Home again

There was a good chunk of time when I felt like an intruder in my own home. There were caregivers living in my house who were less than happy with me. My husband wasn't speaking to me. I felt pretty out of control of my situation. 

I wanted desperately to retreat from the house to anywhere else. I also had Ian to consider. It meant spending time at the house until Ian went to sleep and then running away until late that night or the next morning before dawn. It was toxic in the house, and not just because of all the bowel fluid. There was a dark cloud hanging over the property, as far as I was concerned. 

And then Rich died. And the caregivers left. And we got past the funeral and the drama of my scandalous actions the last two years. And the world continued to turn on its axis and birds built nests and flowers bloomed. 

I had my lawn mowed, trimmed, and edged by Lil Don and his uncle. They hacked away all the bamboo that had taken over the last 10 feet of my property. My azaleas are now lower than the front windows. 

I brought Lil Don and his uncle back last week to pressure wash the house and garage. My buildings are white again! I opened the pool and the water is actually clear. It's completely clean and running great. Children laugh and splash for hours while I nap in the hammock. I ordered a retractable awning for the back deck so I can chill out there without bursting into flames. 

I put new artwork up in the living room. I ordered three canvases to put up in my bedroom. I open the windows every morning to let sunlight into the whole house. I have called for bulk pick ups almost every week to take away moldy hockey gear, piles of junk from the garage, and the broken bits of the trampoline net. I threw away countless numbers of DVDs and books.

I sold a pavilion. I will soon get my other pavilion back home. (Many thanks to Rob for storing it for like 700 days.) I gave away three of the four camp beds. (Why did we have four camp beds?!) I hacked up the recliner in the back yard. I threw away lovely handmade gifts from hateful people. I did save all the sappy love letters from Beatrice, though, because they're an amazing and amusing testament to crazy.

I put all my motorcycle equipment in the cubbies that once held medical supplies. I have a ridiculous set of cat stairs for Kitterson to get into my bed and it delights me to see her use them every night before she curls up with me. I gave away the coffee machine and replaced it with a burr grinder and French press for my Death Wish coffee. The second fridge is full of organic veggies from my CSA instead of bags of TPN. 

I walk around my house in little to no clothes because there are no guests sleeping on my couch. I listen to music in the kitchen every day. 

I've made appointments with my witch doctor, my therapist, my hair dresser, my photographer, my endocrinologist, my massage therapist, and my trigger release therapist and they're all helping me get back to me. I had the opportunity to go out of town this weekend and chose to stay home simply because it's so nice here. 

I am home.

 Hammock time

Hammock time

Because we are not savages: assigning chores and an allowance

About six months ago I started giving Ian an allowance. It actually has saved me money in that he stopped begging me to buy him things at Target, Toys R Us, and online. My answer was always, "You have money now. Save for what you want to buy." 

Every Monday, Ian gets $1 for every year he is old. $5 of those dollars goes into a spending account and then $1 goes into savings and $1 goes into a charity account for him to decide what he wants to do. If you're looking for a great way to keep track of all that stuff, I highly recommend FamZoo. There are many weeks I would have totally forgotten to pay him otherwise.

I had some general things around the house that I wanted him to help me with but there wasn't a check list or a chore chart anywhere. I kinda felt like there are just some things that he needed to do in order to keep the house going. Honestly, I've not had the bandwidth for coming up with some sort of chore system until now.

The last few days I've been pondering how to modify this plan. Since Ian has a lady friend he's taking out for taco burritos* and sodas, he wants to have more money in his wallet. I can respect that. This also means, however, that he's been hounding me the last few days for jobs at home that will earn him money. 

I am in uncharted territory when it comes to all this stuff as I never had an allowance, or a bedtime, or chores, or a curfew, or ... I was raised by wolves. Wonderful, amazing, loving, wolves. 

I started with three levels of expectations. The first section is: Because We Are Not Savages. These are things that you just need to do to separate yourself from dogs. They include:

  • Put on clean clothes
  • Brush your teeth
  • Clean your body
  • Make your bed
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Make good choices about food
  • Help prepare meals
  • Clean up after eating 
  • Put dirty dishes in the sink
  • Do your homework 
  • Reduce needless noise in the home (turn off the damn TV!)
  • Listen generously
  • Help bring groceries into the house
  • Put things back when you're done
  • Leave things better than you found them

The "payment" for those things is getting to sleep in a bed, kisses on the head, and moving along the path of becoming a kind, clever, upstanding member of society. Congratulations.

 All the essentials on our fridge. 

All the essentials on our fridge. 

The next level includes the things that earn him his base salary of $5 a week. They include:

  • Feed the pets & refill the water bowl daily
  • Clean up toys in your room daily
  • Empty the small trash cans around the house on the night before trash day
  • Bring the empty trash cans in from the curb after trash day
  • Put away your laundry
  • Sweep the kitchen floor
  • Sweep the front porch
  • Sweep the bathroom floors
  • Clean bathroom sinks & mirrors
  • Vacuum downstairs (we have a cordless Dyson that is seven-year-old friendly)
  • Dust the shelves (the dog hair levitates) 

None of those jobs are really a back-breaker. And they're all things that have to happen pretty regularly in order for the house to not look like a sty. If he only did those things and nothing else, I would be satisfied. But the boy wants to make some more money, so I added another level.

He is able to make up to another $10 by performing additional chores for money. Those are:

  • Wipe down the outside of the kitchen trash can and the fridge handles ($0.50)
  • Empty the four litter boxes ($1 each, up to twice a week)
  • Scrub toilets and wipe them down ($1 per toilet, once a week)
  • Wipe down the leather living room furniture ($1, once per week)
  • Wipe down the stove ($0.25 each day)
  • Wipe down the kitchen counters ($0.25 each day)

Shrop felt like the chores involving poop should have a higher pay rate, but I'm gonna see if Ian protests. It's not like anybody was paying me anything to clean cat boxes and there are a lot of cat boxes in this joint. 

And finally, my favorite job. I added a Bonus Adventure Assignment. If Ian chooses to go on an unsupervised adventure of at least 30 minutes and reports on his findings, he earns $3! This adventure can not happen on our street (if I can still hear you playing, you're not adventuring). The report must be written before payment can be received. Photos and video are encouraged. 

 The iPhone allows me to stalk my kid's location using Find Friends while still giving him freedom.

The iPhone allows me to stalk my kid's location using Find Friends while still giving him freedom.

Yes, $3 is a lot. But when we got to that section of the document, Ian FLEW off of the sofa, grabbed his phone and his Stryker bag, and was off to the school playground! He was gone for an hour. He called to tell me he finished his report, he called again when he got to our driveway, and he raced straight to the couch to share it with me.

After collecting his $3, he went back to the chart. He swept the front porch, hunted for things to put away in his room, fed the dogs, and swept the kitchen. He just kept saying, "I like helping out around the house, Mommy." I could see him taking pride in what he was doing. 

He took a bath while I read him the next chapter of Harry Potter and then he was out like a light. This anxious, nervous, wayward kid without a rudder just smiled and said, "good night, Mommy." I would pay a lot more than $3 to see this change in him.

Shrop has a theory that kids crave structure. I knew that academically but I wasn't sure how I wanted to implement things in our home. I was also concerned about turning our house into a boot camp or my kid into some asshole who wouldn't be decent unless he was paid to do so. I had a lot of worries (he comes by it honest). It seems Shrop's theory is proving sound so far.

After his reasonable run in with the cops this weekend and his obvious delight today, I'm feeling better about all of this. And so is Ian.

 Adventure report filed. $3 in hand! He gave himself an 8/10 score because of his handwriting.

Adventure report filed. $3 in hand! He gave himself an 8/10 score because of his handwriting.

* I love listening to kids explain things. When Ian and Maylee returned from Taco Bell they talked about what a great deal the taco burrito was "because it's actually a taco *and* a burrito so you get two things in the same paper for $1.59 and that's a real bargain."