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Jul 28

Why “healthy” means something special to me

My cousin passed away when I was fourteen.  I’ve got a huge extended family, and I’m the second of twenty-something grandchildren.  My cousins, Becky and Bridgett, were closest in age to me, and we were together a lot.  So many of my childhood memories are wrapped up in time spent with the two of them.   They taught me to roller skate, and it was on their bike that I crashed into a tree (and never really rode again after that….).  We played Barbies and went swimming, stayed up too late and gossiped about our parents together.

Bridget was eleven when she got sick, and twelve when she died.  It wasn’t a long time, looking back.  I think it was in the fall that we found out she had cancer, and by April, she was gone.  It was more than twenty five years ago, and I can remember the song that was playing when I drove up to my uncle’s house, the weekend she died.  I still can’t listen to Fire and Rain by James Taylor without crying.

There was a lot that changed in my life, because of Bridgett.   And so much that didn’t.  Because my life went on.   I wasn’t sick.  But after that, I always knew that it could happen.   I never worried about getting sick myself, not really.  Which is odd, now that I think of it, because I’m a champion worrier.  Bridgett’s death changed the way I related to God, the way I thought of the universe and my place in it.  It changed my relationship to Becky, I became her sister.  It was too lonely otherwise.   My kids are her daughter’s first cousins, and I am her daughter’s aunt.  She is Auntie Becky to my kids – it would never occur to either of us to remember that she’s actually their second cousin.

When I count my blessings (as I do often, especially when I’m freaking out about the economy and school shopping and dance classes and ohmyGod we really need a new car…), I always start with “My kids are all healthy.”  I never forget that.  It’s such an incredible gift, to have these three children, so healthy.  We’ve never had any serious health scares with one of them.  Minor things, like stitches and broken bones (hello, Jessie).  But they’re healthy.  It’s not ever something that I can gloss over or ignore.  Health is such a fragile thing, in the end.  And a child can get terribly sick and die in the time it takes the snow to melt in New England.

So today, on a day when I’m especially stressed out and worried, it helps to remember that I really don’t have all that much to worry about at all.  I’ve got three happy healthy kids rolling around and screaming in the next room (they aren’t unhappy, it’s just Julie screaming with joy at Sam).  They’re all healthy.   And in the end, that’s what really matters.

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Jul 27

Why I’m not a Web Designer

There are many things I cannot do.  I cannot perform surgery, or diagnose a virus versus an actual infection.  I can’t drive an eighteen wheeler or sell someone insurance.   I can’t replace brake pads or build you lighting fixture.  And I absolutely, unequivocally cannot, under any circumstances, design a website.

I can write for a website.  I can think about what I’d like on it, and click away with wild and reckless abandon.  But I’ve managed to delete all of my side widgets, give you the option to “like” the facebook developers page, get rid of all of my side menus and reduced myself to tears twice this morning over trying to get this website to look nice.

I need a facebook plug-in, where you can click “like” and see updates from my facebook page.  I need a posting of my most popular posts, and a drop down menu where a reader can access my archives.  I had a really cool thing where you could see the location of my readers from all over the world, but that’s gone and I can’t figure out how to get it back.  There’s a really neat slider thing on one of the theme options, that pulls old blog posts from years back and displays them at the top – but I can’t figure out how to have that and not lose absolutely everything else on the page that I liked.   I cannot figure this out for the life of me.

I probably need to find someone to do this for me.  Anyone want to volunteer?

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Jul 26

Co-Sleeping Struggles – AKA Midnight Zombie Attack

This is a repost from last winter – but given that we had another rough night last night (although nowhere near as LOUD), this seemed like a good weekend post

Marc’s job entails a lot of late nights.  It’s got a lot of flexibility, in that he’s able to do pick up and drop off from school and various afterschool activities, and get to the gym occasionally.  It also means that most nights, he’s not here for bedtime.

I’m not great at bedtime.  On the list of parenting tasks, it’s probably got to count as a fail on my part.  I don’t put my kids to bed, kiss them goodnight and have them fall asleep on their own.  I snuggle them to sleep.  Jessie, not as much, she’s at the point where sometimes she’ll happily bop off to bed on her own, but mostly, she likes to fall asleep in my bed and then I haul her up and walk her into her own room.  They can, and do, sleep in their own beds, but they like to fall asleep all snuggled up and fun.  If I had just one, I could do it in their own beds and then go back to my own.   But, as I’ve got three, I just keep doing it this way and hope that the day doesn’t come when I’ve got a sixteen year old, a thirteen year old and a ten year old all in my bed.   Or maybe I do hope that day’ll come – I’m a little foggy this morning due to lack of sleep.

jessie zombie

So last night… it’s all flowing well.  We went out for dinner. By the time we got home, it was eight thirty, and Jessie still had homework.  So I explained long division to her.  Again.  Sam got himself ready for bed, and fell asleep in my bed.  Julie was next (she was up later because of an ill-timed nap earlier that afternoon).  Jessie finished up her homework and came in to snuggle next to me.  Sam fell asleep easily enough, he’s far and away my best sleeper.  Once he was officially out cold, I hauled him up and tossed him into his bed.   His queen bed, because I can’t throw him up into the loft bed.  Which is an important detail for later.  Julie ended up crawling into bed and falling asleep a little earlier than I had anticipated.  I fell asleep before Marc came home, with Jessie still in the bed next to me.

Marc apparently decided that he was too tired to be moving children hither and yon, and since Jessie was in my bed, and Sam was in the big bed in his room, his options were to climb up into the loft bed (which is an image that amuses me) or to just crash in Jessie’s room.  Which would have been FINE, except that Julianna woke up around two thirty.  She never wakes up for any length of time, she just fusses a minute, latches on for a bit, and then drifts back to sleep.  But it was enough to wake Miss Jess, who got up and toddled her little self into her own bed.

Which is when all hell broke loose.  Jessie had no idea her Daddy was in her bed, and just climbed in.  When she realized that there was SOMETHING in her bed, she started screaming like she was being attacked.  Which in turn freaked Marc out, who had been in a sound sleep, until he suddenly was actually being attacked by an extremely loud and freaked out nine year old.  So he also started screaming in terror.  Which was funny, now, in retrospect, but last night, I was just irritated.  Because I knew instantly what had happened and that it wasn’t going to end well.  Lo and behold, Jessie came tearing back into my bed, launched herself on top of me and Julie, still sobbing and screaming.  Which woke Julie, who had been mostly still dozing, so she was wide awake.  Three minutes later, barely enough time to shove Jessie over to the side and get her to mostly stop crying, in wandered my boy.  “Why is everyone screaming??”  I just shushed him and told him to snuggle back up.  “Everyone back to sleep, shhhhh”  I kept repeating, until, eventually, everyone did.  Except for me.   Because when everyone’s in bed with me, I can’t sleep.  I’m trapped, unable to roll over or move or adjust a pillow without waking someone.

So tonight, even if it kills me, I’m staying awake long enough to shove everyone into their own beds.

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Jul 22

Summer Half Way Point

We’re having a relatively quiet week here.  It’s been really hot, and we’ve been swimming almost every day down at the pool.  Public pools still seem foreign to me – but Worcester has a lovely one and it’s just down the hill.  It’s big and clean and the kids love it.   I love it.  Because it’s super easy to watch three kids of varying degrees of proficiency, I just plop myself down in the shallow end and they bop around me.  Jessie and Sam are both getting more confident, Sam is swimming underwater and working on his dead man’s float, and Jessie is working on the backstroke.

We’ve also recently discovered the pool at our local JCC.  We have a membership because Julianna goes to preschool there, but other than Marc using the boxing room, none of us have really taken advantage of the facilities.  But we’ve been up there two or three time in the past week or so, and it’s fabulous.   Julie is tall enough to go in the shallow end of the pool, and it’s not as crowded as the public pool down the street.  Everyone is tan and swimming – exactly what you’d want a summer to be like.

Sam and Jessie both have put some time in outside at our lemonade stand.  They’ve got a poster, a little table and an umbrella and I make them take a book out there and combine summer reading with earning ice cream truck money.  Of course, the ice cream truck has stopped coming up the street, but I keep telling them that it could come at any moment.  Sam, in particular, has been enormously successful out there (I’m pretty sure it’s because he hollers as passing cars, and makes his little sister dance around holding the sign), but made enough to take everyone out for ice cream the other day (because seriously, that ice cream truck isn’t coming up here anymore…)

We’ve done a couple of day trips, here and there, and mostly just spent a lot of time together.  I keep thinking that this time is so short – how many more summers will I have when all three are home?  A summer where Marc has so much flexibility in his schedule, and where Jessie isn’t working at a summer job (she’s already doing mother’s helper stuff once a week), I think that Sam will probably go to camp next year, and Julie will be gearing up for kindergarten next fall.   Summers will look really different in the future, and I’m trying to enjoy every minute of this one.

(They’ve grown so much since this picture two years ago – I’m already wistful, imagining how much bigger they’ll be two years from now….)

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Jul 19

Three children, three very different nights

One of the perks to having the kids that I do, to having the kid spacing that I do, is that they’re all at very different life stages.   It’s been like that from the beginning, Jessie was three and a half when Sam was born, and Samilicious Boy was three months away from his fourth birthday when he became a big brother.

Today, we spent the day out and about.  It wasn’t a great day, honestly.  I started out with a trip to the mall, which is never a fun way to start out the day.   I have a craptastic sense of direction and got mildly lost finding the Auburn Mall (a mall that’s actually just a few miles away from me, but I don’t go there often enough to remember exactly where it is and always get just a little lost when I try to find it).  After forty five minutes of shopping (first I went to the wrong Macy’s – because of course, there are two in this mall) and then not being able to find the registry thing, and then not being able to find ANYTHING on the registry for Marc’s cousin’s shower gift), I finally staggered out with a gift.  Made it home in time to shove a little lunch into the kids and pack everyone up for a trip to Purgatory Chasm.

Purgatory is a state park (reservation?) not far from here.  And it’s Sam’s favorite destination.  We were half-heartedly celebrating his 8th birthday for the third time (it’s a long story), and were going to have birthday cake, play on the playground and potentially climb the chasm.  Julianna was rocking a couple of pretty significant bug bites, and I ended up leaving the party early and rushing her into urgent care when we realized that they were actually starting to get hot.

Turns out the bug bites were fine (watch for infection, keep an eye on them, blah, blah, blah) and I ended up back at the house, with my cousin Becky and her daughter Abby-with-a-bow.  Marc dropped the other two off and went into work.  We made chicken for dinner, and the kids all ate with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  Abby collapsed into tears – you could tell it was close to bedtime) and after they left, I put the girls into the bathtub.  I don’t bathe the kids together as a rule.  Jessie is a shower girl, obviously and so not into amusing her sister in the tub, and Julie’s old enough so that it’s not really appropriate to shove Sam in there with her either.  But tonight, Jessie was feeling magnanimous and liking her sister and offered to take a bath with her so she wouldn’t be alone.  The bath lasted longer than I would have suspected but both girls ended up furious at the other one – and I had to wash Julie’s yard of hair (seriously – that kid has super long hair) and whisk her out of the tub before they killed each other.

Poor Jessie got out of the tub, and was just a hot mess.  She’s riddled with bug bites too, and was yawning and crying.  I hugged her and wrapped her in towels, got her jammies and combed out her hair.  Brought her into bed, and tucked her in with motrin and benedryl.  She was asleep within minutes.

Sam had come home from his party with two new lego boxes, and I’ve had little to no interaction with him since.  He ate, and got into jammies, brushed his teeth.  I helped him twice when he got stuck, but he’s been in his room, happily putting them together for the past three hours.  He’s still in there, quiet and happy, almost finished.

Julianna got out of the tub, I drew new circles around her bug bites (to make sure they don’t grow overnight again) and gave her benedryl too.  I put her in super cute jammies, got her a snack and read her three stories.   Then I tucked her into bed, and snuggled beside her until she drifted off.

Even though it wasn’t a great day, and the night ended with more tears than I would have liked, I love nights like this.  When I have time, for each kid.  When their needs all sort of dovetail the others’, and I’m able to focus on each one individually.  When Jessie was crying and sad, I was able to take care of her completely because Sam was lego-ing it up and Julie was chilling out watching something on PBSKids.  I was able to read to Julie without stopping because Jessie was sleeping already and Sam was still lost in lego-land.  And then when both girls were sound asleep, I was able to sit with my little boy while he explained what he’d done, and showed me how intricate and challenging the lego things were.

So maybe it wasn’t a crappy day.  Maybe it was kind of an awesome day – except for the mall part.  I really didn’t like the mall part.

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Jul 17

Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a Mom

This is a repost from a few years ago – but definitely still worth a read.

1.  Number one rule is to get the baby fed.  If that means supplementing with formula, it’s not the end of the world.  But breastfeeding is so much more than just feeding the baby, and you don’t want to miss out on it.  It really is worth all the struggles.

2.  You really never do regret the time you spend holding your child.  Even if you are told by everyone that you are spoiling your baby, at the end of the day, it’s your baby and you can spoil them if you want to.

3.  A broken arm doesn’t really look like a broken arm.  Sometimes it looks like a four year old who’s being too dramatic.

4.  Benedryl really does fix everything.  Runny noses, hives, coughing, crappy moods, etc.  It’ll even get rid of contractions.

5.  The worst pregnancy leads to the easiest delivery.

6.  Being a good parent is accepting the child you have and loving them, not blaming yourself and them for personality quirks that make everyone’s life more difficult.

7.  Sometimes, the best way to avoid a fight with your beloved husband is to pretend that he’s not home.

8.  When your child hurts, it hurts you ten thousand times worse.

9.  Letting your child know that it hurts you isn’t always a good idea, because if they know that you’re freaked out, it just makes it harder for them.

10.  Standing with all the other parents waiting to pick up your child from school feels an awful lot like standing on the playground when you’re a little kid yourself.

11.  Nobody really cares if you’re late or cancel plans last minute.  People understand you’ve got kids – and if they don’t, you should really rethink your social group.

12.  Nothing bad happens if you occasionally give your kids oreos for breakfast.  Not saying it’s a great idea for every day, but every now and again, it’s a nice break.

13.  Speaking of breaks – it’s totally okay to hand your nine month old food you know damn well she’s just dropping on the floor or shoving down into the high chair, if it buys you enough time to eat your own dinner while it’s still hot.  You can always clean up later.

14.  When your baby wraps her arms around your neck for the first time and squeezes, and follows it up with an open mouth sloppy kiss, you will literally be brought to tears at how incredibly blessed you are.

15.  Having a little boy is baffling (who are these super heros and why does he keep trying to emulate them, screaming “I’m the FLASH” and tearing around the house, or hurling batarangs at imaginary villians), but it’s one of the most tender, loving relationships you’ll ever have.

16.  Listening to your daughter sing along with the radio is the most disconcerting sensation, because you’ll suddenly start thinking of her as someone who will one day actually feel those emotions and it freaks you out – because you could swear that yesterday she was still saying “wuv” instead of  “love.”

17.  You’re never really as good at mothering as you want to be.  At any point, you could list a million things you wish you had done differently.

18.  Your kids will fight faster and meaner with their siblings than with anyone else.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t love and adore them – and it doesn’t mean you’re a crappy parent.

19.  You will feel like a crappy parent far more often than you will feel like a good one.  Because the job definition is so endlessly changing and there’s no way to prepare for any of it.

20.  Your job isn’t to make your child happy – in fact, making your child happy all the time is the quickest way to screw it up.  Sometimes, lots of times, you have to kind of make them not like you all that much.  Bedtime, eating vegetables, taking baths and going to the doctor – nobody wants to do them, and that’s why God gave children parents.

21.  Speaking of God – there’s no faster way to figure out how you feel about religion than to have a child who asks about it.

22.  It doesn’t really matter what bed everyone sleeps in at night.  You can make the most beautiful bedroom and your eight year old would still rather sleep snuggled up next to you, and you can not share a bed with your husband for years on end and still have a really awesome sex life (apologies to my children who may be reading this years from now…).

23.  Really grasping that your husband is as much a parent as you are is incredibly hard, and infinitely worth it.  Because your kids deserve two equal parents – and your husband brings stuff to the table that you’d never think of.  Like knowledge of super heros, for example.

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Jul 13

Success looks different when you’ve had a child with severe anxiety

Every one of my kids benefits from having older siblings.  Except for Jessie, obviously, and I’m sure it’s only one of the reasons she’ll end up resenting me as an adult.  But yesterday, I did everything differently with Julianna and karate, and count the day as a total success – and if I hadn’t been down the anxiety road with Sam, I would have walked out of the class completely discouraged and probably wouldn’t have gone back.

Julie had wanted to take karate for a while now.  With Sam as a big brother, I suppose it makes sense… but it was still a little disconcerting.  Karate.  I had enrolled her in the Terrific Twos dance class, and now that I’m looking back at it, I stopped going a lot earlier than I should.    She was miserable in dance class, clingy and scared and was begging to go home five minutes after we got there.  Every other little girl was happy to dance, to answer the teacher back, and to just off their mom’s lap and not look back.   We dropped out of dance, and decided to wait until she was older before starting another activity.

Over the past few months, she’s started asking more and more for karate classes.   Frequently the request would be followed by “so I can learn more karate moves” and she kick at the air or move her feet really fast while punching out in front of her.

So… karate.  I was hesitant, especially after the dance debacle.  I found a karate class that was relatively inexpensive, and even better, allows me audit a class before I enroll, and I can pay by the class, as opposed to enrolling for a 13 week class.   It was for 3-5 year olds, at the local YMCA.   When I told Julie that we’d be going, she was delighted.  For about ten minutes.  Then she started rethinking the whole thing, and promptly decided she didn’t really want to go to karate.  Sam valiantly offered to go with her and watch, and after that, karate sounded a whole lot better.  Because in Julie’s world, everything sounds better if Sammy’s along with her.

Her class started at 8:15, which is super early for this girl during the summer.  I woke her up and carried her to couch, she promptly wiggled off me and staggered back into bed.  I gave her another half hour, and then she was good to go.   Got dressed, got  her a little sports bottle and packed she and Sam into the car.  We walked into the Y, and met her instructor.  She high fived him, and was totally excited.  We walked into class and she got a little quiet.  She took her shoes off, and lined them up with the rest of the class, and then… crawled into my lap and stayed there for the rest of the class.

I still count it as a success.  Because she walked in on her own feet with a smile, she actively engaged with the instructor and followed directions (in that she put her shoes alongside everyone else’s).  She sat thru the class with a minimum of complaining, and high fived the instructor at the end, and agreed that she’d come back.  The best part is that the whole rest of the day, she was so happy to tell everyone that she had gone to karate class.  She practiced moves with me (I’ve got that whole block/punch thing down), and you’d never know, unless you were me, that she actually hadn’t done a damn thing in class.

Sam taught me about anxiety.  About how to manage it, how to get past it, and how to persevere, even when it looks like a total disaster.  Instead of seeing that she didn’t participate in class – I’m able to see that she walked in on her own and talked to the instructor, participated a tiny bit, and agreed to go again.  I might not get her to participate for a few weeks, and that’s okay.  I’m so proud of her for wanting to go, for trying something new, and for doing her best.  Two years ago, I would have been completely discouraged, and thinking that I was a failure as a parent because my kid was sitting on my lap, miserable and not doing what all the other kids were doing.  I know better now.   And I bet a few months from now, Girlfriend will be karate chopping like a champ.

Have your kids ever gone thru something like this?  What counts as success for you, when it comes to kids and activities?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jul 11

Eleven is a fun age. Mostly.

Jessie is at a weird age.  Eleven is tricky.  She’s not a little girl anymore.  But she’s far from grown up, and not a teenager either.   When given the choice between an ipod touch or a dollhouse, she’s torn but leaning towards the dollhouse.   I love that about her.   She’s growing up so fast, and there are days when I miss that tiny little one, when everything was simpler for her.

The ipod touch or dollhouse question came up because Girlfriend is working now.  She’s got a steady gig as a Mother’s Helper and I wanted to give her a goal to save her money towards.   She’s got a gift with children.  I say that not just because she’s my daughter and I think she’s awesome, but because I really do believe that she’s especially talented when it comes to working with smaller children.  Not that you can always tell by the way she interacts with her siblings, but with  my friends’ kids, she’s brilliant.  She’s working on Fridays as a Father’s Helper, helping to take care of twin four year old girls and their eighteen month old sister.  She’s been volunteering in the kindergarten classroom for the past year, helping with setting up activities and interacting with the class.

While she’s got all this maturity and growth, she’s still a little girl.  Not all the time, but she’s still afraid of butterflies, and likes to snuggle up in my bed before trudging off to her own to sleep.   She’s still likes coloring and reading bedtime stories, but wouldn’t dream of letting me do her hair in the mornings, and God forbid I pick out her clothes.   She likes for me to pick them out, I should note, but refuses to wear any of my selections.

I’ve noticed an increase in the time she spends alone in her room.  She likes hanging out in there, watching movies on her kindle, texting her friends and reading.  Painting her nails, and rearranging all of the STUFF (she’s still somewhat of a hoarder, and collects more crap to put on her dresser than she knows what to do with) in her room.  She’s happy to have me go in there and hang out with her, but is a lot less likely to want to chill out in the living room with younger kids.

Eleven is a fun age, mostly.  Of course, it’s been a good day.  There are days when the moods and the drama and the squabbling with her siblings makes me think that eleven is not fun at all.   But mostly, she’s fun.   I still laugh harder with Jessie than I do with anyone else.  My favorite time of the day is oftentimes just before she falls asleep.  When both of the younger two have drifted off, or they’re out playing with Marc and she’s sequestered herself in my room (I have the tv in there).  I’ll go in and we’ll fight over pillows and snuggle up and watch tv.  I’ll tickle her or pinch her, which make her squeal and wiggle and then she laughs at me.  It’s fun – there’s no pressure and no siblings to distract her.  She’s just Jessie – with no defenses and no agenda.   No adolescent angst, just my little girl and I hanging together.

I know eventually she’ll outgrow it – I know she won’t always want to chill out with me in my room.  But I’m going to pretend that she won’t.  I’m going to believe that she’s always going to be my little girl, and able to relax and love spending one on one time alone with her Mama.

 

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Jul 09

Why do you read my blog?

I’m stuck, a little bit, when it comes to the blog.

When I started it, it was more of a baby book than anything else.  I wanted a way to record motherhood, not just for me, but for my kids.  But it turned into more than that.  It’s not just a recording of milestones, big and small, it’s become a part of who I am.   Over the past six years, I’ve been blogging a few times a week.  I’ve written about breastfeeding battles, about anxiety-ridden toddlers, and cranky miserable tweenagers.  I’ve written about pregnancy, stepparenting, about being a wife, about not having a Christmas tree, and about why I don’t like keeping kosher for Passover.

What I haven’t done, yet, is try to write for anyone other than me.

I just wrote, knowing that nobody was really reading it.  I thought of it almost like putting a message in a bottle, throwing it out into the ocean and hoping that someone would read it, and want to respond.   That’s actually a good analogy, because it seemed as random as that.  I wasn’t throwing it in any general direction, I wasn’t researching water current and wind direction, I was just writing and putting it out there.

But – I want it read.  In the end, I write for the connection.  When people do reach out, with comments or facebook shares or likes, it makes my day.  Part of being a writer, for me, is having a reader.  Sometimes, my audience is my kids, sometimes my audience is me of several years ago.  Sometimes my audience is another mom, someone who’s got a little boy who only smiles when he’s with her, and a little girl with a love for the dramatic and a need to express herself all the time.   A mom with a toddler who wants to do everything herself, all the time.

To build the blog, everything I read tells me that I have to have interesting images, I have to make it searchable, I must learn SEO,   I have to be pinterest-able.  I want to build the blog.  I want those connections – I love the friendships I’ve made, the conversations and connections that we’ve made.   I like having readers – and I want to figure out how to make the blog better for you.

All of this is leading to one question – why do you read the blog?  Would helpful tips, lists and craft ideas make it better?  Please don’t tell me crafts, I really can’t do them.  Do you want book reviews (because that’s something I could TOTALLY do), or recipes?   Or do you like my blog just as it is, or maybe think I should blog more frequently?  Maybe more structure, a set schedule?  Okay, maybe this is leading to more than one question.  My point is that I’d love to hear from you about why you read my blog, what  you like and what you’d like to see more of.

And because every post should have an image – here’s one of my favorites…

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Jul 07

Getting Your Kids to do Chores

This is no easy feat.

I know it’s my own fault.  I’m a stay at home mom, and it’s easier for me to just DO it rather than have my kids “help.”   I used to pretend to give them chores, but never followed up on it, and would almost always end up just doing everything.   I don’t even make my kids clean their own bedrooms.  The justification for that is that we’ve always been the house that has all the kids – between stepkids, kids I was babysitting for, cousins and friends stopping by – it was never just their mess, and it seemed unfair to make them clean it by themselves.

They’re getting older, Jessie is eleven and a half, Sam just turned eight and Julianna is four years old.  That’s old enough to assume some responsibility.  That’s old enough, past old enough, to start being able to help out around the house.   Plus, we’ve got the whole unstructured summer thing happening for us right now, and three kids rocking around the house means that I could easily spend all of my time cleaning.  It means that I should spend all of my time cleaning, to be honest.  And if I’m not, then I need to make sure that the kids are doing their chores.

But what type of chores are appropriate?  I want them to be equitable, while also age appropriate, and I want them to be not so overwhelming.   I still want them to be kids, not junior housekeepers.   I also put summer reading and/or Hebrew and bat mitzvah studying on it, because I want that done every day as well.  The two older kids have to straighten out their bedroom, plus another room in the house (living room or dining room).  Julie has to pick up all the shoes, and put away the silverware, as well as help me pick up the yard, and make her bed.

Once I figured that out, then I tried to figure out how best to keep track of it.  There are lots of things that I can buy that would do it, like this or this , but I’m more of a now-that-I’ve-decided-to-do-it-I-MUST-DO-IT-NOW kind of girl, and spent most of the day trying to create charts by myself.  I spent a long time trying to draw straight lines (because of course, I can’t find a ruler) and then remembered that I actually do know how to use a computer.  Excel was kind of created for charts, after all. I spent a long time trying to create a chart.   Then I remembered that I don’t have a printer.

I ended up assigning each kid 4 chores, and numbering them.  Then I told them to write it down on my big calendar when they got it done.  Not the  most  attractive way of doing it, but at least it’s done.  Sort of.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the kids to do it.

Sam, honestly, is absolutely the best at doing chores.  This system works completely for him.  He likes the system, likes checking them off.   He’s just into it, and has been from the beginning.  Julie is sometimes very excited about it, and the key is just to make sure that I catch her when she’s in the right frame of mind and have her get it done.   But my Jessie, oh my Jessie.  She hates it.

Obviously, this isn’t the right system for her.  Kids are different and different kids respond to different things.  Jessie’s older, and more responsible, and she’s certainly not averse to helping out around the house, she’s normally incredibly helpful.  She started helping a friend of ours one day a week as a mother’s helper, and was phenomenal at it.  What would work for her?  Setting it up as a power struggle between the two of us is not the right solution (because I tried that all day today, it didn’t work).  My issue is that Sam is SO good at it, enthusiastic and excited about it, and I don’t want her to feel like a failure because her brother kicks butt at doing his chores.

Do you have kids do chores around the house?  Do you have one that’s better than another?  What’s the best way to handle different aptitudes and enthusiasm levels?  I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to comment.

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