Tag Archives: moms

10 Chores That Young Kids Can Do

This piece also appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

One of the things I’ve tried to establish early in in my parenting is my desire to raise responsible children who contribute to their community (be it their family, classroom, society, etc). In our culture, this can be difficult… they’re busy, they want to watch TV, or they’re used to being told “You’re too young to do that.” But I’ve got 9 things my kids can and should be doing to contribute to the housework load.

1. Help unload the dishwasher. My kids do their plastic dishes, their cups/bottles/all those parts, and all the silverware (not including sharp knives). I just ask whichever of them is around when I need to get it unloaded, and almost always, they’re eager to help.

2. Put away their laundry. This one is a big one. We often watch some TV before bedtime, and I set a timer for 4-5 minutes at a time, and we pause the TV, and everyone puts some clothes away. Sometimes it’s their own clothes into their own dressers. Sometimes it’s towels, or something of mine or Hubby’s that I have them carry to our room for me to put away later. They’re quite good at helping, and they’re learning to keep their drawers organized… or everything won’t fit!

3. Clean up their toys/pick up their rooms. I don’t make them do this all day every day. We frequently have toys left out, even when we go to bed sometimes. But I do ask them to keep things fairly organized (in labeled bins!) and mostly off the floor. If it gets too out of control, we spend a morning or evening cleaning EVERYONE’s room. But I help, not really facilitate. They know what to do.

4. Bring dishes from the table to the sink. I like having them help clear the table. That way, they can’t just get up whenever they feel like it. They tell me they’re full, and I say when they can get up, take their dishes to the sink, get their hands and faces clean, and go play.

5. Gather/Sort/Switch over laundry. I have them bring their dirty laundry to the laundry room, and often to sort it, help me start a load, help me switch it to the dryer (they’re a little short to get in my top-loading washer), and bring it out to be folded.

6. Clean the table/windows/doors. I let them loose with a roll of paper towels and the Method Glass Cleaner. Boom. It’s not as streak-free as when I do it myself, but they learn that their contribution is valuable at any level.

7. Sweep/pick up crumbs. My kids really like to sweep, and I have a handheld broom and dustpan for them to get everything up off the floor. We try to do this once a day (but then again, it depends on the day).

8. Weed, water, and harvest in the garden. They love this one, simply because they love being outside. We’re teaching them to recognize weeds, and the right way to pull them up (getting the WHOLE weed). They’re also learning when our vegetables are ready to pick – or to eat right off the plant, in the case of several tomatoes and cucumbers!

9. Pack lunch. This one I’m going to start soon. Once I’ve given a good idea of what a healthy lunch looks like, I’m going to have things semi-prepared for my kindergartener to grab a few things to put in her lunch box each morning. I’ll choose a bit, and let her choose her snack and a few add-ins. That way, she’s more excited about eating it because she picked it.

10. Help make the bed. I haven’t set a good precedent about this one, but I often find myself having them help, even if it isn’t first thing in the morning. Having lots of decorative pillows can make the job cumbersome, but pulling up sheets and blankets and putting the animals on TOP of the blankets is pretty darn easy. As is helping Mom or Dad strip the bed and change the sheets! My kids like the putting-on of the pillow cases the best!

What are some things your kids to around the house? Are there other chores I should start my kids on early?

Things Toddlers Say

Happy Tuesday! We’re expecting some snow again tomorrow- can you believe it?! The kids are dying to be outside (like yesterday!) but most days it’s a little too chilly to be out for long. Anyway, here are some of our funnies from the week! Enjoy!

J’s latest way of getting out of wearing a jacket: Well, my skin keeps me warm in the weather.

J: Something’s poking me in this hat!
Me: In the front or back? I’ll fix it.
J: Never mind.
Me: Did you fix it?
J: No, I vanished it.

Necie: I didn’t come up here to hear y’all fight, believe it or not.
D, after a pause: Uh, not!

In the middle of the night…
Me: Good night. Go back to sleep.
D: See you tomorrow!

EK: I love that you always are never scared to try anything! I love that about you!
Me: Well thanks!
EK: You even like to try roller coasters!
Me: That’s true! I love roller coasters!
EK: I would only try one if it didn’t have the curly parts to it.

J: I did NOT dream about something delightful. I dreamed about a SHARP TOOTH!

What have your kids said that makes you laugh?!

Why Five Minutes Makes Me a Better Parent

This article originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

It’s overwhelming, this whole motherhood thing. I think back to the days of answering only to myself, and doing things only when I felt like it… I don’t necessarily miss those days, but I’d give a large sum of money for a day or two like that every once in a while.

When I get up in the morning, it’s usually to the sounds of (at least) one of the kids. Often, it’s the jabbering of my youngest, playing happily in his crib, knowing I’ll come and get him soon. Those days are so nice. I can go to the bathroom, wash my face, and drink a little water before I start the diaper change and breakfast hustle. But other days, I hear stomping on the stairs, drawers opening and closing, or even cries of, “He hit me!” or something similar. As you can imagine, that’s not quite as pleasant at start. Some days just begin in a more relaxing way than others.

I find myself, on difficult days, craving a moment to myself. That could be almost any sort of moment… for instance, I love the grocery store. I could take a mile-long grocery list to the store, alone, ideally with a cappuccino, and it would be the perfect hour: super productive, not a waste of time, but relaxing, and also delicious if I ended up with that fancy drink. Just to have that bit of time to myself to regroup is my biggest desire in a hectic day. I suppose that’s how the memes about moms eating chocolate while locked in the bathroom are born. Boy, can I relate.

But actually taking the minute to myself doesn’t happen as much as needing it does. If I end up – for whatever reason – pushing through my need for a break, I’ll just end up back feeling crazed again in another half an hour. If I don’t take the moment I need to center myself, zap my coffee and take a big swig, or sit down and zone out for a minute or five. I’m so driven by productivity and “getting things done so that I can relax later” that I rarely let myself take a few minutes for myself before the to-do list is finished.

I do know one thing, though. I can prevent the feelings of stress and anxiety from getting worse (and sometimes break that cycle entirely, if I’m lucky) by taking that time I need for myself sooner. Need a breather? Take one. Need to just sit down for a few minutes? Do it. Need three minutes to calm your brain and scroll through Instagram? That’s just fine. There are very few things on my “list” that won’t still be there in five minutes – including the kids. A mental break is just as important as a physical one, but sometimes I can’t pull my brain out of the frenzy unless I pull my body out of it, too. Sometimes, I even leave the house… I step out to the back porch, or walk to get the mail. Sunshine and fresh air are an immediate shock to my system when it’s bogged down by detailed-oriented tasks and grabby hands that need me. The way my home is set up, the kids are usually in the room that leads to the porch, and it’s full of windows, so I’m not exactly leaving them unattended. But I’m getting out of the situation enough to hear birds instead of the arguing, or to see sun and trees instead of the pile of laundry I was about to get to. Sometimes, even sitting down with the kids and watching Octonauts is a break. It interrupts their cycle of crazy when I redirect them to something else, and it interrupts my cycle of “can’t slow my roll” when I get in there for a snuggle.

So, if you’re like me, sometimes (often?) wound up tightly, pushing yourself through those moments of anxiety or frustration in the sake of thinking you can handle it – or worse, for the sake of productivity – then give yourself a break. Take that minute, or 5, or 10 that you need. Do whatever you need to do to find the time, sooner rather than later, to let yourself unwind. Drink your coffee while it’s still hot. Sit down to chat or snuggle with your child before you get started on the dishes. Sneak that candy bar in the bathroom! There’s no shame in the game of saving your own sanity. You do something for you, mama, and don’t feel bad about it.

My little people aren’t to blame. 

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve written again and again about losing my patience. Again and again, people comment… “Me too,” they say. “I know what you mean.” and “It gets easier.” are other common responses. I get texts, private messages, and comments right on my blog or my Facebook page telling me what I already know is true: “Every parent loses their patience sometimes. Kids can be totally frustrating. You aren’t to blame.”

Well, my little people aren’t to blame, either.

What is our culture’s obsession with blame? We need someone to be in the wrong in every unfavorable situation. Our president or the government is to blame. My boss is to blame. Our spouses, our parents, our kids. Well, what about the recent hurricanes? Who is to blame for that? No one. We’d love to pin down who caused all the destruction, who could be held responsible for the damage done, the property lost, or the money that will be spent on rebuilding instead of vacations and Christmas presents.

So when I get upset, annoyed, frustrated, or just plain angry, my little people aren’t to blame. I might need reminding of this fact, but they simply aren’t to blame for their tendencies toward mess-making, misunderstandings, or sleep-deprived moodiness. My little ones aren’t to blame for the fact that scrambled eggs aren’t their favorite breakfast, or that they have to wear pants today, or even the fact that they can’t survive off of fruit snacks.

But you know what, I do agree that I’m not to blame either.

You see, the kids and I, we are human. We are broken. We are prone to mistakes and sins. The only thing that can redeem us of those things is the grace of God. It’s by the grace of God we love each other through and in spite of messes (literal and figurative) and it is by His grace we can sometimes rise above the little things that often get under our skin. It’s by the grace of God that I even have these perfect little people in my life, and I wouldn’t dare say that my frustration outweighs the daily joy they bring to my life.

‘Twas the First Day of Kindergarten

‘Twas the First Day of Kindergarten: An Ode to Parents’ Feelings

‘Twas the first day of kindergarten,
And all through the town
The fathers and mothers were
Not at all sitting down.
They were packing the lunches
And setting out clothes,
Filling the water bottles
And wiping their nose.
For, you see, they were trying
To keep themselves busy
So it’d be easier to hide
All the crying and wishing
For just one more day
With their sweet little dears.
So they washed some more dishes
To hide the falling tears.

But then they remembered
The tantrums and tears
Over small things and large things
Like scratches or fears.
They’d make mountains of molehills
And things inconsequential.
They kept saying, “MOM!”
Till there was potential
For a nervous breakdown!
Or at least an explosion
Of some stressful shouting
That would cause a commotion.
They remembered those times
That they’d almost forgotten,
Of cleaning up messes
And wiping all the bottoms.

But between feelings of love,
And feelings of relief,
The parents would still know
That the school day is brief.
Their children would return,
Tired but happy.
They’d want to chat, have a snuggle,
And maybe take a nappy.
Then it’s dinner, and a bath,
And send them off to their beds,
The moms and dads needing
To rest their own heads.

It takes energy to love
All those little ones well,
And to worry and fret
Over healthy food or weird smells.
We’re entrusted these kids
For the shortest of seasons.
How can we not also
Give hundreds of reasons
To be protective and kind,
Giving all the hugs and kisses?
One day they’ll be grown,
And we’ll be the ones who miss them.

Looking for My Patience

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a parent; of course I lose my patience sometimes. It’s just what we do when things go awry, or when the day’s been too long, or when we’re pushed and stretched to the point of breaking. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, or that it is built into our systems as humans, but I don’t know a parent who has never lost their patience.

But I find that I have stretches of time where I lose my patience more than I keep it. I could blame it on hormones. I could blame it on low sleep. I could find a hundred other excuses for not keeping my cool, but what it all comes down to for me is relying on the Lord for my strength and patience, instead of relying only on myself. What do I mean?

I mean that  I can’t do it on my own. My striving, my best efforts, my standards for myself… none of those things can hold up without some divine intervention. I know that I need to ask my heavenly Father for patience before I need it, not during or after. I have to make the prayer for patience my mantra, and I have to keep reminding myself that my own patience isn’t sufficient unless it’s supplemented with His patience. I know I can’t be the best mom without His help.

While I don’t always find time for those long, elaborate, journaled prayers each day that I loved to write before my life was full of parenting, I need prayer even more than I did then. I find that I’m more conversational in my prayer times, coming and going through prayer throughout the whole day, praying for and with my kids, praying for help in a moment of weakness, for healing booboos, for bedtime to come quickly, and for more patience.

Who knows best how to parent more than God does? He is the perfect Father, the One whom our parent-child relationships should be modeled after. We can be frustrating children, I am sure. Reading the Bible can show us example after example of children who disobeyed, and made terrible choices. But God is full of patience, full of grace, and full of love for us at our most insolent of times. So when I am an imperfect parent, I try (even if it seems too late) to draw support from the perfect Parent, a Father who loves me – and my children – with all the patience we can imagine.

5 Reasons I’m No Longer Organized 

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles

By nature, I am an organized person. I love order, labels, color-coding, and fancy pens. Y’all know that last one falls under the same category, right? I love it when the toys in our house have all their own pieces in their own receptacles and are under the correct labels. Talk about a happy place! But how often does my home actually show that I’m organized? Very rarely. Let me tell you the reasons why.

1. I’m a busy person. I know – we are all busy in our own ways. To be honest, busyness often enhances my productivity. I have five spare minutes, and I cram as many things into those five minutes as I can. But where I start to slip is when I let go of the organizational systems I have in place. My clothes are put away according to what type of garment they are. Pajamas here, workout clothes there, casual shirts here, blouses there. But then I have a pile of gently worn clothing that doesn’t fall into the “dirty laundry” category, but hasn’t been refolded or hung back up? Talk to me, huge stack of clothes I tried to lay out nicely but instead are all now wrinkly so I either have to iron them or throw them away. (Ahem. I will never iron. So you see the problem.) It’ll take more than those five spare minutes to put you all away, so destined you are to stay there on the ottoman at the foot of my bed.

2. I don’t live by myself. I know, you’re so surprised that since I’m an organized person, my family can’t just fall in line with me! I, too, frequently fail to see why if there is a labeled bin for toy cars, why are there toys cars not only in every crevice of my home, but also in the bins labeled “Dress Up Clothes” and “Kitchen Items”? Or how about when I have special places for canned goods in my pantry, but there are often canned goods, sitting lonely on the shelf that IS NOT FOR CANNED GOODS. It must be that the leprechaun that haunts kindergarten classrooms in March also haunts my kitchen. All the time. I digress.

3. I love organization so much that I am always finding new and better ways to organize my home. Pinterest is a win AND  a fail for me. I find a good way of doing things, use it for a while, and then I see a new idea. Well, let’s try it! Oh, Hubby and the kids can’t follow my train of very organized thought, packed away into separate see-through containers, stacked on the bottom two shelves of that bookcase in the guest room? Okay, fine. I guess it was a little confusing. Let’s go back to the other way!

4. We have a lot of clutter. I used to think that clutter was knick-knacks from flea markets and bric-a-brac from trips I’d been on in the past. I have very few of those, but I still have a lot of clutter. Nowadays I think my “clutter” is the coupons I don’t want to throw away in case we want to replace our windows this month, and the book my mother-in-law lent me that I honestly do want to read but should probably give back since I’ve been borrowing it for a year and haven’t cracked it open. I’ve heard about the Konmari book, and I think I’d be all about it: if it doesn’t give you joy, toss it. Okay, great, toss that spinach and the annoying bedtime book my kid won’t stop asking me to read.

5. I’m too tired. I know that being organized is energizing for me, and will absolutely save me valuable time with many tasks around my house. The systems we have in place that work are wonderful ones, and I’m always raving about how I’d love everything to be that orderly. But the truth of the matter is that if I have an extra few hours somewhere, I’d rather be taking my kids to the park, sneaking in a date night with my husband, or having a glass of wine with a friend. I don’t have the energy to organize the laundry room’s cabinets or to choose which cloth napkins give me the most joy. You can find me snuggling my babies, watching Moana for the thirtieth time.

If you can get organized, I highly recommend it. It saves time, effort, and often some of your sanity. But if you’re like me, and you just haven’t kept it all together, that’s okay. Empty nesters have a lot of time, I hear.