Friday, March 26, 2010

Fried Brains, Anyone?

I used to have a fairly decent brain. It worked well in 'the olden days' (back in 2009), but I think I've overused it. It's now looking like a shriveled raisin, with the memory capacity of an Atari 64 processor.

It must be all the latest changes.

Not only am I trying to do the mom thing, the wife thing, the weight loss/healthy eating thing, the writing thing, the sewing thing and the house care specialist thing (I like the sound of that much better than saying the housework thing!). There are a few other 'things' I could mention, but I risk an overload if I do- besides, I've already forgotten them!

And now comes the worst part- the scheduling thing.

Don't get me wrong- I actually like making schedules- I'm just no good at keeping them. At least until now.

A little advice here from one who knows- When making a schedule for yourself, it tends to be much harder than doing so for someone else. Why? Because, as humans, we tend to overrate ourselves personally. We just know we can do so much more than Ole whats-her-face in the next room. So we overschedule, and wind up with fried brains and a worn out body that's crying out for chocolate.

You need to sleep, you need breaks, and you also need a good healthy dose of perspective. You have to know what you're truly capable of; if anything you should be underestimating yourself when it comes to making a good schedule!

One thing I've learned through the years is to have a little breathing room penciled in on the list. That way if you're running a little late in one area, you're not up to your armpits in unfinished tasks by the end of the day. Ask me how I know.

You also have to have a sense of proportion as well- sometimes I just can't do all I want to do that day. I might have to reschedule it, or I might just have my husband or the kids chip in to help. Both ideas work well, and I still get my goal accomplished sooner or later.

Patience is indeed a virtue, and not something I possess in massive amounts. But it's a muscle I've had to stretch and strengthen a great deal as of late just so I can remain sane. Why? Because sometimes things happen that get in the way and capsize even the most organized of schedules.

Like the kids getting half days. Or Easter break. Or my husband has to work late. None of this stuff fits into my regularly scheduled program, and my brain turns into the Emergency Broadcast System, flat-lining with that dull monotone signal that says "Sorry, my brain is not here right now, but if you leave a message, I might get back to you- if it decides to come back. This is not a drill."

Being patient and flexible has saved my scheduling (and my sanity!) many times. Especially around the holidays.

For me, I have blocks of scheduled time I use to get things done, and in between those blocks are the 'flexibility minutes' that help keep me on track. Those minutes are spent walking the kids to school, doing errands, or having a little computer time to myself.

Don't forget to also allow some time to relax. And time to get used to the new schedule.

One of my very bad habits is that I do something for a week, decide it isn't for me, and let it go. You have to think of it like getting on a treadmill for the first time. You're using muscles you rarely (if ever) used before, and it will take more than a week of you doing it to see if it's a good fit for your day. I suggest you try making out a schedule and doing it for a month- write down things you might want to tweak a bit, but stick to it as much as possible. After the month is up, redo it if you need to and have another go. Pretty soon you'll find yourself much more productive- and a lot happier!

This week has been a hard one, but I know it'll get easier as I go. I'll refresh my poor little raisin brain over the weekend, and do it all over next week.

So...who's with me?

Remember that you're not doing this just for you, you're doing this for your family and most of all, God. And if you start getting a raisin brain, just take a deep breath, and thank God for chocolate in all it's glorious forms!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Conquering Clutter!

It always happens in spring- the air becomes warm, and you want to open your windows- but you can't, because all kinds of miscellaneous stuff is stored against them. Great for insulation, but not good when you want to rid your home of Houseitosis- the homemaker's version of bad breath.

So you take the stuff off of the window sills (the cats helped me remove my plants by knocking most of them off) and place all that stuff somewhere else- any flat space will do. But then you realize there aren't anymore flat spaces. You have now run out of spots to store things!

I'm a packrat by nature, but when things get a bit too much, I do have the will power to remove what's bothering me. It isn't easy, but it can be done!

Trust me on this- you are talking to a woman that used to have over sixty boxes of crafting supplies that travelled with her through three moves. And a lot of it was still brand new in the package!

The first decluttering took me nearly two years to complete, from the attic to the basement. Now we do an annual cleanout, just so my hubby and I are sure I don't collect and store anymore treasures. You would be amazed at just how much one woman can accumulate and promptly forget about!

One trick I used to use was the Transfer Method- scooping everything up and putting it somewhere else, just to make the one area look good- at least for a little while. But then something else would come up, and I would have to tidy another area, and back the stuff went- along with other clutter from the other spot. After a while that became really annoying, and I finally realized that it's time to get rid of some things.

And that can be a really scary thought!

I also have another character flaw- I get overwhelmed rather easily. And just thinking about going through all that stuff makes me want to crawl in a hole somewhere and hide. But I can't, since I stored some other stuff in that hole from the living room a few months ago. With nowhere to hide, I took out one of my 18-gallon tote containers (which was surprisingly empty!), and started loading it up with the clutter that littered my desk.

My goal was to empty at least one spot of clutter (or until the tote was full), and go through it when I watch TV. Time passes much faster when you do this, and it doesn't seem like such a hassle because you're distracted. Most of the stuff I saved wound up in the recycle bin, and by the time I had emptied the tote, I had very little to organize. Then I sorted everything and put it away before starting the next spot.

Dump, sort, repeat. Your place will start looking better almost immediately, and most of it will probably be going to the recycling plant or the thrift store. 'Going Green' feels good!

If you get overwhelmed like me, start small- one shelf, your desktop, a kitchen counter...whatever it is, just start small. It won't be long before you can walk into a room and smile in stead of groan!

I'm happy to say I can now open most of my windows, and the fresh air feels and smells wonderful! But don't worry, I promise I won't let all this cleaning go to my head- No being a perfectionist, like dusting the cats, for instance. Just keep things neat enough that I can smile when I walk into the room.

And you can too!

Friday, March 12, 2010


I've noticed two things that will happen every time you have two beings in the same house- One, they will play together, and two, they will fight together. I have two cats and two kids- there is never a dull moment!

The kids come home from school, tired, hungry, and brain-worn. "Mooooom, I need a snaaaaaack!" they whine in tones that grate on the nerves like a kid who chews with his mouth wide open.
Then I do something entirely foolish- I suggest a healthy snack. This usually gets a groan from my vegephobic son, and a squeal of delight from my daughter, whom I have to shoo out of the kitchen as I prepare dinner, otherwise I won't have a single sliver of celery left on the counter.
My son always suggests candy, stating he needs the sugar boost to counteract the coma-inducing boredom of the school day. I'm ashamed to admit this, but sometimes I give in just so I don't get a twenty minute speech about the health benefits of sugar. Instead I resolve to keep him from watching the Food Science channel and let him have a few pieces of candy.

I can start to see the undercurrents of a potential scuffle the moment they walk into the kitchen. One gets ahead of the other, and yells of 'I was here First!" resound against the kitchen walls, making them vibrate. "No you weren't, I was!" Is the usual reply, in the dulcet tones of a freight train horn, with just enough of that whinyness in it to make my teeth grind. Yet this isn't enough to get me out of my chair...yet.

Even the cats start chasing each other with their tails fluffed to their fullest, swatting and hissing. I was the only one without someone to fight with, but my husband was coming home any minute now, so I could join in when he came home, if I really wanted to.

Now they argued over the bench in the kitchen. Apparently one had dibs on it several days ago, and took this choice bit of seating without written consent of the other. It didn't matter that we had a second bench on the opposite side of the table- there could have been twenty benches- they would still be fighting over the same bench. Being the good mom that I am, I resisted swatting them both and remained in my seat, determined to let them try to work things out.

At least until I hear the sound of smacking.

Now I go into action. They both hear me stomping in through the doorway and freeze- even the cats stopped fighting- and four sets of eyes were looking at me like spooked deer. I was surprised to see the smacking sounds were not from my son, but from his younger sister, who was holding her own, fighting for her place on the bench that he was currently attempting to shove her from. The cats, seeing I was not going to take anymore stuff from anyone, took the hint and got scarce and ran for cover.

The kids were not as astute.

My son (who should be a lawyer one day) began a heated and heartfelt speech about the unfairness of life and school, so he should have the desired seat. My daughter (not having read law texts that her brother must have had stashed in his messy room somewhere), was less tactful. He was just a Big Meanie, and was trying to throw her out of 'her' seat.

Did you know lion's roars can be heard over miles of savanna? That's nothing compared to a mom who's fed up with her kids. I think even the lions heard me that day!

Within minutes I had them seated with snacks and homework in front of them, the cherished seat now supporting my butt- not theirs. Potent 'Mom Glares' regarded anyone who even remotely lifted their head from their homework, daring them to speak a word and face my wrath again.

When I felt they had been sufficiently subdued, I went into the kitchen to make dinner. But the moment I was out of eyesight, they started again. And that's when my husband came home.

I ran to my groom, very happy to see him, and gave him the lowdown of what happened in the past hour. His lips firmed and he gave me a slight nod, his gaze looking towards the kitchen, the sounds of arguments and debate still making the shelves tremble.

The best part was, they were so loud, they never knew he came home. I could barely contain my grin when I saw my darling husband walking towards the kitchen, giving me a wink just before entering.

It took 2.3 seconds for them to realize it wasn't Mom in the doorway. Time stopped, and there was no movement, no sound. I could hear their little hearts beating rapidly under their school clothes from the other room. You might be able to argue with Mom, but don't even think of trying to get out of something when Dad's home! I covered my grin with my hand, trying to look casually aloof as I passed by them and into the kitchen to finish dinner.

It was a wonderfully quiet dinner- even the cats were now getting along- and after dinner, everyone did their chores almost happily, and we even had enough time to play a few card games.

Both of us are firm and loving parents, but I always tend to let them go a little too far before I step in. I'll work on that, but in the meantime, I've asked my spouse if he wouldn't mind staying home for the next week or two! Can you blame me?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Settling In

Our kitties have acclimated themselves quite well, and we've decided to keep them. Though my poor plants would definitely veto the decision, if they could speak. The cats are training us well, and I have now cleared a spot for them to sit in the window. Oh sure, we have a perfectly good plantless window by the couch, but they want to be where I had my plants. It's just a cat thing that I have to get used to.

I'm also settling in on a new routine that has nothing to do with cats. 'Cleaning' is a bad word around here as far as I'm concerned, but unfortunately, a necessary evil. I used to be an 'all or nothing' cleaner, but then I shifted into a 'forget the all- I'd rather do nothing' mode that wasn't benefiting anyone. It's frustrating being a mom with a family that messes things up the moment you're done cleaning. Just think about how unfair that is! You spend an hour cleaning, and it takes less than five seconds for the husband and kids to mess it all up. Yet the mess they made takes another half hour to straighten up.

I really think I need to talk to those Star Trek people about the cleaning space-time continuum...something is out of whack here!

And why is it that a freshly mopped floor takes hours to dry, but a dropped ice cube takes 2.3 seconds to melt, making a puddle the size of a small state? I'm telling you, the planet is completely off-balance.

Dish soap can take the nastiest stuff off of my fry pans, but let a drop of dish soap dry on the countertop, and you can't get it off with a blow-torch. Please don't ask me how I know that. This also holds true for raw eggs and oil spatters, for which the only way to remove them is to simply buy a new house and move.

Then there's the dark realm under the stovetop itself. Oil and other things have fallen through the holes and made a right mess of things. The heat has turned the oil into a smooth rubbery polymer, and even a chisel won't remove the worst of it. It's also fireproof (I assume from all the tempering from using the stovetop and the oven on a regular basis), so putting a flame to it is useless as antlers on a turtle.

Many of these things I have completely given up on, especially if it's out of eyesight. But I swear to you that I've adjusted (and readjusted) my cleaning schedule and found that I don't need to have an all-or-nothing approach anymore. If I get one desk clean or manage to straighten a shelf, I have accomplished a lot more than if I just sat there staring at it and lamenting about the mess.

And it looks nicer too.

So my new approach to cleaning (and life in general) is the same as praying- do it throughout the day, every day. Bit by bit, you can get a lot accomplished! Do a chore (and maybe stick a little prayer for a friend in there somewhere), write a little, do another chore, go through e-mail, do another chore, and pretty soon the house is starting to look good, and you feel a lot less stressed by the lack of mess about you.

And frankly, that makes my family (and my new kitties), very happy!