Monday, 20 June 2011

I am so messed up!

Anyone want to analyze this for me?

Last night I had a dream. And as I was dreaming it, I knew that I had had it before. On more than one occasion. A recurring dream, only, not at all like the ones I had as a kid. Where I was running and running and never getting any closer to my elusive destination.

This one was more real.

I was taking a University course. Last night was Art History. Sometimes it's just old regular history, but I have been at this Art History one before. I knew, sitting in the class, that I was desparately behind. Everyone else was handing in an assignment that I hadn't completed. I didn't even know about it. I actually hadn't attended the class in weeks. The instructor was talking about the upcoming exam and I was staring hopelessly at the pile of textbooks in my lap, knowing I should try to read through them before the exam. I was also sorting through a myriad of excuses in my head to explain why I had missed so many classes. And, I was wondering, when my next class was. I couldn't even remember my class schedule. I think I have two classes on Monday (yup, it was a Monday) but wasn't sure when and where the next one was. I was also desperately trying to sort out whether or not I should ask the prof to let me hand in all the assignments late.

For some reason, I think that my degree hinges on the completion of this Art History course (and that other one that I can't remember to go to).

And then I woke up. And was, once again, relieved to recall that I am NOT a student of anything at this time in my life... I am NOT skipping classes... I am NOT weeks behind in homework and reading... and I do NOT have a final exam next week that I am NOT prepared for. Whew. I got my degree 12 years ago.

What is up with that?

And why on earth would I suffer myself through an Art History class?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Flylady, kiss my grits...

I am a Working Mom. That, in itself, is redundant. The very act of being a Mom accompanies with it a whole lotta work! So... I guess you could say I have two full-time jobs, one outside of the home and one in the home.

What I have learned since having children, though, is that I'm not actually that great at the household management aspect of Working Mom-hood. In other words, I'm a lousy housekeeper.
Oh sure, I can clean this place up in a day if I'm so inclined (just invite someone for supper and watch me perform miracles). And I often do. But keeping it clean, now that's another story. Our house starts out relatively tidy Monday morning. By Wednesday it is untidy and by Friday night you can call it a pigsty. I won't be offended. That's what I call it.

Alex thinks I'm being rather disrespectful to pigstys.

I like to think that our house is like its own little calendar. You can tell the day of the week by measuring the depth of the clutter on the floors and counters...

So, in my ever present attempts to be organized, I've tried a variety of things.

Flylady, for example. I've climbed on that particular wagon on four separate occasions. One time I actually stuck to it for about 4 months and things looked rather good in our home. Then I went and got myself knocked up with baby #3, and all energy and motivation vanished! Thus, the return to CHAOS. Flylady is a great tool ( if you fit the demographic that she seems to appeal to. Married, stay-at-home women whose sole ambition is to keep their houses clean and their hearts full of loving adoration for the other slobs they live with. What can I say, I don't fit that demographic. For me, Flylady is an utter flop!

I did really like her Control Journal, though. As hokey as it sounds, I enjoyed checking my binder of to do lists and crossing of jobs as I completed them. For a while. Then it fizzled and the binder sits collecting dust on my cluttered china cabinet.

I have also tried to follow a chore chart that I stuck on our fridge. It's a dry erase board with the days of the week across the top and a list of chores down the side. It came with 4 sets of magnetic stars so that whoever completed the chore could put their coloured star beside it. It worked okay for a while, but I started to notice a funny pattern... my pink stars were the only ones ever on the board. Plus, dry erase is far too easy to smudge, and frequently tasks got erased before they were completed. That chore chart sits neglected now, all of the picky little stars long-since swept under the fridge or into the trash.

So, for whatever reason, I have decided to give this another attempt. A fresh go, so to speak. I know what needs to be done. My family knows what needs to be done. No one does it. I needed a system that was accessible to everyone so that everyone could pitch in and help me out. So I decided to create a chore chart for the family. Something visual. My attempts to get the rest of the family to realize that if we all pitched in, then maybe weekends wouldn't have to be spent madly cleaning the house and doing the laundry, and could be spent doing fun things together. It wouldn't hurt, either, for a little reality check: Socks don't magically appear in the drawers; clean glasses don't materialize in the cupboard every morning; school lunches, albeit often boring, are not readily waiting in the fridge each morning for no apparent reason.

I googled "homemade chore charts" and found a wide variety of ideas. I also stumbled across a manufactured one someone was discussing on Facebook ( I have to say, the Accountable Kids one was SOOO tempting. However, the cost to purchase the kit for three children (plus one for my husband) would have run me in excess of $120, so I wisely kept my credit card in my wallet. Besides, the first person on the page of glowing reviews was Dr. Laura Schlesinger, and the website kept throwing out the term "Focus on the family", so that immediately dropped it several notches of respect in my book.

So, from my online surfing, I took a little of this and a little of that. And I 'copied' a whole bunch of cute cartoons, too. Here's what I've come up with, a comprehensive (but easily updated) list of tasks that need to be completed regularly if we're ever to enjoy a moderate level of organization.
We've just finished Day 2, now, and the kids seem to be quite eager to complete their "chores" (things that they do anyway, but maybe now I won't have to plead with them to do).
In fact, we were almost late for swimming lessons yesterday morning because the boys were busily cleaning their room. Yeehaw!

Using an old bulletin board, some colourful card stock and scrapbook paper (don't worry, I have enough to spare), a box of stick pins ($1.12) and a roll of clear shelf liner "Mac Tack" ($5.25), I have come up with reasonably cheap, kid-friendly control journal slash chore chart slash allowance calculator slash routine list thing-y.

I am very tickled with the results! :)

Each child has their own colour of cards. Alex's, for example, are blue. And are tailored to his specific needs. For example, one of Alex's cards is a "Reading" card and one is a "Make your lunch" card. As he completes his tasks throughout the day, he can flip his cards from one pin to another. When he is finished flipping his cards, he is finished his chores (and finished the day because the last card is a "STAY IN BED!!!" card)

Connor's cards are similar to Alex's, minus the Reading card --- since he can't read out loud to me yet, and minus the Make your lunch card. Connor especially likes the Veggie Tale card, that encourages him to eat healthy food.

Kirstin's has the least amount of cards, but as she gets a bit older, I'll be able to add in tasks to hers. For now, she has to cooperate with brushing her teeth, pick up her toys, and essentially, keep her pants dry.

Green cards are for Cory and I (right, Cory?) They're tasks that need to be done regularly, but I'd be happy if they got done at least weekly. If you're a Flylady fan, this is my variation of her "Weekly Home Blessing" Hour. (Which doesn't work for me, either. Even back in my pro-flying 4 month stint, her Blessing Hour took me at least two. I mean, trying changing all the sheets on four beds in 10 minutes time. Sheesh!)

Purple cards are things that need to get done daily, if I want to wake up each morning, to some semblance of organization. Purple cards are also tasks that are simple enough that the kids can (and have on occasion) help out with. Once we've got this system fully implemented, purple cards are tasks that the children can choose to help with for bonus allowance.

Which brings me to the kids favourite cards... the Allowance cards. Each night when the kids have finished moving their cards from one peg to the other, they can earn an allowance card. Once a week (we've decided on Saturdays), they can trade in their allowance cards for actually money. It is our hope that by allowing our children to start earning money, they will start to realize that they are not entitled to toys, candy, treats, etc every single time we enter a store. Right now, they think we're made of money. And in their defense, we love buying stuff for them. But its all just truly 'stuff'. I'd like to be able to give them the choice... do you really want to spend a toonie on that plastic bauble in the machine, or do you want to save it up for that action figure you've had your eye on?

Allowance is a tough subject, and one that we might not stick to our guns on. Already we can't decide on a fair dollar amount. The kids are so young that I could give them a nickel a day and they'd be thrilled. Until they went to spend it, that is! Right now we're tossing around a quarter a day and a quarter a day for bonus chores. But that, too, doesn't add up very fast. But at this age, they don't want for anything. So, we'll see. Depending on what they set their little saving hearts on, they could be in for a long haul. Or they could blow it all weekly on dollar store trinkets that break with their first trip out of the package. The allowance is something we'll be monitoring for its usefulness.

I'm open to suggestions.

And my final set of cards... the Rooms. Pretty much the same thing as Flylady's Zones. There's one for Kitchen, one for Living Room/Recroom, one for bathrooms, one for bedrooms, and one for the hallway and entrance. These cards will rotate on a weekly basis (or longer if I don't get around to doing anything with them). This week I have "Kitchen" up on the board, so when I get inspired to do extra cleaning (like the oven I have sadly neglected), I will focus on doing it in the kitchen. Next week, I'll pick the next grubbiest room and put that on the board as my focus.

And that, essentially, is it! Our family tasks laid out for the world to see. By this time next month we will run like a well oiled machine and this house is gonna sparkle! You'll see...

The finished product!

Now where did I put that bulletin board? Oh yeah, it's under the fridge with all the dust bunnies...