A phrase I heard frequently during my sister Abby’s visit last week was something along the lines of, “There’s a problem here, and what you need is a solution.” She said this when she looked under my kitchen sink and when she saw the recycling erupting into the floor of our pantry. She said this many times. “Yes! So many problems! Help!”
One of the projects she tackled with Jonny was to create a giant wooden chore chart for me. I’ve tried several different ways of keeping up with chores and other tasks over the years. Each time I have enthusiastically shared about my latest system here on the blog. Each time I have ultimately failed to keep up with it. I have looked over each system and questioned why it didn’t work, and the conclusion I reached is that each one required me to write things down every single week. I don’t actually like to write things down. And I have a lot of people to keep up with and write things down for, so maybe that’s been my big problem? With this new system, each child has a row of hooks. On each hook a paper tag is hung with their task written on it, but I only have to write it the first time. I am slowly figuring out what I want each child to have reminders of. Practicing musical instruments, chores that they don’t remember to do unless I hound them, and some school work. Each child is different and not all of them need much reminding. So for instance Seth’s row only has one tag right now: practice piano–specifically Haydn. He sits down to play frequently for pleasure, but not to play the specific pieces he is supposed to be working on. He does a good job keeping up with his chores, and he also finds the chart offensive–so I won’t push it with him. My little girls, on the other hand, need constant reminders for everything, so their rows are full between their summer school work, practicing instruments, and a couple of chores. To make things more visual for me I bought each child a different washi tape to add to the back of their tags. That way I can easily tell when they have flipped them. Abby has been using this system for years, so I know that it can work. It will just take a little effort on my part to enforce it. But surely less effort than I spend constantly reminding everyone to “do this” and “do that.” I may or may not come up with a way to keep up with who gets everything done each day and then have maybe a weekly family reward. Honestly, I probably won’t. But just having everything there on the wall–at the very least it will remind me to remind them. That will definitely relieve some stress for me. And another idea I had is to create a row of extra chores to use as consequences. I’m definitely going to do that! “You called your brother a name? Go choose an extra chore!” That’s going to be pretty great. (My sister makes and sells wooden chore charts on Etsy, and she goes into detail about her system on the individual listings if you are interested in learning more.)
Having Abby here to help me get a few problem areas organized gave me the momentum to keep addressing tasks after she left. We won’t start our official school year until September, but I need to go ahead and start planning for that. I cleaned out the big green cabinet that I use to store homeschooling materials, and ordered some of the supplies that we need. Lark and Bea need to be working now, so for the rest of summer they will work on some phonics (Explode the Code), math, and handwriting each day. Abby cleaned out our art cabinet, and that makes it so much easier to pull out activities and supplies for Silas and Job. Oftentimes they draw or color while the girls work on lessons (in the photo above they are using Crayon Rocks and Rubeez.) Other times, they destroy things. Usually it’s a combination of both. Feeling desperate at the thought of my last bit of help leaving, I ordered the expensive set of Magna-Tiles the day before Abby headed home (and also these little cars to go with it). She has six boys herself, and evidently Magna-Tiles are one of their long-time most played with toys, worth the investment she says. So far they have been very popular, but I keep having to tell my older boys that they are for the younger boys. There have been tears over sharing, not sharing, etc. But mainly, they have been saving my sanity over the last week.
I’m so thankful that I have had so much help and that I have some time before we have to get serious about school and life and everything that will hit this fall. I’d forgotten how much having a newborn changes things. You might think I would have that reality well imprinted in my mind. But no, I’m still the same girl who thought that if she had her baby on a Friday (my first-born during my last year of college), she could be back in class on Monday. The reality is that it’s awfully difficult to do anything but sit and nurse the baby, though every day I get a little closer to a new routine. Learning how to integrate the care of a new little one in the family is not easy, whether it’s your first baby or your eighth. But as we crowd around Mabel, discussing all the ways we love her (Silas was overheard singing to her this evening “Head to toe, I love you so.”) I am reminded that life is meant to be lived, not managed. The management part is important of course, otherwise CHAOS! But it’s good to keep what’s most important at the front of my mind. That helps on the days when everyone is sick, including the new baby, the house is a mess, and I’m still wearing pajamas.