Saturday, August 26, 2017

How to Get Your Family to Help with Chores

His, Hers, and Ours -Who does what in your house?

Twenty years ago, on a beautiful warm day in San Diego, Secret Agent Man and I, joined our lives together as husband and wife.  Every day since, we have marched lock-step together on our journey through life, work, home, and family.

Know Expectations from the get-go

Before we were married we talked about the kind of life we wanted together.  He knew my life’s ambition was to be a wife and mother.   I wanted to take full responsibility for the proper care and feeding of him and our children and the upkeep our home.  That was our understanding and that was our plan. Then…the twins were born.

But, be flexible and ready to change those expectations

What I assumed would be a one-woman show turned into a tag team effort to keep our baby boys fed, diapered, burped, and bathed.

By the time our daughter, “Mini Me” came along, Secret Agent Man and I settled into our traditional roles of provider and homemaker. He brought home the bacon and I fried it up in a pan.
Being a single-income family is not easy. We’ve had to make sacrifices and endure lean times in order for me to be at home. 

Between the travel, intrigue, and third world government toppling, Secret Agent Man works long hours. I never complain.  I consider it a blessing to have a husband that loves to work. I like going out to dinner, I like buying a new pair of shoes, and I’m not going complain about how he provides those things for me.

I try to make it easy for him to do his job by doing mine. I’ve taken cues from my hero, Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis,

"I think the best thing I can do is to be a distraction. A husband lives and breathes his work all day long. If he comes home to more table thumping, how can the poor man ever relax?"

We have a clear understanding of what each of us will do around the house. He doesn’t know how to start the washing machine and I don’t know how to start the lawnmower and that’s the way we like it.

No matter what your situation is everyone who lives in the house needs to have responsibilities for its upkeep.

In a family where both the mom and dad are winning the bread, there needs to be equity in the household responsibilities. 

Some of the working moms I know will do the cooking and shopping, while dad and kids do the cleaning and laundry.

Kid’s responsibilities could include: feeding the pets, cleaning their own rooms and bathrooms, and helping with the dishes. 

At our house, everyone pitches in and cleans the kitchen after dinner.  It’s a wonderful change from the time when I would make dinner; the family would take 15 minutes to snarf it down and then disperse to their different corners of the house.  Now we are together more, the kitchen is cleaned quickly and the family has learned to appreciate me more.

Even the tiniest member of the family can help out.  If a baby is old enough to dump out their toys, they are old enough to pick them up and put them back.  It would be easier for mom to just pick up the toys herself, but teaching your children life-long habits of tidiness is worth the time and effort and they’ll be better people for it.

If you are having trouble getting everyone to help out around the house, sometimes it’s just a matter asking for more help and making your expectations known.  Chore charts, honey-do lists, and scheduled time for cleaning can help get everyone on the same page. 

Don’t forget to celebrate and relax together for a job well done. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

How to Play Minecraft - A Mom's Beginner's Guide - Warning! Minecraft is Addictive!

A Mom's Beginner's Guide to How to Play Minecraft and not die.

My three kids started playing Minecraft years ago. I made sure there was no blood, no gore, no vulgar language and, then let them be, to do their thing.

I soon found out that Minecraft is addictive. It’s very difficult to pull them away from it once they start. Why is it so addictive? I wasn’t able to answer this question until a few weeks ago. Minecraft is addictive because it is so dang fun!

At the beginning of summer, my 14-year-old daughter asked me if I would like to play Minecraft with her. I put her off for a while. I do everything for them: I cook, clean, chauffeur, provide for their every waking want and need, do I really have to play video games with them too? But, she persisted, so I relented. After all, when was the last time your teenage daughter asked you to play anything with her?

One of the first things I learned was that Minecraft has its own lingo. I spent a good part of the first afternoon coming up with the perfect name for my Minecraft character (Sparkleheart158), then my daughter helped me to create the perfect “skin,” complete with a polka dot t-shirt and a blue ribbon in her hair.

With Sparkleheart158 created and ready to go, my daughter unceremoniously plopped me down in a “lan world,” at nighttime. It was dark, I had no idea where I was and there were monsters after me, the variety and ferocity of which I only learned about later. I was almost immediately killed and “respawned” in the same spot. I did this over and over and over again, while my children stood behind me and laughed. Hilarious, right?! Mom is so stinkin’ hilarious.

After a few unsuccessful attempts of hiding behind trees and running for my blocky little life, my kids clued me in on how to survive in “survival mode:” Use your hands to punch some trees to make some weapons, make a shelter, even if it’s just digging into the side of a hill, and try not to be blown up by a “creeper,” not be confused with the “zombies” or the arrow shooting skeletons.

I quickly realized that survival mode was not for me. I am more of a “creative mode” mom. In creative mode, you have access to all of the Minecraft tools and resources. No need to mine or smelt or farm. Whatever you can imagine you can build! The kids and spent a few fun evenings getting on a LAN world together, creating and building villages, then switching back over to survival mode so we could war against the mobs of monsters.

At one point, I would have considered the time I spent playing Minecraft with my kids as a waste, but now I have a peek into their world, an understanding of something that they get excited about, and now maybe, at some level, they know that there is no limit to what I will do for them. I’ll even take a flaming arrow to the chest from a skeleton for them, provided I was wearing some diamond armor. Let’s not get crazy, now.

Here are a few tips every Minecraft mom needs to know:

1. It’s one of the most benign games out there. As previously stated, no blood, no gore, no vulgar language.

2. Your kids can be as social or anti-social with it as they like. They can play solo-dolo or with others. The cooperation side of it can be really fun. They can control with whom they play.

3. Imagination has no limits in Minecraft. Where else can they give a cow a ride in rowboat?

4. They can also learn good world management skills. Will they be kind of creator that protects their villagers with home and hearth? Or will they be the kind that will dump a bunch of zombies in a large pit; just to watch them burn at sunrise?

5. Again, as previously stated, Minecraft is addictive because it is so much fun. Try playing it yourself for a while so you can understand why it’s so hard to pull them away once they get started. Instead of just pulling the plug, set reasonable limits and help them to learn to manage their game time for themselves.

A lot of moms love being crafty, now try being Minecrafty!

What We Learned From Our Teenager's First Car Accident

First of all, thankfully, no one was hurt. There was only minor damage to the other car. Our van suffered from a crushed in frontside panel and wheel.

It happened just down the street from our house.

My son, who has only had his license for three months, was leaving our neighborhood. He pulled up to the intersection, looked right to see that the coast was clear, noticed my husband was driving up the street, thought to himself,

"Hey, there's Dad!"

Then, he proceeded straight through the intersection.

See the problem?

If you said, "He didn't look left!" You passed the driver's test!

The other driver was also a teenager. She did him the favor of hitting his front wheel, instead of the driver's side door of the family van that we bought when my sons were first born. We have owned it for 17 years, it has over 200,000 miles and still chugging'.

Her Ford F-150 faired a lot better.

My son is a lucky young man. His first and, hopefully, his only wreck happened nearby with his dad as a witness. My husband was able to help him deal with the other driver, her dad, the police, and the tow truck.

So, what did we learn?

We learned not to pile on. My son was shocked, scared, embarrassed, and deflated. I had a few minutes to process before he walked in the door. I had a chance to think about what I wanted to say. I'm glad I didn't add insult to injury, or non-injury, thank goodness. I didn't yell, although I wanted to. I love that van. We raised our kids in that van. I didn't demand explanations. The look on his face was enough. I saw what he was going through was not easy. I didn't pile on.

We learned that these ARE the moments for long talks. Teenagers hate long talks. You have to use them judiciously. Later that night, when the dust had settled, the van had been towed the half a city block to our driveway, and we had a chance to eat and let our emotions settle, we talked. We let him talk first. He expressed all the feelings we hoped he would say; regret, resolve to do better, and an understanding of the cost to the family. Again, we didn't pile on.

We or I should say, my husband learned to fix the struts on the van. He watched a few videos on YouTube and ordered the parts from Amazon. It makes me laugh to think about how differently we do things from our parent's generation. And our kids, in turn, will do things differently from us.

We learned not to fix the body damage. We left the dented-in driver's side front panel as a reminder to our son and a warning to other drivers.

So, what will we do next time, if there is a next time? 

We will unlearn everything! We WILL pile on! We will have the longest, baddest talk in the world, where his dad and I do most of the talking! We, or should I say, my husband, will not watch any YouTube videos about automotive repair and we will not take advantage of free shipping from Amazon Prime to get 200 lbs worth of car parts to our front door!

Because that boy...will be walking.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Stop being a mean mom! Buy your kid a toy! ($50 Gift Card Giveaway)

During a recent trip to the red shirt-big box store, I noticed an inordinate amount of children crying. This made me sad, because I have been there. I had three kids under the age of three and tried to make it in and out of the red shirt-big box store with everyone's dignity intact and very rarely succeeded. Honestly, though, I was even more sad for the kids, because kids hate shopping, yet they get dragged along and most likely told, "I'm not going to buy you anything."

How many times have we done this? Have you ever stopped to think how incredibly mean and unfair that is? We made our children get up, get ready, stop whatever they had going on at home, maybe playing toy blocks, battling their action figures, coloring, or emptying out your makeup drawer in the tub. Then, we drag them to the store, parade them in front of a million amazing, multi-colored, life-changing, delicious, and attractive items and then say, "I'm not going to buy you anything."

We've all said it. We've all done it. Of course, your kid is going to be grumpy and uncooperative in the store.  Doesn't it make you grumpy and uncooperative when you can't get anything?

Recently, my husband and I took a trip to San Diego. I wanted to check out the shopping bizarre in Old Town. From the pictures on the website, it looked amazing, multi-colored, life-changing, delicious, and attractive. I said,

"Husband! I want to go to there!" He said,

"I don't want us to spend any more money. Do you still want to go?"

"HA! No!" I snorfed (That's a mix of scoffing and snorting).

"Why?" He asked.

"Why would I want to torture myself? Why would I want to parade myself in front of a million amazing, multi-colored, life-changing, delicious, and attractive things that I can't have?!"

See my point? So, why do we expect our little ones to be cool with the idea of going to the store and not getting anything? It's not fair. And, frankly, it's mean.

The more reasonable scenario is; we have a conversation with our kids before we get to the store. Let them know where we are going, why we are going, how long we will be there, and the kind of behavior you expect from them, and, finally, what they can expect for their cooperation.

My contention is that they get at least one thing, just for going. Just because they are two-years-old, doesn't mean that they didn't already have a plan for their day, for which they are foregoing to be your companion at the store, and, for the fact, that they are too young to be left at home alone, but that's not the point.

Perhaps, a negotiation for two things can happen when they meet or exceed your expectations of good behavior while shopping. My tiny niece always negotiated for "two tings." One ting was not quite enough to inspire her cooperation or pleasant attitude, she required two tings. Which was stinking adorable, and, now, years later, we still joke that she needs two tings whenever she goes to the red shirt-big box store.

Now, you may ask, "Annie, doesn't it spoil the kidlets to get them something every time you go to the store?" I don't know. Do you get something every time you go to the store? Are you spoiled?

Or, "Annie, I can't afford to get my kid something every time we shop." Then, why are you shopping if you can't afford it?

Now, I wouldn't just preach to you or call you mean and then not offer anything in return. Remember, I've been there, I had three kids under the age of three.

There is another way to avoid the crying fits in the red shirt-big box store. There is another way to spare the family dignity. It's an amazing, multi-colored, life-changing, delicious, and attractive thing called online shopping at And, I have an amazing, multi-colored, life-changing, delicious, and attractive gift card to share with you, in the amount of $50 dignity-sparing dollars! They have way more than just diapers. Everything kid and kid-related.

To enter to win the $50 gift card,  leave a comment, any comment. You can share your shopping with children strategies, share your shopping successes or failures, share what "two tings" inspire your kids cooperation in the store, or how online shopping has spared your family dignity.

A winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified Friday, March 3rd.

This giveaway is in partnership with Nakturnal, and includes a prize of a gift card for $50 to I have received compensation for this post, but all opinions and content are my own.