Having kids forces us to reconsider how our house is set up.  Most people go through the process of childproofing for the purpose of making the environment safe.  But as babies grow into toddlers and preschoolers, I think it’s good to reorganize to help foster independence and grow practical skills.

A great place to start is in the child’s bedroom.  As the child is learning to dress themselves, why not give them access to their clothing?  Finding a matching pair of socks from a drawer or bucket is a great way for them start being independent and also learn some important matching/sorting skills.  Use the lower drawers of a dresser or a small chest of drawers to store a selection of shirts and pants.  Teach them to pick one of each to put together their own outfits.  The reverse process of putting clean clothes in the drawers is also helpful.  Within a very short time this can be a ‘job’ or chore the child can complete on his or her own.  

The kitchen is a room parents rarely think about reorganizing for the sake of the small ones.  But the payoff here is big.  Most people keep glasses and plates in the upper cabinets.  But if you separate the kids plastic cups, plates and bowls from the ones the grownups use then you can gather them into the ‘kid’s cabinet’.  Choose a lower cabinet and load it up with the full selection of kids dishes.  My youngest is 12 and we still have this configuration in my kitchen.  Why? You wouldn’t believe how it thrills young visitors to be able to go into the cabinet and choose their own plate and cup for a meal.  It makes them feel big.  
The reverse process works here too.  Now the littlest kids can help empty the dishwasher and put clean dishes away!  Depending on the temperament of the child, they may still complain about having to do the job but I’m convinced that having responsibilities around the house like this one is key to making them feel like a competent, important member of the family.

Continuing the laundry saga…

In the next house,  the laundry situation was much better. The location of the washer and dryer was less perilous and I began folding my clothes right out of the dryer.  It was a huge time saver to do this.

The kids were also a little older (3&4) so I got them each their own small laundry basket.  I filled their basket with their clean, folded clothes and they each put away their own clothes in their drawers.  They needed some help at first but it was well worth the time it took to teach them.  One of the chores assigned to the kids was also to help get the laundry to the laundry room.  This involved throwing it down the steps of our bi-level house…so it landed right in front of the laundry room. 

We still didn’t fold underwear or match socks.  ;)

Fast forward to the next house.  

Although I was never really ‘caught up’, I had the laundry thing under control most of the time.  Since the laundry room doubled as our mud/shoe room, I saved even more time by keeping the boys socks (unmatched, of course)  right there in buckets in the laundry room.  They went straight from the dryer into the buckets.  It made getting out of the house a lot faster on school mornings as well.

When they turned 14,  the girls started doing their own laundry.  It helped tremendously with the constant inquiries about where certain items were and why weren’t they clean yet.  Besides, life skills.😀

Today?  Well the oldest moved out 2 years ago.  The youngest started doing his own laundry about a year ago too.  So I’m sitting pretty only having to deal with a few loads a week.

With the laundry beast of my youth conquered,  I decided to spend time matching my husband’s socks for him again – like back when we were first married.  Aren’t I romantic?!  I’ve been matching them and sorting them by color into containers in his drawer now for at least 2 years.  Of course, as I was talking to him about it yesterday he confessed – he hadn’t even noticed.  :/

If you needed more encouragement to give up sock matching, that right there should do it.

Oh my goodness.  I remember there being baskets of clean, unfolded laundry everywhere back when my kids were small.

The washer and dryer were in the basement of our first house.  In spring (and summer and fall), it was normal for there to be water on the floor.  We even had a channel of concrete running through the basement to hold the water as it made it’s way from one side of the house to the other.  It wasn’t nearly wide or deep enough.  

We kept those huge, man-sized, yellow, rubber boots at the top of the stairs.  Walking up and down the old stairs wearing them was a trick.  Add a overly full laundry basket to my arms and I’m pretty sure it could have been a circus act.  Send in the clowns.

The washer and dryer had to be protected from the water so they were situated on wood pallets.  I’m 5’1” tall.  It’s hard enough getting into an old, top loading machine when it’s on the floor.  To get the items from the bottom I had to jump up and lean over into the machine, feet dangling in the air.  Imagine it with the big, yellow, rubber boots.  More clowns, please.

Obviously, the basement wasn’t a place the kids could go at all.  So each time I went down to do laundry it was a race to get back upstairs before the kids realized I was gone and proceeded to cause as much chaos as possible in my absence.   

Back then all the clothes went upstairs in a heap.  I’d fold and sort on the couch while the kids played.  Well, I mean fold, sort and try to defend my precious folded piles from children knocking them over, jumping over them, looking through them or just messing them up in general.

Then, with a little luck, the folded piles would make it back to the bedrooms… not necessarily into drawers… but, hey,  a laundry basket is sorta like a dresser with one drawer, right?!

It was about this time that I realized that time was precious and if I didn’t find some ways to cut corners, things were going to continue to be out of hand all the time.  The first to go was sock matching.  The twins’ socks all went into a drawer together and we matched them as they needed to wear them.  Ditto for Adrian.  Ditto for myself and my husband.  It saved me loads of time and headache getting the clean laundry put away.

The folding of the underwear was next on the chopping block. You’d have to know my mother-in-law and how she keeps house to know what a hard time my husband had with these new policies. I spent months learning how to fold shirts ‘correctly’ like his mom, you know, like in the displays in the store.  Still. Those extra few minutes add up and no one is likely to notice if your underwear is wrinkled.

And so the endless parade of laundry went.

Looking Back: An Introduction

December 10, 2015

So I’m old.  

Hmm.  Or is it older?  

No, my kids are older.  I guess that makes me just old.

It’s sometimes hard to believe I’m the parent of an official adult.  And I’m only months away from being the parent of 3 official adults.  :O   How do these things happen?!

If it weren’t for friends with little ones, I probably wouldn’t give much thought to the old days… back when I was a young mom with lots of little kids… just trying to survive.  But watching them brings back such memories!  I don’t know how I did it all…  Or do I? Sitting here, on the other side of all that young mother insanity, I realize I learned a thing or two along the way.  

Please don’t think I’m saying I had it all together – cause I didn’t.  Nor am I saying what I did was the best way.  I’m just sharing what worked for me and hoping that at the very least, someone somewhere will feel a little less insane.  The struggle is real!  :D
So I’m starting a series of posts on things I did back in the day to try to keep from going nuts when I had small children, no time, little sleep and a mess of a house.  Enjoy.

Toddling Teens

September 23, 2015

For about a year now I’ve had the pleasure of taking care of my nephew two days a week. He just learned to walk a few months ago.  It’s been a long while since my kids were in that stage and I’d forgotten the tension of those first few weeks of new found freedom.

I watched each step he took, ready to pounce and catch him when he stumbled.  He would stand and begin walking, head held high, confident that he was going to just stroll across the room.  I knew better.

Sooner or later he’d lose his balance and fall.  It’s just part of the process of learning to walk.  But while he showed no fear, I was constantly scanning the environment for places he might bump or bruise himself. He seemed blissfully unaware of obstacles like the toys, the furniture or even the wall.

One of my teens recently took her first steps in the world of employment.  The tension I felt reminded me of those toddler years.  She set off, supremely confident, seemingly unaware of potential stumbling blocks. And I sat by, ready to pounce…

But just like with toddlers, you can’t prevent every fall with teens.  They’re going to make some mistakes when they’re learning.  It’s just part of the process.  And teens, like toddlers, have a limited capacity to hear or heed warnings.

Fortunately, neither toddlers nor teens let the inevitable set backs keep them down. They just get right back up and head back out –  as confident as ever.  I suppose that’s a very good thing. Otherwise, we’d all still be crawling.

Next Phase

September 17, 2014

Many of the blogs I used to read daily have dropped off significantly in posting in recent years.  I’m pretty sure at least some find themselves in the same position as myself.   Teens are fascinating, complicated, confusing, frustrating, thrilling and give you plenty you’d like to talk about.  But they’re also teens – young adults – and it’s much harder to write about  parenting and/or homeschooling them without spilling more beans than they’d be comfortable with.

We’re in the next phase.

Without giving too many specifics I can say that the teen daughter who homeschooled from 2nd grade to 9th grade is in her second year in public school and doing very well there.  The situation reminds me to remind other homeschooling parents that it’s good policy to make educational choices year by year, child by child.  Consider all your options (private, public, homeschool, etc.) and be open to the fact that what’s best now might change in the future.

Ditto with the kid who homeschooled up till 3rd grade when he made the switch to public school.  He’s in 5th grade this year and thriving in public school.  He needs the competition, the routine, the ability to run for student council…  Again, that’s not to say that he might not come back to homeschooling some day.  But for this year, this is the right choice for him.

And then there’s my teen homeschooler.  She will take the TASC, a high school equivalency exam, sometime in 2015.   This is my last year homeschooling her.  By January 2016 she’ll be attending college full time. Wow.  Talk about next phase stuff!

So that’s where we are this year.  Not very exciting.  Just everyone where they should be.🙂

Responsible Teens?

September 19, 2013

I love how easy technology makes it to communicate. I think it’s great that teachers in my daughter’s school are taking advantage of this by using email lists and grades online to keep in touch.

But. There’s a big but.

But when I get emails from her teachers detailing what her homework assignments are and suggesting that I check her digital grades to see if she’s missing assignments… well, I can’t help but feeling that there’s a problem here.

See, my daughter is in 9th grade. That’s high school, folks. This should be where the responsible teens take care of their own business. Or am I just crazy?

When I was in high school it was accepted that teens were responsible for their education. Parents were only called in for extreme cases when a student was in danger of flunking out. Homework assignments? Getting good grades? Being prepared for tests? Passing a class? That was all on the student.

And maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I feel like that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Have modern teens somehow lost the ability to be productive, responsible and self-motivated? It wasn’t that many generations ago when it wasn’t uncommon for people still in their teens to have jobs, apartments of their own, get married or start careers or families. These days it’s common to have 20-somethings (or even 30-somethings) living off mom and dad, still not fully responsible for their own lives.

It’s no wonder it’s that way if we’ve gotten to the point where high school is no longer the place where we start handing off the reins to our kids.

It’s great that teachers can use technology to communicate. But they should be emailing their students homework assignments and telling them how to check their grades online for missing assignments – not the parents!

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