Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Momma’s Systems

September 2nd, 2013 · 4 Comments


I’m often asked, “How do you do so much each day”?  I’ve got to be honest, some days I do a lot.  Some days I do nothing at all.  Some days I chill out with girlfriends and drink a ton of coffee.  Some days I move the world between morning drop off and afternoon pick up.  Most days I fall into bed before 10 pm, because my schedule starts before the sun.  All in all, I’m like every other Mom in America.  We do what we do because we have: OUR SYSTEMS.

Every Mother has a way of keeping a house flowing without overflowing, knowing that some days it spills out like a flood and destroys the carpet, no matter how ironclad the plan. But because I have a lot of time to think about these kinds of things, I thought I’d share my tricks of the trade here, because I’d love to hear what you do at your house.


We’ve found our kids are fueled by positivity and rewards.  They’re rather human in this way, which is exciting, because most days we’re certain we’ve given birth to aliens.  The first picture is our marble jar.  Every time any one of us uses the words, “At least…”, as in, “I didn’t make the swim team, but at least I get to take private stroke lessons so I have a better shot next time”, a marble goes in the jar.  “The traffic is horrible, but at least we remembered our iPads”.  “Our plans got canceled, but at least we get to spend some downtime at home”.  When the jar is full, it’s a marble party, which can change.  We’re thinking (shh!, it’s a secret) that our next party will be a “Yes Day”.  We’ll spend a day saying YES to whatever the kids want to do.  This could get interesting.

The (messy) Homework Chart is above.  It hangs on the inside of our pantry door. Every subject completed without complaint gets a point.  Each point is about 25 cents, traded in for fabulous prizes. This is how Sara got her iPod, Kelly earns her stuffed animals, the girls buy books, etc. In summary, this chart is how the girls pay for their lives. Our house motto is: We don’t pay for grades.  We pay for effort.  Put forth the effort, and the grades will follow.  And if you put forth your best effort, then the grade isn’t our focus.


Every day, each girl can earn up to 3 behavior points.  These points are tracked on the refrigerator door. They are earned by doing chores without complaint, no talking back, doing what is asked, etc.  Bonus points are earned by being polite to adults, being a good hostess, etc. These points cannot be traded in for “stuff”, only experiences.  Game night, choosing the family movie, choosing where we go to dinner, dates with Momma, bike rides with Daddy…they picked the reward list.  It’s worked like a charm, and I blogged about it here. This system is especially good for kids who have no end game.  Do you know any of those?  I do.


Our family’s life is tracked inside my planner, which has a line for every person in my family for every single day.  Every week has a section for my PTA activities, my other to-do lists, and plenty of space for my daily lists.  I use Orange Circle Studio’s because they carry a 17 month planner that fits my life. Does it drive Greg nuts that I still use a paper planner?  OH YES, yes it does. But I like my paper, my pens, and my scribbles.  I’m a WRITER.  I write.  In a planner.

That planner is translated weekly onto a dry erase board inside our pantry door every Sunday night after dinner. Everyone has a column, and homework and appointments are put on the board. Kids have so little control over their lives, so they behave better when they have an idea as to what to expect. Now I’ve gone and made this statement, assuring my kids will be crazy sticks on fire all week.  Well done Momma.


Inside the laundry room, where their shoes and socks are stored in drawers underneath the washer/dryer, I have a dry erase board for their “Go List”. Days of the week, along with the date, followed by what they need to get out the door.  Do you have your backpack, lunch box, and is it a gym day?  Library books? Homework in the backpack?  The weather is in the middle, because we have wide temperature ranges in the Midwest.  I don’t need to spend my morning yelling at everyone to grab a sweater.  The weather is right there.  If you start out in sweats, and it’s going to end at 90 degrees, you’ve been warned.  This is my handwriting, but I don’t make the lists.  They tell me what to write.  The goal is ownership of planning, and a quiet and peaceful transition out the door in the morning.  No yelling reminders: it’s right in your face as you put on your shoes.

They also have a basket for “things I want to take in the car”.  There’s nothing that blows my Go-Time more than kids deciding at the last second there are loveys they just have to have. It’s in that basket before go time, or it doesn’t make the launch.


Even more important than my Go-System, is my “Come Home Routine”.  In the doors, backpacks hung, shoes put away.  Lunchboxes emptied at the sink. Top basket pulled out, homework sorted.  Top basket is for the girls, and the bottom basket is mine.  There is also a basket in the living room for library books.  “Not homework” is stacked on the island to be sorted by me, and this task usually takes way too much time. What to keep? What to toss?  Always a hard call, as everything generated by the girls feels precious.


Finally, I have folders for their work.  Every girl has a reading log, spelling lists, and math homework, along with the occasional Science or Social Studies project.  Left side of the folder are for things we’re working on, but are optional (i.e. enrichment math activities), and the right side contains items with due dates.

These systems keep our main area under control, which you know means I haven’t seen carpet in the playroom in weeks, and I don’t even want to talk about the basement.  I’m afraid to peer under their beds, but I’m going to need to make a sock collection run in the near future. The last time I cleared out the stuffed animal stack, I found used chopsticks.  YUCK!  I’m not writing that in my planner!

So do tell…share your Momma Systems with me.  I’m always up for learning something new!


Tags: The Girls

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 What Mom Wears // Sep 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Wow. I AM impressed. Um yesterday I put pretzels, a treat and a note in Js lunchbox. You know, for his ‘first lunch at school and not with Mama’ l today. That’s the height of my organization. But then he’s only three 🙂 I have time to learn the ways of the Master.

  • 2 M3 // Sep 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Dang, I’m woefully lacking in the system dept compared to this…

    Behavior cards that rack up iPad time if you stay on the good side.

    Marble jars where they get marbles for good stuff or chores. They pick at the beginning what they’re saving up for and get it when the jar’s full.

  • 3 The Momma // Sep 4, 2013 at 5:37 am

    iPad time! That’s just perfect. We need to pre-determine that marble jar. I knew it, but I’ve been lazy about it. And right now, I feel like Greg and I are earning all the marbles!

  • 4 The Momma // Sep 4, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Notes in a lunchbox indicate you are already in Master-Land!