Friday, January 8, 2010

ReRun: Are You Doing Too Much?

One rule we have in our family is that I only do the things that only I can do.

In other words, if someone else can do it, I train them to have at it. This frees me up for doing other things. Only I can grow the babies. Only I can plan the garden. Only I can plan and correct schoolwork. Only I can organize the kitchen. Only I can plan out a schedule for our days.

They can help pull weeds. They can clean the toilets and sinks. They can cook many of the meals. They can push laundry through — with oversight, of course.

Mercy Laundry

We all work in the Peterson Household. I know that some of you reading this will just move on at this point. That’s okay. I have heard from people who believe their children should not have to do any work. You are entitled to your opinion. I happen to believe we are put on this earth to work and that everyone has a part to fulfill. Including in our homes.

Besides the usual cleaning up bedrooms and cleaning after themselves, everyone has one job a day which they do first thing in the morning. I have thought about what needs to be done each day to keep the house looking relatively neat. I say relatively, because we are 11 people packed into a 2400 sq. ft. house. It’s never perfect.

Each morning, one person vacuums the living and dining rooms. One person washes the sinks and toilets. One person feeds the animals. One person empties the dishwasher. And one person makes breakfast. That way, if we should have surprise company, the house is pretty neat, and no one worked more than 15 minutes total.

Anna Cooking

We also each have an after-meal chore: clearing the table, washing the table, washing, drying, putting away dishes, etc.

We usually don’t have to deal with attitudes, since this is something we ALL do. It’s just part of Peterson Life. Everyone works before breakfast. Everyone works in the garden. It’s the way things are. They sometimes take a long time to do it, but they never complain about it. We all work; that’s the way it is. Even the littlest ones jump to help their buddies accomplish their work “quicker.”

Many hands make light work, the saying says, and in this case it is true. By all of us pulling together, no one has to do too much work — especially me. For the things only I can do take up many more hours than I have each day.

On the weekend there is a bigger job inside for each person and another one outside. Dusting, cleaning mirrors and windows, cleaning stuff out of the car, and mopping floors are jobs which fall into this category. We each spend an hour or so on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings doing these. It really doesn’t take that long, but I have some children still learning to do their jobs quickly. Sometimes they like to let it take all day. It must be done before the movie Friday night or lunchtime Saturday morning.

So take a look at your home…what needs to be done? What can be taken over by others (at least with some training)? What can only be done by you? It will look different in each family, but with a little thought I am sure you can find some things to hand to others and make room to fit some of the things which are currently not getting done.

Oh, and it will be a while before they do things as well as you. I have not reached that point yet. My oldest is about to turn 16, so I am guessing I may never reach it. But the way I figure it, toilets cleaned less than perfectly every day are still cleaner than they were when I did them once every week or two.

Keep On Keepin’ on, Mamas.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rerun: Training Those Characters

Anyone who knows me in real life knows I have a house full of characters. Seriously…my kids are SO funny! And witty. They keep us laughing all day long. Usually. When they are not driving me crazy. But that’s beyond the point!

We recently have done a new thing to try to train these characters in godliness and grace. Our point in parenting is not to train perfect children, but to train children who are ready to hear from the Lord and wholeheartedly follow Him when they are out of our house. Sometimes in parenting it is so easy to concentrate on perfection of behavior that we create hardness of heart.

Recently we had a really rough time of it in our household. On different occasions, I had four of my six school-aged children lie to me (boldfaced, straight-to-my-face lying!) in a 12-hour period. Anyone know that’s a cause for some serious dissension in the Peterson household? I called school to a standstill. For what good does it do to have the worldly success of multiplying fractions if you cannot have a life of integrity?

We all got out our Bibles and started studying the topic of “lies,” “lying,” etc. We made a list of them and started writing them out into a subject of our Bible notebook. I figure that the Word of God is a two-edged sword and that His word will not come back void. Over the course of a couple days we wrote out every verse we could find on the topic of lying. That is a lot!!! After that I had each child pick their favorite three verses. We marked them and I picked five of those for the children to memorize. I had them write each verse on one side of an index card (including the location of the verse). On the other side I had them write just the first letter of the words. So on one side it would say, “Psalm34:13 — Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” And on the other side it would say, “Kytfeaylfsl.” This helps them memorize and review the verses.

We attached all the verses together with a metal ring. In order to watch a movie with us that weekend they had to be able to say all five verses with no more than two helps. Now we have a whole arsenal of verses to help us out.

For some of my children, just memorizing these five are enough to keep them from lying. For others, **ahem**, it has not been enough. So, when God illuminates the fact that a little sinner is lying, I ask that child to go pick another verse to add to their cards, and memorize it before the next meal. (Yes, they are picking the shortest ones first…but they’ll run out of those eventually if they continue, and it’ll work out OK.)

We have moved on to other topics: truthfulness, diligence, obedience, etc. It is not making things perfect around here; after all, there are 11 sinners in a small, confined area. But I am trusting that in the long run, we are going to reap the fruit of having these verses hidden in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him. Each topic gets a section of our Bible Notebooks (eventually we will effectively have a topical concordance in our notebooks), and each section of the ring gets a colored index card on top of the memorized verses so we know where one topic ends and another begins.

Hope that helps some of you with ideas for training your own little characters. Remember that if we have outward perfection, but God doesn’t have a soft, pliable heart to work with, all our parenting is wasted. Some things are more important than academic subjects.

Keep on Keepin’ on, Mamas! Our role is big, but our God is bigger!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Week1: An "I Heart Faces" Photo Challenge!

I heart faces is a year old. I wasn't even going to enter until I saw this photo. It's not a face, but they said they'd be lenient with that rule as long as there is at least a person in it. I love little baby feet... and this photo just screamed to be the heart in the logo...

I had to laugh at my animal entry... two of the judges can touch their tongues to their noses. So can my cow, evidently.

And just because if I am entering others, I might as well enter this one.

My last entry ... Sara came down the steps yesterday with her heart shirt saying she just HAD to be part of the entry. She also braved the frigid elements to get this photo. She is by far my most enthusiastic model. I think she will be my intern when she is a bit older... So this one is my daughter's idea and entry. But she said she'd share the lense if she won it.

Go check out the other entries...

“I am submitting this photo into the I Heart Faces logo photo contest. By entering, I am granting I Heart Faces LLC permission to consider my photo for use in the marketing and promotion of their website.”

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Letter to MOMS of Lots of Littles

Rerun... this time it's one I need to remember with this crew of mine...


A Letter to Moms of Lots of Littles

Today, I want to write a specific post to the Mamas of Lots of Littles. Or maybe Only Littles. And by Littles I mean the children too small to really be a helpful member of the family. Once I heard an interesting thought: when children are little (under 7 or so?) they are not a productive member of the family — they cost more to feed than they are able to help out. In the middle years they even out — they can help enough to balance the food they eat. By the time they are bigger, they can help enough to be a positive member of the family’s society. I think that was from an Amish or Mennonite background, but I think it has value. OK — we can argue semantics for a while… I know that a person’s value is not just dependent on what they can produce, but go with me on this.

I now have Older Children, Middle Children, and Little Children. Things are easier than they used to be. When the baby is fussy, I can sleep in a little. I rarely have to do the dishes. I even split the cooking duties, so if I am in a project, the children still get fed. BUT — I remember when I only had little ones. I remember it well.

I still get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about it. My mind flashes back to that 4th story apartment in Okinawa, Japan, where my husband was deployed or working all the time. I remember the loneliness and isolation. I remember pacing the floor with Anna who cried all the time her first 6 months of life. I remember being so tired I was dizzy. I remember crying as I surveyed the laundry piled over my entire sofa, as high as my neck. Oh, do I remember.

Here’s my encouragement to you — this too shall pass. You will survive this. And, surprisingly, so will your children. They will grow up. Although the days are very, very long, the years are so very short.

As hard as it is at times, enjoy your children. Here are my suggestions for your sanity in these years:

  1. Have a routine. Notice I didn’t say schedule. Routine. Go from one thing to another in order so they know what to do, where to be, and what is coming next. This will help you. Have each person have a place to be and something to do.
  2. Teach them to play alone. This is hard if there are a lot of them, but it is important.
  3. GUARD Naptime. If they don’t all sleep, make them read on their beds. Give yourself some quiet time. And use the quiet time for YOU — not to catch up on housework.
  4. Teach them to help you. When you are emptying the dishwasher, let them do the silverware. When folding laundry, they can fold kitchen towels and washclothes. When cleaning the bathroom, they can wipe down the sink with a cloth while you do the tub. They can empty the garbages into the kitchen garbage can. Work together, room by room. Before long, they will be able to do the simple things on their own. Then it is just a matter of time before they can do bigger things.
  5. Snuggle up on the sofa and read to them. Some of our favorite times were reading aloud together. I rarely do it any more. I wish I did.

Someday you will be past the All-Littles Stage and be able to look back and realize that it’s easier. I promise. If not, you can come and cry on my shoulder and accuse me of lying. Until then, enjoy your children, and keep doing the next thing. Don’t forget to train them well. Things which are cute at two are not so cute at twelve. I promise you’ll survive this. I did!