Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Abrupt Change of Plans

Sometimes, life throws you lemons.  We try to make lemonade out of them.  Sometimes though, it's hard to find enough sugar to sweeten it.  Today is one of those days. 

I thought my day was going to be a good one.  A little blogging, a dentist appointment, (ok, not so good, but I can do anything for an hour, including getting a 40 year old filling replaced), parent teacher conference for our first grader, at which I expect to get a glowing report.

Can you say "fever."  Our first grader climbed into bed with me this morning, and I could feel the heat off her immediately. 

On the lemonade side, I don't have to spend the next hour giving her gentle reminders to "focus."  Focus on her breakfast, focus on getting dressed, focus on getting her teeth brushed....  And I get to put off the dentist until next week. 

Then came the phone call from my husband.  He'd just gotten a text from our son in high school.  The police officer assigned to the  junior high and high school  for the past 12-13 years had died in his sleep.  The kids and teachers were just finding out about it. 

Officer Chapin was one of those rare cops that totally understood kids.  Which is why he was awarded "Officer of the year" by our town's police dept.  He took part in school assemblies.  He played ping pong with the kids.  He was a part of the school communities.  The kids knew him, and he knew them.  The kids trusted him...not because of his badge, but because of how he was with them. 

He was, in short, a fixture in our lives.

And so today, I will hug my kids.  My sick one, and my sad one.  My laundry will remain undone, our dinner will likely be nuked.  And I will give thanks for the day, and be glad in it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Avalanche !!

Well, it finally happened.  All my papers I had organized into a neat little pile (read HUGE and GINORMOUS) avalanched, burying my office floor.  Gosh, I hope nobody's trapped under there!  It could be days before a rescue crew can reach them.

Six months ago, I bought a four drawer filing cabinet.  It should work beautifully for storing these papers.  You'd think anyway.  Turns out, you have to open the drawers and put the papers into little folders that you've labled.  Seems like more of a long term goal to me. 

In the meantime, I can't keep stepping over this sea of papers.  I'm going to pull a hamstring.

I searched "Conquer Paper Clutter".  Got 592,000 results on Bing.  Seems I'm not the only one having this problem. 

One solution I really liked is called "Neat Desk".  It's a scanner you feed your papers through, and not only does it store an image of the paper on your computer, it READS it and converts the information into a table you can then export into various programs like "Turbo Tax" and "Quicken" or "Excel".  You can even run childrens artwork through it, and create digital art galleries.  COOL.  I want it.  Want, want, want, want it.  One problem.  $379.00 at Amazon.  Maybe later.

Most of the other sites offer mostly the same advice.  Advice which I'm going to share.

Apparently I'm going to have to sit down with this pile of papers and deal with them. 

  1. I'm going to need to figure out what types of papers we receive. 
  2. I'm going to need to figure out what kinds of papers I want to keep.
  3. I'm going to need to schedule a time at least once a week to deal with the papers that have come in.
All right, who's with me? 

By end of busines tomorrow...every loose piece of paper in my house will have been touched by human hands (mine) and all those I don't need to keep will be disposed of.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What's for Dinner?

"I'm hungry, when's dinner?"  Sound familiar?  I hear it every day starting around 4:00 pm.  Of course my first thought is "What, didn't I just feed you yesterday?!!" 

But, apparently children need to be fed each and every day...multiple times a day in fact.   Sheesh.  My husband and I both grew up in homes where dinner was at the table, all of us at the same time, every day.

By the time we got married, he'd been a single dad for several years, and dinnertime had kind of fallen apart for him and the kids.  He had a nanny, and she fed the kids before he got home from work, so he would either eat the leftovers, standing in the kitchen, or nuke a burrito.  I had fallen into the habit of eating dinner from the pan at the stove. 

We knew we had this family to make...so we started with dinner.  Together, at the table.  And boy was it a hassle.  The kids fought and complained about the food.  They complained that they couldn't watch "Sponge Bob" during dinner.  "What do you mean, I can't read at the table?"

And so it went.  Hurry up with dinner, so we can be out the door with the Karate Kid for his seven pm class.  Or Ballerina Girl for her seven pm class.  Youth group on Wednesdays.  Etc.  The battles over food and talking nice to each other continued. 

I can't tell you how many times I wanted to give up, and just run them through the drive thru on our way to wherever.  Just to have a little less stress and a little more peace.

Yet, now that two of the kids are grown and out of the house, when you ask them their favorite thing about growing up, they'll tell you it was when their dad and I got married and we started having dinner together every night.  Regardless of what was going on, it was something they could always count on.  Hmmm?  Kids !!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Playing Nice

I have a couple of mantras for the new year.  First being, "Fake it till you feel it." 

We've all heard it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Well after exhaustive research...IE, I "Googled" it... and it seems that may not be true after all.  Or it might be...just depends on who's website you pick.

Potential for facial exercises aside, just because I'm having a bad day, why should I be a downer to everyone who crosses my path?  Particularly my husband and children.  No, not out of some altruistic  "you matter more than me" kind of place.  But, from a "as momma goes, the family goes" kind of place.  If I'm grumpy with them, they'll be grumpy with me.  If they're grumpy with me, in my already grumpiness, well....it might not be pretty, and a lot of apologizing will have to take place after I've unleashed all my Viking Fury on them.  (Yes, we did just watch "How to Train Your Dragon" and I am 1/8 Swedish)

It's one thing to apologize after accidentally breaking something, or inadvertently hurting someones feelings.  It's quite another, when the apology comes with a heapin' helpin' of humble pie all because my knickers were in a knot. 

So, fake it till you feel it.  Fake being not grumpy.  Smile. (not that sarcastic, "boy I'm doing everything I can to tolerate you" smile...you know what I'm talking about)  Take a deep cleansing breath.  And guess what?  If you keep this up, you just might find yourself feeling better. 

As with most things I write about...I tested it out first.  Guess what, it actually works. Turns out, smiling releases endorphins.  (according to my "Google" experts).  Once the endorphins are released, you start to feel better.  Endorphins are our friends.  And you can never have too many friends !!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow Day...without electricity

What a day and night !!
Our power went out about 8:30 am. Having lived through the '96 ice storm here in the Pacific Northwest, I knew it was going to be out for awhile. We may not have a generator, but we do have just enough battery powered gizmo's that we got through just fine.

Our teenager was sick in bed.  So he slept through most of it.  My daughter and I spent hours coloring in her coloring books. I forgot how fun it was to color!! (especially now that she's older and doesn't tell me what colors to use.) 

When it got dark, we lit a few candles and fired up a couple of L.E.D. "As Seen on TV" light pucks. We had a "fire" in the gas fireplace. We pulled out our battery operated DVD player (you know, the kind you entertain the kids with in the car on road trips). We all huddled around the 7 inch screen and watched "How to train your dragon." We also broke the no eating in the family room rule, and ate the rapidly softening ice cream from the freezer.

After our daughter went off to bed, (fleece footie jammies, comforter, fleece blanket, and quilt...it was 57 degrees upstairs) the rest of us played cards, for about two hours.  I woke up at around 2:30 this morning, drenched in sweat. No, not a hot flash (this time, anyway) but the power was back on, and so was the furnace!!!

 My daughter is greatly disappointed this morning to see lights on ! I almost am too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Date Night - at home

I love my husband.  And I'm lucky enough to really like him too, almost all the time.  99.9% of the time.  (We all have our moments, after all.  I have a feeling he likes me 98.7% of the time...I get a little cranky now and then)

Date night...date night. 

Everyone says married couples with kids need to schedule a date night.  I can certainly see the value in that.  Particularly since ours is a second marriage, which meant on day one of our life as husband and wife, we had three kids.  My husband's.

I've been an auntie since I was 14, so I definately had some experience, but getting three kids off to school...well nothing can prepare you for that.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I'd become a stay at home mom, and we'd added a fourth to the blend.  Date night was starting to look pretty good.  Particularly since our home had been overtaken by baby paraphenalia, and teen/tween backpacks, coats, shoes, socks (what is with the socks everywhere? !!  Dirty socks are indeed the bane of my existence) 

We went all out.  We hired our oldest daughter as babysitter.  We made reservations for an early dinner for us, ordered pizza for the kids, bought movie tickets on Fandango.  Do you see where this is going?  Yes, we also started an online application for a second mortgage on our house...well not really, but we did drop about $150.00. 

The next time, we scaled it back.  Hired the oldest daughter again, boiled up some hotdogs for everyone, bought movie tickets on Fandango, went to Starbucks afterwards.  Ooh, we cut the cost in half.  This time we only dropped about $75.00.

We called it quits.  Without realizing it though, we started something else.  About this time, we had just discovered Netflix.  I was a nursing mom, but wasn't comfortable nursing in front of my teenaged stepson. (go figure)  So I started watching movies and TV shows on DVD while I was hidden away in our bedroom.  In the evenings,my husband would often wander in, and before we knew it, we found ourselves having alone time (nursing and sleeping baby not withstanding). 

Who knew, a closed door was all it would take.  When the baby grew older, we still found ourselves closing the door after she was down for the evening, and watching DVD's.  Seven years later, we still make a point to come together a couple of times a week after the remaining small child is tucked into bed, and the high schooler is off doing what high schooler's do, and snuggle up to watch DVD's together. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Securing your own oxygen mask first

When my youngest daughter was a baby, I remember attending a Mother's Day Tea, where the speaker was encouraging us mom's to take better care of ourselves and our needs.  She called it putting on our oxygen mask first, just like the directions on an airplane.  Oh sure, it made lots of sense.  How much better could I care for my family, if I indeed was rested and filled up?!!  Probably lots.  Probably with lots less complaining and irritation on my part.  I didn't want much, just a few minutes in the shower undisturbed.  Maybe read an entire chapter in a book, (make that an entire chapter in a book not about parenting!), in one sitting.  Maybe finish a cup of coffee before it got cold.  Perhaps, while reading my book.  (If I could figure out a way to read a book, drink coffee, and shower at the same time...well, talk about the ultimate multitask!! )

At the time I was a stay at home mother of four.  Of our three oldest, one was in high school, one was in junior high, and one was in elementary school...and none of them was old enough to drive yet.  Within one week, all attempts at self care were abandoned to the frenzy of  get the kids out the door, dinner on the table, off to karate, ooh, the baby's stinky, life that is motherhood.  Then my husband brought me home a box of dark chocolate hazelnut candies for mother's day.  And I hid them.  And every couple of days, I would sneak away to my secret hiding place, and savor a bite size hunk of heaven.  A little treat.  Just for me. 

Sometimes that's all we need.  Just a little treat.  Just a brief moment, where it's all about us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Like Nike

No, not the shoes...though I don't dislike them.  It's just that one athletic shoe looks and feels much like another to me.  So obviously I'm not very athletic!  But I do like their slogan.  "Just do it!"  Hope I'm not copyright infringing here. 

Keep in mind Nike and I aren't talking about the "just do it" we bark at our kids when they are whining about having to brush their teeth or clean their rooms.  No, Nike and I are talking about that gentle encouraging nudge we often need to get started.  Maybe I should change the mantra to "just get started."

I have found, if I "just get started," I'll often times actually enjoy what I'm doing.  Like doing a blog, for instance.  I know I love writing.  I've known this since I was a tween and writing my "little stories."  A blog seems like a natural extension of that.  But then something happens.  I start looking at this huge, seemingly insurmountable commitment of writing hopefully helpful tips in an entertaining fashion day after day, and get rather daunted.  Yet, once I sit down to actually write, I find time flies by, and I have a great time.  What to do, what to do?  Well, I started by reading other blogs.  This inspires me, and with that inspiration, I find I can "just get started" writing.

Exercise, same thing.  I love the idea of exercising.  I feel great when I exercise, and afterwards too.  (so long as I can ignore the sore muscles, because I don't exercise nearly enough) But the hassle...All the obstacles.  I don't like to exercise in front of people, so that means at home.  I have to move furniture in order to exercise at home...what if I get sweaty, then I have to have time to take a shower.  (nevermind that I'm probably going to take a shower anyway).  Then I read this tip.  "Just lay down on the floor."  The theory is, once you are laying down...yes, laying down, odds are you will do something.  Maybe stretch, maybe some crunches, maybe some bridges. Once you get started, you'll probably finish.  Maybe not finish an hour, maybe not half an hour, but even if you exercise for 10-15 minutes, it's still exercise and it's still better than exercising for zero minutes!!

Momentum is a powerful force.    You pick up speed as you go along.  One step leads to another.  For instance, when my house is thrashed and I'm totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of clutter facing me, my initial tendency is to sit down and wallow in my overwhelmedness by surfing the web.   Second, more intentional idea, is to put 10 things away, or set the timer for 15 minutes and tidy during that time.  You'd be amazed what you can put away in 15 minutes, even with little ones clamoring for your attention.  Often, though, momentum takes over, and I get in a "puttin' things away" groove and when the timer buzzes, I turn it off, and keep cleaning.  (Did I forget to mention, I also turn the music up, and entertain my 6 year old while I dance and tidy)  Ooh, two chores, one stone...exercise and tidy.  Who doesn't love that? !!

So, next time you are faced with a task and you find yourself getting that whole, deep breath in, audible sigh kind of "I don't want to do this" feeling, think of me and Nike and "Just Get Started."  Or in the immortal words of Mary Poppins, "Well begun is half done !"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm taking the shortcut !!

My daughter likes to take the "shortcut" to the kitchen.  From our front door, it's a straight shot to the back of the house, where the kitchen is.  Along that straightaway, to the left is the living room and dining room.  A couple of very small walls seperate the spaces.  The "shortcut" consists of my daughter running through the living room and dining room, then rejoining the straightaway into the kitchen.  She thinks it's a shortcut, because she always gets to the kitchen first.  What she hasn't figured out, is she gets to the kitchen first, because I'm a grown-up, and I don't run in the house.

When it comes to taking care of our house, myself, or really anything, I'm a huge fan of a shortcut.  As long as I don't have to run through the living room and dining room in order to make it work. 

One of my favorite shortcuts, is "cleaning in a can."  I'm a quasi environmentalist.  I do care about the planet, but I care more about my family.  It doesn't make sense to me to clean with chemicals if there is a solution that doesn't involve using them.  And if it actually works.  Cleaning in a can is simply, disinfecting wipes.  There are several "green" types available, and I've found they do work.

Don't want to scrub the bathroom?  Cleaning in a can.  One wipe for the counter and sink, one wipe for the seat and outside of toilet, one wipe for the floor around the toilet.  Squirt some cleaning goo in the toilet bowl (cleaning in a can does NOT work there)  Swish it around with the toilet brush....voila, bing boom.  Bathroom's clean. 

Or at least the half bath downstairs is clean.  Cleaning in a can doesn't break through soap scum in the shower.  I'm afraid I don't have a shortcut for soap scum, besides a stiff brush and a bit of elbow grease.  Cleaning in a can also doesn't clean the mirrors.  Don't try it.  Trust me.

For some insane reason, the builders of our sub-division thought it would be a great idea to put wall to wall mirrors in all the bathrooms.  I have no mirror less than 6 feet long and 4 feet high.  Really?  Who want's to see that much of themselves when they are stepping out of the shower?  But I can clean the mirrors to a lovely streak free shine in less than two minutes each.  How?  Vinegar and water and a really good squeegee.  The key is the squeegee.  Mine has a silicone blade.  4 parts water to 1 part vinegar.  Squirt some on the mirror, clean with a damp cloth, then squeegee.  Top to bottom, one fluid movement.  Then wipe the squeegee blade before starting the next pass.  Works like a charm.

Cleaning in a can also works great for quick wipe ups in the kitchen and the laundry room.  It took me awhile to warm up to the idea of tossing the wipes away.  Seems so wasteful.  I had originally bought them for "emergencies."  But after a couple of "emergency" cleanings - ie someone's coming over in an hour, I realized how great they were.  Not having to drag out the cleaning products, find cleaning rags that weren't crunchy cause I hadn't done a load of gross laundry for awhile, etc.   Then I thought about all the wipes I tossed away during the diaper years. We also repurpose, recycle and compost so much in our family of four that we only put out one small can of trash a week and it isn't always a full can.  Eight or ten wipes a week suddenly didn't seem like such a huge carbon footprint.  More of a toeprint  really.  Pinkie toeprint.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It starts with a name

Welcome to the Friday the 13th launch of this blog !!  Should I have organized a launch party?  Thought up some new canapes or new crudite display?  Perhaps whipped up a fluffy cocktail or two?  Well, I would have, truly, but I was way too busy trying to come up with the least offensive, yet descriptive and alliterative title for this blog.  The blog, which, by the way,  I only just thought about starting two days ago on Wednesday the 11th.  So yes, lots of thought and careful consideration have gone in the preparation.   (She says, somewhat sarcastically, but in a good way !!) 

The decision to do this was born out of two events in the past few weeks.  One, I bought the book "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  This book, somewhat in the style of "Julie and Julia," (my favorite chick flick) chronicles a year in the authors life, where she decided to examine happiness and try some things to make her everyday life happier.  No grandiose changes, no moving to India required.  Just perhaps some new ways of looking at things.  Hmmm, ok, I thought, I might actually be able to deploy some of those tactics, and thereby make my little corner of the world, or my house, a brighter place.

I was also invited to speak to a MOPS group last Wednesday.  MOPS = Mothers of Preschoolers.  Lest you think me some internationally recognized motivational speaker....(though I actually am that, cause I've spoken twice at conferences in Romania, while travelling with a mission group from my church, and I've spoken at a women's retreat and a Mother's Day Tea here in the US of A)  But I digress...get used to it.  (that and the parenthetical aside)  My talk was about some shortcuts and easier ways of doing things, in the day of the ordinary mom.  Cleaning, lifestyle, hygiene, health.  All sorts of good stuff.  Boring stuff, made fun. 

I entitled my presentation "Methods of a Manic Mom."  Manic, meaning "frenetically busy, frantic and showing wild and apparently deranged excitement and energy."  I believe this to be an apt description of most moms.  Working moms, single moms, married moms, stay at home moms, etc.  The one possible exception, might be moms with lots of servants, but I've never walked a mile in their Christian Louboutin's, so who am I to judge?  At any rate, afterwards several of the women came up to me with questions, and compliments.  I realized I had much more I could cover.  Lots.  And Lots.  Perhaps enough for a, drum roll please, BLOG.

So"Methods of a Manic Mom".  Cool title for a talk in front of a bunch of women I know pretty well.  (Rule #1 in public speaking...know your target audience)  In Blogworld though, that's kind of a hefty directive, since you have no control over who your actual audience is.  I do, however, know someone who suffers with manic depression, and it's a very real, very serious situation.  As a result, I, who does not usually worry about political correctness, did this time.  Well, we've all got to grow at some point.  At any rate, that left out my very clever alliterative title number one.  Therefore I came home from my wildly successful talk, and literally sat down and opened my college dictionary from 1985 to the "M" section.  (Yes I knew where the dictionary was, and no, it hadn't been opened since probably 1997)

Many candidates were found.  I kinda liked "malignant."  Then came, "made up," "maelstrom," (a whirlpool of extraordinary size), "mainspring," "malleable," "Martha," "margarine" (don't ask) "mastermind," "maverick", "metropolitan" (had to scratch that, cause I live in the burbs) "mom with a mission", "mobile."  All rejected - mostly because I would have to explain why my title was clever, and when you have to do that, one wonders, is the title really clever after all?

So I finally settled on "Methods of a Mostly Managing Mom."  Which really is what I am.  I've been in the Mom biz for several years now.  I've been in the woman biz for even longer.  And, mostly, I manage to do ok.  Sometimes I manage to do great !!!  Sometimes I manage to just get out of bed and call that good.  Sometimes I manage to mess things up royally.  But when I do that, I can usually manage to make amends and start over.  All right, I'm done with the alliterations.  I promise to come up with other literary tricks in the coming posts to catch your attention.