Tag Archives: chores

Mommy’s Superpower

hero signThe ability to fly.

That’s my answer. To that classic nerd conversation starter: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility? Super Speed? Visions of the Future?

I can see how each one would enhance my parenting. Invisible Mom knows exactly who started it, and her children would be motivated to behave even when they are “alone.” Super Speed Homemaker gets more done in a few minutes than the rest of us in an entire day, and still has time to watch her favourite Food Network show. Psychic Mama can prevent the tantrum/fight/locking-keys-in-the-van/decorating-the-walls-with-sharpies BEFORE it even happens.

Sadly, none of these are my actual superpower.

That’s right. I have a special strength that allows me to perform beyond normal human parameters. It empowers the whole household to run smoothly (okay, smooth-er). It helps me endure when my strength is almost gone. It carries the weight of our whole family without breaking a sweat.

Routine is my superpower.

It’s not the sexiest, most exciting one out there. And it doesn’t require a cape or comic book inspired costume (though I’m not ruling that out). But I promise you, it packs a wallop!

I brush my teeth every morning. I don’t think about it. I don’t have to plan. I simply do the same thing, at the same time, every day. My lack of morning breath and significantly fewer cavities may not count as “saving a damsel in distress,” but a similar process also allows me to take daily medication and feed my children and keep my house (relatively) tidy and get our crazy family out the door each day. All these add up to a pretty heroic feat.

No matter what your age or stage or particular brand of dysfunction, you too can harness the power of routine! If you happen to have children, it can be a lifesaver. If you happen to have children with special needs, it’s an absolute necessity. Here’s why:

Routine frees up valuable time and energy.

Remember science class when you learned about levers and fulcrums and how they allow you to lift a heavy load with less effort? Routine is like that. As you shift behaviour from “intentional” into “something we do without even thinking about it,” you are able to do more, with less effort.

Get out the door in the morning. Keep the household mess from coming to life and eating us whole. Make bedtime and sleep time mean the same thing (we’re getting there).

I don’t know about you, but I need all the time and energy I can get my hands on. Trying to remember every little thing that needs doing, reacting to behavioural problems, and doing everything myself gets exhausting. Routines simplify life, prevent problems and empower children (and spouses, let’s be honest) to keep things going.

Routine makes life feel safe.

Secure children (and adults, FYI) know what to expect from their world. The stress of wondering what will happen next, and if I will-like-it/be-able-to-handle-it/am-entitled-to-watch-more-tv-right-now-instead, makes for grumpier children and parents. All children, even young toddlers, flourish when they can predict a first/then schedule and simple cause/effect.

For instance, when you get home from school you must sit on the potty, THEN you can have a snack. First comes pajamas, THEN music, rocking, cuddle and finally bed. If you throw your plate on the floor, THEN you lose it. If you do a cute dance and smile really big, THEN you get attention. If you do all your chores without complaining, THEN you can go out and play. If you do all the dishes and clean the kitchen, THEN your wife will be much more likely to give you a massage.

We’ve used pictures and symbols to reinforce routines with our children. B had a long strip of velcro on the wall; she had a picture of each morning task stuck up there (thank you Boardmaker software and Aunt Emily), and each time she finished a task she would put it in the “Finished” box at the bottom. We put new ones up for the afternoon and then a batch for before bed. She no longer needs such a detailed routine aid, but at the time, it gave her the sense of control she needed and made necessary transitions productive and less like a scene from the WWE.

Routine is inevitable.

Systems and structure aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. There are some weirdos people who prefer to wing it, to live reactively spontaneously. That may work for you in most areas, but everyone has some routines, whether we choose to or not. The unintentional, destructive ones often go by the name: bad habits.

I have just as many negative routines as positive. Sleeping until the last possible second, even though I know it’ll make our whole day much more rushed. The fight with C about proper outerwear on every rainy/cold/day-that-ends-in-y day. Eating a snack before bedtime, so it will be converted directly into fat. There is a dark side to every superpower: we are our own arch enemies.

The best way to conquer bad habits is to replace them. If you can figure out a positive routine which will supplant the destructive one, you are halfway there (you’ll have to read an article about willpower somewhere else, since it is NOT my superpower).

Routine is a servant, not a master.

This is where routine can get a bad rap. Especially from people who either a) don’t understand it or b) have an unnatural fear of change. When you are learning to cook you need to follow the recipe closely, but once you get the hang of it you can be creative, change things up, all while staying true to the spirit of the dish. In the same way, routines are not set in stone. Once they are established, they can be stretched, tweaked, negotiated and even temporarily suspended until they work for you.

Routines are a tool, not a destination. Make a plan. Try it out. Give it time to sink in. If it doesn’t make life easier, scrap it and start again.

So here’s me, saving the world one chore chart at a time!

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Negotiations: child labour and other parenting dilemmas

I’ve having my vehicles detailed while I sit here in the sun and write. The exterior hand-wash is not our usual M.O., but the price was right.

We’re more of a wait-until-you-can’t-tell-what-colour-your-car-is-under-all-that-dirt kind of family, at which point we pick the very cheapest alternative at the drive-through car wash. It’s quick, easy AND you can make out in the dim light of the tunnel. Nothing sets the mood quite like the rhythmic thumps of the brushes on the roof – or maybe I’m just a cheap date.

Despite the lack of romance, this cleaning crew is enthusiastic and eager for the work. I’m not sure they’re the most experienced washers in town. The short one may actually be making it worse, spreading a mud and soap concoction all over the car doors. Was she just picking her nose? I’m beginning to question my hiring standards. Plus, she may also need a diaper change.

All this for the low, low price of $3 per vehicle. Both the big girls and their friend P were happy for the work. B was happy to accept payments in the forms of kisses and snuggles, especially since she was more hindrance than help.

The Quest for Cash

Making money is a the new obsession in our house. No, we did not begin capitalist indoctrination of our children early, though Glen did graduate from business school, so he has the skill set in place. We did however, agree to the purchase of iPod Touches, with the condition that they must pay for it themselves.

The truth is, we’ve been looking for a project like this. It is good to have to wait, to save and to work towards a long-term goal. It will mean that much more when they finally hold it in their hot little hands.

Everything comes so easy these days. Not just for them, but for us too. We have everything we need and most of what we want. Compared to the rest of the world, and certainly more so than any time in history, we live like royalty and rarely appreciate it.

I know that their friends, and even their friends parents, feel sorry for them. We’ve heard through the grapevine that we are expecting too much. After all, iPod Touch is not a cheap purchase.

Let the negotiations begin

An unexpected side effect of this project is L’s blossoming sales ability. Only 11 years old and I’m pretty sure she could take the Home Shopping network by storm. She is pretty convincing in presenting her new ideas. This one she floated earlier this week in infomercial format: she will work constantly on our behalf for 2 whole weeks, with no money down, only the promise of an iPod Touch!

Observe the colourful visual aid! We didn’t even realize this wide variety of needs were unmet in our life until this point. As if that is not enough, she will throw in a number of bonus chores, above and beyond those listed in the original list, FOR FREE! What a deal!

Other deals we have also declined: selling all earthly possessions on e-bay (only because I can’t stand the hassle of it all – I have no problem with a vow of poverty for the sake of superior technology), advances on christmas/birthday money right up until her adult years, offers to eat less and move out of the house earlier… you’ve got to give her props for creativity.

Nonnegotiable

For the record, we are not in the habit of PAYING our children to work. There are certain responsibilities that are just part of family life. We are a team and everyone has to pitch in. Even Becca sets napkins on the table each night.

Long before this iPod debacle my children have been the recipients of pity and concern regarding their enslavement, or so they would have us believe. Each day they must make their bed (at least that is the rumor, it rarely happens without nagging…ahem… gentle reminders), also they load/unload the dishwasher and make their school lunches. Weekly chores include: sorting laundry, helping with folding, putting laundry away, cleaning the bathroom (C upstairs; L downstairs), cleaning bedrooms and playroom, plus the occasional babysitting/help with B.

Despite the deep pity and horror of our children’s “more fortunate” friends, we are not monsters! Not only do the girls get christmas and birthday money from several OVERLY generous relatives, they also get a weekly allowance. We’ve recently decided to upgrade this to $6 per week ($1 must be used for giving/charity). Fines are levied for poor execution of chores, finding clothing on the ground ($1 per instance, so they are pretty good at keeping it on their body, in the drawer or in the laundry hamper) and whatever heinous crime seems to require financial recompense.

The Deal

Yet, we have heard the pleas of our eldest child and we have relented. There will be payment for SOME extra chores at $1 each. Vacuuming, folding laundry, babysitting, and a few other tasks I am eager to unload. Since writing this, our neighbours have joined the cause also. They paid the girls a generous amount to do various chores at their house and are considering a car wash session (thanks Sandra and John!). As long as they are working for their pennies, I am content.

Meanwhile, L has set her sights on a refurbished iPod Touch for only $130, plus shipping. It makes my thrifty little heart swell with pride!

So here’s me, fully prepared to pay $0.01 per grape they peel and feed to me by hand. I’ve always wanted a maid-servant!


Basking in the Glow

I like to organize. Cupboards, drawers, storage rooms… When I find the time to tackle a project, it is strangely addictive. Though the world spins out of my control (how dare it!), I am the master of this small domain. With each item I discard or donate, I hum an anthem of freedom. Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!

But the moment of true decluttering nirvana comes at the very end. When each item is in its place… boxes and bins neatly labelled and lined up for inspection. Ahhhhh.

For the next several days, I find myself returning to the scene of my great triumph. Each time I pass by I must pull open the door and gaze in wonderment. Is that the Hallelujah chorus I hear in the background?

Where I once would squint my eyes, reach in to grab the needed item, then hastily slam the door, now I linger. After overhauling the craft cupboard, I pulled a chair in from the kitchen so I could eat my lunch while basking in its tidy glow.

Is this strange? I wonder if my world is too small and trivial. Perhaps I should get a life… or hours of therapy.

But celebrating our successes, even the small ones, is important. Especially the small ones. Because a life that is full of celebration is a victory in and of itself.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s is a pause. The holiday craziness is over, but the vortex of real life has yet to begin. I’m sure that I will get caught up in the promise of resolutions and new beginnings with everyone else. But this week I will pull up a chair and bask in the glow of the year that has been.

So here’s me, thankful for a line-up of successes big and small.

Renovation. B reading her first words. Understanding God in a new way. Discovering blogging. Grand opening. Art and worship. Pointe shoes.  Family vacations. Online community.

What successes are in your line-up? Have you taken time to “bask in their glow”?


The Flaw

I’ve kept quiet for many years about this. Okay, not exactly, but mostly I suffer in silence. Since I started this blog I have taken the opportunity to sing my husband’s praises through it. And he really is the best guy around – a wonderful father and human being. But sometimes he really bugs me.

It’s not a marriage thing; anyone you spend a lot of time with will find it. That thing, that seemingly insignificant, small thing that irritates you like nothing else. Other people may barely even notice, but this thing will drive you batty. Perhaps I am more neurotic than most, but I have quite a few pet peeves.

Thankfully, Glen does in fact understand the correct way to load toilet paper: from the TOP people! He understands the need to put the toilet seat DOWN (which makes my first thing in the morning dash to the bathroom much more pleasant). I am forever grateful to my mother-in-law for raising a son who puts his dirty dishes in the kitchen, dirty socks in the hamper and dirty self into the shower.

However… he does have one dark flaw, and it is something I “have a thing about”. Each week I collect, sort, wash, dry AND fold the laundry. I’m somewhat anal about it. Growing up, wash day was Monday, and I cannot feel quite right with the world if we have dirty clothes kicking around on Tuesday, or heaven forbid – Wednesday. The rest of my life may be descending into madness – dishes to the ceiling, crunchy floors and grimy bathrooms, but we WILL have clean clothes on Tuesday.

After busting my butt to produce this minor housekeeping miracle, I expect the neatly folded piles of clean laundry, which have been conveniently delivered to each person’s room, to be PUT AWAY. Each of my children puts their own clothes away. It was one of the first chores they learned. Even the baby was doing her part (as soon as she was able to stand on her own – I’m not a monster). It could be because their mom is the laundry Nazi, but I like to think it’s because this incredibly simple task is the least they can do to assist me with my Very Important Work (aka: laundry).

We talked about it when we were first married and he agreed. Not a big deal… totally something he could do… he was happy to help, and yet it hardly ever happened. All week I would eye that basket of clothes on the floor while he rummaged through it for what he needed. Determined not to nag, I decided to just ignore it and see how long it took before he actually put his shirts IN the drawer. Five laundry baskets precariously stacked with a smattering of clean clothes in the bottom of each one and STILL he would rather hunt through the stacks than empty the things.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable, peace-loving human being, but this could very well have pushed me over the edge. He really wasn’t trying to be a jerk or disrespect me in any way. He just doesn’t see it. In fact, he floated the idea of doing away with drawers entirely, just living out of the baskets.

Eventually I realized that this little, but extremely crucial issue could cause our relationship serious stress. Relationships can be destroyed by the silliest things. Friends, siblings, co-workers, room-mates… pretty much anyone who is up in your face long enough for you to want to punch them in theirs. Of course, in the end it’s not about how to fold the towels or who is a better driver, but it can start there. The spark that starts the fire doesn’t need to be a big one. I watched a bitter divorce unfold with the major battle being who should clean out the garage.

I know wives all over the world have been putting clothes away for centuries without complaint, but somehow I got it in my head that I shouldn’t have to. And I don’t, I really don’t. But I decided that this would be my act of sacrificial love. It may not seem that romantic, but it is a marriage builder in our home.

For more than a decade I have been putting shirts, pants, socks and boxers away while repeating the mantra “an act of love, an act of love, an act of love.” To be honest, I don’t think he’s even noticed. Every once in a while that irritation sneaks up on me again, but it’s good for me. Glen says it all the time – love isn’t just a feeling, it is an act of the will. And in our house, that means drawers full of clean laundry.

So here’s me, grateful that he loves me by overlooking the garbage I leave in his car, clipping my toenails in front of the t.v. and even peanut butter breath.


The “Honey Do” List

I like lists. Scratch that, I LOVE lists! When the world is spinning out of control and I’m feeling overwhelmed, a list makes everything better. Seriously, it’s better than Prozac.

I can’t think of a situation that can’t be improved with a list. I dare you – try to stump me!

Work piling up and you don’t know where to start? Make a list. Kids acting like orangutans? Make a list of goals and how to get there (even better when they are in on the discussion, something I like to facilitate with liberal amounts of ice cream). Worries keeping you up at all hours? Make a list of things to think about tomorrow.

If you are wondering what brought about this list making infomercial, it is this:

The "Honey Do" List

That’s my summer chore list… with not one single thing marked off. It’s a new low for me. Now I could give you plenty of valid excuses… ahem… REASONS why this is the case, but the truth is they don’t make me feel any less discouraged and depressed about it.

So, I’ve decided to resurrect an old habit. It’s something my sweetheart has enjoyed mocking me for over the years. I’m going to go back to that list and add things I’ve already done – then cross them off with great relish.

  • Spend time with my kids – CHECK!
  • Cuddle my new nephew and niece/god-daughter – CHECK!
  • Figure out how to Skype my sister – CHECK!
  • Go to Bard on the Beach – CHECK!
  • Buy a cowboy hat the Calgary Stampede – CHECK!
  • Sit on the beach with my feet in the sand and my nose in a book (and one eye on the kids) – CHECK!

It seems to me that there’s a whole lot about celebrating in the bible – whole chapters commanding festivals and holidays and dozens of poems with lists (YES, that’s right lists) of God’s blessings. Maybe I’ll add that to my list:

  • Worshiping God by enjoying the life I’ve been given!

So here’s me – celebrating the life I live, instead of obsessing about everything still left to do.


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