Category: family

Revisiting the Chore Chart

Last year I wrote about a new development in my family: the creation of a chore chart. I’d written an update a week later to report that it was all going smoothly, but I haven’t said anything about it since then.

The chore chart persisted in more or less the same form this entire time. It’s really hard to believe we’ve been using it for a year and a half now. 18 months of the chore chart. But over the last while, I’d noticed something else happening.

I’ve been feeling more and more stretched thin. When I first made this new chart, I’d felt it was important to have parents be included in the mix, mainly so the kids felt the whole process was on the up and up. Being fair is important to me. The whole reason for the chart coming into being was because Denisa’s work schedule was making things too hectic for her, so putting her on the chart didn’t make sense. I took one for the team.

But as I said, the last while my participation had gotten worse and worse. I’d come home from work and do my writing, and then I’d just be exhausted. I’d feel guilty that I wasn’t pulling my weight on the chore chart. My kids stepped up their game, but even then, it still didn’t feel good. I couldn’t forget I was slacking. It was there at the back of my head, all the time.

So I brought this up with the fam a few weeks ago, and we agreed it was time to make a change. The kids have more practice with chores now, and we know what they can and can’t do better. So I went back to the Excel sheet and removed myself from the mix. Now, MC has some set chores she does every week, and Tomas and DC alternate back and forth between responsibilities for other chores.

Already I can feel a difference. I hope it sticks. I’m very motivated by checking in boxes, but that can also be a problem, as I feel really guilty when those boxes don’t get checked. I realize this might sound silly to many, but it’s an aspect of myself that I’ve been able to use to get a lot more done each day than I otherwise might. It’s just that I’m discovering I need to be cautious how much I apply it. Otherwise it can be too easy for me to always feel like there’s tons of things I need to be doing. In that case, I’m unable to really ever relax unless the slate is totally clear.

That isn’t always realistic.

In any case, yay for a supportive family and kids willing to chip in to help everyone out.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Family is a Solar System

Today marks the last full day I’ll be at home without my family. That’s definitely a good thing. A house is a very empty thing when you’re used to having four other people living in it. It’s not been too much fun to be by myself all this time, though there have been a few things I’ve observed in the week and a half.

First off, families take up a lot of time in ways you just don’t notice day in, day out. There are expectations in a family. It’s a team sport, so to speak. There are bedtimes to orchestrate, dinners to arrange, chores to coordinate, and personal goals to achieve. In a way, a family is like a solar system. Each planet has its own set of moons, its own orbit, its own climate and troubles. When things run smoothly, then all is in its right balance, and it all works out. When some of that goes off in an unexpected direction, it can upset everything else.

(Which leads me to wonder, of course, what the family revolves around. While I’d love to say “Me,” that wouldn’t be accurate at all. I think the family revolves around the shared idea of what the family goals are. In our family, it’s a shared sense of responsibility and love. Those are the things that keep yanking us back to gravitational center whenever one of us starts heading off in a new direction. A family that revolves around any one person is more of an entourage than an actual family unit.)

When all those little planets are gone, it’s amazing how easy it is to do whatever you want. It was 8:30, and I needed something from the store, so I just hopped in the and got it. I didn’t need to check with anyone. Didn’t need to worry about abandoning any obligations. I was wholly in charge of my schedule, so I knew what needed doing and when.

I’ve gotten a lot done in the week and a half. I’ve basically done it by making a huge To Do list and then crossing things off it one by one, rewarding myself with video games. I could play another 15 minutes if I got another item on the list done. That sort of thing.) But I’ve also been able to do so much because there’s so much more time available to me. Dinner has been really easy. I just eat cold oatmeal every night. That meant I didn’t have to cook, and I didn’t have to do any dishes. Normally we eat dinner as a family, taking time to watch something together or talk together. But I just ate whenever I felt like it, usually pairing it up with a quick video game session.

So many of the obligations of a family come on you one at a time, spread out over years. Marriage. Children. Home ownership. When I go away for a conference I don’t notice those obligations being gone, because there are plenty of other things there to keep me busy. The same is true on vacations. But when the whole family leaves at once, you can’t help but notice it.

It’s pretty lonely.

But that’s done now, for the most part. I’ve got a ton to get ready before I leave. This is likely my last blog post for a while, as I’ll be off gallivanting around Europe. There’s a chance I’ll pop in here and there to say something, but it’s doubtful. Have an excellent rest of your summer, and I’ll see you toward the end of August!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

New Orleans for Families

I headed down to New Orleans last week for ALA Annual, and I took my family with me on the trip. I’d never been to the city before (never been to anywhere in the South other than Florida, really. Well, Texas, but that’s got a feel all its own.) Ahead of time, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I spoke to a lot of friends who had been, and they had mixed things to say about it, ranging from their favorite city ever to a place they were glad they’d only spent a day or two in.

We had eight days slated, and three kids (ages 14, 10, and 5) who had to be entertained. I would have been less worried, but the hotel I booked didn’t have a pool. My kids all love swimming, so if there’d been a pool, I would have known there always would have been something they’d enjoy to do, even if they swam for 8 days straight.

I’m back now, and I’m pleased to say we had a grand time. There were loads of great family activities to do, and my kids all enjoyed the trip, as did Denisa and I. Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights:

  • Plantation tour. We rented a car for two of the days, heading out of the city to Oak Alley Plantation, where we toured the grounds, the house, and the slaves’ quarters. I’d heard better things about Whitney Plantation, but I’d also heard it was a really heavy tour focused on the slave experience. I wasn’t really up for putting my 5 year old daughter through that, hence Oak Alley. It was beautiful and somber, and I thought it was a great mix and just what I had been looking for.
  • Swamp tour. I’ve never been to a real swamp. We got on a 2 hour boat ride that took us into the Honey Island Swamp, right on the border of Mississippi. Gators, turtles, raccoons, boars, and awesome vegetation. Let’s just say I’m very glad I’ve never met an alligator in the wild, while I’m in the water. They look like snakes as they slither up to their prey. Snakes with big mouths and teeth and claws and they’re huge. Yikes. Though really, the scariest part for me was when we went to a dead end and we had a pack of raccoons come right up to the boat for food. I’ve seen raccoons at work and read all about just how rabid they can get, and the whole time I was wondering what I’d do if one of them jumped in the boat.
  • The National World War II Museum. Ranked the number 2 museum in the world on Trip Advisor. I’m not sure of that ranking. I think it’s overselling it a fair bit, but it really was a great museum. Tons of displays and information all about the war. We all enjoyed it, though my 5 year old got a bit bored.
  • The Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium. Two of the days I was at my conference, Denisa took the kids to the Audobon properties. There was a water park at the zoo that everyone loved, and the insectarium had a butterfly garden my girls thought was awesome. A great way to spend a few hot days in the southern climate.
  • French Quarter. After we figured out which street was Bourbon Street (naturally the first street we picked to walk down), the French Quarter was lovely. Tons of great shops and restaurants, live music, people watching, churches, and more. I loved the architecture. It was so different from anywhere else I’ve been.
  • Jazz. Denisa and I left the kids at the hotel one evening and headed to Preservation Hall, where you pay $20 a person for a 45 minute concert they have four or five times a night. Live jazz. Incredibly talented musicians in a teeny tiny room that looks like it might fall apart any moment. We loved it.
  • Food. Beignets, po’ boys, muffalettas, jambalaya, gelato, eclairs, croissants, and more. I gained 6 pounds. (Sigh.) Need I say more?
  • Alabama and Mississippi. As long as we were all the way down there, I figured we might as well knock a few more states off my To Visit list. We went to the USS Alabama in Mobile, which was a hit with the whole fam. (And made me appreciate even more what sailors went through in WWII. I have no idea how anyone can navigate that maze. We went on a submarine, as well. I could barely fit through the doors. After that, we headed to Gulf Port, Mississippi to go to the beach. It was rainy off and on, so we didn’t do more than wade, but it was a fun time.
  • Museum of Art. We’ve spoiled our kids, perhaps, by starting them out with Parisian art galleries, but they still had a good time at this one. I was at the conference, so I can’t say much more than that.

The conference itself was also a great experience for me. I went to a ton of fantastic panels and came home with new ideas for the library. Always a plus.

Anyway. If you’re thinking about heading to New Orleans and you’re not sure if your family would have a good time, don’t worry about it. We took public transportation to most places, and it was a fairly easy to navigate city. I will say it wasn’t particular kid-friendly after about 8 o’clock. Lots of public drinking, smoking, and even some nudity on the streets, so I was glad Nickelodeon was playing Double Dare each night. (My kids loved that.) It’s definitely a city where many of the visitors go to get plastered. Not really my scene. But there’s a wealth of things to see beyond that. I was really glad we had the chance to go.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A New Franklin Fiddler

Since we moved to the area, we’ve seen the Franklin County Fiddlers perform multiple times. They’re a high school group of mainly string players, and it’s one of the highlights of the school music program. Yes, I’ve always been more partial to wind instruments, being a bassoon and saxophone player back in the day, but I also have come to believe you  play to your school’s strengths. The Fiddlers have a great amount of support in the community and the school, they have a wonderful director, and they just do a lot of good.

(It reminds me of my days back in Dixie Band at Council Rock High School. We would go around and play at local festivals and senior citizen centers, and we had a lot of fun doing it. A great group. Relaxed and a lot of fun. Sadly, I have no video of it on hand. Maybe I have some on DVD at home? I should check sometime.)

In any case, we’ve gone to a lot of their concerts over the years, and Tomas has always wanted to join the group once he made it to high school. The tryouts were Monday afternoon, and after some suspense, we found out he made the group.

It’ll be a definite time commitment. Rehearsals are every Monday for two hours, and there are around 30 concerts over the course of the school year. They’ll be taking a trip in April, most likely. But Tomas is excited, and we’re excited for him. He’s even decided to start taking private lessons. (Something DC has been doing since the beginning of the year, give or take. It’s really helped her, and I think he can see that.)

In any case, hearty congratulations to him. It should be a fun start to freshman year.

Here’s a video of the Fiddlers from a few years ago, to give you an idea what he’ll be playing.

The Last Talent Show

When Denisa and I first moved to Maine, we enrolled Tomas in preschool up at the high school. They do a class for high school students where they get to observe preschoolers, which sounds more clinical than it is. In practice, it’s a chance for preschoolers to go to the high school twice a week and have fun playing and learning. At the end of the year, there’s always a presentation or talent show of some sort. When Tomas was going, they had all the kids sing Old MacDonald, and each kid could choose what animal they wanted to be. (Tomas went with “frog” both years.)

Today, I went to my sixth production of that end of the year celebration, this time the last time for MC. Definitely mixed emotions, as I thought back over all the other visits we’d done there. This time through was a talent show, with all the kids dancing, jumping, or singing in one form or another. MC turned out to be quite the ham, dancing her little heart out without a care in the world what anyone else might think of her. She knew she was awesome, so why worry about anything else?

That said, pretty much all the kids on the stage didn’t seem bothered by performing for an audience at all. I wonder at what age we learn to be self conscious. Probably somewhere in middle school, would be my guess . . .

Anyway. It was a nice moment, and I was happy I could duck away from work long enough to be there for it. Each of my kids has approached that talent show differently. Tomas threw himself into his role, really taking on the “frog” mentality. DC was much more reserved and careful with what she was doing. Precise. MC was just a bundle of energy from start to finish. She’s definitely very fun loving. I don’t think Denisa and I did anything too different with each child. They just grow that way.

Fun times.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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