December 10: Breaking Bad Habits

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Our sweet middle son developed a habit when he was an infant. He would chew on his blanket at night for comfort.  We told him if he didn’t chew his blanket for several nights in a row, he could get a Lego Set.  But keeping the blanket in his bed wasn’t working.  Neither was putting on the side of his bed.  As we went to bed, we still found his blanket in his mouth.  So I asked him if he wanted to put his blanket in the hall and he agreed.  Last night he made the whole night without his blanket.

It reminded me how we all have habits we’re trying to break.  I’m notorious for putting so many papers on the bulletin board I can’t find the one I need…

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Or leaving clutter spots all over the house…

DSC08974Or else letting laundry go until it is a mountain…

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I’m so glad God loves us despite our shortcomings.  Therefore we can show grace to one another since we all struggle with something.

Are you too busy? Personal warning signs.

Are we as moms too busy?  And what is the cause?  Is it because we need to be “plugged in” all the time i.e. cell phones, facebook, e-mail?  Is it a sign of a times?  Is it our personalities?

busy mom

I think a safe answer to all these questions is “yes.”

I looked back at the times in my life as a mom where I had way too much out on my plate such as Fall of 2010 when I had a kindergartener, older toddler, and younger toddler.  I was training for a marathon, taking veterinary technology classes, on MOPS leadership, not to mention some church involvements. From the outside I looked like I was juggling everything well:  I PRed on the marathon, I got decent grades in class, I enjoyed MOPS leadership etc.  However, I was constantly on edge especially at home.

There were sacrifices and unfortunately it was the ones I love who paid.  By Christmas I was falling apart.  Denial is very powerful and I was stuck in it for a long time.

I truly believe God created us differently.  We each have our capacity of what we can handle at what given time.

I looked back on those times and thought about how my actions and behaviors were the result of too busy of a schedule. What did that look like?  This is what I came up with…

1)  I get into the “ministry martyr mindset” such as:  “No one cares.”  “No one wants to help me.” and/or blaming multiple people.  Usually this means it is time to resign, take a long break, or re-evaluate and make some changes.

2)  I am using blogs, Pinterest, facebook, TV, etc. as a way to escape the stresses of my life especially when I should be using my time to do other things.

3)  I’m always talking about how busy I am or sharing my schedule with multiple people.

4)  I take on something because I feel if I don’t, it will fall apart or worse I don’t feel someone can do as well of a job as me.

5)  Multiple people express concern about my schedule or tell me I am too busy.  Especially my husband or close friends.

6)  I am not taking care of myself:  spending time in the Word, praying, reading for pleasure goes to the bottom of the priority list unintentionally.

7) Projects are only getting half done or extra clutter is laying around the house.

8)  I commit to going to an event and then back out at the last minute because I’m too tired.  

9)  The things clogging my schedule feel like “extra stuff” and things I am not overly passionate about or don’t enjoy.

10) Filling my schedule with commitments becomes more of an addiction and “my need” versus meeting the needs for someone or something else.

11)  I am short tempered or easily annoyed by my husband and spouse.  If they see me as a frantic person that is not giving them the quality and quantity time they need and deserve.

12)  I tell someone, “Yes I can do that,” and it never really seems to get done.

13)  My cell phone/e-mail/i pad or other form of technology has more control over my life and relationships than what it should.  If I constantly feel the need to push my kids aside to check my e-mail.

14)  I am getting headaches, stomach aches, or shaky arms due to stress.

15)  I dread getting up in the morning.  

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These are my own personal warning signs.  Finding that balance of commitments is truly an art!

Going Dark Reflections 10/4/12

The first thing I noticed on my first “Going Dark” day was that my morning ran smoother.  I teach a story hour for 12-14 preschoolers one morning a month.  I have to get us out the door by 9:15 AM.  We were all ready to go by 8:45.  I actually had extra time to tackle some other items off my “to-do” list.  It was smooth and easygoing transition out the door and we do not always have that.

The day itself was a little atypical as I watched a toddler all day on top of my own three children.  I also watch a kindergartener for two hours in the afternoon.  The only stressful time was getting everyone ready for lunch, cleaning up the kitchen and eating area, and getting the younger ones down from naps.  Honestly that was a very tempting time to go on and check e-mail and facebook.  I think I turn to these as a stress relief when my day gets more chaotic.

In the afternoon I found myself getting more accomplished I have thrown to the wayside the last few weeks.  For instance there were over 400 photos on my memory card and not a single one edited or put on my computer.  I started this project and completed it.  I also finished a book, got some laundry completed, thank-you notes sent out for my daughter’s birthday, book orders for school completed, Hot Lunch menu filled out, and an article for the church newsletter written.  Normally I probably would have gotten some of that done, but not all of it.

The hardest time not using the Internet was after the kids go to bed.  I missed reading blogs, surfing Pinterest, and responding to e-mails.  I was too tired to do anything productive.  I managed to finish editing photos and start another book.

As I got back on the Internet today I saw only a few e-mails I had to return and no earth shattering facebook messages.  Which convinces me I do not need to be on the computer near as much as I previously was.

9 Things Never To Say To Stay-At-Home Moms

I was reading this article on working moms earlier in the summer. I pondered some of the thoughts and came up with my own list of 9 Things Never To Say to Stay-At-Home moms.

1)  Wow you’re so lucky to be able to stay at home.  That’s nice your husband makes a lot of money.   Lucky, yes.  Do women who stay at home have husbands with large salaries?  Not necessarily.  In many cases, it’s the opposite.  We have to make choices to live on a tight budget, cut corners, and live simply.  It is not always easy, but it is worth it.

2)  Don’t you feel like you are wasting your college degree? College teaches you that you can learn.  Many people venture outside their college degree and some go back to school later for a totally different degree.  I feel like I use my degree every single day in some form even though I am not bringing home a paycheck.  When I get closer to forty, I may go back to work or start a new career.  That is a whole twenty-five years to work.  Nothing is being wasted.

3)  Don’t you get bored?  You are only bored if you choose to not engage in anything.  Stay at home moms have the freedom to try hobbies, take their kids on fun outings, read books while their little ones are napping, do craft projects with their kids, etc.  Sometimes an office job sounds more boring than what I do on a daily basis.

4) Don’t you want your children to be cared for by other adults?  This assumes stay at home moms sit at home all the time with very little interaction with anyone.  I know very few stay at home moms who live this kind of life.  Many stay at home moms go to Bible Studies or mom’s groups where their children are cared for by child care workers.  Some stay at home moms swap kids to help one another out.  Some go to the gym while their children go to child care or a kid’s exercise program.  My children have many other adults in their life they are close to besides my husband and I.

5)  Are you ever going back to work?  Although this question does not seem offensive (and for the most part it’s not), be careful when talking to a stay-at-home mom about “work.”  Being a stay at home mom is a job with long hours and some days very few breaks.  It IS work and it IS a job.

6)  You are with your kids all day.  I would go crazy.  Any situation you are in, you learn to adapt.  It is funny when I hear people say to mothers of twins–“Wow I could never juggle two babies.”  As if she had a choice!?  She didn’t plant two babies in her womb.  It’s the same with being at home.  Yes, there are crazy days. Aren’t there crazy days in the working world?  You learn systems, routines, and things that you used to despise grow on you because you get really good at them (for me that would be laundry).  You embrace that homemaking is indeed an art.

7)  My brain would turn to mush if I stayed at home all day!  It’s funny that people assume our days consist of PBS Kids programming and board books–and why this is such a bad thing?  In addition many stay at home moms take on-line classes, write blogs, are in book clubs, lead or manage moms groups or Bible Studies, and work on hobbies.  Not to mention home school moms who are constantly educating themselves and their children.  The TV is not all day with soap operas and talk shows (mine is hardly on at all).  I read the newspaper every morning which I never did (nor had time for) when I was working.

8)  Your house must be spotless since you have so much time to clean.  If the kids are home most of the day, the house will be messy.  Constantly.  When I worked in child care, it was unique.  Your main job was to care for the children and nothing else.  As a stay at home you have sixteen other responsibilities going on all at once–meal planning, laundry, organizing, returning e-mails, taking your kids to activities etc.  There are some days moms cannot get to the cleaning.

9)  Imagine how much more money you would have if you worked.  Money is not everything.  The fancy cars, designer clothes, elaborate vacations will not last.  The time spent together as a family has a lasting impact.  Relationships are more important than stuff.

 

Surviving Cold & Flu Season Part 2: Survival Tips

Kristin Buursma, regular contributor to Everyday Mom, myself, and some of our friends composed a list of survival tips for cold and flu season.  I have found some of these helpful.  All three of my kids have been sick in the past week, but thankfully are on the mend. 

  1. When doing laundry during the day, don’t put anything else in the washer before going to bed.  Keep the washer open in case you have to put in dirty/soiled sheets or clothes first thing in the morning or during the night.
  2. If you have a child that is vomit prone, lay their bed with large beach towels or items that can be easily stripped and washed.  Making and re-making a bed (especially at 2 AM)  can be exhausting.
  3. Keep a record of what kids took which medication at what dose and what time.  Doctors or nurses will ask for this when you call.  Write it on a white board or even the bathroom mirror with dry erase markers.  If you have a lot of kids or everyone is ALL sick, this is really important.
  4. I live on Gatorade when I get sick.  For some reason I can keep it down better than Sprite or Ginger Ale.  Buy a bunch at Costco and keep it in your pantry during cold and flu season.
  5. Depending on your kids’ ages, keep tylenol and cough medicine in your medicine cabinet at all times.  This will avoid late night runs to the store.  Check for and throw out expired medicines every few months.   Always follow dosage instructions.
  6. Once kids start feeling better, do not assume they can keep food down.  Follow the BRATY diet.  BRATY = bananas, rice, applesauce, toast & yogurt.  My kids usually start with saltine or oyster crackers first.
  7. Quarantine.  We know with five people living in close quarters, more than likely someone else is going to get it.  We still have the sick person stay in their own room all day until they are up and around.  We utilize the guest room for those who share rooms and disinfect afterwards.
  8. Use disinfectant wipes or spray and utilize the high traffic areas.  Spray or wipe door knobs, light switches, remote controls, and cell phones.
  9. Your kids might be disappointed if they miss a special event because they are sick.  Do not discount their disappointment.  Reassure them there will be other events and it is OK to feel sad.  I usually tell them about the time I was seven years old and got chicken pox on my birthday.
  10. Follow church nursery/day care/mom’s groups procedures.  Wait until your child has been well for at least 24 hours before exposing them to other children.  It is draining staying home day after day, but make use of your “home time.”  I usually watch movies or get extra cleaning done.

Laundry on a schedule

The following was written by Jana Dykstra.  Jana is a stay-at-home mom and has three girls.

When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I immediately quit my
full-time job. I knew that I wanted to stay home with our children and I thought it would be important to have as many months of learning how to live on one income as possible (okay and I hated my emotional roller coaster of a job, so it wasn’t a hard choice 🙂 Up until my daughter was born, laundry was just a random chore that got done when it got done. After she was born it still wasn’t too much of a burden. With each successive child, however, the laundry pile grew exponentially and became a HUGE burden at times.

I have friends who live out of their laundry baskets. Laundry never is fully completed – either the clean clothes are in a pile in the basket or perhaps they’re even folded neatly in the basket, but never make it back into the drawers. I cannot live like that. I just don’t do well with that kind of thing… so I have always felt it was necessary to get my laundry washed, dried, folded and put away – eventually. I hated, though, the days that I spent hours, upon hours of valuable time folding and folding and folding my laundry.

A few years ago I came up with a solution – I created a laundry schedule. And it has revolutionized my life. I no longer look at the hampers and cringe. It is no longer a burden, but simply an easy chore to fit into my day as I go about the rest of my work. Here is my laundry schedule:

  • Monday – Girls clothes
  • Tuesday – Mine & my husband’s darks
  • Wednesday – whites
  • Thursday – Girls clothes AND Iron
  • Friday – sheets
  • Saturday – off
  • Sunday – off

I very rarely fall behind on the washing and drying with this schedule. During the summer I fall behind a day or two on the folding and putting away, but it doesn’t last long. Here’s the thing that was revolutionizing for me: With a schedule like this, I rarely do more than 2 loads in one day, most times just one (depends on if I add a load of towels to a day, or if it is jeans weather). I start the load in the washer first thing in the morning, change it to the dryer as soon as possible. Folding and putting away never takes more than 10-20 minutes because I only have one load to do. So my days of 4 hour laundry marathons are OVER!

Two other quick tips:
1) My husband wears dress shirts every day. I iron once a week, because by doing so I usually only have 5 shirts to iron rather than a HUGE pile. I only spend 1 hour ironing 5 shirts… if I have a large pile it takes me 2+ hours (admittedly, this is the part of the schedule that I fall the most behind on during the summer and during extra busy weeks the rest of the year). One hour a week and a pile of 5 shirts is a lot less  overwhelming for me than a pile of 12-15 shirts and 2+ hours. When life gets overwhelming I go into avoidance mode – so less overwhelming is better for me (and my family).

2) I ALWAYS fold my laundry on my bed. This forces me to put everything away by
the end of the day so I can go to sleep. I suppose I could put everything neatly into a basket, but that would be just as much work as to actually put it away in the proper drawers and closets. If I fold in the laundry room or on the kitchen table, it might never get out of the basket.

I have a friend who only does laundry on Sundays. He gets up at 6am to start the wash and does marathon laundry all day (they do not iron, by the way). I have another friend who prefers to do several loads in one day every other day or every three days. You need to choose what works best for you and your family. My choice is to do essentially 20 minutes everyday rather than hours at once.

When my husband found out about my laundry schedule (probably 2 years after its
existence), he realized how easy it makes his life. He has magic drawers and a magic closet that always get refilled somehow. He never has to dig for his boxers or tshirts. My girls don’t have to look through loads and loads of laundry for two matching socks. This is one way that I strive to bring a peaceful and stress-free atmosphere to my home and my family.

Developing your homemaking style

We always joke that children do not come with manuals.  But don’t you feel like you are constantly creating a manual?  And then sometimes throwing out that whole set of directions with the next child and rewriting another?

I used to work in a print shop.  At the end of the day we had to close out the cash register and it was called “z-ing out.”  Not sure where the term came from.  Teaching others to “z” was like explaining how to play a card game like Euchure or Sheepshead.  Each of us made our own little “z” manuals we passed to new employees.  What we failed to realize is we all had our own way of doing it.  The new employees were confused until they figured out the way that worked for them.

Mothering is like that too.  I remember showing up to our mom’s group when my oldest finally figured out how to use the toilet on her own.  A friend in my group had a son slightly older than my daughter who still was in diapers.  I almost said, “Well if you just do what I did and followed steps A, B, and C he would be out of diapers too.”  I think this a big temptation for first time parents as we have not experienced the complex personalities and differences between Child 1 and Child 2.  Now Child 3 is a whole other experience.

Even in our homes we all have our own systems.  My husband makes breakfast for the kids, cleans the kitchen, and has the kids pick up their toys in a totally different way than I do.  I have friends who do laundry every single day and those who do it once a week.  I know people who do all their cleaning during nap time while others are night owls and accomplish everything between the hours of 8 PM and midnight.

We have to find a system that works for us.  It is a process we are forever tweaking.  My household routine changes constantly.  I try things that work, throw out routines that don’t, and sometimes go back to an old routine I had previously quit.  The beauty of it is learning from one another and developing our own unique homemaking and child rearing style.  My heart is humbled as I have learned more since I became a mom almost six years ago to the day!  I am sure I will learn even more in the next six years and beyond.

50 Ways to Stretch a Dollar

In 2008 when the economy took a nose dive, several of my family members and friends felt the pinch. I asked a variety of people representing different areas all over the United States (men and women, single and married, those with kids and those without kids) for some money-saving tips. I went back over my list this week and tweaked it.  No matter what our income we can all adapt to a simpler lifestyle and utilize the resources we have…and share them with others.

  1. Use cash instead of credit cards and better yet designate your cash in categorized envelopes like the Dave Ramsey system.

    This is the ugly envelope system holder we have had since we were married ten years ago! It’s a coupon holder my husband purchased from the Dollar Store.

  2. Drink water at restaurants instead of ordering a $2.00 soft drink
  3. Cut dryer sheet in half
  4. When making meals, use more items like vegetables, pasta, and rice and fewer items like meat which tends to be more expensive.
  5. Turn the thermostat down when you leave the house or long periods of time and during the night.
  6. Make your own laundry detergent.  It works just as well as the store-bought stuff!My homemade laundry detergent
  7. Plant your own vegetable garden or do a co-op with other families.  Many churches are also sponsoring community gardens.
  8. Pack a lunch to work and pack the night before!  When I used to work outside of the home, I was tempted the morning of (if I did not have a lunch packed) to say, “I’ll just go through a drive thru.”
  9. Buy from the bulk foods section–especially items like sugar, flour, oatmeal, and even snack-like foods such as pretzels and crackers.
  10. Go through your house a couple of times a day and shut off lights.
  11. Sell your children clothes to a consignment store and use the money you make to buy gently used clothes or baby items for them.
  12. Buy a box of greeting cards for the whole year or have your children make handmade cards for friends and family members.
  13. Ask around (utilize facebook, e-mail, twitter) before you buy a baby item.  It could be someone has a good quality one sitting in their attic they are willing to donate or let you use!
  14. Empty all your change at the end of the day and put in a change bucket.  Use the change for a special occasions.

    We are using our change jar money to take a cooking class this fall

  15. Have an “errand running day” and do everything at once to save money on gasoline
  16. Ask about discounts especially for students or senior citizens or Triple AAA members.  Or utilize daily deals or websites like Groupon or Deal Chicken.
  17. Save on barber bills and learn to cut your son’s/husbands hair with a pair of clippers
  18. Eat out at restaurants such as Applebees, Shari’s or IHOP on Kid’s nights.  Sometimes kids get free or reduced meals and these restaurants are “kid friendly” too.
  19. Change your shower head to a low flow type or set a time limit on your kid’s showers if they use up too much water.
  20. Go through attic/storage once a year and either have a garage sale or sell items of Ebay or Craig’s List.
  21. Team up with your neighbors and have a street sale.  They tend to generate more business if there are multiple sales.
  22. Do not change your oil every 3,000 miles.  Wait until you have reached 5,000 miles.
  23. Tear baby wipes or better yet, make your own!
  24. Look for free children’s events at your local library, the mall, Humane Society, or churches in your area.
  25. Ask friends, family members, or neighbors if they have a tool before buying one.
  26. Make scratch pads by stapling papers together from the office or recycle paper box.  They make great “t0-do” lists or message pads.
  27. Invite company to come over for a barbeque and play games instead of going out to eat
  28. Make your own baby food.  It’s fun and fairly easy!

    Make your own baby food and freeze it in ice cube trays. 1 cube usually equals 1 serving.

  29. Use a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing bottled water
  30. Use a travel mug for coffee at Starbucks–some locations will even give you a discount
  31. Buy three ties for each color shirt, three color shirts for each suit (6 outfits, two suits)
  32. Do a kid swap with other friends or couples to save on babysitting costs.
  33. Eat a snack before breakfast or lunch meetings so you can get away with a lighter order
  34. Before you make a phone call, think if you can make it from a land line instead and save your minutes.
  35. Have your children split meals at restaurants.
  36. Cut your cable package.  We switched from having cable to using Roku and we are saving SO much more money–and getting almost all the same shows.
  37. Shop for fall/winter clothes in the month of January after the holidays.  I was amazed how everything is on sale!
  38. Do not go grocery shopping when you are hungry.
  39. Make a meal plan every 1-2 weeks and purchase groceries based on that plan.
  40. Use grocery store bags to line trash cans.
  41. Price check before buying anything expensive.  Shop around and utilize on line coupons.  If you are buying something used, don’t settle for the first item you see on Craig’s List or Ebay.  Check it daily for updates.
  42. Pets are great companions, but can be expensive!  Check with your humane society or animal rescue group about low cost vaccinations clincis such as Good Neighbor Vet.
  43. Make your own coffee.  Did you know a cup of coffee taken out costs almost twenty times more than what you can make at home!?
  44. Avoid the vending machine at work!  Most of the items are not good for you and have a huge mark up.  Take an extra snack to work or keep a stash of snacks in your desk.
  45. Keep your distance from lavish friends with the latest toys especially if you are in debt.  They are probably nice people, but you may be tempted to spend money you do not have on items you do not need.
  46. Plan your vacations ahead of time.  Shop around for flights, motel rooms, and rental cars.  We use Kayak the most for travel and vacations.
  47. Check books and magazines out from the library instead of buying them.  If you are a book collector, sell ones you do not use anymore.
  48. Live within your means.  Even saving $20.00 every month adds up fast!
  49. Make a monthly budget TOGETHER with your spouse and do everything in your power to stick to it.
  50. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, tutor a student, run a winter coat drive–when you help someone else you are reminded of how you much have and how much more you can give away.

The Art of Doing Laundry

I can’t say I have a favorite household chore, but if I had to choose one, it would be the laundry.  I feel if I have made an investment in clothing, towels etc. I want to make sure it lasts. The following are my methods and tips for doing laundry.

  1. I always sort my laundry into four sections: whites, colors, darks, and towels and rags.   This is especially important with new jeans and red clothing as they can stain other things in the wash.
  2. I always read the care instructions on the labels. Different fabrics require different care.
  3. I inside out most items. This is extra work, but it really helps prevent fading and pilling, and keeps the item looking new.
  4. A mesh laundry bag is my favorite laundry accessory.  I wash bras, swimsuits, and anything with lace, appliques or embellishments on
    them in these. They prevent other items in the wash from rubbing against them causing wear and tear.
  5. Laundry detergent and any additional things like laundry booster, bleach etc. should be put in the washer before the clothing, not after. This allows it to dilute with the water and get mixed in well before the clothes are added.
  6. I prefer to use the fabric softener sheets you put in the dryer instead of a liquid softener. I have heard liquid fabric softener can leave stains on your clothes, and I like the way a dryer sheet makes my clothes smell when I take them out.
  7. I hang dry most of our clothing. I have a fold- up drying rack that I set up when I do laundry. Heat from the dryer is hard on clothes, and most often causes shrinking. Being a tall family, it is important that our clothing not shrink.
  8. I check each item of clothing for stains before I throw it in the wash and spray it with a stain treatment like Shout before it goes in. After it comes out of the wash, Icheck if the stain was removed. If it is still there, I set it aside to work on it some more. Stains that go through the dryer are virtually impossible to remove.
  9. Oxy clean is a mom’s best friend.  There are very few stains I have not been able to get out with Oxy Clean.  If a stain did not come out in the wash, this
    is my next course of action.  I dilute a scoop of Oxy Clean in a good gallon of warm water and soak the item.  Make sure the Oxy Clean is all dissolved
    before you put the item in.
  10. I only wash our clothes in cold water. Most detergents today perform very well in cold water, and hot water can cause fading.
  11. Don’t stuff your washer too full of clothes. The soap does not get distributed as well, it makes your washer work harder.
  12. To get wrinkles out of an item of clothing, you can put it in the dryer for a few minutes with a damp rag.

As far as laundry detergent, I really like the Tide Total Care. It is supposed to be really gentle on your clothes and keep them looking like new, but what I really love about it is the way it makes my clothes smell. I wait for it to go on sale, and then use coupons on top of the sale price to get a good deal.

– Trisha Faber (stay-at-home mom and mother of two)