The Daily Grind And How To Change It

Do you know what you call those who use towels and never wash them, eat meals and never do the dishes, sit in rooms they never clean, and are entertained till they drop? If you have just answered, ‘A house guest,’ you’re wrong because I have just described my kids.” Erma Bombeck

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Brewing beneath the surface of most households is the inevitable and quiet resentment of parenthood. Knowing that you are required to take on task after task, giving away your time and space because “that’s your job” is a really, really hard thing to do.  You know you need to teach your kids life skills, but honestly, after a long day of work and negotiations about well, everything, that last thing you want to do is manage and argue about household chores. So, good intentions and important lessons on responsibility go by the wayside.

But what then happens to the parent(s)?  Burn out and then, burn out turns to anger and in the end, we find ourselves in a crazed state shouting at the sky wondering why no one will help us. Well let’s be frank, a lot of the time it’s because we didn’t ask for it in the first place.

We’ve all been there. We want to provide a safe and organized home for our children. We unselfishly want to make it easier for them and encourage them to do the things we did not always get a chance to do. We want school to be a priority and for them to reach their full potential. We want them in bed at a decent time. (‘Cause you know it’s wine-o’clock!) But in reality, the cost can be too high.  At least for me it has been. I was tired. Very tired.

So, I regrouped. Took a nice, long break and started asking some hard questions. What could I do differently moving forward to make long-lasting significant changes? Consistency. Instead of letting the wind decide what chores or responsibilities my children have, I wanted a regular schedule. I wanted more help around the house. Plain and simple. My molly maid days were over, and I told them so, again. But this time I meant it.

The most important thing to make this a success was letting go and then, choosing the things that mattered the least to me. Dishes. Laundry. I don’t care how or when they get done as long as they get done by the end of the day. These chores are low stake tasks that will teach my whole family life skills, responsibilities and give me a break to go and read that People magazine. (Or write this blog!)

So we started this new reality a few weeks ago, but at a snail’s pace. First, I stopped micromanaging their homework. Of course I help them when asked and still ask everyday, “What homework is there tonight?” But I took a step back, a huge step.

When you have three or more kids, you can’t be a homework coach to all of them at the same level. I have to decide who needs me most in what way and let the rest go. My 5th grade student is going to have to start figuring some stuff out on her own and managing her own time so I can focus on a fundamental skill like reading with my 1st grader. And thank goodness my 3rd grade student seems to have a teacher who does not give homework, at least that’s what she tells me.

Next on the list, dishes. Some people like doing dishes. I do not so the kids can do them. After all, I have six little hands that can put a dish away, load the dishes, wipe sinks and vacuum floors.

Next? Laundry. For the last year they each have to put their clothes away. I leave a basket of freshly laundered and folded clothes each weekend and don’t look back, at least until I need the basket back. It is time to up the stakes and teach them how to use the washing machine and dryer. Maybe they will learn to really consider if something is dirty or not once they start seeing the huge piles of clothes.

And last for this crazy new world, dinner preparation. One night a week if I have to eat hot dogs and nacho chips with melted cheese and sour cream that they made – then so be it. At least they are learning to prepare something, use the appliances and set up dinner at the table. Although I will be encouraging them to think about nutrition moving forward and include a vegetable with every meal.

The research backs this philosophy up, time and time again the benefit of children doing chores outweighs anything else. After all, are we not supposed to be raising competent, capable adults? Chores and sharing the household responsibilities can be the stepping stones for other things. Doing chores as a family increases time spent together and provides children a sense of pride that they helped out, at any age.

Now, my children have had their certain “chores” over the years. Once a week room tidy up. Putting laundry away. Bring garbage bins in. Feed the pets. Other chores too as asked. But as of yet, we have not set a serious schedule that will really help me out. It’s been a kind of ad-hoc system where I still end up doing the majority of things around the house.

The first week was a bit rough. Remember, my children are older so resistance was expected, especially with the older two. I tried to carve out time for me to “take breaks,” and keep myself together because (and let’s be honest here) it’s hard to be the bad guy.

The second week has been a bit easier. I pinned a rough outline of the chores expected on the fridge, let them know that chores may shift as things come up (as in life it does) but the plan was to be followed the best we could.

Now, I had to let stuff go. A load of laundry sat unfolded for a couple of days,  we ate hot dogs for dinner and I bit my tongue as I wiped up the puddles of water on the cupboards.  I also had to endure whining, eye-rolling and complaining. But I did it. You know what, this may actually work if I stick with it. This past weekend as we all did chores Saturday morning, well it went a bit quicker and I was met with a bit less resistance. Progress. It’s all a parent can ask for some days.

How long does it take to break a habit? 66 days seems to be the most recent consensus. So I figure with a family of five, breaking bad habits and replacing them with new ones will take 3 months. So I’m setting a goal date of August 22, 2017. A little longer than the norm but with summer, change of schedule and let’s face it, a large family to re-train, I think it is realistic.

Wish me luck and I will post results the week of August 21, 2017.

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Dancing around the maypole.

“The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.”
–  Sara Teasdale, May

Has spring actually finally arrived in my little piece of Southwestern Ontario? Within less than five days all the spring flowers have bloomed, the trees are budding, birds are chirping happily building nests and my children are running for the warmth of the sunshine like butterflies eagerly awaiting the warm temperatures. It has been a long wait this year, but with confidence I think we can state, it is spring!

A person can feel their mood lifting with the onset of constant sun. This week is the longest stretch we have had consistently warmer temperatures and sunshine in a few months. I can already feel my whole being sigh with relief and my house is welcoming the open windows.

Last weekend we packed up the family for an hour long trip to a very close friend’s house. R and S are like family to us and we lament that they live so far. Last year we started an annual family sleepover tradition all having young kids still requiring parental supervision where the adults can enjoy some drinks out on the threadbare patios and the kids can giggle and do well, kid-stuff. The girls bunked with their little girl and Jacob bunked with us. It was glorious. The first real taste of a warm spring. A nice change to our little pocket of Ontario where we left gray skies and lower temperatures down by Lake Ontario.

Beauty in the sun.

Beauty in the sun.

This week my two girls have been obsessed with fairy houses and have been diligently writing note after note hoping for the fairies to visit. Currently our playset in our backyard is being turned into a fairy playhouse. Some of my cherished moments are of hearing them playing in harmony instead of the petty bickering that inevitable arises when there are multiple children in a family. I have learned the art this past month of taking a step back and firmly encouraging them to work it out themselves. A constant phrase is, “Is this an emergency? Have you tried to work out? Talk to your sister about it.” A phrase I hear echoed in the classroom and it is with hope I leave them to it turning back to a household chore or chasing a little man who has decided to empty a bag of rice chips all over the kitchen floor.

With spring also comes the reality of taking stock of the winter damage to your property. Gardening, washing windows, finally putting away the winter gear. We also realized that our stone steps although lovely to look at have loosened and sloped to such an extent that measures need to be taken to rebuild or replace them. Add it to the project list. Do they every truly end?

After sneaking away in early April to a writer’s retreat and a renewed dedication to finish a fiction project I am working on, I spent last month forgoing other activities (including this blog) to re-focus myself on finishing a project in the pockets of time I am able to grasp in between family life. A routine has been set-up and to my delight, a fiction novel has developed and I am nearing the last quarter of the story. I can see the finish line!

Now I cannot pretend a lot of hard work is in store as I re-write and edit but the story will be complete which is an accomplishment for this newbie writer and busy mom. On top of that,  I also implemented a new fitness training routine to help prepare for some goals later this summer and truthfully, am feeling stronger each time I pull myself to the gym and leave feeling that natural high that comes after a good work-out.

So what is in store for May? Outside time with the kids. Baseball season starts next week for the girls so I will be trekking to fields across the 401 highway in between spring concerts at school and packing for a big family trip in June. Fitness is on my mind this month. Now that I have a base routine in place, it is time to amp it up and with that figure out how to include the kids.

What are your plans for May?

My dance around the maypole continues.

Enter the spring!

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

The first day of spring is here and the snow keeps on falling! Audrey has been very upset the last couple of days as she was determined to make one last snowman before this winter finally wraps up. However the wet snow melts in the warm sunshine every single day thwarting her attempts.

With that in mind, it may be time to dig into our massive children’s library for Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan to read to her later. A delightful book about a little girl who makes a snowman every day until it starts to warm up and she has to save a little bit of her snowman for next year.

sadie and the snowman

On the domestic front, the first of two consultations on window coverings is checked off the list. It  will be interesting what another consultant may suggest as today the very nice lady who came to provide an in-home quote, quite honestly tried to dissuade me from the ideal California shutters for our four bedrooms. As an alternative it was suggested honeycomb shades would fit our windows better.

Still seeking to complete decorating my girls’ suite, they have both expressed interest in having a fairy tent surround them as they sleep so that will aid in finishing their room décor.

Looking at my to-do list this week I shudder and go grab another coffee. It keeps growing!

Last week’s March Break, although fun with a little mini-vacation thrown in, (review on March Break to come another time!)  set back my goals for home organization this month. But I will solider on!

Fortunately, with Passover and Easter right around the corner, addressing those “hot spots” are high on the priority list this week. I have identified at least five “hot spots” within my house, not including the basement which I am leaving until summer to tackle. With family quickly gathering next week, the Dining Room is the first priority.

Dining Room "Hot Spot"

Spring cleaning is also starting to become something I need to deal with. Fortunately, I am going to hire a bit of help this year to do some of the hard scrubbing on key areas like kitchen cupboards and baseboards. I would rather my focus be on de-cluttering and home organization rather than removing many little fingerprints from the wallsToday the dining room table de-cluttered, tomorrow the world!

How do you keep your “hot spots” from becoming out of control and encroaching into the rest of your house?

Decluttering life

Part of trying to maintain a clutter-free semi-organized home for the five of us is keeping my “hot spots” cleared. A “hot spot” is that area where things accumulate that you just do not have time to put away in the moment. Ours is the dining room table. We only utilize the dining room when having a formal family event or dinner party. In vain I have tried to convince Mr. L the uselessness of this room. The room has so much potential but is generally cluttered that I try to clear off at least once a month (or two). Usually corresponding with an event at our house.

In the spirit of home organization month, I am trying to remember to put things away promptly instead of letting the large oval wooden table become a haven of found Christmas decorations or birthday presents to be wrapped. As such, I have spent the last two days driving to Elizabeth’s friends homes to drop off the lingering birthday reminder, beautiful canvas paintings, Jackson Pollock inspired, that her guests painted during her splatter paint party. Today was a successful day with four of the eight paintings delivered to their rightful owners!

Taking a break from a writing deadline on another project and casually checking in online, I noticed a blog written in the same spirit of the de-cluttering I am trying to undertake this month. mommacan is a website dedicated to home management for busy moms. My kind of site! The particular article was on the 100-club. Picking up 100 items a day until you feel clutter-free. Being all in and having the kids home on March Break next week, one of those days will be a perfect day to challenge myself and my family to pick up and put away, give-away or throw-away 100 items!

The last couple of days I have also made some initial calls for our handyman to come and finish some home decorating (end of March) and book consultations for our much-needed black-out bedroom window coverings. Waking up at six am on the weekends needs to be stopped and this Mom of three is determined to find a solution to the early morning sunshine penetrating our bedrooms!

Slow and steady progress towards my organization goals for this month, but progress all the same!

Following the trends – March!

Moving into the first week of March and unfortunately the cold winter weather is lingering. This Mom of three is ready to ditch the soggy mittens and boots and am itching to break out the running shoes and lighter jackets. Thankfully, my bunch do not seem to mind playing in slowly melting snow and ice even through my attempts to dissuade them.

As father winter keeps us in his clutches a bit longer my attention turns towards my goals for this month. Home projects and organization! My mind must be attuned to the media as everywhere I look flashes of stark white titles screaming, “How to De-clutter your home!” or “Organize your entire life!” Picking up the random magazine to spur myself into action a plan slowly forms and I decide to focus on three main goals this month.

The magazine currently reading!

The magazine currently reading!

1)   Finish decorating girls bedroom and living room.

2)   Purge old toys from the downstairs rec room.

3)   Find a proper office space in the house.

In addition to these three main projects I want to dedicate this month to not just reorganizing the home but taking the time to appreciate the elements of my home. The organized and disorganized, the piles of books in my room, the little figurines gathered on the girls’ dresser and piles of clothes to be donated.

We have lived in our current house for just over two years. Making the necessary move just before Jacob was born it has all the elements a family of five, plus dog, can need. One of the criteria when we purchased a home was that it had to be move-in condition. Meaning no painting, no big projects and decor we could live with. Slowly we have started to put our own stamp on the house but with three little ones underfoot things have been done addressing the must-haves versus the want-to-haves.

Finally having my first six months with a little more time since both girls are now at school and Jacob is in nursery school a few hours a week, I have been able to start thinking about next steps. A place we all love for years to come and that will grow with our family.  I am a firm believer in a home as a sanctuary. Part of my personality loves puttering around the house doing random domestic chores, baking cookies or simply sitting at the kitchen table with coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other casually looking into our backyard at the red squirrels practicing their gymnastics on our fence. I am never bored at home.

Is it not time I made a real effort to change our space into a space we love?