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Week 2 down, and I’m still going strong. I have cleared out a ton of stuff…stuff I didn’t even realize we had! And in the meantime, I’ve found lots of things we’ve been looking for. I have to admit that I’m starting to get into areas that I’ve been avoiding. These are rooms and storage areas that are totally overrun. I’m having to remind myself that I only need to tackle one box at a time. I don’t need to finish the whole room in one day. Otherwise, the whole thing just seems so daunting!

The kids have been taking a big interest in this challenge…sometimes just out of curiosity, and occasionally out of concern! I’m also taking this opportunity to introduce a few skills to the kids. Right now, since we all (my husband and I included) have such a problem with putting things away, I’m working on taking one thing back to its rightful place every time we go from one room to another. Just think about the cleaning power we’d have if all of us did that one little thing!

But, back to the challenge…

Last Friday was Day 9 (yes, I know I’m a few days late with this post!), and I decided to tackle the dresser next to my bed. It has long been a piling place for stuff that I didn’t know what to do with. So, there was a ton of junk piled up on it. There was a bag of broken toys and toy pieces that needed to be returned to their sets. That was easy. Throw out the broken things (mostly treasures from meals that supposedly make you happy), and get the good things back to their rightful places. Check! I also had a big stack of old magazines sitting on the shelf above the dresser. They joined the broken toys. I had an entire drawer full of old, um, undergarments (for the top region) that haven’t been worn since I became a mother…my size and shape has changed so much that I’m never going to be able to wear those again. Why were they taking up valuable storage real estate? It turns out that there are charities that request those…I had no idea! I also found a drawer full of clothes waiting on me to repair them. Now, I didn’t get rid of these, but, I set up a station for them next to my sewing machine’s storage spot. It makes more sense. Now I can see them, and take care of them sooner, before the stack gets so daunting!

Day 10 was Saturday, and I was hoping to get to something that I needed my husband’s help for, since he was home…but he had other things outside that needed attention, so that will have to wait. So, instead, I tackled my room again. I had piled my desk high with all sorts of things. This is a common theme in my room. It’s the place everything that doesn’t have a place gets stacked when we go on “somebody’s about to come over panic clean mode”. Then, since there’s a crib in the middle of the room, and a baby sleeping there whenever I get a free minute (you know, because the baby’s asleep), I never clean it up or find places for those things that don’t have a home. So, on the desk, I found another stack of clothes waiting for repair…I added them to their new station. I found a huge box of expired cosmetics. I don’t even wear makeup on a day to day basis. I occasionally use it on special occasions or if I’m having a picture taken, but that’s about it. I now have a much tidier small bag of what I will actually use! I had a box collection of paper that were misprints from the printer. That went away. I also found several bags with a couple craft-type items each. I can now see the desk. It was WONDERFUL! I was able to print out our school-work without climbing over anything.

Day 11 was a brand new fresh Monday. I was back in my room again, working this time on the closet. The closet was what originally inspired this whole challenge. I had already cleaned out the hanging portion before this challenge started. So, I decided to work on the floor. At least, I was pretty sure there was a floor under there somewhere! I found a bunch of old shoes that I had collected. Now, there’s a little known fact that no one tells you about having kids. Every time I get pregnant, my feet grow a little more. When I got married, I wore a size 7.5 shoe. Now, I’m up to a size 9.5! Amazingly, I still had all of my shoes from before the kids. That was an easy box. I organized the purses and belts that I still wanted to keep, and put the others in the box with the shoes. I did save a few pairs of nice shoes that I put in the shed, in case the girls are interested one day…and wind up wearing the right size. If not, I guess it will make for a nice donation a few years down the road.

Day 12 was Tuesday. Tuesdays around here are tricky. We have to do all of our school work first thing in the morning, and then we generally load up for town right after lunch. Bear has allergy shots and Rhino has speech therapy in town on Tuesday afternoons. So, I don’t have a whole lot of time on Tuesdays. So, I did a quick run down on the book case in my room. It was storing a bunch of used preschool workbooks. I saved one from each kid for sentimental reasons, and threw the rest out. Another pretty easy box.

On Day 13, I started to tackle the loft above our room. This is one of those really scary areas. It’s a storage area, but it’s supposed to be functional, too. It’s not really functional right now! As I ascended the stairs, I kept chanting to myself…just one box, just one box. I found a box with mostly used craft supplies and school supplies. I went through it, and saved the useful things, and put the rest in the trash, or in a box if I thought someone else could use them. I didn’t really figure we needed 8 different sets of addition and subtraction flash cards, or 11 (yes, you read that right) sets of multiplication flash cards. Yikes! There’s still a ton to be done up there (and on the stair leading there), but that was all I had time for that day.

Thursday (day 14) was another busy day with an extra appointment in town. So I decided to clean out the kids’ art supply cabinet. I found a bag full of empty paint bottles, lots of crumpled up paper, and a bunch of dried out markers. My oldest daughter does clean it out from time to time, so it definitely wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be. It was another trash day, though.

Now, we’re back to Friday again…Day 15. My husband took the day off to deal with some chickens, so our routine was a little off from usual. Even so, I plowed on through. I tackled our DVD and VHS (yes, we still have a VCR!) collection. There were a couple of broken VHS tapes that I’ve been meaning to throw out for a while, but every time I tried, I couldn’t find them. I finally managed to get those out! We have DVDs under the TV, and those are all watched fairly consistently. I also had a huge collection of movies that I’d bought in college that were in a table (one of those types that also doubles as a storage compartment) next to the couch. They were largely inappropriate for my children. I’m not entirely sure why I’d been saving them. If they aren’t appropriate for my children, why are they appropriate for me? So, out went a box of inappropriate movies.

I am consistently amazed about the things I’ve been holding on to. It is scary, but also quite freeing to let so much of this stuff go. I’m finding that I have some sentimental attachments to a few things, and that’s fine. Those are things that can stay. I don’t really have any family heirlooms yet (with a few exceptions, and I would never part with those, Mom). My mom still has most of the family china, and quilts, and that sort of thing. I hope she keeps them for many more years to come! So, most of the stuff that’s leaving really isn’t useful. It’s just sitting there, taking up space. Some of it would be useful to others…so why not give it a chance to be used? It’s getting easier!

Here are a few of the boxes…in the back of my husband’s car already!


So, 15 days into the challenge, here’s how I’m doing…at a glance (this includes the count from last week):

  • 12 boxes to donate
  • 1 box to sell (probably for about $5 at Half Price Books)
  • 4 boxes into storage
  • 17 bags/boxes of trash

Whew!  What a week!  Bear turned nine, everyone got sick, we had an unplanned trip to urgent care with Baby, and, even with all of that going on,  Momma was a decluttering machine!  Unfortunately, my husband was so anxious to get the boxes out of the house before I changed my mind, I didn’t manage to get any pictures of all the stuff that left this week!  The second he found them, he scooped them up, and out to the back of his car.

I’m rather proud of how things are going so far with this 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  On Day 1 (Ash Wednesday), I decided to start off fairly easy with our bathroom linen cabinet.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a whole box, so I was a little worried.  But, oh my!  Let me tell you, my worries were TOTALLY unfounded.  There was so much stuff up there.  The first day, I only got through the top shelf!  I found all kinds of nice things (like a never-used table cloth meant for a circular table…ours has been a rectangle since I moved out of my first apartment).  There were 5 different place mat and napkin sets with 4 settings each, along with 2 four piece napkin ring sets…that won’t go very far in this house!  Along with the nice things, I found 3 (THREE!) tattered old mattress pads.  Why would I keep those???  Day one, and off to a good start.

As Day 2 of 40 bags in 40 days dawned, I was excited.  I was going to tackle the rest of the bathroom cabinet.  We had sheets, sheets, sheets, and more sheets.  I didn’t make a huge box like I did the first day (and there wasn’t anything there that was worth donating…but hey, at least I’m getting it out of the house), but I had no problem filling up a jumbo-pack size 4 diaper box (mom’s-you know what that looks like!).  I had several full-sized sheet sets that were full of holes…so those went away…along with 4 mattress pads (also full of holes) for a crib-sized mattress.

It is sooooo nice to be able to see what I have in that bathroom cabinet now!

Day 3 is where things started getting tricky.  I had originally planned to tackle the boys’ room, and do the girls’ room on day 4.  But Day 4 was also Bear’s birthday…and she didn’t want to do her room on her birthday.  So, since birthday wishes do come true, and I really didn’t care which room we started in, Day 3 was spent in the girls’ room.  I plan to do several rounds in both kids’ rooms.  They have so much stuff!  So, we did the first round of a toy purge.  Not quite as painless as days 1 and 2!  Bear was ready.  I think she was almost as happy about it as I was.  Lizard was having a lot of trouble with the ordeal…understandably.  But, she perked up when she realized that someone else would be able to have fun with the things she was giving up.  It was really sweet.  We managed to find a small box of toys that both (older) girls were willing to part with.  We also cleaned out 1 kitchen-sized trash bag worth of trash.  It seems that packrat-itis runs in families.

Day 4 of the 40 bags in 40 days challenge was Saturday.  My husband was home, and he had a different project in mind than I did.  He had just finished up our second bookshelf for the living room.  Homeschoolers need a lot of bookshelves.  So, the new plan: move the new bookshelf into the living room, move the girls’ old bookshelf out of their room (it was falling apart), move the old living room bookshelf into the girls’ room.  Did you follow all of that?  Of course, with all of that bookshelf moving, came a lot of bookshelf unloading.  What better time to do a little decluttering?  So, the boys’ room would wait for Day 5.  Most of the removal came from the bookshelf in the girls’ room.  There were 2 bags full of loose paper projects wondering around, along with 2 boxes full of used up coloring books.

On Sunday, we rested.  

Day 5 was Monday, and we went back to resume the plan…so on to the boys’ room we went!  We removed a bag of trash, and several toys with a large footprint that no one played with anymore.  At that point, I moved the toys we had taken out of the girls room into a bigger box, and put all the things that we took from the boys’ room with them.  I don’t think it’s cheating really.  It was a huge box!

On Day 6, we moved back to the girls’ room to tackle the closet.  I am truly astonished at how much stuff they had crammed into the closet floor!  We didn’t even make it to the rest of the closet.  We just worked on the floor.  There was a whole bag of paper trash that they had stuffed in the closet, and we boxed up a bunch of dress up clothes to save for Baby when she gets big enough to enjoy them.  

The next day, we had to make an unscheduled visit to urgent care with Baby.  She had an ear infection that even made the doctor say, “Oh Wow!”  That’s never a good sign.  So, we lost pretty much the entire day.  But I wasn’t going to let that derail my efforts on the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  I pledged to make up our lost day on Day 8.

Yesterday was Day 8 of the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  We went through all of the kids’ dresser drawers to get rid of all the things they don’t wear, or are worn out, or too small.  Again, I was amazed.  My girls had both been stashing “treasures” in their dresser drawers.  Some of them were more treasure-like than others.  I cleaned out half a bag worth of trash from each set of drawers, making one bag of trash (paper, and broken toys mostly) total.  I let them keep the things that were truly worth keeping.  We pared down their clothes collection so that they each got a drawer they can use just for their “treasures”.  Of course, I made them promise not to stuff it full of crumpled up typing paper again!  Bear kept nearly all of her clothes, because, as the oldest, she just doesn’t have very many.  Lizard had been keeping a lot of clothes hidden from me that she wanted to keep even though she had outgrown them.  I found a few 4T sized clothes in there…y’all she wears size 7!  There was a box of clothes to donate and a box to keep in the shed for Baby.

To make up for Day 7, I also cleaned out the boys’ dresser drawers on Day 8.  There was a full box worth of clothes to donate, along with a box of clothes that were too small for anyone.


So, at 8 days into our 40 bags in 40 days challenge, here’s the count:

  • 5 boxes to donate
  • 3 boxes into storage
  • 10 boxes/bags of trash (unless I miscounted)

The season of Lent is almost here! Ash Wednesday is almost upon us…this year, it falls on St. Valentine’s Day. Have you considered what you and your family will be doing for Lent this year?  I have trouble with this every year, to be honest with you. But this year, I’m ready! This year, we are going to tackle the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge.

What on earth is the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge, you ask? Well, it’s a way to tackle all of the clutter that builds up in your house. We have 7 people and 3 dogs who live in our house…a small house, approximately 1000 square feet. Seven people (even little people who can’t even talk yet) can accumulate a lot of stuff. We have stuff everywhere. It doesn’t help that my husband and I are both stackers. We get something out to use it, finish using it, and set it someplace…we don’t put it away right then. I always think I’m going to come back in just a minute and put it away, but I never do. I tell myself, “I’m going to need that again in a few hours. If I put it away, I’ll have to climb on the chair again in a few hours to get it. I could just leave it on the table, and then I’ll have it ready next time I need it.” All fine and good for one thing…but it’s never just one thing, and it seems that there’s never a good time to put them all away! So, the clutter piles and piles and piles.

The biggest problem is that we have so much stuff that all of our convenient storage space is already taken…storage space is at a premium around here in the first place! So all of our cabinets are stacked precariously, our tupperware containers await their next unsuspecting victim, our dresser drawers are crammed full, our closets are overflowing, and the toy boxes…well, you get the picture.

40 Bags in 40 Days

Alright, so now we know the problem. Too much stuff. But, going through, room by room seems such a huge, daunting task!

Well, that’s where 40 bags in 40 days comes in. The goal is that for each day during Lent, you remove a bag or box of stuff from your home. It can be any size. But, each day, you must remove at least one box (or bag). As long as the stuff is in good condition, donate the items to a worthy charity. What a great way to teach myself and my children about being good stewards of our resources and helping other people all at once!

It seems like such a simple idea! Imagine, 40 boxes worth of stuff…gone.

Not just gone, but gone on to someone who can really use it.

I have high hopes, in case you can’t tell. I’m rather embarrassed by the state of my home, honestly. We can hardly move! I’m hoping that by the end of our 40 Bags in 40 Days Lenten challenge that perhaps we will have gained a bit of breathing room. I hope you’ll follow along with us as we free ourselves from the stuff monster during this period of sacrifice and reflection. I promise to update you on our progress weekly.

Before 40 Bags in 40 Days Pictures (Yikes!!!)

Messy Girls' Closet - 40 bags in 40 days

 

diy printable canning labels

Ah, fall is almost here!  Our first cool front of the season rolled through last night.  Outside, the birds are singing, the children are playing, and there’s a lovely breeze blowing.  We’re topping off at about 85 degrees today, which to much of the country, I understand, is still considered quite warm.  However, here in Texas, it’s about 20 degrees cooler than it has been!  With that in mind, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet so I can go outside and get to play a little with the kids.

Now, here in our little corner of the world, we harvest most of our food in June, before it gets so hot that everything dries up and withers away.  So, we’ve had our vegetables picked and put away for a couple of months, now.  However, in much of the country, folks are just now starting to bring in that delicious garden bounty.  

I know I like to have all of our cans in the pantry look nice and pretty.  So, this year, I decided to make some labels to put on the jars to give them a more organized, uniform look in the pantry.  Also, if we decide to give some of our produce as gifts to our friends and family, pretty labels really make those jars look nice!  Just tie a pretty little bow around the lid, and there you have it!  No other gift wrap necessary!

No other giftwrap necessary! Free DIY printable canning labels. Click To Tweet

So, if you have been busy canning all your produce to keep for the year ahead, why not pretty those jars up a little with some nice labels?  At the bottom of this post, you can find the labels I used.  I’m offering them for you to use.  Please feel free to download them, and use them for your pantry.  I only ask that you direct people to this post if they wish to use them, too!  There are several different styles to choose from.  You can print them out on label paper, or on cardstock to tie on with a pretty ribbon.  Get creative!

Download your free DIY Printable Canning Labels Here


diy printable canning labels

 


 

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If you’ve read very many of my posts, you know that I struggle to balance all of my responsibilities.  I have a lot of things on my mind every day!  I need to making sure everyone is cared for and has everything they need.  I don’t know how many waking hours I spend every day pouring cups of juice and getting snacks or food for meals.  Then, of course, there’s making sure our house stays in a clean enough condition to be considered livable (I’m setting the bar high, aren’t I?).  As a homeschooling mother, I also have to make sure that the kids’ educational needs are being met.  Let’s not forget nursing a baby.  I can’t get much else done while I’m nursing the baby…though I must admit to a certain amount of screen time while I’m doing that!

There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done that needs to be done, much less the things I want to get done…things like playing a board game with the kids, or curling up on the couch to read a stack of books to them, or heading out for a bike ride.  But these things are just as important to the emotional well-being of my children as are their physical needs.  Plus, sometimes I just want to relax without worrying about the things I’m not getting done!

The only way to accomplish all I need to do and all I want to do is to have everybody, from my 8 year old clear down to the 2 year old, pitch in as their able.  All the kids really actually enjoy helping out, most of the time.  But sometimes they get frustrated because I don’t give them enough guidance.  I say, “Clean up the living room.”  But, they don’t know where to start.  A task that seems straightforward to me can be daunting to a six year old.  

We’ve tried all kinds of chore systems, but until recently have met with little success.

The Tools

Enter Zone Cleaning for Kids.  This system is fantastic!  It gives kids, even young kids, the tools they need to really help out.  It walks them through all the steps to get the clutter monster under control day in and day out.

The Zone Cleaning for Kids system contains everything you need to help teach your kids the right way to help you keep your house clean.  When you order, you receive the Clean ‘n’ Flip chore chart, an instructional DVD, basket labels, and even a dry erase marker.  You also receive an e-book containing instructions to make some kid-friendly cleaning solutions.  These are non-toxic and can even save you some money!  Who doesn’t like saving money?

When we received the system, I sat all the kids down around my computer, and we watched the video together that explains how to use Zone Cleaning.  It’s amazing how excited my kids get over watching a simple video.  After it was over, they were excited and ready to get started.  That’s right, I said they were excited…about cleaning!  I’ll take it when I can get it!  Then, we went through the Clean ‘n’ Flip chart.  Bear, my oldest was really excited about being able to check off the steps as she went.  

You can find some sample pages on the Zone Cleaning website

 

How We Use Zone Cleaning for Kids

There are 4 Zones: Living Room, Kitchen, Bathrooms, and Bedrooms.  There is a space on the chart to fill in the child’s name or names to be responsible for that zone for the day.  I have our kids work in teams of two on each zone.  One of the girls always works with one of the boys.  The girls help keep the boys on task…since the boys are younger, they do tend to get distracted more easily.  I try to switch up who works with who on a daily basis.  I float between the zones to help out and make sure things are getting done properly.  

There is also a space on the chart to fill in the times of day each zone needs to be completed.  I’m not super-specific on the times.  I usually just fill in “morning”, “afternoon”, or “lunch time”…you get the picture.  Sometimes each zone needs to be done more than once a day.  Each zone has 3 time slots you can fill in.

The core of the system is the check-off pages that use pictures to detail how to complete each section.  Even young children can use it, because the pictures show them what to do.  It’s also written with complete instructions for those who can already read.  In each zone, these pages detail step by step how to complete each task.  If your kids need additional help, you can watch the DVD for additional instructions.

There is also a page to fill in extra daily chores for each zone.  This is the page where you can really customize this system to work in your home, with your kids’ ages and abilities.  My kids are still pretty young, so I don’t really use this page much yet.  The core of the system is enough for right now.  But, as they get older, this system can grow with them as I can add to it.  Even with the kids doing just the basics, it takes some of the strain off of me, so that I can tend to other tasks that need to be done as well.

Zone Cleaning
Bear thinks I’m crazy for taking pictures at chore time!

I like the Zone Cleaning for Kids system because I can customize it just for our family…for our kids’ ages and abilities.  As they grow and show new capabilities and talents, I can continue to tweak the system to fit our needs.  Best of all, this system actually teaches skills my kids will need for their entire lives.  As homeschoolers, teaching life skills can often fall by the wayside, but with Zone Cleaning, I have something tangible I can use to help them learn.

If you’d like to try Zone Cleaning for Kids, right now, there is currently a 20% discount for anything offered by Trigger Memory.  This includes Zone Cleaning as well as their fantastic Times Tales program. 

Use Coupon Code PARTNER20 for 20% OFF Times Tales Products Including Zone Cleaning for Kids

Socks

Where do they come from?

Socks.  I despise socks!  Socks comprise a major part of the laundry around here, and I can’t really figure out why.  They’re relatively small, and my husband is really the only one who wears them regularly.  You can usually find me wearing a pair of flip flops…rain or shine, hot or cold, it doesn’t really matter to me.  Our children don’t like socks.  The oldest decided several years ago that they made her feet sweat, and said so within earshot of her younger siblings, who, in their quest to be like their big sister, have followed in her bare (but not sweaty!) footsteps.  If you find any of my children walking around with socks inside their shoes, rest assured, there has recently been a knock-down, drag-out fight over the occasion.  I’ve found, in motherhood, that it’s important to pick your battles.  There are circumstances that I will force the children to wear socks…but most of the time it just isn’t worth it.

So, how is it, then, that socks have come to represent such a large portion of the laundry?  Honestly, I have no idea where they all come from.  If you know, please tell me the secret!  Really…it’s driving me crazy (yes, dear husband, I know…it’s too short a trip to waste the gas).

Continue reading “Socks”


I am a wife and the mother of five children.  I love my family.  We live on a farm…no pavement in sight.  You know what that means, right?  Dirt.  Dirt, dirt, and more dirt.  Then it rains.  Then comes the LAUNDRY!  Loads and loads and loads of it.  But, that’s just the tip of the iceburg.  

Let’s not forget the dishes.  My youngest doesn’t eat solid food yet, and is exclusively breastfed.  She doesn’t contribute to Dish Mountain.  So, that makes six plates, six cups, six forks, six spoons, six knives…plus all the pots and pans to cook in…for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Doesn’t my life sound glamorous?

Housekeeping is NOT one of my gifts.  Yes, I said it.  I don’t enjoy housework…I’m really not very good at it.  I don’t see all those little tasks that need to be done to keep a house truly clean and comfortable.  I’m generally happy if I manage to keep the dishes clean and enough clean clothes in my kids’ drawers.  I’m very lucky that my husband is an enormous help in this department, too!  He can often be found washing dishes with the kids (like, every night after dinner while I’m putting the baby to bed), folding laundry, or sweeping and mopping the floors.  But, there are always so many more things to be done…and with a two month old infant, even the basics often seem to slip.  Alas, I fall further and further behind.  There’s not enough time or energy to tackle that growing pile of clothes waiting to be folded…much less that big project that needs to be done!

But, I knew what I was signing up for eight years ago when I quit my job to stay home with my oldest…I thought.  Of course, the load has gotten a little heavier with each addition to the family, but that’s to be expected.  My biggest problem is that I tend to look at the housework all wrong.

I’ve always measured myself, and my personal success, on what I can complete.  What I can finish.  What I can check off that good ole’ to-do list.  With my housework, I always felt like such a failure.

“I found the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper!  Yay me!  I did such a great job today!”

Ten minutes later, I visit the bathroom and the hamper (OK, I’ll be honest, it’s usually the floor in front of the hamper) is already full again!  “All that time spent, and nothing to show for it.”  Sigh.

“Yay!  The dishes are done and put away.  The counters are clean and disinfected.  My husband’s coffeepot is sparkling!”

But then, “Mom!  Can I have a snack?”  And of course, if one person is hungry, everyone else realizes they’re famished too.  They find and finish their snacks, leaving dish carnage in their wake.  It’s not enough to justify a whole new sink full of dish water (No, we don’t have a dishwasher), but if I don’t do it now, after dinner it will look like a dish sculpture of Mount Everest.

I looked at the housework as something to be accomplished.  Completed.  Defeated!  But I got so discouraged because it just simply cannot happen.  It isn’t possible.  Even if I were to get every single article of clothing in the house clean, folded, and put away, we’re still wearing something while it’s getting done.  So it isn’t done.

If I can help my kids learn the right attitude about it all, they’ll be so far ahead of me.  My way isn’t the right way to think about all the housework.  Now that I have daughters who are getting old enough to actually help, I have to do my best to make sure they don’t get this attitude about work, and about life in general.  Because honestly, that’s what housework really is…LIFE!  If I can help my kids learn the right attitude about it all, they’ll be so far ahead of me.  

So, now, for that all important question.  How should I try to teach myself to think about housework?  How should I teach my kids?  I already know how NOT to do it.  But how SHOULD I do it?  Well, I’ve got to look at it as an on-going process, not something to be completed.  We can’t stop living because I just swept and mopped the floors.  I have to learn to accept that life happens.  There’s going to be a dog (or 3) who just took a nice swim in the pond trailing my husband who’s carrying a big pile of still mud-caked turnips inside from the garden the day after a good rain.  That’s ok.  So what?  I’ll try again tomorrow (and make my husband sweep again after he’s done washing the turnips!).

I also have to learn (and teach!) that if I’m doing my job right (which I rarely am), no one is going to notice.  But, that shouldn’t be why I do it anyway.  Housework is my act of service to care for my family, to make my guests feel welcome and comfortable…whether they called first or not!  This is one (of many) ways I should be showing love for others.  I should expect nothing in return…not even praise for a job well-done.

If I can impart this hard life-lesson early on in my daughters’ lives (and my sons’ too), that’s just another way to help them live happier, healthier, more satisfying lives than have I.  One way I’ve started is by making sure we do ourZone Cleaning  twice a day, every day!  This program really helps them break down each cleaning task into manageable chunks.  It also helps us all remember that keeping our home neat and clean is an ongoing process…not something to do that stays done forever.  We have to come back to it many times every day!

It’s a work in progress, but someday, maybe I’ll figure it all out!

 

 

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A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she had lost her phone.  She has been looking for it for a couple days.  Hopefully, by the time I finish writing this post and get up, she will have found it! 

It can really be frustrating when things get lost.  It’s even more frustrating when you look everywhere you can think, and you still can’t find it.  If you have small children who share your home, you must learn to think like a toddler if you want to find your missing item.  Maybe it’s your phone, maybe your car keys or wallet.  Maybe it’s the keys to the tractor.  So, for those of you who are lucky enough to have a toddler or preschooler living in your home, I’ve put together a list of the strangest places I’ve ever found my missing items…maybe it will help you locate that long-lost set of house keys!

1. The dishwasher

Thoroughly inspect every crevice of your dishwasher.  Look on the inside, look on the outside.  Check inside that little hollow area right under the door handle.  Bear hid my phone in that little hollow once.  I searched and searched for my phone.  It disappeared on a Friday afternoon.  We looked all weekend, but we couldn’t find it.  I was pregnant with Monkey at the time, and we decided it would probably be a bad idea for me to be alone at the house without a phone.  So, Monday morning, I loaded the girls into the car, and went to purchase a new phone.  All was once again right, and I had learned that I should keep my phone up in a higher location!  A few months later, we were giving the dishwasher a thorough cleaning.  I saw something weird in the gap underneath the handle.  I got a pair of kitchen tongs and managed to pull it out.  There it was…my long lost phone…found months too late.  It even still worked!  It became a decoy phone for the kids to play with.  It’s still wandering around the toy boxes to this very day.

2.  A child’s play purse…

…that is inside a stuffed animal backpack all crammed down together in the bottom of a dress-up box.  I can’t make this stuff up!  One of our dear children once absconded with the tractor keys.  For a week, my husband had to hotwire the tractor if he needed it (it just happened to be that time of the year when it was needed…often).  Daddy was mad!  We looked all around the tractor for the lost keys.  We knew one of the kids was responsible for the disappearance, but we weren’t sure which one…though we had our suspicions that it was Lizard.  We really thought they had been dropped outside somewhere, so we searched the entire yard.  I had the kids out searching every day.  One day, I had the girls inside cleaning their room, which looked like a scene from some sort of natural disaster stricken area.  Bear pulled out the backpack.  She looked inside, and pulled out the purse.  Lizard looked up and said, “Oh!  I wondered where this was!”  Then Lizard grabbed the purse and looked inside, wondering what sort of long-forgotten treasure she would find there.  Her face was priceless.  She looked up at me, and back down into the purse and sheepishly pulled out the tractor keys.  “I forgot!”  was all she said.  Then, she started laughing hysterically.  We showed Daddy, who was still a bit irritated, but glad to have the keys back.

3.  A bag of flour

This is one of Rhino’s favorite places to hide things.  Of course, being a family of seven, we don’t ever get the small bag.  Oh no…we buy the 25 pound bag.  I’ve pulled phones, keys, and toys out of the bag of flour.  It’s at that perfect height that just invites little hands to investigate!  Plus, it’s in a bag that’s in a box under the cabinet.  The multiple containers make it extra fun!

4.  Inside a table

This is Rhino’s other favorite place to hide things.  But, inside a table?  How does a small child put things inside a table?  Well, we have two tables that have an inside.  One is the coffee table.  It’s on wheels, so he can push it around the living room.  The top opens so that ideally, you can store blankets or magazines or books…whatever you need accessible but out of site.  It also has doors on the sides so you can access the inside that way.  Rhino likes to put things in the top, then locate them in the blanket stack from the side.  It’s a fun game…until something gets lost in the folds of a blanket.  Then, the mystery can quickly become a tragedy…especially if no one saw him put the item inside the table.  We looked for his “nice” for days once.  His nice is a little blanket that he always sleeps with.  We finally found it inside the coffee table, wrapped up in another, much larger blanket.

We have another table that folds up and stands against the wall most of the time.  It only comes out when we have company and need extra seating at meal time.  The chairs for the table fold and are stored inside the table.  There’s a little door on each side that opens so that the chairs can be removed.  It’s a neat little table that has been with me since my college apartment-dwelling days.  Since the children came along, though, many a small item has turned up inside that little table, sometimes fallen between the cracks in the folded chairs.  

 5.  In the tupperware drawer 

We were visiting my parents a year or so ago.  Rhino was toddling about with his sippy cup most of the afternoon.  When dinner time came, he was very thirsty, and really wanted some juice.  But, no one could find his cup.  We looked everywhere!  Still, no cup.  We finally caved and got out a fresh cup for dinner, but we still needed to find it before we left.  We didn’t want to forget the cup (we only keep a couple at home), and I’m sure my mom didn’t want to find the cup months later…no one enjoys that kind of surprise!

The next day, I happened to open the tupperware drawer (looking for something else, but still unfamiliar with they lay-out of my parents’ new kitchen), which was one of the lowest drawers in the kitchen.  Again, it was the perfect height for little hands to explore!  Low and behold, there was something bright orange showing from an upside-down stack of Ziploc containers (or possibly Gladware…who can tell!).  The color caught my eye, since everything else was clear plastic.  It was also odd for the stack to be in the drawer upside down.  So, I lifted the overturned stack, and there it was…the missing sippy cup!  Found at last.  We were all relieved.  


So, if you ever find yourself missing an item and you have little ones in the house, think like a toddler.  Look inside of stuff that’s inside of something else!  Your mom may have told you to look where you left it, or maybe to retrace your steps.  “It didn’t grow legs and walk off!”  Well, the moral of the story here is…maybe it did!  It just have grown some pint-sized legs and walked somewhere strange…somewhere strange and exciting-to a toddler anyway! 

 

Think Tank Thursday  

 

 

 

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The Blogger's Pit Stop


Last week, my oldest daughter turned eight.  We had a small celebration at home.  We’ll have a party for some friends after the baby comes and we all get settled again.  For our family celebration, we baked a birthday cake to have after dinner.

Baking in a small, galley-style kitchen can be a challenge when you’re 8 and a half months pregnant, and roughly the size of a river barge.  Add four children who want to help to the mix, and you have a situation brewing that’s likely to make you lose your mind!

These experiences, helping Mom or Dad in the kitchen are so important for young children.  They need to learn how to help…and actually be helpful!  They need to learn how to clean up once the job is done.  They need to learn how to read a recipe…and it’s a great way to teach fractions, too!  So, how can you, as a parent, help them to learn all these things while not losing your mind?  You want it to be an enjoyable experience for you all!  You want your children to look back with fond memories of baking in the kitchen with you.

 

I have to admit, before my kids started getting old enough to help, I had very unrealistic expectations of how these cooperative cooking experiences would proceed.  We would have pretty, matching mother and child aprons.  I would look like June Cleaver, with high heels and perfect hair pulling cookies out of the oven with a giant smile on my face (as if anyone can really smile while wearing high heels!).  We would carefully measure, and stir, taking turns nicely while nary a drop was ever spilled.  There would be no flour explosions in our perfect kitchen!  Never an egg shell dropped in the wrong spot!

Oh, how foolish the expectations of a young mother can sometimes be!!!

Well, I’m certainly no June Cleaver, and cooking with even one child is a mess.  Cooking with four is nothing short of a natural disaster of the proportion that deserves its own name!  But, if I let it, cooking together can also be a hugely rewarding experience…both for me, and for the children.

Bear is old enough now that she is actually quite a help.  She knows how to read a recipe, how to measure ingredients, and how to make sure she gets those ingredients (completely) into the mixing bowl.  Lizard is learning, but still needs a lot of help.  On Sunday, she was helping her Daddy make hamburger patties, and managed to squirt raw meat juice all over both their faces!  But, hey…at least she’s excited to get her hands in there and get things done.  Monkey tries-but he still needs very careful oversight!  Rhino…well…he can’t really be trusted not to eat all the flour!

 

If I had never let Bear into the kitchen in the first place, she wouldn’t ever have learned as much as she has so far.  If I don’t let Lizard try to measure and pour by herself, she’ll never figure out how to do it without spilling.  Now, does that mean I don’t offer correction when she makes a mistake?  Absolutely not!  I try to patiently show her a better way, then, let her try it for herself (hopefully without the raw meat juice!).

Patience is not a virtue I possess naturally.  It is something I have to constantly practice and work on.  Sometimes, I have to just stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that they goal isn’t a perfect cake.  The goal is teaching my children enjoyment of an important life skill: cooking.  When I can keep that goal in mind, it’s much easier to make cooking with my children a fun, relaxed experience…and that’s better for us all!

Here is the finished product for Bear’s birthday cake.  She frosted and decorated it herself, too.  It’s a dinosaur in a field of flowers, in case you’re wondering.  She has never been so proud of a cake!  I’m so proud of her.  She’s growing up so fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The entomologist interviewed on the local news station assured us that they aren’t ladybugs, but Asian Ladybird Beetles. But they certain look like ladybugs to me. I also seem to remember that someone’s library books about ladybugs said that “ladybird beetle” is one of many alternative names for ladybugs. But that professor on the news really seemed sure of himself. Maybe he just meant that they aren’t the local, native variety of ladybugs. He said they were imported years ago to take care of some sort of crop pest…hmm, aphids, anyone? Anyway, I saw it on the news so it must be true, right?

Whatever the entomologists want to call them, we sure do have a lot of them! They seem to have chosen our house as their hibernation location of choice. Since it got a spot on the news, I assume we must not be all that special.

They’ve shown up every year in mid to late November, depending on when we get our first real cold snap. That’s when ladybug season starts in our house. The children wake up one morning to find hundreds of ladybugs, or perhaps Asian Ladybird Beetles, crawling on the ceilings of their rooms. They start to form clumps in the corners of the rooms, right where the ceiling meets the walls in each of the four corners of the room.

It’s really quite an impressive sight to see. I’ve never seen so many ladybugs in one place! The problem always comes a few days later. You see, Texas winter weather is rather notorious for its roller-coaster type behavior. One day, it will get down to 20F. A couple of days later, we’ll be hitting 80 again. A week later, and we’re back down into the 40s. It’s all very confusing for us humans who have a weather forecast to watch. No one gives the poor ladybugs a weather report. It gets warm, and they think it’s time to wake up. I’m sure many of them get back outside, but many of them don’t. This results in a ladybug graveyard that covers the floors of my children’s rooms. But then, it gets cold again. The cycle repeats itself all winter long.

I feel bad for the the ladybugs.  It must be confusing for them, living in Texas.  I do wish they would stay out of the house.  But, it does amuse the children.  They spend all winter playing with ladybugs inside.  They come and proudly show me all the ladybugs they managed to get to crawl on them at once.  But, in a few days time, they will be vacuumed up, off the floor…more sad victims of a Texan “winter”.  Hopefully, enough of them will last until spring time, which starts in late February or early March.  Goodness knows we’ll need them around by then.  There will be pests-a-plenty outside on all of our garden vegetables.  A feast ready and waiting for the Asian Ladybird Beetle.


If you have this problem as well, there are some things that can be done to get the ladybugs to find a new home.  Check out

this Orkin fact page

, and

this page from household-tips

.

 

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

 

 

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