Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Christmas!

Well.  In a couple of days.  I do love this time of year, especially since having children of my own.  Their eyes light up at the smallest thing.  We finally put up the tree last Wednesday, and they were so stinking excited.  The lights don't work, but they don't really care!  They just were thrilled to put up a tree and put decorations on it.  They even cleaned up the play room so we could put it in there.

This is a major deal.  They hate cleaning, they don't want to help, and they fight me every time I say, "Go pick up your toys," or, "Hey, dirty underwear doesn't belong on your head; it goes in the hamper."

Last Friday, I realized that rewards don't always have to be as big as a Christmas tree.  So I finally made a chore chart.  I grabbed a smashed posterboard from the corner in my room and a black sharpie, and made lists under their names, then I tacked it to the wall in the dining room.  My 5-year-old is totally motivated by getting a smiley face drawn next to his chore when he does it.  My 3-year-old doesn't care still, but my teen is starting to like seeing the smiley faces show up.  She kept reminding me today of stuff she did until I put the smileys in place.  haha!

Not only are the chaos and disarray a bit less than normal, but them doing chores is helping me in other ways.  The most stressful time of my day has been when it's time to make dinner.  I usually start cooking right around 4 in the afternoon.  They've had breakfast, snack, lunch, and snack, and yet at 4, they're starving and in the kitchen and running around me, creating chaos and distracting me from my task.  Sigh.  So everyone is going bananas while I'm trying to chop veggies and create healthy meals that don't suck, and sometimes, they still suck.

I read some blog in the last few days (sorry, anonymous blogger, I can't remember who you are) where she said they have their kids pick up the toys and clothes before dinner.  And a lightbulb went off in my head.  They can be cleaning up their crap and earning their smileys while I'm making dinner, and then I don't have them under my feet!

So the last two days, when I start making dinner and the locusts are descending, I remind them that it's time to clean up so I can make dinner.  They run off, cheerfully, and get their chores done, and I'm not a raging beast ... well, I'm still grouchy, but not as bad.  And then we put smileys by their chores and everyone is happy ... er.  There is still chaos.  There is still disarray.  I'm not a naturally neat and orderly person and neither is anyone else in my household, except for the 5-year-old.  So we still live here and there are still messes.  But when I remind someone that they can get a smiley face if they take care of a problem, they stop arguing and get to it.  Merry Christmas to me.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blessings in Disguise

It's still a bit unreal to me, but my kitchen sink fell off a week before Thanksgiving.

You read that right.

It fell off.

Seven days before Thanksgiving.

Granite countertop + stainless steel undermount sink + bad install = no more kitchen sink.


My sweet husband and I worked on the project together to get all the old adhesive off, chiseling our way through, cleaning up the sink and the counter, buying adhesives and tools and lumber and chasing the kids out of the kitchen for a week.  And we finished re-installing it the day before Thanksgiving.

As sad as this might sound, this is the first project we have really worked on together.  Ever.

It turned out to be some amazing timing for us.  My husband has admitted that, even a few months ago, he wouldn't have worried about doing it right away, and we both know I would have gotten beyond angry and called my dad and brother-in-law to come fix it before too long.

As it was, we worked well together.  We were kind and respectful to each other, shared ideas, and discussed things calmly and rationally.  We actually had fun working together and enjoyed the collaboration.  Again, that would not have happened just a few months ago.

This last year has been extremely difficult, but in the trials and difficulty, we have been so blessed.  We have grown closer to one another and are working to overcome patterns of behavior in which we have both been enmeshed.  Our marriage is far from perfect, but we are figuring things out and working and progressing and growing ... together.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Broke but not Broken

I recently read a blog post written by someone who is quite poor.  She talks about why poor people make seemingly terrible decisions.  Then Dave Ramsey posted 20 things rich people do every day, and was met with a big backlash of blog responses and interviewers asking him why he contrasted the rich habits to poor habits and did not cite any sources for those statistics, and his response was less than kind.

I thought I'd share a few of my own responses.

First, I hate being called "poor".  These posts really helped me understand why -- people hate on poor people for existing.  I realize that technically, we are poor, but our degree of "poor" is not the same as the author of the first blog post linked, and I know it is a temporary thing, even if it lasts for the next 3 years while I'm in nursing school.  We have a comfortable home, food for our family, two functioning (paid-for) vehicles, and we have been so blessed to make it through several months of unemployment thus far.

Second, we are "broke" but not "broken".  You see, I have hope.  Hope that my husband can get some sort of a job to get us through.  Hope that I will get a good job after graduating.  Hope that someday, we'll have insurance through an employer again.  Hope that we won't be broke forever.

Third, we truly cannot know what another person has gone through to get to the place where they are in life.  What that means to me is that sometimes I am more critical or judgmental than I ought to be, and that is something I can control.  Also, I cannot control other people's choices or circumstances or their judgments of me. And realizing that is oddly freeing.

Fourth, it isn't always a poor person's fault that they are poor.  Growing up in poverty isn't a choice children make, but they often are stuck in the same circumstances as adults.  My husband has come a long way from the projects in L.A. or the streets where he lived as a teen and early adult.  While I have never been homeless, we did live in some pretty interesting places (one house was nicknamed the Mold Pit).  We have both been blessed with opportunities to make different choices, but not all poor or impoverished people are so blessed.

And finally, even the poorest among us deserves to love and be loved.  If you are a Christian, take the time to spread some of Christ's love to the poor among us this holiday season.  If you're not a Christian and still celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadah, or other holidays this time of year, please remember the poor who are all around us and bless them in some way.