Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Keeping Kids Accountable

I admit it.  I had fallen into the rut of doing almost everything for my children.  I picked out their clothes.  I made all their meals, packed their schoolbags, even picked up their dirty clothes off the bedroom and bathroom floors. But there came a point at the beginning of this summer when I said to myself, "Self?  What in the heck are you doing?"  This came after spending almost an hour picking up toys and messes after the children had gone to bed.  Why was I the one doing this?  I didn't make the mess.  If anything, I'd picked up that same exact mess at least three times already that day. Why? Why? Why?

I never intended to become the parent who did everything for their kids.  I wanted my children to be independent.  I wanted them to be able to take care of themselves.  And they were - they just couldnt' or more likely, wouldn't  do it.

So I declared war.  As soon as school was over this summer.  I made up a system to "help" them help themselves.  And it's long as I keep up on it.

You see, my children are just like myself.  In order to stay accountable to me, to them, to each other, we need a visible checklist, something we can see what needs to be done.  This can't be something you can hide away and forget - it has to stay constant, and you have to be able to physically manipulate it.

I mentioned in my last post about my love of the Motivated Moms system.  I keep the calendar in a 3 ring binder on my kitchen table.  I HAVE to mark things off the list before I feel like I can finish my day.

The kids are the same way.  Through trial and error, we came up with a system that helps them help themselves (and me in the process).  It's worked for the most part - vacation days kind of put us off.  But the biggest thing is that we keep it visible and that the kids are able to physically manipulate their list.

Here's what we do:

I made up a chore chart for each of the children.  I just used Excel, nothing fancy.  Each child has 7 chores per day.  These things include brushing teeth, making beds, picking up bedrooms, picking up toys, picking out clothes.  They also include some "extra" chores - setting the table, clearing the table, sweeping the floor, taking out the trash, putting away laundry.   Many of the basic chores are the same for each child, allowing me to use the same template for all four munchkins.

I post the chore charts on the side of the refridgerator.  That way, the kids can check themselves to see what needs to be done and I can check to see how they are doing.  When they finish a chore and I've checked it, they can put a sticker on the chart for that day.

Each chore is worth 5 cents of "momma money".  At the end of the week they can earn up to $2.45.  This isn't a real allowance.  It's Momma Money.  The wee monsters and I sat down and came up with a list of rewards that they can "buy" with their Momma Money.  The things included, dinner out, a date with mom/dad to the park, swimming at the college, a sleepover wih a friend; all things that are free or reletively free.  Or they can save up or pool their money to "buy" something larger: a trip to the zoo, a movie date, a toy from the dollar store, etc.

It's working pretty well.  The kids are saving up right now to buy a trip to the zoo for the Halloween event and Thing #1 wants a sleepover with 2 friends.  If they start to fall behind, a simple reminder of what they need to do and what they are working towards seems to help.

And we're all staying more accountable!
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Monday, August 30, 2010

One Motivated Mom

Do you ever get bogged down by the daily grind of housework?  I sure do.  I love making my house a home, but the constant upkeep of that home drives me crazy.  Guess I wasn't cut out to be little Suzy Happy Homemaker.  It stresses me out.  The clutter gets out of control.  The little things slip out of my control.  The kids sabotage everything I try to do!  *giggle*

So I've been on the lookout for a plan that will help keep me on track and honest with myself and my family about the house.  I've tried different things over the years - FlyLady (too many emails and too much guilt about not keeping up PLUS I hate wearing shoes in the house!), a card system my mom used when I was a kid (not visible enough and too easy to ignore), making lists (which get lost in the general clutter), etc, etc, etc.

Then last year I stumbled across a system called Motivated Moms and have fallen in love with it!  You have got to check this out!  It comes in a calendar/list form.  It's great - you check things off!  And if you don't get to everything on your daily list, it's okay, because it comes back up next week or the week after.  And it includes things like working on crafts, reading to your children, and making time for yourself, all things that sometimes get lost in the general clutter of life.

As with any program, you've got to actually stick with it.  I stopped using it last spring when life got a bit hectic.  And the world fell apart! Pulled it back out this summer and now I feel a bit more in control.  Just what I needed heading back to work this fall.

If you need a system to try...check it out.  It's a lot easier than FlyLady (although the same concepts apply) and your house will start showing the difference right away!!

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Meal Plan Monday

Back to the daily grind - Back to school - Back to fall
That's where we are in our yearly cycle.  This week starts both Mr. CrazyLife and myself back to school/work.  The kids all go back to school next week.  It's time to get back into regular schedules and regular meal plans.
Some things have changed this fall.  Instead of daycare, Things #3 and #4 will be staying home with my sister, hereafter referred to as Auntie CrazyLife.  She will be doing all daytime meals except supper with the kids and doing a preschool program.  So our meal schedule has changed a bit to reflect that.

Here's this week's meal plans:

breakfast: cereal/granola bars/scrambled eggs
lunch: lunch out with IL's
dinner: dinner out with Auntie CrazyLife

breakfast: cereal w/milk
lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches, grapes, tater tots
dinner: tacos and taco salad

breakfast: scrambled eggs with toast
lunch: PBJ with fruit
dinner: Hot dogs/Hamburgs on the grill

breakfast: smoothie for mom/cereal for kids
lunch: bologna, cheese, crackers, fruit
dinner: speghetti w/meatballs and fresh bread

breakfast: soothie for mom/eggs for kids
lunch: Mac n' cheese, sausage chunks
dinner: steak salads for parents/hot dogs for kids

breakfast: pancakes
lunch: nachos w/meat
dinner: homemade pizza

breakfast: cereal
lunch: PBJ and chips
dinner: leftovers
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

News from the Garden.....

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
How Does Your Garden Grow?

That old child's verse comes into my head whenever I talk to someone about my garden.  I love my garden.  I love planting seeds and watching them grow into plants, flower and produce food that then sustains us.  I love the beauty of the different plants as they grow - vines ever moving outward and upward, sunflowers reaching towards the heavens, tomatos and beans bushing out with little flowers everywhere.  It's poetry in motion.

And now that it is the end of August, it's a body in motion as I try to harvest everything and get it preserved and put away for the colder months!

So far this season, I have frozen about 8 quarts of broccoli, 8-10 quarts of corn (with more in the refridgerator, ready to go....just finding the time) and 1 of green beans (too hot so far for many).  I have also put down 4 quarts of raspberries and about 4 quarts of blueberries into the freezer.  I did up 16 pints of peaches (from a 1/2 bushel I bought at the farmer's market), most of those in light syrup, but a few "spirited peaches" with peach schnapps in the syrup!  I also did 11 jelly jar size (?) of sweet n' tangy BBQ sauce.  I've never done that before, but it sure does taste yummy!  We've had sauerkrat brining for about 6 weeks now...another two weeks and I'll take it out and freeze it.I had a whole pot of tomatos stewing for sauce, but ended up burning those.  That irritated me...about 30 lbs of tomatos down the drain.  (well, actually into the chicken pen, but whatever).  Remind me not to try to stew tomatos while playing video games with the kids again, okay?

The garden is still going in full swing.  It seems like almost everything is coming in at least two weeks early, despite our late planting.  My beans are finally flowering quite a bit, so I'm hoping for more of those.  The tomatos are going bonkers and taking over the entire end of the garden!  The sweet potato vines look awesome, although I haven't dug around yet to see what's under there (anyone know when to harvest them?).  Broccoli and celcery are looking good and still going strong. And our pumpkins are already turning orange....I hope they stay good till the end of October!!! 

I've planted more peas and radishes and lettuce and spinich for the fall garden.  It's been so hot this summer that we really had a hard time with the cool weather stuff that usually goes all summer for us.  I'm hoping a fall garden goes well.

And I'm hoping that Mr. CrazyLife proves good on his promise to create my cold boxes this fall.....I'd love to keep some things going through the winter!!!
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Feeling Blue?

Blueberry, that is?

It's blueberry season in Michigan and I love it!  As a child I never cared for blueberries.  I refused to eat them - whether plain, in muffins or mushed up in yogurt.  I hated them - with a capitol H.  My Gram used to say that I was her favorite blueberry picker, because my bucket was always full - I never ate any while picking!  In the years since, I have grown to tolerate them.  I still won't eat them plain or just mushed and mixed with yogurt or cottage cheese.  But I will eat them cooked in breads or pancakes.  And I love them in my breakfast smoothies!

My family has had a tradition from, well, forever, that every August, usually the first weekend, we all meet at Gram and Gramp's house and go blueberrying.  My aunt, uncle and cousin come.  Gram and Gramps used to come before it got to be too much for them.  My mom and sister always come up.  It's a fun time.  We have a favorite farm that we go to and the berries there have always been fantastic!

This year the calendar was not our friend.  We just couldn't find a time to meet up with everyone and hit the farm.  I was sad.  My own family usually picks around 30-40 pounds of berries and my mom and aunt pick around the same for their family.  I was worried about not having any berries for the freezer this year.

Then I discovered a secret, hidden treasure, just up the road from our own little farm - a BLUEBERRY patch!!!  Now, it isn't the best patch I've ever been to (you should see the patch at Soldini Blueberries - that's our favorite little patch!), but it isn't too bad either.  The bushes are huge and the berries small - but still tasty!  So I've gone a few times and picked.  It's late to be picking here, but these bushes are sill loaded up with berries.  I took the kids once and will probably go at least once more this month.

So now I've got berries to freeze.  Yay!!!  And berries to use in my favorite blueberry recipes.  Here's a couple to share....try them out and enjoy!!!

Lemon Blueberry Shortbread
2 C white or white whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp salt (I just pinch it in)
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/2 TBS grated lemon peel (I use fresh and guesstimate the measurement)
3/4 C dried blueberries (I use fresh or frozen)
1 C butter (only butter - no substitutes)

Heat oven to 350.

Mix flour, salt, sugar, lemon peel and blueberries.

Cut in butter and mix till crumbly.  Continue mixing until a smooth dough forms.

Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out cold dough between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/2" thickness.  Cut out with cookie cutters or score and cut into squares.

Place 1" apart on cookie sheet and bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.


Blueberry Whipped Cream - yummy on cakeor with fresh fruit
2 C whipping cream (not coolwhip)
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C mushed blueberries

Mix together all ingredients in a deep bowl (it splatters).

Whip with a mixer 8-10 minutes or until a nice whipped cream texture.  Chill.

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