever and is learning how to be a big sister to A instead of ONLY a friend. It's been a great blessing so far.
We have a few unknowns that we are working through with both girls- I think that comes with teenagers. I'm always half-expecting some giant issue to surface. In the meantime, I am working teaching the girls about self-respect and serving others... and I am enjoying both girls as much as possible while the going is good!