Category: Working together

Donna Goff – Cleaning – A System For Staying on Top

I have the wonderful privilege of having wise and dear friends. When we can be together, we talk about the things that cause us trouble and what we are doing to ease the way. The issues the mothers we work with come up. I make notes and I share our thoughts with you. Sometimes the thoughts get buried in life for a time and then reemerge.

That happened a while ago. I was searching for something on my computer and found notes from an email conversation I had with Donna Goff. It had been incorrectly filed. : ) Then I discovered another set of notes from Ann Murdock who I had lunch with a couple of months ago.

In the next two articles I am going to share their ways of managing the daily work we all have and then on week three I will share my system and some thoughts. They are very different. One may appeal to you and then again, none of them may strike a chord. We all must find what works for us, but this might be a step toward helping you come up with a system that works for you.

Donna is an amazing person, mentor, and mother. She has a beautiful website called Mentoring Our Own – Helping Homeschool Moms Succeed.  I share her articles in my newsletter on occasion. I have spoken on stage with her, and we have had some joyful conversations.

Sometime back I wrote a few articles on emotional weight. Then Donna talked about emotional stress on her site. Guess what? Some of that stress comes because we get so involved that our work at home gets ahead of us and we begin to feel like failures. Our daily lists get so long that it seems we will never get done, which adds to the emotional weight we already feel.

I reached out to Donna because I was interested in how she managed. I had worked for over seven years to develop a system of my own and was interested in hers. She sent me a detailed reply filled with great information. Today I want to share her system with you. Donna is a woman who can mentor you online and help you manage yourself, and your family, and if you are homeschooling, that too.

Let’s begin with her reply to my query –

Mary Ann,

What can I say, but thank you? When I read your newsletter, I can see that we think alike. I guess when you are raised in an era when cleaning is a habit, it is what we want. When we work with younger moms, we can see how not having a clean space and all the training that it involves, plays out in their lives.

Let’s start by looking at Donna’s ‘refuge haven’ routines. She came up with them over a decade ago and there were seven dailies.

THE SEVEN DAILIES

1. 30 Minute Personal Devotional
2. Walk
3. Shower, Dress, Groom
4. Laundry. Start and see-through.
5. Breakfast, Dinner Prep
6. Home Learning
7. 30 Minute Clean

A few weeks later she added ‘zones’ to her 30 Minute Clean. There were seven zones. She took #7 from her refuge haven routine, ‘the 30 min clean’, and turned it into 30 minutes of ‘Power Clean’.

This wasn’t just your regular surface cleaning. It was deeper than that. BUT she only worked until the timer went off. Then she was back in that same room for 30 minutes the next day and eventually, it was all managed. The first time through takes weeks and weeks. But once done, the next time through takes less time. As a person who LOVES deep cleaning, this sang to my heart. So much easier than trying to deep clean an entire house once a year!

THE SEVEN ZONES

1. The Sanctuaries (our bedroom retreat, and other bedrooms)
2. Lumber Rooms (storage areas where things lumber about, you can’t put things away if it is a mess)
3. Creation rooms (sewing and shop where repairs are made)
4. Curb Appeal (from curb to porch to foyer).
5. Living Rooms (areas where we spend most of our day and receive people)
6. Sustenance Rooms (Where we prepare food and where we eat).
7. The Necessity Rooms (bathrooms)

I loved her words to me, concerning the enormity of this work of keeping a home in order “So, yes, I do have the bathrooms last, but for the 30 Minute Power Clean, I can handle what bugs me the most, and I love a clean smelling bathroom. Whatever bugs me the most, means I prioritize, and the important things are not sacrificed to getting a list done and then migrating the important things to another day.

If you have 14 things on a list and tackle the easy stuff first, just to Dump the list, the harder thing gets passed on and it is easy to feel like you are never done. But if you handle the hard thing first, the other things on the list move up in priority, but they get done. Each day is cleaner.”

This has certainly been my experience. I have written about cleaning what you see, right when you see it. I didn’t think of it in terms of a 30-minute power clean but if I am in the bathroom and the space between the tank and the toilet lid has grunge, I grab a cloth or wipe and clean that one thing. Then the next day I hit the floor right at the base of the toilet, and so forth. What delighted me about the 30-minute Power clean was that it was a plan. I love planned work. : )

Here again, I want to share her words from our email –
“Each day feels more productive. Lots of baggage gone, it gets addressed. I used to do my room last. No, I needed a sanctuary. Isn’t this true for all of us? We need a place to go to rest and rejuvenate.”

You all know the bathroom is my rejuvenation space. It’s where I read and sit behind a locked door and no one bothers me, well, at least not for five minutes. LOL

“I do lumber rooms next. They are like the plug to the house. If storage areas are clogged, then rooms are clogged with seasonal stuff. So, clean the lumber areas and it works like a funnel, in cleaning the house.

“If creation rooms are in disarray, then fixing things stacks up and does not get back into use.”

I know this happens because it is one of my sister, Nanette’s, challenges. She has a whole room for creating things and it often gets out of order. Working for 30 minutes in the creation spaces is a good way to make sure the rooms you use often don’t go undone until it takes days to put them back in order. : )

“Then I go to curb appeal or the entry from the curb to the foyer, then the main living areas. That is where most people start. They start with what people see first. But for the sake of smoother running home and less baggage, it is not the first for me.

“Then the sustenance rooms. That area takes the longest to deep clean, cabinets and drawers. Yes, I did place the Necessity rooms last. They are the rooms that are kept smelling nice and are easiest to keep clean each week. They are also my smallest rooms. I have three, two on the main floor. It takes less than 15 minutes to clean a toilet, wipe a counter, clean a mirror, clean the floor, and remove the trash. The combination of a 30-minute power clean, and zone cleaning can get me through. But when things get really chaotic, I live on minimum maintenance, and then as they settle, I hit the rest, and then after the lion is tamed in a few weeks, the zones get added back in.

I do want to thank you for all you do and for sharing my stuff with moms.”

Mahalo nui loa,
Donna

Isn’t this fun, thinking about cleaning in a new way? When I put my system together, which I will share in a couple of weeks, I had to think differently. It was rejuvenating. A new way of looking at your household work may be rejuvenating to you also.

Just remember that everything is an experiment. You must give it a try and then adjust. Part of Donna’s plan may work splendidly for you and other things may require an adjustment. And then again, you may need something totally different. So, experiment.

Don’t stay bogged down in what isn’t working.

 

P. S. You can check out more of Donna’s home management strategies HERE.

Simple Techniques for Stress-Free Single Parenting

Photo via Pexels

Life as a single parent is a challenging journey, but it can also be filled with growth, resilience, and moments of joy. I have a daughter navigating this path, and it can be both painful and joyous watching her and her children as they move through this new territory. To manage well requires a blend of practical strategies and emotional fortitude.

Understanding how to manage as a single parent, either a mom or dad, requires support and resources. In April of 2023, I posted an article by a fellow writer, Laura Pearson, filled with resources to assist parents returning to school. Today I am sharing another of her articles with resources for single parents. If you are a single parent this will probably not be new information for you, but I hope the included links will be useful in helping you move forward in investigating these and other resources that may be just what you need.

Simple Techniques for Stress-Free Single Parenting by Laura Pearson

Set Aside Time for Self-Care
In the whirlwind of single parenthood, it’s easy to overlook your own well-being. However, taking care of yourself is paramount. Carve out moments for self-care activities that rejuvenate you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether it’s a brief yoga session, a soothing bath, or even a quiet moment with a book, these small breaks will help you stay grounded and resilient.

Building a Support Circle
You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Reach out to your family, friends, and other single parents for support; you can also look for resources online. Building a strong support circle not only provides practical assistance but also offers emotional solace. It’s a reminder that you’re not alone in this adventure.

Involving Kids in Household Chores
Teaching responsibility from a young age can benefit both you and your children. Assign age-appropriate chores to your kids and make household tasks a family affair. Turn cleaning, decluttering, and organizing into a game guess how quickly you can finish! Involving your children not only lightens your load but also fosters teamwork and responsibility.

Establishing Consistency with Rules and Routines
Children thrive on routine and structure. Establishing consistent rules, schedules, and routines helps organize your day and provides your children with a sense of security. Predictability eases the challenges of single parenthood and fosters a harmonious household.</strong

Open Communication with Your Children
Maintaining open lines of communication with your children is a crucial aspect of single parenting. It’s important to encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings openly. This safe and open dialogue helps foster a deep sense of trust and understanding between you and your children. Ultimately, this approach makes navigating the complexities and challenges of single parenthood a more unified and manageable experience.

Financial Planning and Budgeting
Single parenthood frequently involves navigating financial constraints. To address this, creating a budget, meticulously managing expenses, and planning ahead are essential steps. Practicing financial savvy not only secures your family’s stability but also serves as an excellent role model for your children. These actions demonstrate the importance of financial responsibility and forward-thinking in ensuring a secure future.

Utilizing Community Resources
Don’t hesitate to tap into the resources available in your community. Seek counseling services for emotional support, join support groups for shared experiences, explore childcare services for convenience, and explore financial aid programs designed to assist single parents. Your community can be a valuable ally in this journey.

Pursuing an Online Degree for Career Advancement
Investing in your education can significantly improve your career prospects and income; you may consider this option by enrolling in an online degree program. The flexibility of online education, with its adaptable schedules and remote learning options, allows for a balance between your parenting responsibilities and your educational ambitions. This path not only enhances your qualifications but also opens doors to diverse nursing careers in education, informatics, administration, and advanced practice.

Life as a single parent may have its share of hurdles, but with these strategies in your toolkit, you can transform it into a fulfilling and successful journey. Remember, you are stronger and more resilient than you might realize, and your dedication to both your growth and your children’s well-being will lead to a brighter future for your family. Embrace the support around you, invest in your education and self-care, and maintain open communication.

You’ve got this.

Necklaces on the Mirror or Charity 101

I like things my way.

It’s true. It has taken intention for me to learn to be flexible and generous with others’ differences. It hasn’t been an easy ride, but I really wanted to make this change so, I prayed about it. Be careful what you pray for.

Over ten years ago, I began praying for charity. As I studied, I learned that charity isn’t what we do it is how we are – a way of being made up of many traits. Hmmm Here are two that cause me trouble – long-suffering and not easily offended. They relate to flexibility and generosity with others’ weaknesses or the differences in how they manage life from how we manage life.

Yikes. How was God going to help me go from being inflexible and frequently annoyed and frustrated with others’ imperfections and differences to long-suffering and not easily offended? Well, He did what He does, He sent me to school, so to speak, Charity 101. He put me into a four-generation home. Trust me, it requires long-suffering, generosity, flexibility, and not being offended to make this work.

An Example of Long-suffering and Not Easily Offended

I had an experience last week that is a perfect example of how important flexibility or charity is in a family. As I look back on my parenting, it is glaringly clear that my lack of charity i.e., long-suffering, not easily offended, and being flexible or generous with other’s differences, caused us trouble. Oh well, we can only get there when we can get there. It is good that Christ makes up the difference in our weaknesses until they become strengths. : )

I am a very ordered person. I have a morning routine and a night routine. I am well practiced in making commitments to myself and others and then keeping them no matter what. I have practiced these skills for a long time. I like things to be where they belong! In my personal world, there are systems and order.

One morning, when I entered the bathroom that all nine of us share, while my daughter’s bathroom is being remodeled to make it more handicap accessible, I noticed that Mary’s necklaces were hung on the mirror. When we built our part of the home, I chose an out-of-the-ordinary mirror for my bathroom. It has birds and vines on it. It is supposed to be a decorative hall mirror but I like it and so it is in my bathroom. I enjoy those birds when I am brushing my teeth. : )

However, it is NOT a jewelry holder! As I sat and looked at the necklaces, I felt annoyance creeping in, but then, by choice, I stamped it out! After all, it didn’t look terrible, wasn’t in my way, and was causing no problems. I left the bathroom in one emotional piece.

Later that day, I told Don that Mary was hanging her necklaces on the mirror. He replied that he hung the necklaces there because he didn’t want them getting knotted up. The kids, both Jack and Mary, bring me their chains to be unknotted. I am good at getting the knots out. LOL

When I saw Mary, I told her what her grandpa had done. She smiled but didn’t say anything. That night when I went into the bathroom to shower, there on the mirror were three necklaces. I sat down and stared at them. I realized that even though I had never hung jewelry on the tiny birds, it looked quite nice. I also realized that when the remodel is done and my bathroom becomes my bathroom again it will look a little plainer without them. : )

This is what happens in a family when we choose to be flexible, long-suffering, and not easily offended when someone does something differently than we would. We can maintain peace within ourselves and with them. We may even find, in time, that we have grown fond of their way.

Have Greater Peace in Your Family

Recently in a conversation with my sisters on this topic, one of them said, “I caused my kids a lot of discomfort because I was so ridged in my ways.”

Then recently, a friend, in a class remarked that she realized she was making everyone miserable by forcing them to tow her line, and it was making her miserable too. She has decided to step back, in other words, become more flexible, generous, long-suffering, and less easily offended.

I love how God works. He requires us to do what we can to grow. I don’t always enjoy the process, but the results can be magical and a gift. Becoming more charitable i.e. long-suffering and not easily offended, is simple, but simple definitely doesn’t mean easy. This change requires intention and practice. But if I can make progress, and I have, then so can you.

Let’s work on flexibility, long-suffering, and not being offended (annoyed and frustrated) when things aren’t exactly as we hoped, planned, or thought they should be. It will bring greater peace to our hearts and to our families.

For me, this is a work in progress. It may be for you too, but when we can let go of frustration and annoyance and embrace flexibility, our family will be blessed, and so will we.

Just Do It!

Back in 2013, when Jodie and her family moved into our three-bedroom apartment while looking for a new home, I was reminded of many things I had forgotten since my children had grown up and moved away. It takes flexibility to manage a family. Things don’t always go the way you plan, and moving forward when things aren’t just what you want, well, that is the road to feeling good as a family. Here is a peek back to that ‘learning’ time. By the way, Jodie was homeschooling Maggie and Jack and bringing Mary on board. It was a big load!

What does ‘Just Do It’ look like?

There are some real advantages to having a family of six move in with you, especially if they have four children, six and under. I have gotten a bird’s eye view reminder of what it is REALLY like to parent, and home educate. I have been thinking back to my own days of doing both these things, and this has brought back memories, some good and some bad.

Today was a particularly interesting and REAL day. I had to share. It was an example of what “just do it” means in a family.

I heard the children at about 6:30, but I didn’t get up until after 7:00. It was quiet in the living room with Jodie busily working on her computer while the children watched a movie around her. That is how Jodie gets her own devotional and study time accomplished from 6:30 to 8:00. The movie is essential. We all know that watching a movie isn’t the best way to occupy children, but you do what you can, right?

Breakfast happens in shifts as each child awakes. It takes about an hour to feed Maggie, the six-year-old with CP, so Jodie often does that while she reads her scriptures or plans the day. If all goes well, and today it did, everyone is happy, it feels peaceful, and all are fed by 8:00 or so.

I might mention that on some days, one or more children have two breakfasts because by the time the first wakes till the last awakens, or Jodie has time to get food to each one, several hours can go by. By then, early risers are ready for breakfast number two. In fact, I had forgotten how often you must stop and get food for someone in this age group! No matter how your morning goes, as you move towards learning time, you keep going.

On mornings when it all doesn’t go as smoothly as today, it might be 10:00 before everyone is fed and dressed. Those are the noisy and sometimes exhausting mornings. You just keep smiling, hugging, and remembering that this too, will pass. It doesn’t matter if school begins later if it happens.

‘Just do it’ keeps everything moving when it’s not perfect!

Next, it’s getting ready for the day, taking off pajamas and getting dressed, changing diapers. This is less peaceful and usually goes less smoothly; you know how it is. One child doesn’t like what you have given them to wear, another doesn’t want their diaper changed, a third won’t hold still long enough to get dressed, and all the while Maggie, is asking for her iPad with a loud “Where are you” squeal.

Then we move to the family devotional. Quiet reverence is not the standard here. There is family singing with one voice, Jodie’s. Then a lot of “sit down, fold your arms, can you listen please” and sighing…on mom’s part. As I watch and occasionally participate, I sometimes think that I would bag it and move on. Jodie is a stalwart for sure. She is a master of ‘just do it.’

By about 10:15 today all was finally accomplished. Jodie had showered and dressed. (How she got a shower I am not quite sure!) Next, it was family work. Family work is never called chores. It isn’t a chore to do your part in your family. Chores are saved for consequences when you forget to do as asked in a pleasant way, which on some days can be often! : )

Family chores are one way that Jodie helps the children gain confidence and pride in their abilities. Jack was supposed to fold clothes. I saw Jodie pull folded dishcloths out of the drawer, unfold them, and give them to Jack to fold. (He didn’t see her unfold them.) This happened because there wasn’t any clean laundry to fold. It wasn’t that there wasn’t any laundry; it was just all still dirty. Often laundry takes a back seat to what really matters. : )

Mary was assigned to empty wastebaskets while Benny carried his little broom around copying the Bigs in his life. Maggie swept and vacuumed, and she loves helping. It will always be a special treat to her because it is never mundane.

After family work, it was school. Today, they read the classic they are working on, “Raggedy Ann and Andy”. Then they played ball. Maggie needs help with this activity. Jack is a great big brother and did his part. Then we made hedgehogs.

A few days earlier, I was telling the kids about hedgehogs. We looked at pictures and videos online and they were so taken with them. Today, out of the blue, Jack asked to make a hedgehog!

His mom didn’t put him off so that she could find a pattern and get the stuff needed. She just threw some odds and ends together. She used what she had because the interest was now. In a day or two it would probably be gone. Sparks, or what interest a child, can have a short shelf life. The younger the child the shorter the shelf life. : )

I was so busy helping that I didn’t get a photo of the table before the project began. I would have loved for you to see it. It was a disaster. Most of what we used for dinner was still there from the night before. I am sorry to have to confess that, but there it is. Some nights we move on to something else right after the meal and often, well, we are tired. : ) Jodie did what any great mom would do. She pushed it out of the way and carried on.

Here, in a borrowed home, in cramped quarters, that was all of it, all there was to “school” and taking care of ‘family time.’ There are thoughts in both our minds, mine, and Jodie’s, about what a successful home education and family-together day should look like. This is what it looks like for now.

Instead of requiring everything to be ‘just right’ before you move forward, decide instead to ‘just do it!’

It’s progress, not perfection that gets the job done.

Every Mom is a CEO

I have a friend, Nicole. She was a solopreneur, and a single mom, who homeschooled her two boys. That was a load to carry, however, Nicole manages well. That wasn’t always the case.

I recall when she was feeling overwhelmed with the load she was carrying. Nicole is intelligent, and she had numerous ideas that would make her business even more successful and give her the income she needed to raise two children on her own, but time was always an issue. There just wasn’t enough of it.

She couldn’t do everything by herself, but she kept trying. She felt bad asking for help. I mean, she should be able to manage, right? This ‘doing it all’ led to days when she wasn’t her best with the boys. She would struggle to remain calm, school felt like a huge weight, and she let her clients infringe on time with her family. She couldn’t say no. She carried on like this for several years.

This might sound like you. It was certainly me for most of the years I was parenting. It took me decades to understand systems and to be willing to get help. Eventually, Nicole learned some valuable lessons. These were the same lessons I had to learn. If you are overwhelmed and not managing as well as you want, you will have to learn them also.

First, Nicole began talking to other moms who had been where she was. I was one of those moms. I had never been a single mother, but I had a husband on the road, and money was always tight. We had seven kids. A load is a load even if they are not the same. As we talked, I was able to help her see that she had systems, but they weren’t very effective. We came up with ways to make her days flow better, to give her time for work, and to have more present time with her boys.

Then she hired a retired businessman who helped her develop better systems in her company and convinced her to hire some help. Team meetings made a big difference in her effectiveness and in her ability to manage time. It made a WORLD of difference in her ability to put her excellent ideas into practice which helped her gain new clients. Her income increased substantially. Her mentor helped her manage those clients more efficiently and with better boundaries. He taught her how to stop being a self-employed, overworked mom, and how to become a CEO.

That is an interesting acronym meaning chief executive officer. The CEO is the highest-ranking person in a company or other institution, ultimately responsible for making managerial decisions. That was definitely Nicole’s role in her newly structured company. It was also her role as a parent. Isn’t every father and mother a CEO? In two-parent homes, they are a team ultimately responsible for making decisions. In my friend Nicole’s case, she was the sole CEO.

Before Nicole got her systems in order and her thoughts out of her head so she could organize them and bring them to fruition, she was successful as a businesswoman and a mom. BUT and this is what I want you to take away, she struggled every day to feel successful. Nicole was overwhelmed much of the time. She felt she failed in many areas. She was overworked.

After Nicole began accessing wise counsel and good resources, she began talking to her kids. They were young, but they were still part of the solution. She got them to buy-in to doing things a new way. She helped them feel important and part of what was happening, not like pawns that were being told what to do. They began having regular family meetings. She accepted that her children were capable of greater executive function, and she started giving them more responsibilities.

Executive function refers to skills that help us focus, plan, prioritize, work toward goals, self-regulate behaviors and emotions, adapt to new and unexpected situations, and ultimately engage in abstract thinking and planning. This increase in trust and responsibility increased her children’s willingness to participate.

Things began to feel better; Nicole’s children became more involved and helpful. Her business expanded relieving her financial stress, she enjoyed working with others, and she felt supported.

There isn’t any way to remove the weight of parenting – the actual physical work, the mental work and the decision making, the responsibility. But there are ways to manage all this better so that you not only perform at a higher level, but you feel successful more often.

Tips to feeling successful and less overwhelmed.

  • Ask for help. Maybe you have systems by default, and they stink. : ) Find others who are managing what you aren’t managing, and ask them what they are doing.
  • Be willing to experiment without feeling like a failure. That is what scientists do. Take what you have learned, then with some thought and a willingness to experiment, design something similar that you hope will work for your family. If it doesn’t, go back, take another look, and design another experiment.
  • Be consistent in using systems that work. It’s funny, but research shows that when we find something that works, often, we will eventually go back to doing it the old way. We must decide to change and then practice consistency in the new way of managing.
  • Get your family to buy-in. When people feel they are part of the decision-making process, when they feel some ownership, they perform better.
  • Allow your children to become active participants. Give them opportunities to practice executive function skills. Trust them to be able to do a bit more than you think they can. They will probably surprise you.
  • Model this way of living for them. It is stimulating. They will learn more and be prepared to go out on their own. What they see you do is far more powerful than what they hear you say.
  • Celebrate successes. You will feel better, and your children will stay in the game better. We all like to feel successful. Life is more enjoyable when there are goals and rewards for meeting them.

Nicole and her boys are managing life better. I manage my life better, and you can manage yours better too. This doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days, weeks, months, or maybe even a year.

Things happen, but when you can, get up and get back to consistently doing

what you know works.

To Waste or Not to Waste – That Is The Question

A mother asked me how I handled it when my children wanted to make something that I knew wouldn’t be used after it was created. How did I feel about the waste of resources and the mess that would be left? That is a great question. In fact, this same question comes up often when I am working with moms, and I have put some thought into it and decided that an even better question would be:

“How do we determine when materials are being well used and when are they being wasted and if the mess will be worth it?”

When my youngest daughter Kate was seven, she and a friend created a boat out of an old wooden crate. They spent a few days on it and used a lot of paint, brushes, nails, and other materials. When they were finished, they had a creation that delighted them. They played in that boat all summer. But it did require a fair amount of resources and when seven-year-olds paint and hammer, there will be a mess. 

When my grandson, Jack, was seven he created a robot out of a piece of plywood, tin foil, empty paper roll tubes, and tons of glue, expensive ‘real sticky glue’ as he called it. It turned out spectacularly, but it didn’t have any use. It was too big and not sturdy enough to hang on a wall. It lay on the concrete at the bottom of the back steps to be admired by the whole family until it rained. Then all the pieces were gathered up by an adult and taken to the dump.

Both children learned a lot from their experiences. They utilized skills they would need to hone to become well-rounded adults.  Here are some skills they had to use to make their creations.
They need a vision
It took initiative
They had to bring the vision to life
They needed to gather the needed materials
They had to problem solve
They worked independently
They had to decide when to ask for help and what help they need

These important skills, which they were able to practice, made the use of the materials perfect and justified the mess in my mind. Seriously. : )

Today, let’s explore one of the reasons why parents have so much trouble letting their kids waste, i.e. create, with paper, glue, paint, and so forth, and why it’s tough to face the clean-up afterward.

Adults are End-Product Driven while Children are Process Driven

The end product is what matters to adults, how it looks, and its usefulness. To children, it is all about the process. Children care about how it feels to create. They aren’t as concerned with the usefulness of the finished project or in fact, how ‘perfect’ it looks. They don’t worry about the mess they are making because they are so caught up in the creative process.

Because you care about the end product, you will be viewing your children’s activities through those lensesunless, of course, you will consciously take those glasses off and see what your children see.

Don’t manage your children’s efforts in an attempt to make the project turn out the way you think it should. Don’t worry so much about waste or mess. Think instead of what your children are gaining while creating. 

When you decide to see your children’s projects differently, you will better evaluate the ‘correct’ use of materials. It will be more about them and less about you.

In our communities, we could use a few more adults who aren’t afraid to turn their dreams into reality because they spent their childhood doing it.

The Most Important End Product – Relationship and Memory

This month my grandson, Ben, turns 10.

He is very excited about this birthday, which has gotten me thinking about our experiences together.

We had a fun day experimenting with baking when Ben was just two years old. I was baking gingerbread cookies. Baking over 2000 gingerbread men is a yearly tradition in December in our home. It is a BIG project! I was deep into the project when Ben came down the stairs into our part of our three-generation home. When he saw the flour, eggs, and partially made dough, he was desperate to help.

I am a very competent baker because I have been doing it for over fifty years. However, when you add a two-year-old to the mix, the whole thing changes.

Ben was interested in everything. He wanted to stir the dough. Ben tried rolling the dough, patting it, and cutting it out with the cookie cutter. He ate dough and dropped flour. He was having a GREAT time! I, on the other hand, felt a tad fussed. I hadn’t anticipated his ‘help.’ I just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible because I had other pressing projects.

And there it is; adults are end product-driven while children are process-driven.

It would have been so easy to say, “Benny, grandma is busy. Run upstairs, and I’ll let you know when the cookies are baked. Then you can have one.” As a young mom, I had done that in the past, and I was sorely tempted.

Here is what I did instead.

I let him help and I watched him for a few minutes as I kneaded my ball of dough, and he kneaded his. I saw his sheer delight in doing something new. I observed as he “floured” the counter and the floor so his men wouldn’t stick. I listened to his laughter as he rearranged my utensil drawer. I watched him stack up the Christmas packages into a tower and then watched as they came tumbling down; our small tree was on the counter. And guess what, my heart softened. I loved watching him. It was fun, and he made the whole project even more worthwhile.

It did take longer, and my floor was a disaster. I had to eventually re-do the utensil drawer. The packages had flour on them, and the corners were a bit flattened. But Ben and I made a memory.

The best gift we can give to our children is to be Present with them and make them more important than the project. We and our time are the very best gifts.

Today when I showed Ben the photo of us baking together, he yelled out in an excited voice. “I remember that!” He was smiling from ear to ear. I also had a photo of him sleeping on my couch at the end of our project, and when he saw it, he said, “I even think I remember getting worn out!”

It doesn’t matter if Ben can really remember that experience or not; he was only two. What matters is that he remembers how he has felt around me, his grandma. He has felt seen and heard. No matter what we are doing with our kids or grands, it is all about relationships and making memories. Let’s make our kids more important than projects as often as possible. We can’t every time, but we can more often. The effort we make will improve our relationships

It isn’t always easy but it is simple.

Think about your child and

let the project be secondary.

5 Tips To Put Family First in a World of Distractions

I saw an insurance commercial in which the adults (portrayed by kids) were being treated like children by the insurance company. They felt helpless, undervalued, and frustrated. When I saw this commercial, I, like most of you, could relate to those feelings. At the end of the commercial, a rival insurance company helped a woman (portrayed by a child) with her needs. She stood there smiling, feeling good.

Then I had a second thought. Why would they use children to illustrate what all of us have felt as adults? It’s because this IS how children are frequently treated. They are not seen, heard. They don’t feel they matter.

What Does Being on the List Look Like

Let me give you an example of what it looks like when we treat our children in a way that leaves them feeling like the adults in this commercial, helpless, undervalued and frustrated.

One day I was sewing, and the project had a deadline. I’m pretty good but sewing would be on the bottom  of my relaxing and fun things to-do list. I was feeling some pressure. My 3-year-old daughter, Marie, kept coming into the sewing room and interrupting me. This and the sewing were wearing on my nerves. I was ready to spank her. After all, she was bugging me, and she could see perfectly well that I was busy! I decided if she interrupted me again, I was going to swat her.

Of course, you know what happened. She came in again and I was ready to carry out my intention. Then I had a thought, “Why not hug her instead!” It wasn’t my thought! Remember, I had a firm intention to swat her. It took me by such surprise that I STOPPED what I was doing.

I turned my chair away from the sewing machine and I looked at my daughter. I picked her up and I hugged her tight. I hugged her for 15-20 seconds. I said, “Marie I LOVE you!” Then I put her down and off she went as happy as a clam.

She didn’t come back. Why! Think about that insurance commercial I described and it will be clear. When they were being ignored the people in the commercial were frustrated and feeling undervalued. The woman at the end of the commercial was smiling and feeling good because someone cared. She was on the list.  She felt valued.

This is what happened to Marie. All she wanted was to be on the list, to be valued. Our children want to be on our list, and in our busy lives we sometimes erase them off. Oh, we cook meals, clean and maintain order and manage our family, but our children and our relationship with them are not on the list. We often don’t make time to let them know that we see them, hear them, and that they matter.

5 tips to help you let your kids know they have a place on your list.

1. Take a hard look at your calendar – We all have good things on our calendar. However, are there so many goods that there isn’t room for the best – time with our children? Can you pare down the classes, lessons, team activities, and community and church responsibilities? Time at home matters to kids. Ask yourself, “What happens if I/we don’t do this?” If you’re doing a task out of guilt or habit, take it off your calendar. Figure out what your priorities are and pursue those. Something must give.

2. Involve the kids – I know, I know, it’s simply easier, faster, and more efficient to do things by yourself. But there are advantages to including your children a few times a week. Gardening together, folding laundry as a group, and tidying up the yard as a unit are ways to kill two birds with one stone. If you make it fun it won’t seem like work, it will seem like a family activity.

3. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology-free moments every day. For example, have a TV, computer or no phone hour just before bed or while eating dinner. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time, you’ll be surprised at how much time you can open up for the family.

4. Make a date with your family and then keep it. When things are planned, they tend to happen. When they aren’t the world crowds in, and they get put off. If you have a family evening once a week then consider that sacred time. If you decide to have a game night, don’t let anything else interfere. If you plan to walk one evening a week, make sure it happens. It doesn’t have to cost money, take a lot of time or preparation but you do need to be consistent. That will go a long way to saying, “You are on my list.”

5. Realize you won’t get everything done. A to-do list is unending. It will never get done. Laundry is forever, so is cleaning and cooking. The yard always needs to be mowed and snow must be shoveled. So, lighten up a bit. Let some things go, short term, and make space for your family. 

Please share 

Help Kids Give Christmas from the Heart

Kids LOVE making Christmas gifts. Helping them can seem overwhelming during this very busy season. However, with a bit of thought and time, you can help your children give gifts from the heart.

When I had two children left at home, ages five and eleven, we decided to make Christmas gifts. We had set some guidelines:

 

  • They had to be usable and worth giving
  • They couldn’t cost a lot of money
  • The child had to be able to make it with minimal help

This was before every home had a computer! What I had instead was a butter-colored, six drawer file cabinet which was filled with things I had collected over a lifetime of teaching children. We searched through files marked Christmas, gifts, sewing, patterns, and so forth until we found the perfect items.

My son, who was eleven, chose to make footstools for his grandparents and dad. I took him to the lumber yard, and he asked scraps and they gave them to him. I took him to the local upholstery shop, and he asked for scraps which they gave to him. In other words, I let my children choose the gifts, helped them gather the supplies for the gifts and then assisted when they needed me in making the gifts. But these gifts really did come from them.

The following ideas are simple, inexpensive and your children will need minimal help. But the satisfaction of giving a gift from the heart will be priceless.

Gifts Kids Can Make for Christmas

1. Make a book for a toddler. Get a small photo album and have your older child print pictures from the Internet or they can draw simple objects. Glue the picture to a piece of heavy paper or poster board which has been cut to fit. Label the item, write a short sentence or paragraph for a story.
2. Write a story for a parent or grandparent. Buy a small notebook with unlined paper or put some plain paper into a folder. Have your child write a story and then illustrate it. If your child is new to writing, you can write their story for them on the pages they have illustrated. Part of the fun with younger children is helping them come up with a story while you write. This can make for wonderfully funny and warm moments together. My Kate, when she was small, wrote two stories that I still have. One was called The Golden Tear and was a fantasy. The other was called “Glass Is Not Cement” a hilarious story of a real experience that she had. (She used an aquarium for a step stool!)
3. Another great gift idea that an older child can make is a Quiet Book. We have made these, and they are just plain fun. This also works well as a project for a whole family. Each member of the family makes one page for the book. Here is a wonderful site that has some darling free templates.
4. Bookmarks. Over the years we have made many, many bookmarks. If you google bookmarks for kids to make and hit images, you will find more ideas than you can shake a stick at! Here is one easy idea.
5. Decorated Wooden Spoon. Here is a gift that I saw on TJEDMUSE, suggested by Debbie. I thought it was a wonderful idea. When I was young, about 11 or 12, I got a wood-burning kit for Christmas and I loved it. Choose a wooden kitchen implement such as a spoon or rolling pin. Use the wood burner to inscribe an inspirational word or picture. If you choose something like a spoon you can turn it into a great wall decoration by adding ribbon and silk flowers to the handle and then hot gluing a hanger on the back of the handle.

6. One year we made corn/rice warmers for our friends. I still have mine. I store it under the head of my bed for cold nights. I just pop it into the microwave for a minute and voila warmth. Because I had children making these, they were very simple. We cut squares from flannel about 9X9. We sewed up three and ½ sides filled them with feed corn which I bought. Rice works just as well. Then we hand sewed the opening shut. I was able to teach my kids how to use the sewing machine and how to sew with a needle and thread. Just a note – When I was teaching my 5-year-old to use the sewing machine I stood behind her and ran the pedal with my foot. I helped her push the material through the feed dog and keep it straight. It worked well and as far as she was concerned, she had done the sewing!


7. Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies. I know, I know, everyone gets cookied to death at Christmas. However, my children loved making them. This is a whole afternoon project or two short afternoons. Kids make the cookie dough, roll it out, bake the cookies and then decorate them. The recipe that I am giving you is very old and uses far more flour than sugar, so they are perfect for frosting. When kids are frosting cookies, it is a messy business and never looks beautiful the way you would do it. But please, don’t help them too much or fix their cookies. What we like to do is let the cookies sit for a couple of hours uncovered so the frosting crusts up a bit. Then we put them in freezer bags and write “A Christmas Gift for New Year’s Eve – please freeze” on the bag. Add a bow and maybe a couple of hot chocolate packets. What a great gift!

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
2 c sugar 7 c flour
1 c shortening ½ tsp salt
2 eggs 1 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla ½ c evaporated milk (plain milk works but canned makes the flavor so yummy!)

Cream the sugar and shortening. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, and soda. Mix well. Add flour and milk alternately. I always end up mixing with my hands. It works so much better! The dough must be just stiff enough to roll out and handle nicely. Flour your table before you roll it out. It also helps to dip your cutter into the flour before cutting the dough. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. The longer baked, the crisper, the shorter baked, softer.

Merry Christmas and

happy gift making. : )

By the way, if you love candy, frosting and graham crackers why not tackle a village of small gingerbread houses. It is a fabulous family activity? It’s fun and the way I help kids do it, it’s as easy as pie!! Sounds too hard? Try making a passel of old fashioned gingerbread men. They are delicious and simple.

Why not share this with someone

you care about. : ) 

The Luckiest Person On The Planet

During the years that my family lived in ID. my dad was an over the road salesman. He bought a Cadillac and I hated that car. Every time we drove to my grandparents’ home in Afton, WY., with all the kids packed in the back seat, I would ruminate on my dad’s selfishness in buying such a stupid car for such a large family. Why didn’t we have a station wagon?

And here was another thing. He ate cold hot dogs in his hotel room. I loved cold hot dogs. In our money-strapped home, a hot dog was a fabulous treat. I knew he ate them because on occasion he had leftovers and brought them home. I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

After my dad passed away, while remembering these old memories, I had a moment of clarity. It came because I was older and wiser.

My dad was an over the road salesman because he only had a high school degree. Fortunately, he was a gifted salesman. He could sell you your shoes even if they were worn out. He needed to be good at it because it was commission work and he had a family of eleven to feed, clothe, and house.

To do well and keep his commissions high he drove an expensive car and wore very nice suits, both items we could ill afford. But they made my dad look successful and helped him be successful. He probably wished we had a station wagon too. It would have cut down on the back seat arguing and chaos.

And the hot dogs. He ate cold hot dogs with buttered bread and milk in his room to save the money that eating out would have cost. They weren’t a treat for him but a major sacrifice. He did this for years!

When I was a young mother my husband sold dental supplies. He would leave early Monday morning and return home Friday evening. He traveled the western half of the state of Montana. When he came home on Friday, he would ensconce himself on the couch with all the kids and watch television. On Saturday he would play ball, do errands with the kids, and hang out. How irritated I felt that he would leave me all week to manage everything while he slept in hotels, ate out, and had lots of quiet. I felt a better use of his time at home would have been to take me on a date or help me with the chores. After all, I had been home alone with six kids all week! I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

Years later, in a weak moment, for he is a man of few words, he confessed how desperately lonely he was on those long drives. How he longed to be with his family. How dreamed about home-cooked dinners filled with the chatter and arguing of children and spilled milk. He confessed that he hated being in sales. He told me of the close calls he had on snow-covered roads and his dread that someday he might not make it home. He felt I was the luckiest person on the planet surrounded by our children, in the warmth of a safe home, on a blustery winter night.

We each know our own story. We know what’s happening in our lives. We’re aware of our loneliness, our overwhelm, our shortcomings. But it’s harder to see the reality of another person’s life. We may look at their situation compared to our own and envy them. We may feel what we bear is unfair compared to what they bear. We may be resentful and judgmental. But our families will run better if we extend compassion, if we suspend judgment. This isn’t easy but it is doable.

In 1 Corinthians, in the Christian Bible, the Apostle Paul compared our imperfect knowledge of others as viewing them through a polished metal mirror of the period he lived in. He termed it ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ I’ve always loved that image. When I’m in a place of resentment and blame, I remind myself that I’m probably seeing through a glass darkly. Then I take a second look at the story I’m telling myself to see if I can clear the lens and get a more truthful picture.

Five Tips to Clear Your Lens

1. Suspend judgment. You can only see the outward behavior. You don’t know the heart or motives of another person. When we judge we’re using our experience? They are behaving from theirs. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
2. Take responsibility and stop blaming. You have control over what you think, which gives you control over how you feel. When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Check your story. Be honest with yourself.
3. Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.
4. View them as a person. Regardless of what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in error.
5. Forgive. Even if the other person is in the wrong, even if they do have a better deal than you, when you hold on to resentment and blame it only hurts you. When you extend forgiveness to others and yourself you increase your ability to be happy.

Families are filled with opportunities to judge harshly, blame, and feel resentment. As we practice clearing the lens that we see our family members and our circumstances through we will have more personal peace and family harmony.

The luckiest person on the planet is the one who sees through a clear lens.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. I’ll thank you for it. 🙂