Read the pilot post/explanation here

Read the pilot post here

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The 10-Minute Roundup

If you feel that no one is on your team, like you are the only person who is picking up what has been dropped, abandoned or misplaced around the house, then you will agree with me when I say that it’s not a good feeling. And I think many of us moms have basically thrown our hands in the air, believing there’s nothing for it but to be an angry woman in a messy house. Last year around Easter, I was beginning to resent my station as such -and my children, and (gasp!) even my husband, who is adorable.

Thankfully, under these tense and irksome circumstances, the roundup was born. And if I were selling it, this would be the ad:

And some of that is even true!

We spend ten minutes every single night tidying up together, as a family. Is this is a novel idea? If it’s not, why did I never hear of it? Maybe because I wasn't listening before when my sister said “well, I don’t know, Kristie, why don’t you have a ten minute roundup at the end of the day and make everyone help you tidy up?” I can’t be certain if she truly sang it, but it was music to my ears.

Speaking of music, I had thought to just set the timer for ten and get to it, but my husband offered to meld together ten minutes of symphony-rock music, to keep us moving. We end when the music stops. It's great, there's a button/link on my sidebar, if you want to use our song.

This is what we do when it's time:
  • Gather on the living room rug
  • Start the upbeat and exciting music (like I said, we use symphony music, because, compared to the Gregorian chants we listen to usually, it’s pretty exciting)
  • Set the timer for ten minutes (no one can justifiably complain about ten minutes of helping out)
  • Work from the main living area, telling kids where things go and hustling them along. Just chuck things in the rooms, you can put them in their places as you move down the hall and through each room.
  • End with the bedroom of the person who is least likely to be helpful, but who would appreciate help in her room the most. Namely, ... no, that's not nice!
  • If the music runs out before you finish (usually does), be done. The kids are motivated to hurry so that you will all be helping when you get to their room. If you're going to do it anyway, they will quickly adopt the "what's the rush?" attitude.

The Roundup isn't solely an end-of-the-day makeover. It can be done before company comes, or after a party, or whenever I feel like it. But it always happens at the end of the day, too.

We have been doing it for a year, no exceptions. I feel appreciated, not because anyone is saying appreciative things, but because some of the work I am doing is shared by others, and they can feel the chore for themselves, every night. My children no longer complain when a mere favor is asked of them during the day, because they do more than that, every night. I go to bed with a tidy house (yes, it's tiny, so this is possible), every night. I don't think I can over-emphasize the consistency with which we do this. If you cave and don't do it every night, your kids will forever be trying to break you down with a variety of excuses that they insist are as good as the one you made, "that one time."

p.s. I will be honest (because I am) and say that tonight, we did not do the roundup. My daughter was sick and went to bed. In these rare instances (I can count them on one hand in the past year), the rule is, we do the roundup in the morning before breakfast. The kids don't appreciate obstacles between them and food, so, they prefer to do it at night. I don't call that an exception, because it gets done either way.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Savings accounts for the periphery

If you don't have time for my long, rambling post, I'm suggesting here that you have money automatically deposited into sub-accounts on payday. You won't even feel it and the accounts will grow and be there for ya.

And now, the post.

Ryan and I often joked that there was nothing to celebrate about a tax return because it was always wiped out the month or so prior to its deposit. Inevitably, some catastrophic event would ensure that we would need the extra funds to dig ourselves out. We’d have the van break down, or need to fly out for a funeral, or be given a once in a lifetime opportunity to go on a very special vacation.

Invariably, someone would ask the dreaded question, “is this in the budget for you guys?” And I would explain to someone that our "budget" was basically a motto: don’t spend anything

-and it really wasn’t working.

One day I had the realization that we weren’t even set up for such foreseeable expenses as Christmas! -or family vacations and home improvement. We’d leave Home Depot with a 400 dollar bill and think “gosh, that'll put a wrinkle in the old checking account.”

We were frugal; we never went nuts and got into crazy debt, but it didn’t feel good to just snag a few hundred from checking. I figured there must be a better way. Instead of our money being hijacked without a trace, we ought to have it in place

So I got online and looked into setting up sub savings accounts under my checking account in our bank. It was so easy!

And this is what it looks like: 

Ryan and I discussed how much we’d need throughout the year for different things like gifts, travel, and home improvement. Then I divided those amounts by 26, which is how many paychecks my husband gets in a year. I set up each account to be funded on the Thursdays Ryan’s paycheck is deposited. After a couple months I was really, really excited to see that the accounts had grown! The following Christmas, we spent the money in our Christmas gifts account. When we bought his car a few years ago, it needed a new clutch, and we were able to take it to a shop, instead of Ryan laboring over it for a week or more. Last year, Ryan and I went to England and paid for it! Paying for these expenses was stress-free because the money was there, just waiting to be used.

Honestly, the initial set up might take you a couple hours, but you will never regret it. I can't recommend this enough. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What?! Your kids don't stay in bed!?

When my two oldest were still in diapers and cribs, I visited my sister Kamie. Often. But not often enough, in hindsight.. With no kids in school yet, I could throw some provisions in a couple Walmart bags, drive an hour to Kamie's house and stay for days! Aaahhh. I had no concept of how fleeting that kind of freedom would be. 8 years gone. Anyway.

One evening, while I was there, I was having a very selfish conversation with Kamie I'm sure, and the children (hers, not mine. mine were in their cages fast asleep) just kept coming out from their rooms and interrupting me. "The nerve of these children!" I would think, but not say, "Can't they see it's DARK OUT?" "Did not their mother put them in bed!??" I just couldn't fathom this brand of childhood license and parental helplessness.

Not many years later, when I was struggling with the very same nighttime problem myself (go figure!), I called Kamie. She suggested putting the kids on a stool. She had tried it herself recently and it seemed to make her son unhappy, which was the point.
(I'm not talking bar stool here, btw. Step stool! This is ours, before we used it.)

The idea behind the stool is many-fold. We don't just use it for bedtime troubles. It replaces the corner (I didn't have a single available corner in my house at the time we put this into practice, so that was a consideration) and there is nothing to lean against (compounding the misery). Also, we put it in the middle of the living room, so everyone can see the disgraced person as they pass through (added humiliation). 

We set a timer if it's a minor offense (age of the child- I round up because I'm mean! ;), but for something huge like getting out of bed, or not falling asleep and keeping your sister from doing so, we don't set the timer. I do dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and wait until the wrongdoer is tired. Really tired. Right around the time they start to get emotional, that's when I let them go to bed. When I'm feeling a little nicer, I let them decide when they're ready to go to sleep. As soon as they're ready, off they go. But if I hear another peep, back on the stool for an interminable amount of time. Begin with that approach, if you're a softie. :)

As I mentioned, the stool started out as a hindrance for nighttime antics, but it quickly became a favorite consequence and is multi-purpose now. Because it's awesome, and has been for 5+ years, I'm sure I'll refer to it again in other posts.

It's the most wonderful time... of the day.

You know the tune...

Unfortunately, the "wonderful time" doesn't actually begin at bedtime. Oh-ho-ho-no! Bedtime is when the most heinous parental torture begins and stretches into eternity! But if you start your routine at 7 (I don't know about you, but an intolerance for all-things-children takes hold of me around 7pm), the kids could potentially be asleep by 10. And at 10, you can enjoy 5 high-quality minutes/wonderful time with your husband to remind you both of why you love each other so much. Doing special things like, brushing your teeth, popping in your retainer and kissing your prince g'night because he has to get up in 6 hours for work.

I don't really like bedtime.

But! it has gotten better. I made "GO TO BED!" checklists a couple years ago once I was sure both girls could read well enough. I laminated them, punched holes, ran some ribbon through them, and made my girls wear their checklist necklaces until they checked off everything on the list with a dry erase marker (kids love dry erase markers).

After a few weeks, the girls knew what they needed to do. They didn't have to ask me so many obvious questions. They didn't have to give me a play-by-play. They just knew the drill and did it. So, once they were proficient, and after some shameless begging on their part, I let them go necklace-less through bedtime. But they still hang in their closet (the checklists, not the girls) as a reminder that I can and will use them if necessary.

Here's a poem:

Sometimes children go to bed.
But then they get up.
You send them back to bed.
And they get up again...
There's an app for that.
Just kidding! but I do have another method I use, called "THE STOOL"

(It looked like a poem :)

Things that actually work, and nothing else.

Thinking I might get a few more Zs after Ryan went to work this morning (at 5:50), I laid down and tried to clear my mind of everything important (and meaningless) that might rob me of my precious snooze time. But, instead of falling into a dreamy state, I had the idea to start this blog. And then of course, there was no sleeping.

And the inspiration went something like this: Spending many smartphone-less hours in OB waiting rooms throughout the years, I had no choice but to read the magazines provided. If you are familiar with these parenting magazines, you will agree that they are full of advertisements, and a few "good ideas" for parents. What I found amusing, if not insulting, was how ridiculous some of the advice really was. I don't believe anyone, including the articles' authors, was actually putting into practice (for longer than a week) the helps they were offering. And if they were, it was because they didn't actually have any children. Shhh.

Lucky for me, I have REAL people in my life to give me advice, so I don't put a lot of stock in the magazine variety. Like most parents, I am desperate to accomplish the goals I have for my family, and I put good advice to use. My children, who I adore, are the unwitting guinea pigs in my learning-to-mother lab. Fortunately, they're pretty patient with me and even more fortunately, I'm pretty patient with them. ;)

I think it likely this blog will evolve, but for now, it's a place for me write up ideas that I have used in my family to help my children and myself improve in various ways. But watch out, because we aren't even close to perfect around here. So use my advice at your own risk, or be amused by it. It's your choice! :)