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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 3, 2004

Fast family chores

 •  Kokua Festival happening today
 •  There are simple ways to keep your cool amid kid chaos
 •  Throw your own Mad Hatter tea party and wear a newspaper on your head
 •  Eeeow ... mmmh
 •  You go, grill: Just talk to the hand

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Knight Ridder News Service

A new year means a clean slate and a clean house? It's a neat equation that doesn't always add up when only one person is responsible for cleaning the house. With a little planning and training, you can get the entire family involved this weekend.

But let's start at the beginning: Human beings do not learn the art of tidying or cleaning by osmosis. The human brain must be able to visualize the specifics of a certain task in order to complete it.

Even a mundane chore, such as sweeping the kitchen, requires a set of skills. Sweeping involves breaking the floor into manageable squares, sweeping up little piles of dirt, and making those little piles travel onto the dust pan.

Even poorly trained adults can't instantly visualize how to place scattered books back into neat piles or organize clothes a certain way.

These tips can help you train those brains:

• Break chores down into 10-minute tasks.

Label tasks such as cleaning a sink, sweeping the kitchen or vacuuming one room as a 10-minute chore.

• Assign every family member one 10-minute chore each day. Put a detailed list on the refrigerator beside each person's name.

Do this until your spouse and kids see how teamwork adds up. For example, four people working 40 minutes per day tallies up to 20 hours per month!

• Finally, double the requirements. Assign every family member two 10-minute chores per day.

One stepmother we know says, "Children and teenagers do not automatically know how to do household chores. For instance, you might think that anyone over 12 could load or unload a dishwasher. That's not true. There is an art to any small task, so you have to teach your family how it's done."

While children can be sharp intellectually, they are not necessarily wise in matters of judgment and assessment.

For instance, children can't perceive how to sort dirty laundry. Adults who've never been properly trained can't do this either.

Coach them until they can easily put the reds, white, darks and "delicates" into separate piles.

"I decided last year to train my family to do chores," says a mother we'll call Debbie.

"At first," she explains, "I kept everyone on the same tasks for two weeks. Then, I added more tasks and started rotating what they did."

Debbie says her children and her husband were slow learners. But, they finally got the hang of how to master sweeping, cleaning, and breaking large tasks into doable chunks.

"If the kitchen floor needs cleaning," says Debbie, "I will sweep it and then have my husband damp mop it. The damp mopping equals a 10-minute chore. If one person sweeps and mops, the floor cleaning equals 20 minutes."

While the 10-minute chore system isn't perfect, it is probably going to land you more assistance than you're getting now.

Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson are authors of a stress-management book for paramedics, firefighters and police — "Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress," published by Prentice Hall/Brady Books. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.

Jack Johnson is on the Washington Post's list of who will be hot this year.

Advertiser libray photo

Kokua Festival happening today

The first Kokua Festival, spearheaded by musician/filmmaker/surfer Jack Johnson, is on today at the Blaisdell Arena.

With a stellar musical lineup — Makana, DJ Logic, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Willie K, a special guest and Johnson himself — there will also be food booths, activities and ample opportunity to learn about environmental issues.

And that's the real point of Johnson's Kokua Hawaii Foundation, which advocates sustainable living in the Islands.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to sunset.

Admission is $35, with tickets available at Blaisdell Arena.

There are simple ways to keep your cool amid kid chaos

Family togetherness can be a wonderful thing, but there are times when even loving families can make each other crazy.

The children are screaming, the house is a mess and you've just tripped over another toy.

Keeping calm isn't easy but it can be done, according to tips from the December-January issue of Parenting magazine:

• For a few minutes of peace, try to outwit them with a quiet game like Sleeping Lions. All the children lie down on the floor and pretend to be sleeping lions; mom is the hunter and looks for any movement or noise. The child who lasts the longest wins.

• To deal with mess, live by the mantra "when in doubt, throw it out." When clutter becomes overwhelming, just grab a garbage bag and start getting rid of stuff.

• Keep toys simple and low-tech. Remember: the cardboard box the toy comes in often provides more hours of fun than the toy itself.

• Concentrate on being a good parent and relax standards for everything else. Pass on making the beds for a day if it means you'll have extra time to help the children bake a batch of cookies.

Throw your own Mad Hatter tea party and wear a newspaper on your head

Little girls can find an excuse to have a tea party just about anywhere, anytime.

Sometimes teddy bears are the guests, other times schoolmates have the honor.

Stephanie Dunnewind's new book, "Come to Tea: Fun Tea Party Themes, Recipes, Crafts, Games, Etiquette and More" (Sterling), has even more creative ideas, including a Mad Hatter tea party, a literary tea party and a princess tea party.

Of course, a tea party is about fun and games.

Here's Dunnewind's craft suggestion for the Mad Hatter party:

Materials: Pages of a newspaper; masking tape and glue; paints and paint brushes; glitter, markers, feathers, fabric scraps; scissors and stapler.

• Center four sheets of newspaper over the head.

• Have another person wrap a band of masking tape several times around the crown of the head over the paper to shape the paper into a hat crown. Take off the hat and trim off the excess newspaper with scissors to the desired size brim.

• Staple the edges together or roll up the brim and tape or staple it.

• Decorate the hat with markers, paint, glitter, feathers or fabric scraps. Tah-dah!

Eeeow ... mmmh

Fruit pizza? Kids might not like the sound of that, so don't talk about it, just make these quick snacks of fruit and cheese when the hungries strike.

Once the young folks learn to like 'em, they can be invited to help you make these crunchy, chewy mini-pizzas, a great way to teach some basic cooking techniques. The "spreadable fruit" referred to here are low- or no-sugar preserves. You can use regular preserves and you can vary the flavor by using fruits and cheeses cheeses, or adding a sprinkling of nuts such as almonds, if the kids like them.

These take just 15 minutes or so to make from start to finish.

Raisin Apple Mini Pizzas

  • 2 mini baked pizza crusts
  • 3 tablespoons apricot spreadable fruit or preserves
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh apple
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Heat toaster oven or conventional oven to 375 degrees. Place pizza crusts on small metal tray for toaster oven, or baking pan for conventional oven. Spread with spreadable fruit. Sprinkle with apples, raisins and cheese. Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.

Makes 4 servings of 1/2 mini pizza each

You can know how hot your grill is with nothing more than a wave of the hand.

Advertiser library photo

You go, grill: Just talk to the hand

In Hawai'i, every season is grilling season. (Rainy? There's always the carport.) Better Homes & Gardens offers these tips for gauging your grill's heat:

• You know you have a hot, 400- to 450-degree temperature if you place your palm over the grill and must remove it by the count of two. Coals will be burning down with a light ash coating.

• You have a medium-hot temperature of 375 to 400 degrees when you can leave your palm over the grill to the count of three. Coals will be coated with ash.

• You have a medium temperature of 350 to 375 if you can keep your hand comfortably over the grill to a count of four. Coals will glow through ash.

• And finally, you have a low temperature of 300 to 350 when you can keep your hand over the coals to a count of five. A thick layer of ash will cover the coals.