Our Summer Chore Jar

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hey, friends! Not sure it was missed, but I didn't get a "Five For Friday" post written last week... I was in Texas on a solo trip to attend the National Conference for Jamberry, as well as to meet up with some photography friends and also to shoot a few sessions. It was a good trip-- but packed and exhausting. And I'm not going to lie-- in between some wonderful, intense times with people I care about, it was kind of a lonely adventure. Normally when I get time away, it is a really lovely break from my sweeet little kids. But this time, every kid I saw just made me ache to be with mine again. I wasn't prepared for it, and so it gave me a lump in my throat every time. And though this week back has been kind of a "adventure hangover" for me, I'm so glad to be home. 

Meanwhile, have I mentioned I've begun guest-contributing to my dear friend Sarah's amazing craft/inspiration blog, Bombshell Bling? I have agreed to create a few new posts for her, as well as share some of my party and craft posts from Emily's Little World. If you want a new blog to follow, Bombshell Bling is a FABULOUS one. And we've talked, and Sarah is a-okay with me cross-posting any of the new posts I write for her back here on this blog. And today's post is all about an idea I wanted to share here anyway. So. How about let's talk about our Summer Chore Jar?

This is an idea I put into action this summer that has been working like a dream for us. Like many of you, we ended the school year just happy to be done with locked-in routines and morning battles. The first week or two, we reveled in the freedom, and slowly my kids figured out how to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. (Heaven, I tell you.) But by the end of that second week, we were floundering a little in the lack of structure, and I was beginning to realize that my kids were getting downright lazy. And lazy leads to bored. And bored leads to needy.

I didn’t want to get all crazy with new rules and routines, to schedule their entire day, or become a hardened task-master. But I did begin to suspect that we could use a little light structure to our mornings, even with the sleeping later. And I do want my kiddos to begin to understand the concept of daily chores. So as I was browsing Pinterest, I saw a darling idea for a summer “Boredom Buster” jar, using popsicle sticks and washi tape (of course)… and I realized I could re-purpose that cute idea to serve my desire to have some summer chores put into place.

I’ve had a list of age-appropriate tasks on my fridge for a while now— a list that shows things each child is likely capable of doing at certain ages, and it is from lists like these that I made up my own set of chores for each of my children.  (This list, from, is a really good one and has a printable version!) I decided to give each of my three kids a list of 8 possible chores. Quinn, who is two, got simple tasks like “clean up toys” and “put pillows on the couch nicely”. Lucy, age 4, got chores like “empty recycling” and “do one load of laundry” (I figure the laundry thing means either one load put in the wash, or transferred from wash to dry, OR folded. Not all three. And this chore would be with my supervision and help, of course.) And my oldest, Noah, who is 7.5, gets to try his hand at dishes, sweeping, and putting books away on his shelf nicely.

The idea, in my case, is to give them some tasks they can attempt, sometimes with my help, and begin to learn those skills. I don’t expect or need these jobs to be done perfectly— I just want to begin to establish the routine and the expectation. Eventually, I imagine I’ll have some stricter standards I want them to follow. But this summer, I’m just trying to teach them the concept.

So for the Chore Jar: I then got 8 sticks per kid and chose a different washi tape design for each of my kids. I taped the end of the sticks, then wrote their 8 tasks on their sticks, like this (Noah=red, Lucy= floral, Quinn= yellow):

Our morning then looks like this:

We still wake at our leisure. It’s been amazing to get to sleep til 8:00, I tell you. That is when Quinn wakes. Noah is often soon after that. Lucy, the mini-teenager, can often sleep in til 9 or later. Crazy! So when the boys are up, I get them breakfast. Whenever Lucy joins us, I get her some breakfast too. Then, when breakfast is done, whatever time that may be, they clear their own dishes and come to me to get a chore stick from the jar. (I don’t put their sticks back in that week, so we don’t repeat tasks all the time).  You’ll notice in my above photo that some of their tasks are identical. If they happen to get the same chore, they get to work on it together. Lucky them! If the 2 or 4-year old draws a task that needs my direct help, we get right to work together. Lucy is often still eating when Quinn gets to his chore anyway, so it works out.

I plan for their tasks to take no more than 10 minutes. They are often even less than that. And after chores are done, we get to proceed with our day and whatever adventure awaits.

I am finding, after two months of this, that even this small routine has set the tone for the day, and therefore for our summer. The kids are usually completely willing to do their jobs, and I think the younger ones in particular are feeling really proud of themselves and happy I am asking them to do “important” things. So far, no one has complained! And perhaps if we can keep this up, I can begin to ask more of them toward the end of the summer. I want to continue to be mindful of the age-appropriate task list, and of not asking them to do things perfectly the first several times. I want to encourage teamwork and I want to keep praising them for doing their work cheerfully.

We still get LOTS of freedom, long days in our pajamas, and a looser, milder pattern to our summer days. But a couple of simple routines in our days, like this easy chore jar, have made all the difference in making an already good summer even better.


(This post originally appeared on, June 29, 2015)

Johnson's Shut-Ins Day Trip: Phone Phones

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We took a day trip to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park this past Wednesday. We had to go without Joe since he had work duties... But it's been a really smooth summer for me with regards to toting the three kids all over the place by myself. (Finally! It feels huge for this to be easy!) 

So we packed up the car with all the river-swimming supplies (towels, swim diapers, sunscreen, water toys, Puddle Jumper life vests, changes of clothing) and snacks (individual baggies of fruit loops, Cheetos; granola bars, apple sauce pouches, premade PB&J sandwiches, Capri Suns) and we set out on the 2-hour journey. 

Though we planned to rendezvous with my parents and my sisters at the same time upon arrival, they got stuck in a terrible highway traffic jam, so we arrived what turned out to be HOURS before them. Good thing for the snacks-- we were able to eat lunch with only what we brought and not have to rely on the lunch food my parents were bringing. So we went ahead and ate first, then just headed out on our own to trek the .25 mile trail to the river. 

We ended up swimming/splashing/ playing for almost two full hours before my family arrived, and there were definitely some rough patches where my juggling three kids' needs was nearly impossible. Noah was mostly patient and willing to do his playing near me, but Quinn was daring and curious and always trying to do more than I could help him with. Lucy, meanwhile, was extremely timid and really wanted me close to her the whole time-- a bad combo with the boys' need to explore a bit. Quinn nearly floated away from me two times, and Lucy had more than a few mini-freakouts. But we survived, and finally my poor parents and sisters arrived and were able to come cool down, shake off their awful traffic stress, and we got down to the business of having fun, all of us. 

It was really so perfect. Once I had some extra hands and eyes to help me, I even managed to relax and enjoy the moments. The river was gorgeous, the sky so blue, and it was fun to be with my family. We played in the water til about 4:30 pm, and then slowly made the trek back to my parents' campsite, where we changed clothes, relaxed, and the folks got a campfire and dutch oven dinner going. We stayed long enough to eat a delicious meal of brats and beans, then I packed up my two littles, leaving Noah behind to camp in the cabin with my parents and sisters, and I drove the two hours home with the help of "Wreck It Ralph" on the portable DVD player. We all fell into bed once we got home at 10pm that night, and slept hard and long, reuniting with Noah the next afternoon when my mom and sister brought him home to us. 

All in all, despite hiccups and unpredictabilities and a few little meltdowns, the trip was SO worth the effort. I love that my own kids are building a collection of memories of a place I have cherished for so many years of my own youth. I love that we plan to return year after year for years to come. 

Here, from my phone, all the photos I took of this summer's trip.

Lucy enjoys our pre-swimming picnic.

But Lucy does NOT enjoy a riverside "potty" break...

Mom tried her hand at rock-stacking. We loved it!

Quinn was FAR less interested in stacking rocks, and FAR more interested in throwing rocks. As many rocks as he could. HEAVEN. 

Noah was thrilled when his aunts arrived and he had some real playmates. Aunt Sarah was great about going down the shut-in formations with him on both days he was there. 

And Aunt Julina was a really good sport about Noah wanting to "battle" with water sprayers. 

Even when he got her full in the face. 

Dad was on his usual quest to find at least one rock with a natural hole worn through it by thousands of years on the river. This one was a little too big for him to take home, but it was one of the coolest of all his finds over the years.

Two-Mama Selfie. My cute mom....

And Lucy was happiest when I was near and she could sit in shallow water and splash her toys into the water. 

Noah proudly heaved this massive rock to our pile of stuff and not so subtly said, offhandedly at the end, "I sure wish we could take this rock home with us!" I asked if he could settle for a photo of him and this rock, and he was a pretty good sport. This is a "concentrating on not dropping it" face, not a mad face. 

It was a gorgeous day for the river trail.... Even at the end of the day when we were tired, achy, and sun-drained. 

At the campsite, Quinn LOVED going in and out and in and out and in and out of the cabin door. 

But when the kids say the tin of dominoes, they latched right onto them as a plaything. Quinn and Lucy claimed the train pieces for their "toys", running them up and down domino "tracks", and Noah appropriated a big pile of dominoes to build his own fortress or something like that. 

Happy and worn out, these kiddos ate a decent meal and were mellow but awake the entire drive home to St. Louis. We were all so happy to get to our beds. The ones who stayed behind to camp had a pretty fun rest of their night with s'mores and things, and another morning on the river before they packed it in.

Ending the post with one more of these cuties, actually kind of getting along as they agreed to share the rocking chair without any tears or adult intervention. I love it!

Five For Friday: Johnson's Shut-Ins

Saturday, July 18, 2015

We just took our almost-annual trip to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park here in Missouri. This year, Joe couldn't come because my folks planned it mid-week and he needed to be at work... so I decided to do it as a day trip for the first time in my life. Every other time I've been there, it's always wrapped up in camping, which has its own set of charms and frustrations. The day trip worked so well for us this time, though, and we had a marvelous time in the river. 

 Last year, we did the camping version of this trip, right about this same time of the summer. The state park had recently built some basic cabins available for rent-- full electricity, but no running weather/bathroom inside the cabins... So while these cabins are half-luxury, they are still still half-camping, with outdoor cooking and treks to the public toilets.  My parents wanted to try a cabin out, and we loved it. My Five For Friday tonight, therefore,  is a throwback to our trip last year and specifically to some of the Big Camera photographs I took while we puttered around our campsite and cabin.

1. Noah brought markers and paper and really focused on drawing landscapes. I was utterly enchanted with his efforts and his focus. And seriously-- can you believe that view from the porch of our cabin?? Worthy of capturing in art, for sure. 

1a. Bonus Image-- here is his best landscape, titled "Still Forist"[sic].  ♥

2. Lucy in a camp chair, snuggling with blankies and stuffed animals, totally oblivious to her mesmerizing blue eyes. 

3. Quinn was still 100% binkie baby last summer, so this was a common post-nap look of his. Captain Adorable FOR SURE. How cute is his too-long hair??

4. None of these attempted Mom & Three Kid photos turned out classically ideal (i.e. everyone looking forward and smiling into the camera) and at the time, I was bummed/bugged by that. But this year, revisiting this set of photos, I love them all. Even more so because they AREN'T all looking into the camera. How sweet is their interaction?? 

5. But with Joe, they DID all manage to look AND smile huge smiles for the camera. So *shrug* You win some and you concede some to Dad. 

Next up, I will post this year's photos from Johnson's Shut-Ins, all taken on my phone, and all at the actual river, since we didn't camp. Hooray for summer, and huzzah for summer rituals. I love it. 


Five for Friday: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Friday, July 10, 2015

Wow, this has been a WET summer. So much rain. A couple of weeks ago, after a string of wet days, we all got a little trunky and decided to head outside anyway. Pajamas and umbrellas.... cute combo! 

My poor camera had been sitting in lovely air conditioning for a week, so when I took it out into the muggy warm summer air, it fogged right up. In my experience, all that works to really fix this is....[drumroll]... time. Waiting for the temperature of the camera to equalize with the temperature of the great outdoors. 

But until then, you get this foggy thing happening, and I decided to just go with it. So a few of these have some level of dewy or downright foggy look to them, and I dunno... I kind of like it. and I kind of love these kiddos. ♥

Back in May, on another rainy jag, we attempted to go to Six flags between raindrops.... and failed. It was basically pouring when we got there. So right inside the entrance, I dashed to the first gift shop to get ponchos or something, and found these cute umbrellas. And at $8 apiece, they were actually way cheaper than I expected for an amusement price gift shop. So my kids now each have super cute umbrellas, and love any chance to use them. (Quinn's is a frog-- but he stuck to the boots only on this day.)

We have lots more summer plans ahead, so while the rain has been nice for keeping our world lush and green, I wouldn't mind it slowing down a bit through the rest of July and August. We would love to put the rain boots away for awhile.... 


Five For Friday: Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Five For Friday: Fourth of July Flashback:

In honor of this weekend's coming festivities, I dug back into the vaults of 2014 to prepare some favorite images from our last 4th of July that never got edited or blogged. Last year, we were lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents over for grilling and backyard fireworks. We kept it simple, stayed home, and the kids had a blast. 

This year, we'll go out to watch the big fireworks-- Quinn is old enough to love them AND stay up late-ish, so it should be lots of fun!

So happy Fourth of July to you all--- I hope you have yummy food, great companionship, a moment to reflect upon the gift of our freedom and agency.... And some sparklers and roman candles to top it all off. 



The Many Ways in Which I Am a Mess

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

1. I only think to floss when I have an impending dentist appointment.

2. I've developed a serious phobia of the dentist in recent years, so I never have an impending dentist appointment.

3. I start projects. But lots of times, I'm notsogood at FINISHING projects.

4. I hate making dinner. HATE it. I hate trying to remember to begin prepping it so that it's ready by 6:00pm or so. I hate that wave of "oh crap, I have to think about dinner now". I hate shopping for dinner groceries. I hate menu-planning. I am terrible at all of the above, mostly from a motivation perspective. I confess I let Joe take the reins far too often, simply because I've already given up on the thought of it for the day and he is trying to keep us from going to get some junk fast food again... so even after a full day of work for him, he is often in the kitchen pulling together the "easy stuff" I keep around, because I've shut down in the Dinner Department already for the day.

5. It takes me days, if not weeks, to check my voicemails. I just don't make the time to stop and listen... more often than not because I'm either going to have a symphony of loud kid noises in my other ear anyway, or I'm not in a position to be able to jot down info or call someone right back... So I kind of pretend the voice mails aren't there, for far too long.

6. I am the WORST at timely response, especially via email and FB messenger, but also sometimes even texts. I suffer from the issue of wanting to be able to give a well-written, thoughtful response, but not usually being in a position to drop things and sit at a real computer and type a genuine careful, thoughtful reply.... so then I put it off. And the list of "needs to be replied to" gets bigger, and then when there IS time to sit and write, there are so many things needing replies by then, that I get paralyzed and ignore it all some more. It's bad. It's one of my flawiest flaws, and has only gotten worse over the last three years or so. I get really mad at myself about it, but I've yet to begin to nip it in the bud. I am so so sorry if/when you've been affected by this particularity awful trait of mine.

7. I am addicted to sugar, and am so unapologetic about it. I'm not ready (may not ever be) to even consider cutting out refined sugar from my life. Preposterous. Even when there is evidence aplenty (if I un-squint my eyes and let myself read the articles) as to why I should never touch the stuff again.... I just love it too much to say goodbye. Sorry not sorry.

8. Also, I probably take too many naps. I mean, at least in this category, studies back me up... so I let myself read those articles, haha! But still. Think of all the things I could accomplish if I cut out the three or four naps a week I take. But I'm wired to nap... even before having kids I was a napper... even letting myself lose the guilt (for the most part) early in my 20's with SARK's book "Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed".
So yeah. I nap. I love it. And I lose productivity time because of it.

9. I'm almost always late registering my car and paying my quarterly sales tax for my business. Those kinds of tasks that are out of my usual routine and involve paying out money usually not budgeted for.... Man, when those things come up, I just do NOT make mental room for them in a timely way.

10. After over a month of sporting some hideous poison ivy forearms (it's still there, but fading, finally), I think I'm getting a cold sore today.

11. My swim suit is 5 years old and has started leaving sticky black gunk on my neckline.  

12. My go-to Capri-length jeans have a now-unavoidably large hole in the inner-thigh zone, but I keep wearing them. Also, I suspect capris are no longer fashionable, but I keep wearing them. 

13. Getting myself to the post office to mail critical things for my businesses is , like, SO HARD. I am so bad at mailing things. 

14. I love order and organization, but I'm terribly inconsistent. I tend to make "neat little piles" in between organization bouts, and "neat little piles" still feel cluttery to me. But I cant seem to figure out a different way. 

15. I get crabby when I'm really hot or really hungry. Snappish and unpleasant. Steer clear. 


I could go on and on..... So many ways I'm just a mess. But I promise I'm not throwing a pity party. Its just that perhaps it's not clear to folks around me that I'm struggling with my own set of failings and weaknesses... That all of us are. Even the ones who blog and manage to take photos and make crafties. In fact, I suspect we right-brained types are more of a mess than most. But no.... Actually, I bet the left-brained folks are their own kind of mess, just in different ways. We're all trying to be more than we currently are. We all want to be better, kinder, healthier, more SOMETHING.  We all see shortcomings in ourselves; deal daily with things we are SO BAD at. And I don't know about you--- but it makes me feel better, gives me more hope, when I realize I'm not alone in this. We are ALL a mess, somehow or another. And it is what makes us human, and perhaps even more lovable. That we all struggle, we all fight with our own selves daily. For me, at least, the more I realize I cannot do it all, the more I discover deep wells of empathy and love for my fellowwomen who are also muddling through and just trying to be authentic--- the good, the bad, and the total mess. 

So I'm not fishing for reassurances here. Instead, I'm offering you the hand of friendship, in unified solidarity for all the things we aren't so great at. I kind of love that I've got a long way to go. It means, maybe, I don't have to stagnate in this life. It means I can always get BETTER. It means this is not the end.... That this current day is always a sort of BEGINNING. 

So fellowwomen--- let's clasp hands, share our failings, and laugh. Just laugh that we all have them, and we're all still okay. We really are all still okay.

(One of my friends posted this on Instagram yesterday. It put a lump in my throat. Beautiful.)

CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan