Friday, May 27, 2011

To do chores, or not...?

     I remember being a kid and absolutely hating to do my chores! I hated mowing the grass, cleaning my room, and most of all the dishes! I just knew that I would never, ever make my children do chores when I was a mom. Yes, that is what I told myself as I pushed through a jungle of grass in my childhood backyard.  I was going to be so cool and never make them do anything that my mom and dad made me do!

                                    THEN...I BECAME A MOM!

     Even when Dylan (now 12) and Amanda (now 10) were younger, I was still of the mindset that they were just little people and couldn't grasp the idea of how to clean up after themselves. Besides, they had a mom, and it was MY JOB!  Looking back, I think they would have handled things just fine! In fact, it would have saved me some trouble later on down the road.

     My family has grown considerably over the last decade. We now have five lovely children that have two hands a piece!  As my family grew, I realized that I couldn't possibly keep up with the amount of housework that is needed to keep our house spic and span. I was constantly cleaning up after everyone while they sat around and did nothing without being expressly told to do so.  It was time for a chore list of some sort.

     We have gone through MANY, and I do mean many systems. We have tried ideas from magazines, internet searches, TV shows, other mommies, etc. However, none of it worked completely with our situation. Just a few weeks ago, I finally had enough of trying this and experimenting with that. I was going to sit down, think about the ideas we tried, decide what worked, what didn't.  I was going to come up with a way to keep my house amazingly clean, with little effort from everyone, with a reward system....but still have consequences for the children that choose to be lazy! AND...wouldn't you know it! I did....and it is working!

     Before I get into what we are doing that is working for us, I want to make an admission. We have only been doing this system for two weeks. I know it is fairly early on in the game, however, my children  are acting differently with their response to chores. They are getting  in a routine of knowing what is expected of them, and what happens if they do not.

  • The first thing I recommend is figuring out a list of chores that your children are capable of completing mostly on their own.  How much time will you be able to devote to chores? 
  • Next, come up with a way you will keep track of who does what. Will you use charts and stickers, marbles, a computer program, etc?  
  • Lastly, decide on how to reward your children. What motivates them to do a good job? 

     We decided to create a system that included parts of what worked before, with some new twists.

     First, I typed out a list of age appropriate chores for Dylan and Amanda, my two oldest children. Then I made a separate list for my two smaller girls, Tabby and Hannah.  I came up with twenty chores for each group.  I wrote out each job on the front of an index card. On the back of each index card I wrote out any special instructions that they needed to know to complete the job the correct way. On the little girl's cards I drew pictures of the job along with the name of it since they are not reading quite yet.  I placed both sets of chores in an index card holder to keep them in one place.  Dylan and Amanda's chore cards are in red ink, Tabby and Hannah's are in green.

     When it is "time to clock in,"  the children have the opportunity to begin their chores. They have from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. to get them done.  I let them know if we have plans for the evening and we are flexible in allowing extra time for those busy nights.  However, if we are home, it is up to them to balance their time appropriately.  We do remind the little girls of course.  The children basically choose the card (job) they wish to complete. They obviously have their favorites and try to get to them before their sibling. Has that created some arguments? Sure it has!  However, as you will see later on, this system encourages teamwork in order to get everything done! Each child has ten jobs per day and earns ten marbles per day.

    What sorts of jobs do my children do? Dylan and Amanda do anything from sweeping the kitchen floor to scooping the cat litter. They do dishes, the toilet, and stuff in between.  The little girls clean mirrors, wipe down dining room chairs, and do general tidy sorts of chores.

    How long it takes each child to do their ten chores depends on how long they want to make it take. Since we have been doing this system the house has stayed clean, so Dylan, Amanda, and Tabitha have figured out if they just do it and get it takes about 45 minutes per day.  Hannah on the other hand tends to take her sweet little time. Hannah lives her entire life like that. 
     So after each job is complete, they put the card in a different index card box behind a card with their name on it, so that way I can keep track of who did what.  Seven p.m. is "quitting time."  I take the box of completed chores and start to distribute marbles into their individual marble jars with their names on the outside.  One marble per chore complete.

     So what happens when the chores they are expected to do are not completed by 7 p.m.?  Here is where it gets good!  Let's say Amanda only does seven chores and Dylan does ten chores. From 7 - 8 p.m., Dylan is given the opportunity to do the three chores that Amanda did not do.  Amanda's consequence for not doing her chores is that SHE has to give TWO marbles from her jar to her brother for every job that he does for her!  It is a great consequence for the one who doesn't do their jobs, and a great reward for the one willing to work!

     I can hear it now, you are wondering what happens if NEITHER child completes the jobs?  We have that covered too~  They do the jobs, together...and pay ME two marbles a piece, per job, out of THEIR jars.  We haven't had to go there yet, and I am assuming that we won't. It is a pretty big consequence.

    Lastly, the fun part!  Rewards! What to do they get for all those marbles they rack up?  Every Saturday is pay day. The children count their marbles (which will be an average of 60), turn them into me, and get cash! For 60 marbles, they get $5.00.  We have a pay scale set up for as few as 10 marbles, but as much as 100. It is possible for them to earn more than 60 through taking on jobs their siblings don't do. They can also lose marbles form paying their siblings, but also for bad behavior.  Mouthing off to mom now costs them a marble. And the loss of a marble is now costing them money.

     Anyway...that is the basic set up of our chore system. It is working fantastically!  the kids are learning all sorts of beneficial things from this system~ responsibility, time management, teamwork, earning money, losing money, consequences of bad behavior, rewards for the good.   I hope you can take something from what works for us and make it your own.  If you have any questions,  please ask! I am more than happy to share my thoughts and ideas on your situation.

    The most important thing I can say to wrap this up is to please, don't do a disservice to your children by thinking it is OK to not teach them responsibility at an early age. You will have a MUCH harder time later on in life, and so will they.  Most children are able to be held responsible for some duties around the house.  The longer you wait, the more you give in to whining and complaining, the harder it will be on you....and them!




Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who is on first?

      I don't know about any of you, but we are usually on the go, busy, always doing something. Plans come up, mishaps happen.  That's life in the busy 21st century.  So, when you stand before God at the gates of heaven, what are you going to tell Him if he asks you, "Where have you been?"

     As a parent, trying to teach my five darlings to put God first in their lives isn't always easy.  My children have things they want to do on Wednesday nights when there is Bible study. They wait until the last minute of the weekend to finally mention they have a big assignment due Monday morning, just like many kids. My kids are involved in activities out in the community that may involve their daily participation.  My daughter gets invited to Saturday night sleepovers with her school friends.   It truly is hard to say, "No" sometimes. But, we are teaching them to put God first in their lives.

     See, if things keep "popping" up, eventually it just gets to be a habit to skip Bible study, to skip private prayer time, to not open your Bible during the week, to miss church, to forget about fellowship.  Pretty soon, as you let more and more things interfere with God's time, there won't be enough time left. If there is some left, it will just be a "habit" and not a true relationship with God.

     Remember the Proverb (22:6) that says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."   It is our parental responsibility to raise our children to love God, to obey Him, and to put Him first!  A dear homeschool, facebook friend of mine shared this take on Proverbs 22:6 a week ago and it really made me think~ " To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while."

    That made me think about what sorts of things I put before God. Do I miss out on Bible times or times of prayer because I am doing something pointless? Facebook? A game on my phone? Texting someone? Watching a TV show? What about you? 

    How can we expect our children to love God and put Him as a top priority when we as parents don't lead by example? The answer is easy~ We can't. 

    When we are standing before God will it matter how good of a gymnast we are? A clarinet player? A ball player?  Does that mean that God doesn't want us to have fun? No way!  Of course God wants us to have fun!! Who do you think gave us those talents?  However, he doesn't want us to forget about Him just because we have those talents and abilities! 

    As we approach summer, and all the fun things that go along with that, consider the time, or lack there of, that you spend with God. Can you make time for Him, after all look what He did for you and I. Is He really asking that much from us?  


Thursday, May 5, 2011

From The Amazon to The Fortress...

      The last weekend in April was a great one for me.  Michael and I were able to accompany our twelve year old son, Dylan, on a youth mission trip to Nashville, Tennessee. It was for one day only, but, as we journeyed deeper into our day, it became clear that we could have stayed another week or two and would still have plenty to do!  By the end of the day, I wanted to!

      This day trip was put on by a group called  1 By Youth. (Link at bottom) The basic idea is to get a bunch of youth groups together and unite as one. Go to one community, for one day. And make a HUGE impact! It's an interesting concept really.

     We left on a Friday night with our bags on board....our boat, since our road was completely flooded.  

     This was technically a youth trip for sixth grade and older, however, there were more adults than youth on this trip!  There were eight adults and four youth.  Sure was a blast!

    I bunked with Tonya and Libby. Which was a riot! They are friends that are my age~ The Spanaird, country girl, and the city girl.  We literally stayed up ALL night long and got along brilliantly. It was loud, hilarious, and....a LONG night! = ) I do believe I dozed off just in time to hear the people in the next room flushing toilets and taking showers. I think we spent at least two hours total throughout the night laughing and discussing how small the beds were. I wonder if all La Quinta beds are THAT small?   I can't believe that we didn't take a picture to commemorate the night!

     We needed to be on the bus at 6:30 a.m.  I was there, with three minutes to spare. (Go me!)  We drove through interstate exchanges with buildings all around us. We drove through some newer looking town homes next to an awesome park...then the next was like junk. Then we saw the sign for our meeting destination. Yep...we were meeting in the corner junky building. We walked in, got our shirts for the day and sat down on a pew. Looking around you could see that someone was working hard at transforming this trashed building and making it into a youth friendly church building. There were three rows of pews, a stage, and medieval  looking banners hanging from the ceiling beams with words like compassion, love, purity, kindness, etc. in bold letters.  Someone was really taking great pride in getting this place together.  I could totally see the youth group at my church loving to hang out at a place like this~ The Fortress

We posed for a quick group shot with all the shoes that we cleaned out of our closets to donate to an organization called Soles for Souls......

     By 8 a.m. we were preparing for prayer, praise and worship. The music was exactly what I needed to wake me up! Unfortunately, during some of the talking...I found myself dozing off. (Which is why you don't stay up all night at my age!)  I started to feel very sick to my stomach. In fact, in the back of my head all I could think about doing was getting back to the bus and laying down before we even started! Not cool.  I didn't want to do that though. I wanted to just get outside and to do something.

     A short while later we met our team leader, got our box of supplies, and our instructions on what we were supposed to do. Clean up trash by railroad tracks. Sounds peachy, right?   We walked the couple of blocks to our site past an old factory that was built in 1881.  It was a beautiful old building, just in desperate need of rehabilitation. was being done! As we turned the corner (after taking the wrong turn) we saw our work area.  It consisted of a couple of sets of train tracks, a fence with overgrown weeds and bushes, and a dusty area behind the old factory. The factory that was looking better from the front looked nothing more than a broken shell from the back.  My first question was, WHY? Why are we going to clean up an area that is never seen except by the passing train conductors? Why can't our team go and clean yards, parks, or the sides of streets? A short while later...I got my attitude in check while I was completely engulfed in the bushes cleaning up beer bottles.

    So why were we there?  In an area that nobody would ever find beautiful? An area where nobody really goes through, besides trains?   I don't know. Perhaps it was different for each member of our team. I half jokingly told Jill that I will think twice next time I throw my trash out the window. Yes, beat me now. I throw trash out the window.  It really does collect on the fences and in the bushes.  I will stop doing that. = )   Perhaps God sent us to this tiny lot for the train conductor that went by and as he did shouted a hearty "thank you" out of his window.  Or, perhaps it was just because it was a small area and it didn't take that long.  Because after we got this area done, we went to where the other part of our team was (from a different church).  Their area was somewhat like ours. An old train track, between a factory and a rock dealer. It was messy, blah, and overwhelming. There were tiny pieces of paper from the factory everywhere.  We eventually stopped and had a small lunch and we decided to go back to the bus for a bit and have a little devotional time.  We were all smelly, muddy, grassy, and....tired. I think we were all feeling blue about where we were working.  I'm just thinking that God knew that we would be feeling that way too. Because the words that were said on that bus were exactly what our team needed to hear! There was a reason we drove through the lovely town homes and the park. There was a reason that a block away we were cleaning up a vacant lot that nobody would see.  See, it didn't matter what we did, who would see our hard work, etc. What mattered is that we were doing exactly what God was leading us to do in this Nashville neighborhood! As we walked back to our work site, I felt a new reason to be there.  I felt good again. I felt like going and picking up tiny pieces of paper underneath an old train car.


    After cleaning the above site to the best of our ability, we went back to The Fortress and sat for awhile, worn out. Before long, they found another work site for our team to tend to. When we got there one of the directors pulled up in his van and told Michael about another site that would be perfect for a group our size. He gave us directions and off we went.

     What we saw when we got there was not at all what I expected. We were directed to go to an underpass a few blocks away. There was a grassy area on the corner.  And, then I looked up and saw this....

     The picture can't show exactly what we saw. However, there were areas up there for people.  Little living spaces with Rubbermaid tubs, clothing, even a sheet hanging up to serve as a divider. I don't have the words to tell you how I felt at that moment as the tears came to my eyes.  But, I then figured out why I was there and took a deep breath, and got to work.  There were liquor bottles, junk food bags, cans, and piles of junk everywhere we looked. The more you moved through the underbrush, the more you could find.  It got to the point where we were running into sleeping bags and what was obviously "stuff" that belonged to people. We had to start asking ourselves, "Is this usable?"   Then I found this....

   "Oh, my goodness, a child was living here." And my heart cried, and cried, and cried.  Through the tears, I could see the domineering, steel buildings of Nashville looming in the distant skyline and trying to rationalize how something like this can happen in the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the world!  Praying and picking up trash on this cold and dismal Nashville corner showed me exactly why I was in Nashville. With the thought of this little heart wand, exactly the same as Hannah's at home, I began to think about my family living below an interstate under the bushes.  I had a vision of my sweet Hannah dancing with her little heart wand along the old train tracks while the rest of us were huddled in the muddied sleeping bag eating out of one tuna can. And I cried. And I prayed.

     I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for my house that is ridiculously too small for my family, for our one car that my husband takes to work everyday leaving me without one, for my mountain of laundry, for my floors that need cleaned, for my tub that needs scrubbed. Praise God for all these things!!
     Thank you for a roof to cover our family that keeps us warm during the rain storms. Thank you for that one car that somehow keeps running to get my husband to his job, which he is fortunate to have during this rough economy. Thank you for all that laundry which means we aren't naked. Thank you for floors under our feet that are safe and not made of mud, grass, and broken glass. Thank you for a tub so that we can bathe ourselves.  Praise God for everything that I have been blessed with and too selfish to see.

    I pray with a humbled heart that I will actually SEE the people that need me. That need help. To be a better friend. To instill charity, love, and empathy in my children so that they never, ever get too comfortable in our blessed life to not see what is just right around the corner.  

At the end of the day, we had a block party for the neighborhood. Free food, games, professional BMX bikers, a few bands including Gideonz Army out of Atlanta (who came for free, just so you know).

 I know rap, even if it is Christian rap, is not for everyone...but these guys are truly talented and are rapping about Christ and reaching young people that need Jesus! Hope you will take a listen and support G.A.

If you want to get involved with 1 By Youth, check out this link: