Token Economy Reward Closet Shopping Spree at Five Below

In our house we use a token economy to encourage our kids to be the best they can be. Instead of the old school "take something away" form of discipline (i.e. you can't go on the computer for a week because you talked back too much), we do the opposite. We reward good behavior first. Every month we choose three positive behaviors we want to see in our kids.

This month we chose:

  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Helpfullness

When their dad or I see these behaviors we can reward them with a token. We can give them as many tokens as we feel like throughout the day. They can also lose tokens by showing three negative behaviors we choose monthly.

This month we are deducting tokens for the following behaviors:

  • telling white lies
  • being mean to siblings
  • saying God in vain

Once they earn 30 tokens they got to take a trip to the reward closet. Before I told the kids about the token economy I took them on a shopping spree at Five Below where everything, everyday is just $5 and below. 

I gave them each a gift card, a budget, and 30 minutes to buy as many things for themselves that they wanted with the knowledge that they would not be able to immediately open what they purchased. Ever wanna see a kids insane excitement turn to emo gloom in about 6 seconds? Turn them loose in a store with toys, style, room, sports, tech, crafts, party, candy, & pre-teen goodieslet them buy stuff, and then tell them they can't have it. They. will. lose. their. minds. Luckily for me, the brights aisles of colorful Lego® and the Disney®  toys for days quickly stole their attention and soon the Five Below carts were full. They added up the totals of their items and put back what didn't fit in their budget. We loaded up the counter and even though they were absolutely DYING to play with something, just anything, they were both curious about the plan I had been keeping from them. With their hands full of the blue and white bags, we piled into our car. I began to tell them the plan of our new Token Economy.


That was two months ago and in that time both kids have earned a trip to the reward closet. Both kids are still excited about earning tokens on the daily. Both kids are NOT excited when they get them taken away. Now that a Five Below Reward closet trip has come and gone both are much more conscious of not getting their precious tokens taken from them. All in all, I think the token economy is gonna stick around for this family for a little while indeed. 



This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Five Below.


Super Kidney to the Rescue!

Chillin' at Rainbow Babies

Chillin' at Rainbow Babies

The other day I shared a picture of the boy at the doctor's office on Instagram. I briefly mentioned his kidney disease and within moments I began to receive well wishes, emails, calls, and texts from people I do and don't know. I guess I had never really shared his disease publicly until then. Your words of love and support were truly thoughtful and as I read some of them to my son he said "mom you should tell them about my super kidney." So here I am. Ready and willing to tell you the story of my son's super kidney. 

The boy was an unnamed baby in my womb when the Chef and I found out that he would be born with kidney disease. Having virtually no parenting experience the news of our baby boy's tribulation broke us down flat. If the pregnancy hadn't scared us this certainly had. What had we done wrong? 

From the moment we found out that the boy had multicystic dysplastic kidney disorder we  made it our goal to find out everything about it. Our pediatric nephrologist guided us through the mumble jumble of the medical texts and assured us that even though this disease sounded scary, it was certainly manageable. Hell. Most people went through their entire life having the disorder and never even knowing it. Finding out about it in utero was rarer than the disease itself. 

Almost 10 years ago the boy came into this world healthy and happy. The first couple days were rough, as a series of testing & prodding left us scared. We made it through it and Catcher's kidney disease has barely been noticeable. We go to a specialist every couple of years. He gets an ultrasound to see if the super kidney is growing. Eventually his right kidney (the one that is covered in cysts & doesn't work) will disappear into it's self and his left kidney will become super sized.

Until this year we have not found a pediatric nephrologist we liked as much as our first specialist at Rainbow Babies when the boy was born. Unfortunately our health insurance didn't allow us to go back to Rainbow and two years ago we found ourselves at the Cleveland Clinic with an uncaring doctor who treated us like a medical record number. I vowed to never settle for a doctor again and this year after a huge search we found ourselves in the hands of two fabulous nephrologists back at Rainbow Babies (seriously the best!). They made the boy feel special and spoke to him so he could have a good understanding of what was going on inside him. Last week we got his ultrasound and as I held his hand in the dark room I saw his super kidney for the first time. The kidney was huge! I knew in my heart of hearts that he was going to be ok.

The doctor called us this week and confirmed my positive feelings. His good kidney, is in fact, turning into a super kidney. All is well and the boy doesn't need to come back until he was 12. I just couldn't be any happier. I am so grateful that he is healthy and I am so thankful that he is so brave. I've got a good one, that's for sure. 

Life Experience

One of the things I enjoy most about parenting is the ever-changing landscape of our life. Every day our family creates a new story together and the experiences we create are invaluable to my happiness as well as the minis.

A month ago, I received an email from a film student at NYU. She had seen this interview of the girl and was hoping to have her audition for her final film. We spoke in detail about the project and when I felt I had all of the information I spoke to the Chef. We agreed that if our girl was interested then why not?

Life is about the experience. 

Not expecting anything other than an overenthusiastic YES from our girl, Lou and I found ourselves roadtrippin' to NYC for a movie audition. We sang, we ate junk food, we counted blue cars, and 7 hours later we were in New York City. We spent the weekend enjoying time with friends, a Parisian festival, and the city itself. When it came time for her audition, she was relaxed as pie and had agreed that no matter what happened, our experience of driving to New York City as mom and daughter was a great summer 'grrrls' vacation.  

She was creating her own experience. 

Back to Brooklyn

At 4am this morning, the Chef drove us to the CLE airport. We hopped on a plane to New York City and tonight my baby girl will rehearse for her first ever acting gig. This weekend she will film and star in a short film made on a butterfly farm in upstate New York. One crazy experience turning into another...

Life is neat, dontch'ya think? 


Chef's Widows' Son is Technology Obsessed at Nature Camp

Last night the Chef and I dropped the boy off at his nature camp overnight campout. He was all suited up with his sleeping bag, a tent, a change of undies, and an endless supply of snacks and coconut water. Before we left the house, the boy ran downstairs clutching his DS. He approached us and said that everyone in his group was bringing their DS so they could all play together. The Chef and I, always crazy over restrictive when it comes to technology & electronics loosened up our belt buckles and gave in.

As we walked the boy to the campsite to take a few pictures, we listened as the head of camp told all the parents the rule of the night:

If a kid says they want to leave, then they leave. The parents are called and must come get the kid. There is no discussion, no talking into staying, nothing, zilch, zip, home. 

The Chef and I said our goodbyes not even thinking for a second that the boy would want to leave (he had a freakin' blast last year) and left ready to spend a 'night in' without the minis (Biggie Smalls slept at her grandparents). We were about to have some much needed alone time.

We drove home, made ourselves a spritz, and popped in a movie. Naturally we fell asleep halfway through the flick and were awoken at 10:39 pm by the obnoxius ring of my telephone. An unknown number flashed on the screen and I knew immediately that camp was calling and the boy wanted to go home. I groggily answered the phone. The head of the camp informed me that yes my son did want to come home, but that I shouldn't worry or take offense. Take offense? I thought, why in the hell would I take offense? And then she told me. She told me what was so upsetting to my boy that would make him want to leave the campout of all campouts. The boy would like to come home, she said, because there is no wi-fi for his DS. He couldn't get Netflix to work and he wanted to come home.  Shocked and still half asleep I dropped the phone as the Chef kept trying to read my face as to what in god's name was going on.

There's no wi-fi in this tent ma!

He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi. He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.He wants to come home because there is no wi-fi.

Her words kept playing and replaying in my head as I tried to say them aloud to the Chef. Embarrassed as all hell, I found my voice and said that we'd be right over, but first would it be possible to speak with our technology obsessed 7 year old?

I handed the phone off to the Chef and the boy began to speak. He told the Chef he missed me and wanted to come home. The Chef questioned that response and soon heard the real reason. His tent didn't have wi-fi. areyoufuckingkiddingmearewethatbadofparentsthatourkidcantevengotoacapoutwithoutwifi?

I lost my shiznit. The Chef got dressed, put on his shoes and headed 20 minutes east to pick up our mini Steve Jobs. By the time he got there, the boy was snuggled up in his sleeping bag, sound freaking asleep. But a camp rule is a camp rule and my boys drove home (where the wi-fi is a plenty).

The boy woke up early with me today  and I took the opportunity to have a chat with him. He knew that he was in the wrong for leaving nature camp for such a silly reason, but deep down I think he really did want to come home (wi-fi or no wi-fi). I told him that I made a mistake too. I shouldn't have let him take the DS to camp but had felt pressure when I saw that all the boys in his group had been bringing them to camp since day one. I told him I should have stuck to my initial answer of "no you cannot bring your DS to an outdoor nature camp sleepover" instead of succumbing to the "everyone else was doing it" mentality. I was  just as at fault as he was.

You see, as a family we don't hide from technology (duh) but we certainly limit the mini's access to it. We don't have cable and the mini's can only play computer/watch TV/use electronics for 30 minutes a day only if all of their homework is done (during school year) or their room is cleaned (in the summer months). We indulge in movies and silly reality TV on occasion as a family but for the most part we like to spend our time outside exploring our city. When I heard the reason why the boy wanted to leave I must admit, I was devastated and embarrassed. All the hard work I put in to make sure my kids see the world and not a TV screen had just exploded in my face.

I messaged a close friend whose kids were also at the campout and told her what happened. I told her how I felt like shit and was embarrassed that my son had acted like a brat.  She quickly reminded me that it was absurd that a nature camp would allow any electronics at all and that I wasn't totally to blame for my son's techological outburst. I continued feeling bad for a moment and then remembered what this parenting thing is all about.

As parents we make mistakes. We make them on the daily, shit, I make them hourly. We also tend to hold ourselves and our children to obscenely high standards, and when one little thing upset those standards its easy for the world to come crashing down. I know I am a good mom. Deep down on the inside of my soul I know I do a good fucking job. I may say the f word too much (see above) but I know that the choices I make are all for the happiness and goodness of my children.

ALTHOUGH that is a pretty hard thing to remember when a camp counsellor calls you at 10:39pm to tell you that your 7 year old son wants to go home because there is no mutha fuckin wi-fi (my words not his) in his tent. But remember I will, if it ever (and it better not Catcher!!) happens again. 







I love our camp. Like crazy love it. It's old school camp meets the metroparks awesome goodness. But if you call yourself "nature camp" my personal opinion is that you totally shouldn't allow  DS, iphone, ipad, and whatever else I saw 50% of the kids bringing to camp. #justsayin

Chef's Widow has a 7 year old

Catcher, today, July 6th 2012

At night he reads me poetry. As he finishes, his mind jumps to a story that he forget to tell me earlier in his day. Slowly taken over by sleepiness he rambles on & on, soon, his eyes will be heavy and his mouth will gently close. As I sit by his side, I take him in. He is so beautiful to me when sleeps, so peaceful and happy. This time of night always reminds me of what our lives are really about. He reminds without even knowing his does. We are a family built on love and he was the reason it all began. Each day I have become better all because of a little boy who changed my heart forever, my little boy who has the power to consistently show me how amazing this life can truly be.

Happy Birthday Catcher. Thank you for you. 


Hard to believe Chef's Widow has been celebrating all these years! Time flies when your having fun.Check out some of the amazing times Catcher has given us over the past 7 years:

#teamsawyer celebrates:

Six Years and Five Years and Four Years andThree Years and Two Years and One Year of CATCHER!!!!

Spring Break Staycation

[gallery orderby="post_date"]

Days of Team Sawyer

For the first time in history of our relationship the Chef took a week off of work. The mini's were on spring break and instead of going somewhere we decided just to stay home and enjoy each other. We set up our mini homestead, brought home and named our chickens: bunny, acorn, ginger, trout, squid, & whale, danced with Alison Kraus, discovered Mouton, made art, ate burgers & cheap Mexican, bought oodles of men's magazines that feature America's Next Great Chef, picked up a copy  of Cleveland's newest edible publication, and posed for Yellowcake. Whew. What.a.week.

I think we may need a vacation from our staycation :)

Defending Snooki

Snooki in all her glory

Snooki announced her pregnancy this week and the hatred towards her exploded. An ex of hers said he hoped she miscarried for the sake of the baby and on Twitter moms were calling her a slut and praying Snooki's mom would step in and raise the baby. Really people? Miscarriages and taking a baby away from it's mother? Not nice bitches. Not nice.

Here's the thing. Snooki is a hot fucking mess on TV. She makes millions of dollars to act crazy as shit, get drunk as shit, and talk about shit like she doesn't have a brain. She IS the definition of American Idiot. Her fake tan and those stupid fuzzy boots all give us the go ahead to tear her to shreds. We make fun of the Jersey Shore because it is FUNNY. These kids are absolutely ridiculous and they know it, they profit from it, and you better believe they LOVE it.

Some people are born to be mothers, some are not. Becoming a mother is something incredible for some and a burden for others. As I grew up I learned that my own mother probably should have never had kids. I'm glad she did (as I wouldn't be here), however as I look back at my childhood I can plainly see that she would have been a happier & better person had she not become a mother. Because of this I never ever wanted to be a mom. I shunned the thought and planned out my life without the idea of a family. I was fine being independent and without child.

All my glory

I lived my life in my 20's somewhat like Snooki has been living hers. My trials and tribulations weren't publicized on national TV, thank god, and back then spray tans and furry uggs didn't exist. I partied with the best of them. I moved to Manhattan at 23, worked in a celeb haunt, drank my face off, got arrested, made out with French boys & the guy from Scream. I lived dangerously, fast, fun, and hard. And then I got pregnant.

When I called my best friend to tell him I was to be a mamma, I could hear the reservations in his voice and I knew exactly what he was thinking. How in the hell could the wildest girl he knew become a mother? I heard the doubt in his voice and my fears exploded. I broke down to the Chef that night. Sobbing I told him stories of my own mother and how I feared I would become like her. How would I know how to be good? Kind? Loving? All the things I never had, I was so scared that I couldn't give. The Chef held me as I cried for hours upon hours. He didn't say much in those moments but his presence told me what I need to hear. We would become parents together. My pregnancy would become our journey.

My life monumentally changed after that. All my fears, anger towards my own mother, self doubt in myself, they ALL disappeared. Good as gone. I knew, deep down, that this would become my life now. My child would replace the allnighters, the binging, the raging, and my all inclusive rock star lifestyle.

And they did. They do. My children gave me a life I never knew I wanted. A life I never even knew was possible. The relationships I have with them far suppress the life I gave up and I'm thankful for it every single day. 

My life now is strikingly different from the one I once led, who is to say that the same won't happen for Snooki? Who knows how pregnancy will change her? I think instead of calling Snooki names and sending hate her way we should let her be. Let her enjoy her pregnancy. Let her become a mother.

I get it though. I know she chooses to put her life on TV so it's hard to not judge. She is a crazy ass as much as she portrays one on TV. But maybe, just maybe, that baby growing inside of her will change her, just like the boy growing inside me changed me. Maybe her baby will bring her light that was missing in her own life. I don't Snooki and lord knows I probably never will but I know that calling her a whore or a hot mess won't do anything positive for her or that baby. Let's leave the evil name calling to good 'ol Rush and let Snooki have some peace.



Chickens & Babies

I have decided to raise chickens for eggs. I say it's because our daughter really really likes eggs (she eats 2 a day) but I really think it's because I secretly need something to take care of now that my babies are no longer babies. I'm gonna be honest with youI secretly want another kid. Well not so secretly anymore I guess. Get a few glasses of bubbly in me and I'm harassing the Chef with my plan of baby #3 and he is quietly reminding me that it's not possible anymore.

After Biggie was born, the Chef and I made the collective decision that our child having days were over. We had two amazing kids, a boy and a girl, whocould want more? The Earth is beyond overpopulated and frankly people with a mass of children have always freaked me out. So when I pushed my 10 lb girl out, I also closed the doors to the possibility of having another child. Well, actually the door got snipped.

Fast forward 4 years and I have baby fever big time and man is it fucking annoying. I have absolutely no control over it either. It's like my body knows that I should be having kids right now and my mind says hell to the no. You see, I really don't want to have another baby. Deep down inside of me I am perfectly content with the fact that I will be 44 when the boy graduates high school. The chef, 43. We are young parents and I am thankful for that. Plus my kids are amazing, our life is good. We are complete. If I had a baby right now, I would be 51 when my kid graduates high school. Um, no thanks. My plan for 50 involves me, the Chef, New Orleans, barefeet, calvados, and lots of crayfish.

I seriously don't know how to rid myself of this baby fever, which is why I have decided to raise chickens. Here's hoping it takes. 

Hopefully all the baby I need...

Anyone out there ever experience baby fever and not want kids? Would love a magic cure if you've got one.

Also any chicken advice? I'm a total newbie and can use all the help I can get.

'Kids Menus'

Yesterday when my friend Mike posted this on facebook the wheels started turning...I had to write a post about 'kid's menus'.

I think about my children's diet every single day of my life. I plan menus, I shop, I market, I cook. Alongside their health and happiness their diet is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to the Chef & I. We decided a long time ago that nothing bad would go into thier bodies, probably as a reaction to all the bad shit we have put in our own as well as a reaction to our son's kidney disease.

So when Mike posted yesterday, my first thought was this: How do parents not get/care/understand that what they are allowing to go into their children's body affects their children LIVES? How does a mother or father convince themselves that it is ok that her four year child eats this on a daily basis? HOW?

When you order off of the kids menu, you are most likely ordering the most UNHEALTHY thing you could ever order for your child. Kids menus are the antithesis of healthy. They are made up of foods that parents have programmed themselves and their children into thinking that they are good for your children. Well, guess what? They're not good for your children, they are not got for you, they are not good for your dog,   hell, they are not good for anyone.

Check out these kids menu nutritional info. I dare you not to throw up in your mouth:


Outback Steakhouse Kookaburra Chicken Fingers meal with Aussie Fries

1,030 calories

60 g fat (21 g saturated)

2,052 mg sodium

Fat equivalent: 12 Frosted Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts!


Olive Garden Fettuccini Alfredo meal

800 calories 48 g fat (30 g saturated) 810 mg sodium

Saturated fat equivalent: 1.5 full jars of Nutella!


Applebee’s Grilled Cheese with French fries

1,020 calories 54 g fat (17 g saturated) 2,170 mg sodium

Calorie equivalent: 400 Cheddar Goldfish Crackers. (That’s 1.3 full bags!)

Here’s the crazy part: You can make a grilled cheese sandwich in your own house — using real cheese and toasting it with real butter — and still manage to slide in at about 300 calories. This one has 620 calories, and the fries account for the extra 400


Denny’s Slap Shot Sliders (2) meal with Finish Line Fries

1070 calories 53 g fat (16 g saturated, 2 g trans) 1180 mg sodium

Calorie equivalent: 505 Jujubes (That’s just over 2 full boxes!)


Friendly’s Mac & Cheese Quesadilla meal with Friendly Frank, Shirley Temple and Friend-z Peanut Butter Cup

2,270 calories 109 g fat (45 g saturated) 3,320 sodium

Calorie equivalent: 45.5 Glazed Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts!

UMMMMMMM....CAN YOU SAY BARF???? I dare any one of you to eat one meal that contains 2,270 calories & 109g of saturated fat!!!

Just reading this data ignites my hatred for chain restaurants. It also makes me sad for the kids who eat this garbage not knowing any better. As parents it is our job, I believe, to give our children a better life than our own. That doesn't mean, give them a bunch a toys and call it a day. It means that we make sure whatever path we have chosen for our kids lives, it is the longest path possible. Make choices that will enhance and enrich your child's life, not choices that will cause your child harm or sickness.

Starting at home is the key to eliminating 'the kids menu' from your childrens' lives. Feed your kids real food, real fruits and vegetables, and cook with them. Make food in a pan, not out of a box. Use your oven. THROW OUT YOUR MICROWAVE!! Respect your children's bodies by respecting what you put in them. When you make dinner, encourage your kids to try something new. Don't force them to eat it, just try a bite. You'd be surprised how many times they end up liking it. Make dinner for your family, not for individual members. I make one dinner for my family. If my kids don't want to eat it, they don't. They can pick a fruit of veggie to compensate or they can save their dinner for later.  It may sound harsh, but I totally believe this is the reason the mini's eat asparagus, pork, artichokes, sunchokes, squash, apples, carrots, lettuce, grapes, bananas, strawberries, broccoli, KALE, celery, and more!! Introducing these foods at home makes it possible to completely ignore the kids menu the next time you and your family go out to eat!

As adults we focus so much on our own health. Every time I turn on thee TV I am inundated by workout infomercials, anti-aging beauty secrets, diet pills, diet plans, and drug commercials. As a society we are constantly looking for our own fountain of youth, while ignoring our children. I wonder what would happen if we focused all that energy we waste on our own vanity and redirect it towards our children? First thing, I'm guessing is all those dreaded 'kids menus' would be a thing of the past.


Six Years

Between the jet lag from flying home from Tokyo and the fact that we are leaving for NYC tomorrow morning at 5 am, I am a hot mess. Unfortunately being a hot mess right now is not acceptable as today the boy turns 6. Hard to believe that this little guy is now this big guy:


I never could have expected my life to be what it is now. Never in a million years. When he came into my life, I was a scared and shallow girl. Everyday he has taught me what life is really all about. Life has nothing to do with success or money or what kind of handbag I am currently rockin'. Life isn't about tax brackets or fame. Life is about the moments, the people, and the smiles. It is about allowing someone else to show you what true happiness can be. Life is about love. Catcher teaches me how to love each and every day. He teaches me the true meaning of life and I am so so thankful. Without him, I can't imagine what I would have grown up to be.  Six years has blown by with this kid and I would do anything to live them over and over and over again. Because frankly... they have been the best years of my life.

Happy Birthday Catcher. Mamma loves you more.





Holiday Tradition

He pulls them slowly through the aisles of pines as they shout out their favorites in unison.  They love the tall ones, fat ones and skinny ones, sometimes even the dead ones.  They hold no judgement when deciding on what tree will become a part of our family for the next 30 days.  They just pick one.  It seems so simple and  soon our toes are frozen, icicles have formed beneath our noses,  and we have found our fir.  The Chef pulls out the saw and looks at the boy for help.

Moments later, we have a tree, our tree.

We head home with anticipation of the day that's to come.  First, a rest is needed.  We bake bread, drink cider, and lounge. Together as one. Once our bellies are full it's time for some fun!  The Chef walks the strands of blue  white around the tress as the mini's take hold of the ornaments.

Tuckered out with squinted eyes they admire the work they've down.  They admire their Christmas tree.

This is our family's tradition.  We repeat this day year after year, and today, when the boy told me that today was the best family day he's ever had, I melted. Our tradition cemented in our family's history forever.

One day a year we bundle up and embrace the holidays to the full extent.  We cut down trees, we bake, we eat, we laugh, and play, all side by side.   The tradition we have created of this day has turned into the best gift we could ever hope to receive.  Our day spent together as one.

Does your family have a holiday tradition?  What are they?  Was the tradition passed down in your family or is it a new tradition? Leave me a comment telling me all about your family's holiday traditions and on Friday I will pick 2 (two) lucky winners. Winners you say?  What can you win?

The 2  winners will each receive a Hallmark Prize Package which includes The Night Before Christmas recordable storybook, a Hallmark Keepsake Photo Ornament, & a Displayable Greeting Card.  Very cool (tradition starting) stuff.

Bon Chance.