Something of an update.
We are in an organized phase. I'm trying to see what I can do to make these habits last longer than a month. For instance, I'm trying to notice those moments that would have been more difficult if I hadn't have been keeping up with things. I'm trying remind myself that some things won't take so long once I get into a routine.
The fact is, I've tried all these things before: making a habit of "morning chores" such as sweeping, tidying the kitchen and walkways. I've tried getting into a routine for myself, but the girls have always had meltdowns about something or another until I am so helplessly and hopelessly behind. Finally, I think things are clicking a little. DD2, now 5yo, is starting to look for her own misplaced toys without a fuss (Ha! meltdown I mean. And when this child finally does melt down you are committed to dropping everything to deal with it, which is why I have been a wuss-- I mean I have chosen my battles very carefully!) DD1 will finally use the bathroom by herself. They have more patience to wait for reading time until I can get some chores done. They will read ( or "read") on their own for a bit.
We have had the occasional family meeting, and yes, Miranda, leaving dh out of it is better. He is so focused on..... the results, the ends, that it's hard for him to really listen and go with the flow. If he's going to commit time, he wants it to accomplish something. Yeah... we'll proceed without him mostly. But for right now, I need to get in my own rhythm so the girls can find their place within that. I think we can make some progress this time because they are a bit older. Also, they are starting to take the reins on some things. They have been watching Bill Nye and dd2 wanted to do an experiment. I was busy making dinner, so, with some verbal assistance, such as "What do we need to start? Now what's next?" she managed to recreate the experiment on her own.
I have laid down some expectations, like waiting for my chores to be done in the morning before reading. It's nice that the sink is clean and ready for them to play in, that helps them occupy themselves. (Hopefully one day the "art table" won't have piles of junk on top and they will be able to get their own watercolors set up.) I've told them (well, mainly dd2 who is always losing things) that I no longer look for toys but I will do "Big Toy Finding" which is essentially putting away all the toys and cleaning up. I know, I know, they need to do this (well, dd2 especially needs to do this) but as a child I find this extremely overwhelming and I don't mind keeping some sanity at the same time as I help teach them to clean up after themselves. Baby steps, baby steps. The mess isn't such a big deal, it's the disorganization and the lost time finding things when you need them, whether it be shoes or tiny Baby Roo. The fact is, I'm as bad as they are. OK, not so bad, but I really feel I need to cultivate my own habits first.
Again, I've tried most of this before, but this time I'm really trying to change my mindset, like I described before. I also am trying to find restfulness in my activity rather than apart from it. Very Zen. And, just like so much in family life, what failed miserable six months ago suddenly seems to fall into place. I hope I'll be saying the same in two months!