I need to talk about graduation for a bit here.  My. first. baby. is. graduating! Ack! How can this be?!?!  I know I have joked about the teen years.  I even posted this on Facebook:

A scrapbook page I made for my teenage son.

A scrapbook page I made for my teenage son.

But now, we are done visiting colleges, he is finishing up his final classes and we are just a few weeks from graduation! I’m trying not to think about how I feel about that.  So I tried distracting myself with something I can control: ordering graduation announcements!  We chose not to order the cards they offered through the school.  They were very pricey and not at all personal.

Do you remember the Christmas Cards I ordered from Minted? I loved them, so Minted.com is where I headed to look for personalized graduation announcements.

Holy choices, Batman!!! They have some gorgeous, gorgeous options!  Here are some of my favorites so far:

A screenshot of a few of my favorite cards (so far!) on Minted.com

A screenshot of a few of my favorite cards (so far!) on Minted.com

I need the distraction of of playing with this for a few more days, but I want to post this right away to give you all time to use Minted’s coupon code!  They are offering 15% off graduation announcements until 5/11 with the code: CLASSOF2015 I’ll update this post with some of my samples and our chosen card in a few days.

UPDATE:  Jacob decided he wanted the “Triple Overlap” as seen above.  He wanted it to be blue, but we didn’t care for the shade of blue this card is offered in, so we went with a custom color and just asked them to use the blue that is one of the options for their “The Adventure Begins” card.  Here is how it turned out:

Final Grad Card

It occurs to me perhaps I should not put all his personal info out there, so I smudged, but you get the idea.

Still trying not to think about all of this!  Now I’ve distracted myself with sending these announcements out and planning a party for him…

Kids do not like to clean their rooms, I knew that as a kid, I know it as a parent.  But my kids’ rooms were out of control!  I had to think of a plan that would make cleaning their rooms fun.  When my oldest 2 were little we’d have races.  I’d send them to their rooms saying, “Put away 3 yellow things.”  Then I’d say, “Pick up 5 square things”.  I would go back and forth between their rooms to see what needed to be picked up and think of a creative way to get those items picked up.  Instead of saying “Put your cars away”, I’d say, “Put away 6 things with wheels.”  We’d have several races until the rooms were more manageable.

But now, I have 17, 14 and 7 year old boys.  That old idea was not going to fly with them.  I needed to spice things up…starting with a cool name…and anticipation.  So yesterday I began to say things like, “Brother…vs. brother…vs. brother…in the Ultimate Showdown” using a mysterious announcer voice.  Each time I walked by one of them, I’d say something like, “Who will win the ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN?”  Not surprisingly, the teens came back with, “This better not be lame!”  And, “Oh, it’s going to be lame!”  And even, “This better not involve cleaning our rooms!!!!”

I simply said, “We’ll see at 10:30 tomorrow morning, won’t we?”

To not be lame, this idea needed some graphics and a prize.  The graphics?  A large chart that said, “Brother vs. Brother vs. Brother Ultimate Showdown” at the top, 3 columns for their names and the rounds numbered 1-8.  The prize?  A giant Hershey Bar and the winner’s before picture is not posted on this blog!  LOL!

Awesome Graphics- Chart taped to the wall in the hallway.

Awesome Graphics- Chart taped to the wall in the hallway.

I cannot begin to tell you how much better this went than expected!!!  They were begging me for more time!  The 17 year old pleaded with me to give him time to vacuum his floor!  And they all asked if this could be a bi-annual event!  I am NOT kidding!  I planned the events to take about 30-40 minutes.  The competition began at 10:30 and ended at 12:15 because they wanted more time!!!  And not one person complained about how long it was taking, or how tired they were!

Before Shot of one room- Yes- we actually let our child's room get this messy!

Before Shot of one room- Yes- we actually let our child’s room get this messy!


Before Shot of 2nd room- Yes- this room is even worse!

Before Shot of 2nd room- Yes- this room is even worse!

Here is a how it worked:

Brother vs. Brother vs. Brother Challenge:  The Ultimate Room Cleaning Showdown

Ground Rules:  Stand in your doorway while I tell you the challenge and say “go”.  When you have completed the task, you run back to your doorway and shout, “DONE!”  Minus 2 points for every complaint of unfairness.  When voting occurs, you cannot vote for yourself.

All contestants must tour each other’s messy rooms, as we will be voting for “Most Improved” at the end of the challenge.

Round 1:  Bring me 6 articles of clothing that you will no longer wear.  (At the completion of the round, they had to fold said clothes and put in a pile.)  Points awarded- 15, 10, 5 from fastest to slowest

Round 2:  2 Bag Challenge- you have 5 minutes to fill one plastic grocery bag with trash and one with recycling.  Contestants may not empty currently bagged trash into their trash bags.  This must be newly gathered trash off the floors and flat surfaces.  Points awarded: 15, 10, 5 x 2 (one for recycling, one for trash) awarded to the fullest to least full bags as voted upon by your siblings.  Bonus points if ALL trash is picked up.

Round 3:  Put away 10 books, videos, magazines or notebooks, then bring me 5 books you’re not keeping.  Points awarded: 15, 10, 5 fastest to slowest

Round 4:  This was supposed to be 4 minutes to pick up all clothes- with clean clothes going into dressers and dirty clothes going into the laundry.  Drawers must be closed with nothing sticking out and all dirty clothes will be washed by YOU TODAY. (So don’t just dump everything in your laundry basket!)  Points awarded: 15, 10, 5 with the most points award to the person with the fewest articles of clothing still out at the end of the challenge.   Note:  This round they begged me for more time than 4 minutes!

We totaled the scores at the end of round 4 to see where everyone was at.

Round 5:  Bring me 6 things to sell at our yard sale.  Bonus points for additional items.  Points awarded: 15, 10, 5 fastest to slowest.  Round ends when third person is finished. 1 point for each additional item.

Round 6:  You have 5 minutes to clear a 12 inch path down the long side of your bed.  Cleaning, not shoving!  Points awarded:  15, 10, 5 cleanest to least clean as voted by your siblings.

Round 7:  Completely make your bed with sheet and comforter.  Points awarded: 15, 10, 5 fastest to slowest.  (One child makes his bed every day, so he won before the round even started and helped his littlest brother with this challenge.

Round 8:  7 Minute “FREE Clean”- In this challenge contestants are going for “Most Improved” and “Overall Cleanest Room” again as voted by your siblings.  Points awarded:  25 for Most Improved, 25 for Cleanest Room- these cannot be the same person.  Again, the boys asked for more time and here is when my eldest pleaded for time to vacuum!

I think it was important to award points to everyone in every round.  That way, no one ever had zero (which was very important to the 7 year old).  No one was ever completely out of the competition until the last, high-scoring round.

The results?  First Place- 17 year old, Second Place- 7 year old, Third Place- 14 year old!

The Winner with his Prize- note his before picture did not appear above!

The Winner with his Prize- note his before picture did not appear above!

_0025There you have it!  Brother vs. Brother vs. Brother Challenge:  The Ultimate Room Cleaning Showdown!

And for those of you keeping track for Challenge 365:  that is another 30 items to sell at our next yard sale, plus 6 bags of trash/recycling = 36 more items out, bringing our total of items removed from our house to 256!

I’d  love to hear from you if you try a version of this challenge!

I’m in my first link party!  You can see it here on The Simple Home if you scroll down.

I thought I’d take a break from writing about Challenge 365 to share with you what is probably the best parenting idea I’ve ever had.

I’ve been a parent for 17 years and I have done a lot of good things.  Mostly because I copied a lot of smart and clever people.  But once…ONCE…I had a really great idea of my own that I encourage others to copy…

If you are a parent, you know that about 2 days into summer vacation your child will say, “I’m bored.”  And you will be incredulous because you know how lucky that kid is to not have anywhere to go or anything to do or projects or appointments or housework hanging over their head.  You will see that it is a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky and you will start to say things like, “How can you bored?!?!  It is a beautiful day!  Go ride your bike, get out the sidewalk chalk, go see if your friend is home.”

And thus the summer cycle begins.  Every time your child is still, they will say they are bored and expect you to come up with a list of ideas for things they could be doing.  Am I right?  You know I’m right.  You’ve done this before.  I’ve done this before!  But there is a way to break this cycle before it even starts!  It’s true.  I tried it and it works!  A few weeks before school is out (now is fine!), you have your child sit down and make a list of everything they like to do.  You know your child better than I do, so I will leave it to you whether a) it is a good idea to tell them why they are doing this and b) whether you need to trick them into doing this with something like reverse psychology…”Hey- I’ll bet you can’t come up with a list of 20 things you like to do!”_0014

I did this when my son was in Kindergarten.  I did not tell him why until he was done.  I just had him write things he liked to do outside, things he liked to inside, things he liked to do in his room.  It took a few days and he kept adding to it.  When he said he’d written everything he could think of that he enjoyed doing, I said, “Good!  Now I’m going to put this list on the refrigerator.  Anytime you tell me that you are bored, I’m going to tell you to look at this list.”


“Ball tag, lightsaber, race cars, math book, kitchen, look out the window, tinker toys, Don’t break the Ice (a game), drum (he has a set of drums in the basement), table tennis, legos, puppet show and I think the last one is Wii.”



“Water flowers, read, play Rescue Heroes, Lincoln Logs, cars, trains, chalk inside & outside, dry erase board, paint.”


And it worked!

The cycle was broken!  He’d say, “I’m bored!”  I’d say, “Look at your list!”  That was it!  Never once did I have to think up another activity or threaten, “If you’re bored I can give you something to do… go clean your room!”

You can thank me in September!  In the meantime, please share this info with other parents by sending them over here to my blog.  Thanks!