Simply Life in Progress

10 Items You can Declutter Immediately that Really Make a Difference

By March 9, 2016 The Home

I’ve been on a mission to keep up with my house in a little better fashion while retaining my sanity. I don’t want a perfect home. I still have three kids here all day every day so perfect isn’t realistic. I do, however, want a home that is easy to keep up with. I don’t want to spend my entire day just picking up chaos.

It finally dawned on me that I pick up the same things over and over and over again. I have read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. I really do like the ideas she has in her book, but I don’t have the time to go through each category like she suggests. I did channel the idea of, “do I love this? Does it bring me joy?” Other than that, with garbage bags in hand I literally walked through each room of our home finding whatever I saw that we don’t need or use.

It was quick and I didn’t put a ton of energy into the process. I’ve spent very little time each day this week stuffing garbage bags. I was shocked by the end of the week to have over 8 garbage bags full of stuff!! I have yet to tackle our small storage areas. Right now they are hidden behind closet doors so I’ll just leave that there for a bit. When I’m ready I’ll need to devote a day to our two small storage areas. I’ll get there eventually 😉

10 Items you can declutter immediately that really make a difference:

1) Mismatched Socks: My husband had a good laugh with me about how I hold onto socks. You know, just in case I might someday find it’s match. Well, I did a big laundry day and washed every piece of dirty linen in the home and I figured whatever socks we do have will end up in the clean pile. If I don’t find a match, the socks are gone. My mismatch sock pile was ridiculously huge. These random socks filled up a laundry basket just by themselves. I even had socks from when my son (7 years old now) was a toddler. Yikes! I obviously never found the match, lol.

I enlisted the help of my son Carson and together we sorted and matched socks. The ones that didn’t find a match went into the garbage. It was so freeing! Then, I got to exclaim, “I threw them away even though someday I may find the match!” This is where my husband laughed with me. It was sadly a big moment and turning point for me.

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2) Extra Craft Supplies. Who else hangs on to random craft supplies? I had purchased supplies for craft ideas I never found the time to actually do or didn’t finish. Or I found some really great deals at a yard sale. I had yards and yards of flannel fabric from when I was going to make my own cloth diapers. I purchased the fabric 4 years ago when our middle child was a baby and now my youngest, and our last baby, is almost out of diapers. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say I will never make cloth diapers. I hauled that fabric, along with some yarn I’ve never used, to Goodwill.

3) Clothes. It dawned on me that part of the reason I can’t keep up with the laundry or my kids’ rooms is because we have more than enough clothing. My kids wear the same outfits over and over. They like their favorites and the rest just takes up space. I gathered up the clothes they don’t wear. They all went into a garbage bag. The kids now have coordinated outfits in a much more manageable amount. In truth, it has been so much easier to get them dressed in the morning because I can just open their drawers and grab something.

Then, I went through my closet and used the Kon Marie method here. I only held onto what I really liked. It was actually very freeing!! It’s easier to get dressed in the morning because most of my clothes coordinate and I can grab something that I know looks good on me and is somewhat currently in style.

4) Shoes. Oh boy. This was a tough subject for me. I like shoes. Scratch that, I love shoes! However, I did finally realize with three kids I am most likely not going to be wearing those spike heels again. At this point, it’s just dangerous. I saved a pair of brown and black dress shoes for those once in a while occasions and packed up the rest of my heels. I also picked out shoes that have long gone out of style. My closet is so clean!

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5) Toys. This one has made a big difference in our home. I went through the house and found toys the kids no longer play with. I also paid attention to toys that just got thrown around. Those toys went first. Then, I picked out toys that although they may play with once in a while, they really just create clutter. I packed up about two garbage bags filled with toys. The great thing is the kids haven’t even noticed.at.all. We still have some work to do here, but we’re making progress.

6) Linens. My kids have collected so many blankets, plus I still have all my daughter’s baby blankets. They don’t get used. They just get strewn around the home. They only need one comfy cozy fuzzy blanket each. I bagged up blankets that were a little worn. I also bagged up some of my daughter’s baby blankets that we haven’t used and don’t need. I kept her two little favorites and one that I crocheted that really will be kept for sentimental purposes. I also went through our linen closet really quickly and threw out bedding we haven’t used or was worn and torn. I also threw out a throw that doesn’t match our living room is looking a little tattered. Normally, it’s my husband who says, “get rid of everything!” Yet, he tried to keep that blanket! I put my foot down and it went to Goodwill too. We still have two throws in the living room and that is plenty.

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7) Extra Laundry Baskets. I didn’t particularly realize my laundry baskets were causing clutter. Up until now, I thought they reduced clutter. After all, you can throw clutter into them which contains it for a time. However, I was collecting laundry baskets full of stuff throughout the house, including my ginormous mismatched sock pile. The extra laundry baskets were just allowing me to store more junk. We also don’t have a good spot for our various laundry baskets so they were all ending up in our bedroom scattered around the floor. We would often trip over them at night on the way to the bathroom.

The truth is we really only need two laundry baskets. Revolutionary, right?  I thought so when I discovered this idea from another blogging momma. We keep one basket in the upstairs hallway and everyone uses it. Then, I have one downstairs in our laundry room. This system is working well for us and keeping down the clutter.

8) Paper. I had so much junk mail lying around. Plus, as a homeschooling mom I had old worksheets dispersed randomly throughout the house. I even had brand new printables that I had been planning to use but never got around to it. We also had their little doodles. I have a spot to keep their best art work for a time, but I don’t need to keep every single one. My paperwork was a jumbled mix of bills, junk mail, worksheets, printables and drawings.  They were all over my kitchen island and desk. I haven’t fully organized. This was just my grab and go stage. So I grabbed all the junk I could find from my counters, desktop, and drawers. It actually made a big difference surprisingly fast. Now I just have the essentials left to file, which I plan to do this weekend.

9) Movies. We have collected a lot of movies over the years. Who has time for movies when you have three kids!? Plus, I have Downton Abbey to keep up with! Also, our movies mostly get thrown around the house by the toddler. We rarely use the good old fashioned discs anymore because of Netflix. Our large DVD collection was just taking up space and creating a mess on the floor by our toddler. We sold some and I kept our favorites, but the rest which we only watched once and will never probably watch again went to Goodwill.

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10) Books. This one was sooooo easy. I couldn’t believe how many books I had lying around that I will never read again. I also had books given to me second hand that I always thought I would get around to reading, but truth is I’ve had them for quite a few years now and have yet to crack the covers still. I just grabbed them and threw them in the Goodwill bag. I also went through the kids’ books and threw out ones that were ripped or falling apart.We did keep books that are part of a collection and the classics. I’m loving my less cluttered bookshelves! The kids even started pulling out one book at a time and looking them over. I think they were overwhelmed too.

Just with these 10 items, I completely filled up the back of our SUV and I had to make a second trip for items that didn’t fit. It has been so freeing and my house feels larger and cleaner and I’m spending less time picking up all that extra chaos. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be and just decluttering these 10 items has really made a significant difference in our home.

 

 

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Saturday Morning Chores & Printable

By March 5, 2016 Daily Rhythms, The Home

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Saturday Morning Chore List

I’ve always struggled with keeping up with a routine and our home. My husband is actually allergic to routines so there has definitely been a lack of accountability in that area 😉 I love the idea of routines. I make lots of lists and dream of the perfect routine. I have entire notebooks dedicated to writing out routine ideas. The problem is I’ve never been able to keep up with one. That’s why I’ve always chosen to have a rhythm.

However, that rhythm is changing again. I wrote a post not that long ago about accepting the fact that I’m just a stay-at-home mom in The Deceptive Lie of Not Being Enough. I am definitely (and so are you) anything but just a stay-at-home mom. We do a lot as a mom, but it was really my path to stop searching for other ways to feel validated. I was seeking approval from others and honestly from society. I discovered I don’t need a job or title to feel better about myself and I still feel that way. I am confident in my calling as a mom. Being a mom is such a big important and humbling job, it really is enough!

I’ve worked from home before, but it left me so drained and our home in such chaos that we decided it wasn’t best for our family. I told my employer I was done and for almost a year I have been just a stay-at-home mom. It’s been lovely. If I had my choice, that’s the way it would be. We have SO much pressure as moms. It’s crazy what all we do anyway, let alone try and work on top of it all. However, my hubby and I started taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University through a neighbor.

At first we were like nah, we don’t need that. We’re just starting to recover from my husband being unemployed for a time. We’ll be fine. There was just one problem, I had this nagging feeling we should just do the class. I prayed and the Lord put it on my heart that we really needed to do the class together. Wow am I glad I listened! My husband and I really started to discuss our finances together. It was something I thought we already did, but not in such detail. Part of the class was doing a reality check and written monthly budget.

It woke us up! That’s for sure. Our budget was negative and we had no idea. Kind of embarrassing 😉 No wonder meeting our bills was so stressful each month. Yes, we are so much better off than we were a year ago, but we still have a long way to go. Thankfully, my husband was able to get a new client through our business Up to the Task which made up the deficit, but we also want to pay off all of our debt and eventually put more money into savings. We quickly realized we needed more income to accomplish all these goals. I suggested I work from home again. My husband’s response was, “Hell no!” I think we both have some PTSD from our previous experience, lol.

After we had a few days to think about it and with our pressing budget issue, we decided to sit down and write out why it didn’t work for us in the past. We realized many things: I had put too much financial pressure on myself. I was trying to be the breadwinner while doing it all. I was trying to work with the kids underfoot. I wasn’t getting paid enough for what I was doing. I didn’t ask for help. I wasn’t taking the time to care for myself. We then listed out solutions.

Whatever I bring in will be a bonus to our family. I won’t have a quota to keep up with. If I only make $20 that week, awesome! That’s $20 more than we had before to go towards bills. Routine, routine, routine! That part has no longer been a choice. I have to go to bed early to wake up early. I’ll go into more detail another time, but this routine has squeezed more hours out of our day than I thought possible. It has also solved the problem of too much multi-tasking. I work before my husband leaves for work. He gets up with the kids and gets them ready while I spend a couple of hours at the computer. Then, we switch. I see him off to work and the kids and I get to focus completely on homeschooling, playing, cleaning, laundry,etc…

Asking for help! Sometimes I’m just going to have to meet a deadline. I now call my mother-in-law for help or I pay the neighbor girl to come over for a little bit in the afternoon as a mother’s helper. Working while ignoring the kids didn’t work for us at all.  Then, on Saturday the family all pitches in to clean the house. It takes us 2-3 hours to clean the whole place. We divvy up responsibilities.

I also want this to become a habit. As our children get older, they’ll be able to do even more and they’ll already know how our system works! This is a method I learned from one of my favorite parenting books Raising Able.

I created our Saturday Morning Chores printable (seen above) to divvy up areas and then there is a little checklist that goes with the task. I broke each area up into an easy checklist format for the kids to understand and to make sure the areas were actually getting cleaned. I’m doing the tasks with them now, but I’m very much looking forward to when they can be assigned an area and walk off with their checklist 🙂 I used hearts for the checklist because I had to make it pretty and fun for myself somehow!

This has taken a load off during the week. It’s something I will continue to do whether I work from home or not. It’s good for the family to all pitch in for the greater good. It’s easier to get the kids involved because we are all doing our part. We also have chores they pick to do during the week at our family meeting and they get a commission for those such as cleaning the hamster cage, yard work, dog poo duty, unloading the dishwasher, extra vacuuming because once a week is not enough in our house, and sweeping.

After we’ve done our chores on Saturday, we then get to celebrate by going to the park, watching a movie, playing video games, or just generally veg out as a family. How do chores work in your household? Tell me in the comments below!

Carrie

P.S. This post may contain affiliate links which only goes to support the costs of this blog. Thank you! Find out more in my Disclosure Policy here

 

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Freebie Friday: Teach Your Monster to Read

By March 4, 2016 Homeschooling

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Teach Your Monster to Read is a free award winning online reading program created by the Usborne Foundation. It is an absolutely adorable way to learn, but it also is effective. They also have an app that costs just a few dollars. I prefer the website, but the app is nice in a pinch or if you’re away from home. Teach Your Monster to Read uses the Orton-Gillingham approach. Which means it can be used by even struggling readers.

In fact, that’s what drew us to this program. Our son has had a harder time with letter recognition. Learning sight words and phonics has been a struggle. He has really taken to this program and done very well with it.

This is a fun way to learn to read. I find that a lot of right-brained learners need this more visual method for reading to actually click. That’s been the experience in our home at least. It’s also helped build my son’s confidence in his reading skills.

My kids thoroughly enjoy this program. My 4-year-old was so enamored when watching her older brother that she decided it was time for her to learn to read as well! That was exciting for me. They are both learning and growing in their skills. To me that is the most important part.

It’s also a nice break for me. I stay by their side during their lessons, but it’s nice having a little of our homeschool learning be done by someone else. I was once against any online learning, but this has proved to be a great addition to our homeschool time and a nice break for my kids and I without all of their work being done online.

You can use this program to substitute whatever reading program you are currently using or as a full reading program. I really liked that I could trust my kids were learning what they needed to. The lessons are very suited to their age. I do feel it works best if started young, around age 4 or 5, but my son has been able to go through the lessons quickly and is now getting to the more challenging lessons.

This program is a great free resource to check out. You can sign up on their main page here: Teach Your Monster To Read.

Update on Learning Self-Care

By February 28, 2016 Daily Rhythms

A few weeks ago I did a post about how I suck at self-care and what I was going to do about it. A lot of it was because of my people pleasing personality and that I really struggle with saying no, both to other people AND myself.

So how am I doing now? I have made a lot of progress. I feel less burnt out. I’m starting to take care of myself more physically which has helped with my energy and mood swings.

However, I do have a ways to go still.  I really need to work on rest. I continually stay up way to late and struggle the next day because of it. My husband and I laughed the other night because we discovered he is better at caring for me than I am at caring for myself. I was taking a bath and he came in and lit some candles and dimmed the lights. Why didn’t I think of that?

 

Another example, I was sick this last week. A stomach bug hit our home and I had no energy come Friday evening. Although my tummy was feeling better, I just felt depleted. My husband came home from work and I crawled up to bed.

He kept coming up and asking what was for dinner. I was flabbergasted, but never did I say figure it out yourself or anything like that. I kept saying I’d be down soon.  What I didn’t realize was that he was totally messing with me. I’m pretty sure he was testing to see if I’d actually say no. He has been a great accountability partner in this journey of self-care.  I came downstairs and to my surprise there was dinner made! I sat down and ate with the family. It was such a nice break.

My husband has cooked maybe two meals (including the one this last week) our entire almost 12 years of marriage. He helps out in other ways so I’ve never thought of it as an issue. It really isn’t an issue, but what I realized was how monotonous it was to make all the meals for our family and clean up from those meals 7 days a week. Plus, grabbing fast food really isn’t a break. I don’t want a nasty greasy meal. I want a homemade meal. With our kid’s dietary restrictions, this really is our only option anyway.

 

That sparked an idea. I asked my husband if he could make dinner on Friday nights. He wholeheartedly agreed. He really enjoyed making dinner. All it took was me asking him and telling him what a nice break it was. It gets boring and old making dinner every single night. Not impossible, but it was surprisingly a nice change and our kids were able to see Dad serve a meal. Pretty cool.

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How many times do I just dredge through because I don’t want to ask for help, and honestly I don’t know how to ask for help. I don’t think about it. I keep on going and then I crash and burn. I’ve gotten much better about introvert time. I take a bath in the evenings about once a week while Dad plays with the kids. Date nights have become a priority and that has been happening much more regularly. Which gives us both a break and a time to connect.

Overall, I am slowly improving and finding that life is so much better for the whole family when I’m taking care of myself. It also opens up my heart to serve my family. When exhaustion and bitterness creep in, I know I’m not serving my family with the love that God desires from me as a mom. I am journaling more and spending more time in His word and that has also helped rejuvenate my heart for the mission I’ve been blessed with.

It’s still a learning process, but I believe I’m on the right path. I have always been hesitant because I thought self-care was selfish. The “me, me, me” attitude has become part of our culture. The “I deserve it” attitude is crippling our society. For some reason I thought self-care fell into those categories. What I didn’t realize that self-care is necessary and it’s an important health skill. Sure, you could use it as an excuse to be selfish. I see self-care now as a tool in my mommy toolbox. I’m using it as a way to better minister to my family. Just like missionaries take furlough, mommies need to be refilling their bucket as well. We have one of the most important jobs on the planet.

What about you? How do you care for yourself? I would love to hear from you. Tell me in the comments below 🙂

Carrie

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Our Journey with PANDAS

By February 15, 2016 Health & Healing

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I haven’t shared our full experience with PANDAS on the blog here yet and I wasn’t sure how to jump into that topic. I have mentioned it briefly in other posts, but it can be a heavy subject and I’ve avoided it for that reason. It’s also a pretty emotional topic for me.

Saundra from Butter Cup Farms contacted me via a wonderful Facebook group we’re both apart of (Saving Our PANDAS) and asked me to do a post about our story and the natural treatments we use. I was very honored!! I’ve followed her blog for awhile and have learned a lot from her. She uses donkey milk as a part of her daughter’s treatment for PANDAS. She now has a little donkey farm and sells her wonderful milk to other parents trying to heal their children.

Because of her I’ve even been tempted to get a donkey of my own! It doesn’t help that my mom said I could keep the donkey in her barn and I’ve always thought donkeys are adorable. It’s way too much work for me at the moment, but thankfully others can reap the benefit of Saundra’s efforts and when she doesn’t have milk, she can offer a great recommendation.

You can check out our story on Saundra’s blog here: Carrie’s PANDAS Story. If anyone has questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at carrie@simplylifeinprogress.com. I’d be happy to help anyone I can.

 

Review of the Amazon Echo

By February 13, 2016 The Home

 

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The Amazon Echo

 

When my husband tried to convince me to request the Amazon Echo as a Christmas present this last year, I had a hard time sharing his enthusiasm. It’s a speaker for Pete’s sake! We usually share different opinions on technology. I was worried it was going to be another item that would sit unused until finally getting hauled off to Goodwill. Although, I was originally reluctant to add another unneeded item to our home, the Amazon Echo has really become something I use everyday and enjoy.

We did indeed receive the Amazon Echo as a gift (super grateful for that) and we quickly set it up. Pretty much the moment we walked in the door after getting home from being with family, lol. My immediate impression was that I liked the black sleek look. It blends well in my kitchen. I like that it stands vertically instead of taking up a bunch of space. It’s easy to fit the Echo anywhere. It’s also stylish enough to have out in the open.

I’m surprisingly loving the ability to speak to it. While I’m washing dishes and my hands are soapy and wet, I can give this speaker commands. It listens really well 🙂 There are times when the background noise is a little too loud (ahem…three children) and the Echo has a harder time picking up my initial command. Although, I usually only have to say it a couple of times. I feel it listens far better than Siri. Sorry Siri!

I’ve been listening to so much more music. It’s been lovely. We’ve been having a lot more living room dance parties AND I get to listen to music while making dinner or cleaning. My favorite right now is the Pandora Contemporary Folk radio station. I’m pretty sure my family is getting tired of it, but not me!

The speaker quality is fabulous and the sound from that little machine travels through our house very well. The Echo can actually get quite loud. It’s not a loud that hurts your ears either. The sound is balanced and rich. So far we haven’t picked up any static sound as we turn it up.

I also love that we had the option of naming our Echo, “Alexa.” It’s fun and I feel we have another personality in the house. The kids all know “her” name and ask Alexa to tell them jokes. Which she does. It’s a fun little feature and her jokes are all kid friendly. I love when our two year old tries to give Alexa commands in her tiny little voice.

I can also ask Alexa questions and she usually comes up with quality answers. For example, I can ask her how many cups are in a quart and she will give me the answer. It’s been nice while cooking. I don’t have to stop and pull out my laptop or a tablet.

The app that goes with the Amazon Echo is very functional. I’m able to make a grocery list by speaking to the Echo. For example, I would say, “Alexa, add milk to my grocery list.” And voila milk has been added to our grocery list. Then, when I go grocery shopping I pull up the app and there is my list :). I can’t tell you enough how awesome this feature is!! I really thought this type of technology was only available on super swanky overpriced refrigerators that millionaires own. I might be a tad out of touch.

Overall, we are really enjoying the Amazon Echo. It’s a quality piece of technology and most likely other companies with follow suit with their own designs and with similar voice command options.

The only con I feel is it’s a tad overpriced only because I don’t like spending money on technology 🙂 When it was gifted to us, it was also on sale so watch for those deals! If you have the extra funds, by all means it’s a great purchase and it’s something you won’t regret. The quality of the speaker itself commands a higher price than it’s competition. It’s also not an item that will just sit in the corner collecting dust. The Amazon Echo really does become a part of your home.

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link as a way to support this blog. To read more go here.

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The Deceptive Lie of Not Being Enough

By February 5, 2016 The Home

There is this lie people believe and I think moms in general are more susceptible to it. It’s the deceptive lie of not being enough. It can sneak up on you. I’ve never been a full-time working mom. If you are and are reading this, I would love to hear if you get this feeling too?  I’m sure it’s a universal issue to us moms. It seems to be a part of human nature to compare and the more we compare, the more this nasty lie takes hold.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years. I’ve worked part time here or there. Sometimes in the home, sometimes out of the home. Mostly, over the years I’ve been home with the kids as a homemaker. Being a stay-at-home mom is what I’ve always wanted. It was really my goal in life. We have made sacrifices to make it happen. Yet, it didn’t feel like enough.

This lie really started to creep in and take hold when we were struggling financially. I felt I had to do more to help. I started finding work from home jobs that paid awful. My self-esteem got a little boost. I had a “career.” People congratulated me. It felt good for a time. Until I couldn’t keep up with my kids, home, and the job. People kept telling me it was good to work. To have something for myself. I held onto that for a few months. Then, I was left completely burnt out and every area of my life was suffering. My family was miserable.

My husband urged me to take a break from working from home. I took his advice but I felt like a failure. How could other moms work from home, even run highly successful blogs and businesses, and still take care of everything else? Truth is, I don’t know what these women’s lives are like and I am not them. I am me.

I was content “just” being a stay-at-home mom for awhile and then the career bug bit me again and I was looking at transcription and virtual assistant jobs. After all, I have skills. They can even be listed on a resume. Did I mention I also help my husband with his business, but of course it wasn’t enough. I don’t have a title. Husband’s business helper doesn’t have the most professional ring to it and I’m not actually out in the field doing the “work.”

Then, I took a step back and thought about when my family is really thriving. It’s when I’m being true to myself. It’s when I’m content with “just” being me. When I’m being true to the fact that I can’t do it all. I’m not one of those women who can work and keep up with my kids and home and still have a smile on my face. Kudos to those who can. This isn’t about judging other’s choices. This journey has been about being content and finding joy outside of what I do on a daily basis, outside of labels.

I’m also not the type of stay-at-home mom that keeps a perfect home. My family is happiest when I know when to stop and just play, even if that means laundry starts piling up. I’m happiest as well when I maintain the home enough to feel safe (and limit the tripping hazards) and keep it somewhat presentable but when there is still enough of a little mess to show we live here. I’m enough, even without a perfect home.

I realized the feeling of not being enough was poison to my soul. Each time I searched for that something that would make me feel like I was enough, I was cheating my family out of my full attention. Part of me was off in the distance somewhere. My life may not be glamorous. I spend most of my time doing laundry, picking up messes, and sweeping floors. That seems to be enough for my husband and my children. I’m learning it IS enough for me.

I’m okay with just being a stay-at-home mom.  Just being a stay-at-home mom is pretty spectacular.

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Teaching Special Needs Kids how to Help Around the House & Free Printable

By January 27, 2016 Parenting
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Teaching special needs kids how to help around the house can really be a struggle. Sensory processing disorder is almost autism and some consider it to be on the autism spectrum. We’re also dealing with PANDAS.  When my kids are off or in a “flare” as we say around here, it becomes a challenge to get my kids to participate in anything we are doing. One simple request can result in a massive meltdown. These are not normal meltdowns either folks. They are meltdowns on a totally different level and of epic proportions.

However, we still need to teach our children responsibility and helping out around the home gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as belonging and confidence in themselves. In fact for my son with Sensory Processing Disorder, the more physically demanding the job, the better.  He has to work those muscles regularly to be able to retain coordination. Carrying around heavy objects also helps calm his brain.

While the list changes of what my special needs kids can actually accomplish, there are a few ways we get them to help out around the home. I know it will look different for each child and what they can accomplish. These are general ideas on how to get them to participate with a little less stress.

1) We have a weekly family meeting.

During the family meeting we divvy up chores and they get to personally decide on what they want to be responsible for that week. We make a list of what we think they can handle and they get to choose from it. Letting them be able to choose really helps with self-motivation. They feel responsible for the task because they made the decision to do that certain task that week. It could be unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, feeding the dog, or changing the hampster’s cage. They are responsible for the task (or tasks) they choose all week. Then, they can choose something else if they’d like to next week. We write all of this down in our weekly meeting chart so we can remember what we agreed on.

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(Click here to download free Weekly Family Meeting Printable)

2) Routine. 

There are just certain tasks that have to get done each and everyday. We make our beds first thing in the morning, we include toy pickup time as part of our daily routine usually before lunch and again after dinner. We clean the table off after meals, load dishes in the dishwasher, tidy the living room pillows, etc… A load of laundry is started everyday right after breakfast and folded and put away after lunch. These things just become muscle memory and everyone is required to help out. If we don’t keep up with these daily tasks, the house can become a disaster rather quickly.

3) Teamwork. 

You can’t just tell a special needs child to “Go pick up that room.” That’s way too general and completely overwhelming. Not to mention even if you are specific, they’re just going to get distracted by every possible little thing. We have to do it as a team. Which means Dad and I have to join in too. This has really reduced the complaining and meltdowns. We sometimes have to remind them that everyone is helping right now. We also keep it very specific. While we’re picking up with them we give instructions like “Find all the small Legos and put them here.” Once that’s done, we give them another specific task as we continue to pickup as well. The timer is our best friend with this one. We usually set it for 10-15 minutes depending on how much we need to clean up. It’s amazing how much can get done when everyone is racing against the clock. The kids feel good because it gets done faster and a cleaner environment is less stressful for everyone. There is usually a sense of relief once it’s accomplished.

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The Emotional Process of Being Done

By January 26, 2016 Parenting

My last baby is now two years old. It’s hard to believe. Our little Noelle was a surprise. We had decided to be done after two kids. It took two years to make the decision. We had a hard time deciding and kept going back and forth.

After big hefty discussions, we finally decided to be done. I was at peace with that decision. In our minds, the decision was final. I started my grieving process and five days later I found out I was pregnant. Surprise! We laughed and decided God really does have a sense of humor.

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(^^My Noelle as a newborn)

It reminded us of Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” My husband and I went through a time of infertility and miscarriages. I wanted to be one of those women who just got pregnant and was able to retain a pregnancy. The Lord knew the desire of my heart.

My husband blamed it on the fact that I started praying regularly and had gone gluten free. My husband was shocked with the pregnancy news. In fact, he didn’t believe me!  It can’t possibly be that easy, he said. Right!? You think as adults we would understand simple biology but the truth was our previous pregnancies took months and years of planning (and help)!

I have to admit Noelle’s pregnancy was HARD. we had decided to be done because of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Getting through that last pregnancy with two other kids to care for was a challenge. I made it. I survived and now I have three little ones to call my own.

I feel like her time as a baby has gone by so much faster than my first two. Maybe because I’m just busier with three kids. Not sure what it is but time has flown by. We had decided no more pregnancies because of what I mentioned above, but secretly I still held out hope for one more. I also have this weird fear of middle child syndrome. I’m sure you’ll be just fine Emily!

Then a couple months ago I was diagnosed with a rare bone disease called Fibrous Dysplasia. Pregnancy hormones fuel the damage done by this disease. If I want to continue walking, I have no choice. I cannot go through anymore pregnancies. Decision made. It really is final this time.

At first I was angry because I wanted to make the decision! I felt like instead the decision had been made for me. I started reminiscing on our journey to becoming parents and those angry feelings melted away and I was overcome by gratefulness. It has been quite the journey for us.

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No matter why you decide to be done or when you decide, it is still an emotional process. It’s wonderful to be grateful, but you also need to grieve.  Those emotions need to be processed. It doesn’t help that my kids want me to have more babies. Babies are pretty fun to have around.

Now that I’ve been grieving, I’m starting to find peace and the decision feels good. I’m looking forward to the future. We can do things as a family that was more difficult with an infant. Sleeping through the night is an actual reality the future holds! Date nights will become so much easier!

I feel like this grieving process is part of every step of parenting. I’ll be grieving as Noelle finally weans. When I pack up all the 2T clothes she’s outgrown. As my daughter Emily gets too big to carry. As my son Carson gets too big for Wild Kratts and his favorite zip up pajamas.

Each new step brings them closer to eventually leaving home. Is it strange I’m already having anxiety about empty nesting and my oldest is only 7? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

It’s good to grieve. These moments last for only a time. I’m savoring Noelle knowing she’s my last. I have a lot more patience for those toddler tantrums. It’s the last time I’ll have a toddler. I have a lot more patience for those late nights. She’s the last toddler to hang out with us in the evenings. I have a lot more patience for the high demands for cuddles and being held. She’s the last toddler I’ll be carrying around all the time.

We are entering into a new phase of parenting. It’s exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.

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(^^This picture always makes my uterus ache. This is me holding my daughter Emily as a babe.)

These moments are so bittersweet. I’m looking forward to being able to help newly postpartum moms more. That time in my life is done now and I can bless others who are in that time of life. That’s pretty exciting to me.

Life doesn’t always go as planned, but often times better than we could have ever imagined. We just have to stretch and grow through the challenging times along the way to get there. Tell me in the comments, what was the decision to be done like for you?

 

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Finding Gratefulness as a Stay at Home Mom

By January 21, 2016 Uncategorized

The other day it was getting pretty rough at home so I texted my husband. Unfortunately, it was a negative text saying that I need a break. He was confused. “Break from what?” He asked. “A break as a SAHM.” I said. He’s like “What’s a SAHM? Oh, I get it. Stay at Home Mom. Hmm. I thought you liked being home with the kids?” Ouch.

I didn’t mean a permanent break, just a coffee away or something. I could see how my husband would have gathered what he did from my text. Even though it wan’t intended that way, I tend to complain a lot.

It hit me that the only time I’m texting my husband is to complain and vent. That probably sucks for him. I know I wouldn’t want negative texts all day long. Now, it was an off day. I was really tired and the house was insane. My kids were insane. However, maybe my attitude could have changed?

Those rough days happen more often than not and normally I can handle it all in stride and really enjoy it. Other days, I seem to get into a funk where I’m only focusing on the negative that happens. The fact that I have to do laundry AGAIN because it never ends can get to me. But you know what? That’s really no different than any other mom out there, including those who work.

Keeping a home can become monotonous, but changing the tone of our home is my job. I’m the one with the biggest impact on our home environment. Something I haven’t been taking seriously enough. I need to start focusing on the good that happens. When I explained to my husband that yes I do enjoy being home, I realized maybe it doesn’t come off that way. Yikes. That’s a scary thought. Staying home with my kids is the only thing I ever wanted and such a blessing!

My husband has always supported me even when we would argue about who actually works the hardest. So glad we got past that, lol. I’ll be trying an exercise and for the next week I will be writing down each day three things I am grateful for. I’ll be putting them in my journal, but I’ll share this first exercise with you. Please, feel free to join along with me. Write down what you’re grateful for and focus on it over the next week!

I am grateful for my home.

Pretty basic but my kids and I are in this home every single day. It makes cleaning my home more of an honor when I am actually focusing on appreciating this place. We were unsettled for so long and went through a year of really tight finances where we thought we would need to move. We don’t know what the future holds and some day that may happen. Today, however, we are still here and I am very grateful for that.

I am grateful that my husband cleans the kitchen.

Seriously, he rocks! I was feeling overwhelmed and he cleaned it without me even asking. He saw the need, stepped in, and got it done. He even de-cluttered the counters and put all my various books and papers in a nice neat pile for me. I was very grateful to wake up to a clean kitchen this morning when I had run out of energy to do it myself. Made a big difference in my day. He also scrubbed the bathtub  and vacuumed the living room before leaving for work which made me feel like a failure but I was also very very grateful.

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(^^That’s my husband who cleans kitchens, scrub tubs, and vacuums living rooms  🙂

I am grateful that homeschooling went well today.

C-Man asked me if there was anything else we could learn today because “that was so much fun!” His words, not mine. I was blown away and my jaw hit the floor. His learning is effected by his autoimmune disease. Homeschooling looks different each day and he usually dreads it. We’re taking a lighter approach and have gone back to Five in a Row. We built block towers, practiced writing numbers in his notebook and I told him he didn’t need to stay within any lines (apparently that is super exciting), and we gathered snow and watched it melt. This doesn’t happen everyday so today, I am grateful!

Share in the comments below what you’re grateful for today!

Carrie Ann

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