Month: March 2016

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Spring Square2

Spring fever, for me, is usually accompanied by this insane desire to declutter, demuck, and deep clean everything in my house. It is akin to the nesting instinct I always get in the last couple months of pregnancy. It’s like, I don’t care what is on my schedule, I’m getting to every item on this list of “Crap to Clean.”

I thought I’d share my list with you in case you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of spring cleaning. I’ve organized each item by action.

Declutter

Declutter2

This means to go through everything and throw out what you don’t use and can’t donate.

  • Clothes/accessories
  • Food
  • Toiletries/makeup
  • Medicine
  • Dishes
  • Cleaning supplies

  • Tools
  • Linens
  • Toys/books
  • Craft/art supplies
  • Papers
  • Electronics/wires

Deep Clean

Deep Clean2

These are some things you can deep clean, meaning wiping down every nook and cranny.

  • Fridge/freezer
  • Stove/oven
  • Microwave
  • Toilet

  • Sinks
  • Tub/shower
  • Washer/dryer
  • All floors

Wash

Wash2

Here is a list of things you should wash that you probably don’t get around to very often. 

  • Baseboards
  • Door frames
  • Ceilings/walls
  • Light fixtures/fans
  • Windows/sills
  • Window coverings

  • Blinds
  • Pillows
  • Blankets/quilts
  • Mattresses (and flip)
  • Rugs
  • Furniture with fabric

Dust/Polish

Dust2

In order to keep the wood in your home shiny and healthy, it should be polished at least once a year. Here are also a few other things that could benefit from a once a year dusting and polishing.

  • Furniture
  • Silver
  • Cabinets

  • Wood trim
  • Items of decoration

I made a fun little printable for you if you’d like to stick it on your fridge and check things off as you go. Come on, I know you love to check stuff off a list. It’s weird how psychologically it makes us feel more accomplished.

If you would like this cute printable to get you started, go ahead and click on it to print or download. It’s free. You’re welcome ?

Download (PDF, 631KB)

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Have you started your spring cleaning yet? What is the worst part for you?

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Quit Your Job as the Maid: 4 Step Training Process

***This is the fourth post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 1Post 2, Post 3

Train Square

My 4-year-old son has this…we’ll call it an issue…where he wants to change his clothes a thousand times a day. You can bet that doesn’t go over well with this Laundry Slave. The other day he wanted to wear one shirt to school and then bring a different one to change into after school. I gave him a flat “no” and he continued to insist. I finally said, “When you’re ready to do the laundry, you can change your clothes as often as you want…” He cut me off and said, “Ok, I’m ready for you to teach me.” ? I hadn’t realized I had offered an invitation.

Here’s a 4 step training process to help you follow through once you’ve invited your kids to learn something new.

1. Acknowledge

Acknowledge2

While studying to be a teacher I learned about all kinds of ways to motivate children. There are sticker charts, verbal praise, silent praise (such as a high-five), rewards in the form of treats, toys, and privileges. There are all sorts of extrinsic (or external) motivators. But what really struck a chord with me is what Vicki talks about and comes from the psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs, which is intrinsic (or internal) motivation. That is, doing something because you know it’s right and it makes you feel good on the inside. It is very unlikely our young children will develop this if we continue to reward them with praise or treats every time they do something right.

From the time my son was very young I would say, after cleaning up a mess, “Awww. I love it when our house is clean. It feels so good! Don’t you think?” I would try to draw attention to the internal feeling that we get when everything is put away and cleaned up. I would point out, “It’s so nice to be able to find our things because they’re put away where they should be.”

Before I knew it, he started pointing out the same things and feelings. He actually appreciates the feeling of a clean house. That doesn’t mean he’s always clean, but neither am I. When it’s time to clean up though, he’s all about putting things away and making everything look nice. He genuinely likes the feeling he gets afterward.

In order to fuel their intrinsic motivation we can’t keep giving an empty, “good job” every time they do something right. We don’t want to teach them to do things only to please us, although it may start out that way. It is far more effective to show them that we noticed what they did, point out the benefits, and let them know we appreciate it.

Not only does this teach self-motivation but it also helps instill a sense of gratitude in our children. If we not only acknowledge their effort but then express gratitude for it, in a specific way, it will help them to feel that sense of contributing to the family. It helps them to feel like they matter and are important and depended upon. They are also likely to mirror that gratitude and be more appreciative of others’ efforts.

We can do this by:

  • Acknowledging their accomplishments: by saying something like, “I see that you picked up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper this morning.”
  • Bringing attention to their abilities: such as, “man, making toast can be hard sometimes but I see you did it all by yourself.”
  • Asking them to talk about how they did it: by using questions such as, “How did you know how to do that? What did you do first? What was the hardest part? What did you do to solve it?”
  • Once they master a task, moving on: there is no need to keep discussing it once they’ve mastered it. Bring the attention to the new task at hand.

2. Build

By looking at the information you collected during the observation period you will notice the things your child can do but doesn’t always do on a regular basis without reminding. You can bring up this list and invite your child to pick one thing from that column to work on next. Brainstorm ways to help her remember to do it or make it easier to accomplish. This step of the learning process is much easier if you start with something the child already knows how to do but doesn’t do it regularly. It is less stressful and instills confidence in the child to be able to accomplish more difficult tasks in the future.

3. Teach

Laundry2

This process is very similar to the teaching model I learned while studying elementary education. It is “I do, we do, you do.” This gradual approach to handing over the reins helps children develop confidence in their ability and excitement to try new things on their own.

First, we model how to do something. Then we invite the child to do it with us. Eventually, we allow them to try it on their own. You may consider ways to accommodate her if a step is too difficult. For example, I had to move the hooks lower for my son to be able to hang his coat up by himself.

It is also helpful, if it is a task they already know how to do, to do kind of a pretest. Ask the child to show you how she does it. You may notice that she knows most of it but is missing a couple of steps. Acknowledge what she does right and then model the parts she needs to work on. Break it down into small, manageable steps. Allow time for her to practice and master the skill. Make sure you’re consistent and have faith that she’ll develop the habit.

Habits 

It is especially helpful, when developing a new habit, to have what experts call an anchor. It is something that happens right before the habit that will serve as a built-in reminder. For example, we brush our teeth after we eat. The act of eating is a reminder that we need to brush our teeth. We put our dirty clothes in the hamper after we take them off. Anytime you can point out an anchor and associate it with that new habit they’re working on, they will be that much more likely to remember.

Systems

My first job was at a burger joint called The Malt Shop. I was only 14 and felt a little overwhelmed during the training process because I felt like there were so many things to remember. It was reassuring to know they had systems in place, especially when it came to starting and ending a shift. There were certain steps to take and it was all written down. If I was ending my shift and was in charge of cleaning the shake area, I had a written list of all the things I had to make sure were stocked and cleaned before I could leave. For the first few shifts I had to look at the list constantly. Over time, I got into the habit of doing everything on the list without having to look at it.

I believe we can easily implement these systems in our homes and it will make the training process so much easier for both us and our kids. If our kids can read, make a simple checklist for them as they learn certain skills. If their job is the bathroom, keep a little checklist under the sink that shows all the parts of cleaning the bathroom: put everything away, scrub the tub, scrub the toilet bowl, wipe down the counter and sink, wipe down the toilet, wash the mirror, vacuum and mop the floor. If your kids are too young to read, make a list with simple pictures of each step. My 4-year-old son has a list of things he needs to do every day before we leave the house. They are 3 simple clipart pictures I printed and taped to his door. They are a boy making his bed, a girl putting her dirty clothes in the hamper, and two little kids putting away their toys. 

4. Maintain

clean toys2

This step is one of the hardest because it requires ongoing commitment and consistency. We tend to want to step in for a couple of different reasons:

1. When we’re in a hurry.

Keep it in perspective and do your best to patiently stay put and watch as your child continues to master these skills. Get in the habit of allowing extra time so you don’t feel pressured to jump in and help.

2. When we realize they do a lot more than their peers.

Our children are running their own race and there is absolutely no reason why we should ever look at our kids’ friends and wonder if we’re expecting too much. Remember, this isn’t just to help us out, it helps our kids develop their own sense of worth and confidence. They’re fine, I promise.

And there it is folks, the last step to quitting your job as the maid. Just think about how much your kids are going to benefit from learning to do all these things and the freedom you will have once they master it all!

Know that this training process is an investment you must make in the beginning. It takes time to teach our kids new skills. However, once they’re taught, we don’t have to worry about it anymore. If we help them develop these habits when they’re young, we can look forward to many years of enjoying more time with them and being more emotionally available in order to develop a close relationship. 

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Where are you starting with your kids? What part of this process do you think will be the most difficult to implement? How will you overcome that?

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Because of Him

Because of Him

My 4-year-old son has become preoccupied with the thought of death lately. He tells me all the time that he doesn’t want me to die and that he doesn’t want to die either. The other night we watched a movie about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I tried to explain the most grandiose and complicated event in all of history to my preschooler, praying that it would give him hope when it came to the thought of death.

I know he has many years ahead of him to try to understand the meaning of that matchless sacrifice. It gives me comfort and deep gratitude to be able to explain to this impressionable little boy that death is not the end. That if we strive, every day, to make good choices in this life, we will be together again.

With Easter coming up, it is always a special time to reflect on the most important part of our lives here on this planet. The most important person who ever lived, and the most important message to share with our children. It is because of Him that all of this is possible.

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Happy Easter everyone! Don’t forget the real reason we celebrate and find a way to share that with your children. It’s more than just a mutant rabbit who lays and hides colorful eggs. 

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Easy-Peel Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs Square

One of the many cultural differences between my husband and me is the way we celebrate Easter. I will give props to my Mexican family though, they’re much less commercialized.

When my son was born I was so excited for his first Easter. I was shopping for Easter presents, coloring eggs, and all the while my husband was scratching his head. It hadn’t occurred to me that he didn’t know anything about the Easter Bunny. When he asked what this was all about, I nonchalantly explained the obvious. Before Easter, kids decorate eggs and the Easter Bunny comes in the night and hides them, leaving the kids a present after they find the hidden eggs. 

I could tell by the look on his face that he was thinking I was just as crazy as any Mexican superstition I have deemed ludicrous. 

So he pulled my ‘logically-thinking question’ on me. The same one I ask him when he throws out a ridiculous superstition that makes absolutely no sense. He said, “So tell me, what does a rabbit who magically lays brightly-colored eggs, hides them, and leaves a present behind, have to do with Easter?” 

Touche. 

I have no explanation.

But I don’t care because I love Easter!

Easter eggs1I was one of those weird kids that could eat hard boiled eggs all day, every day. I always looked forward to Easter because it meant LOTS OF EGGS! I would just sprinkle them with salt and devour. Sometimes though, the yolks were a little strong and I’d end up only eating the whites. 

My favorite way to eat hard boiled eggs, waste-free, is deviled eggs. For every single Easter, family reunion, or picnic at the park, I swear we had deviled eggs. My mom’s are the best because…everyone thinks their mom’s are the best. But for real, most people love my mom’s deviled eggs. Even my husband, who can’t stand mustard, likes my mom’s deviled eggs.

So when your kids fail to find all those hidden eggs, instead of letting the lost ones rot out in the yard, try real hard to remember where you put them and make these. You won’t regret it. Pinky promise.

Oh by the way, I totally found the fail-proof method for peeling hard boiled eggs. Believe me when I say I have tried a whole lot of “fail-proof” methods that have turned out to be more “fail-prone”. But trust me, this is the only method I’m willing to stand behind. So when you’re decorating your Easter eggs, cook them this way and then when you’re ready to make the deviled eggs, peel them like this. Then call and thank me. 

Mom's Deviled Eggs
Yields 24
An easy and delicious way to use up your Easter eggs.
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Ingredients
  1. 12-14 eggs
  2. 3/4 cup miracle whip
  3. 2 1/2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  4. 1 Tbsp. minced onion
  5. 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  6. 1/4 tsp. seasoning salt
  7. 1/4 tsp. pepper
  8. paprika for garnish
For the eggs
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add eggs once it's boiling. Return to a boil and lower to a simmer for 13 minutes.
  2. Add eggs to an ice bath.
  3. Decorate as usual.
  4. To peel, place 2-3 eggs in a mason jar with the lid on and shake several times. Peels should almost fall off themselves. If not, add a tablespoon of water to the jar.
For the filling
  1. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks to a medium bowl.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the yolks and mix with a fork. Continue to mix until mixture is creamy. An immersion blender helps enormously with this step.
  3. Transfer mixture to a small, plastic baggy and cut a small hole in one corner. Use the bag to pipe the mixture into the holes in the egg halves.
  4. Sprinkle with paprika.
Notes
  1. Whenever I'm making hard boiled eggs, I always add an extra egg or two in case some of them fall apart or break during the cooking process. This recipe is intended for a dozen eggs which is why I would start with 14.
  2. Feel free to adjust measurements for the filling. Depending on how creamy you want it, how much garlic and onion you can handle, etc.
  3. I used dijon mustard for these but my mom uses regular mustard. Whichever strikes your fancy works great.
Adapted from Kerrie Jensen
Adapted from Kerrie Jensen
Count the Happies http://countthehappies.com/

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Let me know if my tricks worked! How do you make deviled eggs?

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Quit Your Job as the Maid: The Art of the Invitation

***This is the third post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 1, Post 2

Invite SquareYou’re probably thinking “inviting” your kids to do chores sounds like a joke. Sure, we can invite all we want but they won’t do anything unless they are bribed, nagged, reminded, and punished if they don’t. People who talk about “inviting” kids to do stuff they don’t want to do are up in the night.

I hear ya. I think about my two-year-old who is the Queen of Stubborn and think, “Invite her to pick up her toys? Haha..riiiiight.” In fact, one day when I told her to pick up her toys, she grabbed them and started walking toward the toy box. About halfway there, she stopped, threw them on the ground, and started waving her arms in the air and screaming. As if to say, “Wait, what?! What am I doing?! She wanted me to put my toys away and I almost actually did?!”

So then I started thinking about this idea of invitation. It’s so counterintuitive to think that if kids won’t do it when we tell them to, what makes us think they will do it when we ask them to? Except that, it’s also insane to think that the way we’ve been telling them to do it all their lives isn’t working, so we must need to keep doing that. I was ready for a change. She’s not doing it when I tell her to, I guess I could try asking…

toys

Then something amazing happened. She actually picked up her toys! Like, several days in a row now. And it’s funny, I thought I would feel like a grovelling mother who turns all parental authority over to a two-year-old tyrant. But it didn’t feel that way at all. I am confident that if I keep up this patient, inviting parental role, she will continue to pick up her toys. It’s really me I’ve got to worry about. I know how close those raging feelings of frustration are to the surface. If I can keep those feelings under control while I “invite” my kids to clean up, I actually believe they will do it.

Granted, they are young enough to work this reverse psychology on. Older kids will probably get that you’re trying a new tactic, and that’s ok. They will still feel empowered by this process and hopefully more aware of the “why” behind it. Just trust the process and give it a try.

If you’ve been following this series and doing the “homework” then you are aware of what your children are capable of and where they technically should be and are ready to fill in the gap. You should have a list of:

•   What your kids can do and will do

•   What your kids can do but don’t do

•   What they can’t do because they haven’t been trained

It’s important that in these 2-3 observation days, you commit to not reminding or nagging your kids to do anything. This is the only way to get accurate information. If they only do it when you remind them, then it falls in the second column of things they can but don’t do (on their own). This list is an excellent starting point for you to build on what they know and help them create essential habits that will make both of your lives easier in the long run.

As a quick sidenote, don’t expect this to work like magic in one day. Vicki explains that when kids are used to a certain behavior from their parents (ie. yelling, nagging, reminding) and there is a sudden change, they become suspicious. This is a good thing because it gets their attention. Expect them to decline your invitation the first few times. As long as they are in the position of choice, they will feel empowered and will eventually be intrigued by this new way of getting them to do chores. The younger the kids, the easier it will probably be to get them to say “yes.” Keep at it and don’t give up!

1. Choose the time

clock2

Choose a time to have a conversation with your child (individually) when you are feeling patient and calm. Remember you may have to have this conversation many times in the future but lay it all out in the open and explain to your child that there are 3 main reasons you are committed to training him to learn how to run a home:

  • He will leave home eventually and it is your job to teach him how to take care of himself and his future home.
  • It is the only way you won’t have to resort to nagging, reminding, and threatening him about helping around the house.
  • If he wants you to spend more time with him doing fun things then you need some help around the house because you can’t do it all by yourself. Would he rather have a mom or a maid?

2. Brainstorm

Brainstorm together tasks and skills your child wants to learn and master. If she is included in this process it will have her even that much more invested and she will feel listened to and validated when it comes to what she knows and what she still needs to learn. Go ahead and point out what you noticed during your observations and see what she thinks about it. You may want to explain that you noticed she always gets dressed by herself but doesn’t always remember to put her dirty clothes in the hamper. 

3. Ask

Let your child make the decision to choose one skill from the list that she would like to learn first. Don’t jump in and say which one you think is best, allow her the power of choosing. This will keep her motivated and eager to learn since she was the one who chose the task.

4. Invite

Clean

Finally, invite him to learn how to do it. Next week we will talk about a training approach that sets your child up for success. The art of invitation is where it starts though. When children are in a good place, a place of empowerment and choice, they are so much more eager and excited to learn. When they are coerced to do something unpleasant, the outcome is infinitely different.

Your Homework

Try to talk to each of your children this week and explain that there are going to be some changes. Work through this invitation process to explain why you’re making some changes and to get a clear plan of what they want to work on. 

This concept of extending an invitation isn’t as crazy as it might seem. Think about how you react when someone tells you what to do as compared to when someone invites you to learn something new. Our children are just tiny, emerging adults and if we want to be respected, we must learn to respect them as well. This doesn’t mean we are undermining our authority as the parent or the adult, it just means that we are teaching respect by example.

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What do you think about the concept of inviting our kids to learn new skills? What are your concerns with trying this method?

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