Stroke of genius: A recipe for chores and cooperation

Recipe for Chores

I am neither a parenting expert nor a housekeeping expert, but occasionally I have a really good idea, and it works. Here’s the latest.

The most annoying question my kids ask me every day when I pick them up from school is: “What’s for after-school snack?” I don’t know what’s for after school snack! It’s frustrating that they expect me to have some kind of smorgasbord planned for their arrival when, honestly, they should be satisfied that I’m fully dressed when I pick them up. I got them breakfast before school. I make them dinner almost every night. Anyway, I try. I really do, but I usually don’t have anything spectacular for them to eat when they get home from school.

Today, after the kids were off to school, I walked from room to room in the house. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work required to get everything tidy again. How can three smallish people make such big messes and so quickly? How?! I dreaded cleaning it all up, and felt like I shouldn’t have to. I didn’t make the messes. So I decided that instead of spending my energy cleaning up after them, I’d rather channel my energy into a plan to get them to clean up after themselves.

My idea: A treat. They love a home-baked snack. They also love to cook with me, but I don’t do it with them as often as I should, or even as often as I’d like to. So I decided to wrap all those “rewards” into one. I realize that this is not a good daily chore plan, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed about all that has to be done and you need to rally the troops to really chip in and help, this worked like a charm.

The plan:

I found a yummy recipe that had approximately as many ingredients as chores I wanted them to do. I cut and pasted the ingredients list into a Word document, enlarged the font and line spacing, then printed it out.

Recipe

Then I turned the paper over and wrote down the tasks I wanted done around the house.

chores list

Then I cut the papers into strips, with the ingredient on one side and the chore on the other,

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And rolled them up and put them into a bowl.

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(This is how helpful my cat was during this process.)

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I put the chore bowl on the table with some fruit for after-school snack and then waited for the kids to come home.

CAM00484I showed them the recipe and explained that they needed to do the chores to earn the ingredients. When everyone had earned all the ingredients, we would make the cake together.

It worked. They jumped right in and divided the papers among them.

CAM00489See? Magic. At one point, Clark said, “When there’s a really good reward, it almost makes the chores fun.” It’s like he knew I needed a slogan for my blog post or something. ;)

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They finished their work quickly and without complaining. They each had ownership for their own ingredients and, once earned, could measure them out and add them to the recipe when called for.

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We made the cake, ate it, and they were happy and pleasant. There was still a little bit of clean-up to be done, but it was way more manageable than my house was earlier, and now I can walk from room to room in my house and smile at the improvement.

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How about you? In a moment of “crisis,” have you ever had a stroke of parental genius that actually worked? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Sometimes we all just need a few new tricks to try.

GCBC Week 9: “Be Anxiously Engaged” by Elder M. Russell Ballard

This week’s talk also comes from the Saturday p.m. session of general conference.

Be Anxiously Engaged

By Elder M. Russell Ballard

russell-ballard

The other day I was watching this Mormon Message video and it dawned on me that Elder Ballard has given a similar message twice in a short amount of time. He talked about how the tiny flecks of gold accumulate to make a valuable treasure. Then, in this talk, he talks about the tiny contributions of individual bees make up a productive, successful hive.  So that principle of power in the small things is what stuck with me; and based on this old talk by President Eyring, I’ve learned that when prophets and apostles repeat messages/principles, it should rivet my attention.

What did you like and learn from this talk? Please share in the comments below some of your insights.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

My Eye in the Storm

It’s snowing today, so as a matter of personal therapy, it seems like a good time to blog a little about the cruise. Warning: This post will include vacation photos mingled with deep thoughts. Proceed with caution.

So this right here…

is an actual satellite photo of Hurricane Paul. He came ashore in Cabo San Lucas the same day we were supposed to dock there. For obvious reasons, our ship itinerary took some detours, but still managed to get up close and personal with a Category 3 hurricane. (And by up close and personal, I really mean a mostly-safe distance, but still plenty too close for my own comfort.) Let’s just say that we spent a whole 24 hours in bed as to avoid being thrown back and forth while about 50% of the passengers and crew puked their guts out. Luckily, Matt and I never got sick, and if we closed our eyes and pretended we were in a baby cradle, it was actually quite relaxing.

I am NOT complaining though. It happened, and we survived, and the rest of the week was very lovely, and hello, it was a FREE prize vacation.  So I won’t dwell on the hurricane other than to say that (because I have a tendency to imagine every worst case scenario and all the possible outcomes … like me floating at sea in a life raft in a hurricane with 30 drunk, crazy people) the whole event made me quite reflective.

I am also a professional people watcher.  That’s a nicer term than gawker, which is what my mother always called it.  Anyway, there are plenty of people to observe on a ginormous cruise ship, and so I did. There is a reason that Americans have the reputation of being gluttonous and spoiled. I won’t list the poor behaviors I saw, but one example is impatiently waiting for the elevator to go down ONE flight of stairs in order to gorge one’s self at the all-you-can-eat Chocolate Buffet. Enough said. There were also people who were deeply good, like our sweet waiter who works six months at a time with no days off in order to support his wife and children back in the Philippines.

In summary:  Hurricane + People-watching + Lots of uninterrupted quiet time = New insights and some personal revelation for Stephanie

I’ll come back to that.  Let’s look at some photos, shall we?

This was my view for most of the trip (including the napping husband):

Our first stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which was tropical beauty mixed with a roadside landscape of houses and communities that reminded me so much of my mission days in Argentina.

We were accosted by a guy who threw reptiles on us and took our picture for “a tip.” That’s my fake smile, but the background is so pretty, huh?

Our taxi driver took us up into the jungle mountains to wander around at a resort area, and the scenery really was magnificent.

We also spent some time in the old colonial city center. I love to visit old cathedrals and city plazas, and there were both.

On the first day of the trip, they did a safety drill where everyone had to line up with life jackets and practice the emergency de-boarding procedures. Right next to us, there was a man who was already drunk and being rude to his family members. I watched with dismay for a while and then we were all released. That night at our first dinner seating, the host led us to our table, and guess who was seated there? I thought, Oh boy, this is going to be a long week (You share the table with the same guests the whole trip), but then they realized that we were supposed to be at table 411 instead of 311 and led us in another direction while Matt chuckled at the irony. We were seated in a booth with a nice-looking couple who we quickly learned were from Utah. Seriously? So I was relieved because we quickly fell into natural conversation and formed a friendship throughout the week.  Here they are with our rock-star waiter, too.

I’m leaving their names out on purpose so you don’t Google them and steal their children. I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate that. (And in my defense, lest you fear my reaction was as sheltered or narrow-minded as it seems, I could have been perfectly happy to share a week-long dinner table with people from any state or religion or race or creed or whatever, but “drunk” and “belligerent” are not my first choice for dinner companions.)

This is getting too long already. Do you care? Whatever, you know how to scroll and nod.

Next on the agenda: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico, two days post-hurricane (It was actually a tropical storm by the time it hit shore, but the locals said it was crazy).  We liked this place. Matt wants to go back and spend more time there some day with the kids.

That last photo shows our boat off in the distance. (Now you can see why this is good snow therapy.)

I’ve always loved the combination of sunshine and wind. It just feels so relaxing and warm, so I loved being on deck on the sailing ship. There wasn’t much deck space available at the front of the boat, but I made it my mission to find a spot where I could stare off into the great beyond ahead of us. I finally did find a spot atop of a fake boulder on the mini-golf course. It was perfect, and no one was there in the early morning hours, so I would go up there and do my morning “devotional,” and watch the sun coming up, and enjoy the strong breeze and natural beauty, and think about my life and my testimony and all that stuff.  When I told Matt about some of my thoughts one morning, he teased me about my Mount St. Mini-Golf, so that’s what we called it the rest of the week.  Here are some of the things I learned at Mt. St. Mini-Golf.  I realize they are random and disconnected, but that’s how revelation usually comes for me anyway.

  • When people are given so much, they often forget what matters most, and they use their prosperity to buy their way out of the kinds of experiences they were meant to have. I need to be careful to not avoid or shirk the responsibilities God has given me, even when other options seem easy or comfortable.
  • Vacations are so nice, and I promise I enjoyed every minute, but my children are what God wants me to do with my life. The break was refreshing, but my heart told me where I really belong.
  • As I stared off into the horizon, I was thinking of Elder Holland’s most recent conference talk as well as many other related gospel references. I had the clear thought that God doesn’t want cruisers; He wants fishermen. We have a work to do, and it’s not a lazy, relaxing meander through life. It’s the up-at-dawn and work-til-dusk kind of life as fishers of men. And that kind of life will make us happy.
  • I have always loved the scripture in Moses 6:62-63, which teaches that all things in, on, above, beneath the earth testify of Christ. I loved looking at my unfamiliar ocean and beach surroundings and finding the symbolism. There were so many things about wind and sun and boats and waves and even storms that teach great lessons about the role of the Savior in our lives. The hymns, “Master, the Tempest is Raging,” and “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me,” and “Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy,” and “Lead, Kindly Light” all came to mind. I just felt so blessed to have that kind of direction and love available to me in life, no matter what storms may come.
  • Oh, I’m coming back later to add this one more. A lady we spoke to was upset with the cruise line because they changed around the itinerary. I kept thinking, But there was a hurricane! It made me realize how often we might get upset with our Heavenly Father or the prophets for changing our plans unexpectedly or not meeting our own expectations when, in reality, they see dangers ahead that we don’t know about.  Just enjoy the ride and trust the Captain.

Well, that’s definitely more than you ever wanted to know about my vacation. Thanks again to those who voted and helped us win this break. It was much needed, and sufficiently refueling to get back to “my Father’s business” here at home. There truly is no place like home. But I’m thinking I might need to pick up my home and put it somewhere not snowing.