Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to School Organization-Hope it Sticks This Time!

“They're coming to take me away, ha-ha!
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee hee, haa haa.
To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds,
and basket-weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes,
and they're coming to take me away, ha-hahaha...”

Okay, soooooo you may think I’ve lost it. I haven’t really. I just keep thinking of the lyrics to this song as I sit and try to navigate all the back to school forms and websites and schedules, etc.

Three kids.
Three sets of online forms (11 pages each).
Three new activity schedules.
Three requests for spirit wear.
Three pair of new shoes.
Three new backpacks.
Three new water bottles.
Three new lunch boxes.
Three bedtimes to slowly back up. Ha!
Three morning routines to slowly creep earlier. Ha, Ha!
Two pair of new activity shoes.
Two sets of new activity clothes.
Two schools’ PTAs to join again.
Two meet-the-teacher nights.
Two school-provided iPads to set up.
Two crazy parents!

I know, I know-everyone deals with it. And we only have three kids-other people have more kids and have to deal with more. In an effort to wrangle in all of the start-of-school flotsam and jetsam that all parents contend with, I decided to get organized at home. Or try. 

I know at seven, nine and twelve, the girls are a little old for real chore charts. And let’s face it, I’m really not the best person to keep up with the daily workings of a chore chart. we have tried laminated, magnetic, sticker charts. We have tried marbles and paper slips and more. I’ve never found a system that works for us. I usually just yell something like, "Seriously, clean your rooms or you will never leave the house again!"


I am semi-organized. We have a magnetic fridge calendar that corresponds to my phone’s calendar. It has color-coded activities for each family member and is mostly up to date. It has eight weeks at a time and is the perpetual kind. You erase a week when it ends and add it to the bottom of the calendar then move everything up.

We also have a working lunch sheet that makes mornings a little smoother. I will continue to roll that out each week this year. I pre-print a list for each child at the start of the week. It has everything we currently offer for school lunch choices and they circle what they want each day. Catagories include Main Entree, Fruit and Veggie, Dairy, Grain, Snack and Drink. Circle one in each catagory. Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.

In that vein, I added a dinner menu, asking each family member to provide their top five favorite meals. I compiled the meal choices, printed the list on patterned paper and put it in a cute frame. Each week we can make a quick dinner list by everyone choosing one meal, using a dry erase marker on the glass. Next week, wipe it clean and start again. The parents can choose the remaining two meals, making them "try a new meal" or "wild-card" picking one off the list at random. There is space at the bottom of the list to write in the "other" meals we choose if they aren't on the list.

I made a grocery list off of the lunch and dinner lists, adding in other regular items we use and have it posted on the fridge. People can circle an item when it runs out.

The eldest child was trying to describe this process to friends and said, "If we want food we have to..." 

The remainder of her explanation was lost as they started laughing. I guess it sounds a little regimental if you don't get the whole story! I told her to describe it like this: "We get to choose the meals we eat as a family." Better?

But chores.

Ack, chores!

We all hate them. But what we hate more is the constant, “Please do your chores. Did you do your chores? When are you going to do your chores? If you don’t do your chores…”

We also don’t want to pay people for doing what they should be doing as part of the family.


Hence, the new system. 

Using about 150,000 Pinterest influences, plus some of my own ideas, I mashed up a new system for us.

I made an Excel sheet of the basic daily and weekly things the kids should do. Responsibilities. Part of being a member of this family stuff. This is easy, doesn't-need-to-be-printed-on-a-list-at-all-really stuff, but to reboot our organization, I spelled it all out.

I printed it out on cute paper like the dinner menu and framed each one. When their jobs are done, they can be checked off on the frame glass with a dry erase marker. I assigned a $1.00 bonus for completing all weekly responsibilities.

I posted their names above each one and hung the frames in an easily accessible space.

I then made a list of additional household chores above their responsibilities. I assigned a cash value to each of these jobs “for hire”. I wrote each job and the fee on a clothespin. The clothespins went into a jar marked “For Hire”.

On each of the girls’ responsibility frames, I tied a loop of jute twine. When the girls want to earn a little extra cash, they can pull a clothespin from the “For Hire” jar, complete the task, have it approved and then clip the clothespin to their loop of twine on their frame.

On Sunday evenings, we will total up the money earned on all of their clothespins and pay out accordingly. I will do the remaining jobs in the jar for a Starbucks drink! Yay me!

The hubby and I have another list of chores that we feel are beyond the girls at this point or that we should just do because we are the parents. Things like cleaning the fridge and mowing are still on us. I made the daily and weekly breakout for us, too, but ours is on our phones.

After the great weekly reckoning, and the doling out of the cash, the clothespins will go back in the jar for the next week and the responsibility charts will be wiped clean for a new week.

The dinner menu will be wiped clean and new lunch sheets will be put up and we will Finnegan begin-again.

Here’s to a great new school year and hopefully a successful and stress-free organizational plan! Let me know if you have something that works for you!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The License Plate Game is Soooo Last Roadtrip!

Whew, time to dust off the ol’ blog and crank out a new post. Sorry. We’ve had an action-packed summer and not a lot of down time! The fun musical Annie occupied most of the time until our road trip to the World of the Mouse.

Which was going swimmingly, mostly because the hubby had us on the road by 4:45-in the a.m. Also, technology is a wonderful, mesmerizing thing. I have to give some serious props to the kids, though. Five people in a car, 965 miles in one day, and virtually no fights? It’s a record!

"Pretzels in the youngest's mouth. Nice." 
Remember the Griswolds? Remember the conversation between Clark and Roy Wally about road trips? We had a little bit of that. I know I referenced feet on a few occasions. We even pulled out of the driveway with “Holiday Road” blaring. Had to. That was just for us, the parents.

 We had sailed through four states and were halfway down the long panhandle of Florida when the natives started getting truly restless for the first time. It was dark, we were an hour-and-a-half out from our hotel, and they were hungry. It was getting desperate.

Then from the third row, the middle child piped up with a suggestion.

"I have an idea for a game until we reach the hotel.”

Bring it.

“Everyone makes up a new sport or uses regular sports smashed together to make new sports.”

Great concept.

“On each round you have to add on one new rule for your sport until you can't anymore. The one who makes up the last game rule wins. I'll go first"

Of course.

“My new sport is Rythmic Gymbling. It is a combination of rhythmic gymnastics, gymnastics and tumbling.”

Okie Dokie. First rule?

“You have to be able to do a pirouette or any turn and go into a back handspring with rhythmic gym ribbon in your hand.”

Riiiiight... Next?

The youngest child was ready: “Soanceer-soccer, dance and cheer. While doing a back tuck, you kick the soccer ball then jump out and catch the ball.”

So far, I couldn’t play ether of these sports.

The oldest was next: “Swimlerball-whirley ball and swimming. You get into carts that work under water and get the ball. You have lacrosse-looking sticks with a button on them to extend them. You have a magnet on the end that you have to reach down and get the ball (it’s metal) and all the other players’ sticks vibrate when someone gets the ball.”


The hubby had a more aggressive sport: “MMSoccer-Soccer and MMA. Played on regular size soccer field but caged in with walls to have no out-of-bounds like MMA. Defense can play full contact if the man has the ball. There is a safer, non-contact version for kids.”

That was decent of him. What a good dad!

I jazzed up a contact-free sport. No, I didn’t rip off Caddyshack II. Much.

Mine was Grugby-Golf and Rugby. “When all players get on the green, there is a scrum to determine first to putt.”

The rounds continued. I wont do this thing round by round. That took us nearly the rest of the drive. And gave me finger cramps as I tried to type it all on my phone!

Rhythmic Gymbling: “On beam you have to do a back tuck while balancing stick thing on your nose. On vault you have to do a round off back handspring with your feet touching the springboard, you go up and do a double full and land on the ground with the hula hoop still on your waist. On bars, you have to do kips while balancing the rhythmic ball going down your legs and balancing perfectly on your head. Then you have to do a monkey giant then jump to high bar. The ball moves to between your hands and feet and when you kip up the ball moves down like a ramp and pops up and when you back hip circle and front tuck off it rolls down your back and lands in your hands and you finish.”

Ummmmmmmmmm, okay?

Soanceer: “So, there’s a soccer ball off in a corner and ballet shoes in a corner diagonal from each other. Do a back handspring to get soccer ball, hold it and do a back handspring and get ballet shoes. Kick soccer ball while doing ballerina spins then do a front handspring and then kick soccer ball again. Repeat three times. Put the soccer ball under one arm with your hand on your hip, and put on your beautiful ballet shoes. Your hair is pulled back and you are wearing beautiful cheer clothes. You do cheer moves then kick out the soccer ball then bounce it on your head and then it lands between your feet.”

Have these kids heard of gravity?

Swimlerball: “There is a box next to the switch that lengthens your stick. It shows who you are supposed to guard when someone on the other team gets the ball. Specially created pools are big enough and square. There are a bunch of bumps on the bottom so it is hard to get around. The ball sinks so it is hard to get it from someone because it sinks right away. Your head isn't under water, just the carts.”

MMSoccer: “In the league, players are allowed to push off against each other when nobody has possession and they are going after free or 50/50 balls. Goalie for each team is the only player on their side that gets to wear full pads. You can only attack the player with the ball.”

Grugby: “Other players may tackle the guy teeing up after five seconds if he doesn’t hit the ball. The points are scored higher not lower. Sand is replaced with mud. Higher points for landing in mud traps. You get to tackle opponent in mud pit like on tee box. Higher points scored in mud pit than on tee box.”

I think technically the middle kid won. Surprise, surprise, surprise! If you want to start any of these leagues in your neighborhood, please let me know

More Hijinks...