Wednesday, April 19, 2017

KonMari Mommy, How Tidying Up Actually Happened in a Five Child Family #mariekondo #tidyingup

KonMari Mommy
How Tidying Up Magic Actually Happened
in a Five Child Family

by Julia M.L. Whitehead

In order to understand why I felt compelled to write this article, there are some things you need to know about me. I’ve always aimed to live the adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Values of preparedness and thrift permeate from my core. On top of that, I KEEP things in the name of sentiment. So statements written by Marie Kondo in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, like, “Unnecessary objects in your home are a burden” and, “Don’t be distracted by thoughts of being wasteful” totally contented with my belief system.

My husband, on the other hand, is naturally hoard-conscious. I understand his desire to help keep our brimming home livable, but there have been times when the messes fuel his dejunking desires beyond what I consider reasonable. I can’t forget the semi-broken Mouse Trap game, the toy doll crib, and the action figure that I literally pulled out of our big green garbage can after discovering he had chucked them without my knowing!  You can keep playing a semi-broken Mouse Trap game that was bought with your child’s own hard-earned money, right?

The author promises “a change so profound that it touches your emotions,” and also that this change “will irresistibly affect your way of thinking and your lifestyle habits.” I honestly thought that was a tall order in my case.

As Kondo touted convincing each client to willingly throw out massive quantities of “garbage”, I felt nervousness, doubt, and a large dose of defensiveness.  I was leery about jumping in to such purging.  These emotions boiled inside me as she spoke of “re-setting your life” through tidying. Did I really want to spend my limited time and energy gutting the entire house? Had this expert tidier dealt with big families and large living spaces? I am among the western mothers who wondered how much credence we should give to this extreme, young, “Tiger Mother for Your Home.”

But when I answered, “yes” to her question “Have you ever tidied madly only to find that all too soon your workplace is cluttered again?” I admitted I must have something to learn. Kondo claims that the storage containers you needed, will often be found amidst current belongings. Re-organizing without spending money on more containers to store my stuff? That possibility appealed to a thrifty Momma like me.  So I continued listening and, category-by-category, the magic ensued.

Feat #1,  Attractive” CLOTHING
            Because I was studying this book with a group of Moms who expected a weekly report, I stuck my toe into the first category Kondo recommends a person sort; clothing.

            Getting rid of some too slender slacks felt sensible, and safe.  I said goodbye to one of my three swimsuits that the chlorine had made threadbare. With my closet eventually complete, I moved on to the apron drawer. Since I had received a new frilly apron for Christmas, I felt like parting with one I had sewn as a newlywed would be natural. The forest green apron with red angel print lasted about a day in the donation bag before I just had to run out and rescue it!  Kondo claims that “Just because you dispose of something does not mean you give up past experiences, or your identity.” But that apron’s memories seemed tied ever so tightly to its strings.  I couldn’t let it go.  I read on.

            Remembering “unnecessary objects in my home are a burden, and “what you wear affects your self esteem”, I tackled the rest of the closets in our seven person house. It was helpful  (and almost magical) to visualize the people who may be receiving some of the clothes that no longer served us, but were still in good shape. It was also helpful (although initially laughable, especially for my tweens) to vocally thank certain articles for protecting and adorning our bodies while in our possession.  I was in tune with Kondo’s personification of different articles, and found it helpful to wish them well on their journey away from our home once they had fulfilled their purpose for us. My family, however, could never do it with a straight face.  The fact that they were participating in the tidying process was enough for me, even if they didn’t concur with what they thought were eccentric antics.

            My family’s participation in my tidying furor was magic manifestation number one. Once we were all on a roll, we easily cleared out those closets, including throwing about a billion cheap department store hangers into the recycling bin.  Right before my eyes, the first garbage bag was filled. Shazam!

            Some surprising “Law of Attraction” type magic followed. According to Life Coach Talane Miedaner, Decluttering is probably the fastest and easiest way to attract something new in your life. It can be surprising and even shocking to see how quickly new and better things and opportunities come into your life.” 1

            Here’s how it happened for me. My sister-in-law, who was also reading Kondo’s book cleaned out her closet and brought her “tidying trophies” (a.k.a. full 13 gallon bags) to me as donations for a school fundraiser.  The fine arts department found an organization that pays by the pound for bags of anything soft. I was glad I didn’t resist the urge to glance through them, though, since over ten of the things she discarded were perfectly fitted to my size and taste! Please know that I said goodbye to one additional piece of clothing for everything I kept. (I know Marie doesn’t generally feel like this practice is a sufficient tidying method, but I hope she would still be pleased with my overall wardrobe upgrade!)

            As is the goal of Kondo’s book, I have now developed my awareness of what brings me joy to the point where I can go through a bag of free second hand clothes with confidence and ease. Rather than hanging on to too many “loungewear” articles, I pass them by knowing they will bless somebody else.

Feat #2, CLOTHING continued,  “If the Box Fits…”

            Marie gives shoeboxes a five star rating as storage containers.  In the past I have used sturdy shoeboxes for Legos or batteries. Marie’s praise of them caused me to take their usage to a whole new level. Each girl in my home now stores her tights in a shoebox drawer divider. Because my husband is not a box saver, unless it’s close to Christmas, I don’t generally have shoeboxes available.  Still somehow they magically materialized to fulfill organizational needs! While tidying papers in the storage room, we ran across last year’s Valentine’s box.  My daughter was magically willing to bid a fond farewell to Cookie Monster, and we repurposed him as her drawer divider.


            Will my girls’ unmentionables be folded and placed in vertical rows every week. Heavens no!  Way too many socks and undies are constantly a comin’ through my washing machine!  In fact, if it appears there are too many socks in this drawer, don’t fret. As any mom of school-aged kids can attest, the natural processes of dancing and dragging will reduce them before we know it.  My own t-shirt drawer also became permanently more pleasant and functional by applying Marie’s folding methods. I conveniently finished enjoying my box of holiday chocolates just in time to serve as my “junk drawer” divider.

Text Box: Office Drawer BEFORE & AFTER

Do I have too many notepads? Maybe. But the author has given the perfect comeback for times when someone questions your favorite collections.  “They bring me joy.”

Feat #3, PAPERS : Vertical Files = No More Piles!

            I took the author’s advice to "Try taking a pile you already have and standing it on edge. You instantly become more aware of what/ how much is in the pile." 

            I wasn’t sure how to get this job done without running to the store for more magazine dividers. Then I magically remembered that I had emptied one when I went through my books. Marie actually convinced me to get rid of at least fifteen old magazines whose content can now be found online.  Although my highlighting and margin notes can never be physically recovered, Kondo reminded me that the knowledge came to me when it was meant to, and is now stored somewhere in my subconscious, and I have to trust that I will recall it in time of needed inspiration.  Besides, this difficult parting produced exactly what I needed! (Because I underwent the Mind Organization for Moms course around the same time I read this book, the divider now serves as my “read and review” basket.) My husband has one that matches. Viola!

Feat #4, TOYS: “Toying With My Mind”

            The sleek, young, single author did not cover managing toys. She does have a section on Japanese charms, and what she calls “Komono”, or miscellaneous stuff.  Even given her lack of experience mothering multiple children, I have no doubt that she could come over and coach us through a tactical trinket overhaul. I believe the proverb referenced by Kondo;  “A messy room equals a messy mind. “ The positive effect that de-junking physical items can have on your mind is undeniable. This must be why, when it came time to tidy my playroom, the freed space in my brain made me magically able to come up with an improvement for the constant clutter problem.

            The Geotrax set that we love was overflowing out its Rubbermaid container.  Because the lid didn’t fit on, the pieces were easily accessible and the toddler’s temptation to DUMP resulted in a perpetual pile of unconnected pieces. Not wanting to go purchase alternative containers, I waited for a magical stroke of inspiration. Then it came. If I transferred the Geotrax into two of my holiday décor totes, the whole set would fit nicely inside his bedroom closet! I immediately did so, and switched the holiday décor into the awkwardly shaped long tote. I placed it under the basement stairs where we only need to access it once a year. Of course, I discarded a few unnecessary/ duplicate things out of all the aforementioned bins during this “stroke of genius” swapping process!

            Our playroom is also my youngest son’s bedroom. Notice how his closet is arranged with the long, heavy clothing on the left. (Go me.)

            The theory posed by the author is that if you tidy up “all in one go,” it will prevent rebound.  Because she wasn’t actually here coaching me (just through my audiobook ear bud), I surely held on to more than would be ideal according to the KonMari method.  Honestly, I could count on my fingers the number of garbage bags that are gone. Most things were donated. I guarantee only the absolute trash went to the curbside. Despite my long held tendencies to stockpile in the name of preparedness, I dove in and discarded enough to produce some promised visible and emotional effects!  
            At the conclusion of Kondo’s book, she talks about her favorite little green T-shirt with a Japanese anime print, that she feels silly for not giving up. With this confession, she gave me permission to indulge in keeping selected items, like my homemade forest green angel apron, that bring me a unique type of joy.
            Kondo eventually convinced me that not just continuous straightening of clutter, but having a tidying mindset is helpful in creating and maintaining order in any home. Her respectful treatment of belongings led to my respectful view of her principles.  “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” increased my awareness of the unnecessary STUFF surrounding me and moved me to deep cleaning action in a healthy, almost magical way! In my household we are not striving to be featured in a design magazine. We are, however, working together more effectively than ever to maintain the level of order we have worked hard to achieve.

            I am left to hope that all of the re-organizing we’ve been inspired to do as a five-child, one income family will really keep our house in impeccably tidy order. But alas, as my mothering friends could attest, that would take not only a tidying expert - but a bona fide magician.


Sunday, August 7, 2016


I betcha a speech and language pathologist would have a name for what I have noticed happening with Wesley's language development this past phase.  It is fascinating and hilarious.
He remembers just the vowel sound chunk of a certain word, and crosses it with another. Here are examples:

He has been interested in blowing on the white wishing flower/ weeds in the grass. (dandelions). He told me one day he wanted to find a "Napolean Dynamite" flower to blow. These words have the "lion/leon" sound in common.

We have a spin off version of the classic game, "Trouble" where the dice dances around under a clear plastic bubble. Instead of asking to play "Pop-O-Matic Trouble", Wesley pointed to the game and requested "Puff the Magic Dragon."  Same number of syllables, and the "Ma-ic" sounds match.

He was mixing up the names for wheel barrow, and parachute. I can't remember which he was calling which.

And the hilarious one came when he was talking about some dear friends of ours, the NEBEKER family. He wanted to go visit them, and especially their youngest, Jace. He told me he likes to play bay blades with "JACE HAMBURGER."

He says it all with a straight face, cuz he's not trying to be funny or clever.  I get such a kick out of it.

Good thing Moms are usually pretty good at deciphering toddler-eze.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Security Stroller

Letting go of My Security Stroller
by Julia M.L. Whitehead
Dec. 2015

I’m the girl pushing the empty stroller. The first time it happened. I was on my way in to the elementary school to volunteer. My two-year-old wanted desperately to activate the handicap door, so I unbuckled him. He reached up and pressed it with much satisfaction, then continued through the entryway on his own two feet. I, of course, followed him through the hallways, empty stroller in tow.
            I’ve since found myself “empty strollered” at the children’s’ museum, the library, and multiple times at the neighborhood park. Why do I continue to cart my stroller around when my pre-school age son prefers to walk? Obviously the ability to contain a child at a moment’s notice proves very helpful in many circumstances. Additionally, their little legs don’t always carry them the speed or the distance Mom needs to go. Ultimately, however, I’m afraid the real reason I keep bring the stroller along is that I personally don’t want to let it go! It is my security stroller.
            Before having children, I taught at a school where the stroller Moms would linger in the lobby chatting long after the ringing of the morning bell. Although it was somewhat of a distraction/ barricade for us teachers, I was attracted to the idea of someday taking a similar social stroll each morning. Especially during the brisk autumn weather, I gazed through my confining classroom windows to those stroller moms who seemed refreshingly free.
            When I did finally join that coveted club, I reveled in the liberating midmorning walks. In my youth I hadn’t realized that the price of that perceived freedom would include sleepless nights, and a myriad of other physical discomforts. But I tried to take those hang-ups all in stride. I was a stroller Mom. During one of my morning walks, my exuberance even inspired the following ditty:

No snow
Let’s go
Been trapped all winter long!

The time of year
To get in gear
And sing our stroller song.

Burn fat
Chit chat
We simply can’t go wrong.

Our little stroller song!

            When not striding solo, I developed dear relationships with neighbors as we pushed our luxury handcarts up and down local pathways. Over sippy cup drinks and pretzels we vocally sorted out the issues in our heads, and did our bodies an energizing favor. On days I was alone, I sometimes even broke out the roller blades! Multiple parks lie within reasonable distance, which provided the perfect backdrop for making outdoor mothering memories.
            Although a stroller can prove bulky in elevators or crowded stores, the perks can’t be overlooked. Gentlemen hold the door for you. Grandmas comment on your adorable bundle. You have the ability to stow all the baby gear while smoothly navigating new surroundings. Given these and other experiences, “Stroller Mom” has seeped into my identity in a very integral way.
Five kids and many flat tires later, my husband asked me if we could possibly get rid of one of the FIVE strollers taking up space in the garage. I quickly explained to him that the single jogger is necessary for trekking across grassy soccer fields. The fully reclining stroller does the trick for daylong trips when on-the-go naps are needed. The bike trailer is perfect for bad weather because it includes a rain flap. And we all know the umbrella must stay in the car AT ALL TIMES for everyday outings.  To appease my hoard cautious husband, I did finally find a trusted owner for the double jogger, and bid it a fond farewell.
            I have come to terms with the fact that my childbearing years are through. It is okay that diaper changes and breastfeeding are soon to be only memories. The crib has been taken down. But for some reason, I think the hardest thing to let go will be the stroller.
            I was ecstatic recently at the chance to attend a festive craft show without my youngest son.  But when I arrived at the non-kid-friendly event, I automatically popped open my umbrella stroller. I told my Mom and sister that the stroller would be helpful in carrying coats and bags, and it was!  But we all know something inside me just needed to push it around. Baby or not, it is my security stroller.

Question: What baby possession was/ will be the hardest for you to part with?

Challenge: Stroller or not, this week- take a walk!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Dance

I ran across this poem in the newspaper and clipped it out years ago to hang in my kitchen. I am ready to throw away the clipping, because I am "tidying", but don't want to lose the words.
They were written by a 10th grader who must have a wonderful Mom. She won a poetry contest at Karl G. Maeser Prep. Academy in Lindon. I would estimate it was around 5 years ago. (Yes, it has been that long since I REALLY went through this certain paper pile.)  Enjoy.

A Dance
by Heidi Hoskins

Mother takes out a cookbook and becomes a dancer-
The tile floor her glittering stage
The kitchen her auditorium
Her apron a glorious dancing gown.

She dances, Her music
The subtle plopping of ingredients in an orchestra,
The pop rock of oil
The lolling of water
The undertone of the kitchen timer
The sounds of heaven.

She opens the oven
Smells wafting, escaping,
Appealing to every sense.
Her gown streams along with her,
Like slowly poured milk.
Her grace is like butter in a pan.

Slipping sliding, beautiful
The kitchen seems to flow in unison with her
Following her unspoken plea of obedience
All together
The dance over-
The taste of applause is on your tongue

Makes me want to look through this dusty pile of "Light and Tasty" magazines that have been sitting in my cupboard for those same 5 years!

Thursday, December 31, 2015


By Julia M.L. Whitehead 12-29-15

“I’m at the Eye Institute of Utah, and I can’t get a glasses case?” A puzzling predicament. How had I forgotten proper protection for my faithful snerdy friends? I was instead offered several tissues, with which I graciously accepted, and used to  gently wrap the lenses that had made every day of my life possible to live from 4th grade up to this pivotal point. The day I underwent LASIK.
Two live consultations and hours of internet research led me to this decision.
After entering what reminded me of a spaceship through tinted sliding glass doors, I crawled on to the operation bed. I asked the assistant whether anyone had ever flinched hard during surgery. I guess I feared I may be the first. I wondered why there were no straps on the bed with which to keep my arms down. Then the word ELECTIVE answered my perplexed musing.
This was an elective procedure. I folded my arms into a self-calming hug, with my hands tucked tightly under the armpits. This was just in case I felt a reflexive urge to slap away clamps or other metallic objects approaching my pupils.
The attendants and Dr. Zavodni were, thankfully, sensitive to my uneasiness and skilled at talking me through the steps. The cones of white and purple lights were easy to focus on, as was the blinking green mass. I may not , however, enjoy laser light shows nearly as much in the future due to “flashbacks” of having to watch them constantly without the ability to blink.
Although it lasted only a relatively short time, losing the ability to blink felt akin to losing the ability to breathe! The doctor did a good job of keeping my eyes numb and hydrated with drops. I was thankful he wasted no time. But for someone who had never had any sort of surgery, the whole thing- from the metal clamps, to the recurrent flap-smoothing strokes felt harshly invasive.  Despite the Dr.’s gentle hands, I wasn’t surprised afterward to see a small red mark where I’m sure the clamp had rested.  I especially appreciated during the surgery when Brittney announced, “6 seconds left” so I could count down during the flap cutting portion.
I wondered if the Doctor noticed tears forming in my eyes as my lip quivered after the cutting of flap #2. I think I cried due to sheer sensory overload rather than actual pain.  During the most uncomfortable parts, I kept my breaths deep and even and tried to focus my mind anywhere but on the eyes. Thoughts of my cancer fighting friend, Alisa, and her toughness carried me through this comparably miniscule procedure.
This was one of the moments when my decision to have LASIK rather than PRK was confirmed as the correct one. The salesman at LVI (the other establishment with whom I consulted) was so pro- PRK that John and I were totally talked into it . I had also been scared by a review written by a woman who suffered from a permanent wrinkle in her LASIK flap. Further reading online referred to LASIK as a “quick-fix” when compared to the thorough permanence of PRK. 
Even up the moment I signed consent forms on the day of my surgery, I wondered if I should have gone with PRK. The documents pointed out, again, that I would probably not be able to serve in the military, be a fire fighter, or work for certain airlines. Had I ever even remotely considered anything on that list? Heck no! Still somehow, It seemed as though I was imposing irreversible limits on my future. My better sense told me that the opposite was, in fact, more accurate. Skiing, swimming, camping, and even wearing HATS would come with greater ease and convenience.
I thought about these new conveniences as I continued to focus on the blinking green light. Affirmations from the Doctor that I was “doing great” were particularly helpful. I must admit that the girl on “Meet the Mormons” did make kickboxing look exciting. And my neighbors the Jacobs had mentioned wanting to take us on a scuba diving adventure. PRK would have been the more stable choice for these types of recreation. But alas, downhill skiing, turbo kick, and snorkeling probably satisfy any need for EXTREME sports that may lie within me. So LASIK it was.
The smell of my own burning flesh/ tissue took me off guard, and returned my mind to exactly what was happening.
My worried comments such as “I can see a needle coming at my eye,” and “Are you going to tear out my eyelashes when you remove that sticker?”  were answered kindly. They were then, however, followed by reminders to “try not to talk. Believe it or not, it sounds like an earthquake up here.”
Before pronouncing the procedure finished, Dr. Zavodni did quite a bit of what looked like painting over my flap. I estimate about 20 strokes per eye.  I kept telling myself that having the flap straight was ultra important, and undoubtedly worth enduring. I asked if he had applied a sealant or glaze. He said the eye would suction back together and seal up on its own quite rapidly. Go body go!
Prior to going under the first laser, I had fixed my eyes on a square vent above me. Because others had claimed they could see immediately after LASIK was complete, I wanted to have a reference point with which to test the comparative clarity of my vision before and after.
My plan was thwarted, however, by the protective shields they taped over my eyes before I sat up. I didn’t realize they were see through! That knowledge may not have changed things, though, since I was reveling in the comfortable luxury of having my eyes continuously closed.
I gripped the hands of my surgical assistant, Brittney, with an intensity that reminded me of the girls camp faith walk. Because I didn’t realize the eye shields were clear, my mind had me stuck in a seated position, very hesitant to take a step forward.
She told me it would appear as if I was seeing under water, but I thought she meant behind the shields, not through them. When she asked me how my vision was, I took a quick peek. The time on the wall clock was 2:02.
Upon realizing my shields were clear and I could see, I instantly loosened my grip and broke into roaring laughter! I was tickled with the fact that I had survived the surgery, which appeared to have been successful. The Valium enhanced my celebratory mood to the point that my husband seemed in a hurry to get me and my uninhibited loud laughter out of that lobby.

As we drove around the streets of SLC taking care of John’s work errands, I kept my eyes mostly closed. His curiosity forced him to ask me whether I could read certain road signs.
Ross, Office Max, Smith’s, Michaels were all clear from considerably far distance. I almost felt like I had a new super power as I continued to call out words that we passed. “Upholstery Shop! Emissions Testing! Breakfast Buffet!”  Over and over I was showing off to my husband and thanking him profusely all at the same time.  He took me to Arctic Circle for some halibut (fish oil is said to be good for healing) and we headed back to the post-surgical check-up. Through goopy eyes, I appeared to be seeing 20/20. Spoiled satisfaction filled my heart.
The nurse commented that it was time to get me back home. I must admit that earlier, the “exhausted Mom” side of me had fantasized about the lengthy recovery I’d need had I selected PRK. An excuse not to drive carpool, hold cub scouts, or answer emails for a good 3 weeks didn’t sound too bad. I had begun a list of audio books to keep me occupied in my bedroom cave.
But reading online about migraines, night pain, and inability to see with full clarity for up to 3 MONTHS made me doubt  my ability to endure such a PRK recovery. It would take a strong trooper, emotionally and physically (the fireman type) to stick it out strong. Not to mention a team of family who could run the house for quite some time, minus Mom.
Several things happened the day of my LASIK that reminded me how fortunate I should feel for each and every day of good health and engagement in the life I’ve been given.
1. Patrice inquired as to whether I may be able to help in the kitchen at her
    daughters wedding reception. I would have sincerely loved to be there.
2. My dear and treasured friend, Kandace invited us sledding. An afternoon
    visiting with her would have been as uplifting as anything.
3. Lehi City (my EMPLOYER) decided last-minute to offer movie tickets that
                 day to all part-time employees. 4 of us could have gone to see Star Wars.
4. The moment I walked in to my home, I was able to welcome my 2 youngest
    onto my lap for some cuddles as I was experiencing no pain and didn’t feel   
    the need to immediately retreat to a tin foil lined room and make the world
    go away.

I did spend the large majority of the rest of the evening in bed. The day after was perfect for using up all of the coupon books my kids had given me for Mother’s Day and Christmas.
My eyelids and body were at rest, but I was well aware of the precious gift of daily life- which I could now more clearly see.

The irony that this photo turned out somewhat blurry is ridiculous. I am so impressed with medical professionals, young and old, who apply themselves and go through the schooling necessary to make life better for the rest of the human race.

Epilogue: The only rarities in my vision have been a few short lasting small patches of rainbow. Once was on my left shoulder while I looked in the mirror. The other was a circle of rainbow polk-a dots around my bedroom light fixture about 32 hours after surgery. I had  videoed myself walking around my house demonstrating how close I needed to get to a computer screen, the mirror, etc. in order to see pre-LASIK, and without glasses.  Many people who have been lucky enough to have refractive surgery told me that waking up every morning is still awesome, years later.  My alarm was positioned so close to my bed that I could always make out the numbers albeit fuzzy, so it wasn’t the best gauging tool. But the vinyl phrase above my closet was something I could not read at the time I made the pre-surgery video. Sure enough, each time I gaze up from my pillow now I distinctly see the phrase “BE PREPARED.” For the excitement of a new life, and the chance to hopefully someday, some way, pay the blessings forward, I will be prepared.

Published on :)

On Nov. 24th 2015

Turning Cooking Chaos Into Family Fun 
by Julia M.L. Whitehead
At the beginning of my mothering journey, my attitude was that the children needed to stay out of the kitchen so cooking would be easier for me. The spills and splatters from our everyday meals were plentiful enough.
One holiday season, however, a letter from my mother-in-law, who was approaching her empty-nest years, helped my heart become more willing. The letter was sent to inform us about the schedule of activities she had planned for our visit. She anticipated the buzz of her grandchildren’s presence with happiness and envisioned a wonderful occasion. Making fudge and sugar cookies were two of the activities on her holiday schedule, and little helping hands were welcome in her kitchen to mix, roll, frost and enjoy.
Here I was, at home with my little ones, wishing I could just cook a meal alone. And there she was, many years my elder, having realized that cooking alone is simply no fun, and, more importantly, that cooking may not be about the food — or the mess.
My mother-in-law’s longing for eager, albeit messy, helpers floated off the pages of her letter and into my heart like the aroma of gingerbread. I decided to take a lesson from someone who had been through the messy child-rearing years and now looks back with wise, but nostalgic, eyes.
So I cleared the counters. I stationed the sturdy stools. I put the baby to sleep and invited the children into the kitchen. Since that day, I have learned several things that make it easier when pint-size chefs participate:
  1. Expect a mess. Both mental and physical preparation is necessary to avoid feeling like the kids are invading or destroying your space. Think of it as a culinary construction zone. Those adorable aprons are for more than just looks when it comes to the children; wear them. I have my cleaning cloth in hand to wipe up little spills as they happen. While waiting for the food to bake, I involve the kids in cleanup jobs like sucking up flour with the vacuum hose or delivering cardboard boxes to the recycling bin. After all, they know the story of "The Little Red Hen." Also, the time constraints of cooking increase the odds for frustration. I save my multiple-child baking projects for open afternoons. A one-at-a-time weeknight chef’s helper is manageable for many moms.
  2. Stock multiple tools. I am aware that decluttering experts would disagree, but I have two rolling pins. I’ve even pulled out the mini Play-Doh rolling pin when a tiny toddler wants in on the action. I keep extra peelers around so we can all peel potatoes together, and I separate the measuring spoons so little hands can each hold their own tools while eagerly awaiting their predetermined tasks. I also will give a child his or her own cutting board with a butter knife and hard-boiled eggs or ham to dice while I chop lettuce on my cutting board. The kids crack raw eggs or dump other liquids into a separate bowl before adding them into the main mix to prevent accidental ingredient overdose. And I try to empty the dishwasher before these episodes begin to make room for all the extra dishes.
  3. Look for real-life lessons. You are teaching your children more than just culinary skills as you work side by side. You model cleanliness and hygiene as you tie hair back and remind them to repeatedly wash those finger-licked hands. And reading the recipe is the perfect real-world application of literacy. I have even made a copy of the recipe for my school-aged daughter so she could follow right along. Children also feel the value of serving others when it’s time to share their masterpieces with hungry family members or friends.
When my husband returned from work the evening of my attitude transformation, he found counters covered in flour and fingers deep in dough. However, children’s voices sang along with the Christmas music, and he could see that I was OK with the mess this time around. I smiled at him across the chaos, finally realizing why Grandma missed this mess.
Question: What has made cooking with kids a more enjoyable experience for you?
Challenge: Find a kid-friendly recipe, break out the mini-aprons and invite them into the kitchen to cook this week.
This article is courtesy of Power of Moms, an online gathering place for deliberate mothers.