Tag Archives: Cleaning

When appliances talk back

In the morning, I am usually the last one to leave the house.  I kind of like it that way, because it gives me a few moments of quiet in an empty house.  Of course, it also means that I am the one who is left with a sink full of dishes to fill the dishwasher with, and hungry cats that still need to be fed.

This morning was no exception.  In fact, the sink was filled with dishes, despite the fact that the dishwasher was close to empty.  This included a container from yesterday that still held the remnants of warm tuna.  Totally appetizing.  And to the right of me sat the stove with leftover food chunks from everyone’s breakfast makings.

I could have gotten mad.  Admittedly, I was a little irritated.  But honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

However, the appliances did not feel the same way.

Here’s the note the dishwasher left.

And the stove, not able to keep silent any longer, added its two cents as well.

I was concerned that perhaps my family might take offense to the appliance’s efforts to share their feelings.  But I didn’t want to stifle their voice either.  After all, everyone is entitled to their feelings.  So I left for work and went on with my day.

When I got home, however, apparently the loaf pans and my husband had a heart to heart while I was gone.  My husband heard I had made banana bread while he was away on a business trip, and none was saved for him.  The loaf pan felt bad about this, and felt the need to share its own feelings:


And then, the calendar – who I keep forgetting to put the dang month on – decided enough was enough.  My daughter keeps reminding me to do my usual artistic month title, but I keep forgetting.  Guess the calendar felt a little slighted.


I think my house has gone mad….

P.S. The teenagers in the house decided humorous notes totally beat out ordering them around.  When I came home, the stove was totally clean, and all the dishes were put away.

What every teen needs to know

By the time our kids reach their teenager years, we can see the end in sight.  Of course we’ll be jumping for joy sad when they take that next step of independence to find a place of their own or move away to college.  But let’s face it, who wants to still be raising their children when they’re 35?  To ensure this doesn’t happen, there are some very basic skills that every teenager should know. If I’ve missed any, be sure to add them in the comments.

How to boil water
…as well as other means of cooking.  If you’re not there to make your teen a sandwich, will they starve?  If you haven’t already, start teaching your child the fundamentals of making a meal, staples they should always have on hand, using food before it spoils, grocery shopping so that there’s still food on Friday when shopping is done on Sunday…  They should also know how to work a microwave, a stove, and an oven without burning the house down.  And they should be aware of how to read labels and make healthy choices to avoid the Freshman 15, and that in the long run, eating out costs much more than making food at home.

How to save a buck
Raise your hand if you really hope to be your kid’s ATM for life.  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Then this skill might be the most important one you can teach them – how to handle their money.  Your teen should know how to create a budget and stick to it – putting money aside for bills to be paid on time before any money is spent on fun.  And money for fun should be included in that budget as well.  Help them open a checking account of their own and teach them how to keep it balanced, how to use the ATM machine, and that the balance the bank says they have is rarely ever the real balance.  Have them apply for a credit card, but stress how important it is to use it for necessities and not to furnish their whole apartment – and the importance of paying it off on time to build good credit.  They should also know how to save for things they want, put money aside for emergencies, give to charity, and how to get the best deal. 

How to get dressed
Ok, they are well past the time of needing you to pick out their clothes and tie their shoes – hopefully (if not, you have quite a bit of catching up to do).  But they will need to learn how to wash their clothes regularly so that they actually have something to wear.  And no, buying new clothes is not an alternative way to do laundry.  Teens will need to learn about when to use the Hot Cycle, and when to wash it in Cold.  And to ensure their whites don’t turn pink or their lights become dingy, they can use a lesson in separating colors as well.  Other important skills are how to sew a button or mend a rip, how to iron, how to fold and put away their clothes, how to treat stains, the importance of reading clothing labels, how to hand wash, and even how to best pack a suitcase (for all those trips back home to, ahem, do their laundry).

How to have respect…
…for everyone, but particularly for their housemates.  Sure, they may be used to leaving their dishes around, a clothing trail from the door to their room, and the toilet paper roll empty when they’re done doing their business.  And why shouldn’t they when MOM is there to pick up after them?  But Mom’s not at college, and I guarantee their housemates aren’t going to be too keen on seeing Jr’s dishes left in the sink.  A friend of mine told me of the time that he left his dishes in the sink one too many times, and finally his roommate did clear them out – by dumping them in his bed.  So for your child’s sake, and for their roommate, teach them how to do their own dishes, how to keep the noise levels down, common courtesy when it comes to guests in the room, and leaving OPP (other people’s property) alone as well as having boundaries in place for their own property. 

How to be organized
If your teen would like to flunk out in the first semester, the best bet would be to skip keeping a calendar and to lose every piece of paper or information that comes their way.  For everyone else, a calendar is essential.  If they have a smart phone, this is the most convenient place to keep it since they are likely attached to this particular piece of technology at all times.  Get them in the habit of putting everything in their calendar and referring to it regularly.  Another good habit for teens to get into before college is to create a filing system to hold all their assignment needs, bills, and any important document they may need to refer to later.  Not sure?  Place it in the filing system just in case.

How to…
…deal when sick, what to do or who to call if there’s an emergency (and have those numbers programmed in their phone), how to lock the front door behind them, how to fill their gas tank, how to understand their health or car insurance…and how to understand the many risks that are going to be in front of them. 

College is, for many teens, their first real experience away from parents.  This means that it’s their first brush with responsibility.  It also means it’s their first time without someone there to say no.  Now would be a good time to admit some of the stupid things you have done as a teen, anxiety you may have felt about being away for the first time, struggles you went through with a college schedule, and even the great parts about college life.  Sharing your good and bad experiences will help you be able to connect with your teen on a deeper level, and maybe even help them avoid some of the hard parts.  Of course, in the end they’re the ones who get to make the final decision.  And some of their decisions might not be the best despite your most valiant of efforts to steer them on a certain path.  And that’s when you also need to make it clear that no matter what, you’re there for them if they need it.

Time Saving Tips

Show me a working mom, and I’ll show you someone who has less than enough time to get everything done in a day. With little ones underfoot, there are some days when relaxing is a foreign word that only exists someplace exotic. But in my own experience, I have found several time-savers that have allowed me at least a few minutes to sit before I’m off and running again.

1. Cook BIG.
Forget cooking just enough for one meal. What if you cooked dinner and the next night’s meal at the same time? Or better yet, keep a handy supply of freezer containers to store the leftovers for a different night instead of eating the same thing night after night. Or just cook an abundant amount of the meat and create several different meals. For example, if you’re making chicken consider cooking two or more whole birds. We’re talking chicken one night, tacos the next, enchiladas, the third, and soup the fourth.

2. Write your grocery list around your meal plan
While we’re on the subject of food, a time AND money AND calorie saving trick is to make a meal plan for the week, and then write your shopping list from it. Time will be saved because you won’t have to wander the aisles wondering what it is you need. And you will know what you are making each night for dinner instead of staring at the cupboard waiting for the view to change. Money will be saved because you will, in essence, be straying from impulse shopping. And that also saves calories as you avoid the foods that aren’t on your list, and stick to the foods you planned on eating each night for dinner.

3. Employ the kids
Yes, I know. Teaching kids to do anything takes more time than just doing it yourself. But think about this: If your kids learn how to do certain age-appropriate chores, they can TAKE THEM OVER. Just imagine your child putting away their folded laundry, taking out the garbage, cleaning up the cat box, watering the garden, and putting away the clean dishes. Sure, it takes time to teach them. But once they’ve learned, they can shave minutes, or even hours, off of your time dedicated to chores. Besides, you can’t do for them forever.

4. Make lists
Ok, be honest. How many times a day do you pause to try and remember what it is you have to do? How about the time that is wasted letting that to-do list run circles inside your head? Keep a notebook with you at ALL times and get that list OUT OF YOUR HEAD! Not only will you NOT forget what it is you need to do, you won’t be stressing yourself out by making sure that you remember everything. And let’s face it, as a mom there is a lot of things we have to remember. Plus, it feels really good to cross things off that list, and know that they’re done.

5. Don’t procrastinate
Before I start, let me admit something. I am the queen of procrastination. By default, this also makes me the queen of doing everything at last minute. But at times that I have bit the bullet and just took care of tasks as they fall in my lap, I find that I have more time than usual to do the things that I would have been doing in my procrastination time – surfing Facebook, reading a book, or just watching a movie. But this time, it’s guilt free. So do this – Wash the dishes immediately after every meal, or even while you are cooking the meal. Do a quick clean-up before sitting down on the couch. Wipe down the counters after the kids are done brushing their teeth. Put your clothes away as soon as you take them off.

What are some tips you have found that help you to save time during the day?

Is it mean to punish kids with chores?

A mom/grandmother wrote to me today regarding the article, The Excuse Maker vs. the Howler Monkey. She wasn’t in agreement with using chores as a punishment, and actually found it mean-spirited that I would infringe chores on him as a consequence. In my comments, E wrote the same thing. And I have to say, that I do get what they are saying. But the other impression I received from their feedback is that punishing a child in general is mean. And I seriously question why giving a child chores as a consequence is considered “mean-spirited” when our own parents used to spank us with their hands, a belt, a wooden spoon, a switch… I have to say, giving a child chores, to me, is actually much kinder than the discipline of yesterday.

Not only that, this new consequence has been working out really well for our family.

For one, I’ve been “howling less”. This is good news for both me and my son. For me, I am not getting worked up and agitated when I am howling at my son. I am keeping a lot calmer. And in return, my son is keeping a lot calmer with me. And also, who wants to listen to an out of control howling momma? I know I wouldn’t. And now my son doesn’t have to either.

Secondly, my son has suddenly made the shift to take on his own responsibilities. At 9 years old, and being that the routine of sports and a 2nd home has been in place for years, I do expect my son to follow through on the same things I’ve always expected of him. Before we set these consequences in place, my son would claim he had finished packing up his uniform, or that he did his homework, etc. His father or I would take the time to remind him several times about what he needed to do, and still he’d forget in favor of playing with his friends or with his toys. So the forgetfulness was due to procrastinating and being lazy. Hence, the consequences.

Now these consequences were agreed upon by the two of us. We sat down one morning and discussed a solution for helping him to remember. We came up with other solutions like making a list of things for him to do that he can check off. And we both agreed on the cleaning solution, as taking his items away or keeping him from his friends was not working. I promised him that I would never make him clean more than he could handle, and I’ve made it a point to be right there with him when he does have an extra chore placed on his shoulders. And truth be told, the cleaning consequence has rarely been used. For the first week, he was cleaning every day because he was leaving things at school, at home, at his dad’s house, not doing his homework but saying that he had…. You get the picture. And that week was very hard on the both of us. But after that first week, a shift happened when he suddenly took the time and care to take ownership of his own responsibilities. This morning, for example, I only had to tell him once that he needed to gather his uniform for baseball. Usually he would pack half of it, and then forget the other half. This time he had a clear image of what he needed to pack, and he set forth doing so. And this has become the new norm. Everything is a lot easier now, and a lot calmer.

And I can’t forget to mention how cool this new procedure has been.  My son and I have used this time to spend together as he learns how to do new things.  I have taught him how to do laundry, and he has realized that he actually likes doing dishes (just like his momma).  And sometimes chores can be as simple as helping me prepare dinner.  It all depends on how bad the infraction was (as we use this discipline technique for more than just forgetfulness).

It’s hard, as a parent, to know the right way to guide your child so that they can handle more responsibilities as they age. I am a firm believer in consequences, as they are something we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives. And it helps to cement clear values in them so that they make the right decisions on their own. But I am always open to suggestions from parents who have a different idea on how to raise children and guide them in life.

Do you offer consequences for your children in areas they were struggling with? If so, what kinds of consequences do you utilize?

When kids drive you crazy

Yesterday was a busy day of laundry and cleaning. Not only did it need to be done, but I am expecting the landlord to come by today for our annual inspection to make sure that our apartment is still intact and that we aren’t housing any pets like dogs or the regular city sewage rat. Thankfully, we have neither. Children are enough of a necessary hassle to be tended to without adding an animal to the mix. And this was even more apparent when I heard something drop to the floor in the bathroom, and an “oops” out of my daughter. She rushed into the kitchen and grabbed some paper towels, and then disappeared around the corner.

“Everything ok?” I asked her.

“Um, fine,” she said. “Except I might have spilled some nail polish on the floor…” Engrossed in my work, I told her to just use some of the nail polish remover on the linoleum. “Uh, ok,” she said. “But it’s not coming out of the carpet.” I immediately stopped what I was doing and checked the damage. There were three noticeably black stains on the carpet, and spatters of paint on the linoleum and against the wooden door. Apparently a manicure for my daughter includes black nail polish. We worked together at the mess, only to leave a lightened color of black on all three surfaces. It wasn’t coming up no matter what we chose to do. And it was all done in time for the apartment manager to take note of. Freaking out wouldn’t even have helped the situation, so I just told her what was done, was done. And I advised her that manicures should probably be done on the front porch.

That evening, I loaded the last load of the day into the washer and then joined my son in my room as he messed with my Mac computer that has been lying in a corner thanks to a “Kernel Panic” message that had rendered it as useful as a doorstop. But my son was determined that he could fix it. After all, he had fixed his friend’s computer.

“How did you fix it?” I asked him, wondering if maybe my son was a computer genius and I didn’t even know.

Warning: Please skip the next two paragraphs and continue on to the main point of this story if technical stuff bores the heck out of you.

“I pressed every single button on it at the same time, and it worked again.” Yes. My son is a genius. “Maybe if I do that to this computer, it will work again too.” Being that I had basically given up this computer for dead long ago, having said my final farewells to all the writing and music that was held prisoner in the machine, I didn’t see what the harm was. I was brushing my teeth when he called me, excitedly. “Mom! It worked!” I raced back into the room, and sure enough he had gotten past the error message and was now at a screen that required my password. I typed it in, and my old familiar desktop appeared before me. Did I mention my kid’s a genius? And to think that I was actually musing about spending hundreds of dollars to fix it and retrieve all my files. Apparently all it needed was to have every single button pressed at the same time. Now that is tech support at its finest. We fiddled with the machine for a little while before realizing that we couldn’t access the internet. And the iTunes songs wouldn’t play. In fact, the volume seemed to be permanently on Mute. And the year on the machine was set to 1969. Now for those of you that really are techies, you probably already guessed what happened. My son had managed to enter into the computer via “Safe Mode”. So I restarted the computer to see if I could now enter it in the regular fashion. No dice. The “Kernel Panic” error message popped up again. The Taz suggested that we try pressing every single button again, but I was determined to find out what exactly needed to be pressed to get back in “Safe Mode”, and then what I needed to do once I was there so that my computer would work again.

I needed to send the Taz to bed before I could actually figure it out. But I did find out, and will share it with those of you who might be having Mac problems as well. To get into “Safe Mode” on a Mac, all you have to do is press “Shift” after the Start-Up sound is heard, and then hold it until the Apple on the grey screen pops up with the process wheel. You’ve gotta love the simplicity of Macs. At any rate, this is what is supposed to happen. Unfortunately, all that happened on mine is that it would take a really long time to load, and then would get hung up on something and shut itself off. So I researched some more and found a bunch of useful Mac shortcuts at guides.macrumors.com/keyboard_shortcuts. Among the shortcuts were a bunch to use at the start-up. One of them was to reset the PRAM, holding down command-option-P-R, and to continue holding all four keys until the second start up sound chimes. What this did was reset the video and display settings, time zone settings, volume settings, and, of course, recent kernel panic messages that had occurred. And then the computer started up again. Of course, it was still in “Safe Mode”, but now I could go through the computer and find the exact program that was bogging up my system, delete it, and be able to access my computer in regular mode again.

Now on with our story.

Pleased with myself, and with my son for giving me a clue to this puzzle, I went back downstairs to throw the clothes in the dryer and finally go to bed. But what I saw made me stop in my tracks. It appeared that the laundry detergent had exploded all over the dryer and was creating a nice blue lake on the floor, dripping in a slow moving waterfall from the top of the machine. I quickly moved the detergent bottle, to the bathroom and started sopping up the mess. It was amazing how much detergent had spilled out of the practically full bottle. And detergent is near impossible to clean up. It had traveled under the dryer, and every time I thought I had wiped it all up, it would seep out even more from underneath. A glance back at the bottle proved that the detergent wasn’t quite done escaping. There was now detergent all over my bathroom sink.

I thought that maybe I hadn’t shut the valve all the way, and I laid it on its side to prevent any more leakage. But now it was apparent that there must be a breakage in the bottle itself. I inspected the whole thing, looking for a weak spot that I hadn’t seen before, and I couldn’t see anything at first. But a second glance over, and that’s when I saw it.

It was barely noticeable at all, but on the lower corner of the bottle was a tiny hole, just big enough, apparently, to send out a steady stream of blue, sticky detergent. And that’s when I remembered seeing something else near the dryer in recent days.

A tack. I have no idea where this came from, or what it’s for. But it seemed to be the perfect size for a small tiny hole punched into the bottom of a brand new bottle of laundry detergent.

Yup, seems to be the right size.

It’s a match!

There was only one guess as to who was responsible for this.

I asked him about it the next day. And he swore he had no idea what I was talking about. But after much pressing, and a little reminder about trust, he finally fessed up and gave me a detailed description about how he had thought it was a fun idea to see if he could punch the tack through the thick plastic of the laundry detergent bottle.


This is the perfect segue to mention the Challenge that I will be starting in the month of April. If you remember, March was the month when we gave up something for a whole 30 days. April, I promise, is way easier. This next month is dedicated to our kids, or rather, the things our kids do that drive us crazy. Not only do I want stories, I want photos too. I want pictures of the toothpaste overflowing onto the counter, the clothes left in a heap right next to the hamper, the dirty faces and clothes after a hard day of playing, the footprints on your clean floor… All of you have some sort of story about the shenanigans your kids have pulled, and we all want to hear them. So come on over to Santa Rosa Mom and share your battle scars in the forums.

In the meantime, I have more detergent creeping out from under my dryer, and the landlord is due any time now.

10 things I learned as a parent

As parents, it is our job to guide our children and teach them important lessons in life. But sometimes it is our kids who are teaching us. Here are some very important lessons I have learned from my children.

1. Girls don’t always dress like girls.
My daughter was the very first girl of the family. This resulted in piles of pink clothes with frilly lace being thrust at me from all directions. Me? I was never a girly girl. I preferred to dress my new little girl in neutral colors and overalls. And when she got older, she abhorred pink with a passion. But her grandparents always tried. She’d receive pink shirts and pretty dresses – all of which would end up in the back of her closet or in a pile of clothes to return that would just end up going into the Goodwill bag because I was too lazy to make it to the store. Did I wish she would dress more like a girl? Have I tried to sell the idea that pants can still be worn under dresses to make them somewhat less girly? Have I bribed my daughter with money to make her dress like a girl for one week? Yes. But still, my daughter’s preferred look consists of black shapeless t-shirts and jeans, and she refuses to wear a swimsuit without boy’s swim trunks in the summertime. But is she happy and like the way she looks? Yes.

2. Having the kids help clean the house may mean that the TV remote and your linens may end up in the bookshelf.
We have been really good about our 30 minute clean-ups. Every night, the electronics get turned off, some cleaning mood music goes on, and everyone pitches in and cleans an area of the house. I usually reserve washing the dinner dishes and clearing the kitchen table during this time. My daughter will resign herself to the bedroom so that it gets cleaned her way. And my son is left to clean the living room since it’s all his crap that is littering it up. At the end of the 30 minutes, the house looks decent enough that I’m not embarrassed to open the door to anyone who comes by. But once they go to bed, I realize I can’t find anything. And it is soon discovered that nothing was put in its proper place, but was instead hidden in little pockets of the house. The roll of tape that you couldn’t find the week before when you were wrapping their birthday presents is safe and sound in the Lego’s box. All the little Lego’s, that have caused the most colorful language to roll off your lips as your bare feet land on a *$&%  little piece of plastic that is 2 feet away from the Lego box, are now under the couch. And the book shelf holds more junk than books. Good idea – getting your kids to help you clean. Better idea – checking their progress (and under the couch, in the bookshelf, and in every single nook and cranny of the house) before you let them go to bed.

3. According to your child, it’s never his fault.
“How did you do in school today?” I ask the Taz every day. “My teacher hates me,” he’d tell me. “For no reason at all, I had to sit on the bench at recess while the other kids played.” “Well, why is that?” I asked him. “Billy was talking during class, and when I told him to be quiet, the teacher told me that I was interrupting the class. When I tried to tell him what happened, he told me I had to sit out at recess, and Billy didn’t.” Upon further investigation, it came to light that my son was being a distraction to everyone around him, and that his seatmates had ceased talking when the teacher told them to the first time. Then there was the time that the principal called to let me know that my son had been misusing the bathroom – again. He had been caught flickering the light switches off and on. He had to call me from the office to tell me what he’d been up to and then hear a lecture from me and from his principal. But I was proud that he had fessed up and was taking ownership of the misconduct, as small as it was. That is, until he got in the car. “I lied in the principal’s office,” he stated. “Oh? How so?” I asked him. “I wasn’t really fooling around in the bathroom. It was all Billy. I just didn’t want to get him in trouble.” Oh, my son the martyr… Too bad he had been caught red-handed…

4. Great!  They are making their own lunches.  Sort of…
This past year I have given over the task of packing the school lunches to the kids. I figure that not only will it save me time as I get ready for work, it will allow them to pack the things that they want to eat so that we are wasting less food. But it’s not foolproof. “I’m concerned about the Taz,” Mr. M told me the other week. “By the end of the day he is too tired to keep his head up off his desk, and he seems to be eating his clothes.” Sure enough, there were bite marks on the stretched out end of his sweatshirt sleeves. “What’s going on?” I asked the Taz. “I’m just hungry,” he said. “Well, what did you pack in your lunch?” I asked him. “A cupcake, some goldfish crackers, and a Capri-sun.” There was no sandwich, no fruit, nothing nutritious at all. And yet, I had been making sure that there was plenty of stuff in the fridge for them to pack something. Now I ask the kids what they have packed before we leave for school, sometimes resorting to making their sandwiches just so that they have something in there that will hold them over. Of course, it’s probably just ending up in the garbage anyway. But at least the lunch meat isn’t being wasted in my fridge.

5. Just because he said he brushed his teeth doesn’t mean that he did.
Once the kids took over the brushing of their teeth, it was easy to assume that they were doing it. It’s a natural routine in our house – teeth are brushed every morning and every night. Once they are 9 and 12, you’d think that you don’t need to give them that twice a day reminder. But when the Taz smiled at me and all I could see was a layer of gunk on his teeth, it was obvious that he had skipped the routine for several days. But it gets worse. I give the reminder, and he swears that he’s done it. And when I ask him to smile at me, the gunk stands out like orange rust. Either his toothbrush is seriously malfunctioning, or the kid is a little liar. So I have him do it again. Another smile and it is obvious that I am going to have to do it myself, or just get out the chisel. So I hold his head in a headlock, pry open his mouth, and brush every one of his teeth till they are gleaming. He, on the other hand, is squirming and twisting and trying to get away. And when we are done I ask him, “Don’t your teeth feel better now?” “No,” he tells me. Job well done.

6. Sometimes we parents are an embarrassment to our kids.
“Goodbye sweetheart!” I said as she left the car. “Give me a kiss goodbye,” I instructed. “Mom, no!” she cried, trying to get away from me. “Come on!” I said, wiggling my toes in my slippers and running a hand through my unbrushed hair. “I love you!” I called out as she shut the car door. She ignored me and walked away as if she didn’t even know me. After school, she waited on the sidewalk talking to her friends. “Sweetie!” I called. “I’m over here!” I waved wildly, hoping to get her attention. “Honey!” I called. I got in the car and pulled up closer, honking the horn. Her attention was caught, and the look on her face told me that she wanted to sink into the ground. “Did you have a good day?” I asked her. “Mmmmph,” she grunted. That night I found a really cute picture of my daughter and her brother when they were little. I posted it on her Facebook so that all her friends would see how cute she was when she was 3. And then I wrote a blog about her when she was little. I included a link to it on her Facebook so that she would be sure to find it and read it.
Am I doing this on purpose? Am I aware that this is mortifying to her, that to her I’m just an ignorant mom who makes her life miserable? Hey, as the mom of an almost teen, I am already the most embarrassing and clueless person on the planet. I might as well have fun with it.

7. As a mom of a boy, sometimes I miss diapers.
Skid marks. Enough said.

8. Your kids think you’re the best cook in the world.
There’s a stipulation, of course. The quality of your cooking is directly proportional to how long you spent on it. If you spent all evening making a meal from scratch that is sure to fill them up and it fills the house with heavenly scents, your kid will hate it. But pop some fish sticks and French fries in the oven and serve it up with some ketchup, and your kid will rave about your cooking and let you know that this is the best meal they ever had.

9. Reading is reading.
Every week my kids are assigned to read a book for 20 minutes a night. My daughter will read fantasticly long novels, getting completely engrossed in them. And she reads a lot longer than the 20 minutes allotted. My son, on the other hand, hates reading. Well, actually, it’s not the reading that he hates. Once engrossed in a book, he thoroughly enjoys it. What he hates is that it is getting in the way of his free time. So reading has to be just as fun as going out. Comic books, silly stories with superheroes in underpants, diaries of wimpy kids, poems that are more funny than literature – they’re all words that have to be read. They may not be Mark Twain or Hemingway, but they are still helping him with his reading. He has to get 20 minutes in, right? If he likes what he’s reading, there’s less of a fight. Problem solved.

10. Even when their belongings are stolen, your child will still leave their items in your front yard.
My parents used to threaten me with this logic. I would leave my bicycle out on the front lawn, and my parents would tell me that if I didn’t put it away, some kid was going to come along and steal it. Being that we lived in a quiet neighborhood with no through traffic, this logic was a little ridiculous. Nobody was going to steal my bike. But just to get my parents off my back, I’d put it away. Now that I have kids, I can hear my parents echoing in my words as I tell my kids the same thing. “Put your bike away,” I tell the Taz. “Somebody’s going to steal it.” Of course, in our neighborhood this is perfectly plausible. We live on a busy street with lots of people passing by our front yard. A bike out front is an invitation for some kid to suddenly have a new green bike, and for my son to suddenly have none. But still, he wouldn’t. A week ago I was getting the mail and our next door neighbor’s kid rode by on a very familiar green bike. “Did the Taz let you ride that?” I asked him. “Uh huh,” he said. “Whenever I want.” I called the Taz over at his dad’s house where I was informed that no, the Taz had NOT given permission. Thing is, this wasn’t the first time the bike had gone missing, or the first item. Skateboards, our newspaper, basketballs, soccer balls – they all had gone missing and were either returned from whoever “borrowed” it, or were never seen again. And still, the Taz refuses to put his things away so that they are safe. As much as I lecture him about it, having his stuff stolen is not teaching him any lessons, and it is only wasting my money. So sometimes it just makes more sense to put it away myself. And the bike? He gave it to a girl only days after telling the neighbor boy he couldn’t ride it. Go figure.

What lessons have your children taught you?

10 steps to a cleaner home

There was a time (a couple weeks ago) when cleaning was the last thing on my list, and the first thing to get skipped.  Just looking at that huge mountain of tasks to be tackled was overwhelming, and enough to keep me from actually doing anything about. 

Perhaps you can relate. 

Are you embarassed by your house?  Have you stopped inviting people over to your home?  When anyone knocks at your door, do you only partially open the door so that your visitor can’t see the full extent of the mess?  Do you feel scattered, unable to find even the simplest of items because they aren’t where they’re supposed to be?  Are you being relied on to finish all the housework and it is just getting to be too much?

Welcome to my world.

Over the past several weeks, I have been perfecting a system that is actually working in our house.  While I haven’t yet met the absolutes of perfection, I’m happy to say that the overwhelming mess no longer exists.  And I even have help from the kids.  Here are the things that are working for me:

1. Make your bed.
You’d be amazed at how much this one simple task makes your room look neater.  It only takes a moment, and will make collapsing at the end of the night that much easier.  Instill this habit in your kids early on so that each room, even if trashed, has a nice, neat bed to go to sleep in at night.

2. Do a load of wash every day.
If you have kids, there is no doubt dirty laundry piling up in your house at all times. The best way to tackle this is to throw a load of wash in every evening after the kids are bathed and in their bed clothes, or in the morning before you get them up for the day. It’s better to have one load of laundry to wash and fold than to save it all for the weekend. And it’s less overwhelming.

3. Keep a shower scrub brush easily accessible in the shower.
Get rid of that soap scum and ring around the tub while you shower. Just 5 minutes of scrubbing several times a week can be more time efficient than saving it all for the weekend. But be careful: with small children you will want to keep all cleansers and brushes away from curious hands and mouths. Be sure to store these out of the little ones’ reach.

4. Wash dishes during cooking and after every meal.
Washing dishes doesn’t really take all that long. It’s when the whole day’s dishes are littering your sink when it becomes ultra overwhelming. There is always time during cooking when you are waiting for water to boil, the chicken to finish baking, or the rice to simmer. Utilize that time to take a swipe at the pots and pans you have finished using. If your kids are old enough, let them help you clear out the dish rack so that you can wash more. And after the meal is over, have the whole family clear the table and put food away while you or someone else is on dish duty. Another hint: while your coffee is brewing in the morning, take that time to unload the previous night’s dishes out of the dish rack.

5. Keep a junk box.
Don’t have time to go through it?  Throw it in the box for later (be sure to see next step).  This will free your countertops of unnecessary junk mail and trinkets that haven’t found a home yet.

6. Make a chore sheet for the week.
Dedicate certain days to certain cleaning activities. For example: Tuesdays and Thursdays – vacuum. Fridays – clean toilets. Mondays – Mop kitchen and bathroom floors. Wednesdays – go through junk box. Saturdays – wash windows, dust, wipe fingerprints off walls, and tackle at least one clutter area you’ve been putting off (closet, corner of house, table you haven’t seen in years…)

7. Take 15-30 minutes a day for the family to get together and clean.
Set a timer and race to the finish! Have the kids take all their belongings that migrated to the front room and put them in their room. Clear off those bathroom counters. Wipe down the kitchen table. Sweep the crumbs from the kitchen floor. Wash the windows. Rescue the Lego’s from the couch cushions. Fold the laundry and put it away. Take out the garbage. Use this time to instill a habit in your family to put their things away. Make it part of the routine by cleaning at the same time every day. With everyone pitching in, 30 minutes will be enough time to get everything done, especially if it’s done every day. This works even better if you have a plan of attack for the day (see step #6).

8. Remember that a tidy house creates a tidy mind.
Feel like there isn’t enough time in your day? Feel guilty when you sit down to take a breather, as if breathing is too much of a luxury when there is so much to do? It is impossible to relax when there are laundry piles taking up the space on your couch, or your child is playing in the middle of the floor, surrounded by every toy they own. Tackle the mom guilt by creating a cleaning process that works for you. If you have set times and days to get household chores done, you will have time to sit and relax and play with your kids, or just enjoy a good book on a cleared off couch in a clean room.

9. Understand that it will never be a perfect process.
You have small children. And they are messy. You might need to vacuum on a non-vacuum day. You may get sick and have to leave some of the cleaning for another day. There will come a day (or 3 or 4 days) when it is necessary to wash more than one load so that the kids have clean underwear, or you will have to mop up that juice they knocked over. You will have times when you need to leave the house a mess while you get errands done. Stop beating yourself up.  

And this leads me to:

10. Remember your priorities.
It is nice to have a clean home to live in. But what are your kids going to remember? Time with you. If you have a small window of time in the day, and the choice is to either clean or spend time with your child, by all means, put the scrub brush down and go make some memories.

Are you struggling with the upkeep of your home?  Or do you have some tried and true methods for easily keeping the house clean? Share your tips and woes in the comment section.

Kids Cleaning

“Crissi!” the neighbor kid called from downstairs.

“Yeah?” I asked, immersed in my work on the computer.

“Today’s Monday, the night I spend the night!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, it is,” I said.

“But my cousin is spending the night too,” he said.

“Oh, that’s too bad –“  I started, assuming he meant over at his house.

“So we can probably fit a third sleeping bag over there,” he said, pointing to a spot on the kids’ cleaned bedroom floor.

“Um, ok…” I said.

“So now you’ll have three boys spending the night!” he said happily before bounding down the stairs.

I think I got swindled.

The rule I made for my son was that the house had to be cleaned if he wanted his new best friend (and now his cousin, sigh) to spend the night.  He put his clothes away, and reluctantly (meaning he was already crying) went in the bedroom to clean it up.  His sister went downstairs and he threw a fit because he thought she was going to start playing his video games.  But all she was doing was getting her clothes.  Then, in the bedroom, there was more fighting.  She wanted it done a certain way.  He wanted to just throw everything in random boxes so that the middle of the room was cleared.  He came out in tears because he couldn’t work with that kind of pressure.  I told him that it would be easier if he just followed her direction because I didn’t want everything thrown in random boxes either.  She finally left the room and started cleaning the bathroom instead, followed by the dining room.  And he succeeded in making the room look clean on his own AND throwing everything in random boxes.

And my house is almost completely clean, and I didn’t have to do anything.

“I can’t wait till my toddler can clean,” my friend emailed me today, adding that her toddler did clear off the sink before my friend wiped it down.

As busy moms, it seems at times (in my case, ALL the time) that there is too much to do to finish up in one afternoon.  As soon as one room is clean and you’re onto the next, the precious angels are soaking up the novelty of a clean room, and messing it up in the process.  The work is never done, especially if you are the only one doing it.

This is where bringing the kids in is incredibly valuable.  At 11 and 8, my kids are capable of a lot more than they used to be able to do.  My son helps me take out the garbage, can sort laundry, and can sweep the kitchen floor.  My daughter can fold laundry, fill up the dishwasher, and make sense of random messes by making logical piles for me to sort through.  And it all saves time for me when I have to get down and dirty into the housework.  Even a toddler clearing off a bathroom counter one piece at a time is much like having a prep cook in a kitchen: it paves the way for the bigger job we have to do by chipping away at the menial tasks.

So don’t be afraid to get your kids to help you out…..even if they cry.  Truth is, eventually they’ll learn, like my daughter, that it’s just best to clean without arguing and get it done quickly, and that crying about it just slows the process down. Not only that, eventually it helps them to take pride in the house and keep it clean for a longer period of time.  I’ll let you know when that happens.

Alright, off to prepare for a sleepover with three boys…..

(As a girl, I have always called overnight parties “slumber parties”.  I recently got my hand kindly slapped by a dad when I referred to my son’s overnight that way.  For any moms that are confused like I was, “slumber parties” are for girls, “sleepovers” are for boys.  Now you know.)