Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our New Responsibility Chart

I have been wanting to make a chore chart like this for a long time. I first came across the idea for something like this (using chore cards) at the LEAH Homeschool Convention at a session by Accountable Kids. I loved the idea behind their product, just didn't want to spend the money and had no idea where to put their boards. Then so then this past spring I saw this idea at Confessions of a Homeschooler and was inspired. I already owned one of those pocket charts that I had gotten from a friend at a yard sale and I wasn't using it very effectively for school. On her blog the mom also has links to PDFs of her cards that she uses. I loved the idea.

Over this summer I have been thinking through what needs to be done around our house on a regular basis and trying to figure out how to get it all done and train the kids to help. I had been writing lists and re-arranging lists and thinking and going crazy. I asked Glenn if he would help me by looking over what I had written down and my ideas and give me any advice. He looked at it briefly then said, "You just need to make the cards." I think that was something that I needed to hear because I wasn't doing it on my own.

Yesterday I printed off the cards on my printer, cut them apart, tossed some (we don't have a dish washer or pets and who brings in the milk anyway??), and taped them together in sets that I'd need 4 of, sets I'd need 2 of, etc. I then made photocopies on card stock (on a side note our laser printer scanner copier that we bought on sale about 5 years ago was one of the best investments I've ever made - I print and copy all the time and don't have to worry about the cost because toner lasts so much longer than those inkjet cartridges!!). There are some jobs that are going to change on a regular basis so instead of having to figure out how to rotate job cards I just made a chart that I attached to the bottom of the pocket chart that is based loosely on a chart that I remember from the Cronks' fridge back when we lived in Houghton. My kids are color coded (going back to some old tupperware cups that we picked up at a yard sale eons ago) so I just put a strip of their color on the top of their cards and a strip of orange on some random cards that will be rotated in the mix on a weekly basis or so.

I have the cards separated out by the time of day that they should be done at. Here are the cards that we have at the moment (I've already told the kids that this is a system that is going to need tweeked over the next few weeks and months and I am open to suggestions.)

(Note: this list is mostly for my records but it might be helpful for readers as well.)

Make Bed
Breakfast (they are responsible for preparing their own breakfast and washing their own breakfast dishes)
Brush Teeth
Get Dressed

School: (Since we homeschool I thought I'd make school cards so they can see when they are done)
Read Aloud
Group Work
Spanish (20 min on Rosetta Stone)
Xtra Math/ Khan Academy (20 min)

Lunch Prep
Lunch Clean up
Supper Prep
Helping Hands (ask mom, "How can I help you?)
5 Minute Pick Up
10 Minute Zone (Flylady reference)
Clean Bathroom
Tidy School Room (clear off desk!)
20 Minutes Reading
Put Laundry Away

Night: (After Supper)
Put Dirty Clothes in Laundry
Supper Clean up
5 Minute Pick up
Brush Teeth

Take out Trash
Take out Recycling
Bring in Trash can
Bring back recycling bin
Fold Laundry
Hang Laundry

There are probably cards that are going to be added and cards that will be taken away as we tweek this system but I think that it will help. There is a reward system that I am incorporating as well. There was a pdf of "tickets" and reward cards. I told the kids that if they get their cards done by the recommended time they will get 2 tickets. If they get them done but not by the recommended time they will get one ticket. When they have accumulated 8 tickets (which could be earned in 1 school day) they turn them in for a sticker on their reward card. When the reward card is filled up they get to turn in the reward card for a date with one of their parents (an idea that I stole from Accountable Kids that I think is great - what greater reward for one of four than spending one on one time with mom or dad?? and how priceless for us!)

I explained it to the kids while they were eating breakfast this morning and the girls jumped right in excited about it wondering when they could start. I told them that they could start moving their cards today to get practice in and they could start earning tickets today too for columns that they complete. All 3 girls got a ticket for their morning cards and are busy working through their afternoon cards as well (C has been lost in a book all day).

Here is a story to explain why I love it already. L&A had "Help Mom" for lunch prep. Most days we just have leftovers for lunch and today was no exception. Usually I am the one who takes the orders and preps the plates. I was busy working in the kitchen already putting chili in the crockpot (for our dinner when we finally get home tonight) and making a couple of lasagnas for the future (when browning ground beef why not make more than 1 meal??) L (7) was hungry and I told her that she and A(5) had "Help Mom" for lunch prep so they were responsible for figuring out what was available for lunch and figuring out who wanted what and helping get lunch on the table. They went to town making up plates, microwaving and getting stuff to the table. They were so proud of themselves. It was fun watching them get excited about serving their siblings. There were a couple of things that they wanted help/ needed advice on but pretty much lunch was their show. One thing that I realized this summer was that I do too much for our kids. I want them to learn how to be independent and I think that these cards are going to help them learn and help me let them.

So far, day one of our system is going pretty well and I am thankful for it. I think that we've all learned something from it (with the possible exception of Mr. Nose Stuck in a Book). Ask me about it in October ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

God has Provided

This morning I saw a post on Soulation's My Faith Hurdle asking about why God was not providing as He promises in scripture. I know that I have struggled with this in the past and I felt led to share our story. Here is what I wrote in the comments section:

What you write strikes a cord with me because I have been there and I am SO excited about what God is going to do in your life in the next few years. Things look bleak now but I know our God. He has allowed many of the same things to happen to me and I can look back and say "Trust Him!" He is NOT going to answer the way you think that He will. He is NOT going to provide the way that you think that He will. He will NOT do it on your time table. 

Let me take a couple minutes and share my story. I met my husband at a Bible college as well. We married while still in school. Our college lost accreditation then I got pregnant with our first born two months after we got married. I was thinking, "What are you doing God?" I think that we made 5 figures once in the first 6 years of our marriage. The idea that people actually made 6 figures or more was beyond my comprehension but can I tell you something? We never lacked for a place to live and the means to pay for it. We never lacked for food and enough to share with others.

We had to move back near family and my husband had to quit school when my mom got sick.  My husband worked during those 2 years (I think one of them we actually made 5 figures, the other we didn't) but God continued to provide our needs.

After my mom passed we knew my husband needed to finish his education and we thought he should go to a bigger, cheaper school in a city where my husband could work as well as go to school (By this time we were pregnant with our 3rd). Instead, God told us to go to a small, expensive college in a very rural location where we would NOT be able to provide for ourselves. I thought that God's plan was stupid. “How on earth we were going to get money for the tuition let alone pay for living expenses for the 4, soon to be 5 of us??” I had just finished reading some missionary biography (for the life of me at the moment I can't remember which one) and God keep saying "Trust Me!" I said, "I don't want to! I want to know HOW you are going to provide for us!!" He just kept saying "Trust Me." For the first year there my husband didn't work at all (besides cleaning a couple of houses the first semester) until summer break where he worked for a pretty meager amount leading wilderness trips for teens. His second/ last year there he did work study and was a substitute security guard occasionally and I watched a little boy for part of the year. I can't really explain how He did it but God provided all of our needs. We got a few random checks in the mail, a couple asked us to house sit for a semester and only pay half utilities, etc. Ultimately we call it God's math. Somehow, some way God provided. I tried to keep records but looking back at them I still don't see how God pulled it off. We ended up with less student loan debt than your average student there took out for 1 year after our 2 years there. The only way I can explain it is God.

My husband then applied to medical school and he didn't get in and then he didn't get in again. God made us wait. He had a lot to teach us in the waiting. It wasn't easy, it wasn't comfortable we couldn't always see Him or feel Him but He never left. Finally, God granted acceptance to medical school and my husband is currently in his 3rd year. While we were in the 'waiting to get into medical school' phase of our lives my dad would often worry over the phone to me about how we were going to make it through medical school financially with me homeschooling our 4 kids and my husband not being allowed to work as a student. I would tell him that God was going to take care of us. If He was going to do it exclusively through student loans then so be it and we will do what we have to do as long as we have to do it to get them paid off. (After that we plan to go and work overseas.) For medical school God actually chose to provide through my dad. My dad passed away right before we found out the 2nd time that we didn't get into medical school (my husband got in the next year). He left us half of what was left of their retirement money and we are living very frugally but, Lord willing, that money will cover our living expenses for most of our 4 years here and we are only having to take out loans for tuition (which God awesomely got us into a great school which happens to be one of the least expensive medical schools that we applied to). We are trusting God to get us out of medical school with less than $100,000 in debt.

1. Seek Him first. Matt.6:33
2. Remember everything you have is His, not yours. Be a good steward.
3. Trust Him. We've always been faithful to tithe even when, financially, it made absolutely no sense. For us it makes no sense not to tithe because it is the one thing He tells us to test Him in and He has been faithful!
4. Avoid debt. One thing that we have done is avoid debt at all costs (besides student loans). We don't have a credit card. If we don't have the money in the bank available to pay for something we don't buy it. We've been blessed to only have to take out loans for tuition.
5. Don't worry. He does not always provide what, when, where or how you want Him too (I would MUCH rather have a million dollars of debt and still have my parents but that was not His plan) but He has never allowed us to go hungry or lack for a place to sleep (though we have been homeless a few times. Couch surfing with 4 kids is an adventure!)
6. Keep a record of what God does for you. Be it a blog, a notebook, etc. When we were first married one piece of advice we were given was to keep a gratitude journal and write something down in it together every night. We've continued this with our kids and we now have a stack of “Thank You books” that we've filled with great and little things that God has done for us.

Marie- I am excited for what God is going to do in and with your life. I'm excited that 12 years from now your faith will be so much bigger than it is now and you will be able to write a story to encourage others because God showed up for you over and over again just as He has for us."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cross Country Trip ABCs

I will be blogging more about our trip and posting pictures but this is the list that the kids came up with in the lounge car somewhere between Los Angeles and Chicago.

A- Abigail, Aunt Sue, Aunt Stephanie, Aunt Kendra, apples, Amtrak 15 day pass, Aunt Billie, Adrian, airplane (at the playground), anniversary
B- Brody, Bernie, bananas, boat, Balboa Beach, buffalo, (90th) birthday party
C- Caleb, Celeste, crackers, candy, camera, Cappy's Cafe, continental breakfasts, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, California. Creston, IA, Clarinda, IA, cards, campfire, cream can dinner, coach seats, Chicago, chalk art on a truck
D- donut holes, dad, Deborah,
E- Enoch, Elvis (dog), Emeryville
F- Fira, Friendships, Fine Reunion, FFA Building, fountains
G- G9 (my anniversary gift <3), Glenn, Grandma & Grandpa Maas, Great Grandma Maas, Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds, golf (the card game)
H- Hannah, Huntington Beach, hot dogs, hamburgers
I- In n Out Burger, interstates
J- Jack, Jade, Jennifer,
K- kites
L- Lydia, Lonna, Lane, Long Beach, Los Angeles, LAX, Lego Store
M- masses of Maases, Marlene
N- Newport Beach, Nodaway Museum
O- Oreos covered in fudge, observation car
P- Papa John's pizza, pools, Pearl, Pacific Ocean, Pacific Coast Highway, park benches
Q- Queen Mary
R- Rocky Mountains, Roxanne,
S- smores,
T- tunnels, Timber, Timothy, twelve passenger vans, traffic
U- Uncle Doug, Uncle Bernie, Uncle Mike, Uncle John, Union Stations (in Chicago & LA)
V- views, Vagabond Motel
W- waves, water
X- x-cellent adventures
Y- yacht,

It was an adventure and after 5.5 nights sleeping on a train travelling through 14 states, 4 nights sleeping at a hotel in 2 different states, 3 nights sleeping on a yacht on a pier off the Pacific, 1.5 nights sleeping on a bench outside 2 different train stations I was so ready to sleep in my own bed.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Our Itinerary for our Trip West

In case anyone would like to track us on our trip west here is our itinerary. The kids and I leave in about an hour with Glenn's parents on our trip west!

Train: 449 Lake Shore Ltd.
Departure: Syracuse, New York

Thursday August 4, 2011         9:41PM
Arrival: Chicago (Union Station), Illinois

Friday August 5, 2011         9:45AM
Accommodation: 5 Reserved Coach Seats

Train: 5 California Zephyr
Departure: Chicago (Union Station), Illinois

Friday August 5, 2011         2:00PM
Arrival: Creston, Iowa

Friday August 5, 2011         8:41PM
Accommodation: 5 Reserved Coach Seats

Saturday/ Sunday Fine Reunion (Glenn's mom's mom's family) in Clarinda, IA

The California Zephyr will take us through Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, Nevada and California.

Train: 5 California Zephyr
Departure: Creston, Iowa

Sunday August 7, 2011         8:41PM
Arrival: Emeryville, California

Tuesday August 9, 2011         4:10PM
Accommodation: 5 Reserved Coach Seats

A night in Emeryville (near San Fransisco) then down the CA coast the next day.

Train: 11 Coast Starlight Departure: Emeryville, California

Wednesday August 10, 2011         8:25AM
Arrival: Los Angeles, California

Wednesday August 10, 2011         9:00PM
Accommodation: 5 Reserved Coach Seats

Hanging out in CA. 
Glenn's flying out, here's his itinerary:
Fri 12AUG DELTA 4873*       OK     K   LV SYRACUSE      730P           **
                                       AR DETROIT       858P          COACH
          *Operated by ATLANTIC SOUTHEAST

Fri 12AUG DELTA 1519        OK     K   LV DETROIT       1005P    V     **
                                       AR LOS ANGELES   1204A#        COACH

Then Saturday is the big 90th birthday party for Glenn's dad's mom - the main reason for this adventure!
Sunday is Glenn's and my 12th anniversary then he heads home.
Sun 14AUG DELTA 1406        OK     U   LV LOS ANGELES   1100P    V     **
                                       AR DETROIT       627A#         COACH

Mon 15AUG DELTA 4117*       OK     U   LV DETROIT       759A           **
                                       AR SYRACUSE      923A          COACH
          *Operated by PINNACLE AIRLINES

We get to hang out in CA for Monday before heading back East through Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois on the Southwest Chief.

Train: 4 Southwest Chief
Departure: Los Angeles, California

Monday August 15, 2011         6:15PM
Arrival: Chicago (Union Station), Illinois

Wednesday August 17, 2011         3:15PM
Accommodation: 5 Reserved Coach Seats

Train: 48 Lake Shore Ltd.
Departure: Chicago (Union Station), Illinois

Wednesday August 17, 2011         9:30PM
Arrival: Syracuse, New York

Thursday August 18, 2011         11:38AM
Accommodation: 5 Reserved Coach Seats

Home sweet home!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Cleaning Up After a Fire

This morning I was talking to my friend Cheryl to arrange getting an old cell phone from her for Glenn to use to replace the old LG that really wasn't working (often had to be on speaker phone to hear/ be heard, etc). She told me that she was going to be helping some friends who had had a fire and wondered if we could meet up there and spend an hour or so helping.

After lunch we headed over there kind of unprepared. I quickly ran home and grabbed some socks, our rain boots and a pair of work gloves. It was really an eye opener for all of us. We got a tour of the house to find out where it was safe for us to be and where it wasn't. The fire had started on the second floor in one of the bedrooms where (from what I understand) too many things had been plugged into an outlet and a cord was pinched somewhere. All of the inhabitants of the house were on vacation - the homeowner was only in Canada for about 24 hours before his kids called him and told him that he had to come home because his house was on fire. His housemates are on vacation in Russia and still don't know about the fire. :(

The kids and I worked for a couple hours, mostly outside, putting burned and water damaged stuff that had been thrown out windows into big trash bags and hauling them to the street. There is still so much more to do but it was all the time that we could manage today.

Here are some of the many thoughts I had as I was putting stuff into trash bags:

1. What would I replace if I lost all my material possessions in a fire? I really have no idea. I was thinking about this in relation to getting rid of stuff that we own/ decluttering. So much of what I keep I keep because I have it not because I need it or really even want it. I want to remember today when I get home from our trip and re-address this thought.

2. We need to get rental insurance. Unfortunately the owner of the home we helped at had just recently paid off his home and his insurance had lapsed :(

3. I want to keep my house in order so that if I need to have emergency personal or friends or strangers come into my home I won't be embarrassed. The house looked like it was lived in and cluttered, not trashy but it made me think that I know that too many days out of the year I would be embarrassed to have anyone walk into my home. That needs to change.

I am sad that we are leaving on our trip on Thursday. I would really like to spend more time over there helping out! There is so much need :(