Monday, April 16, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not!

Gotta admire the kid who was determined to conserve the last two milliliters of milk in this cup.

Reminds me of a friend whose children, now long grown, each employed a different tactic when designated chief bottle washer for the night. One child, embracing the "waste not, want not" principle, put plastic wrap over every pot, pan, and serving dish. A second child was firmly of the belief that all those greasy pots and pans just needed a good soak -- preferably over night. The overarching goal was, of course, to avoid actually washing any dishes.

Jen at Conversion Dairy once asked her readers what they would do differently if they could raise their children over again. One answer surprised me. A mother shared that she would write out clear directions for each household job she expected her children to do. With the perspective of hindsight, she realized she could have instilled in her children a better work ethic and, more importantly, avoided a lot of maternal ranting and raving by simply making her expectations clear.

I have found that lists work far better than verbal commands around here. The lists don't nag; they are don't negotiate; they don't escalate tensions.

The other night I asked a son to clean the kitchen. I defined "clean." I identified the right and left boundaries of his field of responsibility (I'm sure there's some great Army metaphor I could employ here, if I could just think of it). I left the room. When I returned later, I was impressed with a job well done. That dish washer was humming. That counter was clear.

The next morning, I ambled into the kitchen and couldn't find the coffee filters. There's a story behind the coffee filters. Lists, as I mentioned, are very helpful little items, that is, if  -- now here's the rub --you actually consult them. Last week I ended up in a grocery store three different times. Each time I had a list. Each list included coffee filters. On Saturday I was headed to the check out lane when I stopped and perused my list. Once again, I had forgotten the coffee filters. So proud of myself for not forgetting a third time, I checked out and headed home.

So where were the elusive filters? I wondered if I had left them at the store or if the boys had left them in the car. If the latter were true, I was hoping, hoping, hoping that an entire bag hadn't spent the night in the van, especially if the bag contained whipped cream, yogurt, or pork loin.

In honor of my father who turned 75 on Saturday, I made the coffee with a paper napkin. My father is known for improvising when coffee filters are sparse. I opened the dishwasher to grab a mug, and what did I find top rack, center left? The coffee filters -- clean, sparkly, and rather soggy.

When I said "I want this counter clean!", I think my ten-year-old took my words to heart.

I'm writing a new shopping list, and coffee filters are on it once again.

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