Friday, June 19, 2015

Family Summer Challenge

If you ask Hubby and I what our greatest fears for our children are, "entitlement" is near the top of both of our lists.  Not abduction, disease, injury or even coming back to live in our basement forever...entitlement.  It is running rampant through both our generation and theirs and we truly believe that it can ruin lives.

This Summer we decided it would be a good time to take an intentional, calculated stance against entitlement...both in ourselves and in our children.  Thus, the Summer Family Challenge was born.  We have to give credit to Jen Hatmaker and her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess for the inspiration, though we have taken her ideas in our own direction and made our own rules.  Here is how it works.

Month 1 - Clothing Challenge
The one thing that was taking more time and stealing more joy in our household was, believe it or not, laundry.  Monday was laundry day...or rather the start to laundry week.  The task was never done, piles of laundry sat in my entryway for all to see and it greeted me every time I walked into my house.  I crabbed at the kids to help, to stop leaving laundry all over, to not throw clean laundry into the hamper...a pair of dirty socks on the floor could <literally people...not figuratively> bring me to tears...I'm sure you know the story.  So we said enough is enough.

Each family member got to pick 20 items of clothes (including shoes, socks and undies) to wear for the month.  The breakdown was slightly different for each of us, but went something like this: 
  • 5 undies
  • 5 shirts
  • 2 pajamas
  • 1 pair of long pants
  • 3 shorts
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes
In addition, each member of the family got 1 bath towel.  We removed all other clothing from our dressers and tucked it away.

How did it work?  Very, very well.  

We let the kids run out of clothes a few times - used both pairs of pajamas and didn't wash them?  Borrow or do without.  No shorts left?  Wear your pants- roll them up if it is hot.  They quickly got the idea that they needed to keep track of their clothes and be sure that they got into the washing machine in time to be ready to wear the next day.  We all became more judicious about what really needed washing and what could be worn again.  I found 0 wet towels on the floor and we only required 1 bin of shoes.  

The laundry went like this- "who needs something washed?!"  Everyone would bring their clothes and toss them in.  When they were dry, I would gather everyone, toss the items to the correct person and they would take their armful of laundry to their dresser, fold and put it away right that minute.  All told, it takes less than 5 minutes work to do ALL of our laundry (okay, except for when a crayon made it into the dryer).  It has become a fraction of the job it once was because we all pitch in and we are using less.

Was it hard only wearing the same clothes over and over?  That has always been Hubby's fashion strategy - on the first cold day of the year, a coworker once remarked, "Ah, I see it is college sweatshirt season again!"  For me it makes getting dressed really easy.  I pick a different necklace and a t-shirt and call it a new outfit.  If our friends noticed we were reusing the same outfits, they were too polite to mention it...but I suspect that most people spend much less time thinking about me and my wardrobe than I think they do. 

During this month, we took time to clean out our closets and ONLY keep things that we fit and actually wear.  At the end of the challenge, we decided it was working so well that we would keep it up.  We now have a system where we occasionally trade out clothing items from "the stash" into the dressers.  If you want a different pair of shorts, you have to trade in the pair you have been wearing. 

We have tied the challenge into our faith, but really, it is good practice for anyone to become more aware of needs versus wants and more thankful for the things they have.  It had gotten to a point at our house where we had become slaves to our overabundance of clothes.  It feels great to have taken back the reins and found a balance again.  

Now we are participating in Month 2 - The Food Challenge.  More on that when it is over!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Taming the Papers- What to Do With All The Artwork

This time of year backpacks come home stuffed full of all the things little ones have poured their effort into this year.  It is fun to see all their work, but what do you DO with it all?  Here is what works for us:

1) Work and art gets admired and then goes into a storage bin that sits in the office.  The kids know that is where it goes, and know that we don't throw away their work- if they want to see it, it is there.  Likewise, if we ever need to look back at a spelling test or homework assignment, we can find it.

2) After school ends, Hubby and I sit down after the kids go to bed (under the cover of darkness) and sort through the items.  We sort them by child first, and then pick out 6 or 8 of the best items from each child for the year.  Those go into a portfolio that is divided by school year.  The items that are not selected go into black bags and right into the recycling and garbage bins.

In the future, we will probably include the kids in sorting through the items, but right now they are at the age where everything would go into the keep pile, and that is just not practical.  We like this system because we are too sentimental to toss things into the garbage when they first come home, and we don't believe that it is kind to toss kid's work out in front of them.  I, for one, would be pretty crushed to work hard on something just to have someone throw it away (and they always seem to find it, the little trash-monitors!)  I know people do this all the time- you should see the trash cans at preschool- but it hurts my teacher heart.  I just can't do that.  So we save things.  Time gives us perspective on what the best items are to keep, and also gives us some distance from the moment to throw away the non-keepers.  Plus it is fun to look back over the whole year, recall the highlights and see how far each child has come.

So there you have it- one way to deal with ALL THE PAPER!

Serial Casting- THE FINAL UPDATE!

After a year and a half, we are super thrilled to announce that Flower is DONE with the serial casting/daily physical therapy/AFOs for her toe-walking.  Hooray!!  She has made great progress, and while her gait is not 100% perfect, we (along with her therapists) made the decision that it is good enough for everything she wants to do - run, walk, skip, climb trees, ride her bike - and it is not going to cause her any sort of back or knee pain in the future.  She is out of her day braces almost completely now- though we are keeping a watchful (obsessive?) eye to make sure she stays off those toes.  Honestly though, we never see her up on her toes anymore.

She will continue to wear night braces for the next 10 years to maintain the length of her calf muscles that she gained during the serial casting.  She'll pop in to see her PT now and then to get her night braces adjusted and for evaluations, but for all intents and purposes, we're calling it done.

Thanks for following along and supporting us on this long has been a great encouragement to know so many people were rooting for her!