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Parenting FAIL Friday: Too many cooks in the kitchen.

I love to cook. Usually. It gets old with minions whining about the little green things (herbs) or how the pasta tastes funny (because it isn’t elbow macaroni), but I generally like cooking. I love being adventurous. And not to brag or anything, but I’ve gotten pretty good over the years. This year’s culinary adventure was into the world of Asian food, and I’m now obsessed with Thai coconut curry.

That is irrelevant to this post, I just super love curry. Anyway. Yesterday was like New England summer (read: 50 degrees) so the girls felt that riding bikes in sun dresses and flip-flops was appropriate. Though I made them wear actual clothes, I DID wholeheartedly shoo them out the door. This left me with a rare window to prepare dinner without chaos. No one shoving me into the hot stove because it’s their turn to stir. No one sliding their finger  under my chef’s knife to steal a piece of pepper. Because that’s happened. Just uninterrupted cooking. Glorious.

The whole house was clean, and I REALLY didn’t want to make a mess, so the Nerd offered to help me in the kitchen because he loves me. This could be fun, I thought.

Side note: The night before, Make-A-Wish volunteers delivered our wish package, along with pizza for dinner. You’ll see why that’s important in a bit.

We started prepping the ingredients. I asked him to chop the garlic. I use LOTS of garlic. I pulled out other things, only to look over and see that he was individually peeling each clove – with his fingers. I do the smack down – literally. I smack the garlic with the flat side of my chef’s knife, and the peel virtually falls off. It’s fast. I need everything to be fast at dinner time. But he didn’t want to try that technique, so I let it go and let him peel.

Next was the onion. I showed him how to dice an onion while I prepped a pot of water on the other burner for the pasta. He did pretty well, for a first timer. Thinking he had the onions under control, I turned on the oven to pre-heat and got out the rest of the ingredients from the fridge. A few minutes later, I realize he hasn’t stirred the onions. I give them a toss just in time – caramelized, but not burned. Thank heaven. He’s now asking about slicing green onions. I give him instructions. Smush walks in and asks what’s burning.

Wait, what? Cue this scene:

Smush: Uh, what’s burning?

Nerd: Nothing.

Smush: Yes it is. I see smoke.

Me: Oh my gosh. There is smoke. Where is it coming from?

Nerd: What?

Me: The oven! The oven is on fire!

Nerd: But there’s nothing in there yet!

Me: I know! Oh God, wait. I left the pizza box in there. The pizza box is on fire! *rapidly turns off oven*

Nerd: Okay, I’m gonna open the door to let it cool off.

Me: NO!! You’ll feed it by giving the flames oxygen. It’s better to let the flames die out first, THEN open the door.

Nerd: Oh, right. Okay.

Me: *grabs fire extinguisher*

Nerd: What are you doing?

Me: Getting ready.

Nerd: Don’t use that. You won’t be able to use the oven if you spray that stuff in there.

Me: Okay, fine. But I’m ready. Just in case.

Nerd: *cracks oven door open when flames die out*

FUN FACT: The amount of smoke produced by a burning pizza box is UNREAL. Instantly the kitchen is full of smoke, and it is spreading through other rooms. The girls ran in to see the commotion.

Nerd and I: *coughing* Get out of the room! The fire is out but the smoke is dangerous! Get out of the room!

*Girls exit*

Nerd and I: *frantically opening every door and window we can find. Running around blindly because my eyes feel like someone poured acid on them and my lungs are crying.*

Nerd: I can’t see!

Me: Me either!

Nerd: Okay, I’m gonna grab the box and get it out of here. Clear a path.

Me: *moves things out of the way* Done!

Me: Thank God.

Both of us are still rubbing our eyes. I’m still coughing sporadically. We get outside to deeply inhale some fresh air. The house begins to clear up. Fans are on, windows are open, and most importantly, nothing is on fire.

Me: Where are the girls?

Nerd: Outside?

Me: They ran all the way to the church parking lot. *giggle*

In the beginning of the school year, Goo did a packet on fire safety. Part of that packet was making a fire escape plan and practicing with the family. Our plan was to meet in the church parking lot next door if, for some reason, we got separated. So at the sight of smoke, Goo made everybody run to the parking lot. At least we know she’s got a clear head in the face of emergency.

The house almost went up in flames. Again. But dinner wasn’t ruined. And I found out my kids actually remember the fire escape plan. So, umm, yay for being prepared?

You know, minus leaving the cardboard pizza box in the oven.

 

 

Parenting FAIL Friday: I get paid for this.

I have mentioned that I scored a sweet work-from-home gig that lets me make a little extra cash while still wrangling my rabid howler monkeys.

A friend is paying me to watch her two-year-old.

Stifle that laughter, please. I’m actually kind of awesome at it. And by awesome I mean no one has suffered serious bodily harm.

But we do fun things like  coloring projects. And yesterday I totally took one for the team and bundled us all up for outside time. In the blistering windy cold of winter. This had nothing to do with the fact that I needed the children to not be fighting in the walls of my home. Or that I may or may not have caught the two toddlers (mine and hers) physically fighting over a high chair, and swinging it around the living room trying to grab it from one another.

Toddler squabbles aside, it’s been kind of perfect. Curls (the second toddler – who has a full head of halfway-down-her-back black ringlets) is a very enthusiastic cleaner, and God knows Smush needs some work in that department. Plus it’s like a crash course in sharing for everyone involved, and I imagine that will be helpful once school days roll around for this brood. Either that or they will have learned how to go Jackie Chan on anyone that takes their pencil sharpener.

And even though they make messes, we use teamwork to clean them up.

Confession: I totally blew it in this department early on. Too often I gave in and cleaned up myself because I got sick of the tantrums. When it’s four against one, you can’t win. So you have to learn to stick to your guns and get all hands on deck. And I’ve been nailing it.

Except for this.   20130129_085803

That’s sugar. From my sugar bowl. That Smush and Curls emptied into their play sink to “cook.”

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Oh look, they were stirring with Goo’s brand new paint brush from Christmas.

And because no toddler fiasco is complete without grinding tiny granules of insect-attracting food pellets into the carpet, I give you this.

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As an added bonus, they painted Curls’ pants. In sugar. Which, upon putting them in time-out for taking food and dumping it out, they licked off with their fingers while they happily giggled in their chairs.

I get paid for this.

Why do they hate me?

Please, for the love of God and my sanity, tell me that I am not the only woman whose house completely falls apart if I miss a day of cleaning. Why is there an inverse proportional relationship between the size of children and the size of the mess they make?

Example one:

This is the pile swept up from our dining area at the end of the day. Just the dining area. Which is my fancy term for too-small nook where I shove my table and chairs. Three freaking meals, and this is what I find. If those three meals were eaten by rabid honey badgers I might understand. But they’re humans. With opposable thumbs.

Example two hails from a busy day with the family, followed by a day where I was gone from 8:30 AM to 11:00 PM. I don’t do midnight cleaning unless I’m pregnant. Which I’m not.

Two days. Not two weeks. Two. days. Umm, gag.

I feel like it takes actual effort to pull this off. As though gravity couldn’t have dragged that much filth down to my floors of its own accord. As though the rabid honey badgers actually tried to make this happen.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids are still rocking the chore chart. They’re just so … dirty. And sticky. And they drop things everywhere all the time. And see that red thing on the far right? That’s a plastic whistle.

Who buys plastic whistles? Grandparents. People without children. Certainly not a parent of young children who knows – KNOWS – that it will only result in endless torture.

The Nerd bought those. He thought it was hilarious. When I heard high pitched screeching before the sun came up the next day, I didn’t.

Why do they hate me?

Chore charts and clean houses: Part two.

This responsibility chart is the best thing I’ve ever done. Besides knowing Jesus, marrying the Nerd, and having my three girls. But it’s a close fourth.

The girls were able to cash in all the tickets they’ve earned thus far to go buy a pumpkin that I’m fairly certain is bigger than Goo. They were super excited.

The Nerd and I decided on a reward system based on either monetary value, or points. Each ticket is worth 10 cents. We’re on a tight budget, so I can’t go handing out fives and tens because my kids cleaned their rooms. But we figured this was a good way to reward each task and allow the girls to start learning about saving their money for bigger items.

We also allot points to each ticket. The girls can choose whether to cash in their tickets for points or money. Points can be combined to “purchase” activities like:

  • Family adventure (hiking, apple picking, beach day, etc.)
  • Movie night with popcorn and a rental
  • Sleepovers (where Goo and Punkin sleep in the same bed and stay up far too late giggling and talking)
  • Manicures at home

We spend as much time as possible as a family, anyway. And we do plenty of things together that girls don’t have to earn, just because I’m addicted to spending time with them. But this gives them a way to see that when we work together as a family, we play together as a family.

The chore chart was recently in full swing as we braced for MegaStorm/Hurricane/Dear-God-What-Is-That-Mass-Of-Swirling-Terror – Sandy. I had it in my head that we could be without power for days, so the entire house needed to be clean, with all the laundry washed, dried, folded, and – gasp – put away. And then I realized that in the event of a tree falling on the roof and torrential rain pouring in, nobody would be able to tell I mopped the floors.

The good news is, the storm didn’t affect us at all. It was barely windy. While I never want anyone to be hurt, I still really, really want to see a storm. Not some light rain and breeziness. I want to see tree bending, branches snapping craziness. Away from power lines and where anyone could be hurt.

The extent of our damage. Probably because freak storm 2011 wiped out every tree branch in the front yard.

Last year, during a freak snow storm in October, we waded through several inches of water in the basement to carry buckets upstairs to flush the toilet. No power. No water. No heat. For seven days, we, along with millions of others, scrambled to stay warm and dry and wait for life to be restored to the way we know it.

The bad news is that other areas are telling a very different story. Lives were lost. Homes are submerged in water. Millions are still without power. My prayers go out to those affected by the devastation. And we have yet another  reason to remember that what really matters are the ones we love. Because houses can be rebuilt. Flood waters will drain back into the ocean.

And my kids will keep following their responsibility chart. Hey, I’ve got a good thing going here.

 

Chore chart madness, terrible artistic skills, and my (sort of) clean house: Part one.

In an attempt to live my life with some semblance of order and decency, I discovered the wonder of charts. A morning routine chart changed the way our mornings run around here. Punkin used to be flustered, tearful, and rushed on far too many occasions. I sent her off to the bus with a rushed hug and kiss more often than I care to admit. Enter the morning routine chart, and she is always ready early, we often get to curl up on the couch with her devotional and have Mommy/daughter/God time, and now the only tears result from her not getting her hair the way she wants it. But that’s a whole other post.

I found an idea for a chore chart here, but it needed some tweaking to work for my family. A lot of the chore cards available in the download didn’t apply because we have no pets. And we have a small house without fancy entry ways, so “tidy front door” doesn’t apply unless you’re literally wiping the front door. And while I love the idea of rewarding good behavior, the separate system with bees and stickers, in addition to the tickets and prizes, probably would have left Goo and Smush scratching their heads and wondering why the heck they didn’t get tickets for using manners at dinner. If my kids were older, it would probably work.

In my journey to an orderly house, step 1 was to find the perfect pocket chart. I found mine here. Thank you, Amazon.

This is a photo of our actual chore chart. I know you’re wondering why I waste my time writing when I clearly have a future in the visual arts, but there’s only so much awesome one girl can handle. My personal favorite is the dusting one, where I clearly drew a stick man jousting with the Olympic torch. Also, I flipped the girls’ names around to protect their anonymity. Or something.

Step 2 was to develop a list of reasonable chores for each kid. And yes, a two-year old can have chores. And yes, I was seriously underestimating my girls’ ability to handle household responsibilities.

Goo is 4 1/2. I found the most perfect quote for her ever, penned by Shakespeare, that brilliant bard: Though she be but little, she is fierce. It’s like he knew her. Anyway. Goo is significantly smaller than our vacuum. And our swiffer. And our sink. But her chores, by request? Vacuuming, washing the floors, and cleaning dishes. She gets her tiny little body behind that beast of a vacuum, grabs it with both hands, and throws her full body weight into it  to get the job done. I seriously love that kid.

Smush is in charge of putting shoes in the closet, picking up toys, and helping to make her bed. She’s the best listener ever. And she does every chore with a smile. *melting*

Punkin is just like me: she loves a clean room. But she absolutely detests cleaning it. She’s a pouter. And a procrastinator. But we’re getting there. Which inspired me to do this for our chart title:

Holy slap in the face. I hung this up for the girls, and now have a very real reminder that cleaning up milk and pee and Little People is part of my job forever right now and I need to can the whining. But it’s given me a great teaching point to show the girls that I still have things I’m working on, and we all need to remember that we can find joy, and glorify God, in even our mundane tasks.

Step three was to figure how I was going to reward all these chores. I developed a reward system using points and monetary reward that will come in part 2 of this post so that I don’t leave you yawning at your computer desk with my incessant babbling.

Oh, and if you were to take on this task, I highly recommend opting for the chart with the calendar inserts. Flip them around, write whatever you want, and you don’t have to spend eons cutting paper to the perfect pocket size. You’re welcome.