Making Music

I like to make lists. I’m a Virgo with German heritage. Let’s just say I prefer order to chaos. But I also like to put a little something fun on my list of drudgery. Here’s my list for today:

1. Grade 15 research proposals

2. Update course grades in Blackboard

3. Summer course design

4. Email FWR transcript

5. Meet with Caron

Did you see what I did just there? I don’t have to meet with Caron. I get to. We’ll go to a fancy French cafe and pretend to talk about a conference proposals. We’ll laugh and gossip. It’s work. Of course it is. But it’s also a little fun on my to-do list.

I do the same on Sissy and Piper’s chore list. Check out chore number


That’s right. Making music is required in our house. Daily. You have a choice, though. Sissy can practice piano, guitar, or flute. She’s a three instrument kind of girl. Piper can play her drums, bongos, tambourine, or sing. Making music is so much more interesting can cleaning out your lunch box or setting the dinner table. Both have to be done, of course, but somehow the not-so-fun becomes more fun when there is a carrot waving in front of your face. Even with the incentive, Piper tries to find creative ways to get out of being told what to do.

“If I set the table in the American Girl world, does that count as a chore?”

“No, Piper. It doesn’t. We can’t all eat at the American Girl table. Can we?”

“If I eat all my food and lick out my lunch containers, does that count as clean?”

“No, Piper. It doesn’t. That doesn’t sound very hygienic.”

“If I sing to my stuffed animals with my microphone, does that count as Making Music?”

“Yes. I think it does.”

We have to let something slide.



Parenting happens gradually. So does independence. At least I think so. It feels like yesterday Piper was nursing, attached to my body. Last week she told me she could walk home alone from school. Detached. I walked ten feet behind her, of course, but she wanted to be out of my sight.

She’s becoming more independent. Sometimes I don’t even realize it until I turn around and find her fully dressed and almost ready to walk out the door. Who undressed her? Who picked out her clothes? Who helped her pull that shirt on? Piper. How did that happen? Sometimes it doesn’t.

Independence seems to be two steps forward, one step back. And just because Piper can doesn’t mean she will. And then sometimes she wants to and can’t. She’s still Piper.

This is how our chore chart has changed over the last year of blogging:

chore chartphoto-321


The best part? Dad and I are no longer on it. Believe me, we still have plenty of chores. We’re not lazing about on the couch eating grapes while Cinderella and her sister do our bidding, although that would be nice, too.

Sissy and Piper have simply taken on more. Sissy does a couple loads of laundry a week (sort, wash, fold) and then gets to boss Piper around putting it away. They set the dinner table and I don’t have to show them how anymore. They mostly remember their snacks and water bottles on their own. Sometimes I have to remind them but I don’t have to pack them. They clean up their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. They unpack their lunchboxes and wash them. They clean their rooms, reluctantly but independently. I’m not saying they do any of their chores perfectly, but they do them and that’s probably more important than my standards.

My standards have evolved gradually, too. Parenting, as hard as it is, makes me better, too. Who knew that was going to happen? Certainly not me. Whew.


Chore Chart Revisited

Our chore chart lives on. Every month or so it needs reorganized. Negotiations rule the discussion. There are a lot of gray areas.

chore chart

“I cleaned my room, but I forgot to put up a magnet. Now it’s dirty again. Does that count?” Piper asked.

“It doesn’t count. You have to clean your room again,” Sissy said.

“Fine. But I’m putting up two magnets then. And then, I may just mess it up again.”

Moving Day

This is what the 13th move looks like:


Piper stuck in a corner with the one toy I didn’t pack, the box that toy will soon be packed in, rolls of toilet paper, and a snack. Oh, and Piper’s backpack. She’ll need that Monday morning. Even if I can’t find clean clothes by then, Piper and Sissy are going to school. Don’t worry: it’s the same school. They’ll have their backpacks. And I shoved their lunchboxes inside, too, so I don’t have to unpack every box in the kitchen looking for water bottles and plastic lids Monday morning. This is what you learn from 13 moves.

It’s true that I stuck Piper in a kitchen corner out of the way of the movers. She wouldn’t have been much help under our feet lugging antique dressers up and down four flights of stairs. She showed her true colors when I asked her to pack her toys. It took her three hours to pack one box. Two hours and 59 minutes to play with the toys. One minute to toss them all in after I yelled “Are you done packing that box yet?” from the other room.

But after the packing and the moving, there was the cleaning. Piper can help with cleaning. Sissy tackled the fridge. It was her first fridge to scrub. It almost brought a tear to my neurotic Virgo eye. Sniff. I handed Piper a broom. What harm could she do? The house was empty except for the 468 miniature plastic toy bits just waiting for me to step on them.

“And what do I do with this?” Piper asked, glaring at the broom I’d put in her hands.

“You sweep. See all those toy parts? Sweep them up,” I said.

“Mom,” she said, rolling her eyes, “I wasn’t born to sweep.”

Order in the Court

Once a week we try to have a family meeting. There’s nothing formal about it. We just gather around the table and put whatever needs sorted on the table. It clears the air. I gripe less daily when I know I can bring up my grievance at family meeting. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a laundry list of grievances. None of us do. But when you live in a family, stuff needs talked about. The family meeting is our place to do that. It’s like therapy without the therapist. Sissy and Piper have a voice, too. Last family meeting Sissy asked people to knock before they barged into her room. Dad was frustrated that no one ever puts the hairbrushes back. I asked people to remember to clean out their lunch boxes right after school so they’d be dry by morning.

We also chat about good stuff coming up. We exchange news. The pending move in our new house was a hot topic at our last family meeting. The girls had questions, mostly about paint colors and decor. It was pretty civilized. Until Piper slammed her fist on the table out of nowhere and announced, “WE NEED SOME RULES AROUND HERE, PEOPLE!” We all gaped at her in wonder. Where did that come from? I still don’t know. The family meeting dissolved in giggles and there was no order to be had.

Everything’s Better at Grandma’s House

Piper’s chore after dinner is to clear the table.  Sissy cleans the plates and loads the dishwasher.  I have either cooked the dinner or I’m on pots and pans duty.  My partner does the same. This chore distribution is under constant negotiation at Saturday family meetings, but it seems whatever chore Piper is assigned, she spends much of her time trying to wiggle out of it.  She’s actually quite proud of herself once her chore is completed, but the actual task brings much protest.  The working conditions are just unacceptable.

“I wish we lived at a hotel,” Piper said tonight dragging her feet as she moved the dishes the entire ten feet from table to counter. “Then we wouldn’t have to clean up.”

This was followed by loud, exaggerated sighs.  We all ignored her. Piper escaped to the living room.

“Come back, Piper.  The table isn’t clear.”

More sighs.

“My arms are tired,” she whined, flailing her exhausted arms.

We all ignored her.

“I wish I was at Grandma’s house,” Piper said. “You don’t have to do chores at Grandma’s house.”

“We aren’t at Grandma’s house. Piper, finish clearing the table, please.”

She’d now stretched her two minute job into almost half an hour.  She cleared the last plate and mumbled, “Everything is better at Grandma’s.”

Who do you think taught me to make my kids do their chores? Piper probably doesn’t want to know the answer to that.

I’ll Raise You a Lalaloopsy

Saturday morning in our house means chores.  I’m known as the general manager, which is a kind of chore, right? Sure it is.  The negotiation of chores in our house is one effective way to avoid the actual doing of chores. It goes something like this:

Magnets get moved until there is shalom in the home.  Or until the general manager declares the negotiations over and begins shouting about doing the actual chores. This week, though, the girls brought an old grievance to the family meeting: allowances.  I’m not opposed to allowances.  Kids can learn a lot from money management. I just can’t remember to give them regularly and I never have actual cash in my purse.  I’ve asked, but these kids won’t let me swipe my debit card. So, we asked how much allowance they thought was fair.

Piper opened the negotiations. “$400 sounds reasonable.”

Laughing all around. “How about $1 per week?” Her dad countered.

Piper let out a loud sigh. “$100 is enough.  That’s fine.”

“I’m willing to raise my offer to $2 per week.”


Dad tried to rationalize. “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere. You’re supposed to suggest a number closer to ours.”


“So, you don’t want an allowance?” I asked.

“Wait,” Piper said, “how much does a Lalaloopsy cost? That’s how much I want.”

I shook my head. “I don’t even know what that is.”

“I think $5 is a good amount for me,” Sissy suggested. Ever the voice of reason. “Or maybe we should get $1 for our ages.” Did she just up her own offer?

Piper, who claims she doesn’t know her numbers, did the math and came up immediately with the difference. “That’s $4 more. Why does she get more than me? What’s up with that?”

“I do more chores,” Sissy said.  “I get more money. I’m older. That’s fair.”

“Fair? What’s up with that? How many Lalaloopsies does she get?”  Suddenly, Lalaloopsy  became our currency and we were stuck in a Seinfeld episode.

Clearly, the general manager is going to need a raise.