Thursday, August 20, 2015

We've been getting home school going again, and it's been...hard.

Honestly, I really don't even want to write about how I feel, because I don't want to burden you.  But you are coming to my blog, and just because I can't muster up a bright, sunny post, doesn't mean I shouldn't write.

Stress is a huge trigger for my depression.  And despite my amazingly well-wrought plans, the first week or two back at home school has been a blizzard of stress.  Ezra and Eliza are at Williamsburg, which is a fantastic online prep school--but it turns out they don't really know how to use the computer.  And so I've been interrupted about every five minutes of this week with urgent requests for help with their work.  And so the younger kids get abbreviated lessons, or none at all.

I am a wreck inside.  I feel like a flip has been switched way too early and my seasonal affective disorder has been turned on two months early.  I feel hopelessly overwhelmed, I feel anxiety spinning tighter and tighter in my chest, and I feel like it would be a huge relief to physically explode so I can relieve the pressure.

I've been crying on and off all day today.  And while there have been tender mercies, I've been walking mostly in the dark.  I'm sure you've had days like these.  I guess I just wanted you to know that you're not alone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Stewardship Project: Teaching Accountability through Family Chores


We have been getting lazy and crazy this summer.  Staying up late, eating breakfast at ten, going swimming when the kitchen is still dirty, and coming home just in time for a late afternoon nap and then dinner.  It's a good kind of crazy.

School starts next week though, and for home school moms and public school moms alike, it's time to get things back in order--right?  If you're like me, you're busy buying supplies, grabbing the best spots for music lessons, and coordinating rides.  While you get these things ready, I highly recommend getting your family ready for a smooth re-entry.

We're getting ready by rooting our kids out of bed a little earlier every day, and this year I've decided that I really can't start home school until we have chores back in place.  I've discovered by sad experience that throwing a new schedule at the kids all on one day usually results in huge melt-downs--and the kids are unhappy, too.  :)  So this year we're learning chores this week, the schedule next week, and the following week we'll actually add studying.  (Home school has its perks, eh?  I make my own rules.)

My kids know how to clean the kitchen, clean the bathroom, put away laundry, do basic lawn care, wash windows and even organize areas that are messy.  The only problem is...they don't know how to do any one of those those things extremely well.  Ahem.  I'm great at barking orders, keeping the family on a schedule, and getting the house in decent shape.  But I'm not good at follow-through with the kids.  My philosophy so far on kids and chores has been--and I think it's a good one--windows that are washed only somewhat well today by one of the kids are better than windows washed perfectly by me...someday.

We're ready to take it to the next level this year though, and I'm so excited.  This year I'm cutting down on what I ask of them, and requiring quality work.  So instead of asking for them to clean up after each other, I'm asking them to clean up after themselves.  Short term, I might be doing more of the chores around here, but long term I plan on them helping with more as they master the basics.

Stewardships
It's not all about re-branding dreary old "chores" into shiny new "stewardships"--although I am pretty proud of doing that.  I remember my parents re-branding stuff all the time.  We saw right through it all, of course, but semantics matter!  You can't resist the positive force of positive words!

The best part of this new system is that it teaches accountability, which admittedly has not been our strongest suit.  So here are the SHINY NEW STEWARDSHIPS.

Laundry:
In the past, every day a different kid would fold and put away laundry--any which way.  As long as it landed in a drawer, I didn't complain too loudly; and because I didn't know which child was responsible for my disaster of a linen closet, I really couldn't complain.  Now, I sort each child's clothing into his or her own basket, and they're in charge of putting it away.  Neatly.  And because they know no one else will be messing with their drawers, they are more motivated to keep them tidy. My awesome husband put extra shelves in the laundry room to make room for all the baskets.  So they get one stewardship point for an empty laundry basket, and another for neat drawers.

Bathroom:
The kids used to share a tube of toothpaste, and Ezra especially hated the mess everyone else made of it.  I remember growing up the oldest of eight, I would have killed for my own tube of toothpaste.  So I got a seperate one for each child and labeled it, as well as labeling an individual little box for it to go in.  Their floss and toothbrush also go in their little box.  So tidy!    They get one stewardship point for not leaving any belongings out in the bathroom, including clothes on the floor or stuff on the counter.

Belongings:
Each child is now responsible for putting away his or her belongings. Such a novel concept!  I check every room in the house, including their bedrooms, which should be tidy with beds made.  They get a point for a clean bedroom, and a point for not leaving belongings in any of the other rooms.

Morning Chores:
Ezra takes care of his lizards
Eliza wipes down the bathroom sink, counter and mirror
Naomi vacuums one room
Paul takes out the garbage
Isaiah wipes down the toilet seat
They get one point each.

Follow Through!
The best part of this deal is that I've planned a time for checking up.  This teaches accountability!  (For me, too.)  Every day after breakfast I walk through the house and make little tally marks for each point accumulated on my handy-dandy chart.  They can let these build up over the weeks for a big prize or (as has so far been the case) blow it all every day on a half-hour of iPad time.  Either way, everybody's happy.

Here is what they can buy with their stewardship points.

5 points   = 1/2 hour screen time
25 points = 1 candy bar
50 points = 1 late night with friends OR a date with Mom and Dad

The points are written in dry erase marker, so when they spend them, we just erase them.

There are a few really great principles at work here.  
#1:  kids will have privileges because we're nice parents.  We might as well make those privileges work for us.
#2:  mess begets mess.  Kids in the habit of leaving stuff lying around get used to living in messy spaces.  And a messy space makes us all more relaxed about making more messes.  Keeping things picked up in real time actually prevents other messes.
#3: kids who are asked to clean up a room other people have destroyed feel resentful, but when we honor and reward personal accountability, they are motivated to take care of their own things.

When I told TJ about this great new idea, he kind of laughed.  He said that it was actually a great idea, even though his initial reaction was, "Another brilliant plan to get the kids to do their chores?" And he's right.  I do come up with a new plan, complete with a spreadsheet and a fun visual tracker, every six months or so.  But I've come to believe that when it comes to family chores, novelty is my very best friend.  New plans don't mean that there was something wrong with the old ones--it just means they've served their purpose and it's time to move on.  So if now is the right moment for your family to move on, good luck!  And have fun designing the new spreadsheet.  It really is the best part!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Summer Book Reviews

It always makes me laugh when people say they don't have time to read.  It's like, "people!  What else is there?"  But I have to say that I'm a little sad about fall because I know I'll read a lot less than I have been lately.  I love summer reading! Here are my favs from this summer (A.K.A. the ones I can remember.)  Admittedly, none of these are really new titles, so you may have already read them.  But they were new to me, and I loved them!



Wonder
My new friend Rosie sent me this book as a gift for no good reason, and I can't remember the last time someone did that. I absolutely devoured it.  It is the story of a fifth-grade boy born with massive facial deformities.  He has never been to public school because he's always been recovering from surgeries, but his parents decide that the time has come.  As if middle school isn't hard enough! There are some heart-wrenching passages, but big payoffs throughout.  My favorite part of this book is the family of this boy.  You can tell they've allowed their trials to bring them closer together, and to fill them with compassion and love.  Everyone they meet is drawn into this family circle because of the love and peace they feel there.  This book is powerful, funny, and full of heart.


The Ties That Bind
My sister introduced me to this author when she recommended Desperate Measures as a book whose heroine understands the difference between feminism and happiness.  I loved it, and quickly moved on to this one, which turns out to be my favorite of the two.  This is the story of a young man about to become a father.  Because his father walked out on him, he has serious doubts about his own ability to be a good dad, and his wife encourages him to track his dad down and talk to him.  This leads him on a quest that helps him understand not only his father, but those who came before him.  I'm doing a terrible job describing it, but this is really a great book.  It's a book about family history that is not at all corny or didactic.  Wait, am I making it worse?  Just trust me and go read it.

               

Dressing Your Truth/The Child Whisperer
These are two books that I have held off reading forever for the basic fact that this woman's making a lot of money right now, and that makes me instantly suspicious.  Having said that, I now have to concede that she's pretty brilliant.  Both of these books are based on her energy profiling system, which delineates four basic types of person.  The term, "energy profiling" makes me suspicious, too, and if you feel the same you can comfort yourself that it's just another personality test.  Personality tests are always fun; remember the Color Code?

Anyway, Dressing Your Truth's basic premise is that if you dress like the kind of person you are, people won't be surprised when you act the way you are.  It talks a lot about how we all have closets full of clothing we really don't like, because we're stuck trying to follow fashions or even bad advice. This book has made shopping for and wearing clothes a lot more fun for me.  I feel more at home in what I wear, and I now know why I hate some of the clothes that are perfectly good.  She doesn't go a lot into details, I have to say.  You're supposed to get online, give her a bunch of money, and then learn all she has to say.  But you can pick up enough from the book, YouTube and Pinterest to get the hang of it.  Psst: it's free on Amazon and it's a great crash course on the whole energy profiling system, so go for it!

The Child Whisperer is the most insightful parenting book I've ever read, hands down.  It's more like a reference book, really, so don't try to down the whole thing in one weekend.  I skipped straight to the chapters describing the different types, and had so much fun profiling my kids.  She gives great practical advice for each type on how to handle school, recreation, chores, church, discipline, and communication.  It's amazing how easy this book makes it to pinpoint things that work and do not work for each child.  I felt like she had already met each one of them.  This one's free to borrow if you're an Amazon Prime member.


Eliza
I always try to read something about the pioneers in the month of July--ever since last year, that is. It's part of my ongoing effort to prove to myself and the world that I can, indeed, read non-fiction. This year I chose to learn about this amazing lady, and I'm so glad I did.  This book reads--may I say?--almost like a novel, it's so good.  I can't believe how little I knew about her before especially since my oldest daughter is named after her.  For instance, did you know Eliza R. Snow was a plural wife both to Joseph Smith and to Brigham Young?  Did you know she gave her substantial dowry to support the church, reducing reducing her to a boarder in the homes of other families for many years of her life?  Did you know that she was hailed as "Zion's Poetess" but that she was so good she really could have made a name for herself no matter what subject matter she chose?  I love how heavily this book focuses on her literary career.  She wrote with passion, with humor, and with great skill--and she consecrated her whole life to building the kingdom of God on the earth.  She is a true kindred spirit to Relief Society sisters the world over.  This one's a must-read.

Well, let me know if you read one or all of these; I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Also, what books are you dying for the whole world to read?  I need to start my fall line-up!


Monnett Family Reunion

We were a little bereft, since Tay just left on his mission, Nikki was with her in-laws, and Kendall working in D.C., but we made the best of it.  After all, the Monnett Family Reunion coincides both with Pioneer Day and with Mom's birthday.  How could it not be awesome?  

We camped one night at Pine Valley.  






 Above, Isaiah demonstrates the correct way to eat a hot dog.  Below, I am enjoying one of Nikki's famous brownies.  Even though she couldn't be with us, she was blessing us from afar.  Also mom blessed us by using the recipe.
No one felt like finding and making marshmallow sticks.  No one, that is, except the kids.  Janey's was the best.


The next morning Isaiah had three pet flies sitting on his head all morning.  I guess the other two were camera-shy.
 While breakfast was cooking, we had a wood-gathering contest to keep the kids busy and happy.  They were even happier when they all got a prize.



My favorite part was biking the amazing trails up there.  First with Georgia, then with Kirsten, and lastly with Tana.



That night when we got back we had a birthday party for mom, with fireworks provided by the City of Washington.  It was awesome.  The next day we swam at Georgia's house and then had a talent show and game night.  Apparently flirting was one of the games.  :)

 The party didn't wind down until around two a.m., but we knew it was truly over when Spencer turned on the Sienfeld clips on Youtube.  Haha!
Oh, and Tana did this to my hair.  Why, oh, why does she live way up in Salt Lake?  I could look this good all the time.

Isaiah

My baby just turned four, and the only reason I'm brave enough to call him baby here is that he can't read.  Otherwise I'd be in big trouble, because Isaiah has his dignity.

He talked about his birthday for months in advance as time when all that is denied him in daily life would finally be granted him.  For example, if he asked for soda at the grocery store and I said no, he would say, "Mom, can I have soda for my birthday?"  I said yes to everything on condition that he remind me a few days in advance of his birthday.  I was gambling on the supposition that he would forget most of it, and luckily for our bank account I was right.  Still he did have a pretty amazing birthday.

He got breakfast in bed, and since Amazon dropped the ball a little bit, he got this treasure from the box of gifts we keep downstairs.  Later he went with me to pick out a kendama for his real gift.  






Isaiah can't have dairy, egg whites or peanuts, so doughnuts are off limits.  But for his birthday we decided to let him cheat a little and we made him a "doughnut cake."  Easiest cake I ever made, since it's basically a stack of doughnuts on a platter.  And we celebrated at the park with our gigantic slip and slide and a bunch of friends and family.  Judging from the amount of dirt on his face, I'd say he had a great time.


I love this little guy so much.  I love his husky, squeaky voice.  I love his soft, soft skin.  I love his sense of humor and his long, long stories.  I love listening to him singing a little narration of his life while he plays.  I love that he is determined to be a big boy even though we are all trying our hardest to keep him a baby.  It is hard to watch this happen, and yet I'm so proud of him.  He knows he is destined to do big things and I can't wait to see what they are.

But I'll always see him like this:




Explosion of Awesomeness

Recently our ward had a special third-hour lesson on Sabbath-Day worship, which takes on a whole new significance when you hear someone label it a "prophetic priority."  One of the things I loved most about this meeting (besides the fact that they made it possible for Primary teachers to attend--woot!) was its emphasis on what Elder Bednar calls "multi-generational families."  He taught that strong multi-generational families are the Lord's best tool for bringing each one of us back to him.

I may or may not have heard choirs of angels singing when I heard this teaching, because our family is just starting to qualify as a strong multi-generational family.  Mom and Dad were both converts, and they raised their kids in the church without the blessings of a faithful extended family.  Luckily for us, our extended family is strong and full of love.  We have so many wonderful memories of our grandparents especially, and I love that my kids are growing up knowing them well.  But we kids are basically second-generation Mormons, and so what has happened in the past ten years has taken us by surprise.

Dozens of cousins.

Here's the original group of Mom, Dad, and the sibs:


And here we are with spouses and children:


So maybe we're not quite up to dozens yet, but another five or ten years ought to do the trick.  And honestly, we knew that our numbers would kind of explode.  But I don't think we were prepared for the explosion of awesomeness. (I know.  Sheer poetry.  Ha, ha!)

My siblings have each and every one of us married up, which means our family has gotten stronger and stronger each time there has been a wedding.  And watching my kids grow up with cousins as best friends has been one of the greatest joys of my life.  But the very best part of being a member of this family is the joy we have when we get together.

Recently this handsome guy, who is second to youngest of the siblings, left on a mission to McAllen, Texas.  In light of the fact that Taylor's pretty much the coolest person in the world, we spent his last two weeks here in pretty much a non-stop sibling party.  It was a Taylor-paloozah.  We swam, we ate, we drank, we played, we laughed and we cried.  We all attended his farewell, which is big, since Nikki and her baby came from California and Kendall came from D.C.  Then we drove up in caravan to see him off to the MTC in Provo.  



This is different for us Monnetts.  We've never seen the kind of joy that happens when uncles and aunts, parents, cousins, siblings, and children get together after long absences.  When we were kids, we celebrated ordinances, holidays and milestones in a smaller way.  But now the faith that we celebrate is confirmed by the very showing of loved ones--as if the Lord is giving us a taste of what we are striving for, just in the happiness we have together.  When I'm with my siblings, I feel that all is right in the world.  

I don't know for sure, because we're still early in this experiment.  But I can already see hints of the good our extended family does for my kids in their daily lives.  Living gospel principles is not theoretical for them, because they are watching older cousins, aunts and uncles do it, through thick and through thin.  They know that there are a whole ton of people who love them for who they are. And they know they're never alone.  This is powerful.  I know that they're being strengthened for whatever trials are ahead.  They will stand strong because they are accountable to so many people who love them.  

Okay.  Sermon over.  Here are the rest of the pictures.  I love my family!