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I like shopping.  I really do.  So I was happy to go out last night while the boys were at Air Cadets and try to find colourful dishes for D and P.  (I went over the plan with DA previously and he smiled, then laughed and gave me the thumbs up and his full support for it.)  Orillia is a small town so there are only a few stores open late on a Tuesday night.  I decided to hit up Zeller’s.  They’re carrying the official winter olympic gear so I was hopeful that they might have some Vancouver 2010 plates and glasses available.  No such luck.  What they did have were some pretty Corelle dinnerwear pieces that you could buy individually.  I wasn’t too interested in pretty frou frou dishes.  I don’t think D and P would be either.

Right next to Zeller’s is Canadian Tire.  I figured that’s more a man’s store so maybe I’d have some luck there.  Look what I found:

These funky vintage style Kellogg’s plates are microwave and dishwasher safe and they were marked down 50%.  I knew D and P would like them.  I also knew they’d go for these frosty mugs for cold drinks.  Mugs with technology built into them are a hit with boys.  I only wish they had matching bowls and cutlery for these cool plates.  No such luck.

I don’t often bring a Canadian Tire bag home with me so D and P were curious as to its contents.  They reacted exactly as I predicted when I pulled out my findings.  D lunged for the Smacks plate and lime green mug and P happily snatched at the Frosted Flakes plate and red mug.  I should have broken out into a loud “Bwa ha ha ha” then because little do they know that these gifts are all part of my diabolical plan to get them to do what I want them to do.  I didn’t.  I held it in.  I’ll save my insane laughter for when the plan actually works.

Today after work I found the rest of their kits at various Dollar Stores and the Bargain Shop.

D will use the lime green stuff and P will get the red and blue things.  I even managed to empty out a cupboard to make room for their new gear.  The plan is coming together.

As for rung one, we had our first infraction and floor scrubbing this aft.  There were no arguments.  The evidence was clearly in my favour.  I think I may put the rung two plan in writing and have us all sign it so that we’re all clear as to what is expected and what the consequences will be for failing to meet those expectations.  I’m so excited.  Imagine a house with no stray dishes with day old BBQ sauce stuck to them.  Imagine rooms that aren’t littered with cups with curdled milk in them.  Imagine launching sons into the world that actually know how to clean up after themselves.  Imagining it is good; making it happen will be even better.

In between boys, marriage, work and running a house, I sometimes indulge my artistic side.  Here’s my latest accomplishment:

The colours on this latest “masterpiece” really are fantastically bright.  It was such a pleasure to work on it when everything outside is so terribly dull and when most of my house is riddled with pebbles (LOL!)

On a happier note, I’ve been thinking about my pebble problem some more and it’s gotten me less frustrated and more motivated.  I realize that the problem started when we moved to this house.  Not only were we getting used to a new home and a new community but I was also entering a new phase in life.  After years of being a single mom, I was now a dating mom.  Eventually, I became an engaged mom and finally I am what I am now – a married mom.  In all that excitement we also transitioned from being a homeschooling family to a family that sent the kids to public school.  A lot of changes happened in a relatively short time and some good things went by the wayside.

Being on my own and homeschooling, I was able to devote a lot of time to D and P.  Being younger, they needed constant supervision.  I’m very good about cleaning up after myself and so I made my little charges clean up after every activity too.  Of course they did it because to not do it meant the wrath of mean ol’ ma and who wants that?  Not my boys!

When we moved here the boys were older and being busy with new and interesting things (namely DA), I left them more on their own.  Settling into the house took some time and not everything got a home right away.  As they got older, we also got more stuff and more stuff means more mess.  I wasn’t consistent about clean up with them especially as they grew to be able to do more things on their own that previously required my assistance.  I guess I  thought they would automatically internalize my clean up mentality but how could they really?  Clean up means different things to different people.  To me, clean up means leaving a room the way you found it.  To D and P it might mean that they put the bread away and put the lid on the peanut butter.  They’re not thinking about the crumbs, the sticky knife on the counter or the fact that they found the peanut butter jar in a cupboard and that maybe that’s where I want it put away when they’re done with it.

I’m getting annoyed with them because they’re not cleaning up the way I want them to and they’re getting annoyed with me because I’m constantly calling them and pointing out what I see as infractions.  First of all, I need to clearly define to them what I mean by cleaning up.  Then we need to use the “ladder method”.  What I mean by that is that we need to go rung by rung to get D and P to where I want them to be.  The top of the ladder is that they always leave a room the way they found it or better.  The first rung of the ladder is the front entrance way.  We need to start there.  The shoes or boots need to be placed on the mat (I may do plastic cut outs so they know where I expect them to be.)  Coats need to be hung on hangers in the closet.  Assigned hangers may be in order here.  Back packs will also have an assigned spot.  The retraining will start at the front door.  When we’re getting good at that area, we’ll move to the next recurring problem spot while still maintaining the good habits we’ve created at the last one.

What I like about this plan is that it’s not so overwhelming for me or them.  I simply can’t tackle all the problem areas at once.  I run out of steam.  It’s also unfair to suddenly expect them to leap to the top of my success ladder in a single bound.   Getting to the top is a step by step process.

The consequence for not meeting the front entrance requirements will be scrubbing the floor by the front door (after the guilty one has placed his shoes properly, hung up his coat correctly and put his back pack where it’s supposed to be of course.)  That smallish piece of vinyl flooring is always dirty in the winter anyways.

The first rung will likely be the hardest.  I have a feeling they’ll make it to the next rungs with a bit more ease.  Either that or I’ll have an amazingly scrubbed house.

Imagine that I’ve been given an amazing pair of boots from the most reknowned boot maker in the world.  These boots are unlike any other boots made.  They’ve been uniquely put together with me in mind and handed to me free of charge.  They’re beautiful.  Everywhere I go they draw comments.  I love the boots and do my utmost to take care of them.  They’re more valuable than anything else I own so I spare no expense at maintaining them.

Now imagine that one day I’m wearing my amazing boots and a small pebble manages to find its way into one of them.  I stop, take off the boot, empty out the stone, put the boot back on and continue on my way only to find that now the other boot has a pebble in it.  I stop and empty that one out too.  As I walk along the pebbles keep finding their way into my boots.  I look at the boots and wonder why.  I refer to the manual to see if I’ve overlooked something in terms of caring for them.  I even try repeatedly to contact the boot maker.  For some reason, he isn’t returning my calls.  This problem goes on and on.  How do you think I feel now about my amazing boots?  They still look good, they still fit and they still draw positive comments.  They’re not all bad but that one little problem changes my feelings towards them.  Before I just loved them.  Now, I’m a bit irritated with them especially since I can’t figure out why the pebbles keep getting in when I’ve done everything I know to properly care for them.

Those boots are my children.  They were a special gift knit together uniquely and handed to me.  They are more valuable than anything else I have.  In fact, they’re priceless.  I know their worth and do everything I can to properly care for them.  They are so special that I don’t mind investing a lot of time and money into them.

The little problem with my boys is that they don’t clean up.  I come home from work and their shoes and coats are in a heap in front of the door.  The back packs are carelessly tossed where they impede walking into the house.  It’s a small pebble.  I can remedy the problem by cleaning up.  It takes under a minute.  I walk into the kitchen.  Someone has made himself a hot chocolate.  The opened mix is still on the counter.  So are the milk and the scissors used to open the new bag.  There’s a little hot chocolate mix spilled on the counter.  It’s another small pebble.  I can remedy the problem by cleaning up.  It takes under a minute.  Now I turn to use the computer.  A child has been there before me.  The computer screen has been lowered.  There’s a plate and cup sitting beside the screen.  Someone’s had a croissant.  The crumbs are on the plate and beside it and there’s a little bit of melted butter on the computer table.  On the other side of the screen there is an assortment of pens and pencils and an Ipod with its charger.  It’s a small pebble.  I can handle it.  It only takes about a minute to clean it up.  By this time I realize I need a bathroom.  A child has been there too.  I can tell.  There are wet, bunched up socks on the floor beside a wet, bunched up towel.  Someone has taken a shower.  The shower mat that’s usually hung over the shower door is now on the floor as well.  It’s a small pebble.  The problem is remedied easily in another minute.  As I go about my business, I discover many more small pebbles.  This isn’t an unusual day.  I am irked at the small pebbles.  I’m irritated at all the minutes I spend getting rid of them.  I wonder why they’re there at all.  My attitude towards my amazing sons, which should be one of love, isn’t.  I’m frustrated with them.

Some days I keep dealing with the pebbles.  I call them to my sons’ attention and insist that they are taken care of.  It’s tiring work.  Every time I turn around there’s a new pebble to bother me.  Other days I try to put up with the pebbles.  I can do this for only so long.  Eventually our house becomes more of a rock beach than a home.  My significant other isn’t very fond of pebbles.  He notices them and points them out to me and expects me to do something about them.  Some days I feel like punching him.  Doesn’t he know that I’ve been trying and trying and trying to do something about this problem and nothing I’ve done has worked so far?  Most days I try to explain to him that yes, I see the problem and yes, I feel that something has to be done about it and that no, I’m fresh out of ideas how to permanently remedy the pebble problem.  No matter what I do those pebbles just start appearing again to aggravate me.

I don’t want to get rid of my amazing boots but I don’t want to wear them and be annoyed every ten paces or so.  What consequences can I give my sons that they’ll learn to do what they’ve been taught to do?  How can I explain to these two, who should know by now, that these little problems have turned into a mountain for me – a mountain that obscures my view of them?  If I persist at making them clean up they’re angry with me and life is even more tiring.  If I let it go, my spouse is upset with me which is just as fatiguing.  Is this parenthood?  Trying, trying, trying and getting no noticeable results?  Is this marriage?  The problem is mine and mine alone to deal with?  In the end, all I have are a lot of questions and an amazing pair of boots that I should be enamored with but in reality don’t want to be close to.  They hurt me.  Over and over and over again they hurt me.  They tire me out.  They make an easy trip that much longer and harder because somehow I’ve let them be flawed.  All I can hope for is that the boot maker gets back to me on this one.  And that I don’t lose it and seriously hurt someone before He does.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.