My 3 yr old daughter took this pic of me

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grief and Battle

Little Flower's case. I don't even know what to say. She has not been represented or advocated for well and it's time to fight. I woke up this morning with a list of things I need to do to get this fight going and to advocate for her and then........I took a nap. All I did today was make one of the many phone calls and send a couple emails. That's it. But I guess that is grief taking over. I am so emotionally tired and overwhelmed that I just needed to close my eyes and let it all go away.

So now my day is almost over, but I am feeling more emotionally able to proceed. And so I will begin this next phase of the journey asking God for guidance and wisdom and asking you for your prayers. I love this little girl and need to fight for her but I also know that God loves her more and knows the whole story and sees the big picture. I need to trust Him and let her go. I need to lay her future in His hands. Pray for us as we try to do that..........

Monday, February 25, 2013

Natural Deodorant Recipes and Options

From the archives with an update....

It seems that everything is bad for you. It's overwhelming to try to live a healthy lifestyle with all of the changes that you'd have to make. This is the main reason that I haven't done a lot to change our lifestyle and health choices in the past. I'm busy. I've got 4 kids and homeschool and have an online store. I'm trying to maintain our home and cook healthy meals and really......who has time for organic this and natural that? What's the difference anyway? If this doesn't kill me, something else will, so what's the point? It doesn't really matter that much, does it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not enjoy doing research. It's so boring and time consuming. But I want to know the truth about what we are consuming and how that affects our health. So I have to research if I want to make informed and wise decisions. So I dug in today a little, just to give you some background as to why I am now making my own deodorant. In a nutshell, (for those of you who won't take the time to read the info located in the following links) the main ingredient in antiperspirant is aluminum. Aluminum builds up in your brain and leads to Alzeimers and other serious ailments. Aluminum also damages cells and another ingredient, paraben, drives the growth of those damaged cells. This causes cancer. Breast cancer. Need I say more? If so, read the following info and make up your own mind on the issue.

We all have a responsibility to care for our families and their health and well-being. Make informed decisions. Below the links I have included the recipe and instructions for making your own deodorant. It's super easy and took me 5 minutes. I have also included recipes found in the following links as well as a third link to an online store that sells natural deodorants that are free of aluminum, parabens, and petroleum. 

The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant

Deodorants, Antiperspirants, and Your Health

Purchase All Natural Deodorant - terraNATURALS

The recipe I am using is as follows:

1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup corn starch
2 TBSP coconut oil (found at health food stores - photo below)

Combine the baking soda and corn starch, add the coconut oil and mix into a paste. Fill up your old deodorant stick and voila. You're done! The coconut oil liquifies as it is rubbed on your skin, so if you are finding it too soft to apply, try putting the deodorant in the fridge for awhile to harden it. You can also add 10 drops of essential oils in a scent that you like. I personally LOVE the coconut smell, so didn't do this.

 This is just one brand of cocnut oil you can buy, but there are others.

The finished product - stored in my old, washed out deodorant container.

It is a bit messier than the deodorant you are used to and it will likely leave some white marks on your clothes, but really worth the health benefits. There is a recipe below for a spray deodorant that may be better for not leaving white marks. I don't know for sure cuz I haven't tried it yet :)

Here are 2 more recipes........

Basic Deodorant Powder
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
A few drops essential oils such as lavender or cinnamon
Place the ingredients in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Sprinkle a light covering of the powder on a damp washcloth. Pat on. Don’t rinse.

Basic Liquid Deodorant
1/4 cup each witch hazel extract, aloe vera gel, and mineral water
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
A few drops antibacterial essential oils such as lavender (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to blend.
Makes 3/4 cup
Shelf life: Indefinite.

I also recently found this at Saveon...

 ...and I have tried it a few times and it seems good. The ingredients list is pronounceable and understandable and doesn't have anything in it that is dangerous to you, as far as I know. It's a liquid roll-on but I think they also had one that was in a stick. They have lavender scent and unscented. They have a whole line of products, including a kids line, but I haven't thoroughly checked it out yet. Let me know what you think!

What natural products are you using?

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Stranger

I have read the following story a few times over the years and it's worth your time. I do not know the author, unfortunately....

The Stranger 

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on. 
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors:
Mom taught me good from  evil, and Dad Taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies. 
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind. 
Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet.
(I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.) 
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. 
My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely ( much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. 
His name?.... 
We just call him, "TV."

* *Note: This should be required reading for every household in America !** He has a wife now....We call her "Computer."

This story grips me every time I read it. When a real person acts violently or swears or acts inappropriately in front of my children, I cringe and do anything I can to protect my kids. I do not allow those things in my home. But I let it in through the screens in my home. 

Some reasons I hate tv, video games, and electronics...

It takes away from the relationships in the home by isolation. Everyone is on their electronic device and not interacting with each other.

The more they watch, the more they misbehave and fight with each other.

The more they watch, the more dazed and unresponsive they are. It actually negatively affects the way your brain functions - especially in children. 

They see and hear things that they should not be seeing and hearing. It puts fantasies and wicked thoughts into your mind. Actions follow thoughts.

It zaps their creativity and imaginations.

It creates a mentality of entitlement and boredom.

It promotes laziness, unhealth, and depression. 

It steals your life, your joy, your potential.

It takes your focus off of people and real life and God. 

We have always had "rules" around our electronic use, but, I admit,  I have not been very consistent with them. Two days ago, I decided that I want something better for our family. I want kids who know their parents love them and who have close family relationships. I want kids who see and know and pursue their potential in life. I want kids who work hard and play hard. I want kids who have good character and kids who have a heart to serve others and not be self-centered. I want to enable and encourage my kids to be successful in their lives and in their relationships. 

Two days ago, I limited tv, computer, and ds to 2 hours maximum combined per day. The kids are a bit uncomfortable with this but are compliant. We are using timers and keeping track. I am encouraging good 'ol work and play and relationships the rest of the time. What they don't know is that in about a week's time, I am going to change it to 1 hour per day.....and then a week later we'll be moving to 30 min per day.....and after that maybe only a couple days out of the week or just on the weekend. This stuff is not going to be ruling our lives anymore. 

We are actually going to move and learn and grow and spend time with each other and with our family and friends and God. We are going to make a difference in the world around us. We are going to discover our potential and help others discover theirs. We are going to really live. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Favorite Organizing Clutter Solutions

I have 2 little girls and the hair accessories are overwhelming. My bathroom closet looked atrocious no matter how many times I tried to reorganize it - until I found this at Canadian Tire for $17. Best $17 I ever spent on organizing.

Also in the bathroom, I have organized all of our regularly used lotions, shampoos, etc on a couple of lazy susans on the top shelf and I have baskets for my towels, hand towels, curling irons, brushes, and one for spa stuff. I threw in an empty "catch all" basket and when it gets full of stuff that I found around the house that belongs in the bathroom, it gets put away.

Our shoes used to be in a heap in the bottom of our entrance closet and finding pairs proved to be quite a challenge. I picked up these organizers at IKEA for I think $10 each and they are sooo easy to use. I love them! The shoe problem is now virtually non-existent.

Our master bedroom closet is large but we don't hang at least half of our stuff, so I put my 9 drawer dresser in the bottom and hang my stuff on the left and his on the right with organizers (from IKEA) in the middle to help keep things separate. We also have a wardrobe that we use to keep our worn-once-but-still-clean-so-gonna-wear-again stuff in. Before it was just all over the place and adding, unnecessarily, to the laundry pile.

Also in our room, I purchased a 3-sorter laundry hamper for lights, darks, and work clothes.

And this 4-sorter + 4-sorter + 2 single hampers for the laundry room - makes SUCH a difference and no more laundry all over the floor! (ok, well sometimes there still is, but it's WAY better than it was!)  I know. 10 hampers seems excessive, but believe me, it's not!

The schoolroom is organized with the help of an IKEA EXPEDIT shelving unit fitted with cheap baskets from JYSK and cheap white bins from Walmart (baskets were under $5 ea and the bins were $2something ea) The green ones were from JYSK as well and were $5 ea. Each bin has it's own category - science, playdough, busy bags, art supplies, puzzles, etc.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tribute to My Family

My Dad is a pretty solid guy. He's a hard worker and had the same job forever (more than 25 years) and has had his current job forever. He is all brains and speaks 4 languages fluently and could (and would) defend someone he loves in court - and win. He fights for the helpless aborted babies and writes to the people in government regularly. He loves God and his faith is solid and unwavering.

Mom is incredibly strong and determined. She works crazy hard and likes to laugh and have a good time. No matter how hard or long or tedious a job, she will work til it is done. She likes to plan surprises for people, and will be there for you whenever you need it. She will bend over backwards and loves to help people in any way she can. She loves learning, music, and singing. She loves God more than anything else in this world and is often sharing words of wisdom.

Lexie, my oldest sister, can make anyone feel beautiful. She embraces people without judgement and knows how to have a good time. She is terribly funny and fun to hang out with. She is an amazing storyteller and will have everyone laughing in no time. She is very money smart and hardworking and motivating. She can plan a great party on short notice and will help you succeed in your life.

Bonnie, my next oldest sister, is a lover of knowledge. She knows about everything, it seems. She always knows the best, time-saving, money-saving way to do almost anything. She is mechanical, studies hard, and works hard. She is a positive and motivating and loving person and she loves spending time with the people she loves. I truly believe she could do whatever she put her mind to. She is very forgiving and her faith is important to her.

Mark, my older brother, is the hardest working human being I've ever met. He is crazy thrifty and his problem solving skills are unmatched. He always has a story to illustrate his point and it always makes perfect sense. He is an excellent teacher, lover of God, loving and compassionate father, and would literally give you the shirt off his back even if he just met you 2 seconds ago and it was -30. He is the least judgemental person I know and incredibly stubborn and tough. He likes to prove he can do it, especially if everyone has told him it's impossible. An excellent and hilarious story teller - he's unique.

Marla, next sister, is hilarious. She loves to analyze and she likes to research things and make sure that she is always making the best possible choice. She is silly at heart and very fun to be around.  There is never a dull moment when hanging out with Marla and she can make any situation light by her amazing ability to make vivid comparisons from her imagination to match the situation she's/you're facing.She is an hilarious story teller, a hard worker, and a good friend and will go out of her way to help you in any way she can. She has a huge heart for the less fortunate, loves truth and is always seeking it and God.

I just have to share such a vivid comparison from this morning that she put on facebook - 

 "feeling a bit like a hampster who got into a huge bag of sugar and is now laying in the corner of his cage with his eyes bugging out of his head, hoping he doesnt have a heart attack. only I didnt eat sugar. just had a stressful morning."

Then there's me, and I am not going to describe myself - I'll let somebody else do that lol

Next in line is Gerda. She, like my dad, is very analytical and smart. She takes her time making decisions  and likes to make the right decision the first time and not waste her time and have to do it over again. She always has a piece of godly wisdom and is a great person to talk to when you're having a rough day. She is an excellent listener, very money savvy, and has a knack for decor, style, and makeup. 

Then there's Alice. She is quiet and doesn't open up easily, but when she does, there is a beautiful spirit in there. She believes in people and is a great listener. She is seeking the face of God and is an excellent mother. She works hard and is quite fun to be around. She is a funny storyteller, as well. She is very loving and affectionate, too. 

Josiah, my brother, is the youngest. He is a genius, just like our Grandfather was. He works hard, plays hard, and is a very loving guy. He's a great listener and friend. He is naturally funny and an amazing storyteller and handles any social situation with ease. He's the guy that always says the right thing and has 10 people hanging on his every word. 

These 9 amazing people I get to call family and I'm grateful for all of them.  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Our son, Gameboy, just turned 12 years old on Saturday. He has grown up so fast and is an amazing kid.

He is empathetic and kind and smart. If I'm having a busy day, he'll come up and ask me if I've had anything to eat and could he get something for me.

He is so helpful around the house.

He is affectionate and great with babies.

He loves hanging out with his friends and his dad and I.

He is a social guy and can be tossed into a crowd of kids he's never met and he'll figure it out and find a friend. He is not intimidated easily.

He has a memory like you wouldn't believe and learns like it's going out of style. He has a wealth of knowledge, on so many different topics, swimming around in his head.

He is always (and I mean always) cracking a joke (making up his own half the time), telling you about some episode of whatever (in great detail, remembering everything everyone said in the entire episode - and in order), playing a video game (and telling you about it the whole time), poring over books (he loves history, comics, and factual books, especially Ripley's believe it or not).  

His lego setup has been a permanent addition to our home for the last 5 years - there's no such thing as "cleaning up the lego".

He can often be found in the kitchen making a ton of waffles, cornbread, pancakes, or baked oatmeal.

He is a very imaginative artist and his artwork is more like a video game on paper and there's a lot going on.

He's a food guy and if he likes what you made him, you are gonna really, really be appreciated and he'll go on and on and on about how AMAZING it is and how he hasn't had food like that in a LONG TIME! The downside? That he's gonna let you know if he doesn't like it, but he tries to be polite about it - quite funny. Ex. "This isn't my favorite, mom, but it's ok, I guess, but I wouldn't pick it, but it's not the worst thing I've ever eaten.....Thanks for trying to make us a nice I have to eat all of it?" lol

Gameboy likes quality time and one on one, whether it be boardgames, going out to eat, going to the city to browse the toy section or the video game section at Walmart, reading a book together, etc.

He loves God and truly lives his life in a way that is pleasing to God.

He is emotionally healthy and balanced and can handle some tough stuff in this area with grace.

I feel so blessed to know this kid and I am honored to be his mom. I couldn't ask for a more creative, imaginative, artistic, kind, and interesting kid! Thank you, God, for my Gameboy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Different Approach to Valentine's Day

Love is in the air today and my Facebook feed is full of posts about Valentine's Day. The stores are crammed with men picking up last minute gifts for their significant other and women picking out a special something for themselves or their special guy. Chocolates, wine, flowers, jewellry, lingerie, among other things. 
A lot Most of us women expect a gift on Valentine's Day from our man and if we don't get one, we are disappointed and even angry or hurt. If we are single ladies, we feel bad that we don't have a special someone in our lives and so we treat ourselves instead. 

18 billion dollars will be spent for Valentine's Day. 

Another commercially run "holiday". It's not about love, it's about money. 

This post was on Dani Johnson's wall (she's a self made millionaire):

Can you believe what the marketers have turned Valentines Day into?? BUYING!! 18 Billion will be spent for Valentines day. What happened to LOVING? A study showed that 53% of women say if they dont receive a gift from their significant other than they will END their relationship....15% of women buy themselves a gift for Valentines Day. REALLY!!! Let's feed an orphan for Valentines instead of feeding selfish desires. Let's LOVE others with LOVING words of encouragement & service instead of making demands.

I want to challenge you to do something different this year. Instead of focusing on ourselves, lets reach out and spread love to everyone and anyone we can. Look for small opportunities to do big things. Try to bless everyone who comes across your path today. Offer a helping hand, a kind word, a hug, a special gesture - especially where it's unexpected. 

Matthew 22:39

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Take this a step further. Who needs our money, our gifts, our time? 

You could choose a single mom who is struggling, 

sponser a child,

help stop child sex trafficking - check out this site (they have a different cause every week),

Support women in Nepal who are trying to build a new life after being saved from human trafficking by buying their jewellry,  or you can visit their main site here and help in other ways, 

choose an orphanage to support financially (whether a one time donation or an ongoing financial commitment), 

gather supplies and deliver them to a women's shelter, 

visit the elderly, 

visit someone in the hospital, 

shovel someone's driveway (someone who really needs it, then ring the bell and run away! 

It doesn't matter if it's big or small, every act of kindness blesses the giver and receiver. And as far as doing something special on Valentine's day with that special someone or by yourself, go ahead! You don't need to blow a bunch of money to have a wonderful time. Spend time with each other and plan a date that is free! (or next to free). For some great and inexpensive date ideas, check out my friend Sharla's blog - she even has a printable full of ideas! And here's another great site with tons of ideas. 

Remember what love really is. It's not that gushy feeling and all the fluff that comes with it. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. 
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

<3 <3 <3

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

If We Lose Little Flower....

Little Flower came to us when she was just 3 days old. She was a beautiful, preemie, African/Jamaican baby. We are a foster-to-adopt home and so they try to place children with us who are most likely to become adoptable. But there is never a guarantee.....which we have learned. Without going into any detail, it seemed quite certain that Little Flower would be staying with us forever. There was really no one who could take her. We brought her home and she has been showered with love since the second we laid eyes on her.

She has grown and progressed well. She is pretty healthy and very happy and curious and a delight to our family. She is one of us. She is now 2 1/2 years old.

Decisions are now being made as to where she will spend the rest of her life and it's hard to look at her and think of her as not one of my children. There are 2 family members who want to take her and the decision will be made in June of this year......possibly sooner. I've lost other children, who have returned to their families or extended families and some of those stories are good. I've seen families healed and reunited with their children! That is an amazing and incredible thing. I support the birth families whenever I can and try to embrace them. But this time, it's different due to the circumstances. I fully support contact with the family, but I don't think it is best for her in the long run to be moved from our home.

I know what it's like for a child to live here, be my child, and then leave. It's happened 4 times....and I'm ok with that. That's what fostering is.....but I feel, somehow, that foster-to-adopt should be different. Permanent. We began this road so that we could adopt children. But it's not about us, we've realized, it's about the children. What I mean by that is that the foster-to-adopt program is designed to benefit the children - not necessarily us. If a child comes into foster care and then is not able to return home, it is best if the child is adopted by the current foster family. The less moves a child makes, the less trauma they endure. So they are at less risk, but we aren't.

And I'm ok with that.

What scares me most about Little Flower leaving after living here for so long is that she will feel betrayed. That she will be damaged emotionally. That she may not be cared for as well as I'd like her to be or in the ways that I would care for her.

I cannot imagine waking up each day and not seeing that precious little girl running through the house laughing. I cannot imagine not looking into her beautiful brown eyes. I cannot imagine not singing her favorite songs to her, holding her tight, and being able to soothe her when she's sad. We have such a strong bond and such an amazing understanding of each other. It's like I bore her from my own body.

I often say that if I was not a Christian, I could not be a foster parent. And it's true. People always ask, "How do you do it?" and my honest answer to that is that I serve the living God. The God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all things, and He holds me in His hand. I have prayed and He has answered. I have nearly died and He has saved me. I was lost and broken and He found me and healed me. I put all my trust in Him and I know that He cares for each one of these children and will watch over them and protect them when I can't. The rewards far outweigh the losses.

Matthew 19:14

 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I love you, Little Flower <3


My Workout Plan

I bought an elliptical a couple of years ago on kijiji for $120 and I love it! I had used a treadmill before that, but found the elliptical more enjoyable. In the summertime, I've tried to take the kids for bike rides - which ended up being a little challenging when I had 5 kids, 4 of which couldn't ride a bike. I had one in a bike carrier, one in a snuggli, two in the bike trailer and one on their own bike. I really enjoyed the challenge of cycling with 4 kids on my bike, but it was just that - a challenge! It was a short, tough workout and I spent more time getting ready and getting everyone off afterward than it was actually worth. I finally ended up not going at all. Then I tried taking them for walks with the triple stroller and that was much more fun, but again, I didn't do it that often.

When I did try to use the elliptical, I enjoyed it, but it got boring after awhile (my basement isn't finished and I was looking at a pile of storage boxes and unfinished walls and wires and pipes the whole time) and I would lose weight easily, but it never stayed off for long. I didn't have much muscle on my body and you need muscle to keep fat off.

I am NOT a water drinker, either, and so I was starting to feel quite dehydrated and sludgy (for lack of a better word). I am realizing that my health is extremely important and that I will not just end up fit by simply carrying a kid around or taking the laundry up and down the stairs. My sister told me about P90X and I knew that it was a major time commitment and a tough workout, but I thought I would give it a shot, since going to the gym is out of the question (We live a 20 minute drive to the nearest city that has a gym).

I started on January 1st (not because it was a new year, just happened to end up being on that day) and my goals were to drop 34 lbs and make a habit of drinking tons of water and also eat well - not diet. My diet isn't rigid but consists of lots of vegetables and fruit, meat and proteins, and 1-2 carbs per day. I avoid dairy almost altogether and have for a long time now (other than in my morning coffee).

So P90X is tough and I cannot do some of the exercises at all and others I cannot do the # of reps that they do, BUT I have noticed an increase in my abilities and strength and I feel fantastic. Each week I do it, I feel better and stronger. It is 1 hour per day, 6 days a week,  and sometimes I am working out with kids underfoot, but I am getting a lot more exercise than I would be otherwise, so I am committed and consistent.

What I like about P90X:

Each day focuses on a different group of muscles, so you aren't overworking one set of muscles and it doesn't get boring.

There are a couple of workouts that I find really tough, or do not enjoy, but there is always a modified exercise that I can do so I'm not just stuck standing there.

It uses a lot of different kinds of exercise - yoga, weight training, cardio, kickboxing...

You don't need a lot of equipment. You need dumbbells, a pullup bar, a mat, a chair, and yoga blocks or you can use resistance bands in place of the dumbbells and pullup bar. I also use a protein shake after my workouts to promote muscle building and recovery.

I am finding that I am not dropping pounds quickly, but I am losing weight consistently. I am down 7 pounds since I started 6 weeks ago and if I had eaten a little better than I have been, I would have seen slightly better results. However, I am more interested in long term lifestyle change right now than I am in getting to my goal in 4 weeks. I have also noticed that even though the scale reads 7 lbs less, my body shape is much different than when I started. I feel a lot stronger and more flexible and toned. It's supposed to be a 3 month program and I intend to continue once it is finished to maintain my health, but maybe not 6 days a week.

I love working out at home because it can be flexible and I am setting a good example for my kids. They love exercising with me and if I can be consistent, they will grow up thinking that it's normal to not sit on the couch all day :) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Should My Kids Do Chores? Part 2

We all really love our kids. We don't want to be hard on them and want them to have a fun childhood and not have to work too hard or be burdened. That's not truly loving our kids, though. They will grow up and expect to get places in life with minimal effort and that is not how life works. We know that, of course, but our kids don't and we have to share that valuable information with them in the form of work. 

Here are some really good reasons to have your kids helping out around the house:

1. They will learn to be organized and tidy which will help them to minimize stress and manage their lives better.
2. They learn the value of work.
3. Mom will have more time to spend with the kids if she's not doing all the work. A burnt out mom is not a fun mom. 
4. They learn independence.
5. They develop valuable skills.
6. They learn to appreciate the work of others.
7. It helps them to feel valued.
8. It gives them a sense of ownership and pride.
9. They learn the value of serving others. 
10. If they don't learn to take responsibility now, they certainly won't later.

So what age should your kids start helping out? I think that depends on the child. I start when they are quite young, about 15 months old or so. We play the clean up game and they participate in putting their baby toys in the basket. Following is a list of chores and skills and ages they are appropriate for. Of course, the easy chores are appropriate for older children, too, but I will try to list them under the ages that are appropriate for teaching the chore. You should not assign all the chores in one category to one child, but determine for yourself what needs to be done and how many of the chores your child is capable of handling at a time. 

Ages 2-3 
(Most of these will just be "helping" and not really doing an amazing job, they should work with someone and not alone)

Help pick up toys
Help set the table
Choose clothing
Brush teeth
Wipe front of appliances/cupboards
Help fold rags, dishcloths, and facecloths
Make their bed
Put laundry in the dryer
Wipe lightswitch plates
Hang up pajamas 
Put on socks
Wash hands and face (with help)
Straighten shoes - line them up

Ages 4-5

Choose clothing
Get dressed
Put away pajamas
Make bed
Brush teeth
Tidy bedroom (with guidance)
Set table
Clear table
Help fold laundry
Spot clean floor or walls
Feed pets
Water plants
Change hand towels in bathroom and kitchen
Help with baking
Wipe up a spill
Wipe off seats of kitchen chairs
Empty bathroom garbage
Put dirty clothes in hamper
Help load the washing machine
Help rinse dishes
Wash face and hands   
Put on shoes and coat
Help carry small items to the car
Pick up garbage in the car
Help wipe seats in the car
Help bring the yard toys back to the house
Clean bathroom sink and counter
Clean out the lint trap in the dryer 
Know address and phone number

Ages 6-9

Tidy bedroom
Comb hair
Floss teeth
Help fold laundry
Take dirty laundry to the laundry room
Empty dryer and load wet clothes into dryer
Clean and trim nails
Separate own dirty and clean laundry
Change sheets on bed
Empty dishwasher
Wipe table and counters
Put away own laundry
Tidy main areas (living and dining room and entrance)
Wipe toilet seat
Put away books and movies
Help younger child learn a chore
Take phone message
Fold blankets
Weed garden
Clean tv and computer screens
Take out garbage
Take out recycling
Clean mirrors
Empty wastebaskets
Help with meal prep
Bake (with help when using the oven)
Put groceries away
Clean windows and mirrors in car
Learn measurement
Make emergency call 
Clean pet cages 
Read a map 

Ages 10-12

Clean bedroom
Wash own laundry
Tidy dresser drawers
Get up on time
Make basic meals
Clean the bathroom
Shovel walk or deck
Vacuum out vehicle
Make small repairs
Teach chores to younger children
Clean under sink and wipe out kitchen cupboards
Clean out fridge
Mop floors
Load dishwasher
Put away leftovers
Help put seatbelts on younger children
Pack bags needed for outings
Make snacks
Wash and dry dishes by hand
Wash windows
Fold laundry neatly, without wrinkles
Flip mattress
Replace lightbulbs (understand wattage) 
Water gardens and grass
Sort laundry according to color, dirt, fabric
Measure properly 
Open a savings account 
Pack own lunch 
Learn first aid emergency procedures 
Basic baby care 
Repair toys and books
Compare quality and prices 
Hang a picture on the wall
Check smoke detectors
Ages 13-15

Plan and cook a healthy meal
Mow the lawn
Fix a bike tire
Simple sewing/mending
Budget allowance
Detail car
Hand wash delicates
Shop for clothing
Trim trees and shrubs
Replace fuse or know where breakers are
Polish furniture
Clean rugs with a steam cleaner
Unplug a drain with chemicals and plunger
Organize closets
Read/understand ingredient labels
Do own clothing inventory
Take a bus
Know emergency first aid and cpr procedures
Plan a party
Fill car with gas
Check oil and washer fluid 
Iron clothing
Understand stain treatment
Clean carseats 
Ages 16-18

Change a tire
Change the oil
Fix a bike
Household repairs
Use power tools safely
Paint a room
Learn to properly use credit card
Plan groceries for a week and shop for them
Return item to store
Clean out oven
Run errands
Understand expenses and pay bills
Get a job
Wash the car
I fully understand that not every child will be able to accomplish everything in the age category that I've placed it. I have known 2 year olds that could pick out their own clothes and 6 year olds that can't dress themselves. These are only guidelines and a place to start from. You determine what you think your child would be capable of and if they can't do everything on the list, that's not a big deal. Start with a few things and master them and then add to it. 

I read a book called 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home by Bonnie Runyan McCullough and Susan Walker Monson and I would recommend it. It is full of great ideas and charts and plans and is a great asset no matter where your family is at right now. If you'd like a copy of the book, you can pick one up at Chapters Indigo or possibly at your local library.    

Monday, February 11, 2013

Should my kids do chores? Part 1

I am the kind of mom that likes everything done correctly and well. It is much more satisfying to do all the chores myself and not worry about them being poorly done, but I was burning myself out cleaning while my kids watched too much tv and we weren't spending much time together. I have never been very good at keeping a routine or schedule and have tried several different chore routines, but none of them worked.

Why they didn't work:

I only tried them for a week.

I wasn't consistent.

I wanted more time with my kids and less time stressing about my house, but I still wanted a clean house. I came across 2 books called Managers of Their Homes and Managers of Their Chores and sat down and read them both. They are written by Steve and Teri Maxwell parents of a large homeschooled family (they have 8 kids) and they are well put together. The system they use is amazing and makes excellent use of your time, but it was a little overwhelming for me. It was super fun making up the schedules and meshing them all together and planning everything out and making lists of every possible chore we'd ever need to do, but when it came to actually doing it, it only lasted a few weeks.

Although I wasn't very consistent with it, what I loved about Managers of Their Chores was that the kids could, at any time of day, look at their chart and know what they were supposed to be doing. They really enjoyed it and it eliminated the "Mom, what can I do??? I'm bored!". They were eager and excited about it and they were much more relaxed as they knew what was next at any given moment.

I am using their system again, but I have tweaked it a bit to fit our family and I really like how it's working. It looks a little overwhelming, but is actually quite simple and functional and flexible - which I love!

What I did:

1. I made a list of all the chores that would ever need to be done in each room or area of the house. (including things that are seasonal and not done very often) This is my Master Chore List and I keep it in a binder.

2. I started with the youngest child and wrote out under their name all the chores that I thought they were capable of and next to it I wrote the frequency of the chore. I even included things like - washing hands, brushing teeth, etc.

3. I tried to make each child's list "even" or equal-ish number of chores per kid, although the older kids got a few extra chores than the little ones.

4. Whatever was left was for me to do and went under my name.

5. I then made a chart for each person which includes BEFORE BREAKFAST, MORNING, AFTERNOON, AFTER SUPPER, and BEFORE BED categories. I listed the chores under the name according to what time of day it would be done, with a check box next to it.

6. The less frequent chores were assigned specific days, for example: Mopping and dusting on Monday, wiping the cupboard fronts and cleaning the tub on Tuesday, wiping the dining room chairs and watering plants on Wednesday, etc.

7. I also had a few chores that needed to be done once a month or every other month or every six months, so I would assign these to the first Saturday of the month, or the second Saturday of April and October, etc.

So each day, I would start at the top of my list before breakfast and check things off as I went and if it was a Monday I would skip all the chores that were not daily and were not assigned to that day, and just do the ones listed under "daily" or "Monday". You can also add the length of time you anticipate each chore to take, but is totally unnecessary. I also added a column where I could list the initial of the child that would do a certain chore with me (I help them with some of their chores or let them help me in order to teach them how to do it). I print off the list once a week and stick it to the corkboard in an area that we will see it regularly. If you don't want to print it off, you could laminate it and use a dry erase marker on it.

A routine works much better for us than a rigid schedule, which is why I went with general times of day instead of specific times. If the list doesn't get done, it's not a big deal. We skip whatever's left undone and go on to the next day because we are still getting tons done anyway and things are running a lot smoother than if we were just winging it. The beautiful thing is that it takes the daily thought out of it and I don't have to worry about my house not being cleaned, because as long as we're sort of "on track" everything will get done sooner or later and with much less stress!

At the end of this post is a sample of what my chore list looks like (it's much longer than the ones I have for the kids, but actually not overwhelming considering that more than half of what is listed will not be assigned on a given day.) Tomorrow I will go into what chores are appropriate for what age children.

Mom Chore Est.Time When With M T W TH F S
Daily Make beds 5 min B4 brkfst JD

Tidy bedroom 10 min B4 brkfst

Make Dad's lunch 10 min B4 brkfst D

Get dressed 15 min B4 brkfst JDK

Brush hair 20 min B4 brkfst JD

Inspections 10 min All chore times

Brush teeth 5 min B4 brkfst JDK

Wash hands 5 min B4 brkfst JD

Tidy bathroom 5 min Morning

Tidy back entrance 5 min Morning L

Vacuum back entrance 5 min Morning

Teach chores

Morning JD

Wash/dry 2 lds laundry

Morning D

Sweep kitchen/dining room 5 min Morning

Fold/put away laundry 20 min Afternoon JD

Organize 1 hour Afternoon

Music practice 30 min Afternoon J

Tidy dining room/kitchen 10 min Afternoon

Make dinner 30 min Afternoon LJ

Supper dishes & counters 20 min Evening

Put dishes away 5 min Evening

Clean kitchen sink 2 min Evening

Pack diaper bags 10 min Evening

School Marking 20 min Evening

Journal 20 min Evening

Floss & teeth 10 min Evening JDK

Weekly Clean & organize top fridge 20 min Monday

Clean microwave 10 min Monday

Make bread 30 min Monday LJ

Wipe washer/dryer 5 min Tuesday J

Iron clothing 30 min Tuesday

Straighten school/craft 20 min Tuesday

Wash windows 20 min Wednesday

Wash bathmat


Straighten bathroom shelves 5 min Wednesday

Menu planning 1 hour Wednesday

Take out garbage/recycling 10 min Thursday

Bake 30 min Thursday

Wipe shelves in fridge 10 min Friday

Throw out leftovers 5 min Friday

School planning 30 min Friday

Buy groceries 3 hours Friday

Run errands 3 hours Friday

Groom kids nails & ears


Clean inside Suburban 10 min Saturday

Tidy suburban 5 min Saturday

Clean tub & shower 10 min Saturday

Clean bedroom 5 min Saturday

Dust bedroom 2 min Saturday

Sweep bedroom 5 min Saturday

Empty bedroom garbage 2 min Saturday

Change sheets 10 min Saturday JDK

Straighten drawers 10 min Saturday

Write letters & thank yous 20 min Sunday

Weekly x2 Mop kitchen & dining room 20 min Mon/Thurs

Weed gardens* 20 min Wed/Sat LJ

Bath kids 30 min Tues/Sat JDK



Clean toilet 5 min Mon/Sat

Weekly x3 Water gardens*


Every other week Clean crib doors & bars 15 min Monday

Wipe kitchen chairs 30 min Tuesday L

Household repairs 30 min Wednesday L

Wash shower curtain 10 min Friday

Pay bills


Monthly Clean carseats & diaper bags 15 min Monday L

1st week Vacuum suburban 10 min Saturday

Wash inside suburban windows 10 min Saturday L

Mending 1 hour Tuesday

Check smoke detectors


Boil toothbrushes


Straighten/organize closets 30 min Friday L

Every 6 months Make Dentist/Doc appts.


Mar/Oct Flip mattresses 10 min Saturday L

Clean playpen 10 min Saturday

Dust ceilings in basement 20 min Saturday

Dust ducts & furnace 20 min Saturday L

Yearly Take family pic


Mail pic & newsletter