Sunday, December 29, 2013


Tonight after all the kids were in bed, I was tidying up. When I got to the play room, it looked like I had a week's worth of work to do, and started sorting and tossing, and collecting as I started with clearing a pathway through the main walking area. About 4 feet into the room, I ran across a piece of paper that was mostly crumpled. I unfolded it to see if it was somebody's treasure, or just another piece of trash. This is what I found and it made me melt inside.

I turned it over and at first I wasn't sure if it was missing parts or not, but even if it is, what was left was lovely.

Of course, now another hour has slipped past and I probably don't have time to finish cleaning the play room really. I should have gone to bed before I got started on that, but it's little things like these, that make the long days worth every minute of frustration and exhaustion. It's little things like these, which are the windows that peek in at my real treasures. It's little things like these, that make me feel very inadequate as a mother because little things like these shouldn't be such a surprise to discover. And it's little things like these, that inspire me to try harder to understand and appreciate these fast growing, ever changing, not so little any more, precious children that I have been honored with the job of raising!

She's almost NINE!

Friday, December 13, 2013


"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
Psalm 19:1

(April 18th, 2013)

"From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord's name is to be praised."
Psalm 113:3

'Thinking of my Grandma today. Some things don't need words. Sometimes words just get in the way. And sometimes words can be too late. Words can be a gift, and they can be passed down from generation to generation too. But there are no words that can take the place of love.

"Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."
Ecclesiastes 7:8

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Checks and Chore Dollars

When there are many bodies in constant motion, it is easy to fly under the radar. A while back, I decided it was time to re-introduce CHORES to my children as we'd mostly gotten our feet back underneath us after moving. Anyway, I'd assign a job and get a lot of "But I did that yesterday!" or "How come I ALWAYS have to do this?!? or in some cases nothing said... and nothing done - you know, the 'make-yourself-scarce-and-hope-you're-forgotten' kind of thing. As a result, I came up with an Accountability Chart. I wanted the helpful kids to see that their efforts were noticed and I wanted the not so helpful kids to see their own lack of effort as well.

It just so happened when we moved in, that there was a giant white board already hanging on the wall of the barn. It was exactly the thing I needed so I moved it to the dining room, and the rest kindof worked itself out as I went.

I started by putting the weekly memory verse across the top of the board. Having it in the dining room makes a huge difference when it comes to remembering to practice the verse. Then I made a simple chart (list of chores on the left, days of the week across the top). The plan was simple. If you did a chore (assigned or not), you got a mark in the box for that chore on that day's column.

After more than two months, I HAD to fix the lines. They were starting to dive me crazy.

And since I had a rainbow assortment of white board markers, I assigned a different color to each kid so I could avoid having to use initials (that doesn't work very well at our house). Plus making a check mark is faster than writing most letters of the alphabet anyway. This idea has worked brilliantly, and to keep it from getting old, I switch up the colors every week.

Next, I divided the house up into 10 zones. And assigned a pair of zones to each child. All they had to do was tidy the zone. If they could get the top layer cleared, it would make the actual cleaning part a lot easier for me. Over time, I've assigned different levels of 'tidying'. For example, it's OK if Ricka just picks everything up off of the floor and makes a pile in the corner of the room. For the other kids, that's not an option - everything must be put away. When Butler gets a bathroom zone, I don't expect him to sweep the floor or scrub the toilet and tub, but I do ask that of Dolly or PC, and I expect Emma to sweep the floor and wipe the counters even if she doesn't have to scrub the toilet.

Some zones are fun or very easy - how messy can a hallway get? And who doesn't love playing with the in-house vacuum? And some zones are NOT easy or fun in the least bit - the playroom?!? But I DIDN'T make that mess! Cleaning toilets? Gross. But this variety is good too, because I can adjust the workloads weekly and give incentives for good attitudes and disciplined effort. If you shirk your zone all week, you may end up being assigned to it again or even be given a harder zone. On the other hand, if you work hard even though you had a more unpleasant zone, you may be rewarded with a fun or easy zone the next week.

The problem with all of the above was almost immediately obvious. What was to be done about the 'So? I don't care if I get a check mark. I don't want to do the work' responses? The solution was that we had to create an incentive program based on the number of check marks earned during the week. For every 2 check marks, I would pay a 'chore dollar', which is pretty much homemade monopoly money from $1 to $10 bills. Each chore dollar has a real value of 10 cents and can be exchanged for real money. This was special because we don't pay allowances, and it made a way for the children to earn their own spending money. But chore dollars can be exchanged for other privileges too. Computer time, candy, or even a one-on-one date with Mommy.

To encourage effort, I award 'bonus' checks. Bonus checks are different from regular checks in that they cannot be revoked for bad behaviour. For example, there are certain chores that are not an option, like brushing teeth, or setting out clothes for the next day. If those things have to be done for you, you get a negative check mark which means instead of earning a point, you lose one. Say, the entryway is ignored and it gets bad enough, that it's nearly dangerous to navigate through the room. If Mama has to tidy it to make it safe to travel, the kid who was assigned that zone would get a negative check mark.

But a bonus check mark is a guaranteed point that cannot be revoked. I award them for things like making the effort to be ready to leave so that we do not arrive at our destination late, for getting up and ready to go when the alarms go off - thus reducing the amount of Mama nagging/dragging/scolding kids out of bed in the mornings, going to bed on time and STAYING in bed at bedtime, for performing over and above expectations in a particular thing, and for making the greatest effort during the week, thus getting the highest number of check marks earned. I may start assigning bonus checks for a personal record too... we'll see.

The best part is that this system is really working for us. The kids are learning responsibility, discipline, thoroughness, initiative, and flexibility. The house is staying much tidier and I'm not constantly frustrated and exhausted from doing everything myself. And I love the busywork that makes it function... adjusting the daily totals, writing up new chore money, calculating weekly payrolls. It makes the general mundane normals... Fun.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Fiesta Feast

Actually, it was just dinner tonight. However, if you have a small army to feed, it does feel like you're preparing a feast whenever it comes time to 'start on dinner'. I love that this meal is so simple. The hardest part was dicing the meat up, which could be done ahead of time if you're not like me and actually think of practical things like that. Anyway, I need to have this somewhere that I can find it in a hurry, which means it gets posted here. Enjoy!

Pork & Hominy Stew
Serves 12-16
  • 4 lbs Pork (½" cubes)
  • 4 cups canned Hominy
  • 2 Onions (diced)
  • 2 Tbs Cumin
  • 1 Tbs Salt
  • ½tsp Pepper (ground, black)
  • 1 Tbs minced Garlic
  • 1 bunch Cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 3 cups shredded Cabbage
  • 8 cups Water
Cook pork with cumin and pepper in a saucepan with about a tablespoon of oil on medium-hi until meat is evenly browned. Add salt and dump into a large stock pot with the hominy and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for one hour. While your pot is coming to a boil, saute the onions and garlic and add them to your stew. Chop cilantro and cabbage and set aside. When your stew has simmered for an hour, remove from heat, stir in cilantro and cabbage and serve with garnishes of sour cream, salsa and corn chips!