Friday, January 31, 2014

Chore Charts, the REMIX

It's the last day of January! Why does that matter? Because this year, I'm tentatively welcoming back a favorite New Year's goal of mine to create something every month (and share about it). I didn't do it for 2013, which I honestly think was a wise choice. What a busy year! Michael graduated, we moved, and we traveled to Russia (all in the same breath, it felt), and then we continued the move until we finally settled here in Arizona. And settling is something that usually happens over time. :)

Now to business! My kids needed a new chore chart. I pondered much over how to make it fun. And with much pondering, I really got nowhere until one night during my prayers the idea just *popped* into my head, fully formed. Here is the product:

As Ender completes the chore on each hot air balloon, it can "fly" to the neighboring city.

And as Scarlett completes her chores, her monkeys swing from the left tree to the right.

If you'd like to copy this one, I do have a suggestion...with laminating (I used tape, I'm tough like that), don't cut closely into the curl on the monkey tails. They DO tangle.

We even have a family chore chart. The reason I decided to do that is I wanted the kids to have daily chores but wanted certain chores to be shared and traded. The family chore "chartwheel" (haha! I just made that up right now, like cartwheel? Does no one else find that amusing? Anyone...?) can be changed as needed, but the kids are still expected to complete certain daily tasks. Their chores are even ALMOST interchangeable between morning and bedtime.

If you're wondering whether my kids like it, yes. They do. But as with any chores, I still have to step in and enforce responsibility. They get excited, though. Sometimes to get them started, I bribe them with the promise of a sticker once all their chores are done, but it's nice that they rush from one chore to the next without complaint.

Want to copy? Go for it. I'd love to see pictures of what you come up with! I even have some ideas for customization with this basic idea of moving chores along a string:

  • VEHICLES: a train or plane moving across a map
  • CLOTHES: pretty princess dresses or awesome crazy costumes moving from one person to another (or from a closet to a person--but you'd have to get crafty to make the pile-up of chores work). 
  • ANIMALS: birds flying to a nest, kitties running to a ball of yarn, mice running to a hunk of cheese...anything, right? 
  • FOOD: ingredients going into an oven (maybe this has turned into brainstorming, and you're getting all the debris my brain throws out there, but might strike up a newer, better idea for you), the parts of a sandwich coming together...
  • PEOPLE: going to a party, a park, work, etc. Or superheros zooming around to save the day... :)
This was our old chore chart, made for Ender. He liked being able to choose the order in which he did his chores, and pictures were really helpful at the time so he'd know exactly what to do. That chore chart was very useful! But when it came time to finding something that would work for Scarlett, I knew I had to do something different. Scarlett still loves to rip things apart...she can be a fiery ball of destruction. 
If you have a different situation, though, the old chore chart is also very customizable. Instead of "boring" pockets, maybe they can be decorated like toy boxes or presents. Maybe the chores can be magnetized and displayed once finished, kind of the way an advent calendar works.

Basically, I think there is a need for motivation when it comes to chores...for parents AND kids. It can be fun or at least approachable, instead of a daunting checklist.

If you're at all interested, here's much of the work done for you. Right-click, save. These are .jpg versions.


Monday, January 27, 2014

My Real House

Not that my normal house pictures aren't real, but they're not the Usual Real. I'd like to say I keep my house pretty clean...and actually, I kind of do. But I don't rule with a commanding hand over every part of it. My kids are still kids, I still have to baby-proof for my 2-year-old, I still overlook certain things out of tiredness or preoccupation with other duties. My priorities do not always include a pristine house.

And I know I'm not the only one like this. So here's a sympathetic confession for anyone who needs a reminder that your house isn't the only one that hasn't reached Dream House status.

But one more thing. While I didn't feel fretful about taking pictures of the downright MESS that is my house sometimes, I wanted to focus a little more on the little elements that create the mess. Because that makes more sense, and I am more able to see the humor that way than when I take in the whole mess at once.

Here is Scarlett playing with a broom. That's nice! Sometimes she even gets some food cleaned up when she does this (which isn't all that often). I honestly wish I could show you the collection of food that was under the table a few days ago-- it was a complete food storage system.

This is what it looks like! A bungee cord "locking" my pantry door. And good old duct tape "locking" my fridge. Before I finally had the brilliant epiphany that led to this resourceful (if desperate) solution, Scarlett was getting into the pantry and fridge about every three minutes. No, really...I WISH I were exaggerating.

But she's cute, isn't she. :) Doesn't her twinkly face make you feel at least a little happier? And yeah, she's just in a diaper. And yeah, I don't like that. I wish she had clothes on. She loves changing clothes, loves the power to choose outfits (or choose zero outfits), and I'm slowly surrendering while I slowly figure out that it's mostly okay.

Behold! Another sign of desperation! I got this idea from the mother of my friend Lynnae. She said casually once that she had wrapped the dining table in bungee cords so her youngest would stop using the chairs to reach things that were supposed to be out of the reach of children (what does that mean anymore?). I had the same problem and spent my days running after chairs that seemed to never stop scooting around the house. This solution is a nuisance, just like you would think. But it's less of a nuisance than getting on Scarlett's case all the time.

Oh, and this! These are just some dishes. Probably just from a day. The dishwasher is nearly full with dirty dishes, too. Nothing out of the ordinary, fact, this is tame compared to how they get (at least once a week they pile up like a mass grave).

I now have a stupid, bulky stepladder in this bathroom so that Scarlett can wash her hands. I'd rather she couldn't reach the sink (she PLAYS), but she's forcing me to let her potty train. I hate potty training, so I'm as hands-off as I can be. I'm encouraging her to be able to go through all the steps herself, which includes hand washing. Naturally, I had to empty the cupboard of anything or she'd play with that stuff, too. :)

This is supposed to be my classy music room. :) Okay, why not, it still IS my classy music room. At the "moment" (read: the last couple weeks and likely for the next couple weeks), it reflects my tiredness from bringing the harp in and thus neglecting to uncover it...and the tiredness of hauling the stroller around, thus leaving it in the window. Bleh, bad. But also normal.

Doesn't it look so clean? No, I mean really! It looks pretty clean! Hahahaaaa!!!

Check it out. Does this look familiar? A trail of toys leading to the kids' room?

The cuteness must be how they get away with this most days.

Aaaand...that's where the toys make a shortcut trip to the living room. All the time, guys, all the time. You bet I fight it. But sometimes I'm so tired of disciplining, I pretend I didn't see it. Plus I secretly think it's funny.

We try to make our bedroom a haven, a no-children-allowed bubble of love for parents escaping chaos. So why does it look like this?! I'm asking, why!!!

Because it's where everything goes when I want the kids to leave stuff alone. It's where I go when I want the kids to leave me alone, and when I'm feeling like that, I'm not feeling like revamping my room into a magazine picture. Thankfully, when it's clean, it lasts longer than any other room before it gets messy.

That's my real house! There are more real corners, piles, overflowing trash cans and baskets of laundry that don't star in this post. But I promise they're there. This is just my normal, real, honest house. Sometimes it's a pigsty. Sometimes it does look more like a magazine picture (for half a day, although there is ONE spare room I keep locked that provides great sanity in its constant order when the rest of the house is a wreck). Sometimes I maintain a pretty commendable level of cleanliness. But I'm a mom, which means that I have a plethora of priorities that ebb and flow from day to day. I am tired or busy or both. Sometimes I'm so cool that I sit and read encyclopedias to my son while I ignore the fact that my coffee table is halfway across the room and I haven't made anything for dinner. Other times, I get cranky with my kids and shove the coffee table back again and again and throw some food together. I wish I could have the best of both sides ALL the time. Sometimes I have a magical moment when I strike the balance and it happens. But just sometimes.

I'm normal. I'm like a lot of moms. When your house seems to lean more towards Nightmare than Dream, don't be hard on yourself. I won't think it means you want your house to look like that, or that you're even ok with it looking like that. I'm not going to see your house and think it represents you. It simply represents that your life has a lot going on, and you have to go with the flow of ever-changing priorities. That's real.

I'd like to thank my "sponsor," My Little Pony, for making this blog post possible. Thanks for entertaining my daughter from the Netflix window on my computer while she sat in my lap so I could enjoy some blogging. This couldn't have happened otherwise. Oh yeah...and we must thank the massive pile of LEGOs she decided had to watch the show with have to picture this: 

I'm stretching across a sea of LEGOs, around my daughter who is crowding my lap and has her hair in my face, just to reach the keyboard. I have to keep moving my head around hers, and she keeps sticking her diaper-bum in my face while she leans forward to stare straight into the ponies' eyes instead of watching from a normal human distance. *sigh* 

She finally slid off my lap! Leaving the LEGOs for me, of course...

Uh, and now she is plugging random things into the outlet. Bye!