Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cleaning House

We are a family of seven. Two adults. Five kids ages 10 and under. When we signed a 2-year lease on our house, we weren't planning on adopting three kids. Heck, we weren't even planning on adopting, period! We signed a 2-year lease on this 1800 square foot house in June of 2011. We love our house...adore it, really. It is a cute house with a great floor plan. It is in the best neighborhood, on a beautiful, huge lot. It fits us like a more than one sense. It fits our style and the personality of our family. It also is a tight glove fit as far as space goes. Because of our lease, we're here for the long haul, at least another 10 months. I anticipate we'll be here longer than that, until we're in the place to buy a house again, possibly 2 years. Because things are so tight, we have to make sure we stay organized and are on top of our cleaning.

Every evening before dinner, all the kids are responsible for cleaning their bedrooms. We have a 16 cube storage unit in the girls' room. Each girl has four baskets for her toys. I don't ask the toys to be organized within the basket. My only requirements for cleaning are that every girl puts all her toys away in her baskets, and that dirty laundry gets put in the hamper. There are two tubs of dress-ups in the closet, and all the dress-up clothes must be put away daily, too. Pretty simple, right?

The girls are learning, but it is a slow curve. Somehow, they think they are saving time by stuffing their dirty clothes behind the dress-up tubs instead of dropping them in the hamper. They think I won't notice if they shove their dolls into the farthest corner under the bed instead of putting them in the doll bed by the window. And hiding books between the mattresses is easier than setting them on the book shelf, maybe...right?

Every night before bed, the kids go through the house with a basket, collect anything of theirs, and put it away. As soon as they finish, I go through the house with a large tote and collect anything they have neglected to pick up. I also pull books out from between mattresses, rescue dolls from the corner under the bed, and remove clothes from behind the dress-up tubs. Anything that goes into my tote stays there until a pre-appointed date. If a child needs something out of the tote, they must do the chore of my choice to earn the item back.

On the pre-appointed date (usually two Saturdays per month), I sort the confiscated items into piles. Each child is given the option to give away anything in his/her pile, and they will not be penalized for that item. My 6&under kids must do a chore for every 5 toys in the pile. The 7&over kids must do a chore for every 3 toys in the pile. For every 5 (or 3) pieces of clothing in the pile, the child must choose a piece of clothing to donate to Goodwill.

I have an envelope filled with slips of paper. Each paper holds a task. Most are chores. Some are other tasks. There are even some "get out of jail free" slips. The kids enough slips to cover the chores they have earned. Today Bubbles only had to take two tasks. She's the best at cleaning up after herself and caring for her things. Snapper and Pepper each had 4 tasks. Snapper had a ton of clothes in her pile, so she also ended up having to choose several pieces of clothing to give away. Piper had a whopping 9 tasks, and Sunny had 11. Both of those girls will occasionally refuse to clean up their things. That's fine with me...less housework for me later!

We spent our morning doing the tasks that they kids had earned. I have sparkling clean windows, a swept front porch, spotless door frames and baseboards, fresh bathrooms, clean sheets on beds, etc. Most of my time was spent overseeing tasks, instructing on how to properly perform the tasks, and keeping everyone on track. Lest you think I'm a total work horse, there are many silly slips of paper in the envelope, too. Piper had to wipe down the front of the refrigerator, but when she was finished, she got to eat the snack of her choice. Sunny had to do 25 jumping jacks while singing "I'm a cleaning machine!" Pepper had to hug me and apologize for not taking care of his things. Snapper got lucky and drew two "get out of jail free" slips.

The kids had great attitudes the whole time they were working. Piper and Sunny plowed right on through their long lists of jobs without complaint, and they did a great job. Sunny encountered a time-out detour, though, after she locked Snapper out on the back porch. Her time-out got longer and longer as she refused to sit on the time-out towel. 35 minutes later, her 5-minute time-out finished and she was able to return to her chores. Snapper dawdled through her first task, which ended up taking her about 10 times longer than it needed to. She earned an extra task as a consequence. Pepper not only did a thorough, swift job on his chores, but decided he wanted to do more chores to earn some extra money. Bubbles was not very helpful at all, but then again, she didn't have to be. She earned the right to relax this morning by maintaining her things carefully throughout the week!

The kids finished their tasks by noon, and enjoyed a few hours of playtime. I spent my day cycling laundry and doing other odd jobs as I waited for each load to finish. People, I did 9 loads of laundry today. I normally do about 10 loads per week, but today I washed bedding, which doubled my laundry pile.

By bedtime the house was messy again. The kids went through and picked up their trails and cleaned their rooms. When they finished, I went through with my tote as usual. Snapper, Pepper and Sunny had done a great job of putting their things away. Bubbles surprised me, though, by not being careful in her clean-up. I picked up at least a dozen of her things, which is more than she typically leaves out in a whole week.

Piper has a hard lesson to learn. When she got back the bag full of the things she had earned back, she was told to put her things away in her toy storage boxes. For whatever reason, she took great pains to stuff all her things in her baby doll bed, and then covered it all with a blanket. I went to put the blanket on her bed, and uncovered her stash. Sadly for Piper, everything she spent the whole morning working to earn back has been returned to the tote in my closet. She will face another Saturday of chores as a consequence. She was very upset when I confronted her on it. She does not want the chores, and thinks I should give her another chance. Sadly, I do not agree. I gave specific directions about putting the toys away, and she chose to be deceitful and to disregard my directions. I'll bet she thinks twice before doing that in the future.

I'm really interested to see how the next two weeks go, and whether or not the kids take better care of their things.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Dear Mrs. Snapper's Mom,

You are right. Snapper's work is excellent, and she did carry the majority of this project. After reviewing my notes again, I have decided that it is only fair and right to award Snapper a grade of 100% for her social studies project. She previously received the same grade as her group members, and she deserved better. The scores have been adjusted accordingly. Thank you for being an advocate for your child.

Snapper's Teacher

This came in response to a kind email I sent to the teacher after receiving Snapper's very low group project grade. I could have let it go, but I decided to pursue it. My sweet child worked way too hard to have her grades brought down due to another child's irresponsibility. I was an advocate for Snapper, and it paid off this time. I am very relieved.

Monday, September 24, 2012

That Frustrating Moment...

Snapper is a great student with an amazing work ethic. She does her homework thoroughly and with excellence. She had a rough transition into 5th grade this year, and it took her a month to figure out how to properly budget her time so she could complete her homework and turn it in on time. Unfortunately, her teachers this year extend zero grace. If the homework is even one day late, they receive a 0 for it. And they sit out recess the next day. I agree. 5th graders must learn to be responsible for their work. And I disagree. A 5th grader is still a child. Not even my college professors were that harsh with grading. Late work typically lost a letter grade per day late. Snapper had worked out the kinks in the homework now, and she has figured out her schedule. However, she did not receive full credit for her first month of homework, which hurt her grades a little bit.

Determined to overcome her rocky start, she put a tremendous amount of effort into her social studies group project, an artifacts box about the Mayan civilization. She spent many hours online reading and researching. She did a beautiful job recreating artifacts to represent the culture. Matt and I worked with her to find accurate information sources. She did everything in her power to do an excellent job on her project. This was a group project. She called her group members and coordinated who was supposed to bring what. On a day when she and her group were not able to finish what they were working on in class, the teacher arranged for the group to come to school early to finish. Snapper was the only one who showed up. When she was concerned that her group members were not going to follow through with their parts of the project, she did extra work to make sure they had enough content for their artifacts box. She was right--the other two girls did not bring in what they were supposed to bring in, even though Snapper called to remind them. She received her score today. B-. 80/100 points.

Of course, I emailed the teacher to find out why. Snapper has always done nothing but excellent work on projects in the past. I could not for the life of me understand why she received a poor grade on a project she put so much effort into. It turns out they were graded as a whole group, not as individuals. This means that "Rachel" received 80/100 points for a project to which she contributed nothing. "Gloria" received 80/100 points for the sloppy, incomplete work she brought to the project. Snapper received 80/100 points for carefully crafted artifacts, a well-written report, neat penmanship, for completing the lion's share of the project as a whole, and for responsible leadership.

This is the first time in Snapper's school career in which I am upset over a grade. This is not right at all. Snapper has no control over the rest of her group. She did everything she could, and she did her portion with excellence.

Now how to handle it...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Pepper, age 6, is doing a fundraiser at school. He is going to be running laps, and he needs sponsors. He is very motivated to get pledges so that he can get prizes. Here's what he just said to me.

Mommy, I need to get two pledges by tomorrow so I can get a boobering. I have ALWAYS wanted a boobering! 

I looked at his earnest little face and busted out laughing. I couldn't hold it.

Boomerang, Pepper. The word is boomerang.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Big 1-0!

Snapper is 10. I simply can't believe it! It seems like just yesterday that I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my 20" baby girl. And here she is 10 years later, 4'8" tall, and a truly amazing young lady. I love her so very much! This morning she got a new bike for her birthday. Here are a few photos for you, one of my girl in each year of her life.