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Cooking up a storm August 31, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, food/cooking, older son, younger son.
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I have to admit that I think we’ve finally got the hang of this whole cleaning/cooking thing.  A while back, I mentioned that we’d gotten a housekeeper.  That lasted for almost a year, but then we decided that it wasn’t working as the housekeeper couldn’t keep up.  I suspect it’s because of the overload of fuzzy creatures.

We changed tactics: basically, we just pick a time every weekend to spend a couple hours cleaning (although it doesn’t work so well when we’re gone for multiple weekends in a row) and we all spend an hour or two working through the list.  Each item on the list is worth a certain amount, depending on the effort involved, so this is what the kids get for an allowance.  I think we spend 1-2 hours every week cleaning, and while the house is more cluttered than I like, it’s actually staying reasonably clean.  Also, I no longer have to spend tons of time instructing the kids on how to clean the toilet AGAIN since it has only been a week or two since it was last cleaned.  (Our biggest problem comes in the fact that every one likes to put the cleaning supplies in different places…)

In the past year, though, I found that I am sensitive to even tiny amounts of contamination in a lot of gluten-free foods, and this resulted in a shopping list that involved almost no processed foods.  The amount of time I spent cooking increased drastically, so I recently decided to try this same approach with cooking: the kids now spend about an hour in the kitchen getting dinner ready or helping with other things (baking bread, making snacks) 3-4 nights a week.

It’s only been a short while, but this seems to be working, too.  I’m not sure why I never tried this before, although I suspect some of it is that I was nervous about the younger son handling certain cooking activities, particularly those with knives.  (I have to admit that I still give a lot of those chores to the older son.)  He loves to bake, though, so as long as I get the ingredients out for him, he’s getting pretty good at following recipes.  He makes a pretty mean beer bread…(with gluten-free beer, of course).

I’ve been very surprised how positive their attitude about this has been, particularly since they don’t get allowance for this.  (It wasn’t quite pitched as, “You don’t help, you don’t eat,” but I think they understood that my frustration was almost to that level.) However, I uncovered another reason why this may be working: I suspect the real motivation is that they’re tired of waiting for me to make their favorite foods.  The baking, in particular, tends to be put off in favor of making dinner.  They must’ve realized that if they learn to do it themselves or help take care of some of the other cooking chores, they don’t have to wait as long.  I have to admit that if there’s something they really want to cook, I’m not inclined to say no.

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Welcome to 2014 January 12, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, personal, younger son.
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Despite all of my good intentions, it’s taken a bit more to get back into my routine.  The youngster went back to school on Monday.  I was relieved not to be teaching this week (or this semester), but I had a paper deadline this week along with a lot of other anomalous stuff.

In particular, a friend of mine passed away at the beginning of the week.  It’s made this week seem a bit surreal.

That’s given me an opportunity to think about my priorities, which was something I had started reflecting on over the break.  I’m not one to make resolutions, but it’s good to reflect on goals.  And nothing will make you think about your goals more than realizing they can be cut short.

My thesis has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I definitely reaffirmed that I want to finish my PhD, but it’s been hard and frustrating this past year, particularly the past three to four months.  I really anticipated being farther because I didn’t anticipate how rough the fall semester would end up being.  So I’m working on getting my schedule set up to have more time to devote to that.

Realistically, that’s the one thing I’m really not happy about.  It’s a big thing, so it’s not something as simple as, “I can put in 15 minutes a day on it.”  But I’m making an effort to rearrange a few things, particularly with kid schedules, to facilitate getting more time on things.

I also want to be blogging regularly again.  The holidays and grading threw an awful crimp in that one.  One day isn’t a data point, but you need that data point to start a trend.

I’m happy to report that our housekeeping effort is going well.  That is, the kids are doing a great job.  I gave up on trying to have them get things done before the weekend.  We just schedule a time for them to work on it and, when we tell them it’s time to, they do.  (We’ve found that it seems like we can’t get to it every week, but we’re holding steady with every other week at least.)  We pay them according to which jobs they do, and we match everything they earn with a deposit into their savings account.  The house is staying cleaner than when we had a housekeeper, and I think we’re actually spending less.

This is actually much more about the kids than it is about the house, though.  I’m really happy that they are both at a point where they are taking responsibility for their chores.  I hate breathing down their neck about anything. I also really am happy about the fact that doing chores is one thing they do cooperatively.  They have a system worked out – older boy does the tall stuff, younger boy does the floor stuff that older boy hates, etc.  They worked it out themselves and, even better, they seem to have fun doing it.

At the same time, the older son is getting ready to go to college this fall.  I anticipate that there will be a lot of changes despite his plans to live at home.  I’m impressed that he’s trying to move forward cautiously and not bite off more than he can chew.  I also have no idea how the big changes over the next couple years will affect the younger son, who quite adores his older brother.

I anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road this year, but I’m hoping that it will be uphill from here.  I guess I’d rather start the year on a sad note so that I can look forward to how much better it will get.

A clean sweep August 20, 2013

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For the past year or so, we had enlisted the services of housekeeper because I was just simply overwhelmed with everything.  However, I’ve decided that I need to cut back a bit on my time at work so I can spend more time on my thesis as I also have a class to teach this fall.  We decided that the drop in pay was about the same as the housekeeper.  Given the housekeeper was having a hard time doing all the stuff within the given time, it seemed like the obvious answer was to let him go and have everyone pitch in around the house for the same amount of time.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I were expected to do the majority of the cooking and cleaning.  My parents jokingly referred to us as ‘slave labor,’ though I have to admit to not finding much humor there.  Realistically, though, it was the only way to make things work as my parents were working…a lot.

I’m still not crazy about the slave labor idea, though, even for my own kids (as appealing as certain aspects of it may be).

The first thing I did was to make a schedule for myself to see when I would actually have some time for housekeeping.  I need 2-3 hours per week, and knowing myself, I need it to be consistent.  It ended up being Saturday morning.  After that, I listed all of the chores I would like done around the house.  I then assigned a monetary value to each chore so that the total for all chores was a bit lower than what we were paying the housekeeper.  The chore list goes up on the wall on Sunday, and the kids put their initials next to every chore they do.

Here’s the kicker: the kids get paid for every chore they do between Sunday and Friday (except for anything in their room, like vacuuming).  I initially thought I would assign rooms to each kid, but it turned out that some of the chores are easier for younger son to do and some for older son.  Once we get to Saturday morning, though, and I have to help, they don’t get paid for any of that time.  My goal is to provide some economic incentive for them to get things done before Saturday so that I can have some down time to wear my slippers around the house.

The first week didn’t go so well, but that’s to be expected.  I actually set some time aside after supper on Friday so that they could get going on things.  Even with that, there was still about half of the items left this morning.  It’s obvious that it may take a couple weeks of doing this before they’re able to function completely on their own as they had a lot of questions about how to do things and where the various tools were hiding.  I’m also a bit worried that, with extracurricular activities and homework for the younger one that this will all get left for Friday evenings/Saturday morning.  However, there were no complaints, even though they weren’t getting paid for part of it, which is a huge difference from prior attempts to get them involved in housekeeping.  In fact, I frequently got the question, “What can I do next?”

It certainly was easier to have a housekeeper, but I genuinely appreciate that everyone is pitching in and willing to work.  I just hope that morale doesn’t dwindle as time goes on…and that applies to the adults, too.

Crazy busy weekend… February 6, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, personal, younger son.
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Okay…totally a fluff post.  But you need those sometimes, eh?

• Finally realized one thing that has been making the homeschooling part of things hard on the older boy: he likes to work to a ‘good stopping point’.  Telling him to work on something ‘for two hours’ is just too vague.  So I’ve been sitting down and coming up with how much he should do.  Things like, ‘work to the end of this chapter.’  This seems to be working worlds better, and his pace has been picking up a lot.

• Younger boy likes finger nail polish.  So much so that I had to paint his toenails with some holographic stuff I got.  I didn’t paint his fingernails because I know there are boys at school who would pick on him.  He did, however, have to take off socks at gymnastics.  I was very nervous about it, but no one said a thing.  He did ask one of his teachers what she thought, and she said his nails were beautiful.  Huge relief: boys get judged so harshly for being different, and I’m so glad people didn’t get judgmental.  I did warn him, however, that it might happen.

• Honestly, I used to get nervous about wearing nail polish to work.  No one has said anything over the past couple months when I have worn it, so I’ve been indulging a lot more often in one of my few very girly interests.  Even been wearing sparkly stuff.

• Younger boy also strongly associates girls things with pink.  We went to buy some dog supplies yesterday, and anything that came in pink was what he chose to buy.  No one will ever question whether our dog is a boy or girl.

• My house is clean.  It’s always good motivation when you have guests staying with you.  Also discovered the teenager is getting amazingly good at cleaning.

• I’m relearning Fortran.  It’s been a while…a very long while.

• I’m getting braces tomorrow.  Not. Looking. Forward. To. That.

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