Twenty Minutes of Teamwork

Yesterday, we made it to school on time.  Just barely.  When the clock turned to 7:45, and it was time to get in the car to head that direction, I had two kids standing in my kitchen.  

Both barefoot.

Neither with their hair combed.

One missing his belt.

And the other frantically looking for her lost library book.  

Kory and I sprung into action to move them along, and we made it.  Just barely. But we made it.

All of that to say, it’s a challenge to manage two careers, three children, a home, and all of the things that go along with it.  And school day mornings are a daily reminder of this harsh reality.

Kory and I admit that both of us would struggle to do it alone (and we applaud all of the single parents out there who are doing a mighty job).  We certainly couldn’t do it without God.  And you know what?  We couldn’t do it without the help of our kids either.

Being a family requires teamwork.  Period.

Yes, we require work from our kids around the house.  And they don’t get paid for it.  Instead, we treat it as the “sweat equity” they must invest for the privilege of being a member of our family.  A member of our “team.”  

Of course, they have daily responsibilities relative to their own personal space.  They are expected to make their beds, take care of their personal hygiene, and clean their rooms daily.  Our two oldest children are now doing their own laundry (the youngest with supervision).  And if we notice our kids enjoying free time after school or on the weekends before these tasks have been completed, we will simply ask them,

“Have you earned the freedom to play?”

But that’s not the kind of work I’m talking about here.

In addition to these personal chores, we believe contributions to the family at large are really important.  Practically, it helps Kory and I manage the home, particularly now that we have two kids over the age of five who are quite capable of pitching in.  But emotionally and spiritually, it also helps our kids invest in our family.  It strengthens our family identity.  And it conjures a sense of gratitude for all the work that goes into making our world turn.  

But we don’t have a chore list. We’ll admit we couldn’t keep up with one. It’s just one more thing to manage, and we would fail.  We would lack consistency in its enforcement.  And everyone would get frustrated.

So instead of keeping a chore list, when we’re working around the house, we simply survey what needs to be done, and we ask our kids to help.  The work gets done faster, and because we’re often doing it together, it’s more fun.

We refer to one of the ways in which we’ve implemented this strategy as “Twenty Minutes of Teamwork.”  And we adjust the time to whatever suits the task at hand.  Sometimes we do Ten Minutes of Teamwork.  Other times we do Thirty Minutes of Teamwork.  But regardless of the time allotted, the idea is to get as much work done as possible before the oven timer goes off.  

Last Sunday, I used this strategy before we hopped in the car to go to church.  We were ahead of schedule for a change, and we had precisely 13 minutes to spare.  I knew that we had a busy afternoon ahead of us, and the house was a wreck.  So I called the kids to the sofa and told them we were going to work to tidy things up for 13 minutes before getting in the car.  I set the kitchen timer, and the kids headed off to start working on the tasks I had assigned.  As my daughter headed upstairs with a handful of items that needed to be put away, she said to all of us,

“Let’s work at Pancake Speed!”  

And because she said the magic words, my boys sprung into action.  We managed to get the entire kitchen clean, all the laundry put away, the items at the bottom of the stairs stored, and the living areas tidied up in 13 minutes!  And when we got home from church, not much remained to be done.  

We assign work in other ways too.  Sometimes, we give them a task and a deadline such as before they go to bed or by the end of the weekend.  Other times, out of necessity, we give them a task and request that it be done immediately.  And when they want to earn some money, we will come up with tasks that we’re willing to pay them for.  But we’ve found that Twenty Minutes of Teamwork is working beautifully for those times when there’s a lot to be done and a tendency for us all to get a little overwhelmed.  Coupled with Pancake Speed, it’s amazing what we can accomplish as a family!

How do you involve your children in work around the house?


My Mommy Secret #3: Mealtime Matters

Mealtime matters.  And in this day and age where many families are dual income, we regularly hear from other moms how difficult it is to get their entire families around the table for a meal.  We feel their pain.  It’s … Continue reading

My Mommy Secret #2: The Dinner Table is Not a Battlefield

And then she turned 3. I’m not exaggerating when I say that she went to bed one night a “good eater” and woke the next morning to be a “terror” at the kitchen table. If it didn’t taste good, it was too mushy. If it wasn’t too mushy, it was too hard. If it wasn’t too hard, it “spiced her tongue.” If it wasn’t too spicy, it was too hot. If it wasn’t too hot, it was — you guessed it. Too cold. Different foods couldn’t touch or be mixed together (she got that one from her dad, according to his mother). Certain foods had to be cut. Other foods couldn’t be cut. Sometimes she wanted to feed herself. And other times, we had to spoon feed her. We found ourselves in a battle of the wills, at every meal, 3 times per day to get her to eat. Forget about all the battles we were having about HOW she was eating. Like a little piggy to the trough — straight out of A Christmas Story! Food was everywhere but in her mouth. Continue reading

Back to Basics

Yes. We have finally sniffed the smelling salts and have awakened to a new season. One that is filled with more date nights for Kory and me, more family time for everyone, and a more active approach to parenting. Thank goodness. Because things were beginning to get a little out of control, and there were times when I actually wondered if we would survive it. It’s not everyday that I find my two year old on top of a 6 foot ladder trying to reach the chandelier so he can swing from it. But I did. Just in time. Continue reading

Reality Check!

It only takes about one week of school before the idealistic plans I have for my family’s morning routine go up in flames, and I am brought back to earth. Today — on the 6th day of school — the fire started. And it was a doozy, my friends. 

When my alarm went off at 6:00 this morning, I hit the snooze button twice. In. My. Sleep. (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it). When I awoke 20 minutes later, and remembered that I was supposed to attend a tea for new moms at the school, panic set in because I actually needed to squeeze in a shower before getting the kids out the door — THAT was the death of any hope of having a peaceful morning with my family, and my feet hadn’t even hit the floor. (Not that I don’t shower on a regular basis. I’m just saying that there have been days when the demands of being a wife and mom have taken precedence over my personal hygiene. I hope someone can relate.) 

So I jumped in the shower, confident that at least my daughter would wake to her own alarm and get herself dressed, leaving me just enough time to get my shower in and throw on some clothes. But she also slept through her alarm. So when I climbed the stairs at 7:00, everyone was still asleep. 

I woke Taylor first to get her moving. She is my only indepenent child who can actually button, snap, and tie all articles of clothing, so starting there is always a good strategy. Then I woke Zachary and told him to start putting on his uniform while I ran downstairs to make sure Kory had started breakfast. Fortunately for me, he had. He is a great dad. 

Then, I flew back up the stairs to check on Zachary who was yelling from his room that he couldn’t find any of his uniforms. This was strange because I ironed a week’s worth of them on Sunday and set them on his bed to be put away. He didn’t do that. Instead, during a valient effort to tidy his room, he assumed they were dirty and threw them all in the dirty clothes. Fail. Back down the stairs to iron the chapel uniform…again. 

Once everyone was dressed, I got them downstairs for breakfast. Oatmeal with blueberries in it. Delicious. Except not to Taylor. She does NOT like what happens to blueberries when they are placed in warm oatmeal. (Kory forgot — poor guy.) She refused to eat her breakfast. Tears actually ensued. 

We opened the pantry to find something else to give her. But since we were out of milk, bread, eggs, and bacon there was little to choose from. So we gave her a Muscle Milk protein shake and some saltines. Yummy. 

While Kory was talking Taylor off the cliff over her breakfast, our youngest, Reed, who apparently is related to Stretch Armstrong, took his breakfast and created abstract art…on his back. Thankfully, we had not yet dressed him. Kory stripped his jammies off of him, wiped down the high chair, and spoon fed him the rest of his breakfast. 

But remember Zachary? We had dressed him and, bless his heart, he managed to spill the blueberry enfused oatmeal all over the front of his chapel shirt. THE ONE I JUST IRONED TWICE. The other one was in the dirty clothes with all of his other clean uniforms, so I fished it out, got the ironing board out again and went to work. I think tomorrow, we’ll eat in our jammies. And I won’t try ironing for the whole week again…waste of time! 

Finally, we got into the car. I turned on a Christian radio station to help lift our spirits, and we began the drive to school. After a few minutes, I turned the radio down and asked Taylor to lead us in prayer since our wheels-off morning hadn’t including anything spiritual. 

But as she began to pray, I found myself stuck in the same left-turn only lane I have been forgetting every day for a week now to avoid. So while Taylor prayed for a peaceful and calm day, I put the pedal to the metal of my red minivan and darted out into traffic so that I could get into the next lane. She actually stopped mid-prayer and said, “whoa…what was that?” I ignored her. 

Finally, we made it to school, at which point I realized I was driving on fumes. I didn’t have my cell phone, and my wallet was on the kitchen counter at home. Geeze. The ride home would harken back to one of my all-time favorite Seinfeld episodes where Kramer decides to drive as far as he possibly can without getting gas. It was funny when he did it! It was NOT funny when I had to do it! 

But I did make it home. And when I walked into the house, I finally breathed. And then I did laugh. The scene we had left was something right out of a movie. No family could possibly be this messy. Except we were. And we are.  I let it go.      

I have a friend who has wisdom beyond my own at least three-fold. We are both Christians, and we are both attorneys. But her kids are grown, and I always treasure her perspective. At lunch several years ago, during a discussion about the busyness associated with raising young children, she shared with me that her definition of “maturity” is “the constant lowering of expectations.” Those words stuck with me, but I believe they have only recently begun to take root in my own heart and soul. 

To be clear — my friend is not saying that we should live lives of mediocrity. She is a dedicated member of her church, she is an amazing wife and mom, and she is a successful attorney. But what she is saying is that it’s liberating to recognize our imperfections as we strive to live a life of contentment in light of God’s grace. 

So that is what I’m trying to do, particularly amidst life in the “daily grind.” I have high expectations for myself as a Christian, as a pastor’s wife, as a mom, and as a professional. And I have high expectations for my family. But I am also trying to let go of things that have no eternal significance, focus my energy on the things that do, and embrace God’s grace as the path that leads to a life of contenment. 

And that is my prayer for my family and for each of you.

As a new blogger, I have been encouraged to include photos with each of my posts. But who has time to take photos when the task of getting kids ready for school is about to take you down? So I snapped this photo later in the day because it was simply cute. Why are they wearing tails, you ask? Because that’s the way we roll!

What idealistic plans are you learning to let go of?  This mom of three would love to learn from your experiences!