Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Little Method to the Madness

The Breakfast and Books Edition

1. We have a big ole' red plastic crate where all our library books go (we check out up to twenty at a time, you see, so a good-size crate is necessary). We use the crate to tote our books back and forth to the library and it serves as their "home" while the books are at our house.  The children are permitted to read the library books at any time, but can only take out one at a time and are only supposed to read them in the living room or in the book nook in the dining room. (We've had emergency library book hunts, however, where AWOL books have finally been located under the mattress in a child's room, or in the back seat of the car... Yikes.)

2.  In addition to the library books, we have several bookcases full of our own books, not to mention bins and bins of books still in the barn waiting for us to build a library addition onto the house...  So, lots of books around here.  It's been my life's work (well, one of them, anyway) to teach the children to respect our books: to care for them, to love them, to leave them as they found them.  Theoretically, the children are supposed to have clean hands before they touch a book, and they are not supposed to have the books near food or drinks.  Theoretically they're supposed to have no more than two books out of the bookshelves at a time,which they're supposed to replace before they get any more.  Theoretically. 

We've learned, however, through many years of fighting the children's forgetfulness of these rules that (unless they're borrowed books), it's not worth the headache to enforce them in a detention school fashion.  Seriously.  How can I complain because my teenagers can't eat without a book propped up in front of them?    Is it really such a bad thing, I ask myself, to have toddlers sprawled all over the floor in the middle of a puddle of picture books?  We do pick up all the books when we clean up the house (a house cleaning edition of "Madness" coming soon, btw...), and we do still caution the children to be careful of the books we own, but we don't obsess about them.  It's more important that the kids know that books are friends that they can be comfortable with -- and not be afraid to snuggle up with.  And occasionally spill coffee on.

3.  We have a pantry in the kitchen full of low sugar cereal, oatmeal, grits, bagels, and toast, and a fridge full of milk, eggs, cream cheese, butter, and jams -- all easily accessible.  And I believe that the first independent thing a child should learn to do is to make his own breakfast.   First of all, it develops independence and an early sense of accomplishment.  Secondly, the simple act of preparing one's own repast in the morning stimulates the brain cells, sharpens the senses, and flexes the muscles.  It cannot be denied that our older children helping our younger children prepare breakfast fosters sibling unity, promotes the virtue of generosity and develops a nurturing spirit. Finally, though, and most importantly, it gives Mom a break in the morning.  (Heaven knows, Moms have enough on their plates!)  Children making their own breakfast.  It's a good thing.

4.  And there's this: Whoever is the last one up at our house has to clean up all the breakfast dishes.  Works marvelously to either get everyone up early, or to get the dishes cleaned up without complaint. You'll occasionally have two sleepyhead teenagers scrambling for the stairs in a loud and groggy attempt to be the next-to-last person down the stairs, of course.  But, it's high entertainment for the rest of the family watching to see who emerges victorious -- and who has to clean the kitchen. 
5.  Also, whenever possible, I coordinate the color of my coffee cup with the outfit I'm wearing.  Makes me feel on top of things in the morning.  (Whatever it takes, ya know?)

Do you have any Books or Breakfast tips to share?  Whatever we can do to improve efficiency or fun, we're up for it!


Linda Higgins said...

Wow! I don't think you need any advice! I wish I had all of these tips when I was raising my 3! That's a laugh isn't it! 3! only 3! but that doesn't mean we didn't have our challenges! Awesome post today! I actually can pass this along to those I know are still raising little ones! thanks for the advice! miles of smiles...

Heather said...

cute! monday, we returned a book to the library that was checked out last December, oops! luckily the librarian overlooked the fine on that one! :)

Soutenus said...

A wonderful read with my tuna salad lunch! I am giggling about the coffee cup. By chance, just by chance, mind you . . . I am drinking my coffee (yes, I know it is noon) out of a blue and white polka dotted cup. AND, wonder of wonders! I am wearing a blue top. Somehow that just makes me feel like I have accomplished something today. Thank you for that!

On our way to the library and we are going to use your idea of the bin! I have been using the "pile" system. Let me tell you, piles fall over and books mysteriously find their way to different piles.

Laura said...

I grew up on a street with a public library and we could have used some library book rules.
I always lost/misplaced library books.
In fact, I couldn't graduate from junior high because I had a library fine of 67cents.
(I have the notice to prove it.)
You run an efficient ship, my dear.

Soutenus said...

OK, I went to World Market (for the wine tasting and some inexpensive coasters) and added a cool (on sale) basket to my treasures. The coasters were $0.99 each. The basket was $6.99.
Came home and . . . . it fit under my bookcases PERFECTLY. I have been looking for something to fit perfectly for awhile now (to hold numerous small books and odd sized paperbacks).

Sooooo, the find for a library book basket was thwarted much to my son's chagrin!
I went to the garage and dug up an old milk crate -- works great!! Family gives it a thumbs up, too.

Now I have my coasters, an "under the bookcase basket(that fits perfectly) AND a library bin.
Thanks for the idea! :-)

Kim H. said...

Of course, one coffee drinker to another...I loved this post. I like the red library crate idea. I'm so not good at figuring out the best way to get all the books back to the library in a timely fashion.

Just curious. What should I be wearing when I'm sipping my coffee out of my "Kiss me I'm Irish" mug? :)


Rebecca said...

I enjoyed this post. I'm very particular about my coffee mug. (I never thought about it matching my outfit.)

Our breakfasts are very simple and repetitive. Since the children are grown, my husband fixes his own shredded wheat topped with 1/2 banana and/or raisins. I usually have the other half of the banana and a (large) spoonful of peanut butter! Strange, I know.

Love the "book rules" and storage hints. Keep it up. Readers are leaders.

Aubrey said...

We do the crate-for-library-books and the get-your-own-breakfast thing, too. Sometimes I'll get a hot breakfast for the kids because mine are still too little to use the stove successfully.

I like the dishes suggestion! That would get everyone out of bed quickly! :)

MightyMom said...

I don't dare get the kids library books...and have become incredibly efficient at book repair via clear package tape. I'm currently fighting the "that book is not a ski to be used on the 4' square of wood floor entryway"

but I will say, on saturday I bought plastic tubs with lids to sort our toys into. with the NEW RULE of only 1 toy tub to be out at a time. This has decreased the need to empty the shelves every morning...which results in the books remaining on the shelf rather than all over the floor to be walked/skated on. I'm hoping it's a slide in the right direction. till we get it down pat, I have 2 rolls of packing tape and I KNOW how to use them!