Monthly Archives: July 2009

Working Together

Over at Homespun Heart, Monica has a great post up about how she introduced chores to her littles with a Team themed Family Night.  It got me thinking back to when my kids were those ages.  I thought I’d share some things that we’ve done.

In the SimpleHome, we have always stressed to the kids that we live here as a family and therefore need to work together as a team.  My kids had simple helping chores from the time they could walk as a toddler.  Folding washcloths is great fun for toddlers and a big sense of accomplishment.

Over the last 10+ years I’ve learned a few things.  Some came from great tips from friends or articles, and others I learned the hard way.

For us, it was easiest in the beginning to just have the kids help us. If we were folding laundry, they helped fold the little stuff.  If we were cleaning up, we gave them specific things to put away.  Dusting?  Put a sock on the toddlers hand and let them do baseboards…I guarantee you’ll both be laughing as they climb under & behind furniture.  At this stage you can’t expect a great job, or even a complete job for that matter.  Attention spans are short and new things catch their eye.  I did learn that I always needed to make it MY choice as to when they were done helping.  If they ran off I would bring them back to do one more little thing, then tell them that they could be done and thanked them for the help.  For me this just reinforced that as the mom, they needed to obey me.  If I saw interest waning I would say something like “Just two more minutes, then you can play.”  This way we avoided the power struggle.  My goal during the toddler years was to get them familiar with the things we do to keep our house in order.

As they got into the 3s there were some independent tasks.  Making their bed or cleaning up toys independently.  As they grew so did the chore list. Now, at 9 and 12, they do a lot of helping.  They can clean bathrooms, put away all their own clothes, straighten their rooms each morning, empty the dishwasher…and the list goes on.

I find that as they hit school-age, the need to please dissipates at times and more motivation is needed. They tell sad tales of how they are the only children they know that have jobs around the house.  And they become to tired to do their chores.  It really is a pitiful state of affairs…imagine!  Such expectation and responsibility!  To have to make your bed at seven years old!

I’ve used all sorts of motivation over the years.  At first I would get discouraged when a system started out working great, then they lost interest with that particular reward.  I also struggled with how much reward a child should get for helping the family.

Here is a partial list of the motivational things we did over the years.  I’ll explain some of them more in posts later.

  • chore charts with stickers
  • tickets
  • chore sticks
  • daily chore cards
  • point systems
  • Buddy systems
  • And on frustrating days…threats and privileges taken away (I hate admitting that. But it happens, right?)

Often the “prize” was free and easy to give, but still exciting to them.

Overall what I learned, and still need to remind myself of is that I set the tone. If I make housework look like drudgery, they will approach their chores the same way.  If I’m having a day where the jobs don’t seem fun for anyone, I’m honest…I tell them that I’m not really in the mood for this and that I know they aren’t either.  Then we turn off the television distractions and put on some fun music.  Set the timer and just get through it.

The hardest thing for me to get into my head was that even if I worked out a great system for chores, be it charts or whatever, it may not work for long. Variety is the spice of life, right?  Sometimes changing things up is refreshing and reinvigorating…for us as well as the kids.  So if you can’t understand why they aren’t excited about the sticker chart anymore…put a twist on it.  Or even put it away for a couple of weeks.

In short, being flexible in the system for chores and setting the right tone are very important.

Tune in tomorrow for more ideas for changing up the chore chart.

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Filed under Family, Kids, Lists

Another Night

Last night was another full night of sleep.  I am starting to feel the difference.  It’s downright refreshing to feel rested.  I’ve been thinking about this sleep thing  for awhile and will have more thoughts to share soon.

Do you make sleep a priority?

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Reset

My vacation was a chance to hit the reset button on things.  Refocus on my priorities. While I didn’t accomplish all I had hoped, there was a lot of time for thinking.  Three days in a car each way will do that.

Really, I know what is important for a healthy me is enough sleep, good food in moderation and exercise. I’ve stressed out about how to attain these things in the past.   I’m feeling calmer about it now.

My first focus is enough sleep.  So far so good.  I’ve been up around 5:30 everyday since getting home on
Saturday.  The extra time has been nice.  I’ve gotten supper prepped, watered the garden and other various tasks before work begins.  Since I’m getting up earlier I’ve made a commitment to go to bed earlier.  Sleep has come by 10:30 each night, and often earlier than that.  My insomnia seems to be gone too.

In August I plan to use that early morning time to get to the community center to work out three of the days.

As for the food…I’m going to take that slow.  Cooking from scratch is already the norm around here, and we eat a fairly balanced diet with some whole grains.  I’d like to increase the variety of whole grains and vegetables we eat.  I also want to cut down on sugary snacks we seem to hunt for in the evening.  Portion size and sweet snacks are probably my biggest obstacle. I have noticed this week that when I get that nagging feeling to get a snack, like ice cream, late in the evening I’m just going to bed instead.

So that’s where I’m at this week.  After some time to reflect, I seem to be taking things in stride much better than I was. It’s OK that the house isn’t in perfect shape.  It’s OK if there are some jobs left for tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or crossed off altogether and not ever done.

How do you refocus and unwind?

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Filed under Just Me, Simplify

WFMW: Dishwasher Duty

wfmwbannerKRISTEN

I’ve mentioned before that emptying a dishwasher is my most dreaded job.  I pretty much HATE it.  That makes it a very good thing that I have two kids to do the job for me.

Problem is they don’t love the job either…and are obsessed with making sure that it is fair.  As in, no one can possibly take two turns in a row.  Heaven forbid.  Keeping  track was not always easy. Making it frustrating to have to turn every dishwasher full of clean dishes into a big fight discussion.

A smart friend of mine showed me her system and two months later it is still working for us.

Dishwasher Chart

My low-tech dishwasher duty list hangs on the refrigerator.  It is simply an alternating list of my kids names.  First name is the kid for the job.  Cross your name off and it’s the next kid’s turn.  On down the line until mom needs a new piece of scratch paper to make a new list.

Just that much is a great solution…at a glance anyone in the house can clearly see whose turn it is. And that person has no grounds to argue it.  Beautiful.

The unexpected pleasure came when I explained that if I needed those dishes put away and the kid responsible wasn’t available or was choosing not to do it*, the other one could.  Now my kids are happy to put away those dishes.  They know it is fair, and that if they take an extra turn then the other guy has to do the job twice in a row.

My friend uses one list for dishes and another for taking out the recycling.  She has three daughters and it is funny to see that one is quite a bit more helpful than the others.  She usually has her name crossed off two or three times before the others catch up.

Having my kids do a job I loathe without arguing and even occasionally asking to do the job???  Works for me! Check out all the great tips over at We are THAT family…there’s great stuff over there!

* to be clear…if the kid doesn’t want to do the job, but neither does the other one, then the kid on the top of the list has to do it.  We don’t live in a democracy here.  Job needs done?  It gets done.  If it can wait, I try to be lenient.

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Filed under Family, In the Kitchen, Kids, Lists, Simplify, You Don't Have to Like It

Menu Plan Monday: July 27

I’m back from vacation…11 days of no cooking, cleaning or laundry.  It was a wonderful getaway, but I’m ready to be back to the family routine.

Itchy to get in the kitchen, I asked what the family ate in my absence so I wouldn’t repeat anything.  Coming back home after my trip, I stopped at Sam’s Club to restock some staples that I always get there.  Now I’m ready!

Today I’ll be making a big batch of spaghetti sauce and probably 3 batches of banana bread.  I can get bananas half price at a little place near my mom’s house so when I am there I tend to buy a bag full.

Here’s the plan for the week:

Breakfast:

  • Raspberry muffins, banana & milk
  • Banana bread, milk & raspberries
  • English muffins with peanut butter, banana, milk
  • Cereal, milk & apple juice
  • Cinnamon rolls, oranges, milk

Lunch:

  • Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, carrots, grapes, milk
  • Lasagna hot dish, lettuce & milk
  • Shredded chicken on a bun, carrot slaw, baked beans, milk
  • Pork fried rice, oranges & pineapple, broccoli, milk
  • Bean & cheese burritos, corn, lettuce, milk

Supper:

  • Leftover Stromboli, green beans, milk
  • Pork chops, rice, broccoli, applesauce
  • BBQ Chicken pizza, pineapple, milk
  • Leftovers
  • Hot dogs and venison brats, apples, carrots, chips, soda pop

Snacks:

  • Bread sticks with spaghetti sauce
  • Cereal & milk
  • Cupcakes & milk
  • Whole grain crackers & apple juice
  • Yogurt & apples

Additional Notes:

  • the lettuce and raspberries are homegrown
  • if no beverage is listed, we’re drinking water
  • meals are listed in M-F order

For more menu plans check out the Menu Plan Monday links over at OrgJunkie’s site. You won’t be disappointed.

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Filed under In the Kitchen, Menus

Early Morning

Having never really been a morning person, I am always struggling to get up early.  I seem to really enjoy these early hours, so I don’t know why I don’t get up early more often.  Having spent a bit over a week on Eastern time, I thought I’d take advantage of coming back to Central time.  So here I am, it’s 5:40 and the house is quiet and full of potential.

I plan to write, read and exercise during these early hours.  Soon there will be a new baby here at 6:45 each day…so starting a habit of getting up about 5:00 will give me time to be ready for the day of infant demands.

What about you?  How early do you get up?

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Filed under Just Me

Return Trip

Tomorrow my mom and I head back out on the road toward Minnesota.  We will spend three nights on the road this time so that we will have time to see Niagara Falls.  I am excited for this last leg of the trip but will be happy to get home too.

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