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!  😀
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.

Even before Adrian actually moved out, I warned my husband that when Adrian moved I’d need a few months. I knew it was going to be such a huge shift for me that I’d need time to figure out what this new life was going to look like.

This turned out to be true for my other children as well. Zee decided to give public school a try. A couple of months later we decided that attending public high school would be the best thing for Bee.

In less than a year’s time I went from being Adrian’s main care provider, a high school teacher and elementary school teacher to… well, homeschooling one high school student who works well independently.

Yah, I’m still shaking my head at that. It’s so easy to say and yet the reality of it is just too big for words. I don’t feel like I can explain all the changes, both what’s visible and what’s not.

Adrian’s been happily living at the residence for a year now. I spent these last few months alternating between guilt and self-reprieve. On the one hand, I clearly have fewer responsibilities than before. It feels like I should be taking on more. I feel the pressure to get a job and contribute financially… just because I can.

But then I also realize that what I was doing before wasn’t necessarily good or healthy for me or my family. I don’t want to jump into anything that’s going to leave me gasping for air like before.

And yes, though I hate to admit it, a small part of me feels like I’ve earned a bit of a break. For so many years folks told me they didn’t know how I did it. I look back now and I wonder how I managed it all. I really don’t know.

All the while I’m impatient to get to the new ‘normal’.

I suppose I’m slowly getting there. I’ve started routines to take care of myself. Exercise most mornings, getting enough sleep, getting my hair cut on a regular schedule, spending more time preparing healthy dinners, etc.

I’ve found time to do some programming, take a training class to help other parents at IEP meetings, do some household repairs, reorganize and just keep up with the housework better than I had before.

I’m enjoying the flexibility this new schedule gives me to still be an active advocate for Adrian, to drive out and see him often, to spend time with my other kids and my husband, to help my sister out by taking care of my nephew from time to time, etc.

For quite a while now I’ve been contemplating this blog. Can I still write here even though everything is so different? I guess I’ve decided the answer is yes. Cause even though it doesn’t look anything like what it did before, it’s still my only job. 🙂

Too Much To Tell

December 28, 2012

So many times over these past few months I’ve thought to come and write here… but the same thing stops me each time… Where to begin?!

A year ago I could not have even imagined all the changes that have taken place. My life now is totally different from when 2012 started. To a great extent I’m still trying to get a grip on it all.

Adrian moved into a residential school in April. He’s doing well there. It becomes more and more clear that it was the right choice for him … and for us. But it’s hard to even begin to describe all the ways this changes my life.

The girls started homeschooling 9th grade in August. We’ve made it to high school. I’m very pleased with the independent study work the girls are doing. They’ve learned and done so much even since August. I love that I can give them time to follow their passions. But a lot of the work 9th graders do is (and should be) independent. I give them a monthly schedule of work to complete and they do it at their own pace and in their own time… My ‘teacher’ schedule is lighter with them.

Then there’s Zee. Though we’d encouraged him to give public school a try back at the beginning of the school year, it took him till November to decide he really wanted to give it go. So he began attending public school at the start of December. But that means that, quite suddenly, I’m not teaching a 3rd grader every day.

So here I am. Gobs of time on my hands like I haven’t seen since before I started having kids 16 years ago. A completely different life from what I had just one year ago. All good and wonderful but just so….. different!

And now I’m trying to figure out where to go from here.

Ready to Wind Down

May 8, 2012

Busy.  Busy.  Busy.

It’s been a month since Adrian moved into his new residence and things are going very well for him.  I thought it’d mean I’d have so much extra time… yeah, not so much.

Of course, part of that is that I was free to make eye appointments, dental appointments, orthodontic appointments, doctor appointments and haircut appointments – so I did.  By the end of the month we’ll be caught up on everything. 🙂

Part of the time we’ve also spent trying out our new-found freedom.  We went with Dad to CT for business.  We took a weekend trip to PA to see my grandfather, something I haven’t been able to do in about 10 years.  I even got to go to the Marvel Movie Marathon!  Over twelve hours of movies!  What?! I haven’t been able to get out to see a movie in the evening for about 2 years so I was catching up 😛

Then we’ve also had homeschool co-op just about every week and play practice on top of that….  Then there were trips back and forth to Adrian for meetings, visits and dropping off furniture…  We had a couple of birthdays in there too…

Now it’s time to prepare for and take the end of the year tests that will count as our annual assessments.   I’ll be glad to get that over with and get into wind-down mode in our schooling.

June is our science project month.  With most of our other school work finished for the year, the kids are free to concentrate on a science project of their choice.   They’ll find library and internet resources on their topics, design experiments, write a presentation complete with visual aids and deliver it to the family.

And I hope we’ll find the time to travel and do other fun stuff somewhere in there too!

 

School of Life

March 25, 2012

A lot of the usual focus on scholarly pursuits have been on hold these past couple of months.  We were fastened tightly in our car, riding the rollercoaster of red tape that accompanies most services for the disabled.  Our destination?  A residential school placement for Adrian.

We’re very close to the end of this ride and so our thoughts turn to where we’ll go next, when we get off this wild ride.

I know for myself, I’m going to need some time.  I’ll need time to decompress, relax and come to grips with what’s happened – the good, the bad, the guilt…

Then, it’s time to reimagine our life here.  So much of what we do day to day, minute to minute, is done because Adrian is here.  All that changes.

While we obviously wouldn’t be sending Adrian to a residential school if we didn’t think it was in his best interest, we also recognize that his moving will mean a lot of positive changes for the other kids as well.  I plan to seek their input in deciding on what life should look like when he’s gone.

This is huge.  Once again, the benefit of homeschooling is that we can balance our academic pursuits with the schooling real life is giving us.

 

Covered In Nut Flour

August 16, 2011

I would love to write about the soft start to our new school year but I simply haven’t the time.  See, I’m spending all my days in the kitchen now cooking and baking to try Adrian on the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD).  Oh, and praying that it will have some impact on his behavior to save someone from being institutionalized.  Cause, yeah, if things continue on they way they have been either Adrian or I will land there.

It’s insane. 

I’m not a baker.  I suck at baking.  I hate baking.

But when you’re doing a diet that removes all sugar, grains, starches and artificial stuff… you have to make 110% of the food by hand.  I’ve baked more in the last 3 days than in the last 3 years put together.  Mixing and measuring while Adrian tries to turn my head and get my attention to ask to go for a drive for the 300,000th time today.  Cause, yeah, of course I’m gonna try this while he’s off of school, going stir crazy at home for 3 weeks straight. 

Did I mention this is insane?

And wouldn’t ya know, my kitchen sink is broken.  As in unusable.  Cause really, starting a difficult, work-intensive diet with a super-picky autistic, cabin-fever, giant man-child isn’t hard enough.  No, if you’re going to do something difficult then you should do it the hard way. Ya know… without running water.

Yeah, let’s do this the hard way. 

Did I mention that my husband is gone this week?  :O