Air Force One

Air Force One

New van

In August, my husband was forced to recognize that his old faithful van was ready for the junk yard. He began talking about getting a new vehicle for me or for him. He said he was afraid that if he got me a new van, he didn’t know when he would get one. I only stated that I could say the same. 🙂 Then, knowing my husband so well, I suggested that either way was okay with me. Pictured above is my new van!

After we purchased this nine-passenger van, my husband was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to back it out of the driveway without destroying another vehicle, a mailbox, or his yard. We had some rather testy conversations about this. I haven’t had an accident yet. The rearview camera, that works even in the dark, has been very helpful in this regard.

This large van hasn’t just gotten my husband’s attention. People in parking lots like to check it out and make comments. One man said, as I got out of the van, “Wow! This thing is like Air Force One! It’s decked out!” Nicely, he mentioned that he thought I drove it well, too. We’ve already used the van to take my tennis team to an out-of-town match and a group of guys to a football game in Wisconsin.

Newvan2

With all the bells and whistles it has, there is only one thing I don’t like about it. (Okay two. The low gas mileage isn’t great either). That is that I can’t see all my kids. The captain’s chairs hide the little ones in particular. The other day at church, my youngest was left in the van, because no one could see him. Fortunately, it was a nice day and it didn’t take us long to figure out he was missing. I’m starting to think I need to stand near the doors with a checklist of names!

If you pass us on the road, make sure to salute my husband–our family president whose automotive bailout plan we all highly approve of!

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The Challenge of Chores

The Challenge of Chores

I really believe that I have tried absolutely everything to get my kids doing chores thoroughly and independently. I have tried every conceivable chore chart: refrigerator, printed, spur-of-the-moment, elaborate peg boards, computer, iPad, clip-on. My current system is an improvement over the past. However, the main reason chores aren’t as much of a problem today is because my youngest is almost six. Everyone can do every chore (especially with help).

My current system is a simple table created in Word, listing morning and evening chores for each child for each day of the week. Every chore rotates to each child and even to mom or dad. Chores include clearing and wiping the table and counters, unloading the dishwasher, loading the dishwasher, cleaning various bathrooms, taking care of the dog, helping with meals, and picking up various rooms. Chores everyone has to do daily (e.g., make your bed) are not listed on the chart, nor are weekly individual chores (e.g., vacuuming). I use another list for the latter.

People with smaller, non-homeschooling families often marvel at our chore chart which is posted on the refrigerator. I wish they wouldn’t, because frankly our chore chart doesn’t work. Sure, it works better than anything else has, but in my mind, it’s still a complete failure. For example, when it’s my turn to clean the bathroom, it’s clear it hasn’t been cleaned all week, despite cheerful proclamations by my kids that they’ve done it. When it comes to evening chores, we all take turns not doing them. Don’t get me wrong. We have co-op meet in our house each week and lots of company, so our house gets cleaned. But not as quickly or as peacefully as it should be.

I was listening to a promo for Dr. Randy Carlson’s program, Intentional Living, when a mom complained that she couldn’t get her kids to clean their rooms, despite all of her nagging. She said she usually just broke down and cleaned their rooms because it was her house and she wanted it clean. Dr. Randy said (and I’m paraphrasing), “So essentially you’ve trained your kids to believe that they have a really crabby maid.” LOL! Wow, that sounds familiar, only I’ve also trained my kids that they have a really crabby mom. I spend lots of time complaining about the kids not doing their chores or doing them really poorly. Then I become the drill sergeant who insists that they get them done NOW.

So yesterday for the 8,000th time, I sat before the Lord really, really frustrated about chores. Sure, I knew I needed to check their chores. I knew it was all my fault. But knowing this had never solved the problem. In the movie, Courageous, a father tells his pastor, “I just wanna know how to be a good dad.” That’s what I said to the Lord yesterday. Lord, I just want to know how to be a good mom. I really want to solve this chore challenge. If you tell me what to do, I will do it.

Honestly, I expected God to tell me that I was lazy and selfish and I would have agreed! Instead, he surprised me with an insight that has completely changed the way I am approaching chores and character, too! Here it is: Approach chores the same way you approach teaching any other school subject. Well, that seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? But not to me. Whereas, I would never tell my kids how to write an essay once or twice and then expect that they would have it down; and whereas, I would never get mad at my kids for making mistakes in math; and whereas, I would never fail to check my kids’ schoolwork, allowing them to go for days on end without doing their lessons, I was doing all of those things with chores. Being the chore checker was a job I dreaded and resented, while being a teacher is a job I treasure and enjoy. I am now my kids’ chore teacher!

The difference that role change makes for me is huge. I now check my children’s chores because I want to see if they understand what to do, not because it’s one more responsibility on my shoulders. I am praising them for getting so much of it right, rather than criticizing them for what they still don’t know. I am teaching them to make meals to mastery, rather than asking them to do cooking tasks haphazardly. I am also accepting that many of my children are still years away from working completely independently.

What I marvel at is how this huge mental shift occurred as an answer to prayer. What a wonderful teacher is our God, who is so patient and positive with a mom like me. Maybe you need a different approach to the challenge of chores. I know Who you can ask to tutor you.

The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. (Proverbs 16:21)

 

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Organizing with Kids – the Bathroom

Organizing with Kids – the Bathroom

Kids Towels on Floor right
Summer is organizing time for me. Homeschooling six kids means LOTS to organize. This summer I signed up for Simplify101’s Organizing with Kids online class. I have absolutely loved the ideas and the inspiration. I thought I would share my projects with you.

The first project I’m going to share is the last room I want to go into: the kids’ upstairs bath. I have FIVE boys and ONE girl using one bathroom. Need I explain more? Aby’s class really helped me evaluate the problems I was having with this room.

You see two of the problems in the above photo: the kids leave towels and swimsuits on the floor. In the past I might have just thought about how MISBEHAVED the kids were and gotten nowhere. The truth is they didn’t have a good place to hang wet swimsuits and towels. One or two people can store these things on the shower railing, but six CANNOT. An additional problem I had with the towels was knowing whose was whose. While I had long ago bought each child a specific color towel, the kids managed to mess up that system by arguing that their color was the turquoise blue and not the deep blue. They had also begun ignoring the color system completely. Most of the towels were very worn, so I was ready to make a change.

Photo 2-1
I decided I wanted to get the kids personalized towels to solve the problem. I also wanted each child to have a place to hang wet swimsuits. This is what I came up with:

IMG_2783
I can’t even explain how giddy I am over this. I ordered the towels from PotteryBarn Teen. I was set to get even cuter towels from PotteryBarn kids, but I wanted bigger towels, especially now that I have TWO teens in the house. These towels are so luxurious! The hooks I bought from Home Depot. A smaller hook holds the kids’ swimsuits underneath the towel. The kids do leave their clothes in the bathroom after showering, too, but I do not want a clothes hamper in here holding a mix of things. Instead, I will be checking the bathroom daily and making the offenders return their dirty clothing to their respective hampers.

Sink

Problem #2 was a jumble of toiletries. I had attempted to solve the problem with labeled plastic drawers. These were ignored and no one had any idea whose toothbrush, toothpaste, and hair brush was whose. A collosal mess was made in the two drawers under the sink.

Closet

I figured the answer had to have something to do with the closet, whose space was being poorly used.

Closet after

This was my answer. I bought mesh toiletry bags for each kid from Amazon for under $5 each. I also bought second towels in turquoise with the kids’ names embroidered in white to use alternate weeks.

Name tags

I quickly grabbed scrapbooking supplies to label each kid’s bag. The kids did the rest using my LetraTag label maker. Not only are the bags labeled, but everything inside is, too.

Helper

One of the important aspects of this class is that the kids be involved. I was thrilled that my daughter wanted to clean the sink. I should have asked her to pay me to do it, Huckleberry Finn style. 🙂

Sink after

Here’s the sink after. I have since purchased bathroom cups and a SpongeBob soap dispenser. I leave the dental rinse and cleaning wipes out so they will be used, even though it doesn’t look as neat.

So that’s my bathroom organizing project with the kids. I look forward to showing you the other projects soon!

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