Setting Intentions and Atmosphere in Our Home

I sat at the dining room table Sunday afternoon, notebook open in front of me and pen in hand, waiting for some ideas to come. After weeks of growing discontentment with our current routine and the attitudes in our home, especially surrounding chores and school, I was ready for a change. 

But what kind of change? I knew I had to set the tone with more positivity and a fresh atmosphere, so I set down a few ideas for adding positive reinforcement and a little more loveliness into our day. 

One of the problems we have been struggling with is in the area of completing our morning routine without dawdling and complaining. I created a little extra incentive chart for my son to do his morning jobs in a timely manner without my constant nagging. I also decided to back up the time I expect us to “start school” each day to stop us feeling so rushed. When I talked to my son about these changes, he was very excited and ready to try to get his tasks started in the morning.

Since my own attitude is really the only one I can change, I also wrote down some very different priorities for the week in my planner. Instead of usual top 3 tasks for housekeeping and work, I wrote things like “Smile, laugh, and have some fun every day,” “Create something with your hands,” and “Love God and your family well.” I also reminded myself of the importance of getting my personal Bible study and prayer time in before the kids wake each day, so I set my alarm a little earlier for Monday morning.

Finally, I resolved to infuse some fun and beauty into our homeschool routine so that we all have something special to look forward to each day. Over the past few weeks we added “Poetry Tea Time” back into our schedule once a week, and it had become a highlight for me and the kids. In my notebook, I wrote down plans for daily “tea time” at the beginning of the school day: light candles, set out the tea things and snacks, and gather at the table with smiles and anticipation of the good time we are about to have learning together. 

Finished with my brainstorming session, I pushed back the notebook and set down my pen with a satisfied sigh. I knew that none of these changes were big on their own. And I knew that none of them was a magic formula for success. But I also knew that because I was setting my intention to make positive changes and have a joyful attitude myself, things would be better. Because I was going to set the tone and prepare an atmosphere of beauty and goodness, our day would be different. I was hopeful.

And, you know what? Today was the best day we have had in a very, very long time. I hope it is not the last… I don’t think it will be!

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 1: Relationships

As promised, I am back with a post about my goals for 2018! In my last post, I talked a little about the word I have chosen to be my theme for the year: GROWTH. All my goals this year center on that idea of slow, steady progress. I have divided my goals up into a few different general areas: Relational Growth, Personal Growth, and Professional Growth. This first post will focus on my goals in growing the relationships God has given me.

Goals for Relational Growth

  1. Be more intentional about showing love to my husband in ways that mean a lot to him. After a very stressful year with our move and all that happened leading up to that, my husband and I are closer than ever. We have learned to lean on each other through difficult times. In 13 years of marriage we have had our share of ups and downs, but I can honestly say that my husband is my very best friend. Still, I know that without constant tending, even a good marriage can start to grow weeds. The demands of work, child-rearing, ministry commitments, etc. can take their toll and cause husbands and wives to neglect their own relationship with each other. I do not want that happen, so I am committing to continue finding tangible, creative ways to be intentional about showing my husband the love and respect I have for him. One way I am planning to do this is to start having weekly at-home date nights because we are in one of those life stages when it is hard to get away for an evening out.
  2. Continue working on parenting with more consistent discipline and more grace. For a long time I have struggled with inconsistency and anger in my parenting. I hate to admit it, but there it is. I know I am not the only one. But over the past several months, I have come across a few excellent books and other resources that I am slowly reading and mulling over in hopes of learning and applying more grace-filled but consistent discipline with my children. My heart is that my relationship with my children will be one that will draw them to Christ, but, oh, I have such a long, long way to go. One action step I am taking to move in the right direction is to complete Lisa-Jo Baker’s Temper Toolkit e-course over the next month.
  3. Get together with friends (outside of church functions) at least every other week. This might sound odd to all the extroverts out there, but I am guessing my fellow introverted mommas will understand! As a natural homebody, it is already very hard for me to want to get out of the house more than a few times a week for church and running errands. Add to that the fact that we are still the “new folks” around here and have very few friends, and it is harder still for me to be brave and proactive about scheduling time to meet up with other moms and their kids. But my kids do keep my accountable in this area, because they miss having play dates when we go without for a long time! The winter has been hard because of holidays, illness, and cold weather putting a halt to some of our regular homeschool park days and such. I also have the new added dilemma/blessing of a childcare job at our church one morning every week, which will mean that day is out of the question for hanging out with friends since we will have to do school in the afternoon. But I know I am in better emotional health when I spend time with other women in community, so I am committed to make it work somehow!

Now that I have shared a few of my goals for growth in 2018, I want to hear about yours! What are some of the areas of growth you want to work on in the coming year?

Loosening My Grip, #Write31Days Day 7

  1. I never knew I had control issues until I became a parent. Up until that point, I had a pretty tight hold on my schedule and daily routines…when I slept and for how long, when I ate and what I did on the weekends. I was in control of the little details on my life, or so I thought. I planned out my days for smooth sailing, and other than little speed bumps in marriage or finances, things were pretty peaceful.

Enter those predictably unpredictable, dependent and demanding creatures better known as children…and not just any children, but infants! Infants who cried and begged to be fed or changed at the most inconvenient times… Infants who never slept at night but could fall asleep in the car five minutes from home, thereby rendering any attempts at getting them to nap again completely useless… Infants who could cry inconsolably about seemingly nothing, leaving me feeling completely helpless and, yes, out of control. No more nice, neat little weekend plans, no more quiet adult conversation over dinner, and certainly, no more sleeping 8 solid hours in a given night!

My 5 minutes are up, but I have so much more to say on this topic of control and parenting. So let’s just run with it….

You see, these little upsets in my daily routine were just the beginning. Now I have bigger kids who have more independence and responsibility, more room to make their own choices and their own mistakes. I can’t control their choices or their behavior any more than I could control whether or not they had a good night of sleep. Yes, I can guide them and teach them and give them consequences when they disobey or disrespect me. But I don’t control the outcome of these efforts. As much as I would like a neat little plan that says, “Do this and this and that, and your children will turn out to be model Christian citizens,” there is no such formula.

In fact, I am learning that the tighter I try to hold onto my expectations for the perfect day and try to control my children’s behavior, the more chaos and conflict ensue. Instead of trying to wrestle peace and joy into my days by tightening my grasp, I am finding that I must hold all things loosely and let God be the guide. I must release hold of my expectation and selfish desires so that He can fill my hands with His plans for me. And I must let go of the tight hold I want to keep on my children, handing them over to His care because He knows far better than I do how to mold and shape their hearts for His glory. It is a slow, difficult lesson for me, but I am beginning to learn to loosen my hold on control and let God give me what I really need—more of His grace.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days

We Are Family: Child Chore Training, Pt. 3

Welcome to the final installment (for now) in this series on Child Chore Training! Last week I gave specific examples of what this currently looks like in our home. Today I want to share how and why we pay our children for doing chores.

I guess we should start with why we chose to pay our son for his chores every week. First, we decided at age six he was ready to begin learning some basic money management skills. We want him to grow up with an understanding of how much things cost, how long it takes to earn enough money to actual buy something worthwhile, and how to save and give back to God some of his earnings. Also, even though he does chores because he is part of the family, we feel that paying him now gives him an idea of what it will be like to work for an employer some day. We told him early on that if he did not do his chores when asked each day, he would not get paid, just like an employee does not get paid when he or she fails to show up for work. So it is an additional motivational tool to get those chores done! Plus, our son is at that age in which kids start to want to buy things themselves, and his is into Legos in a big way. We have never been able or willing to buy toys just anytime throughout the year, saving those things for birthdays and Christmas. So now he knows that he can earn his own spending money and save it up for as long or short an amount of time as he wants before spending it on that new Lego set he has his eye on. But he already has learned that the longer he saves, the better!

As to how we pay him, we started out with a rate of $.05/year of his age, so he is currently paid $.30 every Saturday. We will increase his pay as his responsibilites increase, probably right around his next birthday. I have sometimes allowed him to earn an extra nickel in the week if he has been especially helpful with extra chores that were not on his list. Yes, this is a small amount, but we do not have a big budget as a family right now, and he really does not NEED much of his own money yet anyway. It is more about the lessons learned than the money earned!

Since part of our goal was teaching him how to manage his money, we divided up his earnings into three categories: spending, long-term savings, and offering. Because I did not want to be counting out strange amounts of pennies each week, rather than divide his $.30 into exact percentages, I simply put $.20 into his spending pouch and $.05 into both the savings and offering pouches each week. We found a set of 3 matching zippered pouches in the school supply section at Walmart last year, and they have been perfect for this purpose!

In case you are wondering, my son is not allowed to spend from his savings until much later in life. This is truly meant for long-term savings and can only be spent on something big, like a car or college. We will eventually open a savings acount for him for this purpose. The offering money is supposed to go with him to church every week. You might not believe it, but he gets a real thrill out of putting that nickel in the plate eery Sunday! I cannot totally take credit for how we do this whole payment for chores thing, since I originally heard about it from organizing guru, Mystie Winkler of  Simplified Organization. (That’s my affiliate link, by the way, because Mystie and her courses are AMAZING!)  In case you want to hear how she and her family does it, here is her Youtube video “Paying Children for Chores“, so can get more inspiration!

So, that’s it from me! Now I want to hear from you! Do you pay your kids for helping around the house? If not, do your kids get an allowance? I am curious to hear your repsonse!

We Are Family: Child Chore Training, Pt. 2

Last week I shared a little about how we started with teaching our children to be contributing members of the household by doing some simple chores. I thought that this week I would give a few more specifics about how this is currently working in our home. My 6 year old son has a few different categories of jobs to do every weekday. Saturdays and Sundays are usually chore-free days, although he knows that we may ask for help with special projects on the weekends.

Each morning he has what we call his “Morning Routine.” These are things that are done before leaving the house or doing schoolwork. The Morning Routine includes making his own bed, getting dressed, eating breakfast (he never forgets that one, ha!), brushing his teeth, coming his hair, and practicing the piano. To help him remember all these tasks, I printed up a visual checklist and laminated it, then taped it to his bathroom mirror. We took it down when we put the house on the market, so now I just have to verbally check in with him to make sure he remembers everything, but it has become pretty habitual for him now. He rarely even leaves his room in the morning without getting dressed and making his bed! #Winning!

The chores that earn him money are divided into daily and weekly jobs. Daily jobs are simply to put away all his toys every evening, to tidy up his bookshelf before bed, and to make sure his dirty clothes get put into his hamper. He also is responsible for taking his dishes to the sink after every meal (we do not use a dishwasher, or else he would have to put them in there) and cleaning up any outside toys he played with when the weather is nice. Weekly chores are things that are different depending on the day or the week.

One day he gathers all the small trash cans from around the house and puts the trash into the big garbage can in the kitchen. He is teaching little sister to do this job, so in a year or so, he will not have this chore anymore because she will do it by herself! He also wipes down the mirror, sink and counter in his bathroom one day/week. He also is learning how to clean toilets, but I still have to supervise that one a lot. He is learning to vacuum the couches on vacuuming day. He can use the Swiffer to dustmop the kitchen and living room when needed. He helps me unload and put away groceries on shopping day. But the biggest job he has weekly is to do his own laundry, start to finish, including checking all his pockets (!) and putting everything away in his dresser when everything is clean and dry. This is probably his least favorite chore because it takes so long to be really finished. But it is probably the one that helps me out the most, so I LOVE it! 😉

Next week I will share how we are currently paying our son for his jobs and what he is learning about money through this experience, so stay tuned!

If you are looking for more ideas on chores your kids can do, depending on their age, Pinterest or Google are your friends! There are several chore lists divided up into appropriate tasks for children from toddlers to teens! Will your kids be learning new ways to help around the house this summer?