Tag Archives: mother

Family Chores ~ Guest Post

Chores are supposed to clean up things or do things. But when you are, like, six years old, they are plain torture. I don’t remember how old I was, but when I was little when I had to use a spray bottle to clean things, I would spray whatever I needed to spray and I wouldn’t rub it into the surface, I would just leave it there. People who went to the area wouldn’t notice because it would already be dried. That’s how I used to do chores because I was so mad I had to do that chore. But now that I’m older, and Mom  and Dad got smarter, I have to do a good job, because Mom or Dad will check the area I did the chore in, so if I did the chore wrong, they could correct me.

The chores my brothers and sisters have to do at our house : if they are supposed to do a chore because Mom and Dad decide xd : are the downstairs and upstairs bathrooms, the laundry, kitchen helper, and unloading and loading the dishwasher. The worst chore is bathrooms. I am a total germ-a-phobic : not TOO much, really. Just a little bit : so wiping the crusty poop off the toilet seat is SO gross!!! And bathrooms take forever. You also have to clean the sink, too.

The best chore is laundry because it is so easy now that I know how to do it. I don’t really like kitchen helper that much but I don’t hate it. Last but not least is dishwasher. Dishwasher is best to get when an older sibling is here. They sometimes : not all the time, don’t expect it.: do it for you. But some older siblings are lazy buns and only do it if the dishwasher is full and they NEED to wash something in the dishwasher.

Chores bite, and they are really annoying. “If you don’t do your chore, you will get a consequence. HARDY HAR HAR!” says a very annoying parent. See what I mean? Parents are always pulling the excuse, “If you’re not doing the chore, who is?”  Parents just want to get you to do chores so they can lob around eating chocolate covered strawberries watching American House-Wife or Last Man Standing. : I don’t know what parents watch these days but as you can see, I kinda have an idea.
I think a good chore system would be kids do the chores three days a week. Maybe four….. Or maybe parents and kids could go back and forth seeing who gets the extra chore day. It really bites that I have to do chores on the weekend AND the week days. I mean, why do parents make kids do that?! Chores on the weekend are hallway, the easiest, dining room, medium long, kitchen, the longest, living room, pretty long if I do say so myself.

Thanks for reading this!😄 – Anonymous

McClay Family Electronic Limitations ~ Guest Blogger Chloe

In our family, electronics are specifically limited to very strict rules. These are some of the original rules with pros and cons.

Rule one: “You are not allowed to possess any electronics under the age of ten”. It doesn’t sound so bad, and sometimes it isn’t. But as times change, and more electronics are made, this rule gets harder to deal with. By this year, most children have electronics by the age of eight or nine, and those who don’t begin to want one by nine. One pro of this rule is kids spend more time doing other things, though this isn’t always true. A con is that with music, young kids have more ways to deal with problems. One idea I suggest for those of you who are considering adding this rule to your own family list is to let your kids have music devices, as well as simple electronics like a gameboy or tablet for trips or special use.

Rule two: “You are not allowed to possess a phone until the age of sixteen”. This is possibly the hardest rule for kids. By sixth and seventh grade, the last few children who don’t have phones begin to get them, leaving the families with stricter parents with not many ways to contact family or communicate with friends. This gets harder as kids get older, their friends begin getting phones, and more phones are made, as well as more uses for phones. Doesn’t a tear come to your eye just thinking about the poor children, sitting alone, set apart from society from lack of a phone? Plus, quite a few children live in neighborhoods with not many to even no children their age, as I do. They don’t have friends their age to hang out with, and no phone to contact the friends that live elsewhere. Having a phone also helps contact people for important reasons, and there are many more needs for a phone today then there were when my parents first made this rule. Let me put it this way: what would you do if Abe Lincoln came back from the past, grabbed your stove, microwave, lights, computer, salt lamp, and ran away? Exactly. I see you moms crying, thinking about someone stealing your precious salt lamps. I know, nothing can truly convey the misery of a phoneless middle-high schooler, because though many parents these days know what it was like to not have something everyone else had back in school, only about nine percent of parents today knew what a phone was back then. And even then, not everyone would have had one.

Rule three: “Children below the age sixteen have a strictly set amount of media per day”. This is possibly the second worst rule, right below the phone rule. It started with the token system, of course. You had tokens, each equivalent to fifteen minutes of computer or game console. However, when one of my sibling got smart and used them all at once for two hours of media, and other siblings found new ways to make it seem like they were following the rule, this system evaporated. And for you kids reading, here’s a way to cheat the system: One way is to rattle the token box to make it seem like you put tokens in. Another is to buy your own set of poker tokens. Thank me later. After this, the situation was fifteen minutes of media a day. Can you hear the 22nd century crying? But as attitudes changed about this rule, it was fifteen minutes only on weekends. Wow, this is worse than a horror movie. And now it’s an hour and fifteen minutes on weekends. This rule is okay, unless it’s your own electronic. For more about this, see the next rule.

Rule four: “Hmm, you spent how much money to buy your own electronic? Well, too bad, ‘cause it’s mine now”. The new 0.5 worst rule in the world. After age ten, you have an option to buy electronics if you use your own money. But no sir, that doesn’t mean you can use them! One example of this was my laptop. Now, like phones, laptops aren’t allowed until the age sixteen, but this was an exception. That is, until someone cracked it and mom and dad decided not to let me get a new one. Well, back when I had it, I was almost never allowed to use it. Mom and Dad hid it in their room, never let me have it on weekdays, never let me use it in my room, often made me sit at the dining room table, and only gave me about half an hour a day. Once I forgot my password, and when I asked Dad he wouldn’t tell me, so I couldn’t even unlock it. Dad was taking full advantage of me forgetting. In my opinion, you should let your kids have laptops, know the password, and use them whenever. I didn’t pay over a hundred dollars I made cleaning buildings to never get to use the laptop I bought. Oh wait, I did.

Rule five: “No privacy”. I hate this rule, as did many other siblings. Dad and Mom used to let us close the computer cabinet so we wouldn’t have people looking at what we were doing over our shoulder. But for a while, Dad has forced us to keep the door open. I wouldn’t suggest a family computer in the dining room, by the way, either, if privacy is even a bit important to you.

Rule six: “You aren’t allowed to listen to anything even slightly bad on the radio”. This rule was worst when Shannon was a kid. She had her own taste in music, but often couldn’t listen to what she wanted. Now, though there aren’t as many limitations, we still can’t listen to anything.

If possible, I might add onto this list later, but I have one suggestion for parents considering these rules: You don’t understand your kid as much as you think you do. You need to listen to them, and consider trusting them. Don’t try to make up their minds for them, or guess about what will happen if you get them something. You’re not them.

They Matter

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Facebook reminds me of this, and friends post their words on this, and stories flood back to me, and my heart grows heavy. I wrestle the with words I long to share, swirling inside of me, as my own darlings yell and fight over Saturday chores outside of my bedroom door.

Sitting in the space of pregnancy loss is uncomfortable. Something about the way it appears we had and have control over getting or not getting pregnant causes rationalization and hasty statements to make sense of the senseless. We want to push ahead to the but then this happened and look at how everything turned out just fine. In fact, if I hadn’t lost x then I wouldn’t have y.

And yet, x mattered, too. Every moment of x. The days written for x were x’s days to be, and I think we lose something if we leave x behind in the dust and ashes of rationalization and spiritualization. We cheapen all things working together for good when we fail to acknowledge all that is not as is should be. Working together for good and good are not the same.

First, there is grief and loss. Those things are not good.

I remember each pregnancy test I took. I can still feel the edginess of ambivalence, wondering if I really wanted to know, wondering if my life was about to change ~ again, wondering how I would break the news ~ again.

To write this from a place of eight pregnancies carried to term with relatively little complication is not meant to be insensitive to those who have struggled or never have or never will. There are pieces still in process in my story. I have struggled deeply. More than I am ready to share with the world today.

It is to say, I know the strong, life-changing feelings that occur simply by anticipating peeing on a stick (or in a cup as it was once-upon-a-time when pregnancy tests were more like chemistry sets!). I know the panic that blood during pregnancy brings. I have been there.

Knowing that blood equaled loss in my mother’s story, I thought it would be the same in mine, and prepared to lose my first dream, weeks into my marriage.

As it turned out, that first child has always been strong and made us well aware of her presence with the sound of a heartbeat, earlier than was supposed to be possible, according to the midwife. Nothing was sweeter and more reassuring than that sound of life galloping away inside of me.

But for a time, I was preparing for loss. I was on the edge of physically and emotionally losing the little one I had dreamed about and hoped for. Even in my ambivalence of newlywedded overwhelm and uncertainty, I wanted that little person so badly.

I wanted every one of them so badly. In the hard places, when I was not sure I was ready, once they were there, I could not imagine them not being. It is why I believe we usually get nine months to prepare. In best-case scenarios.

I have lost siblings to miscarriage. I have watched my mother grieve.

I have sat with women in hard places of loss, hearing heavy words and big feelings. I have held the fragile, lifeless body of my nephew born too soon while the same size of life grew inside of me. I have been unable to be there at times when I wish I could, leaving loved ones to suffer loss in loneliness.

I grieve.

Those little lives mattered. Each one of them. Even the ones that are hard to understand and process and place.

Every day that they lived was the life written for them. They had something to teach us and something to say. I find great comfort in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Even 49 days matter. Even if another child is conceived two months after that. A child born after loss does not negate loss.

The secret things belong to the Lord, and there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. Those who have experienced the profound loss of a child, or the hope of a child, or the death of the dream of a child, or a dream that they had for a child know that there are no easy answers. There is no making sense.

To those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, some of you sit in a space of longing for and missing your child, knowing with certainty your story of what was and then was not. Others sit in a place of confusion and conflict, not knowing for sure. I believe it is possible to know deep in your heart what was, even when no empirical evidence exists. Your body knows.

I invite you to consider what was written for you in the life of your child. What did that little one have to say to you? What were you taught through your little one’s days?

Because it matters. They matter.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13.

Shannon’s Mom

Would Shannon’s mom report to the mall office, please? Shannon’s mom to the mall office.

My heart is in my throat as I step from the carpeted floor of Centerpointe, the Christian bookstore in the mall next to JC Penney, to the sleek tiled floor of the mall’s common ground. Already, time has passed too slowly and too quickly in my search for a preschooler entrusted to my care, not for a few hours a day, but for LIFE.

I am failing at it. I can’t even keep track of ONE small child. How can parents continue to trust me to care for their children day after day? In that moment, all I feel in my brain is the relief that Shannon is found and only gave her first name. What if someone heard that Mrs. McClay had lost a child? I would never be trusted again.

How did this happen?

It was supposed to be a quick, after-work trip to the mall, bringing my youngest child along for some quality time together. We entered through the Walmart anchor end, making the long trek past all of the stores towards our destination at polar opposite.

She noticed the coin-operated merry-go-round and asked to ride it. Not now was my response, because I had no change, and we had places to go. Let’s be honest, my response was usually not now, because, well, just because.

Today we are pressed for time, because I have just gotten off of work, and there are things that I need to look for before heading home to fix supper and get on with the evening. There are always things to get to. Always that next thing.

We enter Centerpointe, precursor to Family Christian Store, and I begin to look in earnest for whatever it is that I need. I enjoy it here, because there is a play area for kids in the back where VeggieTales videos loop and books and toys are accessible, while moms like me peruse the latest CDs and Christian books and tchotchkes.

Shannon is into VeggieTales, these days, so much so that her birthday party was a VeggieTale theme, so I am more than happy to oblige when she asks if she can go to play with the toys.

I scan the CD display, searching for something new, that I know will lift my spirits, though I won’t be able to buy it. I remain lost in thought for a few minutes before returning to reality and heading to the back of the store for my girl.

I find emptiness.

The play area is empty.

Bob and Larry sing silly songs to an empty chair. There is no little girl in sight.

Panic rises in my chest as I run to the front of the store where a cheerful, curly-haired cashier is ringing up a purchase.

Did you see a little girl walk out of the store?

Looking at me with concerned eyes, she shakes her head. She has not seen a child, but she has been busy ringing up purchases. I feel her care and concern as shame washes over me. She is doing her job. I am clearly not doing mine.

It is at that moment, in the front of the store, that I hear the mall loudspeaker calling for me, and I rush out to the mall office.

Scooping Shannon into my arms, I have never been so happy to see a little face.

What happened?

Well, you SAID I could play with the toys, so I went out to try to find them, but I went the wrong way.

The toys. The TOYS. The merry-go-round. She was asking to go play on the merry-go-round.

We talk it over and realize where she made a wrong turn, and where I made a wrong assumption, and I tell her I am glad that she was able to say her name so that I could come and find her. We leave the mall together with a memory and the huge relief of being reunited.

I have been Shannon’s mom for 21 years, now. I love her and how she has helped me to grow and become a better mother and person. I am realizing that there will always be wrong turns and wrong assumptions, but if we remember our name and ask for help, the reuniting is sweet and the memories are rich.

Shani first birthday

This is from Shani’s first birthday. Her face captures her essence even at a year old. Those big eyes and that furrowed brow speak volumes. I just want to scoop her up and hold her close again. Love those babies, Mamas!!! Time really does fly. Happy 21st, Little Angel!

Out of Order

How do you spell order?

This question, posed by eight-year-old Little Mae is not unusual. Having just finished second grade and loving to write stories in her journal, she often asks how to spell words.

My mind tries filling in the blanks of what she might be writing about. Has she thought of a new story? Are she and her sister playing an imaginative game involving a restaurant and creating order pads? Is she drawing up a form where people could order items they are creating together?

Stepping into the dining room, I ask, What are you writing? On the table is a single sheet of white copy paper with the words Out and of printed largely and well-spaced down the page. Her question makes sense now, as the pieces fall into place.

What is out of order?

Without saying a word, she solemnly and silently points the eraser end of her pencil at the downstairs bathroom, already one of my least favorite places in the house these days, for various reasons.

The toilet is clogged.

My freak-out meter ramps up a bit, though I know she is just trying to help. Don’t we want our children to feel safe asking for help when they have a problem? Don’t we want them to try to problem solve, also? Logically, my brain says, Just calm down and create a safe space for her.

But that space is a clogged toilet with a roll of paper towels on the back of it!

Child eight does not know that her dad bought a new case of toilet paper at Costco on the way home from work yesterday. She only knows that she is bathroom chore this week, and that yesterday there was not a roll of extra toilet paper to be found in the house.

Even though I have been going to one store or another daily, it seems!!!! My organization skills are sorely lacking as of late. Remind me that I need butter if I go out today.

As I survey the scene and realize the damage is not great, I use the moment to practice mindful breathing and explain that if a toilet is clogged the best thing to do is to find a grown-up to help use the plunger to unclog it. This I do as she looks on, and we both watch the water swirl down as I push the handle.

If you go out to the kitchen set, you will see that there is toilet paper now. Go ahead and grab a roll for this bathroom.

She does just that, and I once again affirm her desire to help and to problem solve. I remind her that I am always here for times just like this. When the poop piles up.

I don’t use those exact words, but I think them, as I save this memory to reference later when the phone rings or the text comes, and someone else needs help with order.

Keeping Memories

I don’t think it’s that you have too much stuff. I think it’s that you have a lot of people to keep track of, and so it looks like too much.

These words of wisdom, spoken by my recently graduated high school senior, offered comfort to my heart, as I sat sorting and sorting and SORTING at the dining room table. End of the school year papers, awards, and report cards only scratched the surface. There were bits of art work, creative stories, and pictures in the mix. There were outgrown toys being boxed up and brought down from rooms.

There were my own issues coming into play, surfacing in the midst of the sorting. There was the reality of another year passing and change knocking on the door of my heart, or at least tapping me on the shoulder. There was a deep sense of reminding and remembering.

Once upon a time I dumped my memories into the trash. Boxes containing awards, medals from band and music achievements, childish journals and pictures, scrapbooks, all were cast aside. In their stead, I packed boxes of magazines for the mid-senior-year move that wrenched me 1,100 miles away from all that I knew.

Upon arrival at our new house, I asked when trash day was, so that I could leave the box of magazines on the curb. When packing up the old house, now several states away, mom had to leave her dining room chairs for lack of room on the moving truck, and dad’s tools went like hotcakes at a fire sale. I think we all were in a state of disorganization, shock, and chaos.

Maybe this factors into why my children’s memories are so important to me, and why I find it necessary to save things of perceived meaning. I want them to remember, or at least have the option of remembering. I don’t want to revise, though. Therein lies a bit of tension.

Each child has a clear plastic tote in the basement where items holding memories can be tossed. They also have a binder on a bookshelf with clear page protectors where papers can be inserted. Finally, each has a file folder where I can quickly sort and stash paper items to save for later.

I realize that everything cannot be saved, and I am not an advocate of hoarding. What holds meaning for one child does not for another, so one may have notebooks filled with written stories and hand drawn pictures, while another has objects no longer played with but still special.

Some kids are more sentimental than others.

Here is a list of things that I place value on and often date and save:

  • Creative writing or original stories
  • Hand-drawn pictures, especially “firsts” first drawing of a person or drawing of our family or written name. Usually found on the back of proper school work or on a church bulletin somewhere.
  • Samples from various developmental stages A kindergarten drawing of a family looks different than a third grade drawing, so I might have a sample of both.
  • Places where identity or dreams are processed What I want to be when I grow up. What makes me special now at whatever age I am.
  • Notes from others written to them
  • Words of affirmation
  • School certificates or awards
  • Team pictures
  • Programs or playbills from concerts or performances or recitals they were in
  • Notes written by them to us, even painful ones where they are angry
  • Birthday lists
  • Anything they request that marks a milestone or end of an era One child often asks me to put small items in the memory box that are outgrown, yet meaningful.

There are so many other options, and each family and child is different. I tend towards the tangible rather than the digital, even though I blog and do plenty of work with technology. No, I don’t save everything, and sometimes when going through items, I pare down further, realizing that I was a bit over-the-top.

On this particular sorting day, I processed my workbasket which was piled high with end-of-school-year paper items. Pulling everything out and separating into piles for each child and then into binders and finally onto shelves, the feeling of a slate being clean was very real.

I am ready for fall with the middle schoolers’ elementary items boxed away and the elementary child’s sorted into her binder. The high-school graduate is preparing to move and doing some serious de-cluttering of his own.

Maybe it is the season of mid-life processing that I am entering that calls me to keep memories for those who do not know their value, yet. Maybe it is the reckoning with myself. Whatever it is, by keeping memories for my children, I want to hold for them that who they are is connected to who they were as they grow into who they are becoming.

I also want to get a jump on my mama final exam.

Parenting Tip 99

Mom! Are you using Parenting Tip 99 on me?

What’s that, Daughter?

Offer to do a chore and then do it so horribly that your kid can’t stand to watch anymore and just does it for you.

Hmmm. That wasn’t the strategy when I offered to mow the backyard, but I’ll take it. Parenting Tip 99, it is.

The lawn mowing adventure started this morning with cool temperatures, overgrown grass, and several able-bodied people home together for summer break. Knowing that it would not be an easy task, I summoned middle-school girl-child and asked if she wanted to mow front or back yard.

Offer choices. I’m doing great!

She chose front yard.

I went to find middle-school boy child to break the news that he would be mowing the back yard and received news of my own.

What! I always weed whack! No. That’s not my job.

Ah. Classic response AND mother snafu.

Know your plan and people’s regular jobs before announcing changes.

Since I mow better than weed whack, I offered to mow the back yard.

Let me clarify. Since I have mowed a lawn once and weed whacked never, I figured I would practice my mowing skills.

Ok. Then I will mow the back yard.

I’ll mow it, Mom, girl-child replied upon hearing the news. I usually do.

No, I said I would do it, and I need the practice.

I promise that I wasn’t being passive-aggressive.

Walking around the mower a few times and fiddling with this and that, I realized that I needed to ask for help. Back inside I went to ask eleven-year-old daughter to help with starting the mower.

That might have been when she realized I needed some supervision and direction. She began instructing me in the backyard mowing techniques and patterns that her father taught her.

Do you want me to go around the edges like Dad did for me the first times I mowed the grass?

Sure, that would be helpful.

She arranged the picnic table up on end to begin the first section, started the mower, and began to walk. I watched.

When it was my turn, I clumsily began pushing. It was harder than it appeared until my instructor showed me the lever that would activate the self-propelling feature. Then it was too fast.

Here, let me show you. Wait! MOM! Are you using Parenting Tip 99 on me?

That’s when I learned about Parenting Tip 99. It’s also when I remembered how hilarious all of my kids are when they are not driving me crazy!

I promised that I wasn’t. I really wanted to learn how to mow the lawn, and she was being a great teacher. We were making some amazing memories, as well.

The lawn is now mowed. Teamwork during the morning means one less thing for Dad to have to supervise in the evening. We are trying to navigate this summer.

With Mom at the lawn mower’s helm, anything can happen!