Gathering, manifesting, and getting your kids to clean without sacrificing screentime
2 business things and 1 vital information thing
July 21 2022 update: I’m pausing accepting new requests for local witchy introductions due to a high volume of interest + me going on a family trip imminently. But if this goes decently stay tuned for further/future calls for local witches interested in meeting same!
1- Before I went on vacation I asked whether there were any witches out there who might be interested in being put in touch with other witches in their area. It was fascinating to hear a sampling of where some of you are from!
If you are in one of the following communities, know there are witches near you who might like to get in touch and possibly have a jokey bitch session:
LA (particularly the west side)
Italy or even in the-close-to Italy parts of Austria, Slovenia or Croatia
Email me (you can reply directly to this newsletter) or leave a comment below if you’d like to be put in touch with other witches in your area. You will not be obligated to do anything at this time as I’m still deciding the optimal way to put people in touch with each other (maybe email or Substack) and I won’t share any info of yours without permission.
So far everyone who has responded to me is a mother with kids roughly elementary-school aged and younger, so while I know not everyone who reads this newsletter is a mother, these particular intros will be between moms looking to make some witchy local connections.
2- I wrote an absurd number of drafts about the Highland Park shooting. I came up with a lot of bullshit. Nothing useful for anyone so I trashed it all.
Instead, I’m raising money with the States Project to flip the Michigan House and Senate blue this midterm election, which historically are very hard on Dems when a Democrat is in the Oval Office. Even if you don’t live in Michigan, local races like these have an effect on gun sense, reproductive rights, and environmental policy—all of which affects kids directly or indirectly.
If you’re familiar with this method of fundraising and/or have given before, I hope you chip in, even a tiny amount if you can spare it these days (I know not everyone can.) My goal is $10,000 by October 1. More details are coming next week on how/why/who/what/when if you’re not sure what this is about but might be interested.
3- My friend Alissa Wright in California has kids about my kids’ age. She dropped this wisdom in a Facebook thread about how much screentime kids are getting this summer. I, being a journalist, screenshotted it and asked if I could share it as an example of genius witchy leverage in the interest of making life easier for you/raising future independent people. She offered to tell me more about this system, which you’ll find below, along with a few important digressions. This parenting advice applies to kids of a limited age range but I feel like clever parenting at any stage deserves a celebration.
Tell me about your process.
My kids love screens and I don’t mind because I like to be left alone. The school year ended, at beginning of June and they had no camp ‘til July. I figured, “I’m going to let them overdose on screens and just let them start in the morning and end at night.” They can be on the iPad or iPhone (which isn’t hooked up) and they can watch TV at the same time. I don’t give a shit.
What ended up happening was that after about a week, they were so bored. In our family, I refuse to be the cruise director. When the were little I’d never play with them. I’d say “Oh, I’m a grownup. I don’t like to play.” They’re used to me not making stuff up for them to do. My three daughters are all very close in age but can be like, “I’m bored.” They’ll whine, but they’ll start figuring out stuff to do and they’ll start making these projects. I was very bored every summer and nobody ever entertained me: you’re a child. Go outside and dig a hole. They have tons of toys and books.
The screen stuff worked: it evened off. They still want to do it a little bit at this point but they don’t want to it all day. But what was really pissing us off was that my children will just drop something out of their hand and walk away. Our house is cluttered; we have so much dumb crap everywhere. They generate so much art we can’t throw away in their presence. We’re drowning in paper and toys and shoes.
I decided to try something new. My twins are about turn 8 and their sister is about to turn 10. They’re not that interested in cash but what they want are Robux or Minecoins. I’m very stingy with it so it has a lot of value.
I created a system where you if you see something in the house that needs to be done, you do it and tell me after it’s done and depending on how good a job you dod or how big a job it is, you MIGHT get paid—but you never know.
I have one daughter who we call a shirker because she really doesn’t want to clean or help. If everyone’s doing a project she’ll drift away into a corner or pretend “I’m going to handle this little aspect of the project” and doesn’t do anything and it makes everyone insane. I have turned the shirking into FOMO because that child wants the Robux and Minecoins more than anything else. So what that has done is create a job market. If someone has started a project that might get you some money, she wants in on it. It’s helped with her motivation.
I think there’s a game of chance aspect of it. In real life you don’t get shit for doing your chores other than your house isn’t gross. I don’t want to just pay them a wage anyway; all they want is fake money to buy fake thing in their game which, if think about it, is going to make me insane. I’m not giving more than $5 or $10, which is what you’d get for the biggest most involved project.
My twins have 3-5 costume changes per day; they took it upon themselves to wash all of their laundry which was maybe 5-6 full loads, wash it, fold it, put it away. They organized their drawers. They took so much pride in this that they ended up also cleaning up the tops of their dressers and arranging their toy horses and they cleaned their whole room and did their laundry and nobody asked them to. For me, most of the point of this is to see the shit that needs to be done and take it upon themselves to do it. Just see the thing and just do it.
So how do you give them the Robux?
You can do it through the app. They’ll bring me their phone. I’ll only buy it right then.
How does it go when they tell you they did something but didn’t merit getting paid for it?
I just praise them so much. “Wow this is in incredible; you saw these shoes were all over the place and you put them away, that’s awesome.” I might give them a hint about a little thing that needs to be done. “I see four dirty masks on the ground and these dish towels on the stairs that need to go up.” If it’s a stupid expected thing like bringing your dishes to the sink after dinner, nobody’s getting shit for that.
Clearly this works in part because you have kids who mostly get along.
I have twins and then an older one who’s less than 2 years older than them. The age proximity and they’re all the same gender and they have similar interests in what they want to play helps. But the kids have also the example of my family. My parents and I live next to each other and my brother is around and everybody gets along. That’s how they think families are which is not how I grew up. I rarely saw my extended family.
They do fight, and twin fighting is a very down and dirty intense thing because they take it super personally. They know each other so well and they know just what to do and how to mess with the other one and to really hurt them.
When stuff like that is going on, I say, “Hey hey, don’t forget, these are your people.” I tell them stories about the stuff they’re going to do. “You guys are going to go out to brunch together and have a car and drive and go to the movies together and make fun of me and Daddy together. You’ll be the only ones who remember this stuff together and nobody else will get the joke but you.” They love hearing me and my brother talk about when we were little kids and making fun of our mom. If someone pees the bed, there’s no end to people who can tell you funny stories about your mom peeing the bed too.
You told me earlier that you had your pantry professionally organized recently. Was it worth it?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
A few years ago I met a woman who told me she was a professional organizer and she did a horrible job and everything we did was my idea. Part of it was me driving her around to different place so I could buy everything. It was awkward. I was kind of soured on it but then I found this woman on Instagram and she was in the next town over and I liked her vibe on social media. I have a very nice big pantry that you couldn’t even walk in because it was such a mess. Organization is not my forte; I’m very overwhelmed by stuff like that. I need a professional to set this up for me, set me up for success and get rid of all the trash, expired stuff, things my kids won’t eat that became the bottom layer.
She came over for a free consultation and asked, “What are you hoping this will look like?” I want everything to be in jars and clear containers, have it labeled, old stuff in the back, new stuff in the front. She drew up a plan and presented it to me. “These containers cost this much so you figure out what you want to spend if you want me to get them, I will.” I just ended up ordering stuff online.
The day of, I was very stressed out by the idea of it. She was such a lovely presence. She was like, “Go about your day.” It took her an entire day, it was worth every penny.
What did it cost?
She charged me $30 per hour. She works with a lot of hoarders and the stuff that she deals with is so much worse than mine. She told me, “This is my dream day.” Please, enjoy. I have a minor feeling of panic every time I bring home groceries. Now, it’s easier for everyone to clean up. You can see what’s there.
What did you end up purchasing to organize it?
I put lazy susans in the corner of my pantry and I have so much more stuff there that I can access. I have one that’s just different types of oats. I have a baking cart now—a three tiered IKEA cart. I make a lot of bread, so I put every single type of flour that I use and my breadmaking tools but also cookie making stuff, chocolate chips and sprinkles, when I want to bake anything. I just roll the cart into the kitchen.
Also, earlier while talking about a kids’ party you threw you told me, “I do not ever recommend renting a cotton candy machine.” Expand on that.
You know how they usually have a piece of mesh to collect the cotton candy that’s coming out? Mine didn’t come with that so we couldn’t figure out how to make it. You’re renting this from a company that rents bounce houses it’s not the best stuff. It’s been through it. I was almost going to do snow cones but you had to make your own ice and I was like, no. But I kind of wanted some cotton candy.
Cotton candy requires a lot of heat and it’s very light. I had to lower the table to my knees to dip into it. It was flying all over. The cone was a very narrow, tall floppy see through thing and the kid would be back for more. My arms and face and hair and sunglasses were completely covered in strands of cotton candy. When I took my sunglasses, off, I had a sunglasses-shaped plain space on my face.
What color was the cotton candy?
Pink. If it was blue I would have said “Just take this away.” Generating enough cotton candy to make one cotton candy unit is hard. It’s very stressful in that Lucille Ball chocolate factory way. It’s so loud and so hot and you can’t see it at first and all of a sudden it’s there and you’re like “Oh god, oh god.”
Thanks for reading Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. Feel free to forward this to someone who might find it useful or enjoyable.
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The newsletter archives live here. I plugged in the word “summer” and came back with a very realistic example of kids’ summer camp options, bad habits and words kids learn over the summer, and that time last summer when my kid threw a handful of sand in my face when all I was doing was try to protect him from COVID.
If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions for the newsletter you can reply to this email or talk to other witches on Twitter. And if you live in proximity to the South Side of Chicago, come see me read something tonight and say hi.