Category: Family Life

Throw the Kids out of the House

Throw the Kids out of the House

According to a report on Fox & Friends on March 29, 2019, kids are having more surgeries for sports injuries than professionally athletes.

Why – because we aren’t throwing them out of the house.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t what they said. But it was close.

Kids aren’t free playing anymore. The aggressive sports players do get out and practice, but that’s not the same. Attending exercise classes or working out at the gym is not the same. Free play gets the kids out of the house and into their imagination, their group engagement, and activities that don’t happen any other way.

My sons have always been free-ranged. It’s a little easier for us, because we live in the back corner of 40 acres and neighbors don’t see the free-ranging for the most part. Living in town, neighbors that don’t know you, complete strangers that have never met you, and even family members that just don’t like you want to get into your business are all watching and waiting to pounce on your lack of parenting skills.

But we live in the woods, so in the woods they go.

One day, the older boys (probably 8 and 10 at the time) came in and told me there was nothing to do. I encouraged them to go dig a hole. Later that day, they came in and asked if they could dig a tunnel from the shed to the creek.

“Absolutely,” I replied without hesitation. Not because I wanted a tunnel from the shed to the creek, although it might be cool. I was quick to respond because I understanding of how much would have to go into a tunnel.

To their credit, they did manage to dig a hole about five feet deep and four feet wide. Years later my youngest son would continue their efforts, but the giant rock that stopped his brothers also put a damper on his tunnel plans.

Did I tell them they were exercising? Nope. Did I mention they were working their joints? Of course not. Did I explain to them the value of getting the natural D from the sun? I bet you know that answer by now.

It’s not as easy with my youngest. His brothers are off at college or work. They don’t have time for playing or hanging out with their brother. I’ve started encouraging him to get out with me to build, to dig in the garden, or to burn (boys LOVE to burn).

Together, we dug a fire pit in the back yard, so now I’m more comfortable with him going out to build a fire without supervision. He’s a Boy Scout and has his firem’n chit (which means he’s supposed to be responsible), so that’s another reason to let him go.

Over the last several days, I have been pushing him more and more to get out. It’s spring break, the sun has been shining, and he needs to have less screen time. So do I. And in encouraging my son to free play and enjoy all that is around us, I have been encouraging me as well to get out and do more.

So encourage your children to free play more, even if they are involved in structured sports. And try to make some time to join them. Free play – it’ll do your heart good (and don’t forget your own rubber boots)!

The Mom

How to Change a Habit of Being Messy

How to Change a Habit of Being Messy

Messy is a habit formed by consistent practice the same as clean or organized are habits. It is the day to day practice that will create the difference.

break messy habits
The squirrel scampered up the tree with a dead limb three times its size. I watched it as it went up the tree knowing it was in the process of building a nest and curious where it had decided to create its home.

We have some very tall trees, and I’m always amazed when the squirrels perch so high that it seems like sheer will holds the nests in place.

This squirrel did not go very high. It stopped on a limb and went to work, right next to a limb that already had a nest built.

I thought it was odd the squirrel would build so close to another squirrel. “Maybe it’s starting a squirrely neighborhood.” I was raised in a rather squirrely neighborhood myself so I understood the appeal.

The actions of the squirrel drove me to do some research. Did you know when a squirrel’s nest becomes too messy the squirrel abandons the nest and builds another one?

I guess that is one way to deal with a habit of being messy, but it’s probably not the most cost-effective – especially for us human parents of boys!

Messy habits are learned behaviors. If I want to avoid having to abandon the house for a new abode then I need to develop the actions and behaviors to change my messy habits (as well as those of my children if I don’t want to be cleaning up after them for the rest of my life).

control the squirrels

Change a Habit of Messy

  1. Keep the table cleaned off. Over the years I’ve discovered any location near the door becomes a dropping place for random stuff. There are two ways you can avoid letting tables becomes storage locations. One, clear the table every meal. That is not only a way to get the table cleared but also a way to encourage family mealtime. Two, remove the temptation. If you don’t need the table then get rid of it.
  2. Put clothes away when you change. It is an easy habit to drop your pajamas in the floor because you know you are going to put them back on later. Instead, create a home for your rewearables. Have a space in your bathroom drawer or a hanger in your closet that holds your rewearables until it is time for them to be reworn.
  3. Put clothes away when they come out of the dryer. I have to remind myself that “in your room” is not put away. The clothes need to go into their home before that task can be marked off.

  4. Put the dishes away when they are clean. The longer you wait to put away the plastic drying in the rack or the dishes in the dishwasher, the more likely you are to create a backlog in the sink. Once dishes start piling up in the sink they magically multiply. The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning to have to face down a sink full of dirty dishes. Put the dishes away and you have space to clean as you go.
  5. Take out the trash when you get out of the car. If the small trash bag if full, take the whole thing. If there is one piece in it, then just take out that one piece. Again, this is the “clean as you” process that makes changing a habit of messy easier.
  6. Get rid of the boxes. Stacks of boxes might look better than piles of stuff, but you need to conquer the stuff instead of hiding it away. Take one large empty box and set it next to the door. Once a week, go through one of the boxes you have stacked up and determine if you want to keep, repurpose, or release what has been hiding in there. The key is you have to find a permanent home for anything you keep. Put all release items in the box by the door. When it is full take it to a thrift store or charity.

Messy is a habit. If you want to change the habit of messy then you have to make the choice to do things different. Don’t invest the time and energy you have into putting things off (which allows things to pile up). Clean as you go. Take one step at a time. And just keep going. You will get to the place where messy is no more.

What are your habit changing tips? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Organizing the Home (or How to Keep the Dining Room Table Clear)

Organizing the Home (or How to Keep the Dining Room Table Clear)

There is a misconception that some people are born organized and others are not. If that were true, I would fall into the latter category. My room was always a mess, I never planned things out, and spontaneity was always my style of order.

Now I’m a mom – and one that is working at home and homeschooling the kids. Organization is no longer a choice or a trait; it is the only way to survive. The “organized” people of the world have been kind enough to put out books and books about becoming decluttered in life and spirit, and I’m reading as many as I can find time to read. None of them are perfect, but they all have a bit of wisdom that I’m applying to my life.

Organization Basics

  1. Lists are not a bad thing – especially if you follow them. You just can’t spend all day on making the list. I keep a To Do list on my desk. If I think about something I CAN’T do right then (make a phone call or run an errand) then I jot it down on my list. Otherwise, I try to do it then. Also, I have a list of things that I need to do daily that I print out. It helps me to know what I have to accomplish throughout the day.
  2. Sit down at the table to eat all meals. Eating in front of the television is not just bad for the waistline, but it steals quality time from your family. The greatest benefit to eating at the table is that it can’t become a clutter catcher. I noticed that our table was covered after just one day of not sitting down for meals.
  3. Consistency is the key to a peaceful life. I started washing clothes on every Thursday. Now I PLAN for laundry on Thursday, the kids expect to get up and sort clothes on Thursday, and my husband expects an easy supper on Thursdays. By doing the same thing at the same time everybody is ready and prepared for what is to come.
  4. Make a list of chores cards and then have a drawing game every month to see who gets the privilege of doing what chores. The younger kids can draw fewer cards or be assigned a buddy to help them out. Do it at the supper table when everyone is present (maybe dad will volunteer to join the “game”).
  5. When in doubt, call in re-enforcements. I have a friend that will volunteer some time to help me if I get overwhelmed (although I try to always pay her something). If I have to go away for a couple of days or if things get too hectic because of one emergency or another (say there is an invasion of hundreds of red wasps in the attic coming in the house through the baby’s room) then she is there to get things in somewhat of an order for me.

Organization is not always easy for me. Finding the time to organize as well as the determination to follow through has come from much trial and error (and is still being perfected). The more I do, the more I know how to do, and the more I want to get done. Maybe one of these days, I will be the organized wife my husband dreams about at night.

Finding Your Way to Work from Home WITHOUT Stress

Finding Your Way to Work from Home WITHOUT Stress

My husband was trying to fix something and the baby kept climbing on his lap. “See, this is why I couldn’t work at home. I would need a space somewhere away from it all.” He was implying he needed a space apart from the family for his own entrepreneurial endeavors.

What a wonderful luxury that would be – to be able to work away from it all instead of in the midst of the chaos. The flaw in the idea is that I work at home so my children have a parent with them. If I worked somewhere else, I might as well get a “regular” job.

There are ways to balance home and work. Sometimes it requires creativity, sometimes it requires cooperation, but always it requires a sense of peace and flexibility.

Get up early. Getting up an hour or two early than the rest of the house lets me have creative time alone. Not only am I free from the kids, but I am free from the neighbors and relatives that don’t get that I’m actually working.

Stay up late. Grab another hour or two after the children go to bed. This may mean turning off the television, but it is worth it. Save the television for special times instead of all the time.

Save the mundane for when the children are up. Wait to check on your web stats or emails until the action has started. You will be able to multi-task easier if you don’t have to focus as hard.

Encourage the whole family to help out. Set aside thirty minutes or an hour (or whatever you think you need) to do chores around the house. Let the kids (and the hubby) help out. Assign tasks if you want or, better yet, make a list and let everyone choose. If you work as a team, it will be done in a flash.

Don’t stress if things don’t go as planned. There are going to be days that the kids get up early or there are unexpected errands. Instead of having a panic attack, let some of your list go. Don’t update your blog that day. Don’t mail in the query. Give yourself a break, and your family will thank you for it. The important thing is to work for a consistency but to plan for the unplanned. (There’s nothing to it, right?)

Do make a plan of attack. You WILL forget what you wanted to do if you don’t make a list. I have a schedule that I want to try to follow and I have a list of things that I want to get done for the day. I can look at the schedule to see if I’m on time or what area I need to do next. I can look at my list to see what goals I want to accomplish.

    Phone calls and emails
    Writing (personal and creative)
    Writing jobs

Do make connections with like people. Other work-at-home types will be more sympathetic to your situation. Find a support group online or start a club that can meet once or twice a month. They will be able to help you in your times of crisis and will be the encouragement that will keep you going when you want to give up.

Being a work-at-home-parent is no small task. It is a balancing act on the good days and a tornado on the bad days. Following these few, easy tips will help the good days outweigh the bad days and get you on the way to a successful business.

Knowing When to Ask for Help

Knowing When to Ask for Help

I broke down and asked for help. For several months now, I’ve been convinced that I could do it all. I could be the housewife, the super mom, the great hostess, the avid gardener, the available volunteer and a successful writer. Something had to give.

After praying about it, I decided to ask a friend if she wanted to start coming around once a week to clean the house – the weekly stuff like mopping and dusting, along with the big projects like organizing the boys’ closet. After all, she said she ENJOYED cleaning and that she thought God had gifted her in that area.

See, I can clean. God has been working (and it’s been an uphill battle the whole way) to get me to where I can do it. But I would never say I ENJOYED it.

Before I had a chance to bring the subject up, she announced that God had directed her to get a job. “Hmm,” I thought to myself. So after everyone else left, I asked and she said yes – quite enthusiastically.

So now I have help.

The thing that you have to know about working at home is that it REQUIRES you to delegate. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it ALL done. I’ve tried. Look at your life and see what you can bless others with doing. It may surprise you that your children, or friends, or parents, or spouse actually want to help out. Even more surprising is that they are often gifted in the area that you enjoy the least – if you would just give them a chance.

If you are serious about working from home, you have to be willing to ask for help. Take some time to look at your obligations and see which ones you can give away.

What I Learned Today

Sitting here writing this I thought, “My husband is a gifted cleaner and organizer.” But he spends most of his time working in the yard. Why? He does it because it’s man’s work and that’s what is expected of him. To make it even more interesting, he’s allergic to pollen. Just the thing you need if you are going to be out mowing, huh? I think I’ll share this thought with him. Maybe if we all worked where we were gifted and talented instead of where THEY told us we needed to be then our homes and our lives would be more peaceful.