Thursday, May 28, 2009

One day I will....

Take a photography class.

Take a cake decorating class.

Join a book club.

Take up pilates.

Learn how to speak French.

And Tagalog.

Take my kids to the zoo on a weekday.

Go on vacation to a heavenly tropical island.

And Napa.

Plant a vegetable garden.

And a flower garden (with no bees, please!).

Write a book.

Start a volunteer support group for bedresting mommas-to-be and/or preemie parents.

Spend a whole day with both of my kids without anything on the to-do list, just savoring every moment of them.

You could say I've had a particularly long ... difficult ... day at work today. I thought maybe thinking about my "someday dreams" would make me feel better!

What will you do "someday"?????

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Push and Pull

Good news - Bennett is home now from the hospital! He is doing well so the docs decided he could come home - thank the Lord! You can read about the adventure here if you are bored. Sorry for the typos in my prior post - I sent it from my cell phone. Gotta love technology...

So, this is what I was planning to blog about last night before Bennett changed my itinerary - the perpetual conflict that rages inside the heads of working moms.

My best friend returned to work full time yesterday from maternity after having her first child - a very cute little boy named Elijah. It reminded me of those early days when I was finding my bearings as a working mom and how difficult they were. Not difficult logistically, as in actually DOING it. But difficult emotionally. I wanted to work. But I didn't want to be away from my new baby! But I did want a bit of a break from his incessant crying and some adult interaction.

I actually had a pretty sweet gig going when Carter was born. I started working as a law clerk when Carter was 10 weeks old. I worked 8-4 and never had to bring home work. So, I had 4:30 on each night with him, and of course, the wee early morning hours as well. But that didn't stop me from counting each day how many hours I spent with him. Yep, I would calculate the percentage of his waking hours he spent with me versus away from me. Neurotic much?? The reality is, I wanted the best of both worlds - to get to get out and work on my career and be "me" not just "mommy," and also to be the biggest presence and influence in my son's life. What's so wrong with that??

But the guilt...oh the guilt!! I never felt like I was doing a good-enough job of achieving that delicate balance, particularly after I returned to law school full time when Carter was 6 months old, while still working part-time for my firm and serving as an editor on a law journal (dare ya to try that!) . Work has taken an even more predominant role in my life now that I don't have set working hours, but rather minimum billable hours that I am required (impossibly it seems) to meet. While I don't count hours anymore (I vowed not to do that anymore - its not good for my mental health), the push and pull between work and my children extrapolates with time. Now that I have two (wonderful and amazing) children, that precious time is divided by two. And my energy and focus is divided by 4 it seems.

These days, I find my mind wandering further and further from work and closer to my children. I'd lie if I said my work performance didn't suffer. I can't help it though. I love my babies! But sometimes, I gotta work. Like today. Bennett was discharged at 11 a.m. and I had to relinquish baby care to Ace for several hours this afternoon so I could prepare for a phone conference this afternoon. Bennett, of course, survived and Ace took great care of him. It was hard though, getting my head into lawyer mode, when it was desperately longing to be in mommy mode.

I wonder if men feel this way? Do men agonize about whether or not they are spending enough quality time with their children?? Do men feel horrible guilt over wanting to pursue their own goals and dreams? Are women just hard-wired to feel this way?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My son Bennett was admitted to the hospital tonight. He started having cold symptoms Sunday and wheezing this morning. I called his Pediatrician but she said to observe him for 24 hours and bring him in if the nebulizer treatments aren't keeping him clear for 6 hours. When
I got home from work, he was working pretty hard to breathe so I decided to bring him into the ER just in case. His oxygen levels were good but the x rays show pneumonia in both lungs. They admitted him and started iv antibiotics. The doc said if he is doing well he can come home. Please say a prayer for Bennett and in particular a short admission and string lungs. For those of you who don't know the background, Bennett was born last May at 30 weeks. He has a lung disease called bronchooulminary dysplasia and was on oxygen until he was 6.5months old. He has a weak immune system and very fragile lungs. He spent 10 days in the hospital in March on oxygen from bilateral pneumonia. Little guy has had a rough go!

Monday, May 25, 2009

How NOT to plan a trip to the beach

This weekend, Ace's family planned a trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate my nephew Ethan's first birthday. All-in-all it was a nice mini-trip, but I learned some valuable lessons for such expeditions in the future:

1. Make sure that there is a set agenda before ever getting in the car. In other words, make sure everyone is on the same page about when to arrive, when and where meals will be, when and where different activities will take place. We spent at least 10% of the trip just trying to track each other down and decide what to do next.

2. Don't leave at 12:00 noon on Memorial Day Weekend and expect to actually arrive at your destination in the 3.5 hours the GPS promised. No, no, no....take the number the GPS gives you and multiply that by at least 2. Its a much better idea to head out early in the morning and pack lots of snacks in the car to keep the kids quiet. And if you know this information (Arne), kindly share it with others! It took us over 6 hours to get there Saturday!

3. Get to the beach EARLY. This is something we actually did right! Sunday morning, we got to the beach at 10:00 a.m., had NO trouble parking and got a fabulous spot on the beach in an uncrowded area!

4. Even though the hotel website says they have a pool, call ahead and make sure its open and operational before promising your 4 year old a dip in the pool after dinner.

5. Of course you'd never forget to put sunscreen on your children, but make sure you slather it on yourself. I look like a lobster today. I can't stop thinking about the new wrinkles I've created!

6. Remember the whole point of the trip is to have FUN!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Maternal Neurosis

Please, tell me I'm not the only one who has odd habits with her children...

I realized tonight as I was bathing the kids that each and every night, each child has a clean pair of PJs, a clean bath towel and a clean wash cloth. Ok, that may not sound so weird, but this is - the towel and wash cloth MUST match.


I, on the other hand, wear the same pair of PJs for a few nights a piece, use the same towel and wash cloth for a few days.

I also am meticulous about cleaning their ears and finger nails daily. I'm on a roll if I remember to check mine once a week!

Again on the "matching" theme - Carter's napkin and utensils I pack in his lunch must coordinate ... as must his undies and outfit...

And speaking of food, Bennett's bowel and spoon must coordinate, but match, and neither the bowel nor the spoon can be the same color as the food that it used for...

Yep, certifiable. I know I'm not the only one - what are your quirks????

PS - Check out Bennett climbing mountains!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Guess How Much I Love You??

Ahhh yes....a favorite children's classic in our house! If you haven't read it (and you should if you haven't it), the baby rabbit (or, little nutbrown hare) is trying to tell his mom how much he loves her ... "as big as I am tall," "over the river," "as high as I can hop." But the mom keeps one-upping the baby. At the end, the baby says to the mom "I love you to the moon." The mommy replies "I love you to the moon, and back!" LOVE IT!!!

Well, Carter has come up with his own variations of this story. Its very sweet. Last night, while cuddling at bedtime, I'm drifting in and out of consciousness when he says - "Mommy, I love you bigger than the sun, bigger than the moon, bigger than the earth, bigger than all the buildings on the earth stacked up (I begin to melt), bigger than the biggest everything, even bigger than your butt!!" Moment over.

Out of the mouths of babes.......

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Always Be Prepared

My 8 year Girl Scout career has served me well. If I hadn't learned from that to always be prepared, I certainly learned the lesson well during my first year of motherhood! You never know what sort of curve ball these little monsters will throw your way! By the end of Carter's first year, I was packing so much gear in my diaper bag, that it weighed more than he did! That is quite a feat considering he weighed 27 lbs at age 1!!!

Then I got wise. A lot of stuff, you don't need to tote with you everywhere you go. You just need it close enough by that you can access it when the occasion arises. I got the idea to pack a small Rubbermaid bin full of all those random extras you need, and keep one "kit" in each car. These kits have saved my behind (and my kids') more times than you can imagine! I re-check and stock it everytime the weather changes - warm to cold or cold to warm.

This weekend, I made up my summer kits! Here are my necessary items:

* Sunscreen
* Bug Repellant
* Change of clothes for each - shorts, t-shirt, socks, undies
* light weight jacket for each
* 3 extra diapers
* Travel wipes
* Hand sanitizer
* Benadryll bug bite soothing pen
* Snacks - 4 cereal bars, cheerios, fruit snacks
* Two bottles of water
* An extra baby bottle and formula (to make 6 oz)
* Coloring book and coloring pencils (crayons will melt)
* A baby toy and board book
* Beach towel for impromptu picnics!

I swear, all of this except the beach blanket fits neatly into the Rubbermaid bin so it doesn't take up any space in the trunk. We already have a First Aid Kit in the car. Can you think of anything I'm missing??

Bring on summer!!!!!

The Wisdom of Children - An Ace and Carter Conversation

I normally dismiss children's babble as nothing but, well, for a lack of a better term, gibberish.

Today however, was quite an eye-opener for me while Carter and I were driving home from school.

Carter: "Daddy, I don't know why I hit my friends. There is something in my brain that makes me grumpy"

Me: "Really, what makes you think that?"

"I think there's something in my brain that makes me grumpy, but I don't know how to take it out"

"Well, how about when you feel your brain getting grumpy again, you count 1-2-3-4, repeat, 1-2-3-4..."


If you have read any of Eckhart Tolle's books (The Power of Now, or A New Earth) then you know that awareness has an 'Ego' and the 'Observer.' The 'Duality of Man' as Jung refers to it.

The Ego is the mind that acts and reacts. The one that curses when you get cut off in traffic or the one that uses food because it's comforting. The Observer is the mind in the present at all times. This "state of mind" concerns about nothing, it is peaceful, accepting, and content. It observes what the Ego is doing and attempts to bring control and rationale to its actions. The Observer is always in the present, it does not care if you got cut off in traffic 10 minutes ago, it is the small voice that tells the Ego to "let it go."

Of course, a full explanation of these concepts would be too long to post here, but I didn't find out about the Ego and the 'Observer' until after I turned 28, yet here is Carter, a 4 year old, already self-aware!

Obviously, I will need to explain to him the actual concepts later, but kids are smart! I will never underestimate their intelligence again!

Later that evening, at the dinner table, "1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4."

"What are you doing, Carter?" Asks, Chantelle.

"My grumpy is coming back"

"...Oh, yeah...told him that every time he feels his craziness coming on, to count to four and it will go away," I said.

"Great idea!"

Kids are amazing, and if you have had similar experiences like the event today, please share! We'd love to hear them!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bulking up!

I love Costco. LOVE it! I get a thrill at seeing how much money I save! Yes, I'm one of those dorks who sits there and calculates my savings.

Here's today's calculation:

Strawberries (6 lbs) $6.99 = $1.17/lb v. Grocery $2.99 (1 lb) = $1.82/lb or 10.92 total savings!

Blueberries (18 oz) $6.49 v. Grocery (4.4 oz) $3.99 = 55 cents/ounce or $9.84 total savings!!!!!

Eggo Homestyle Waffles (60 ct) $7.49 = 12 cents/waffle v. Grocery (10 ct) $2.99 = 30 cents/waffle = 18 cent/waffle or $10.80 total savings!!

Mott's Apple Juice (2 gallons/256 oz) $6.59 v. Grocery (64 oz) $3.00 = 2 cents/oz. or $5.60 total savings!

Tropicana OJ (192 oz) $7.49 v. Grocery (89 oz) $5.99 = 3 cents/oz or $5.24 total savings!

Organic Milk (1/2 gallon) $3.20 v. Grocery (store brand) $3.99 = 79 cent savings per 1/2 gallon.

Breakstone Cottage Cheese (48 oz) $4.29 v. Grocery (16 oz) $2.50 = 6.5 cents/oz or $3.18 total!

Shredded Mexican Cheese (40 oz) $5.59 v. Grocery (store brand, 8 oz) $2.79 = 21 cents/ounce or $8.40 savings!!!!!!

Organic Eggs (2 doz) $6.99 v. Grocery (store brand, 1 doz) $3.99 = 50 cent/dozen, $1 savings

Bananas (8 ct) $1.29 v. Grocery (8 ct) $3.12 - $1.83 savings

Ok, this is just a sampling, I have more, but that probably would just bore you!

These days, I buy almost everything from Costco. Most things you can freeze (we have a deep freezer in the basement), and we rarely let anything go to waste. I buy meats bulk and then separate them out in freezer ziploc bags. I buy bread there and throw one loaf in the freezer. I buy the 3-pk of organic milk (we buy 2% for Carter and whole for Bennett), and throw the extra 2 in the freezer. I think one of the biggest savings we get is with BERRIES. My kids loooooove berries. They are quite expensive from the grocery store! If you can't use all of them before they spoil (and I swear Costco produce lasts longer...), then freeze them and use them in smoothies!

Yay for Costco! I get a high off saving money!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Recaps

Last night, Ace and I had free tickets to pre-screen the movie Angels & Demons that is released today. This movie is based on the book by Dan Brown, which is the sequel to the Da Vinci Code. I was wary of this movie because I really didn't think the Da Vinci Code movie was all that good. But, I had read the book first, and movies based on books never seem to measure up, do they? I have not read Angels & Demons yet though, and I thought the movie was EXCELLENT! And as a Catholic, I felt that it was much nicer to the Church than the Da Vinci Code was, which I appreciated. It did not really so much bash the church or make it suspect, yet it still had all the amazing "factual" and historical intricacies of the Da Vinci Code.

The fight scenes were awesome, as were the special effects. The actors were all very good, and the scenes really looked like the Vatican! I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something fun to do this weekend. I can't wait to read the book now!!

This week, I also finally finished reading The Mommy Wars. It was o.k. Yes, just o.k. I felt like the author picked mostly her friends and acquaintances to write the articles, so there didn't seem to be a wide variety of experiences or demographic represenation. Mostly, the contributors were all career writers. I found that most of them worked from home at least in some capacity. There were very few articles by women who are exclusively stay at home moms. There was very little of the divisive extremism that the real-life mommy wars are known for. All of the authors were very conciliatory about their choices and opposing choices. Not that it was a bad thing, but it was kind of boring after the first five articles or so.

One thing that struck me reading the book, is that very few of the contributors really seemed completely content with their choice to work or stay home. I know there are pros and cons to both sides, but reading this book left me with a sense that women (in general) aren't going to be completely happy no matter what we decide to do. That was ... disappointing ... for lack of a better word. Particularly from the stay at home mom side, I wanted to hear someone say "I absolutely love what I do, and here is why."

So how about that diet, huh? Well, I made it a whopping 5 days before I cracked. My blood sugar kept dipping too low, no matter how much I was eating. I guess the fact that I started out hypoglycemic and am still nursing didn't help. So, I switched over to Phase II, with limited complex carbs, and am doing better with that. I cheated a lot over Bennett's birthday weekend. During Phase I, I lost 5 lbs total. I've gained back 1.5 lbs as of this morning. I am recommitting to doing better on Phase II and adding in exercise this coming week! I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. every.single.morning. this week, and slept in every day. We're going to Virginia Beach next weekend for my nephew's first birthday (a mini-escape of sorts), and will be required to don a bathing suit. This is problematic because I don't own a one-piece, and I'm no wear near an acceptable level of skinniness/fitness at the moment to rock a bikini! So, momma is going to be VERY good this week!
We have an exciting weekend ahead of us! I hope you all do too! I'll see ya Monday!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cafe Bebe

Several people have recently asked me to share my baby food recipes, so I thought now is as good a time as ever to do so!

I believe in feeding organic in as much as possible and reasonable, so I start with all organic produce. Its much easier these days than when Carter was little, as organic is much more popular and in demand now. When I do have to buy prepared baby food, I buy Earth's Best or Gerber Organic (I confirmed that the plastic containers Gerber uses are BPA free!).

You really don't need many fancy tools to make baby food. Most of the foods are either steamed or baked, and you probably already have a steaming pan and an oven ;) That said, I seriously lust after the Beaba Babycook - it steams and purees all in one! But I can't justify the price for the short period of time you would use it!

Instead, I use the Kidco Electric Food Mill. Its pretty efficient and very easy to clean and set up! A small spatula is helpful for scooping the pureed food out.

Stage 1 foods are SUPER easy! Anything that comes in a skin, I bake until the skin is soft and gives when you press it. Everything else, I steam. When you steam, you can use the water to add in to make it more liquidy, and that adds back in some of the nutrients that are steamed out! My standard Stage 1 foods include - summer squash, zuccini, butternut squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, pears, apple sauce, peaches. I cannot seem to make peas, so I buy those jarred. And I read somewhere that you should not make your own pureed carrots because regular carrots contain a high leel of nitrates, so I buy those jarred as well.

When your baby is tolerating Stage 1 foods well and can handle foods with a little more thickness and texture, you can move on to Stage 2 and 3 - and this is where the fun begins! You can get really creative with what you make for your baby. I believe in exposing baby to many different flavors early on. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:

Pears and berries: Bake the pear in the oven until soft to the touch. In a sauce pan, heat berries of your choice, or mixed even! I really like using raspberries. Raspberries and blackberries tend to have seeds in them, so you should puree separate and strain them through cheese cloth first for a younger baby; older babies probably can handle it. Simply puree the pear and add berries in when done. You can do the same thing with apple instead of pear if you'd like.

Banana Cream Pie: Puree banana with Stonyfield whole milk vanilla yogurt and baby oatmeal.

Broccoli and Cheese: My kids LOVE broccoli and its a super food, so I love feeding it to them! Steam up some broccoli, then puree with shredded cheese (mild cheddar or American) - and wah lah! When baby gets older, adding in some steamed brown rice and organic vegetable stock will round this out to a complete meal!

Asparagus and Rice: Steam asparagus and brown rice separately. When tender, puree with a small amount of vegetable stock to make it more liquid.

Baby Stew: Puree baked red bliss potatoes with skins (they are nutritious!) together with celery, a small amount of sweet onion, and mix in pureed carrots. When baby begins to eat meats, you can add in some beef or chicken to the puree too!

Chicken Noodle "Soup": You can make up chicken noodle soup for the whole family and puree some for baby! I make mine with chicken stock (low sodium), chicken thighs, sweet onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf and egg noodles.

As baby bets older, the more adventerous you can get. I move more and more toward taking what I make for the rest of the family and adapt that for baby. Just remember that there are certain things baby should not eat until at least age 1: strawberries, pineapple, egg whites, nuts or nut product, tomatoes, citrus.

When baby begins to eat table foods and self-feed, try giving them beans, pieces of deli meat, shredded cheese, pieces of steamed veggies and fruit, small pieces of bread, crackers, etc.

Anyone else have any recipes to share???

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Heart is Heavy

Please pray today for the family of Kayleigh Freeman. She passed away last night at just 11 months old.

I have been following Kayleighs inspirational blog for many many months now. She was born two months after my Bennett was born. She suffered from severe intrauterine growth restriction and was born at 28 weeks weighing only 1 lb. The doctors never thought that she would live, but she did. Not only did Kayleigh survive, but she thrived despite many many obstacles. Kayleigh was the smallest person to ever undergo open heart surgery and survive. She had to have surgery for an infection of her bowels and survived that too. Her parents thought the end was near when she began to experience pulmonary hypertension that the doctors just could not seem to control, no matter what they tried. But she did. She survived and she was on her way home! All she needed to do before she came home was to have a gastrointestinal feeding tube placed so that she could start taking full feedings. But that surgery, a relatively minor procedure in comparison to what she had been through, changed the course. The operation itself went well, but something happened during the procedure that caused Kayleigh to lose all function of her frontal lobe in her brain. The part of her brain that controled her memories, personality, everything that made her who she is, was gone. Her parents never lost faith, always praying for yet another miracle. When it looked like that miracle would not come, her parents began to pray that Kayleigh would be able to come home to the nursery they had prepared for her nearly a year ago to pass away in peace with her parents, brother and sister.

But that was not to be. Last night, the swelling in Kayleigh's brain became too much and she passed away. I am thankful that Kayleigh is no longer in pain, no longer living in the confines of a NICU, no longer attached to so many wires and tubes. She is in God's arms now, where she is perfect and at complete and total peace. But I mourn for her family. There were so many times when Kayleigh beat all impossible odds and they were so hopeful that she would come home and thrive and go on to live a normal life. That this story should end this way, to me, seems so nonsensical.

But I remember back to something very beautiful my friend Veronica said at the funeral of her father, who died very suddenly when we were in college. She said that God must have thought her father was a very special person, and must have a very special plan for him in his heavenly kingdom to take him from her at that time. That is how I feel about Kayleigh. God must have a very special plan for Kayleigh. In the smallest of packages, God was able to show his grace and mercy and power to so many who read her blog. But, lest we not forget that God is not only great when things go well. God is also showing himself to us through her parents. They are in unbelievable pain right now, yet they are still praising God. That is inspirational to see a faith so solid.

Please pray for peace for the Freeman family.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sleeping your life away

So sorry I've abandoned you my friends! Last week was hectic - to put it diplomatically. Work consumed an inordinate amount of my time and then Bennett's birthday party plans sucked up whatever droplets were left behind. He had a WONDERFUL first birthday party on Saturday, and then we enjoyed a more relaxed and quiet family day on Sunday for Mother's Day. I will try not to take such a long hiatus from my mental spewing in the future.

Today's topic? Sleep.

Yeah, yeah, we know we're supposed to clock 8 hours of sleep a night. A whopping 1/3 of our lives spent in sweet slumber. But who really does??? I love sleep, but I have a real hard time giving up 33.333333% of my day in a totally unproductive state.

Today, MSN posted an article giving away a free guilt trip to all who skimp on the shut eye - 5 Sleep Myths Busted. I've heard it all before, but the following passage was rather compelling:

True, Napoleon slept four to five hours a night, and Thomas Edison got by on four. But world domination and the lightbulb might have been mere warm-ups had these guys slept more. Sleep scientists estimate that only 10 percent of adults are hardwired to need appreciably less (or more) sleep than the recommended seven to eight hours. And by cheating on sleep, you're limping through life with the cranial equivalent of a torn calf muscle. Scarier still, people who are sleep-deprived often don't even know they've turned into zombies. After dividing 48 volunteers into four sleep regimens—eight, six, four and zero hours a night (a.k.a. torture)—University of Pennsylvania researchers found that the six-hours-a-night group fared as poorly on measures of alertness and memory after two weeks as the no-sleep crew did after 24 hours. But participants in the six-hour group didn't feel very sleepy even when they were performing at their worst. Accumulating a sleep deficit also leads to "microsleeps" while you're awake. "Your brain becomes unstable and will go 'off-line' for half a second," Dinges says. The more sleep-deprived you are, the more frequent and longer the lapses.
Well, that explains a LOT! I'm brain dead because I don't sleep enough!

This article was more focused on middle-aged men skimping on sleep to get ahead in their careers, but I think that this is an important topic for moms to think about too. I think its particularly easy for moms to sacrifice time in the sack. Nighttime is probably the only quiet time we get all day; the only time we can actually use the restroom with the door closed and without someone clawing at the door whining mommy, mommy, mommmmyyyy!!!! I don't know about you, but I often don't really get started on my work until 9:30 or later. Once I get on a roll, its easy to keep going. Plus, moms kind of get used to not sleeping. After months of sleep deprivation, 5-6 hours of sleep seems like a luxury!

Short of saying "screw it" to mounds of work every night, 7 hours of sleep is simply not feasible for me. On a good night, I can eek out 6 hours of sleep a night, and that seems good to me! But then again, maybe if I got more sleep, my brain would function better, I'd be more efficient, and that would free up the extra time for me to sleep! Ok, I'll try it. Off to bed - goodnight!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A "Pictures Device" - By Ace

There is a problem that constantly nags at me. But first, let me ask if you can relate.

1. Do you have multiple computers at home all connected to the same wireless or wired network to the Internet?

2. Are the computers used by different members of your family or "owned" by different people?

3. Do these computers contain pictures; random and unsorted?

4. Do you keep a folder within your computer especially dedicated to pictures, but only you or someone using your computer would have access to them?

5. Are the pictures in your computer "out of control" meaning, there are duplicates, disorganized, and lack a description to make searching for pictures possible?

If you answered, "Yes" to these questions, then you are probably wondering why there isn't a networkable, secured, plug-and-play device that goes inside your home network for the sole purpose of centralizing and organizing all of the pictures in one location.

Has anyone seen or heard of such a device on the market today that can solve the problems above?

If you can share tips on how you organize your pictures efficiently (without loss of quality, Facebook, Snapfish, Picasa and the like don't count as they degrade quality and uploading takes more work than they're worth), I would love to hear them!


Monday, May 4, 2009

Elle's Guide to a Gleaming Home

After managing to get my entire house clean (for the first time in well over a year) on Saturday, I declared myself an expert on such matters and decided that you all needed me to impart my wisdom on you. I'd been having a bit of a pity party of late because I just couldn't seem to make a dent in the disaster area I called my home. I'd get one room clean, and by the time I got to the next, the prior room would be destroyed again. I just never seem to find a chunk of time to devote to housecleaning. Part of the problem is I have a pretty big house - 3500 sq ft - which I tell you not to brag by any means, but to illustrate my predicament. The other issue is my obsessive compulsive tendencies which makes me feel like a room isn't clean until it reaches model-home-like qualities. I blame my beloved step-mother who raised me for that (whom I also call Mom, so people are often confused as to whom I am referring, but you get the gist). Growing up, our home was always a beacon of cleanliness, organization, and well...perfection. With 4 kids (and their friends) running around, that was no small feat!

So, pumped up on caffeine and a compliant husband, I set about tackling my house Saturday. I developed quite a methodology that I simply must share.

Step One - Devise your attack plan and get prepared.
* Get a big bucket or tray and put your cleaning supplies in that you will need. In my bucket, I had Windex, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Kazaam Tib & Tile Cleaner, Pledge, a coarse bristle scrub brush, a Mr. Clean Eraser, several coarse white wash cloths and several yellow car detailing towels.
* Carry a trash bag around with you to empty the trash cans from each room and to toss random things you encounter.
* Wear rubber or latex gloves!!! This way you can focus on cleaning rather than keeping your hands clean!
* Start from the top floor of the house and move downward.
* Focus only on routine cleaning - save "projects" for later. Carry around a pen and a pad of paper with you to jot down things you want to remember to do later.
* Keep moving at a fast pace and put energy into it - cleaning can be quite a workout! Put on upbeat music and aim to finish each room in 30 minutes or less!

Step Two - Realize that its gotta get a whole lot worse before it can get better! Meaning, you're going to have to make a mess before you can clean up the room. Don't worry about keeping things neat - focus on cleaning.
* If its a linens day, strip all the bed sheets and towels at the start and throw them in the washer while you clean.
* When you go into a room, take every item that does not belong in that room and throw it in the hall and forget about it (for now). Then put everything that does belong in that room away. Everything should have a home - any wandering items get thrown in the hall and dealt with later.
* Then clear all surfaces and put the items on the floor.
* Moving around the room in one direction, use a yellow car detailing towel and pledge and dust all furniture. After you dust a particular piece of furniture, then dust the items that belong on them and put back where it goes. If you encounter glass, use a different detailing towel and Windex to clean it.
* Clean everything as you get to it, don't back-track. Say you reach a window, clean the window sill and window ledges.
* After the room is dusted and cleaned, make the bed with clean sheets.
* If you haven't done it in at least 3 months, go around the circumference of the room one more time and clean the baseboards with Pledge and a detailing towel.
* Finally, use a disinfecting wipe or Lysol spray and disinfect the light switches, door knobs, telephone receivers, mouse/keyboard, etc.

Step Three - Bathrooms.
* Remove all bath mats, shake out on carpet/floor outside. Nothing should be on the floor. Sweep bathroom out to the exterior floor.
* Remove all things from the counter tops and from inside bathtub, set outside. If you are feeling super ambitious, remove the shower curtains and wash. Every few months, I wash my white shower curtain liners with bleach to keep them looking new.
* Squirt toilet bowel cleaner in toilet. Then use bathroom cleaner and spray down sink and counter and inside of tub and shower walls. These cleaners work by chemical activation, so leaving them sit for a minute works better than using elbow grease.
* Return to toilet and clean. I use the disinfecting wipes because that is my preference. Don't forget the exterior and the pedastal portion that has an odd way of getting filthy! Once that is cleaned, use your toilet brush to clean the bowel and rinse by flushing with the brush still in the water.
* Use coarse dry wash cloth to wipe down sinks.
* Move on to the tub and using the same wash cloth, wipe down shower walls and exterior of the tub. Then use scrub brush with some water to scrub the inside of the tub and any surfaces that things sit on that accumulate gunk. Rinse with water.
* Use Windex and detailing towel to clean all mirrors and metal surfaces like toilet paper rings, towel bars, faucets, etc.
* Use Lysol or disinfecting wipes to clean light switches and door knobs.
* Re-stock toilet paper, bath towels, hand towels, hand soap.
* Grap you mop and mop your way out.
* Clean anything that sits on the sink counter like cups, tooth brush holders, etc. These get dirty quick. Once floor is dry, replace everything to where it goes. You're done!!!

Step Four: Kitchen
* Clean out fridge - throwing away anything that is expired. Wipe down shelves and remove bins and shelves and handwash in sink real quick if necessary.
* Unload dishwasher, reload with any dirty dishes in the sink. Hand wash turn plate from inside microwave real quick.
* Take anything that is on the counter tops that does not belong in the kitchen and throw in hall. If it does belong in the kitchen, put away.
* Clear off all counters, placing things on the floor like cannisters, spice-racks, etc.
* Clean inside of sink until it gleams. If you really feel in the mood, disinfect with bleach! Clean faucet while you are at it.
* Spray all countertops with your preferred cleaner, use a detailing towel and polish until they shine. Replace countertop items.
* Use Windex and detailing towel to wipe down the exterior of all appliances. Also clean inside microwave.
* Sweep floor.
* Mop floor.
* Use disinfectant to clean door knobs, light switches, etc.

Step Five: Hallway
* Now is the time to deal with all the crap you threw in the halls. Put things away that have a place to go.
* If an item doesn't have a place to go, find a new home for it. Rubbermaid bins are your friend!
* Dust all wall hangings, clean glass with Windex.
* Clean baseboards it it has been a while. Don't forget stair banisters and railing too.

Step Six: Vaccuum entire house, moving from the top down. Use your hose attachments to suck up any cob webs you find along the way.

Step Seven: Finishing touches
* Make one last walk through the house and look for anything you've left behind to do.
* Use your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to wipe marks off walls as you go.

Step Eight: RELAX!!!!!!!!! You did it!!!

I know this SOUNDS like a lot - but it really isn't bad once you get started. The key is to KEEP MOVING. If you feel sluggish, push through! It helps to have a spouse or partner to work with you, or to keep the kids distracted! If you have little helpers, give them a towel and a spray bottle of water - they'll be in heaven! Don't stop until you are done. I started at about 12:30 on Saturday and finished completely at 6:45 p.m. Ace helped some. There is NOTHING like a clean house!!!

Now, the next challenge is to do a little something every night to keep it this way!!!!!

PS - Head over to Bennett's Journey to see our pictures from the March for Babies we did this Sunday!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Derby Day!

Today is the first race in the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing - the Kentucky Derby!! And since my mom lives minutes from Churchill Downs, it is a holy day of observation for my family. Plus, its kind of fun! I love the wild and crazy hats all the ladies wear!

So, every year, my mom makes us each pick a horse and she places a bet for us. If our pick wins, she gives us the money. Mind you, I've never won. Perhaps that has something to do with my methodology. You see, I look down the list of names and pick the name that sounds most appropriate for each of us. I could care less about the odds!

This year's picks are:

Me - Advice - odds 30:1*
Ace - Mr. Hot Stuff - odds 30:1
Carter - Summer Bird - odds 50:1
Bennett - Join the Dance - odds 50:1

* Odds are as of this posting.

The logic behind my horse is obvious - I am a lawyer, I give advice for a living! I picked Ace's horse (he's still asleep - grrr!), so I picked a horse consistent with his egotistical personality! Carter picked his horse, but I think its a good one for him! I picked Join the Dance for Bennett because he's on the move these days!

Come 6:00 p.m. tonight, we'll be tuning in to cheer on our horses! My little brother Jimmy (aka Peanut) will be performing along with the University of Louisville Marching Band, playing cymbals, prior to the race! Keep an eye peeled for him!!!! And wish us luck!