Did you create the bookshelves on the girls’ bedroom wall or did you buy them pre-made? {from the middle pictures in this post}

I bought that thing at Pottery Barn years ago and I love it, but wouldn’t have a clue how to make it.  My sister-in-law, however, is pretty darn talented and has made something similar.  She tells all about it over here.

What is your homework policy in your house and how to you get your kids
to actually do it?? My second grader right now sits in front of it
for hours when it could easily be done in like 10 mins. and I just don’t
know how to ‘make it work’. I would really love some ideas!!

Well, it seems that I’m pretty late answering this since we’re well into summer, but this is something I have thought about a bunch lately because I often worry about my children’s focusing, prioritizing abilities.  Are they good enough to help them really learn so many things that will enrich their lives so much?

This could be a really long answer, but I’ll just say we’ve been through a bunch of different “homework phases” and I wish we would have made a strict rule and stuck to it when they were young because I think it’s all about the training.  I wish I would have sat with them at the counter and gone over every little thing with them to give them the tools they need to do really well in school. Sure, they do fine in school, but training them is just so important and I wish I would have started earlier.

The bottom line I have realized after fifteen years of being a mother is that kids need guidance.  “Yeah, obviously,” you may say, but sometimes we parents forget.  (At least Dave and I do.)  Whether it is on homework, or teaching them to really work around the house, or how to earn and save and invest money.  I think it’s easy for us as parents to tell them to do things that we haven’t sufficiently trained them to do.  And they need that training!  

Dave is wise on this one.  There are two things that have happened lately that have made me really think about this:

1)  I told Max a while ago that he had to earn half of the money to pay for a sports thing he wanted to do.  Dave was frustrated that I hadn’t consulted him first.  He agreed about the paying part, but not with the part that the demand just fell out of my mouth without giving Max enough guidance to do what I was demanding.  A long discussion ensued.  Dave’s theory is that we need to give kids the tools to succeed.  If we want them to pay for things (especially big things) we need to help them realize how to earn money and help come up with all kinds of ideas they can sort through and choose from (we’re working hard on that one).

2)  A couple Saturdays ago we were all working in the house doing our Saturday jobs.  I figured while I dusted the blinds that it would be a perfect time to call some of my siblings since I hadn’t talked to them in ages.  After a few calls Dave pulled me aside and told me the girls needed me.  His point?  In all my phone gabbing I was missing out on a great opportunity to not only train our kids, but to work with them.  (He does this with Max every single Saturday as they work for hours in the yard.)  Of course it’s important to take off the training wheels and send them off to do it on their own when that’s needed, but I’ve been doing that a bunch lately with how busy life has been and they have been slacking off.  They needed a little pep-up working-together time.  It makes such a difference when we work together when we can.  What a great opportunity we have on Saturday mornings to really work together.

So my question back is have you trained that second grader on exactly what to do to figure out her homework?  Sometimes kids need instructions on even something as simple as how to set up an area to do homework: have a pencil ready and sharpened, have a drink close-by, use the restroom before getting started, etc.  Sometimes they need a plan (i.e. “how long do you think this will take?”  “Shall we set the timer?”  etc. But I think the very most important thing is putting in the time to sit with them and really train them.

Disclaimer: these are just my thoughts and theories, not my claim that I actually do these things well.  I’m learning all the time and trying my best, but man alive, life is so crazy that sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to actually slow down and train. 

I’ve recently started following your blog and am enjoying all the
pictures. Would you mind if people follow you and your daughter on

I’m so sorry but our accounts are private and only open to close friends and family.  I put so much out there on this blog I wanted to have a place that’s slightly more private too.

What do you do specifically to protect your son/children against and
teach them about the dangers of pornography that is such a huge problem
these days?

We talk about it all the time.  And when I say “all the time” I mean “all the time.”  Dave and I tell the kids we know that it will happen.  With all the technology and things available at their fingertips we tell them the question is not “if” things will pop up, but what will they do when despite all our safeguarding efforts bad stuff shows up?  We go through the steps of action:  1) immediately turn off the computer, 2) run and find us and talk to us about it.  Internet is never allowed when babysitting or when Dave and I are not around.

Just wondering what you meant by this: “I’m just starting to save pictures from each blog post as full-size images to make blurb more do-able.” {from this post}  I do blurb books as well, but don’t think I know about saving as full-size images means. Please enlighten me!! Thanks! 

Well, I tried to do a Blurb book before and because I shrink down all my images to 650 pixels wide for this blog, they are all too poor quality to print the easy way into a book.  So I have to re-export them as high resolution.  The goal is to have larger files exported into separate folders from each month so that when I get around to doing that book some day I’ll have all the high resolution files right at my fingertips ready to go.

p.s. I’m not doing very well at this…I’m good at saving the collages in the files, but not every picture…

Where do you shop for clothes, and where did you get your tops?  If you have any fashion tips, I’d love to hear about them. 
And where
do you buy jeans?

This is probably the very most common question I get on this blog which I think is funny because I’m definitely not a fashion tip kind of a girl.  I am not a big shopper but I sneak in a few stores here and there when I can.  If the kids need something I will always check out the women’s clothing there and sometimes I make a quick score but I don’t have a go-to place.  I’ve been lucky with a quick trip to Ann Taylor Loft a couple times lately, and I even found a couple snazzy shirts at the Gap when I went with Elle last week.

I know that Saturday jobs are important but how do you also teach them
the every day jobs that they should do, such as cleaning the
bath/shower/loo after they’ve used them? How do you also get them to
pick up clothes etc?

Our new summer “jar” system has worked like a charm on this.  More about that at the end of this post.

If they don’t do their Saturday/everyday chores do you have consequences for not doing them, if so what do you do?

The consequence is that they have to be home all day having us nag at them.  They don’t like that one bit so they get on their stuff pretty well.  They all want to get out and do things with friends and it’s such a routine that we haven’t had problems.  I guess if we had to do a consequence we’d just start adding more jobs to their list.  That would get them fast 🙂

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  1. Shawni–I am so grateful for your voice in the world. Thanks for your love of motherhood and your encouragement in the adventure of it all. We moms need to support each other, and I find such strength in your simple, wise, practical advice. I also just read your mom's book, "I Didn't Plan to be a Witch". I loved it. Her voice has made a difference to me, too.

    You can hear my voice over here, at http://www.ahappyvoice.blogspot.com.

    Keep blogging! What you say matters and is affecting change for the better.

    Natalie Nelson

  2. Here's a question: how do you put your watermark on all your photos? I've noticed "71toes" and "Sepphotography" and want to know how to do that stuff to my pics. Thanks!

  3. I love friday's posts:) And thanks for answering that pornography question, my son is only 4, but I have been thinking a lot about what I will do when something like that happens to him.

  4. Your family and blog are pretty popular… Have you or your family ever been approached by someone who has recognized you? Do you have any stories about being in a new city etc. and someone knowing who you were? Has it ever scared you?

  5. I also love your blog and the Friday Q & A posts. I felt I had to comment on this one – I found it strange that you were not "allowed" to make a few phone calls to your family while you dusted the blinds. It's not like you have a lot of free time to yourself to do things like that, and I'm sure your "girls" could manage to do their chores without you for a little while. And if not, why couldn't Dave have "worked with them" – or is he only allowed to help your son with "manly" chores like yard work. That just did not seem fair to you, and you kind of just rolled over and said "yes dear".

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