Monday, December 29, 2014

The Choring Curve

The thing about chores is, they are chores.

There is no system that will get around this. You can put purple stickers and happy unicorn balloons all over it and yet there is that nasty compost bucket still waiting to be taken out.

One does need a system, of course, but eventually the system grows old or wearisome. The choreishness comes uppermost. Then it's time for a new system.

It won't work forever. It won't get rid of the choreishness of chores. But it will help.

Chore systems work on the following curve:

Week 1: Enthusiasm for shiny new system. Considerable cooperation and only minor amounts of griping.
Week 2: Shine comes off. Griping begins.
Week 3-4: Agony. Chores are horrid and everyone wants to quit. Mother's will is still firm, though, hopefully, allowing things to proceed to:
Weeks 5-28: Routine. Chores get done, system works OK.
Weeks 28-end: Fraying. Chore system gets increasingly shrugged aside, fragmented, or just not followed. Mother gets distracted and cranky. Children are mysteriously nowhere to be found.

I used to have this feeling that if only one were truly virtuous and consistent, one would never need a shiny new system, one could just follow through on the same one, world without end, amen. But I think this was an error. Everything has seasons, ebb and flow, novelty within familiarity.

And now is the time of the new chore season. I relieved the kids of doing the hauling things outside chores (which they detest during winter, whereas I love the chance to go outside in any weather) and distributed more dish handling among them, which I could happily do less of. Today is the first day of shiny new system, and Duchess did a fabulous job on the breakfast dishes while I enjoyed my breakfast and Facebook.

The shine will come off. But it was nice today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

We're . . . sort of . . . doing the Christmas thing

A week of catching up around the house and getting ready for Christmas wasn't nearly enough. I am, surprisingly enough, a really good planner. When I have time to plan.

When I don't have time to plan . . . well, baking day arrived without flour and I totally forgot to check whether I had green chiles for an enchilada-based Christmas dinner until the last trip into town had been made. I still haven't gotten the house up to baseline-level Stuff Doesn't Get Caught In The Wheelchair cleanliness, let alone Festive Christmas Cheer cleanliness. The children's rooms are still the disaster that makes me want to swear they will never get new things again, ever. I didn't even dust the piano. I'm not going to have time to finish one person's gift and I think it's too small anyway. I'm tired and I have a sore throat but I can't seem to lower my immune system enough to get good and sick and have an excuse.

I did manage three kinds of cookies (after getting flour). That's pretty pitiful for my baking traditions, but it's what I could manage. We tried these gingerbread cookies (with half the pepper) and they were fabulous.  And these flourless chocolate cookies were awesome for gluten-free relatives (or, you know, non-gluten-free people. They're really good).

But Christmas comes anyway, right? There's something to unwrap. There will be something to eat (even if a little short on chiles). I'll try to sweep. I hope.

I should have pretty low expectations by this time. Around here it's a good Christmas if no one throws up. But I still would like to have things a little more together. Maybe next year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

We're DOING this Christmas thing

Christmas had kind of gotten sidelined this year up until Sunday. Which was OK, right, because it's Advent, not Christmas?

Only Advent is supposed to be getting ready for Christmas, and we weren't doing that. DOB has been absorbed with the Thing Not Yet Announced, I was busy with working and school and the Remodeling Project That Grew, and the kids have been shifting as best they can and listening to a lot of audio CDs. We did manage to get out the Advent wreath and readings, but that was it.

But this past weekend I put in my last day of remodeling. It's not done, but I am. And it's really, really close, and detailed finish work is definitely not my talent. It is an amazing transformation. We have eradicated nearly every scrap of country blue in a house which was one solid mass of it. Hopefully the new and improved pictures will attract a new and improved set of showings.

And I made an executive decision to quit school a week early. Since I didn't make this decision until Saturday, we skipped the whole vacation brain final week, so that worked well. We'll have to keep going until the second week of June, but it's not too awfully long.

So Sunday we had the church Christmas pageant and chili cook-off. Dash is gratified that no one tries to recruit him to be a sheep any more. He has hated being a sheep since the role was first foisted upon his toddler self, and most recently declared his role in the Christmas pageant to be "100 sheep who are not there." As a long-limbed first grader, though, he's solidly into shepherd territory, and shepherds wear fuzzy bathrobes and carry long sticks, so they're cool.

Then afterwards we had an unexpectedly gorgeous day and went and found our tree. (It's on the smallish side, because most of the $10 yellow-tag trees were gone this late in the season, but on the other hand that meant the kids could decorate it entirely without help.

The kids even tried to bring in the boxes by themselves. Some of them were too high up, but the big kids got a number of them. Deux asked, "What about this box that says 'Dishes?' It looks like it might have something."

"Oh, no," I said, "All the 'Dishes' boxes only have dishes in them."

Then when they had gotten through all the rest they could reach, I went out and got down the rest. And we searched through them all and found everything except the Christmas tree lights. Which, of course, had to go on first.

I went back out and searched the other miscellaneous boxes. I found some more things, but no lights. I searched the boxes we had brought out again. No lights.

I went back out to the garage and noticed a small box labeled "Dishes" sitting next to where most of the Christmas boxes had been. A light began to dawn. I looked inside.

Deux was pleased with bragging rights.

 Nothing got properly cleaned, but the decorations are up. This morning I rescued the Christmas CDs from the heap in the boys' room after they decided to repurpose the CD box as a fortress. I put Bing Crosby on. We read our advent reading and did a craft. I have butter thawing to bake cookies.

We're going to do this Christmas thing. I think I'm going to start with a long winter's nap.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dear Internet Writers, Please Stop Pretending You Know Me

Headline writing has always been the redheaded stepchild of literature, but the internet (which freeing us from typographic constraints, ought to have made things better) seems to have brought out the worst in headline writing. Or maybe it's even deeper, since the problem seems to afflict the entire article.

The formula that goes "Something Bland. You'll Never Believe What Happens Next!" was a lousy one the first time it was used. It has now been used 5,403,243 times. It really, really should never be used again. Yes, *I* will believe what happened next, because *I* know exactly how oversensationalized internet stories work. Everyone will burst into dancing, somebody will do something really nice without an obvious reason, and/or a crafter will make something quite clever. If it were something truly unbelievable, like a visitation from Narn or a rift in the space-time continuum, you wouldn't need to jazz it up with such a lame headline. "Giant lizards from space in awesome leather coats visit Munich" just doesn't need anything more.

It's probably the need for constant content. We just can't have these massive bandwidths of information and let them go empty, can we? Yet, giant lizards so seldom visit. So we must pretend that the adventures of our pet cats are Every! Bit! As! Exciting!

(You know another meme that needs to die now? "Keep Calm and . . . " Yes, it was a fine wartime slogan and the first 15 iterations were mildly amusing. It's done now. Let it die. Stop making t-shirts.)

But the *really* annoying thing is when this presumption moves from doubting my ability to believe completely believable things and begins making moral assumptions. Such as this article, titled "5 Ways You Are Unknowingly Destroying Your Husband and Killing Your Marriage." Well, I surely did not know I was killing my marriage in those ways, especially since the first one on the list was "Living beyond your means" and mentioned how I might have to suppress my desire for a Kate Spade bag. (Actually, I have no idea what a Kate Spade bag is, but I was pretty happy when my friend gave me a bit of silver wire so I could rewire the handle on the purse I got from the thrift store a year or two ago and hopefully get another couple of years out of it.) Without this article, I definitely would not have known my rampant spending was threatening my marriage, although I had noticed that at times the dry heaves I get at the prospect of ever spending money on anything do seem to cause a bit of a strain.

OK, at some point the article did throw a "might" in there. As in, you "might" have these problems. But, you know, let us not let the possibility that different people struggle with different things (and, oh, that not every minor stress in a marriage is sending it into a death-spiral) keep us from writing a sensational headline.

Why is it so difficult to just write what you mean? What is meant appears to be, "Here are some attitudes that can cause more problems in a marriage than first appears." Nothing's wrong with that.

Of course, once an internet article writer faces up to an honest, straightforward assessment of what they have to say, they might just discover that . . . it's not much. And that would let all that bandwidth go empty. We couldn't have that, now could we?