Monthly Archives: June 2012

Party Prep and Celebrations Abound

So we’re home and life is picking right up where it left off. However, I’m continually surprised because I keep thinking it’s Monday. I’m making this post a double linky (if such a term exists.) Right before Fulton’s hospital stay, we hosted our annual Nativity of St. John the Baptist party. Some people open their homes for the Superbowl, others for a Fourth of July cookout, but for us, it’s all about tracking down the most popular medieval feast days and recreating them. Which just usually means lots of beer, a priest on hand and a huge blazing bonfire. I didn’t take as many pictures as usual but the few I did take bear mentioning.

{pretty}

I’m linking up this post with Amongst Lovely Things and their Making It Count Tuesday because my party centerpiece was based on this Pinterest inspired watermelon. She is a thing of beauty. Cue John Williams music…

 

And my interpretation.

 

I promised the kids I would make them a Death Star watermelon, and despite being sick on the day of the party and with guests already arriving, I set to work on this thing. I went with the partially reconstructed Death Star look in order to scoop out the fruit from inside. The chickens managed to hollow out the remains the following day.

{happy}

Yay, Fulton came home from the hospital in time to celebrate his fourth birthday! No more photos with a tube in his nose. Let the crazy family posing begin. And the icing on the cake is that Fulton’s namesake, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was declared Venerable  today. Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us!

{funny}

There’s a tree in our yard that has blocked the view of the bonfire pit from the back of the house since we moved in. This tree has tasked my husband for years. He’s had numerous opportunities to cut it down but he waited until the day before our party to do so. And he did it with an axe. And he demanded I take a picture. I’m not exaggerating. He refused to move the fallen tree until I documented his manliness. So now, I present you with my husband, slayer of trees and hacker of branches. Sorry Playgirl, he’s not interested in a centerfold.

 

{real}

“C’mon Fulton, let’s take a picture of you and mama on your birthday!”  *Click*

I’m pretty sure he’s thinking about all the cute young nurses that were waiting on him hand and foot over the last three days at the hospital. Poor mama just can’t compete.

With the surgery out-of-the-way, and July around the corner I’m finally really excited about summer. If you’re staying inside and trying to stay cool, be sure to check out the rest of the {p,h,f,r} submissions at Like Mother, Like Daughter and also all the great completed projects at Amongst Lovely Things.

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Filed under Food, Humor, Photography, Pretty Happy Funny Real, SMA

Reflections on Childhood Innocence from the Hospital

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Mark 10:15

I hate to admit it, but I’m enjoying my time in the hospital with Fulton. His feeding tube surgery went off without a hitch, and he’s recovering nicely with no complaints of pain or need for breathing support. Fulton is content to play on his iPad, watch TV and play with whatever cars and trucks the Child Life Specialist can find for him.  The hospital has free wi-fi and great cafeteria food so I’m surfing the internet without feeling guilty, eating all the sushi I can handle and finally finishing up ‘Crime and Punishment.’

I almost feel foolish for doubting that things could have turned out any differently. But I suppose that is the lot of mothers, to worry and make mountains.  It is during these times that I do better to look toward my older children and take my cues from them.

I’d often heard the expression that God wants us to have the innocence of children and a simple trusting faith. But for the life of me, I could never figure out what that meant. Was I to sing praise songs, clap and eat Cheerios during Mass? It seemed to me that the ideal faith was a “mature” endeavor, led by long hours of prayer and meditation, self-mortification capped by the study and memorization of Church Doctrine and so forth. Nothing childish there.

It was not until I experienced tragedy in my life, and watched as my prayers seemed to go unanswered and my ability to offer up my sufferings was sapped by self-pity. All my adult insight went into dissecting my problems, keeping my mind too busy to think of God and I complained bitterly to anyone and everyone while silently scoffing at those who tried to offer hope for a better outcome than what I “knew” to be the truth.

But my children were also going through our family’s trials too and when I finally slowed down enough to watch them, I learned that while their minds can be consumed with selfishness (Why is mama too busy to play with me? Why does Fulton get all the attention?) they more often than not exhibited an unfailing hope and joy, despite any announcement from my husband or I. While we suffered greatly at the discovery of my pregnancy with Teddy, they rejoiced a  new baby. As my body gave out during the final months gestation requiring Teddy’s arrival 6 weeks early and long NICU stay, they never stopped believing in my full recovery or Teddy’s. Even when we had to tell them through red eyes that Teddy would be like Fulton and never walk they rejoiced in the thought at two wheelchairs crashing through the house and all the fun the two younger ones would have together. In their eyes, there was nothing wrong with Fulton and our announcement didn’t signify that there was anything wrong with Teddy. My husband and I prayed for so many miracles, touched our sons to so many relics, oils and blessed water. We lamented when our cries seemingly went unheard but our children didn’t question God’s plan for our family.

Yes, maybe it’s naivety and innocence that is protecting them. As they mature, perhaps they will come to understand our heartache, the worries that keep us up at night and the hardness of our hearts that is long in softening. They will eventually wake up to the harsh realty of life.

Why does God ask us to imitate the faith of children? Now that I am an adult I see how hard it is to maintain that trust and hope in God’s divine providence. I would rather sit with my dusty prayer-book alone and read than have to joyfully accept my cross without question. It is harder for me to assume the best outcome, to keep hope that miracles (medical or divine) do happen, it is harder for me with all my “valuable life experience” to blindly accept that God always knows what’s best. And yet, that is my children. That is most children. Untainted by cynicism, unburdened by despair, my children want to see the silver lining and can find it in the most troubling of circumstances. They refuse to give up hope and will hold onto it long after I believe all is lost and that I have been forsaken.

I have been learning to look to my children for the example of how I should be. While my example is supposed to lay the groundwork for their future spiritual well-being, their example is leading me back to a simpler faith I thought I needed to move past.   They believe without question, without reserve, without hesitation.

“Our Lord’s love makes itself seen quite as much in the simplest of souls as in the most highly gifted, as long as there is no resistance offered to his grace.” Story of a Soul, St. Theresa of Lisieux

I’m trying to break down my resistance to His grace; the barriers of anger, despair and pride that I’ve allowed myself to construct. My children are my motivation to do better and my blueprint to follow.

Fulton will come out of the hospital in short order with a new tube and life will resume as normal, but hopefully with an attitude adjustment on my part. Thanks to everyone who’s been praying for Fulton and our family. I should know better than to doubt God’s ability to answer prayers when I see how He brings our family through everything.

Last night as Tony was saying prayers with Fulton bedside,  my husband asked Fulton if they should say a prayer for the baby sharing Fulton’s room. Fulton agreed, and after saying an extra Hail Mary, he asked if the baby was feeling better. As if on cue, the baby gave a little cry to which Fulton exclaimed, “We’d better say another one.”  From the mouth of babes indeed.

 

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Sweaty Summer Hand-Wringing Broken Into Seven Quick Takes

I don’t even know if these really qualify as seven quick takes since they’re all related. Can Jen disqualify people for not keeping things distinct and succinct?  If she asks, let’s all pretend I’m following protocol mmmmmkay? Because it’s really too hot here for me to work any harder than I have.

1. While most kids have left behind thoughts of books and homework, homeschooling moms are now sweating out thoughts of planning next years lesson plans. Glossy catalogues are arriving, two-day homeschooling conferences are in full swing. You ask your child to divide his brother’s sandwich into quarters and he gives you a glassy-eyed stare, they’re already forgetting everything you’ve taught them, and it’s only June! Maybe it was last years curriculum, maybe you need to switch it all up. Before you know it, you’re sitting pool, lake or beachside with an iced coffee, no less than three curriculum catalogues, two legal pads and a husband so desperate for your undivided attention he’s taking off his t-shirt and exposing his bright white chest to the world.

2. In what I considered to be a stroke of genius, I made the decision from the get go to school year round; three months on, one month off. The children would never suffer from the summer brain drain, I’d get December off for Christmas prep and a whole month for spring break in April. Why isn’t everyone on board with this?

3. Because when it’s hot as the Mohave, no one wants to do school. I go to pick my arm up from the lesson plans and they’re sticking. I can only motivate the kids to do their work in a timely manner by bribing them with Fudgesicles. Now there’s brown finger prints everywhere. Ignore every indication they’re not just from the Fudgesicles by eating more Fudgesicles.

4. An old house with central air is as cool and inviting as having a fat man sit on your lap and fan you with the folds of meaty flesh on his arm. Or maybe it just feels that way to me since I’m always got a child or four clinging to my sweaty body.

5. It takes a long time to fill a pool with water when your husband demands giving the well pump a break after an hour. Yes, I know it’s old and could give out at any minute but I don’t think I can keep the kids from jumping in our 3/8 filled pool and breaking their legs for much longer.

6. I’m trying to use up food from our freezer and pass it off to the kids undefrosted as a cool dinner alternative.

7. So while I’m trying to wrap up this school year and not dehydrate, I’m freaking out about next year’s school work as are many of my friends. We’re as helpful to one another a flock of cackling hens before the slaughter. “What are you using for spelling? Aaackkk, spelling, who said spelling?? I forgot about spelling? Aaackkk! I was all concerned about grammar! Aaaacckkk! Grammar, who said grammar! Aaaccckkk! I forgot about grammar! And what about transcripts?? Aaacck!”  waddle, waddle, waddle

At the local homeschool conference, moms are bombarded with a dizzying array of curriculum choices. Most are lucky to emerge at day’s end without their heads exploding.

So if you’re off to a conference this weekend, keep your wits about you! Keep calm and enjoy the central air and whatever you do, don’t buy the first glossy book you see. Or you could avoid planning a bit longer by heading over to Conversion Diary for more Seven Quick Takes.

 

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{p,h,f,r} Photos that Encourage Checking a Loved One for Ticks

There’s flies in the kitchen, vegetables rotting in the garden and muddy handprints in/on/around the bathroom sink; summer’s here! It’s the time of year I can no longer hide my hairy legs under knee-highs or an ankle length skirt.

The whole family has been living outside the past week or so, sleeping under the stars, eating on the deck, manhandling the new chickens; all sorts of good wholesome country living. Fulton’s been in his glory, sitting in our front yard watching the dump trucks and backhoes at a local construction site work for hours. And the truck drivers never tire of waving or honking as they drive by, which seems to always coincide with Teddy’s nap time.  I single-handedly set up our swimming pool while Tony focused on kitchen projects. Unfortunately, the pool’s instructions showed the pool being assembled by two smiling women in bikinis in “approximately 45-60 minutes” and as my bikini is not coming out of retirement and no sexy friends showed up to help, I trudged along for about two and a half hours over two days to get the thing together. When the kids weren’t asking me “Canwegoswimmingyet?Canwegoswimmingyet?Canwegoswimmingyet?” the older three constructed a tent on my laundry line, which they promptly decided to sleep in, until 5:45 a.m. the next morning when the sun came up. We also spent a day at the beach where Teddy basically ate sand for two hours; but boy was he content and quiet for that whole time. Even when he threw sand right in his own eyes he laughed.

I love seeing the kids enjoy the great weather so much. My favorite childhood memories are of running around my backyard with my sister, neighbors and cousins. Sure we’ve had lots of cuts, bruises, ticks, bug bites and the like to deal with and the stains in the laundry, good grief!, but I can’t imagine watching my kids waste away in clean clothes in front of a video console for hours in a perfectly chilled 68 degree house. This week, I tried to capture some of these fleeting summer moments, although you’ll just have to imagine Teddy covered in sand, Edie with ticks in her and her doll’s hair and me and my hairy knees cursing my way through pool construction.

{pretty}

 

{happy}

We got some barred rock chicks and they are just so beautiful. If salt and pepper hair would look as good as these bird’s feathers, women wouldn’t feel the need to dye their tresses. They’re also a bit friendlier than our Rhode Island Reds. And by a bit friendlier I mean they don’t peck us mercilessly or refuse to be held.

 

{funny}

So here’s some of my nice clean sheets in use as a tent, helping the kids “make memories” and what not. I had to laugh when Byron said, “And you know the best part?! The tent is handicap accessible!” Yes, around here, even when we’re having fun, we’re ADA compliant.

 

{real}

And here they are, all hunkered down for the night. A real camp out if ever I saw one. It was actually chilly which is why they’re dressed for a Siberian summer. We did allow them a lantern and we left the back porch light on, fully expecting them to pack it in by 10, but only Addie came in to warn us about barking dogs and a banging noise before passing out by 11.

If you’re not too busy creating summer memories of your own, be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r} photos.

 

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Filed under Photography, Pretty Happy Funny Real

Homeschool Mom Crush

As a young homeschooling mom, I have many older friends who’ve been in the trenches longer than I whom I look up to and admire. They’ve homeschooled tons of kids, gotten their children accepted into colleges or prepared for religious life, all the while maintaining a full head of hair and some semblance of sanity.

I’ll admit it, I’ve developed some crushes. I get all a-twitter and my tongue gets tied when I see one of them. “Oh, oh….should I just ask her what math program she uses or wait to see if she brings the subject up. What if she hates, Abeka? I love Abeka! Should I point out the fresh stain on her shoulder? No, no! Don’t stare at it! Aaaaaa!!!

I always want to sound like I’ve got my act together and my house is in order, but somehow all I manage to say is something like,  ”The baby thinks the Hillside Press books taste the best.”

D’oh!

But thankfully, these Sibyls don’t mind my questions or puppy dog eyes as they tell me the best science courses for middle schoolers, or their full-proof method for occupying a toddler all morning. And if we start talking about special needs education and alternative teaching methods, oh, be still my heart !”It’s time for Mass? But I could listen to you expound the benefits of fish oil for hours!”

In my mind, I imagine my kids becoming best friends with my crush’s younger children. Maybe one day, my son with marry her youngest daughter and we’ll be related, sort of.  I can try to have her whole family over for dinner some night when she’s not busy on the homeschool prom committee, or yearbook committee or running the local co-op, selling products through home parties or shuttling her 13 kids amongst private music lessons, ballet practice or township sports in a spotless 15 passenger van.

Sigh, she makes it all look so easy, and glamorous. I mean, why don’t I look that attractive in a bleach stained nursing top and denim skirt? Why does my hair always have to be washed to have that much body and shine? And she says she only drinks tea in the morning with no sugar. If I didn’t love her so much, I’d hate her. (But she did admit to using full fat cream cheese on her bagel so she’s got that untamed, wild side too.)

 

Sometimes I try too hard.

 

Plus now, the internet has exposed me to a whole new group of women who homeschool and blog about it. Most of these woman are so above me with their 10,000 followers and professional headshots, I know I’d never have a chance to be a part of their inner circle of friends and confidants. It’s like the nerdy freshman trying to buddy up to the homecoming queen. Even amongst the smaller blogs, I feel like I’m trying to make my way into an exclusive club. Should I comment on every post? What if I have nothing funny or intelligent to say? Can I link to a post of hers in every one of my posts? Maybe just once a month? And Oh Goody! she just commented on my blog! Crap; do I respond right now or wait until later. Do I want her to think I’m online all the time? What kind of homeschooling mom would that make me? Do I profess my love for her blog now or wait until I’ve answered her question about truck balls?

I panic every time a younger mom starts coming to me with lots of questions on a regular basis because I fear being on the receiving end of a homeschool mom crush. It would only end badly. “Well, I can’t do a playdate for my preschoolers on Thursday because my older kids have drama. Friday? Well, I don’t know. Can I just call you? It’s not because of the books is it? You can just keep the books you borrowed. I don’t need them back, honest. A girls night out? I’m sorry I need to go the baby is crying!”

I don’t have the answers; my oldest is 9! I can’t provide the stable relationship you’re looking for. I change curriculum more often than my kids change their underpants. It’s not you, it’s me!

I feel like I’m 13 all over again. I try to gauge how attractive I am to other homeschooling moms by asking my close friends loaded questions. “Do you think my homeschooling philosophy sounds well-developed? My kids always look clean to you right?   Be honest, does this denim jumper make me look like I’ve had more than two kids? What if I wear it with ballet flats instead of sneakers? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being Michelle Duggar…okay forget it.”

So far, I don’t know if any of my crushes know I exist, except as just “friends.” Maybe some day they’ll admire my style and skills the way I worship their’s.  Maybe, they’ll share a link to my blog, tweet my latest post and tell all their friends to like me on Facebook. Until then, I’ll continue to favorite their posts in my Google Reader feed and corner them with my frivolous questions after Mass on Sunday, giggling all the while. “You tell me your favorite school supply store! No you go first! No you! Tee-hee hee! And that mantilla really brings out your eyes. No I mean it! Really!”

 

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Take Seven Quick Takes And Call Me In The Morning

If you’re wondering on my recent lack of posting, here’s this week’s Seven Quick Takes quickly produced under duress to bring you up to speed on my lost days spent hiding under the covers, pail by the ready.

1. Friday I was diagnosed with a salivary gland infection or stone.  And because my father-in-law once had stones in his salivary gland, and it had to be removed and something went wrong and he almost died or something, I kept thinking, “If I die, I’ll never see my new kitchen completed!”

2. Saturday brought the joy of  a German festival in my hometown of Lancaster, PA with all the beer, brats and saurkraut you can handle. We came, we consumed, we polka’d and we looked like complete amateurs next to the 80-year-old couple in a dirndl and lederhosen who nearly plowed us down on the dance floor with no mercy.

3. Sunday I got the sneaking suspicion I was succumbing to a slow death by salivary gland infection, before throwing up and having Addie come in our room and throw up. Either Addie’s salivary gland was having sympathy pains or we were dealing with something else.

4. Monday was me laying in bed or on the sofa wanting to die, but not wanting to die because I want to see my finished kitchen.

5. Tuesday I tried to lay around less and that was bad. I told Tony to go back to work, that I would be okay, and I was wrong.

6. Wednesday I really needed to start trying to tackle the rubble left in the wake of my illness.  Apparently, when I’m sick no one knows what to do except let the work back log for me to do when I’m feeling better. I went to the grocery store that night and  I found myself in the pasta aisle thinking, if I threw up right now, would they let me finish shopping, cause, I really need to get food.

7. Thursday I felt mostly normal but becoming quickly overwhelmed with all the school and housework that had accumulated. I became Godzilla in my effort to destroy the Mothra of clutter and made things much, much worse. I was shrieking and waving my arms and the kids were all running from me in terror. Not one of my finer moments.

A salivary gland infection will give you green mouth glow. And yes, my thighs are that big.

 

Today, I’m not leveling coastal towns quite so much and the radioactive breath has died down considerably. I might even get something done. If your week was great or otherwise, take two, call me in the morning and head on over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

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Seven Quick Takes of Absurd Random Proportions

How long ago was it that Jen mentioned people who always have themes for the SQT? Last week? Two weeks ago? Yes, that’s usually me. Trying to be organized, with all my loose ends tied up, at least here on the interweb. However this week I’ve been unable to maintain a train of though for longer than 4 minutes. And so I present my first random Seven Quick Takes! Yay insanity and disorder!

1. Unbeknownst to us, we hired a 76-year-old man (!) to finish all the drywall work related to our kitchen renovation project. We were ecstatic when he finished in one day more work than my father-in-law, husband and former contractor could complete in a couple of weeks. He’s originally from Austria, played professional soccer in Europe for 11 years, worked out at the same gym as Arnold Schwarzenegger and credited his vigor to  drinking a glass of wine, plus a scotch on the rocks daily and hard work. This man is the stuff legends are made of; a veritable Paul Bunyan of drywalling. I almost fell prostrate at his feet when he was done.

2. My youngest, whose vocabulary consists of go, uh-oh, Nona and Mama (but only when necessary) and other various Wookie noises, will say Sponge Bob. “Do you want a drink?’ Nods head. “Nap time!” Shakes head no. “Can I read you this book?” Grunt. “Who’s this yellow guy?” Spa Ba!!! Good to know he’s got his priorities straight.

3. I survived a weekend home alone with only three kids. It was one part quiet, one part terror and a whole lot of  ”I feel like I got the short end of the stick.” My husband was insulted that I wrote in the event of a zombie apocalypse, he and the kids would be goners. As if playing Doom 3 on a nightly basis makes him a police sniper or something. After watching him play last night for a bit, I stand by my original assessment. We’re all zombie fodder unless we take up running and outfit Fulton’s powerchair with assorted weaponry.

4. My youngest daughter almost died from boredom during the same weekend, if I didn’t kill her first for saying “I’m bored” every two minutes. Thankfully once the older two got home it was business as usual.

 

5. I tried to take a self-portrait for the blog. FAIL. Better luck next time. And by next time I mean I’ll pay my oldest a dollar to draw my picture “really good” and we’ll leave it at that.

Clichéd bathroom reflection shot. If you dye my hair purple, and coat my eyes in black makeup it's a duplicate of a shot I took at 17.

 

Not too bad if you ignore the fact that I'm completely out of focus except for my knee. And my shirt is stained. And my glass is almost empty.

 

Having drank my wine I resorted to an artistic Photo Booth shot of me, Han Solo and Chewie. I'm kinda like Leia...if you squint and use your imagination.

 

6. Because I’m having a hard time coping with the chaos that is my house during construction, I’ve decided to create a new chore system and method of punishments and rewards for the kids. Oh, and why not dust off my eight week schedule of menus too and revise them? Re-organizational therapy! Once we’ve reached utopia, I’ll let you know. Pinterest is making me feel really, really inadequate about everything but I can’t. stay. away. Oh, and I’m unstylish. Pinterest has taught me that too. Hooray for awakening adolescent self-esteem issues!

7. I made three jars of refrigerator jam out of our strawberries. We have a large patch out front that no likes picking from accept my kid’s friends. This was my first attempt at jam of any sort and I failed, but only partially. Seems I actually made a really good batch of strawberry syrup which goes great on pancakes. So, in the end, the kids think I’m awesome. Take that Pinterest!

All aboard! Next stop on the crazy train, the rest of the SQT submissions at Conversion Diary.

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A Messy House vs the Chore Chart: Finding the Lesser of Two Evils

HOUSEHOLD CHORES!!

You just cringed didn’t you? Admit it, chores hang over your head like the sword of Damocles. The multiplying piles of laundry on the dining room table. Your fireplace mantle covered with children’s crafts, dust and baking soda from the science experiment that got completely out of hand. The casserole pan that’s been soaking so long in your sink, your youngest thinks it’s part of the sink.

Household chores are never done. All one can do is find ways to manage them so that, at any given time, not everything is a mess all at once. Everyone has a system for their house, or they just live in a pig sty. Not having a system is a recipe for disaster, or so I’m led to believe. If you like to visit/waste time on Pinterest, you’ll see tons and tons systems moms have created to organize their home and keep them that way. Search chore charts and you’ll be bombarded with hundreds of images of charts; magnets, wipe-off, pocket, printable, sticker, on-line, picture only, etc. Who’s job is it to take the time to download / purchase/ assemble this thing? Can “managing the chore chart” go to the oldest child or is that one more task for mama? If I can’t reliably empty the diaper pail, it’s not likely I’m going to be able to stick with a chore chart.

“Mama is this magnet for ‘emptying the trashcans’ on my column or Byron’s column?”

“I don’t know, which ever it’s closest to.”

“It’s on a line.”

“Nu-uh, it was on your column and you moved it!”

“Okay, let me see. Who did this chore last week?”

“Me!” they answer in unison.

And about ten minutes into this conversation is when I throw the new chore chart into the overflowing trashcan and take it outside myself.

Chores are fun! And so is busting out the power tools and Modge Podge! I can't wait to blow a whole weekend making this chore system!

 

My husband and I believe that children need to do chores. Everyone contributes to the household running smoothly, and they do it because it’s what you do as a family member, not because you get paid or because it’s a punishment for wrong doing. I do the laundry because I like to see my kids in clean clothes on a semi-regular basis, not because the hubby slips a fiver in my wallet each week or because I got too sassy with the piano teacher. My husband washes dishes in the evening because he understands that the dishes represent the good home-cooked meal I took the time to prepare (during the witching hour, surrounded by five noisy children.) I provide no financial (or other- wink, wink ) incentive for him to do this. When my kids get in fights, or break the rules, I hesitate to have them do extra chores because I don’t want them to equate housework to punishment (no matter what I may think of it sometimes.) Kids, and all people, respond to incentives, but I want to dangle the correct carrot in front of my kids to get the jobs done.

Chores are meaningful ways that our kids can contribute to our family, obtain  a sense of accomplishment, learn responsiblity and self sufficiency, plus, come to  understand what it takes to manage a home (with a large family.)  If my kids never did chores, or completed them only as punishment I think their future spouses would kill me.

“I know the sink is full of dishes honey, but what’s in it for me??? You know Macy’s is having a sale, hint, hint.”

So, if I’ve admitted my kids need to do chores for all the above reasons, why don’t the fancy charts and planners work for me? And I know other families that work great with financial and disciplinary incentives.  Why don’t I just try their methods despite my reluctance? Because amazingly, we are eking by with no system. Or at least, things aren’t falling apart by me just asking the kids at random to do chores and having them complete each task immediately. (I also have a mother-in-law who loves doing housework. Seriously. The upside is, she helps with my dishes and laundry when she’s here. The downside is, my husband gets used to having his underwear neatly folded in his drawer. )

However, I’d like to do better than just getting by. I’d like the day before a party to not be a mad dash of playing catch up. As it is, the kids love when we entertain, but they know I’m pretty much a tyrant for the 24 hours leading up to the guests arrival and therefore avoid me at all costs, which isn’t helpful when stuff needs done.

“KIDS! KIDS! Someone needs to get all these books off the sofa and watch Teddy while I vacuum and Tony, polish the silver!!!”

“But honey, we don’t have any silver. Besides, it’s a picnic. I thought we were eating on paper plates with plastic forks and knives.”

“WHAT?!? Don’t question me! I want to see my reflection on every surface in this house !!!”

“Kids, who wants to come with Papa to pick up some ice?”

Then when people arrive, I’m exhausted. I think it’s why hosting on Memorial Day wiped me out for a week. The time has come for a better system, especially since my Mother-in-law is away for three weeks. Although, maybe I’m just über distraught by the state of the house since kitchen construction has made everything a mess. And when my life is disorganized in a way I can’t control, all I can think to do is bring order to some aspect of my life seemingly within my control. Therefore, if the front of my house must remain a disaster until the new kitchen is completed, then something- chores, our school day, my nightstand, something must be reworked so my life feels less chaotic. Perhaps that’s the underlying issue, parts of my life are in turmoil so rather than just prayerfully deal with those issues, I’ll just create a whole new problem to conquer so that I can feel good about accomplishing something. At least I’m honest with myself.

Part of me would love to throw out half of what we have so I no longer need to care for it, but I learned a long time ago that having lots of kids, and homeschooling them, tends to equal lots of stuff one can’t discard. Even with twice yearly purges of toys, clothes, books and the like, we’re left with tons of “essentials” that we need to find room for. And if I need to keep all this stuff for these kids, I’d better find a way for them to help take care of it all, cause if one more Barbie shoe or Lego brick winds up in the baby’s mouth, I can’t be held responsable for what comes out of mine.

I’m going to revisit the FlyLady and my Martha Stewart Housekeeping Handbook (which is gathering dust) and work on creating a schedule of chores; what must get done daily, weekly, monthly and seasonally. Then, I’ll figure out a way to distribute the jobs fairly without having to whip out the laminator, the RotoZip or create three dozen magnetic labels.  I’m curious to hear what everyone else does to bring order to their home. And how easy is it to get back on track once you have a lapse in the system for a time. (If you tell me you have a perfect system and you never lapse, I will block you from commenting in the future. Unless you’re Martha Stewart. Then, I love you.) Share your stories! The fate of my household depends upon it!

 

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Silent Night or the Horror of Being Home Alone

I’m alone in the house overnight with only two kids, three and under. This hasn’t happened since, 2004 or something. My oldest two are off camping in Upstate New York with their father,  and #3 is spending the night with her grandparents. The youngest two went to bed by 8:30 and now the house is blissfully quiet.

How to celebrate?? I could watch a movie, read a book, eat the kid’s candy; the possibilities are endless. But ultimately, what I’ll wind up doing is tossing in turning in bed half the night worrying and fretting about all sorts of horrific calamities.

I can’t help it. I’ve always had an overactive imagination. It’s great for impromptu story times, not so great after watching say, “The Ring.” I was in my mid-twenties when I saw that movie and seven days after I saw it, I was terrified every time I woke up at night and had to walk past the TV to get to the bathroom to pee. It got to where I formed a strategy in my head so that if/when the girl appeared I would close my eyes, jump on her head and beat her with a children’s book (hardback of course) in order to protect my sleeping newborn and unsuspecting husband.  (You don’t even want to know what happened the time I watched “The Shining” the weekend I was home alone in high school.)

Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m not scared of fictional horror movie characters when I’m at home alone…usually. I’m dwelling on more serious matters, like the possibility of a horrible car accident on the way home from the camping trip that leaves me a widow and without two children. That was the scenario that kept playing over and over in my head last night (mixed in with a fear of this being the weekend someone decides to break into our house and steal our priceless heirlooms…of which there are none.) Becoming a widow is my number one fear. Every time my husband is late from work, away at late night adoration, out with the guys-anything, I’m convinced he’s been cut down in the prime of his life and I’ve been left alone. Laying alone in the dark, blanket pulled up to my ears, I started making a mental list of my job skills, experience and whether or not I would keep the house or sell.  When I started thinking about seeking out a potential sugar daddy, I knew it was time to start saying my prayers and really try to go to sleep.

And zombies. Every shadow on the wall looked like a zombie staggering down the hall. And I had to think, do I just yell to wake up Edie, or do I go and get her, or do I try to get to the shotgun first? What if there’s more downstairs? How quickly can I reload? What if the zombie apocalypse is upon us?  They’ve got limited cell phone service in Upstate New York; Tony and the kids are doomed!!!

Last but not least, I almost got out of bed and tested the smoke detectors. What if this is the night all that shoddy wiring goes kaput and catches these tinderbox walls on fire? Maybe I should put pajama pants on.

Needless to say, it was a fitful nights sleep. I awoke at dawn and was glad to see the sun streaming in on the bed and not a serial rapist hovering over me with a dagger, which is what I convinced myself would be there if I breathed too loudly and took the covers off my head too soon.

I’m hoping tonight goes better, though I’m pretty sure I can feel strangers watching me through the windows as I type. And damnit ever since The Crescat wrote about her fear of mirrors years ago, I’ve been unable to look in a mirror, or any reflective surface,  after dark. I’m pretty sure the Candy Man or Bloody Mary herself is in there waiting for me if I so much as take a casual glance.

I do miss my kids and especially my husband. Without him here, there’s no one to check on that weird sound downstairs (watch out for booby traps!) or hide behind when Jason Voorhees shows up. Thankfully he’s patient with me and only has amorous thoughts when I snuggle in close to avoid imminent death. Yes, our bed feels big and empty and downright dangerous without him here.

I’d better wrap it up so I can start locking and re-locking all the doors. What was that sound?! Oh wait, just my stomach. Good grief,  Sunday can’t come soon enough.  St. Giles, pray for me!

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