Monthly Archives: October 2012

Having a Home Where Small Children Live, AKA “Holy Cow my house is a mess”

Late last night, my husband says “I’m having a few friends come over tomorrow night. Around 6. OK?”

“Sure” I say.  “I’ll clean up the living room and kitchen at the very least.  Hmmm… Selina’s got a doctor check up in the morning.  And I need to pick up our nephew from school.  And we’ve got to stop by the alterations place.  And grocery shopping. And birthday present. And baths. And meals. I’m sure I can get everything done.”  I look over at my husband… he’s fast asleep. Oh well.


As soon as we get up in the morning, reality sets in.  I must have had a momentary lapse of judgement where I thought I was 21 and childless again. There is no way on God’s green earth this will all get done.  I must pick and choose. The rest of it was going to take a back seat and we’ll see if we even get near there…

To my credit, I got everything done, except for baths.  To my husband’s credit, he cleaned the living room when he got home from work and he saw that nothing had changed. Hey, it was his friends who were on their way.


As I was rushing through my day, I came to the realization that, with two small children and a full-time job, my house will never be actually clean.  In fact, I can’t even pretend it’s somewhat under control.  I’m barely treading water.  Actually, it’s worse than that.  I’ve got only my nose above the water.  I can barely breath and I’m frantically trying to get my eyeballs out as well. But at the end of the day, as long as I can say I’ve used my time well, then I can go to sleep happy.  And today, I used my time extremely well.

Also today, I implemented a routine that I’ve been using the past week.  I call it “Power Hour.”  I have a very large problem getting Selina to do her chores without hysterically breaking down like it’s the end of the world.  So every morning, we’ve been sitting down with a color crayon in hand and a very colorful piece of paper before us.  I write down the chore and she “draws” a corresponding picture.  Please keep in mind that she’s 4.  So her drawing skills are more like stick figures, but she knows exactly what she means.  Then we set the timer for one hour, I strap Evin on, and we start on our lists.  Today, her list consisted of scrubbing the toilets (for the 3rd time this week), washing the bathroom mirror, sweeping the kitchen, picking up all of her toys in the living room, and washing the kitchen table.  Once she has finished her chores, she may go play in her room quietly for the remainder of the hour while I keep working on my chore list.  And there is almost no whining about it.  It’s fantastic.  However, there are some rules if you’re going to use this idea:

1. Do not make this list more than 5 things long for young children.  It’s too daunting and then nothing will get done.

2. Take the time to actually show them how to do the job.  Work with the child several times before letting them go on their own.

3. Check their progress often.

4. Use compliments as compliments.  No “buts.” And be specific about the compliment.   For example,  Don’t say a general “Great job”.  Say “Great job lining up your shoes in the closet.”  And “Great job picking up your clothes”  should end there.  Don’t add a “but you forgot a sock.”  Let your child know that you see that they are trying and, for the most part, succeeding.

5. Do not go back over what your child has done in order to correct it.  They will see you do that and understand that they did not do a good enough job.  My toilets get cleaned every couple of days for a reason.  I know that Selina is 4 and does not clean the toilet very well in one go.  But if she does it 3 or 4 times per week, then the chances of it actually getting cleaned like if I were doing it, are much greater.

6. Use bribery.  Selina has 2 little fishbowls with popsicle sticks.  Sticks go in the reward bowl if she doesn’t whine about chores, but get taken out if she does.  Once she gets all 20 sticks in the reward bowl, she gets a special treat.  Right now she’s working towards a special Snow White doll and house.


Follow the simple rules and you will be well on your way to children who not only do their chores and help you out, but are learning to do it with a glad heart.  And that’s what child rearing is all about: the state of your child’s heart.

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How to Survive One of Those Days

5:15 am. I heard a little voice next to my ear.

“Mommy, can you put Brother in his crib so I can sleep with you?”

Simple enough request.  But you must understand that we have been co-sleeping with Evin for 5 months now and if I move him away from human contact, he wakes up immediately and refuses to go back to sleep.  (OK, I haven’t really tried to break him of this too hard.   I enjoy cuddling too much.)  So we all shift around and get her into the bed too.  After 30 minutes of laying here, singing quietly to herself,  Selina finally asks me lay with her in her bed.  Fine, I say.  Anything to get another hour of sleep.

Then 8:30 rolls around and my husband peeks his head in the doorway and says “Don’t you have to be somewhere?”  Oh yeah, the pumpkin patch with Selina’s class.  I should have started getting ready to go a half hour ago.

The next two hours goes something like this “Whine, whine, whine, fake cry, real cry and some more whining.”  I threaten not going to the field trip.  This, unfortunately, does not make things better, only worse.  How do I get it to stop?

Then it hit me.  (This is where you want to start taking notes.)  We’re going to have a Quiet Day.  Everything we do has to be quiet, calm and not hurried.  Of course, Selina sees this as a game and has to tattle on Evin every time he starts to cry.  So far today, we’ve had a leasurly stroll through a corn maze, made bread and hot coco and ate lunch as a family (with Daddy at his work!). The plan for after nap is to make dinner, scrub toilets and play dolls on the floor.

Whenever my kids get cranky, whiny or all out grouchy, I have to remind myself that they’re not being upset just to be upset, something is wrong with them.  They are either hungry, tired, sick or they need some Mommy time away from everyone else.  Today, when Selina asked me to climb in bed with her, it gave me a clue.  She needs me.  And she needs all of my eyes, ears, mind and heart.  She knows that she has to share me with Brother,  but today was a day that I needed to be with her and not rush her to do anything.

Here are some good Quiet Day activities that we love:

Make cookies.

Make bread.

Make dinner.

Make hot coco, then sip it slowly while reading a bunch of books.

Make a pillow and blanket fort.  Grab a flashlight and some books.  Read aloud.


Take a pan.  Put a bunch of baking soda in it. (We used the whole box.)  Take vinegar and put it into little bowls.  Add food coloring to the vinegar.  Use a dropper or syringe to drop the colors on the white baking soda.  Watch reaction.  Enjoy quiet for at least 30 minutes.

Anything arts and crafty.


Quiet Day is something that you really have to commit to.  Kids know when you’re bored and they’re going to start acting up again.  This is a solution that works for my family.  Maybe it will work for yours.

Also, for those who are keeping track, no fast food has been consumed in 1 whole week.  I am so proud of us.

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The Zombie Fighting Birthday Girl

As I sit here this afternoon, with the baby on my lap, I can’t help but think of this day four years ago…

At 9 am the morning before, I had called my sister-in-law and said “How do you feel about a trip to Portland?” After much squealing on her part, she picks me and my bags up from the house and we take off to Portland.  Around that same time, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law are searching for my husband at his newly started job at the hospital in town.  They find him, finally, and tell him that he’d better get on the road… His daughter is coming!

My spunky little girl was born 4 years ago at 12:20am.  (It was a very long day) We are celebrating 4 extremely full years of life, spunk, passion and independence.  And meltdowns. We can’t forget the meltdowns.  For her gift, we bought 2 tickets to the Fresh Beat Band’s concert next month. It will be a great Mommy/ Selina day, which we’ve had a lot less of since Little Brother was born. But I’ve also decided to give her something more: a healthy future. As of October first, we have given up fast food.  And no, I haven’t told her.

I made a great meatloaf the other day, complete with “hidden” carrot puree.  It wasn’t hidden very well because Selina was the one who put it in the mixing bowl and then spent the next 10 minutes telling me how yummy it was and how we should just eat that, and only that.  While I am proud of her desire to eat carrots in a variety of ways, I had to explain what a balanced meal was and why we needed that balance.   I told her yesterday “No, you can’t have just a jelly sandwich for lunch, you need protein, like peanut butter.”  Imagine how my heart swelled when she replied “Will peanut butter make it balance?”  Yes, my dear girl, it will.


Our gift of not more fast food is doing more than helping with the health of our family.  It’s teaching us all how to manage our time so we don’t have to rely on the convenience of greasy, unhealthy food.  I can only imagine how this will hold up in 10 years when we are even more busy.  But trial and error now, means some sort of perfection later on down the road.  And I use the word “perfection” very loosely.


And now, I’m off to play “zombie fighting” with the birthday girl.  And yes, the immobile Little Brother is the zombie.



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