Working on Working – How Can I Teach My Kids Work Ethic?

Here's part of the pile of junk my boys and I had to sort through and put away last week during a major cleaning session that ended in tears an time outs.

Here’s part of the pile of junk my boys and I had to sort through and put away last week during a major cleaning session that ended in tears an time outs.

I can’t teach my kids to work. I don’t know how. There, I admitted it.

I hear all of the time that kids are lazy these days. I hear adults say that kids have no work ethic. I hear them the blame parents.

OK then, how do I teach them to work?

I’ve tried and I have failed.

If I have them help me with a project or chore they gripe and complain the entire time. They drag their feet and mope about.

They put things in the wrong place. They need me to tell them exactly what to do next. And it takes us THREE times as long to get stuff done.

Uggh. What do I do?

A few weeks ago I bribed my two oldest boys. I told them I’d pay them $5 if they helped me clean the garage. An hour into the project my oldest started having a meltdown.

“It’s just not worth it,” he kept crying. “It’s not worth $5.”

It wasn’t worth $5 to me either. It stressed me out. I was yelling at them the entire time as they sluggishly drug items back and forth while we sorted through and got rid of our garbage.

About halfway through I noticed a pile behind the garbage can of items they were supposed to be throwing away – a couple of broken sprinklers, a light tube, some broken wires, etc. They were saving them to use them to build a time machine.

Uggh. Counter productivity is our specialty.

Three fourths of the way through they were supposed to get rid of the bubble bottles that weren’t completely full. I turned around to find a soapy mess in the corner of the garage. Both of my youngest kids had suds all over their hands.

The best part? It was a cool day so my neighbors had their windows open. They could hear me rant and rage as I lost my temper. I was supposed to be teaching them how to work and I was failing big time.

The next day we had to tackle the mountain of junk that had piled up in the bottom of their closet and side of their bedroom. Because, as I mentioned before, they don’t ever truly put stuff away. They just toss it in a hidden spot.

We spent a couple hours sifting through their stuff. Well, I sifted, they mostly cried and whined about how long it was taking us.

By the time we finished one of them ended up in time out for the rest of his life – OK only for the night but to him it seemed like forever.

So here’s my dilemma.

Do I save us all a little heartache and clean everything myself? Do I wait until school starts and throw out half of their garbage while they aren’t even home? Then they can’t argue with what to save and what to toss, it will take me half as long and I won’t have to hear them complain.

It would be a heck of a lot easier.

But then they don’t ever have to work. Their mom takes care of everything.

I really don’t think that’s the answer. So how can I keep my cool while teaching them work ethic?

I want them to be self-sufficient. I want them to be hard workers. I want them to take care of their regular chores – make their beds, take out the trash, help change their sheets, put away their laundry, etc. – as well as help with major family chores like cleaning out the garage and planting the garden.

So I guess I’ll keep refereeing while they fight during family weeding sessions. I’ll take deep breaths while they gripe about the garbage cans being too heavy. I’ll try to ignore them when they argue about what set of sheets goes on their bed. And I’ll keep reminding them to do simple things like put their toothbrushes away when they are less than a foot from their holders.

Hopefully some of this stuff will stick. And one day, magically they will do it on their own.

And I’ll definitely make sure that next time we tackle organizing the garage, the neighbors’ windows are closed. Either that or I take a chill pill first.

I Stink at Summer

Its summer. Which means I can’t find our scissors and tape, our sliding glass door is always left open, tiny ants are eating sticky otter-pop droppings on our floor and I am NEVER EVER ALONE.

Ahh summer. Every spring I long for it. I can’t wait to spend more time with my kids. Then every year two weeks into summer break I’m in tears.

I’m stressed. I’m tired. And I’m depressed.

It’s harder than I think it’s going to be. Every. Single. Year.

This year I was really sick the month before summer break. Not runny nose and sore throat kind of sick, but Lortab, Zofran and Benadryl taking kind of sick. I started feeling better the first week of vacation but I was a lot less prepared than I wanted to be.

So it’s felt even harder this time.

Why is it hard for me?

Because I like order and routine – two things that don’t happen in summer.

There’s no schedule. No order. No break.

And there’s never anything we ALL want to do. (Unless it includes watching Netflix or playing Kindles – two things I’m opposed to doing all day, all summer.)

I daydream about hanging out with my kids playing board games or watching movies. I picture us happily helping each other fold and put away the laundry or making fairy houses for our new flower garden.


We fight over the rules to every game, can’t pick a show everyone wants to see, laundry is “mom’s job” and we haven’t even attempted to start a fairy house.

I have resigned myself to going three months without having an adult conversation. Why? Because my children are ALWAYS near. They want to hear, see and be a part of everything I do.

I used to have a little down time in the afternoons while my younger kids were resting. During the school year I used that time to get dinner ready, pick up the house or catch up on Facebook, emails or my Italian studying.

With no afternoon down time these days I try to get those things done at night but bedtime is also thrown out the window with summer. My kids cry because they want to have “late nights” with their friends. If I let them stay up late they are grumpy the next day because they refuse to sleep in. They will stay up until 11 or 12 and still get up at 7.

Sometimes we get them in bed at the usual time, and then I feel guilty.

I stay up after I’ve sent them to bed “early” and I see videos and comments on Facebook about how amazing summer is and how I need to let my kids live it up and I start crying because I don’t think I let them live it up enough that day.

Sigh. I can’t win.

We are three weeks into summer and I’m barely starting to adjust. I don’t know if it’s getting easier or if I have just let down my expectations.

I’ve given up hope that my children will play outside on by themselves sometimes and give me a moment of peace.

I’ve given up on keeping my house clean. Bring on the ants.

I’ve given up on pinning activities to Pinterest – I can spend a couple hours getting supplies and setting them up for about 5 minutes of fun.

Finally I’ve given up on comparing my summer to other moms’. I’ve decided I stink at summer and that’s just how it’s going to be.

I’m going to keep taking deep breaths to stay calm as I referee my kids throughout these hot summer months. And I’m going to do it all while exhausted.


Poisonous Plants – Know Before You Grow

Planting seeds. Just add that to the list of ways I am unintentionally risking my children’s lives.

Less than 24 hours after admiring how beautiful and mesmerizing my newly blooming Foxglove plants were I had decided rip them out and toss them in my green waste garbage can.

And I am sad about it.

I had grown the fantastic bell-shaped flowers from seed last year. After waiting for more than a year they finally bloomed magnificent. I picked them for their freckles – just like us. Our family members each have freckle-specked cheeks just like the insides of the beautiful Foxglove bells.

But shortly after posting a picture of my new blooming garden online a couple family members warned me that the flower might be poisonous.

So I took to the Internet and was sickened by what I found. Sure enough the foxglove plant is: HIGHLY TOXIC, MAY BE FATAL IF EATEN!

Apparently any part of the plant – leaves, seeds, roots, flowers – can be fatal if ingested. It can stop the heart. There are also cases of people having severe allergic reactions to simply touching the pollen.


Just add planting these in my front flowerbed to the list of mistakes I have made as a mother.

In my defense I pulled out the seed packet I bought at our local nursery to inspect it for warning labels. NONE. You would think that companies would have to put a warning on a poisonous plant.

I called the seed company to ask them why they didn’t have to warn people that the seeds they are purchasing develop into poisonous plants. The simple answer they gave me was because it isn’t the law to do so.

The lady I talked to said that ultimately it is the customer’s responsibility to research what they are purchasing and planting and the effects it may have. She said there are a lot of plants that if you eat them they are going to hurt you and that you have to teach your children not to put that type of stuff in their mouths.

She must have children that do exactly whatever she says. Mine, however, do not.

Kids will be kids.

I’m not going to lie I thought about keeping the flowers and teaching my children to stay away from them. But then I remembered what my oldest son did less than six months after we first moved to this home. He mixed himself up a plant drink from berries in our yard then lied about it when it burned his throat so bad he couldn’t eat. You can read all about that here.

But the Foxglove plant would stop my child’s heart – not simply irritate his throat.

How would I feel if something happened to one of my kids, or anyone else’s kids for that matter, and I knew this was a risk?

I carefully store my fertilizer, bug spray, harmful medications, household cleaners and other toxic materials up and away from little ones, how can I keep these toxic plants within arms reach?

I can’t.

So I’m going to rip them all out today.

And then I’ll probably cry.

I stopped by the local nursery last night to find a non-toxic replacement for the Foxglove. But I ended up stressed out walking down the shaded perennials aisles – wondering if any of theses plants were poisonous too.

I bought a couple of Hostas and that’s it.

I came across a helpful website in my research on Foxglove plants. From now on I’m going to check it out before planting or growing anything. I urge you to do the same.

If there are no laws about companies placing warning labels on harmful plants then it’s up to us to make sure we aren’t planting any.

My two youngest children and I each picked one of the Foxglove flowers yesterday and were admiring them up close. It makes me sick to think of what could have happened had one of them had eaten their flower.

From now on I’m going to know before I grow. Let’s hope I don’t accidentally plant any more poison.


Tooth Troubles

DSC_0409Twist, pull, yank. Wiggle with tongue. Then pull, yank, twist.

I remember fiddling with my baby teeth until I ripped each of them out.

I would get them to where they were hanging by a single root then twist them completely around when “pop” they’d sever.

Wahoo! I had lost another one.

I liked pulling out my teeth. It was fun.

But my kids are terrified of it.

My oldest boys have both thrown giant fits when getting rid of their really loose pearly whites.

DSC_0411Just this week my second oldest son had a tooth hanging by a thread. It was turning reddish black as it filled up with blood while wobbling in this mouth.

It had been ready to pull out for weeks. He could flick it from side to side with his tongue. I’m pretty sure it had lost all its feeling and I was afraid he was going to swallow it in his sleep.

So we sat as a family in the bathroom Tuesday night cheering him on while he cried. We cheered, “Pull it, pull it, pull it,” until he finally caved and twisted it out.


This is just the most recent episode. We’ve sat in the bathroom with nearly lost teeth begging our kids to rip them out several times now. And they won’t let us touch them. They want to do it themselves. But they don’t want to do it. I can neither understand nor explain.

It’s crazy!

And what’s even crazier is that they want to KEEP their teeth. They have written the tooth fairy notes each time they have lost their teeth begging her to let them keep it.

I think it stems from a Super Why! episode where one of the main characters does the same. He doesn’t want to give his tooth away so he writes the tooth fairy begging to keep it.

That inspired my pack-rat natured offspring into doing the same.

So they set the tooth under their pillow with a note and cross their fingers that it – and a monetary prize – will be there in the morning.

Why you would want to keep a tiny, bloody, dead piece of yourself is beyond me. But the tooth fairy has obliged and so we have several baby teeth floating around in plastic sandwich bags in their keepsake drawers.

It’s weird. It’s just another thing I am going to have to get rid of during one of my dreaded de-cluttering rampages.

I think I am going to threaten to put the teeth into a homemade version of a Fuggler. Never heard of them? They are hilarious tooth-filled stuffed animal dolls. Sure they are made from FAKE teeth, but I am sure I could use my sons’ real teeth for the same affect.

Maybe if they see their own teeth in a creepy stuffed animal, it will inspire them to toss the other teeth when they are yanked.

Then again maybe that will keep them from ever wanting to pull out another tooth again!

I’ll be back in the bathroom begging on of them to, “Pull it, pull it pull it.”

Kids these days.

Too Much of a Good Thing

I am officially a crazy mom. I have threatened to ground my boys multiple times this week for doing something they should do. Something most parents would beg their kids to do – reading.

What is wrong with me?

I think I have completely snapped. Actually I know I have.

It happened about a week ago after I tucked my 7-year-old into bed. I was trying to tell him something for the third time and his eyes were down, his nose in a book. I snatched that book from his hands, tossed it on the floor and declared that he and his older brother were, “GROUNDED FROM READING!”

It sounds completely absurd as I type it out. I am smirking at myself. Who grounds their kids from reading??

But they just WON’T STOP.

They read while eating meals. They read while brushing their teeth. They read while walking to the car. They read while in the car. They read before school. They read after school. They read during school.

They read when they are supposed to be picking up their room. They read when they are supposed to be showering. They read instead of practicing their piano songs. They read instead of listening to their mom.

And that’s when I get upset.

I realize that I have brought this upon myself. I have passed down my bookworm genes to my boys. I have fueled their passion for reading by buying them whatever books they want and taking them to meet their favorite authors.

I try to read the same books they read so we can talk about and enjoy them together.

I’m sure the perfect day for all of us would be spent cuddled up on the couch devouring the latest novel in one of our favorite series.

But life must go on outside the pages and I’ve got to figure out how to teach my children (and myself) that.

Too much of a good thing could be bad. Even if it is reading.

Reptile Rescue

Our new friend chilling in the grass at our nearby park.

Our new friend chilling in the grass at our nearby park.

What happens to our family when we take a Sunday stroll to the park to kill some boredom and get out some I’m-going-to-kill-my-brother energy? My oldest finds a shelled reptile meandering through the grassy field.

And all of a sudden the start to our summer turns into a turtle adventure.

Yes. He found a turtle – a yellow cooter house pet.

There we were just getting ready to leave when he walked ahead to go take a peek at the neighboring pond. He came charging back with something hard and round in his hand – the turtle.

Who leaves a turtle at a park? Who finds a turtle at a park? It was the craziest thing.

My oldest son holding the turtle.

My oldest son holding the turtle.

The boys begged me to keep it. That’s when I convinced them we could “rescue” it instead. I called the Ogden Nature Center, the local animal shelter and the Utah Reptile Rescue. But of course it was Sunday and none of them were open.

Not knowing anything about animals – especially turtles – I didn’t know if it was native to the nearby pond or if someone really did ditch it at the park. We ran across the street to our friends’ house and asked them if they had ever seen a turtle at the park or pond. When they said they hadn’t I made the crazy decision to take the turtle home.

The turtle, taking a ride in the bottom of our stroller.

The turtle, taking a ride in the bottom of our stroller.

And that’s how it ended up taking a ride in the bottom of the stroller. We walked it home, found a box for it and cut holes in the top. What on earth was I thinking? I guess I was just so happy it wasn’t a snake I took pity on the little thing.

I couldn’t bear to wonder if it would have died had we left it at the park. The thought of knowing we could try to save it propelled me forward.

We gave it some water – which it spilled all over the box – and a giant carrot and I crossed my fingers that I would be able to get a hold of someone to come “rescue” it in the morning.

First thing the next morning my boys were outside with the reptile. They took it for walks around the cul-de-sac, they chased it around our jungle back yard they paraded it around to everyone who came within a 50-foot radius of our house and they filled a plastic tub with water so it could swim around. They spent hours with that little guy.

Except for the moment that it nipped my oldest son’s pointer finger, they were having the time of their lives with it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to take it. The nature center said it needed a special permit to take a pet. They suggested I call the wildlife rehabilitation center. That center told me they don’t deal with reptiles. It suggested I call the “Ogden Turtle Lady” Nita Vono. Who knew there was an Ogden Turtle Lady? Sadly, she never got back to me.

We were stuck with the turtle at least one more night. My boys were thrilled. I was less than thrilled.

That first night we left him in a cardboard box in our backyard while we went to a barbecue. We didn’t get home until late and I thought I’d take him some lettuce as a snack.

One slight problem. He was nowhere to be found.

The turtle was missing!!! Seriously? Had it crawled out of the box? Did a dog sneak into our backyard and nap it? Did an eagle soar down from the sky and snatch it away?

Where in the world did it go? I was panicking. I searched the whole back yard with my cell phone flashlight at 11 p.m. trying to find it. If you’ve seen our new back yard you’ll know it was literally like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Many of you know I HATE losing things. Especially when I know my children are going to freak out when they find out it’s gone. I was stressed out all night.

The next morning I told the boys I had some bad news … the turtle was gone. It escaped. They were absolutely fine with that. They didn’t care one bit about the little reptile they had rescued and spent hours playing with.

I on the other hand was not going to let it die in my back yard only to find it later while doing yard work. As soon as we ate breakfast we headed into the back yard on a turtle hunt – half of us were still in pajamas.

I found him within five minutes tucked under a wild rose bush on the side of my house. It really is a miracle that I found him.

This time we put him in a taller, sturdier box and I called the turtle lady and the reptile rescue again. Thank heavens Utah Reptile Rescue answered.

They said they’d come get the little guy. Actually they were kind of excited. The man I spoke with said that they don’t see very many turtles like that anymore. He said they were going to keep it with about 400 of their other reptiles.

He also told me that there aren’t any turtles in Utah that are native to ponds. So it had to have been dropped off and abandoned by someone. My neighbor said she heard a news story several months ago urging people to stop dropping off their unwanted animals at our local pond. Apparently our turtle’s owner didn’t hear that story.

So there you have it, we found a turtle, we lost a turtle and we spent two days caring for, loving and playing with the green little shelled guy. Although we did find out it actually was a female. And its diet consists of worms not carrots. We’re hoping she’s chilling at a new pond with some new friends. Maybe she’ll find a husband and have some cute little turtle babies – all because my oldest spotted her in the grassy field of the park down the street. What an adventure.

The turtle in its taller, sturdier box.

The turtle in its taller, sturdier box.


bandsDoes anyone remember when small, colorful rubber bands were used in crazy, high-centered intricately woven ponytails instead of hooked and looped on looms to make key chain/bracelet creations?

I want my crazy hair back. I’m tired of our rubber band looms.

Well, let’s be honest here, I’m not necessarily tired of the looms, I’m tired of the rubber bands. They are everywhere! And I’m not talking about them being everywhere you go – the grocery store, the craft store, the gas station. I’m talking about them being everywhere in my home.

I don’t know where they are all coming from. I have bought my boys a few packs here and there but I think they have lost half of the bands in my couch cushions or in my vacuum cleaner. It’s a wonder they still have any left to make anything.

I used to cherish small, colorful rubber bands. I would hoard the tiny braces bands and use them to braid my hair for girls’ camp. I remember parting and separating my hair to make rubber-band anchored headbands around the top of my head.

Those were the days.

Now the bands are a dime a dozen. They sell for dirt cheap and come in every color and scent imaginable.

Whose big idea was it to take those bands and use them to fuel a giant rubber band weaving world? It was brilliant. I wish I would have thought of it.

My boys both have looms now. They even have an extra loom that they borrowed from their grandma. She also let them borrow a new kit of 2,000 glow-in-the-dark bands. Little does she know she probably won’t get nearly half of those back.

They’ll end up ground into our carpet or huddled in the corner of our cars.

I like the looms. I like when my boys sit quietly making their own bracelets. I like when they carefully lie out bands beforehand and get things organized and ready to make something.

The problem is they NEVER do it that way.

Normally I’ll walk into the living room to find a mountain of bands spread all over my carpet several yards away from their looms. They scoot back and forth from their bands pile to their loom, brushing them with their small fingers deep into my carpet.

Also, they rarely make things on their own. They need my help a lot of the time. And to tell you the truth I stink at using the loom. Half of the time my bracelets end up looking like this:

messed up bracelet

They are hard. I think I get in a hurry so I try to place the bands too quickly then I loop them in the wrong order and when we pull it off half of the bands fly back and hit us in the face.

Luckily we found a bunch of YouTube video tutorials on how to make things. That has been the only way we have had success.

We even pulled off making a Spider-Man. That was a serious victory.


But I don’t always have time to sit and watch a 40-minute video on how to make a waterfall-style bracelet and help my boys step-by-step – because if you have ever tried making one of those bracelets, you will know that you need to follow each step precisely. You mess up one time and the whole things turns into a rubber-band rats nest.

I’ve started picking up bands and tossing them. I know I shouldn’t. I know we will probably need them one day, (like the time we watched and followed an Olaf tutorial for more than an hour only to find out that we were a few white bands shy of being able to make the cute, animated snowman) but I’m sick of them peppered throughout my entire house.

The other night before dinner my youngest son put a couple of bands on his thumb, wearing them like a ring. That was fine and cute until he shoved his hands in his mouth in order to eat all of his macaroni and cheese and one of the bands ended up in his mouth. I had to scoop the food/rubber band wad out before he choked.

Help! How can I make this work? How can I make this fun? My boys love it. I need to calm down and realize that a few bands strung all over my house is not the end of the world. But it’s getting to me.

I’m about ready to melt them all down and make myself a giant, colorful paperweight. Maybe I’ll just steal them away and use them in my hair.

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