Big Families, BTW, Have You Seen My Head?, Children, Guam, Productivity, Self-Improvement, Uncategorized

6 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Running a Restaurant

My kiddies getting homework done at the restaurant.
My kiddies getting homework done at the restaurant.

Forks clanking against white porcelain plates. Small giggles and hearty laughs amidst the steady hum of conversation and the rich smells of grilled steaks and steaming soups. This was my life for a while as I assisted managing our family-owned, downtown restaurant.

It was an exciting but difficult time because of the inevitable juggling that had to take place. Five kids and a busy husband on the one hand and a busy restaurant on the other. We eventually resolved to sell the business, but while we were hustling, I learned some key life lessons that have kicked up my parenting abilities a couple of notches. Maybe you will find them helpful too.

1. Write things down. Schedules, manuals, recipes, menus, signage–everything needed to be written out and made clear to all. This is so true in all areas of life. When we don’t write things down, they simply fall through the cracks. Things get left on life’s back burners, never to be moved to prime “get ‘er done” real estate. Do you keep a family calendar? Do you write out your goals and specific steps that you’ll take to reach them? Write it down, get it done!

2. Accountability. Until there was a designated staff member in the restaurant scheduled to clean the bathrooms at regular intervals, things would get pretty icky. If there wasn’t a log specifying who’d be cleaning out the chillers or the espresso machine, it wouldn’t get done.

Accountability is just as vital at home. That oh-so-useful chore chart is key here. It sets up the expectation and gives me a “fall guy” should the dog not get fed on time or the dishes not get put away. (Since we can’t fire our children, consider “docking their pay” which can translate to canceling the next planned trip to Yogurtland:-)

3. Murphy’s Law is universal, so expect the unexpected. The old adage, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” takes on a whole new meaning in a restaurant. An oven will break down just before a busy Friday dinner service. The credit card machine will malfunction just as a waiter processes 25 Naval officers on a quick lunch meeting–all paying separately. We need to have back-up plans and expect the unexpected.

Similarly, a child will have a tummy ache on the day Mommy is supposed to attend a big conference. The washing machine will die out when there are eight backlogged loads of laundry. Bottom line is, expect the unexpected and have a back up plan. A go-to sitter, a Whirlpool repair guy on speed dial. And sometimes, just a little margin in life so that when these crazy things creep up, we aren’t strung so tight that one little thing snaps us.

4. Own up to Mistakes.  A customer’s steak might be well-done when they swear they said rare. A chef might forget to put the coveted avocado in the sushi. A piece of cork might be floating in the glass of Merlot. It happens. Own up to it and work toward remedies for the situation. A genuine apology, a complementary dessert and even removing the item from the ticket might be necessary.

Parents, we might not like to admit it, but we are really good at making mistakes. We need to get better about humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness. The customer at the restaurant might tweet something about a messed up order, but a child stores up all the little wrongs in their hearts when there isn’t a remedy to the mistake. Whether it’s a harsh word for spilled milk or not noticing your daughter’s first goal in the soccer game because you were on Facebook, they see our mistakes. We need to own up and apologize because it’s the right thing to do.

5. Get out of “the weeds.” Have you ever seen a waiter start fumbling orders, disappear on tables or auction off food because he didn’t remember who ordered what? That’s called being “in the weeds” and it is hard to get out.

Usually, the most effective way to rectify the situation is to have a manager or another waiter help out so that he can gain composure, get organized and get back in the game if you will.

A lot of times as parents, we find we are in the weeds too. We are overwhelmed by the stuff of life like home renovations, behavioral issues with kids, deadlines at work. It might get hard to see the reason we do it all when our we can’t see above the weeds. God never meant for us to go it alone. A spouse, family, friends, church community–there are so many people who can help us get out of the weeds. If we don’t reach out and we choose to loiter in those weeds, there are no happy customers.

6. Setting up for success. One of my most experienced chefs had years of experience working on cruise ships. He brought with him the phrase, “Set up for success.” He always made sure that nightly clean-up was done and that all necessary items were prepped for the opening shift. Sauces were made, veggies were chopped, and a list of required items to shop for was written and hung on a clipboard.

When I leave dishes in the sink, clutter on the dining table or miscellaneous laundry strewn about, I know I am not setting myself up for success. In fact, it usually means that I will wake up already in the weeds! I have to remind myself every night to complete the necessary tasks that my “future self” will thank me for in the morning.

Are you translating work skills into your home? If you’re not, what are some ways your work habits and skills could improve life at home? I’d love to hear your ideas.

PS Enjoy the FREE printable chore chart and help yourself stay out of the weeds:-)

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Big Families, BTW, Have You Seen My Head?, Organize, Productivity

The Best 2014 Ever…Plan for It!

It just seems like so many people I know struggled through the last year and have set their feet down and said, “2014 is going to be better!” I have said the same thing. As I mentioned in another post, I have been preparing to go full speed ahead for a little while now by surrounding myself with some great thinkers and doers. Check them out!

If you are on the same path, here is one of the tools I created to help my family of seven and I to “get ‘er done!” *Disclaimer, I am no graphic artist or organizing guru…just a mom with five busy kids, a couple of small businesses, and a heart to serve. Use these as you please and I pray you have a wonderful 2014!

NOTE: The area called “Get ‘Er Done” fits the small square Post-Its. I use this as a “Daily Three” things to accomplish. Then I replace the notes with new ones for the following day. Easy and neat!

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Big Families, BTW, Have You Seen My Head?, Children, Daughters, The Act of Motherhood

About Them Drama Kids…

Drama Kids
Drama Kids

LADY, YOU ARE CRAZY!

So my four drama queens just finished a grueling schedule of rehearsals culminating with six back-to-back performances of “Raise Your Voice”, a play inspired by the movie “Sister Act”. Whew! Talk about exhaustion. Some people, especially those who watched me trek the kids back and forth to almost daily rehearsals for two months, might say, “Lady, you are crazy! Why would you put yourself and your kids through that?!?” Here is the rhyme behind my reason.

My kids are a little “different” in a funny, yet intelligent, can’t-quite-describe-them kinda’ way! Where do such people gravitate? The THEATER of course! Joining a play gives my kookie kids a creative outlet. The two older girls have been doing theater for nearly half their lives already and the younger two girls just took their first steps into it with this play. I’ll admit that the schedule took its toll on my family as we already had a busy schedule. Church on Sundays was non-negotiable, but we had to alternate the other days we attended. That was really the most difficult decision.

THE “C” WORD

My eight-year-old was the first to crumble under the pressure. “I can’t take it! I want to quit!” she exclaimed after the first two weeks of rehearsals. That’s when I hauled out the “c” word that will forever be a part of their lives as they grow up into caring, successful adults. COMMITMENT. Ahhhhh!!! Over the course of the next several weeks, once a complaint or moan started to surface, it was easily quelled by the mere mention of the “c” word. They knew if they didn’t tread lightly, it could easily turn into a full-blown mommy-lecture! [shudder]

Aside from learning about commitment, they also dabbled in time management. The older girls, especially, had to pace their loads of homework and other extracurriculars had to sit on the back-burner some weeks. We managed.

They also learned a lot about people. They were exposed to kids and adults from all walks of life because the play was open to the community at large. It was great for them to see a more diverse group than they typically do at their private school. They made some incredible friends for sure!

WHAT IT TAUGHT THIS MAMA

The experience also taught me something. Every time we participate in theater, I learn to let go just a little bit. I learned that a kid might hate grueling rehearsals to the nth degree. He or she might want to cry when a director yells or a cast member gets the part she really wanted. She might also get very hungry because she didn’t pack an extra snack like her mom told her to–three or four times. There is a richness in the experience of theater that I could never offer my kids on my own. They will learn to communicate, to accept disappointment, to be inspired by some and be an inspiration to others. They will learn that all the “commitment” pays off on that stage when the audience is moved to tears, laughing hysterically, or sees themselves in a character on the stage. And this wise mama knew all along that no lecture would be necessary once each would-be-quiter walked out on stage with the lights shining and audience waiting in anticipation because that is the payoff–SHOWTIME!

And that little dumpling who pouted and insisted that the rehearsals were torture? She was the first to say, “So when is the next play?” Hmph!

 

BTW, Have You Seen My Head?, The Act of Motherhood

Tangled

I want to be a minimalist so bad, I’m willing to trade twelve stacks of magazines for it!

I want to be more organized, but I can’t find my planner.

Yes, I have an iPad with a calendar. I just can’t remember to check it.

I do have a system for everything. They’re just all tangled up right now.

Even still, I am a perfectionist–a passionate, disheveled, forgetful, artsy perfectionist.

Wait, what was I getting at?

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BTW, Have You Seen My Head?

Bit Off All My Nails at Awards Days–Why?

Okay, I am actually not a nail biter, but if I were, they’d be down to the nubs. This week, I nervously sat through five awards ceremonies at school. I watched my K-3 Prince Charming receive the “Personality” award, my K-5 Dumpling got the “Sunshine” award, my 2nd and 4th graders got “A Honor Roll” and “Bible Memory” and my 6th grader got “A/B Honor Roll” and “Bible Memory”.

Yes, these are all good achievements. Here goes psycho-analysis of self. I wasn’t happy enough with good. I wanted best! Yes, Hailey did get a Gold Presidential Award and Ellery did receive the ultra-rare Perfect Attendance Award, but for me, the nauseatingly overachieving Mommy Dearest, that just felt like drinking a cup of tap water. Oh how I yearned for a rejuvinating Fizzy Lifting drink! I wanted them to walk up to the Principal and say “Thank you so much?” as they walked away with THE Outstanding Student Award.

And not one of them did.

A day later, I am looking back upon my feelings and, dang, I suck! I committed the cardinal sin of motherhood. I forgot that my kids are not me. I will now Google “Overachieving Mothers Anonymous” and sign myself up! I am proud of my kids achievements and love each of them regardless of their academic abilities–and that is how it should be. Of course, after signing up for OMA, I think I’ll look into Sylvan to sharpen those math skills. Ahhh, I’m hopeless!

BTW, Have You Seen My Head?

Motherhood the Movie

Rockin’ Hubby recommended the movie Motherhood. He’d seen it on a plane trip and thought it would be right up my alley. After all, like the main character played by Uma Thurman, I am a freelance writer–on occasion, I blog (as you can plainly see), and I am a stay-at-home mama. I like to think that I’m not as frazzled and chaotic, but I’m pretty sure I have my ultra-disheveled moments. Such as the one I had just the other day:

Case in point: this Thursday, the kids and I sat around writing names on store-bought Valentine cards and taping Dum Dums to them. I marveled at how much my standards had changed over the years. I was that DIY mama that would stay up all night and cut out little hearts and package homemade cookies with elaborate frosting. After child #3 or #4, my expectations had to change. So we taped 135 Dum Dums to store-bought Valentine cards with bible verses about “love” on them and that was that!

…Then I put the kiddies to bed and proceeded to make four trays of Ghirardelli brownies for one class party and as a special treat for all the kid’s teachers. (Ha! Hadn’t lowered my standards enough. I will still find something to make myself crazy)! After getting all the kids off to school the next morning with treats in hand and all in red or pink shirts, I headed back home to make two trays of spaghetti. One for my son’s K3 class, which I signed up for, and another for my daughter’s K5 class, which I did not sign up for. Why would I do that you ask? I couldn’t even remember what I signed up for and was too embarassed to ask! There it is.

So I rushed back to school just in time for the plating of lunch. I dropped the platter off to the K5 class where the teachers looked a bit stunned. Turns out, I didn’t sign up for anything. No one did. There was no party in K5! Back to K3 class where I was ready to relax and enjoy Mama Time with my son–until I noticed odd seams in the side of my blouse. Oh yes, I was indeed wearing my shirt inside out!

If you get a chance to watch Motherhood and get to the part where Uma is pushing her bike with a flat tire and carrying bags of groceries, party favors, and a birthday cake…that is ME! That is all of us Mamas sometimes, isn’t it?

BTW, Have You Seen My Head?

You’ll Never Complain about Produce Again

Ironically, I am writing this blog after my “All hail to SPAM”, but a trip to the market today inspired me to share a dirty little secret about living on a relatively isolated island. Our diets stink ! We have some of the highest incidents of diabetes and heart disease you will find anywhere.

As a mother, I am conscientious about what I put on the table and I am well aware of the importance of fresh fruits and veggies, but look at this! Fruits and vegetables are often bruised, over-ripe, or priced through the roof! Yes, most produce is transported to the island and I understand the costs involved, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have to pay top dollar for bruised oranges, mushy grapes, and molding strawberries.

So if you live in the mainland where grapes can be .85 cents/lb, I say, “Count your blessings.” Me, I’m making $35 fruit smoothies tonight!