All posts by Crissi Langwell

Author, writer, blogger. Follow me at crissilangwell.com.

Tradition

The sun was just barely rising when I shook each kid awake.

“Come on,” I whispered in each of their ears.  “It’s time to go.”

Groggily, they wiped the sleep from their eyes and slipped out of bed.  Still in their PJ’s, they grabbed their robes and slippers, and sleepily took the thermos of hot chocolate I handed each of them.  And with my coffee in hand I closed the door behind us and we snuck out into the dawn.

The radio played quietly as we traveled the nearly empty road.  The sky was filled with brilliant colors of pinks and purples that were slowly fading to the rays of the emerging sun over the hilltops and vineyards.  I exited the freeway and took the back roads, slipping around each turn in my beat up van in anticipation for the perfect place to stop.  The kids were slowly waking in the back seat, looking out the window at the passing fields of green and gold, green and gold.  I looked in the rear view at them, smiling as I remembered the little things my parents did when I was young, creating lasting memories that I still held close to me.  I knew that I was carrying on the tradition.

A clearing emerged around the bend, giving a perfect view of the field to our right.  I pulled in slowly and stopped the engine, letting the battery do all the work in keeping the radio music still alive.  We all got out of the van and rested against it, sipping the last of our hot chocolates as we took in the view.  A loud roaring sounded in spurts and we grinned. 

Straight ahead was a hot air balloon, nearly inflated and ready to lift off.  Above us were several more, big round globes of hot air that floated effortlessly among the spattering of clouds and the sun rays that took over the blue of the sky.  We stood like that for at least an hour, watching the balloons rise and dip, keeping watch over the tied off balloon straight ahead meant for quick take offs in a sneak peak at what a real balloon ride might feel like.

This is our annual tradition.

Start your own tradition.  Enter the latest SantaRosaMom.com contest here for a chance to win tickets to this year’s Hot Air Balloon Classic on July 13th – 14th at Keiser Park in Windsor.

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Challenge: Dirt vs. OxiClean

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I admit it.  Laundry?  Am I really talking about laundry?  There is so much more to being a mom than LAUNDRY.  I know that.  I get it.  But when it’s in piles around my house, it’s hard to remember that fact.  Some days it feels like laundry is taking over my life!  As I sit here typing this, piles of clean laundry are taking over my couch, begging to be folded.  And I’ll get to it…..soon.

And this baseball pants thing, it’s killing me.  I am thankful for the hand-me-down pants my boyfriend’s son graciously gave up for my son so that I didn’t have to spend a fortune on the pants he would inevitably have worn out before they got too small.  But still….they were a lot whiter when the season started. 

Yesterday’s game my son actually did pretty well at keeping them cleaner, at least better than the game before.  But before the game even started, he succeeded in kneeling in a mud puddle.  It wasn’t until after the game that my son did a running slide on his grandparents’ lawn, resulting in a nasty grass stain that looked near impossible to get out. 

And while I sighed in defeat upon seeing his pants, I’ll admit that I was inwardly happy that I had something to work with in The Great Stain Removal Challenge.

Today’s challenge:  OxiClean (I realized upon buying it that I had previously misspelled it.  Show’s how often I’ve bought the stuff).

            

OxiClean is about $10 at your local supermarket.  I’m willing to bet that it is cheaper at places like Target.  But Safeway was where I was at when I went supply shopping.  It was actually on sale at Safeway, as it normally runs about $12 a tub. 

The directions for OxiClean are to add about a  ¾ scoop into the water with the detergent before putting the clothes in.  For tough stains (like grass stained knees), add an ounce to 16 oz water and apply the solution to the stain, leaving it on for up to 5 minutes.  I did this before throwing the pants in the washer.  The result?

It actually did pretty well in getting rid of the stains.  There was a little left over on the knee, and the mud stains in the back were still there, but faded. But overall, I think it did pretty well.

This one’s the leading champion, but there have only been two, and I’m hoping to find a product that will work better.

On another note, remember these?

These are the pants that spurred this challenge.  And after being washed they are still stained.  So I washed these in the OxiClean as well, but I also used Shout Advanced Gel ($3) on the set-in stains, since this is what that product claims to excel at.  Here are the results (dirty, washed with bleach, then washed with Shout Advanced):

Here’s a closer look after being “Shouted” at:

Eh, better.  But those stains are being pretty stubborn. 

Next challenger:  Z’Out Spray.  My mom used to use this on all our clothes when we were kids.  Let’s see if Mama knows best.

Got recommendations for products I should try out?  Let me know by leaving it in the comments! 

THE GREAT STAIN REMOVAL CHALLENGE: Dirt vs. Bleach

The baseball season is almost over.  Several posts ago I posted a picture of my son’s baseball pants after a game.  If you don’t remember, here’s what they looked like:

Pretty gross, right?  Of course, if your kid is also in baseball (or any sport, really), these pants are not shocking at all.  But the big question, household to household, is “How do you get rid of the stains???”

In a comment on my Laundry blog it was suggested that I give stain removing tips.  Being that I have none (seriously, HOW do you get stains like those out???), I am conducting my own little experiment on stain removal.  And I’m calling it (drumroll please)

THE GREAT STAIN REMOVAL CHALLENGE. 

Yes.  Original.

On the pants above, I conducted my first experiment using bleach.  Oh, and Stain Lifting ALL.  Here are the results:

As you can see, unimpressive.  It appears that the Cheeto stains and the grass stains are gone.  But the dirt refuses to be lifted.  So it’s back to the drawing board. 

Next experiment: OxyClean.

There are only several more games left, so I am limited on the amount of dirt I’ll be removing.  Leave a comment for any ideas on stain lifting agents you’d like me to try out. 

Laundry

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When you were younger, and your mother begins to teach you the ins and outs of laundry in preparation for adulthood, there are probably lots of things that she failed to mention, or that you might have missed in the translation.  For instance, I bet she never warned you about this:

This is the true version of my son’s pants after ONE game of baseball.  Even bleach cannot help these stains.  And that mess that those pants are sitting on?  A full laundry basket…..after already finishing several loads of laundry.

Your mom probably never told you that there would be days when the laundry had to be washed faster than you could fold it, resulting in a heap of clean clothes that go straight from floor to being worn to being thrown in the hamper again.  She may have forgotten to tell you that even a baby can fill a hamper in one day, that those cute little onesies will develop the sickening smell of spit up that never quite goes away.  And I bet she missed telling you that white underwear for boys who are still learning the art of successful wiping is probably a poor idea.  She probably never told you that your ex would take the kids to the beach, throw all their wet clothes in a plastic bag, and that you had to shake them free from about a pound of sand before you could wash them.  She also probably failed to mention that your ex might leave some of his own clothing in that bag, and that you would end up washing those too (Intentional?  Probably.).  You may have missed her complaining about how the hamper filled up too fast for her to keep up, the insistence that you wear some of your clothing more than a day to keep the laundry level low, or her threats that the “maid” was going on strike.

But I bet you’re hearing her now….except this time in your own voice.

Being On Task

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It was about 9 when my kids and I left our group of friends we have dinner with every Tuesday night and headed home.  We were late for their bedtimes, something that has become the norm as the school year is winding down and the evenings stay lighter, longer.  It was especially true on Tuesdays, but I stopped fighting it.  They still managed to get up in the mornings ok, even if they did need extra nudging.

“Mom?” my son asked from the backseat as I drove and fiddled with the radio at the same time.

“Mmhuh?”

“Mom, what if we got ready early tomorrow morning and then went to Starbucks before school?” he asked hopefully, and completely out of the blue.

I thought about it.  For us to get out the door early would be short of a miracle.  Lately we had been rushing like wild banshees in the morning, trying to get everything done in 45 minutes, and always managing to forget something in the process.  Just that morning we had forgotten my son’s baseball glove for practice that afternoon, and I couldn’t remember if I’d turned off the coffee pot.  We hadn’t left our house till 8 am, and we were supposed to leave by 7:45 am to get them both to school and give them time to play before class.  As it was, they both got there just as the bell rang.  And that was the norm.  In the wake of our rushed mornings, there were papers left on the floor as backpacks were cleaned out last minute, jelly on the counter from PB & J sandwiches, a couple extra sandwich bags that fell on the floor in the process of getting just one, clothes strewn in a trail from the bedroom to the living room……  And the fighting that had ensued between the kids, not to mention between me and the kids over them fighting with each other…..it made every morning a recipe for stress and ulcers.  So it seemed impossible that we could actually get everything done in a shorter amount of time than we already were failing at.  But still, the least we could do was try.

“I’ll tell you what,” I told him and his sister.  “If you can be ready and we can be out the door by 7:30, then it’s a deal.

“What if it’s 7:31?” he asked.

“Then the deal’s off,” I said.  “So you better be sure that you get everything done in time, otherwise we won’t be able to go.”

His young brain started working overtime as he thought about the reality of the deal.

“I’ll never be able to do it,” he muttered.

“Well, what if we get our backpacks together tonight?” my daughter asked.  I nodded.  There was another baseball game the next day, and not having to search for pieces of his uniform would save a ton of time.

“You could even get some of your lunch done tonight too,” I told her.

When we got home, they set about getting all their things in order.  My son grabbed what he could find of his uniform, I helped him locate the rest (Sidenote: When he first started baseball, I vowed to keep all his uniform and equipment in one area only.  For the most part, this has been a success thanks to a backpack that we housed everything in.  But on practice days he would relocate what he needed to his school backpack, weekends would scatter baseballs all over the house, and the mandatory laundry due to dirt stains from slides he would perform at each base whether necessary or not would spread his uniform from dryer to couch to his drawers.  Some mornings before practice or games would result in losing 20 minutes or more to just trying to find white pants that had been washed, or both of his cleats.  So as you can see from our example, it is definitely a smart idea to dedicate an area to sports equipment and uniforms.  And then stick to it.).  I prepped the crockpot for the next night’s dinner and set up the coffee pot for the morning.  My daughter picked out her clothes for the next day, then made her whole entire lunch, saving her sandwich to be made in the morning.  My son put out a granola bar on the table and said he was done.  They were both pretty pleased with themselves, reminding me to wake them up a little early in the morning so they could get a headstart.

This morning I woke them up 10 minutes early.  They barely moved until I reminded them about our deal.  They were both up in moments as I set about getting myself ready.  I let them be responsible for themselves, refraining from reminding them too much to be on task.  They needed little prompting, as it was.  My daughter was done by 7:10.  My son was a little more behind, but was steady in his diligence to get ready.  He put on his favorite yellow polo shirt, asking me to help him with the collar.  Then he made his lunch, getting jam all down the front of it.  His sister was surprisingly kind in telling him that he only needed to change his shirt, that it would only take a moment.  He even thanked me for washing the jam off while he ran upstairs to get a new one (apparently being on task improves manners and promotes niceties, as well). 

We were done by 7:25.

Well, they were.  I still had to finish my hair and get my lunch made.  But in favor of rewarding them for time well spent, I put my hair in a messy bun and saved making my lunch to after I dropped them off.  And over comics and news stories at a little round table in Starbucks, we enjoyed chocolate milk, a decaf mocha, sticky buns for them, and a half-caf coffee for me. 

In essence, the concept of setting up the night before for the next day is not a new one.  It seems so silly that I don’t make this a regular habit.  The kids made mention that if we did this all the time, we would be out of the house on time more, and we wouldn’t have to rush at all.  And it’s very true.  Even with only a week left of school (oh my gosh, seriously?!?), I think we can still do this and make it a late habit. 

In honor of our “newfound” organization, what are some other ways that you save time or make things easier to accomplish?

Getting Older

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My son’s favorite word is “sarcastic”.  Like this morning, when he said he couldn’t believe how fast the school year had gone by.  I agreed enthusiastically.

“Are you just being sarcastic?” he asked me, suspiciously.  I had to convince him I wasn’t. 

Or like when he used it even earlier this morning.  Last night I was tripping over toys on the way to kiss him goodnight.  And I lamented over the messy room, though in a sort of more nagging voice than a lamentful voice.  And he told me not to worry about it, to wake him up 10 minutes early and he would clean it up.

“10 minutes?!?” his sister said incredulously.  “That’s all you’re going to need?”

“That’s it,” he said.  “Trust me Mom, just wake me up early and I’ll get it done.

This morning, true to my word, I crept into his room at 6:50 am to wake him up.  He stirred a little as I shook his shoulder.

“Time to get up honey,”  I said.  “You have cleaning to do.”

“Mom, don’t you know I was being sarcastic?” he said without even opening his eyes. 

Boys are funny.

What’s also funny is he’s growing up.  My 8 year old boy is not a baby anymore.  Tonight was his Open House at his school.  I watched him as he took off with his friends, my little boy who likes to hold my hand occasionally when we go places was suddenly too independent to hang with me.  Instead he was off, rough and tumbling with the other boys.  And it’s funny watching him with his friends.  The whine that he saves for me is totally gone.  In its place is a voice that’s a little bit deeper and stronger.  It’s obvious that he’s in charge out on the playing field, instead of letting me be the alpha dog when it’s just the two of us.

After perusing all the classrooms and letting him get in one more game of ball, we all went out for ice cream.  He ended up with most of the ice cream on his face and clothes.  I got some napkins to wipe his mouth for him, and instead of holding his face still while I cleaned, he put up a major fight.

“Mom!  I got it!” he said as he wiped a crumpled napkin over his mouth, missing every single dirty spot.

“Come on, just let me do it.  Hold still,” I said, dying to do the lick and spit mom technique to get the chocolate stain completely off.  We fought about it till I won, and I got the very last of the stickiness off his face.  He sat there scowling, totally wounded from losing the battle.

“Mom, you totally embarassed me in front of that girl,” he said, nodding in the direction of a cute little 8 year old girl licking an ice cream cone.

Oops.

Well, that was sudden.  It happened almost overnight.  But when?  When did my baby get too old to baby?  And when did I become the mom that embarasses her kids to death? 

Finances and SINGLE Motherhood

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(Connected to Working and Motherhood and Working and SINGLE Motherhood)

You have a job, or you need a job and are having trouble finding one.  Meanwhile, the PG&E is due, you are about to lose your home, food is scarce, and you have pulled every single trick out of your hat.

what kind of help is available for a struggling single mother???

Luckily, there are services to help, should you be in a situation that requires more than you have.  Please note: this is only a short list, a “Cliff’s Notes” version of the resources available.  For a full list of services, please call the number at the bottom of this post, or visit CA Dept of Social Services.

If you are pregnant and do not have health insurance, the first thing that needs to be done is to apply for Emergency Medi-Cal.  This is only a temporary fix, as you MUST get medical insurance to cover the costs of prenatal visits and care, labor and delivery, and well baby appointments.  Thing is, by the time you are pregnant, there are little, if any, insurance companies that will take on an expectant mother.  But Medi-Cal will.  Problem is, it takes time for an application to be processed, and time is NOT what an expectant mother has.  That is why Emergency Medi-Cal is in place.  For a family without a baby on the way, Medi-Cal is important to be sure that each child is receiving their check-ups and immunizations, and that there is a safeguard in place in case the worst happens. 

The next thing that needs to be done is to find out if you qualify for Cash Aid, Food Aid, and WICCA Dept of Social Services has various links for programs that will help.  But the best advice is just to visit your local office and get all the information in person.  They will help you find all the outlets that will help you to get on your feet.  In general, and especially in these tight times, qualifying for these programs can be very difficult.  The process is long and tedious, the offices are crowded with those in need, and the forms ask for every single detail of your life.  This process is designed to be difficult and excruciating.  But stick with it, work with the social workers, and soon you will have some help in making ends meet.  Along with Cash Aid, Social Services will enroll you in CalWorks, a program that helps in various ways to find you a decent job.  And another little known reason to get on Cash Aid is that you cannot receive financial help with childcare unless you have received Cash Aid for at least one month.  Well, you can, but the process is so long that your child might be a teenager before the paperwork goes through.  If you are on Cash Aid, that is proof enough that you qualify for the various childcare assistance programs out there, and it will speed the process up considerably.   

Before I end this, I want to address the common perception of single mothers receiving Financial Aid.  There is no shame in needing help.  The jokes I have heard, the prejudices and judgements over a single mother who must rely on the county to feed her child and house her family, it sickens me.  The County Assistance system was put in place for people who need it.  Are there people who abuse this system?  Of course.  Give out “free” money, and watch all sorts come out of the woodworks.  But go to a county office and you will see those in real need: the mother holding her sleeping child in her lap, the father who has been out of work for months due to an economy that failed him, the very people who need the help of the system to drag them out of the doldrums and get them back on their feet again where they no longer need the help of the state.  To have come that far, my friends, to be able to no longer need assistance in standing, it is absolutely gratifying.  And it is completely possible.  And that is the ultimate reason why these programs exist.

To talk to a live person about Economic Assistance, please call 707-565-5266 and/or go to the offices located at 2550 Paulin Dr. in Santa Rosa.  This is for Sonoma County only.  For County offices in other California counties, click here.