Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's time to get our sh#t together

This past week I took a break from all the "fun" I was having "decorating the bedrooms of my two little "angels" because school is only a few weeks away and I need to de-summer the kids. We have spent the last 12 weeks staying up late and sleeping in, running free through the neighborhood, filling our daylight with swimming, running, biking, grabbing meals on the fly, wearing shorts and flip flops, hours of television shows and movies and video games. And, at least in my house of five children, some real Lord of the Flies type sh*t. When you are 12, shotgun is a fighting word. Your struggle is real.

How do you de-summer kids? That's this weeks project and I honestly have no idea. I'm not good at parenting, but here is what I do. It may or may not be the worst possible advise you have ever heard. It's the final weeks of summer and I've either gone mad or become brilliant.

Restore the sleep cycle.
Suddenly out of nowhere enforce a bed time. It's important that you are not provoked. No one child should feel that it is directed specifically at them. Your sudden outburst must defy all reason leaving them too confused to be combative. At about 9:00 when every one is laughing and running around, flip the $#%@ out! Be as loud and crazy as humanly possible. Give them the old Lou Ferrigno gets angry. Use more sounds than words. You have to be the kind of insane that inspires all around you to flee. Don't break character. If you break character you just created a game and they will demand a repeat performance every night forever. You don't want that. Go to a yard sale. Buy a coffee table. Spend about a week pretending that you love LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your brand new $15 coffee table. Then right at the peak of the go to bed performance. You break that sh#$. With a bat. If you do this right the first time you will benefit from your labor all year long. From that point on when you say go to bed with that crazy look in your eye KIDS WILL GO TO BED. I have found that prison law often applies to raising little ones. Children are crafty and cunning. They can plead and negotiate with logic. A sane mind can be tricked and manipulated. They will work you over and at the first sign of weakness they pounce. They will wear you down, and once they do, your life is no longer your own. Does your child require you to meticulously prepare their dinner plate so that none of their food is touching only to leave it untouched while they freely eat from your plate? They're messing with ya. Prison law. You're their bitch. Hulk smash a coffee table sounds a little more reasonable now doesn't it?

Manipulate their surrounding
Secretly gather everything that has any association with water and fun. Destroy it. Destroy it all. Hang up jackets. Put boots by the door. Get an apple cinnamon or pumpkin pie air freshener. Books. Place small stacks of books in common areas. All over the house so that everywhere they look they are reminded of learning. If the TV is on, demand to watch PBS. Continue to force PBS down their pie holes until they crave bran muffins and simpler times. Breaking the spirit of today enhances the Halloween of tomorrow. Trust me. You can't force your children to choose bad ass Halloween costumes. That comes from with in.

Nothing breaks up the stain of a free spirit like the power of Clorox. This can be one of the most difficult routines to establish. A successful chore chart is the holy grail in the world of stay at home moms. I have a chore chart with an impressive run. Six weeks. In the land of chore charts six weeks is ancient. Like a Sequoia. Or an Elder wizard.  More like an Elder wizard because Sequoias are real and successful chore charts and elder wizards are not. Any family with multiple children knows even the best chore charts have an extremely limited life span because one of every four children is a criminal mastermind. They appear to follow the rules but they are always searching for the one little thread that will unravel everything. They will find it. They always find it. In my home of five children I have two evil geniuses. One is 13. His secret power is Signus. That's Latin for lazy. I say it in Latin because it is an art form. The only thing about this boy that is not lazy is his mind. The other is a six year old girl. Her power is deceit. One of her first words was "nuffing!" it was said in alarm with both hands behind her back. It was said often. Anytime you entered a room she was in. She would jump up hide something and say "Nuffing!" We once found her in the morning passed out behind the couch lying in a box previously full of donuts. When asked if she had eaten the donuts in the middle of the night she looked me right in the eye and said "no" Despite all of the evidence. Sticky hands. Mouth covered in glaze. Donuts stuck in her hair. A photo of her using the remaining donuts as a pillow. She denied any involvement in the baked goods heist. She was two. Her powers have only increased.

A system that can survive this level of treachery must be magnificent. Here is my chore chart in all of its glory.

It's comlex. It's rewarding. It's competitive. Here's how it works.

Each child has a list of chores. Each chore is worth a point. At the end of the week their points are totaled and either saved to be applied to a reward with a specified point worth, e.g. date with mom requires 50 points, or converted to an allowance. Each point is worth .50 cents.

The child with the most points becomes King or Queen of the children for the following week. What does that even mean? It means automatic shotgun privileges any time we go anywhere. It means they are the deciding vote on everything. What movie do we watch tonight? ask the Queen of the children. What should we have for dinner tonight? Ask the Queen of the children. Who's going to the store with mom? Queen of the children. It solves many if not all arguments and is a very coveted position. Plus I always draw their name on the board super artsy fancy and include compliments. But what if all the children do all of their chores everyday? They would all have the same amount of points. Have you ever dreamed of your children coming to you and asking for more housework? In this house it happens. We call it extra points. Any day that all chores are completed you can always ask mom for an extra. Does it cost me extra at the end of the week for any kid converting to allowance. Yes. Is it worth it when the house is always clean? F$%# yes! If one of my children wants to really bust ass and wash every wall, mop every floor, scrub every toilet etc etc etc and make $50.00 in one week. I'm all for it. A housekeeper for a couple of hours is substantially more.

I want these chores done right away. So every day there is a small activity that can only be done when everyone has all their chores done. It doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. I try to get out of the house but you would be surprised how hard your kids will work for the promise of a card game or to frost cookies. Or sit in front of the TV after dinner and watch shark week. This component is awesome. I don't have to nag the kids because they nag and help each other to get to the activity, the sooner they're all done, the more time we have for the activity. As a mom who's often torn in too many directions, the promise of my time and attention is a powerful motivator.

We have a weekly super secret chore. I give one clue. If you can figure out and complete the chore you get the immediate reward of a date with mom (or a boatload of extra points) The catch is I won't reveal if you have guessed correctly until you have completed the chore. If you cleaned out the car thoroughly but it turns out that wasn't the secret chore. I'm still going to praise you and give you a few extra points for a job well done. There is a rule that no one can attempt the secret chore unless all their other chores are done. This not only gets each kid to hurry through their chores so they can get to the activity or so they can take take a shot at the super secret chore but because they know everyone else is hurrying through their chore to take a shot at the super secret chore and they may get to it first. This week it was the fridge in the garage. That thing wreaked, it hadn't been cleaned out in a year. It now smells like Pinesol humping freshness. It's that good.

This is working and it's working well for us. I've been doing this mom thing too long to think it will last though. If it begins to fail I will simply buy a coffee table. Bring it in to the living room and tell the kids I love it with a crazy look in my eye. That should buy me a few more weeks of diligent chore doing....



  1. Brilliant! I went from laughing out loud to awestruck. Your chore system is pure evil genius. I stumbled it!

    1. Thank You Lizzie! I love when people call me brilliant. Evil genius I hear a lot so it's not as special but I'm still flattered :)