The Berenstain Bears got it right

Summer is bittersweet for most moms. Around April, we’re sick of school, tired of the projects, ready to be released from the chains of early mornings and reading logs. We long for the days of not setting our alarms and the flexibility of seeing where the day takes us. It sounds like a vacation without ever leaving the house.

The trouble is, if you don’t have back-to-back vacations planned, regular play dates scheduled, or endless amounts of money for daily outings; you’re over summer break about 3 days in. The excitement of sleeping in quickly turns to depression as you wake up to find your kids all vegged in front of the TV, asking you what’s for breakfast, even though, somehow,  it’s already 10:30. The line between breakfast and lunch is pretty blurry, as you are faced with the reality that you are now expected to provide 3 meals a day for everyone.

In our house, summer started out strong this year. We skipped the last day of school so we could all head to Stevenson, WA where Andy was doing sound for a conference and I was leading worship. We stayed at a beautiful resort and were able to swim, explore trails, and all of our meals were provided for us. Pretty sweet gig. A great start to summer.

Once we returned home, we settled in to a comfortable routine of staying up late, sleeping in, and the kids pretty much watching show after show, movie after movie. In between, they were fighting over anything they could think of and I found that my mediating went from calmly asking them to knock it off, to practically joining in the wrestling match while yelling at them to calm down and just respect each other. Not my proudest parenting moment.

I was sick of it. Andy was out of town and I was desperate. After sitting all four kids down on the couch and calmly explaining what a mess we were, I told them things needed to change. Not just for an hour, or for the day, or even for a week. They were going to learn to get along, work together, help each other. And this is the part where I got all Mama Bear Berenstain on them.

“We need a break from all technology. This isn’t a punishment, but a break. You’re going to have to play with each other. You’re going to play outside, create things, play games, hang out together. You’re going to learn to help each other and respect each other. And we’re not going back to screens until things change. I don’t know when that will be, but we’ll just have to see.”

You can imagine how well that went over. Total devastation.

“So, we’re grounded until we can be nice to each other,” one of them said.

“No, we’re just changing how we spend our days and re-learning how to get along.”

“So, for how long?”

They still couldn’t quite wrap their little brains around the concept.

“Don’t ask me how long. I don’t know. Just focus on playing together and having fun together.”

Before anyone thinks I’m a total monster, they were still allowed to go to a movie with friends, if invited. They also played video games with their uncle when he was visiting from out of town.

I don’t know if kids realize that when a parent makes a decision like this, it’s just as painful for them, as it is for the kids. Honestly. When kids are staring at the TV, they’re quiet. They don’t bug you. You can get a lot done. But when you take that away, they want to do stuff with you. All of the sudden, they’re interested in playing cards with you and coloring with you. They want you to take them places. They actually want you to parent them. It’s pretty rough.

The days turned into a week, we took a trip to Tennessee (where they were allowed to watch shows with their cousins), a week turned into a couple weeks and then we broke the news.

“Guys, this has been really good for us. We’re going to stick with it for the rest of the summer.”

You know what’s amazing? They were fine. They didn’t freak out. They didn’t throw themselves on the floor in protest. And that’s when I knew. I knew our little experiment had changed something. They were getting used to it. They were learning to enjoy each other. Yes! It was worth it.

They were throwing the football back and forth. They were reading. They were creating a pulley system in the fort in the backyard. They were making a basketball hoop out of an old post, a wire hanger, and some duct tape. Dangerous? Maybe. But creative, nonetheless. They were doing all the things we used to do when we were kids, before there were endless amounts of shows and movies on Netflix.

I gotta say, I’m into it. Although, the house is much more messy with all of the kids’ creations and experiments. The Berenstain Bears knew what they were doing.

Coleman is standing on a make-shift tight-rope. It wasn’t exactly tight, and it didn’t end well.

Josie turns five

Our baby turned five. It’s hard to believe. This fall she’s
off to kindergarten where I’m sure she’ll befriend, not only everyone in her
class, but everyone at Ridgecrest Elementary, because that’s how Josie rolls.
She makes a new friend every place she goes, no matter what age. This concept
is completely foreign to me since I am quickly approaching 40 and try to avoid
making new friends at all costs. Clearly, she gets this from her dad.
Josie has spent this past year dancing, helping me in the
kitchen, and making everyone around her laugh, all while keeping her hands on
her hips. She likes to dress up in all sorts of sparkly attire and then wrestle
with her brothers outside. She’s the perfect mix of glitter, dirt and sass, and
I love it. Maybe not the sass part so much.
Josie’s thoughts over the past year…

“I’m not being sassy. You don’t
have to deal with me.”

“I want to do everything by myself!”

“I don’t want to be treated like

“I can take it from here.”

“I love saying blah, blah, blah.”

“I want a boyfriend.”

“I won’t be eating dinner tonight.
I just put on lipstick.”

“My friends are going to think I’m
a genius.”

“Sparkly is always my choice.”

“I can’t believe I’m so big and I
still can’t say packack!” (backpack)

“Look at those matching ninjas.” (referring
to two women in burkas)

“I want to get a tattoo. I’m
talking about a real one.”

“I can’t believe I’m four years old
and I still can’t say brefdis!” (breakfast).

Jen: “Hey guys, dinner is ready.
Josie: “And I helped make it, so you have to say it’s good.”

“I don’t really feel like a

Josie: “Mama, can I have a dollar?”
Jen: “What for?”  Josie: “Because I’m so

“America’s Funniest Home Videos
isn’t really funny, cuz little kids fall off slides and stuff like that.
just mean.”

“I wanna be a rock star and a
soccer player when I grow up, so I don’t really know what to do.”

“Praying won’t help my sass.”

One of my favorite poses

A series of unfortunate events

I think every family has one kid who is accident prone. If anything is going to happen to someone in the family, it’s going to be that one. It’s kind of a rule. Judah’s that one.

Judah’s been to the ER the most times, mostly for croup when he was younger, but we ended up there again when he was three years old after he cut open his eyebrow falling on a chair leg.

Last Wednesday he grabbed something out of Josie’s hands, which she clearly did not appreciate, and showed him just that by smacking him with an umbrella. I knew it was bad by his scream. Moms know. We know the difference between the cry saying I stubbed my toe and the cry saying I think my eyeball might have popped out of my socket. This one was definitely leaning toward the eyeball situation.

His eyelid was cut just under the scar where his previous stitches were. The mere mention of the possibility of stitches sent him into even more of a frenzy. The cut was deep, but pretty small, so I opted to do my best patch-up job with a butterfly bandage. Good enough. He went to gymnastics the next day and when everyone asked him what happened to his eye, instead of relaying a great fight story, he just said, “my little sister hit me with an umbrella.” Ouch.

Saturday was sunny and hot causing the kids to run around barefoot. Judah shrieked once again. This time he threw himself on the ground, rolling around like he was on fire. Bee sting to the foot. Once he calmed down and we iced it, he decided he could handle riding his bike with everyone to 7-11.

The boys took a detour to have a quick bike race around the church parking lot down the street. I noticed Judah was really leaning into his turns. As he increased in speed, I had a bad feeling. Just as I opened my mouth to warn him, the skidding began. I believe motorcyclists refer to this as “laying your bike down”. That’s exactly what he did, except because of his speed, he skidded along the pavement under his bike. It was not pretty.

I was prepared to have to carry him home, but he brushed his bloodied self off and decided a treat at 7-11 was important enough to keep going. He’s tough, that way.

Later, when I was cleaning all his wounds, he told me his foot hurt where he got stung by the bee. I took off his shoe and sock to find a swollen, reddish-purple, hot-to-the-touch foot. It looked nasty. I was a little worried about an allergic reaction after seeing that, but since he was still swallowing normal and breathing okay, I gave him a dose of Benadryl and called it a day. That darn bee sting kept him from walking normally all day Sunday and the swelling didn’t go away until Monday.

Things seemed to calm down, for Monday at least.

But on Tuesday, while Andy was running an errand and I was picking up someone from the airport, I got the call from Charlie. “Judah was running in the house and he slipped and hit his mouth on the corner of the couch. He cut his cheek and it looks pretty deep, like he might need stitches. There was a lot of blood, but don’t worry, we cleaned it all up.” (He knows me well enough to know that this is important, even in a catastrophy).

“I’m sure he’s going to be fine. Just hold pressure on it until Dad or I get home.” Little did I know it would take me another hour and a half before I made it back home. When I walked in, Judah was running around like normal, but after one look, I knew Charlie was right. It would need stitches.

Two hours and who know how many hundreds of dollars later, Judah had a couple of stitches. When the ER doctor asked what happened to him, he replied with, “well, I’ve had several things happen to me…” At least it was on the opposite side of his face from where his scraped up nose was. Evens things out a little.

That night ended with Judah showing me his tooth that fell out. He had knocked it loose in his cheek injury. Go figure.

I about had a heart attack yesterday when I walked into the room to find that Judah had pushed two chairs together, hands placed on the arm rests, and was swinging back and forth as if they were parallel bars. “Judah! I can’t even believe you are doing that after all the accidents you’ve had!” I said, in disbelief.

“What? I’m just practicing my swinging and going up into a handstand. It’s fine,” says the cute boy with the busted up face.

No. Just stop. No more. Please, no more.

After injury number one

Four incidents later

Scroll to Top