Dear Justine

Today’s guest post is written by a fine woman who more or less strong-armed me into being her friend.  Like so many fabled relationships, it all began online.  And, if a restraining order means anything at all anymore, it’ll stay there.

However,  I want it known that this post was published entirely of my own free will, and has nothing to do with blackmail, coercion, or any kind of weird, contagious, free-floating Italian guilt (is that a thing?).  We both like to tease, but deep down are decent people; and so most of our correspondence begins:  “Um, you know that was just a joke, right?  I like your hair!” or “Stay away from my husband, homewrecker!”

Again, for the record:  Justine Schmiesing is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life, and that is the reason she’s writing this guest post today.  That and that she’s damn funny, and should probably stop being a blog hog and open up her writing for public consumption again.

One more thing:  if you have a question for Dear Justine, send it to me at simchafisher [at] gmail [dot] com and I will be sure to forward it to her.



DEAR JUSTINE:  When a Spoonful of Sugar Just Isn’t Enough

Dear Justine,

School’s out for the year, and now my kids are complaining about having to help around the house. I’ve read parenting articles that encourage turning chores into games, but the games are never ones my kids want to play. Any suggestions?

Doubting Mary Poppins

Dear DMP,
Ah summer! Those crazy, lazy days when everyone stops eating, using the bathrooms, and wearing clothes.

No wait, that’s heaven.

So unless you LIKE being the only one stuck slaving away inside during the pool party, it’s perfectly reasonable to mobilize your troops and make them pitch in to clean up the mess that they are, very likely, responsible for.

My kids hate chores, but they are always up for a game. Of course, MY favorite housecleaning games are based on movies I don’t allow the little tykes to watch (like Aliens and Predator), but here are a few of my kids’ picks that are almost equally fun and effective.

Hot potato
(One player)
Player is handed an object by parent and instructed to put it away where it belongs. Player then pretends the object is too hot to carry all the way and shoves it in the first available hiding spot. Player loses if parent finds the object before they forget who they told to put it away.

Unfreeze Tag
(Single or multiple players)
Game begins with parent assigning a chore (like clearing the table or picking up toys). Players perform assigned duties until parent steps out of the room, then players freeze in place and do not move again until parent returns.

Players win if chore takes three times longer to complete than it should have.

Town Cryer
Players are assigned a task that involves them working at a slight distance from parent, anywhere from the next room over to the backyard. Players take turns shouting at the top of their lungs, “So-and-so, why aren’t you HELPING?” “So-and-so, GET UP and HELP!” Game is won if parent shows up and spanks So-and-so. Game is lost if parent shows up and spanks everyone. (Town Cryer can be played in conjunction with Unfreeze Tag for double the fun.)

(Two player)
Game begins with parent giving a message to one player assigning a chore to the second player. First player delivers the message, with the option to add their own embellishments (like, “Ha-Ha”, and “I don’t haaave to”). Second player may choose to obey the messenger, ignore the messenger, or shoot the messenger. If messenger is ignored or shot, they may choose to tattle on the second player or shoot back. Game ends when both players are separated and assigned double chores.

Blind Man’s Bluff
(Single player version)
Player cleans their bedroom in such a manner that parent can’t tell whether or not a blind man did it.

The Blame Game
(Two or more players)
Game begins when parent (preferably Mom) questions why an assigned group chore has not been completed. Players take turns blaming each other and saying “Nah-AHH!” while parent tries to sort out the truth through all the confusion. Game is won if Mom starts crying. Game is over if Dad comes home.

Last, but not least, Daddy’s favorite…

(As many players as necessary)
Players who are have lost their focus and motivation to do chores properly use paper and pencil to hand copy Pope John Paul II’s encylical Laborem exercens, (On Human Work) until they are found again.


So the next time you pull out the vacuum and hear a loud whining sound before it’s even plugged in, just remember that even though Julie Andrews’s charges were only kid actors who cheerfully did what they were told because they got paid a lot of money, she sure got it right when she sang, “Find the fun and SNAP! the job’s a game!”



  1. That was supposed to read, “kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful AND MOST BEAUTIFUL”

    You know what this means. Thumbscrews.

  2. LMAO. I am so making my 7-year-old read this. She’s pretty good at the first several games, but the last one might make her thank twice!!

  3. This is fantastic, Justine! (I was thrilled to see it listed on New Advent!) Now, when are you going to start a blog so we can more regular doses of your wisdom and hilarity?

  4. Two and a half years ago, in my house, we started the “Work or you’ll spend the entire summer weeding flower beds and cleaning brake dust off Daddy’s car wheels.

    Then we switched to the “Mop the bathroom floor or you will loose your iPod for a month game”.

    When they got good at that, my kids invented the “Daddy, can we have ice cream when we are done cleaning the house?” game.

    After two and a half years of playing games, my 10 and 14 year old daughters now wake up at 8:00 AM every saturday morning, have breakfast and then begin mopping and scrubbing, dusting and doing laundry WITHOUT ME HAVING TO SAY A WORD!

    The bible says those who do not work should not be allowed to eat.


  5. Appease the Angry Goddess.

    Game is lost if the child feels constrained to bring you, unasked

    a. coffee

    b. a note reading “I love you mumy” [sic]

    c. a note more cautiously worded “I LIke you mum Today.”

    In fact, this game is pretty much lost from the start.

  6. Justine you are practically perfect in every way!!

    You have truly found the balance between SuperNanny and the Trunchbull — “Use the rod, beat the child.”

    Looking forward to more.

  7. Wow! So I DID accomplish something this summer….we could check off all the games on that list! haha 😉 Boy, if only I’d have known about this at the beginning of summer I could have been prepared w/a prize bag or something….

    Yes, Justine you must write more!

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