Monday, March 17, 2014

Chores Are Such a Chore

I love it when things in life knit themselves together.  I watch it happen often in our learning.  For instance, on Sunday our minister spent some time sharing about his trip to Israel.  Last week, our history focused on the life and death of Christ and early Christianity.  We are reading Ben-Hur.  It all seems to be tied together.  Those links are made in our lives and our brains without real effort or orchestration.  I love it when that happens.

The same thing is happening since I read The Power of Habit.  One of my things on my list for 2014 was to create a chore system for the kids and me that worked.  As I read that book and thought about what I really want it occurred to me that I'm trying to create habits in my children.

My old method of assigning chores was to give each kid a chore for a week (wash dishes, load dishwasher/unload dishwasher/put clean dishes away, sweep and vacuum floors/wipe table and counters, take out trash and recycling).  At the end of the week there would be a big discussion over who did or didn't finish the last of the dishes/floor/garbage and how to make it "fair".  That was a weekly issue. 

The other issue was the quality of work.  Because each child only kept each job for a week they could blame faulty results on the child who had done the job prior to their tenure.  There was no real incentive or accountability for good work or poor work.  And really, there wasn't time to train for each job and expect mastery.  By the time they understood the responsibilities and techniques of a job it was time to move on to the next job.  They didn't repeat a job for three more weeks.  All learning and skill was lost.

I've often thought that teaching kids how to do things is much harder than just doing them myself.  So many times I can get something done faster and better on my own than if I farm it out.  If I do something myself I know it's done correctly and meets whatever standard I've set.  I also know that it truly is done and won't require extra work or supervision or fussing later.

The catch is that my purpose in raising my children is to train them in the way I would have them go.  Or better yet, in the way God would have them go.  To me this means that I am not striving to have good children.  My effort is focused on creating outstanding adults.  Because of this future focus I know that I must equip my children. Equipping takes time.  It takes energy.  It's a chore.

In light of my purpose and what I learned about building a habit I decided I needed to revamp the chores at our house.  Rather than assigning a chore each week I determined that each child would do one chore for a month.  In that month's time they would be able to master each job.  While it might be tedious to do the same thing for a month, there would be no confusion over who had which responsibility.  Once they were trained for each job so thoroughly they wouldn't have difficulty remembering what to do the next time the job was theirs.  Training once and making it stick was a feature that really appealed to me.

Miraculously enough the new system is working.  I'm afraid to say it yet but it seems to be true.  I always know who is responsible and so do they.  They are able to do the jobs and take pride in them.  There is no question or debate or irritation about who should or shouldn't have done what.  This new habit is forming.  At our house, chores are not quite the chore they were.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Monday Munchies: Vanilla Scones

Yes, I am aware that it's not Monday. I am listing this recipe as a Monday Munchies because I think it will make it easier for me (and hopefully, you) to find it later.

I make these on a regular basis. They are a favorite at my house, especially when I add chocolate chips to the recipe. Yesterday I took a basket of these scones to an event and was asked for the recipe several times. Surprisingly, when I looked for the recipe online I couldn't find it. So, by request, here is my recipe for vanilla scones.

Vanilla Scones

3 c flour
1/3 c sugar
2 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c vanilla yogurt
3/4 c add ins (dried fruit, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, nuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add butter, and blend until mix resembles coarse cornmeal. Add yogurt and any add ins.  Mix gently to create dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and divide into two parts.  Pat each dough half into a circle about 7" round, not quite 1" thick.  Cut each circle into 8 wedges and place wedges, slightly separated, on baking sheet.  Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

If dried fruit is used plump the fruit by covering the fruit with warm water and letting it stand for 10 minutes.

In a pinch you can substitute any flavor of yogurt for vanilla.  You can also substitute up to 1/2 c sour cream for the same amount of yogurt.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Creatures of Habit

And so time keeps passing and writing is not a priority.  I want it to be a priority.  In my happy imaginings I am a writer.  Sadly, in reality I am not doing any writing.  It's difficult for even the greatest imagination to conjure a writer where no writing is taking place.

I've just finished a book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  It speaks to how strongly routine without concious thought and intentional action controls our everyday behavior.  There are so many every day behaviors that I would like to change.  I'd like to exercise and write.  I'd like to make sweets into special treats not every day expectations.  I'd like to clean house on a routine so that it wasn't overwhelming. I'd like to be encouraging.  That's a lot of change.

The good news is that habits can be changed.    The other good news is one change often leads to other changes. A positive new habit often has a domino effect. One good change leads to other good changes.

As I review my list of things I'd like to change, I think that exercise is the biggest ticket item.  I know it will benefit me.  I know I will like the results.  I know I am stubborn, hate exercise, and need a large push to be successful with this one.  I've failed to incorporate regular exercise into my routine many times before.  I've also been successful many times before.  There are long periods in which exercise was a part of my life.  The trick is to figure out what made exercise stick and what caused that period of routine exercise to be disrupted.

Today is Fat Tuesday.  Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.  I think this is the perfect time for reflection and concentration on a change of habit.  Turning my physical activity into an act of worship might just be an intentional act I can turn into a habit.