Works for Me Wednesday: when shame is a good thing, or, how to get teenagers to clean house

Welcome to Shannon’s Works for Me Wednesday‘s blog carnival!

Before my post on how I got my teens to clean, I want to promo my “Seriously, folks” contest. The prize is a three-parter, worth more than $50, see it here, and leave a reply or comment here to enter. The winner will be drawn randomly next week! Now to the post:

After years of trying to build up a happy, whistle-while-you-work vibe around house cleaning for my offspring, the making of charts and lists and rotas, giving stars and tokens and hard cash, planning pizza dinners to reward their domestic efforts, I have finally hit upon the only thing to make my kids really clean.


Not the “were you brought up in a barn? how can you live in a pigsty like this?!?” type of shame. I’m talkin’ kin shame, in the form of The Aunt Who Bakes. My closest-in-age sister has a cleaning lady, and looks at cleaning in a different light than I do. She sees it as a challenge. She knows the state of my digs, and when she offered to drive up for a day and a morning of cleaning and organizing together on the weekend, I jumped at the chance.

I told my crew: “Your aunt is coming up here for one thing—to help us clean. To get rid of these cardboard boxes [in the living room, two deep, four boxes high], these shoes and boots [35 to 40 pairs], to find out what’s under that couch [I’m scared]. You will clean while she is here and that is it. Why? Because I said so!”

I don’t actually use that phrase a lot any more. Huh.

My sister and I cleaned the whole first day and gabbed and gabbed. Time went quickly, and the kitchen looked fab. The next day we moved into the living room. I made breakfast. Kids came down, including a friend of Graydon’s who will remain nameless because of his actions over the next two hours. They ate, sis and I had coffee. Then The Aunt Who Bakes brought out her shop vac, handed it to Graydon’s friend and said, “Here, you can vacumn,” and for the next two hours that kid vacumned while the four of us picked up 2,000 or so pieces of Lego and Magnetix and Bakugon and fancy hairpins and CDs and beads and bits of jewellery and makeup and coins and so much stuff my head was spinning. We did 10 hours of work in two, and for the first time in a long time, we could see clear through under a couch, chair, coffee table and shelving unit. There wasn’t a blade of bunny hay anywhere.

If my sister hadn’t been there, they’d have lasted 20 minutes tops before someone would have to make tea, or go lie down because of a mystery illness or there’d be a homework meeting somewhere. With my little sister there, they couldn’t leave. Here was their aunt, 100 miles from her home, helping us clean ours. If that wasn’t shame, what was it?

I know there was pride there too, because for the next few days, I could hear them saying, “Wow, does this room look bigger,” “Here’s a place to put my DVDs” and “Hey, there’s nothing for the puppy to chew on!”

I promised Graydon’s friend I would never mention his name in connection to this story, nor would I tell his mother what a great job he did, for fear he’d be pressed into action at home.

Cleaning with a sister who can guilt my kids into working without saying a word—it works for me!

Please leave a comment, and then click over to Shannon’s blog for a ton of tips on parenting, cooking, organizing, playing, you name it!

Can’t think of a comment? Am I the only mum with teens who won’t clean? When rewards fail, what’s next? Have you ever thrown their stuff in the trash, or any other drastic measure?

Enter my contest—save the prizes in your holiday gift stash! See it here, and leave a reply or comment here to enter.


Contest alert!

Oh yay! A contest! And the prizes are this fabulous book by fitness expert Claire Gillman, Getting Your Kids Active: How to Have Healthy, Happy Kids, (which is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to since this month is Healthy Workplace Month, and Graydon is clocking more steps than I am in the Pedometer Challenge!), the game Speed Jungle, great fun for three to eight people, seven years old and up, and a typical game only lasts 15 minutes. Last but not least, a Tim’s card for $10 so you can have a steaming bowl of chili and a coffee as the kids get healthy out in that frigid air!

So, what do you need to do for a chance to win more than $50 in prizes? Just click here, which will take you to my post titled “Reader poll—seriously, folks—how much do you want to know?” and leave a vote—yes, no, with discretion, give all the gory details, good lord no keep your grubby linen in the closet, TMI—whatever!

Leave even a one word answer and you are entered. The winner will be randomly selected from all those who replied.

Thank you!

“I just flew in from Philly, and man, my arms are tired…”

Always at the ready to find ways to help Luka succeed at the school game, I have memorized all the hint sheets for bringing writing and reading and math into his everyday life: have him take down the grocery list, read out food labels, add, subract and multiply to see which price is the best deal. Last night he almost cried while telling me how hard he worked at math last year to get an A when all he got was a B. I have to admit I was thrilled to hear that he even remembered he wanted a good mark last year, since this year he’s not putting too much energy in. Then he went on to say that’s why he doesn’t think he’ll work so hard this year. Aha!

Mental note: talk to teacher to get an appointment with Luka and talk about what he can do to inch his mark up.

I then congratulate myself for the constant effort on my part to get him to do math and writing and reading outside of school work, because obviously it is having a positive effect.

So, this morning I am driving hm to school and he says, “I have a joke for you.”

“OK. What is it?”

“What do you do with a squeaky mouse?”

I hum and haw and say, “Oh, I don’t know! What do you do with a squeaky mouse?”

“Oil it!”

“Oh my gosh, that is so funny Luka! You know what you should do??” I’m thinking, quick, how to apply this joke-telling thing to a learning experience—yes! He should make a book of jokes.

“Comedy?” he asks.


Ha ha, yes, my kid is funny, and his mum needs to chill.

Tomorrow is Works for Me Wednesday, and I tackle the C word: cleaning. See you then!

Things I Love Thursday: leaving the holiday planning to someone else!

tilt.jpgThis blog carnival is called Things I Love Thursday. The rules are simple: “pick an actual thing that you love. Feel free to do a product review, but make sure to let your readers know that you have been supplied with the product to review so we are keepin’ it honest.” Well, this little service is free for the asking! For more excellent things that bloggers love, check out The

For years I was the most organized Christmas person alive. I started buying and stockpiling presents in February, always finishing before October, even my handmade gifts. Cards all written out and mailed in time. Baking finished in time, some of it frozen, some of it stored. I even ran a fair number of the holiday initiatives in my former office—staff children’s party, gift exchange, champagne breakfast, corporate gifting for my department.

Then came kids and Santa got involved, then came all kinds of other things and details and I turned to the professional: Cynthia (the CEO) of She had a Christmas countdown that caught me speechless (I know, it doesn’t happen very often!): daily emails nagging reminding me what to do, who to contact, what to bake, where to clean, all with the goal of being practically task-free by the first week of December. And it works, by gum!

It was just difficult to also have a job and a family and a desire to sleep four hours a night.

So this year, I’m taking a new organized approach: I’ve signed on for the Canadian Living’s Holiday Countdown, which is six weeks of daily emails to guide the not-so-organized into organizational nirvana. At least as far as the holidays are concerned. If you want to give it a whirl, click here and go down the list of helpful newsletters (no joke, I get four of them) and put a check beside the 50-day Holiday Countdown. It begins November 12, and promises lovely holiday recipes, entertaining and decorating tips, without the guilt brought on by other countdowns (“If you haven’t baked and frozen eight tortieres by this morning, you will have no breakfast on the 25th. No time to cry. Start wiring pinecones!”).

For more excellent things that my peeps love, check out The

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: is it too too early top think about Christmas for you?? Have you used a planner like this to remind you and keep you “in the season?” Do you need a reminder service, or do your holiday preps run like clockwork already?

Organizing and cleaning the house—YUCK!

I found this excellent photo at

Sad to say, this is one of my family’s methods of storing: scrunch something that doesn’t deserve to be saved into something else that should be in the junk pile, slap a label on the outside and put it out of sight until the next clean-up.

Could it be that fall is in the air, and we want to carry that crispness inside our home? Or might we actually have to entertain someone in our house who is not a kid or as much a victim of clutter as I am? Or, do we really, really want to clean up the collective act in our house?!?

Luka and I had one of our early Saturday morning chats this past weekend. Completely out of the blue, as he was making Lego creatures in front of My Gym Partner is a Monkey, he says:

“Mummy, there are two reasons why we can never move out of this house. One, I love it too much. Two, I could never, ever, clean out all my toys.”

“Oh, I see,” I respond. “That would be—”

“But Mummy, there is one other thing.”

“Excuse you.”

“Oh yea, sorry, excuse me. There is one other thing that would be good about moving. We could get a much huger house that could hold all our stuff!”

He was pretty smiley after that one. He had hit on the answer to our clutter woes.

But all funning aside, it is time for a big clean. Stage 1 happened on the weekend. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Works for Me Wednesday to find out the details…

Reader poll—seriously, folks—how much do you want to know?

This is an odd post to be sure. If you’ve read my blog Because I Said So!, you know that I have three kids, an ex-husband, close family ties, excellent friends, a new puppy, a cat, two bunnies and a tank of fish. We have fabulously good times and then really bad times. Before Luka turned one, Graydon was diagnosed with leukemia. During the two and a half years of leukemia, Tessa was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder—her response to the trauma of Graydon’s life-threatening illness. Five weeks after Graydon went off treatment, I was let go from my job of 16 years, the one I worked at through Graydon’s entire treatment. One year almost to the day after that, our marriage was over. When the kids realized the only home they’d ever had would likely be sold, Tessa and Graydon both slid into a clinical depression.

Wow! That’s airing the family laundry alright!!

All I can say is the family situation gets better and worse, sometimes one at a time, sometimes at the same time. Sometimes one kid has trouble, the other two bond. One kid screws up, that kid has to make good. Or marks come in and there are tears and cheers and jeers.

Here is my own personal analogy, one that will form the theme of my first self-help book for parents:

Overall, parents are all swimming uphill. Occassionally there is a beautiful still lake or pond, and we all get to swim and float and play there for a while, but then the next thing happens. Maybe it only causes a ripple, and we can stay in the quiet pond for a while longer, but then there’s a storm, and if we don’t want to be swept down to the bottom where the sharks are, we start swimming uphill again.

After all of my uphill swimming, I am tired, very, very tired. I have caregiver fatigue, not a good place to be with three kids (and the animals, I know, although they are a cinch!), bills to pay and a D-I-V-O-R-C-E (sing it to the tune of Otis Redding’s Aretha’s RESPECT for the full effect) coming up, it is time to see my very own therapist. I have not done this. I have sought and found psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists for my children and for the family as a whole, but never for me. I hate to think of it this way, but that seems so subservient, mother-puts-all-others-before-herself. So, I’m doing it. I am seeing someone and we’ll see if it’s a good fit. It’s certainly a new chapter in my life.

So my Reader poll after all this is: do you want me to blog it? Not word-for-word of course (however, I might post interesting bits to YouTube), but some of the illuminating thoughts, coping strategies, useful advice, and just some notes on focusing finally on the MOM?

Maybe the process will help you see if there are parallels between my experience and yours, or maybe you’ll be able to say, “Thank God that’s not me!” Whatever your reason, please weigh-in with a “yes,” “no,” or “just select details, thanks!”

Now, put those fingers on the keys and type!
Thank you in advance for your vote. If you don’t want to leave it in the reply box, just email me personally at

I’ll be rounding the answers up and letting you know either Friday or week or the week after that. Hello! I decided to put a prize or two (three, actually) up for those of you who respond to my poll—the winner will be randomly chosen, so you don’t have to come up with something profound, although I really appreciate profound. Click here to see the prizes, then don’t forget to come back and leave your vote!

See you next post!


Things I Love Thursday: party invitations

tilt.jpgThis blog carnival is called Things I Love Thursday. The rules are simple: “pick an actual thing that you love. Feel free to do a product review, but make sure to let your readers know that you have been supplied with the product to review so we are keepin’ it honest.” This isn’t a true product review, just a posting on something I love. For more excellent things that bloggers love, check out The

Now, you might be thinking that I love grown-up party invitations, but no, I’m talking about party invites for little kids. it never mattered what the mood, how rainy the day or how tough a day it had been at school, when a party invitation fell out of a backpack or there was a knock on the door and an envelope came through the slot with a kiddie’s name on it, it was instant HAPPY. A grin from ear to ear, wide-open eyes, little up-and-down hops and a flood of: “I heard about this party but I didn’t know if I’d be invited what should I get for a present oh wait I know he loves Lego when is it I can’t swim does that matter can I give him and me matching tattoos we have to go shopping should I make a card???”

Luka, my seven year old, has invites to three parties in the next two weeks. This is a boy who was invited to three birthdays in all of Grade 1. Now it’s halfway through October in Grade 3 and he’s been to four parties already and by the end of the month, that’ll be seven. I am so happy for him, because he used to be a very quiet, kinda shy little guy, and now he’s so thrilled to be included.

Check out this fabulous printable birthday invite by Jessica Jones!

Got a party coming up? You can Google for printable invitations, and come up with tons of choices, like fun kid invites from PBS. Over at Hostess with the Mostest you’ll find a fabulous guest posting by Jessica Jones of How About Orange with the cutest free customizable printable invites and flowers for decorations—that’s them above. For an email or postable-bloggable e-invite, be sure to check out, where even a techno-feeb like moi can make a cool, video- and photo-personalized invitation that can walk the eco-talk (no paper).

Anyway, it’s so much fun to see my little guy’s joy at being included that party invitations are some of the Things I Love!

For more excellent things that my peeps love, check out The

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: have you sent an email birthday party invite yet? Have you printed or designed one yourself? What about just a telephone invitation, parent to parent, for a kid’s party? And the final question, do you forget to RSVP??