Category Archives: chores

labor day weekend: work hard, play hard

Labor Day! A dreamy four-day weekend and the last hurrah before school really begins. But before we play, we must labor. unnamed-19We bought the wood for new garden beds two years ago and these strapping young men finally nailed them together. Yeah, that’s how we roll around here.unnamed-22One must use these corner pieces or your garden beds to fall apart!unnamed-21Tenny was working very hard, too.unnamed-23We were away so much this summer that this beauty was one of the few, the brave, the proud…tomatoes hanging on the plant.unnamed-24These little punkins are somehow growing outside the garden beds in a random garden patch. Who knows how these things happen. It’s like a Jack and the Beanstalk story. We like it!unnamed-26And the squash is doing something. Remember: you can eat these tasty things!

unnamed-20 Do you see our dry grass? We’ve had an unusually dry summer. While boys nailed wood, I cut down all the hostas. This little gem of a girl swept them all up…unnamed-25And dumped them on the garden beds to protect them from weeds and winter.unnamed-27We peeked into the compost. Do you compost? It makes the most magical dirt.

After the work, came the play on Monday: the ocean! Whew!

unnamed-15Paige was buried as a mermaid.unnamedHailey, my adorable niece was twirled around by Ian – just arrived from Alaska!

unnamed-11We kinda like Ian

unnamed-18Beach games!

unnamed-1 unnamed-17Grandma took us down to the water’s edge where the children were given a history lesson on our ancestors and the great sink shipping at isles of shoals. It was fascinating. I’m so grateful for this woman! It reminds me: we need to know and write our stories or they will be lost.

unnamed-4 Ian and Nellie went head to headunnamed-6 unnamed-5 unnamed-8 Cousins!unnamed-10 Boogie boarding – my favorite! It was 90 degrees, making the New Hampshire water bearable.unnamed-9 Rye Beach, NHunnamed-12 Diving into the wavesunnamed-13

unnamed-16And the fab four came out of the sea together…ready to greet another school year. Ready to work hard and play hard.


When You Really Start Appreciating Your Mother

In a week the party starts. Our little cape will be housing one big happy family which is six smaller families which is 28 people, 13 of these lovelies being children. Got that?

We are renting a porta-potty, borrowing tents, and discussing karaoke.

Every year we travel west, but this year, the gang is coming east.

This year we are the hosts. And I have running thoughts all day long…will everyone have fun? will we have enough fridge space? what if it rains the whole time? I wish I liked my couch cushions more, will anyone want to come back?

In anticipation of such an event, mother dear (me) declared we would be cleaning for a week. You can imagine the rejoicing!

I didn’t sign the kids up for anything – no swimming lessons, no music, no sports, no nothin’. We’re having Cleaning Camp! It’s been awesome.DSC_0332Instead of simply tidying up, I decided the whole house would be purged and scoured. All while listening to Mozart.

It’s official: I’ve turned into my mother.DSC_0374Cleaning Camp is so fun! We wake up and sing with joy at the prospect of scrubbing base boards, sweeping up nasty dust balls under benches, and finding shrunken grapes under the couch. Unfortunately, these are true stories. DSC_0375The darling oldest child plays Disney music and says, “Let’s pretend we’re Cinderella and we have to work for a wicked stepmother.” Of course I can’t fathom what she means.DSC_0382 We dust the drapes, scrub the floors, and…DSC_0385 often get distracted by the Disney music.

DSC_0386But we quickly recover and go back to scrubbing grubby fingerprints off the wall.

If I didn’t know it before, I know it now: Children just don’t care as much as you do. And that’s okay.

I have been thinking of my mother a lot this week. Of how much of her life has been getting ready for her children to come home, to make sure they want to come home.

Of course, guests aren’t coming for the perfect house, they are coming to see you.


Still, I decided I needed to paint the closet.

For seven years I’ve wanted to paint this closet and I’ll tell ya, it feels sooooo nice. Even our Tenny boy loves it.

DSC_0380The staff decided he would paint the trim, something he’s been wanting to do for three years.

There’s nothing like company to spur us into action! DSC_0355 When we need food I go down to the garden, where everything started messy and is now growing so beautifully. Yes, my friends, the work is worth the effort. For plants and for family.

Down in the garden I munch away like Peter Rabbit. Who needs grocery stores when you’ve got kale and swiss chard?

After a few hours of quality Cleaning Camp with four Cinderellas we have a reward. Like lunch. And World Cup!DSC_0338Speaking of messy, my boy is obsessed with Messi from Argentina. Dempsey of the USA is a close second. And what’s up with the biter?

It’s quite perfect to sit down and in front of the TV and feel all patriotic instead of neglectful.

I think we must all be feeling the Cleaning Camp love as this evening when we said family prayer, Cope said, “Thank you that we could clean this morning and have fun as a family.” When I grinned at her she said, “Notice they were separate events.”

So tell me, are you having as much fun as we are? And please tell me you have fond memories of cleaning with your mother.



Took a minivan to Chinatown

The man of the house sang The Lumineers all the way to Boston the other day.

(Ho) Took a minivan to Chinatown (Hey)IMG_2069

Where Dunkin Donuts morphed into Chinese Characters (Hey)


The food! The cakes! I was inspired. (Ho)


The pork buns! (Hey)

Met Uncle Seth in Chinatown. He had just flown to Boston after visiting Vietnam, his birth country, the country he escaped as a child on a small fishing boat. IMG_2075Yea! We found him right by the pork buns.

IMG_2080“Outside you take pictures!” the woman with the pork buns scolded.


Outside in the cold, the older gents play cards

Boston:SethYou should be standin’ next to me…


I belong to you, you belong to me, you’re my sweetheart…

IMG_2081 Took a minivan to Mike’s Pastries (Oh!)

IMG_2087You belong to me, I belong to you, you’re my sweetheart. (Uh-huh)

IMG_2090 We came home to our snowy roads and wheelbarrows. (Hey)


And our chicken chores (Bawk)

ianUncle Ian took a plane to New Hampshuh’.

He works at a radio station and does voiceovers because he has this insanely deeeep and manly voice. He just finished a Body Verde Shaving Cream commercial HERE! (Woo-Wee!)

bowtieboyDaddy took a minivan to church. Wearing his bow-tie. You definitely belong to me 🙂


Took a trip with Grandpa. He loves my boy.

You belong to me

I belong to you

You’re my sweet

(Ho) Last One (Hey)



Mama Didn’t Raise No Martyr: Love Takes Teamwork

When school started this past fall, we were so busy that I got lazy with our chore zones. Suddenly the house was one colossal disaster. House asked, “Amy dear, what have you done to me?”

Realizing my blunder, I quickly put the chore pinwheel right back up on the wall:DSC_0371Whew. Much better. This is for Monday-Thursday.  Friday is FREEDOM. Saturday is something more fun – like a bathroom. And while I’m still picking up socks, wet gloves, and a million pieces of paper, the kids are pitchin’ in. They are just a tad bit tidier too. It warms my heart to hear a child holler, “I just cleaned the bathroom! Who got water all over the mirror???!” It takes such a lot of time and energy to keep a house even semi-clean.

Brynne says that when she is a mom she will have a spotless home with white curtains and white carpet in every room. “My children will pick up after themselves and my house will be perfectly clean!” I thought this strange as I eyed her backpack on the floor, papers and pencils and knick knacks strewn everywhere.

I suggested we start practicing her role as model mother. choresWhat I learned from my mama? She often told us she loved us so much she was going to teach us how to scrub the kitchen floor, weed, do toilets, and play the piano and answer the phone with more than a grunt. We rolled our eyes, but my mother was the anti-martyr and I love her everyday for it.

No, the keeping of a home belongs to the whole family. Lisa reminded me: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.”

Love Takes Teamwork.

Many lament that they just can’t seem to get their children to do anything. Well, that’s hard to believe since there is always something children want.  The best thing about them having kindles, ipads, televisions and computers? Chores get done.carrotsThis picture. It just makes me so happy. When they want something badly enough, kids find a way, don’t they?


We’ve had so much snow that it poses a huge challenge as we try to get down to feed the chickens. Love takes teamwork!


I sometimes fear that the girls will get lost in the blizzards and not be able to find their way back. But they always come back.


This girl has the job of shoveling the front walk. We’ve had so much snow that she’s lived out there for a few months now. It’s a bad picture because I was taking it from inside the house. Behind a thick glass door. She’s a good girl. Loves her Mama. Loves Jesus too.


Forced to feed the chickens all by myself. Boy howdy is it fun to sink up to my knees in snow all the way there and back. It’s so cold, the Downton Flock aren’t laying quite as many eggs. And the snow is so high it actually covers the top of the electric fence that encircles their coop. I pray the fox and weasel are hibernating in some other neighborhood.


Forcing self to run outside. Sometimes its nicer than expected. And sometimes every nostril hair freezes and I feel as if my hands are frostbitten and have already fallen off. I dream of warm. Does this picture make me look like I have hobbit legs? I like hobbits.


Speaking of work. One of our favorite boys EVER came to visit us for the weekend. Christian Yemga from Camaroon, graduated from Brandeis with a Master’s in Finance and NEEDS a sponsor and job within 30 days or he has to go back to Camaroon. Please help???! We love him so. Being from Camaroon, he’s digging this cold. It’s -20 tonight.


And even though it froze my fingers nearly off, I had to take the picture. Paige says “the sky guy has been really busy.”

waterlogueThe cold made me buy my first app – Waterlogue. So now I can turn all the snow pictures into a painting. Frozen in my mind forever.


It’s cold, but trying to find the beautiful in all this teamwork and love goin’ on. Luckily we don’t have to shovel this hill. Our town works mighty hard for us. Maybe they made a pinwheel chore chart too?



My Love Affair With the Vacuum

I have a love affair going on with the vacuum.  It began innocently enough – these things always do.  It happened after I was married, after the honeymoon phase, when the cares of responsibility were great.  When my husband was busy at extra-help sessions and I was the lone force holding down the dormitory, molding twelve teenage boys into men.  I’m sure that’s how they see it.  

While they knocked on the door to ask for parietal visitations (a girl visitor), a note signed, or to use my microwave, I was upstairs putting my wee ones to bed.

“Yes!” I’d yell down the stairs in response to the use of the microwave.

“No!” I’d yell down the stairs in response to “can I watch t.v. during study hall?”

Those were the days.

After bedtime I would crawl downstairs, dead-tired, and go check in all the boys, track down the missing ones, then come back into our faculty apartment.

And that’s when falling apart could well happen.  She could come undone.

Our carpet was a dark teal.  It showed every crumb, speck, sand granule.  I have a clear image of dried play-doh all over the carpet.  It was red.  Toys, books, dried spaghetti.  I would inwardly beg for the millioneth time, for housekeeping to drop by and work their magic on my filthy carpet.

Then Daddy would come through the door and life looked a wee bit better.  He never said, “What did you do all day – can’t you clean the house?”  Without many words we would start to clean the downstairs.  It was a nightly ritual I began to enjoy.

Because at the end, the vacuum was pulled out of the closet.  I always wanted to get to the vacuum first – I would actually rush to find it.  With the flip of the switch it began to transform my life.  With a brush stroke across the dark teal, the dirt and crumbs and occasional toy would be instantly gone.  Life was CLEAN again.  And yes, the tired mother had accomplished a great task!  Order was restored, we could begin again.  Tomorrow was another day and as God as my witness, I would never be dirty again!

Until the next day when the hurricanes would whirl their way downstairs and fling their spaghetti and drop muffin crumbs for the invisible birds.  I learned quickly NOT to vacuum wet rice.  No, it was much more effective to wait until it was dry.  No, the vacuum would come later, and all would be well in the world.

So you see, it was an appliance that was hard to compete with.  The mixer might make me chocolate-chip cookies, but the vacuum has transformative powers that outweigh even chocolate.  And that’s saying a lot.

This love affair continues today.  I do not sweep.  Unless it’s an emergency, we’re having company, or dear vacuum is in the shop.  I take it there frequently, for tune-ups and so forth, to show reciprocal love.

Most (all?) household chores I find tedious, but not vacuuming. 

Sometimes, in my zeal to feel good again, I vacuum too quickly

And there is SO.MUCH.STUFF.  Microscopic Squinkies (if you don’t know what those are you’re really missing out); Polly Pocket shoes, dresses, and swimsuits.  Popped balloons, earrings, small scraps of paper, shoelaces, rubber bands, hair balls…

The children know:  If it’s on the ground, it’s fair game.  I will go after it.  Little is spared.  Socks, necklaces, cereal, erasers, hair ties, candy, doggie, small toes?  Tough cookies.  Mom!!!!  What?  I ask.  Move your feet!

In my zealousness this week, I vacuumed up Cope’s memory stick.

And I had a choice.  To tell or not to tell?  An inner debate ensued.  She had left the memory stick out.  However, she had left it out on the end table.  It was a little bit a stretch for tough cookies.  Hmmm.  How much did she need that 68-page story she was writing?


I went digging.

And believe me, opening a vacuum bag in this house is not only enlightening, but disgusting.

But I found it.  It so closely resembled a mouse I had to fish it out quickly and be done with it.  What else was in there?  A purple hair tye, a blue band-aid, a dryer sheet?

Brynne and I couldn’t resist handing it over to Cope without cleaning it off first. She shrieked in protest, making the entire experience worth it.  

I put in a new bag and went on my merry way.  In less than five minutes I had accidentally vacuumed up Brynee’s ipod charger.  Dagnabbit.  Another inner debate.  Brand new bag.  ipod charger.  I showed mercy and opened that bag and fished it out.  Much less disgusting.

And then I was down to the very last bag.  It was a nice, expensive one.  The cloth hyper-allergenic bags I only buy when I’m feeling not-so-poor (translation: once).  

So off I went, vacuuming and singing a song that resembled that of Snow Whites cleaning up after her messy little dwarves.  I even opened the cupboards and pulled out the vacuum attachements, vacuuming up all those little crumbs that manage to populate shelves on every level.

But the attachment hit a bottle of bacon bits.  And I feel I need to explain and justify. The only reason I had bacon bits was because it was on a list of food storage items one should have in case of emergencies.  I guess it gives flavor if all you have stored is twenty-five-year-old wheat and dried black beans like we do.  So we have a few expired bottles in the basement, at least three years old.  A child saw “BACON BITS” and squealed with joy, asking for a treat.

Mmmmm, child liked bacon bits and ate them with her little fingers for secret snacks.  And then she put the bottle back in the cupboard without tightening the red lid in any sort of way except to plop it on top and leave it there.

The bottle spilled DOWN.  Down, down, all across and in-between the cereal boxes.  Down through cracks and holes and into other opened boxes.  Oh, cross thoughts filled my head – Ain’t nobody got time for that!

But hark!  The vacuum was on.  And so we began again, inhaling large amounts of bacon bits, getting every last one on the bottom of the cupboards until once again all was clean and tidy.  Order again restored.  And the mother was happy.  Task accomplished.  I put the vacuum away and tossed that empy bottle of bacon bits.

The next day, when it was time to feel that peace and renewal that comes from a clean home, the vacuum cleaner was pulled out.  Away we went.  Except this time a great smell of…bacon wafted through the house.  The entire upstairs was filled with the smell.  Down the steps I went, vacuuming rugs and carpet.  

It has been five days.  And still the bacon smell wafts.

I have no other bags and the mall is ever so far way.  “What is that smell?” Brynne asked after school.  “It smells like…bacon!”  As she scurried to the kitchen, she found only disappointment.  There was no salty fat cooking, the smell was simply our own special brand of potpourri.  And somehow coming from the vacuum.  A curious thing.

The dog usually barks at the vacuum, but now he follows me around sniffing, sniffing, practically salivating at the blue, whirring appliance.

How long can this bacon bits smell go on?  We have two guests coming to stay the night tonight.  Do I vacuum early and hope the smell goes away or vacuum right before they come?  How will the smell of bacon affect their psychology?

Sometimes it just feels good to get these things out in the open, to rid yourself of the secret.  But my love has no shame.  This special thing we have goin’ on is here to stay.  Do you, perhaps, have your own love affair…something we should finally know about?

One would think husband would be jealous of such affection.  Strangely, this love affair is approved of, even encouraged.  Go on, he says, get your vacuum love goin’ on.  And so, with happy skipping steps, I look forward to my daily vacuum validation.  Love is very splendid thing.  


Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores: Chore Wheel

Did you ever have one of these when you were little?
I did.
Chore Wheel Supplies:  
Paper plate, sharpee, brad thingy, construction paper circle.
The Chore Wheel has been resurrected in this house.  And it was mighty fine time for it.  Each person has a different “zone” each day.  Mom inspects and then child is free.  Day off of school?  Child is responsible for that zone all day.

We do the Chore Wheel Monday-Thursday.  Friday-Sat are different chores 🙂

It’s working.  Really well.
Even 5-year-olds can vacuum.  

And vacuuming makes everyone happy – see?

Paige has the laundry zone so she is vacuuming the rug by the laundry machine.  She’ll also clear off that counter and help mom fold laundry, although everyone is responsible for putting their own clothes away.

It’s working wonders around here. Even Paige says, “I did my zone!”  Although 5-year-old does need a wee bit of help when mom loads the laundry counter with compost.

“Can I play computer?”  Do your zone.  “Can I have a cookie?”  Do your zone.

What if they don’t do it?  If you are consistent, they will do it.  You don’t have to nag either.  Because when it’s time for something they want…then you can bring up the Chore Wheel.

The other day Daddy came home and looked around the house suspiciously.  “Why is the house so clean?”  I looked up from the couch and my bon-bons and said lazily, “I really don’t know, honey.  I haven’t done a thing all day.”  And just to get all Brady Bunch on you, Brynne jumped up and down saying, “We did it!”

That would be a partially true story.  Except I don’t really know what a bon-bon is.

And to be inclusive, you could put everyone on the Chore Wheel.  Mom, Cat, Dog, Husband.

Doesn’t this just tickle you pink?  Thanks mom, for all the chore wheels.

I really don’t have any work to do around here anymore.


The Help (in my house)

I’ve decided that if I had the money to hire one person to help me, it would be a house elf.  I would be very nice to a Dobby in my life.

I love purging the house but I don’t like the daily mundane tedium.

I like to cook, but I don’t like to do all the clean-up, all the dishes.

I like to do laundry, but I don’t like to put away.

I love a clean floor but I hate to sweep.

I love a clean house but constantly wonder, why oh why, is it so hard to keep it clean and fresh, simple and uncluttered?

If you could have one person to help you out, who would it be?

Hair stylist?
House elf?
Dish washer?
The chauffer?
Merchandise buyer?
Grocery shopper?
Bill payer?

Starting car maintenance early

Laundry has gotten much easier!

Way back when, when we lived in Summerfield dormitory as dorm parents.

Messes come with having a family.  I just know that I can expect that for every one thing I put away, there is always someone else dropping three things on the floor.  I hope it gives you great hope to know that as children get older, it does get better.  I’m not as tired or sleep-deprived as when I was nursing or waking up with babies in the night.  I have more energy and am not as overwhelmed.  My kids can pick up now.  No one is blowing out out their diaper.  Spilled milk is less frequent.  And if they feel like throwing up they run to the bathroom or grab a bowl.  You have to throw up?  Grab a bowl!  Not on the carpet!  

Having an injury was eye-opening.  It’s the little things that all add up and take so much of a mother and father’s time.  Recent discoveries:

  • My 7-year-old can cut my chicken into bite-size pieces.  She can cut it up for her siblings too.
  • My girls can do my hair (scary for all of us, but possible!)
  • My 12-year-old can fill out the lunch slip for school, add up the money, and write the check. I just sign on the dotted line (this was a trial and error moment.)
  • Fill out all papers for school, write all the notes. (again, just sign on the line!)
  • Make dentist, ortho, and doctor’s appointments. (with mom hovering with the calendar.)
  • Address envelopes, write return addresses, find the stamp, and put in mailbox.
  • Take off all the ornaments off the tree and haul the tree outside (comical)
  • Give the dog a bath (have them both shower together.)
  • Pour the milk at dinner, set table, clear table, do dishes without crying (hard but possible.)
  • Dust
  • Put up and take down Christmas cards from kitchen cupboards
  • Light candles (yikes)
  • Weed (don’t tell them it was me who tipped you off.)
  • Fold laundry and put away (it might not look good, but hey, they learned something and I didn’t have to do it.)
  • Get out of the car and put library books in the special dropbox instead of mom doing it.
At our last family get-together a cousin observed my 10-year-old making noodles.  He said, “Are you teaching your kids to cook or something?”  YES!  It was my proudest moment.
This is just a small sampling of how you can work yourself out of a job.  Boy oh boy do I have big plans for these little elves in my house.  And just think, they may complain now, but they will thank you later, and so will their college roommates, their spouses, and children.  Just think how capable your children will be and feel.  Think of the self-esteem you will be instilling in your wee one instead having to convince them, You are so special!  Really!  You are!

You will never have to say this out loud, they will already know it!


a day in the life

“What did you do today?” Brynne will often ask me, anxiously, after she gets off the school bus…An ordinary day…
Paige is learning her letters.  She likes to draw on the chalkboard.  But letters get old after awhile.  The best part is erasing with her hands.

Sometimes I try to fix things…like this topiary lamp.  This could very well be the last crafty thing I ever made.  It was for the girl’s room.  It is broken.  The shade sits wobbly atop the light bulb from constantly falling over due to a wobbly base I could never get quite right.  There is a burn spot on the inside that gives me nightmares of a fire.  I do not think it’s fixable.  It sits on top of the dryer as I go back and forth about what to do…It’s so hard to toss, but I fear this is what must be.

Brynne fakes illness so she can stay home with me.  Actually, she really was sick.  I took the kids to school and left her to sleep.  When I got back home I found a note on the stairs.  Lovely.

As the end of the school day approaches, piles of soccer gear starts piling up by the door.  I have many bags to remember.  Many smelly socks, shoes, and water bottles.

Other piles get piled as I continue to purge…yes, even the beloved books.  I tried using but the most they would pay was $1.49.  Donations here we come.

Sometimes I get a cleaning bug.  The ones in red are worth $1.  Think any of them have been done by any of the children?  September’s value is “Peaceability.”  I feel more peace with “clean.”

I’m trying to do a cleaning project every morning with Paige.  The pantry was one such  goal.

Paige loves to wash with water, soap, and a scrub brush.  We often do our chores in our pajamas and do not change until we absolutely have to.

We took everything out, washed and vacuumed the shelves, then lined them with contact paper.

Paige greatly enjoyed organizing the meds.  And she didn’t eat any of them.

Ah…so much better.

We like to take walks.  We went up the hill to see the water buffalo, the new puppy Reuben, and pick apples from the apple orchard.  I made an effort and changed out of my pajama pants.  Paige can get away with a bundle and  her rain boots.  Everything is more fun when you bring a little basket for treasures.  She is finally getting old enough to sometimes go without a stroller.  She will walk…but still asks to be carried.
Eventually we must get dressed.  At least three different outfits.  And pose for pictures for Mama.  Our first year growing sunflowers.  Fall has arrived in New England.  Colors will be begin popping soon.  When the sun shines, it is glorious.

Brynne likes to do dishes too so we saved some for her.  The three oldest have 2 dish nights a week.  “This is so fun!” Brynne often says with the water going full blast.  Cope and Nelson no longer say this…enjoy them while they’re young.
An ordinary day is sometimes the best kind.