Wednesday, September 17, 2014

5 Minutes to Clean: The Car

Yesterday I was heading out the door, ten minutes before school pick-up.  I peeked into the backseat of our sparkling clean (read disgustingly dirty) Mazda 3.  I try to tidy up every time I leave the car, but sometimes it piles up.

So I took five minutes to make two piles of all of the garbage/treasures in the car.  All of the garbage/recycling/junk I don't want my kids to know I've thrown away goes straight to the trash receptacles.  The other pile goes into the house.  If it's a big pile, I run into the garage to grab a laundry basket.  I pitch everything into the basket and toss it back to the garage to be cleaned up when I return home.
Blue masks from a celebration at church, a Captain Crunch nugget, Kleenex and random
junk from the side of the road.  My boys are collectors.
Everything else in the car fits easily between the booster seats.  I try to keep a few books and a box of tissues in the backseat.

Graphic novels help us survive the Seattle traffic jams.

The last step in the quick clean is to wipe down the dash board, center console and any other plastic part with some handy-dandy wipes kept in the door.

If I have a bonus ten minutes to clean, I'll wipe the windows and vacuum the floor, boosters and seats.  It truly only takes a total of 15 minutes to clean the whole inside of the car, but this is about a super-fast 5 minute sweep.

See?  Super sparkly... if you squint your eyes, you can't see the crushed crackers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Traveling with Kids - What to Pack for a Month Away

It's that wonderful time again, when my kids and I travel to the "Land of 10,000 Lakes."  We will be alternating between my parents' home and my husband's parents' home.  We typically spend a week in one place then switch.  This is to keep people from getting too annoyed with us noisy house guests and make sure we can see all of our wonderful friends and family.

Both homes have a bed for me and a place for the boys to sleep, so I don't need to worry about sleeping bags, bedding, or pillows, but I do need to bring blankies and their special puppies.  We can't forget their loveys!  I also keep some basic toiletries at each home - shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste.

I'm also lucky to have access to the washer and dryer.  I usually do a load of laundry about every two to three days.  This enables me to bring only one suitcase for a month long stay!  Here is a run-down of what I usually pack for my two boys and myself.

Boys' Clothes:
2 pairs of pajamas
5 pairs of pants
5 shirts
1 sweat shirt
1 pair of long pants
1 pair of socks
2 pair of swimsuits and goggles

My Clothes:
1 set of pajamas
2 pairs of shorts
5 shirts
1 pair of jeans
1 set of exercise clothes and shoes
1 set of dress up clothes and shoes
2 casual dresses/skirts
1 swim suit and goggles

My makeup and hair brush

An empty bag - to hold enough for an overnight stay
Any gifts to bring for family members
Laptop and Kindle Fire
Charger for cell phone

All of this will fit in my rolling suitcase that will be checked at the airport.  The boys will each have a backpack carry-on with their blankets, puppies and a sucker for the flight.  This trip I am taking the red-eye and I am hopeful they will nap, so they won't need anything else.  In my purse, I'll have a book, a notebook for notes and my handy-dandy planner.  If the boys nap, I might get some reading done!

Our winter trip requires two rolling suitcases for bulkier clothes, Christmas gifts and winter gear.  But the summer vacation is a snap to pack for.  It's so helpful when transitioning between houses!

What I will not bring from Washington to Minnesota: Pull-Ups, food, sunscreen, booster seats, children's books and toys.  All of these can be borrowed or bought when we arrive.  Our boys are usually spoiled rotten with gifts and attention for our entire visit.  Every trip I pack a few little toys in their bags for the plane ride.  They are rarely used and end up being more work to keep track of.

Reed and my nephew Gavin in the hammock last summer.

We are lucky to have Adam joining us for the last week.  He's a minimalist and I'm sure will fit his two pair of underwear and two shirts in his backpack.  I don't ever worry about his packing ability other than worrying about him not bringing enough.  We cannot wait for our trip.  The boys and I will enjoy every minute of our vacation.  Watch out Minnesota, the Shirey's are on the way!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Here You Go... Nope! Loss Aversion and Parenting

The other day, I wrote about our new summer schedule.  In this schedule, I have built in plenty of opportunities for "special treats" like Slip and Slide time, trips to the beach, desserts each day and automatic movie/video game privileges. Now this may should crazy and very mean, but I needed to add all of these special bonuses in our day - to take them away.

Stay with me!  Hear me out!  My boys have been soooo crazy, rude, entitled, out of control...  I needed to offer MANY wonderful activities to get them excited.  I would explain what was going to happen and then my expectations.  I knew my boys were capable of appropriate behavior but we're in the bad habit of not listening.  I needed this to stop immediately.  In the past, I would be frustrated that I couldn't take away privileges, because there weren't many.  My boys have to earn movie time with our "Smile Point" system. I still very much appreciate this system.  I don't want my kids to have excessive screen time and there's nothing wrong with working toward goals.  We didn't have dessert daily because I don't think food should be a reward.  We rarely buy new toys because I think that kids have too many and it's hard to keep kids' rooms clean when they can't find the floor through their excessive piles of junk.  While I hold all of these parenting convictions still, I had to look at what was more important to me: sticking to my guns or having well-behaved kids.

So I'm trying a new experiment (let's be honest, parenthood is one big experiment).  In economics and decision making there is a theory called "Loss Aversion."  It is the idea that people are more motivated by the thought of losing something they have than by gaining something new.  I needed to give more rewards, ni order that I have more Mommy-leverage.

Here is an incentive I previously used regularly: "If you are well behaved, I will get you a treat."  With loss aversion in mind, I know say:  "We are going to a restaurant after this for a special snack.  However, if you misbehave (I list my expectations) you will not get a snack there, you'll just have to watch us."  It's a subtle difference, but it seems to make a big impact.

Here's an example: Monday I brought the kids to the beach.  I began by saying that I was going to buy an ice cream treat for each of them before leaving.  Yay!  I said that I expected them to play nicely where I could see them.  No throwing sand, and they needed to get out of the water the first time I called them.  If they didn't live up to these expectations, they'd lose the ice cream.

Who doesn't love ice cream?!

They have a fantastic time playing and digging holes in the sand.  Only one warning about the sand throwing was needed.  Then, the true test, leaving nicely.  I gave a five minute and two minute warning.  Then I called both of them by name.  They both got out of the water, but continued to play in the sand while I packed up.  I called again and walked to the concession stand.  Reed (5 years old) saw where I was heading and ran to me.  We both ordered an ice cream treat.  I called to Jacob again, who again ignored me.  We paid for the ice cream and walked to the car.  Jacob (nearly 7 years old) joined us along the path.  Then he noticed our ice cream.  Whoa.  He did not appreciate the lesson I was trying to teach him.  He continued to alternate between anger and pleading for the next several hours after leaving the beach.

Tuesday we again went to the beach.  I reminded the boys of my expectations and of the treat at the end.  We had another fantastic time at the beach and amazingly, the boys got out of the water and came right to me at the end of beach time.

The key to making loss aversion work is that you actually have to follow through with the consequence of losing the reward.  It would have been so much easier to go back to the concession stand with Jacob and get him a treat.  Or get him something at home, but he wouldn't have taken me seriously Tuesday.

Give it a try!  If your kids earn an allowance from doing chores, but aren't motivated - change it somehow to money they receive weekly, but will lose that money if chores aren't finished.  Again, it's a subtle difference, but people are more likely to work harder to not lose something they have than to work to earn something new.