Friday, March 11, 2011

Organize. That's how a Mom of four does it.

For those of you who do not already know, I am a Master Organizer. I actually have a bonafide, accredited degree to validate this point (Masters of Organizational Management).  Since I am not currently in the workforce (and even when I was no one seemed to care), I am not using this degree as it was originally intended; however, this does not mean these amazing (documented on a piece of paper with an embossed logo) skills go to waste.  Because I am a Master Organizer.  My husband likes to quote that old saying to me "A place for everything, and everything in its place."  I'm on the ball with that one, honey.  

You ask me where something goes, and I can tell you.  
You ask me where something is, and I always know right away where to look.  
I know where things belong.  
And I've got excel sheets galore:  all my logons and passwords to various accounts;  all my bill accounts with links to the payment page and a year by year spread of each months payments: each in a properly labeled file in a properly labeled folder. 
My father asked me the other day if I kept a car maintenance log-- and yes, Daddy, I do.  
I keep all my medical receipts in one manila envelope, all my tax receipts in another.
All business cards and other important phone numbers-- yup, I've got a place for them.
I have a responsibility chart for my children.  
I have a schedule of chores to be done on a daily/ weekly/ monthly basis- for me and the kids both.  Follow my chart, and you'll always keep a clean house. 
I have an allowance regimen for the children, based on their obedience and assistance around the house.   
I even stole an idea from a neighbor who keeps a weekly dinner schedule, and now I actually can shop for the items I need to create the meals I've pre-planned weekly.  
I have a chart on the wall to update each week with doctors appointments and extra-curricular events and birthday parties.  I used to just keep it on a calendar, but I've found that it's more manageable when the kids can see what they are expected to do daily.  

Other mothers often ask me (I doubt they care, but they ask me anyway) "how do you do it with four kids?"  I usually laugh and say something along the lines of "it's not as hard as you'd think" or "what's one more?"  (Someone once told me going from 2 to 3 was the hardest transition.  He only has three kids, so really, what does he know about going to four?  But he was right.  Three to four wasn't hard at all.  (So for anyone out there debating adding another...)  Or other mothers will see me balancing two kids at the library and offer to carry my books for me and I'll laugh and say "oh, this is nothing... I'm at half-effort today".  But the truth of the matter is, I can handle my four children because I'm a Master Organizer.  

And, as you can probably tell, I'm very proud of my Organizational skills.  What I need to work on is my follow-through.  My maintainability... My consistency... My utilization of these excellent organizational skills of mine.  

You ask me where something goes, and I can tell you. It just may never get there-- which is why there's typically an overflow of items to be put away "waiting to go upstairs", just hanging out on top of my tv cabinet, or on the dining room table-- or maybe having made it to the bottom stair for my next trip up. 

You ask me where something is, and I always know right away where to look.  It just may not be there... in which case, check the top of the tv cabinet, or the dining room table-- oh wait, it's probably on the stairs waiting to go up.

I know where things belong.  They just aren't always where they belong.

And I've got excel sheets galore:  but sometimes I'm just in too much of a hurry to update the file appropriately-- and sometimes that means a bill gets overpaid- which also sometimes means a bill gets skipped.  (Luckily, this doesn't happen too often.)

Yes, Daddy, I do keep a car maintenance log.  It's in the folder labeled "Cars", the file labeled "Dodge".  See?  One entry for "purchased: 8/21/2009: 11,000 miles"

I keep all my medical receipts in one manila envelope, all my tax receipts in another.  But sometimes I just stash all receipts together in my pretty wooden stationary box that I keep on my desk-- I'll sort them all out later.  All business cards and other important phone numbers-- yup, I've got a place for them-- that same pretty wooden stationary box.  I also keep my stationary in that, along with the address labels that we receive four times a week from various charities and anything else that I need to save but don't want to see cluttering my desk.

I have a responsibility chart for my children.  It still has a star for Kayton next to "Feed Tronga"-- our rabbit who died a good eight months ago.

I have a schedule of chores to be done on a daily/ weekly/ monthly basis- for me and the kids both.  Follow my chart, and you'll always keep a clean house. Don't follow the chart, and your house will look like, well, mine.  Except for the days I get really really motivated and run around like a mad woman checking things off the box until JMahl gets home and I sigh, throw myself on the couch and say "oh, honey, I'm so tired... I've been working so hard today-- and I got everything done except for folding the laundry... which I'll do tomorrow.  I PROMISE."

I even have an allowance regimen for the children, based on their obedience and assistance around the house.   Each child labeled and decorated a cup that we keep on the microwave next to a jar of coins.  The cups look pretty.  Every few months I call the children together and advise them that STARTING TODAY we are really going to be using these cups!  

As for the weekly dinner schedule--  Oh stuff it.  There's no way you can expect me to follow that chart on the day I ran around like crazy.  I'm exhausted, and the last thing I'm going to do is make lasagna when JMahl's not coming home til late and the kids prefer mac and cheese anyway!

So don't ever question my organization.  It's there.  It really is.  But the follow-through is another story.  I admit it.  And while my house is only spotless on a once-a-week basis (maybe), it's relatively clean by the time JMahl gets home from work most days.  And we seldom miss a payment or an appointment or a birthday party... so I'm not doing so badly in that area.  The area that I really hurt in is discipline.

I have come up with SO many different techniques to discipline my children-- and many of them work amazingly well-- when I use them.  My problem is, I forget.  For example, a few months ago I implemented a "One is a Warning; Two is Ten Minutes" (by ten minutes, I mean going to bed ten minutes earlier that night).  This worked amazingly well for the two older children.  It was gorgeous!  The moment a bit of a quibble broke out, all I had to say was ONE... and the kids would shush immediately.  I loved this.  The kids liked it (I wasn't yelling as much), JMahl liked it (I wasn't yelling and the kids were well-behaved).  It was a great technique.  And then, somehow, I just forgot about it.  Stopped doing it.  Don't really remember how or why-- but I do occasionally remember how well it worked and think that I need to start doing that again (like now).  Time outs on the tall green stool?  Work well for Kolbie, but am I consistent with it?  Nope-- because I forget.  It's much easier to yell.  

Rewarding kids is as important to me as discipline, but I have a tendency to waffle when it comes to using tv as a punishment or a reward.  Meaning grounding (Kayton usually) from tv if she's bad one day, then the next day telling her she can only watch tv after she's done this that and the other. Then JMahl will come home and ask has Kayton cleaned her room and, if not, why is she watching tv, and I respond with "because she's tired and I haven't reminded her to clean her room and don't punish her-- she didn't do anything wrong!" (while Kayton stares at the tv hoping we'll get distracted and forget about her- which does often happen).

Sometimes JMahl gets frustrated with me. "Consistency is key" is another of his favorite quotes (and as an only child, he is the parenting expert, of course).  But sometimes I get just plain out and out frustrated with my children and give them the "from now on, I'm not putting up with anything.  You will just get spanked!".  It's amazing that that threat still does anything, because when they next act up all I'm thinking is "do I really want to stop what I'm doing to wrestle with Mason for the next eight minutes trying to get him to stand still with his hands on the counter so I can spank him, all the while trying to not let Micah see what I'm doing (she's too young to understand) and trying to ignore Kolbie who is crying and begging 'Don't spank Mason, Mommy!  Mommies are supposed to be nice and hug, not spank!', and when ignoring her doesn't work, trying to hold Micah back with one foot while explaining to Kolbie over a screaming and hysterically begging and struggling Mason that Mommy is only doing this because she loves Mason and needs him to learn that hitting is bad." Geeze, I'm a proponent of spanking, and yet even I can see the confusion for a kid in that scenario. 

And, as mentioned, I also believe in the importance of rewarding children for good behavior-- thus the responsibility chart and associated allowance cups.  But again, I'll remember to reward them for a few days, maybe a week, and then they forget or I forget and they sit, with three our four nickels in them... waiting to be added to... until I need to give the kids milk money for lunch and empty the cups into my hand when they aren't looking.  Hey, in many countries chocolate milk is a luxury, and should, therefore, be considered a reward.

This lack of consistency is one of the things that frustrates JMahl most about my parenting techniques (or lack thereof-- hey, I never claimed to have a degree in Early Childhood Education)... but honestly, he doesn't have a lot of room to talk.  He'll get on a kick early one morning about how the kids need to make their beds before they go to school-- and then he'll forget about it (and, of course, I've forgotten about it) for about two weeks before walking into a bedroom early on a Tuesday morning and asking a confused child why they haven't made their bed-- you KNOW you're supposed to do it. Are you surprised that, no, they don't know this? 

But, you know, somehow we muddle through.  Somehow, we do have dinner on the table every night and our credit is good;  our kids wear clean clothes, take baths when it's obvious they need them, and seldom miss a sleepover.  Sure, I've had to throw together a last minute gift a few times, and we are notoriously late for church (which is why I gave a $150 donation to the church last year in order to win a "jump to the front of the childcare line for a year" pass... it expires next month.. ugh), and the windows only get washed when I'm looking for something to keep the kids busy.  But we do make it.  And my kids are pretty good kids.  No, not perfect.  And I'm sure they'd be much better (and less confused) were I to stick to a discipline/ reward plan for longer than a week... but they know right from wrong, and they are learning what is expected from them, even when I forget to tell them on a daily basis.  

But, most importantly, they get that one thing that takes no organization, no management, no remembering or consistency, that one thing that just happens twenty, thirty, forty times a day and slips out of my mouth, out of my arms, without thinking- regardless of how bad my day is or how high my dirty laundry pile is.  Regardless of how bad they've been or how many nickels are or aren't in their money cup.  They get Love. They get hugs and kisses and tucked into bed with prayers. They get congratulations for jobs well done and support for the challenges they face they next day (because, yes, Kayton, I know it's hard to like your brother sometimes. Believe me, I know.).  So if I only give them one thing consistently, thank goodness it's love.  Because if they didn't get that, they'd have no idea what to make of the rest of this mess.  

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