Friday, August 27, 2010


My blog series has been hijacked by our first week of homeschool and the attempt to reorganize my world to fit our new needs. I have some friends who recently asked if I would share my basic organizational techniques. These are not the best you've ever seen- they are just what happens to work for me. With that in mind, I have a few things I depend on everyday to keep things running smoothly. I don't freak out if the schedule doesn't fit us perfectly everyday. Motherhood forces adaptability! This is long b/c I'm actually posting my real usable lists... More later...

Menu plan
This is a super simple idea I picked up from Paula Miller, my good friend and homeschooling mother of five. This is just the supper plan. I have a simpler one for the kids' breakfasts and our lunches...

Menu 1 (S)roast dinner, (M) leftovers, (T) grilled chicken, (W) spaghetti, (Th) homemade Chinese, (F) date night, (S) soup, sandwiches
Menu 2 (S) chicken casserole, (M) leftovers, (T) steaks, (W) hotdogs, (Th) seafood, (F) breakfast, (S) new recipe
Menu 3 (S) roast, (M)leftovers, (T) chicken piccata, (W) hamburgers, (Th) homemade Chinese, (F) date, (S) new recipe

*I just rotate through these. Most families have a selection of meals they eat over and over anyways, but I flex it if I want. Wednesdays I keep simple b/c I teach those days. This also allows me to know EXACTLY what I need to keep on hand.

I also have a pantry and frig checklist I printed out and keep taped to the inside of the pantry door. That way I can just glance over it and it helps me think, "Oh, yeah, we're out of that." This is what that looks like for me (the format is probably going to mess up here...)

Pantry Checklist
 Oatmeal (steel-cut & quick-cooking)
 Macaroni
 Chinese rice
 Spaghetti noodles
 Bread crumbs
 Cereal
 Chips
 Popcorn
 Ritz crackers
 Saltine crackers
 Graham crackers
 Peanut butter
 Jelly (strawberry, grape)
 Honey
 Salad dressings
 Mayo, ketchup, mustard
 Soy sauce
 Evaporated milk
 Sweetened condensed milk
 Pumpkin
 Green beans
 Spaghetti sauce
 Cream of chicken
 Cream of mushroom
 Canned tomatoes
 Chicken noodle, other soups
 Self-rising flour
 All-purpose flour
 Granulated sugar
 Brown sugar
 Confectioner’s sugar
 Cake mix
 Brownie mix
 Sugar substitute
 Napkins
 Paper towels
 Ziplocs
 Sandwich bags
 Aluminum foil
 Saran wrap
 Parchment paper
 Plastic utensils, cups, plates
 Kitchen trash bags
 Ice cream shell
 Spices/Herbs
 Kosher salt
 Peppercorns


Refrigerator Checklist

 milk
 orange juice
 lemon juice
 eggs
 margarine sticks
 tub butter
 applesauce
 syrup
 condiments
 cheese
 fruit
 salad greens
 garlic
 onion
 potatoes
 yogurt
 sour cream
 cottage cheese
 bacon
 deli meat
 baking soda


Freezer Checklist

 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
 whole chicken
 fish cuts
 shrimp
 ground chuck
 chuck roast
 steaks
 cube steaks
 ground turkey
 bread
 English muffins
 Chocolate chips
 Coconut
 Chicken broth
 Frozen peas, butterbeans, corn, etc.
 Popsicles (summer AND winter- for little busted lips)
 Ice cream
 Coffee
 Juice concentrate


Friday, August 13, 2010

"A-Splishin and A-Splashin"


Baths are a must on my need-to-keep-clean list. I like to know that company can drop in, and I don't have to rush around getting the 'powder room' acceptably sanitary.

*I suscribe to FlyLady's advice for the morning Swish and Swipe. This simply means each bath has a little basket with Lysol Cleaning Wipes and Toilet Cleaner. I give the toilet bowl a swish each morning and wipe down the outer surfaces and the sink/counter with a Lysol wipe.
*I check the trash can and take it with me to the kitchen if it needs to be emptied.
*On Fridays, when I wash sheets, I also do a load with the bath rugs.
*On Tuesdays, when I run through the house doing glass cleaner on the glass surfaces, I hit the bath mirrors, too.
*I've found a handy way to mop the bath is to put my mop water in the bath's empty trash can. Small, portable and the can gets clean, too. That happens once a week when I mop the other floors.
*Taking the 15 sec. to wipe down the showers helps me avoid my most-hated job (scrubbing showers!); I leave the shower door open and the fan on for a while. I have found that icky stuff doesn't grow where there's air movement.
*And my most useful mantra: LEAVE THE ROOM CLEANER THAN YOU FOUND IT! That means I straighten a towel, or DO SOMETHING each time I go in.

Saving $ in the bath:

We don't use all Suave and White Rain. Nathan gets mouth sores unless he uses Biotene. I love good quality shampoo for my much hair. And for some strange reason which I have yet to figure out, Nathan likes Pantene for his little hair. And who doesn't love a seasonally scented Bath and Body Works handsoap or feminine bubble bath? So I COUPON! I follow CVS and Publix on This means that I get things like toothbrushes, paste, pads, tampons, all sorts of cleaners, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, etc. for cents on the dollar. I still end up paying almost top dollar for Biotene. But everything else is seriously reduced. There's nothing like getting a Venus Embrace razor with blades for 99 cents! If you've never heard of SouthernSavers, check it out! Pick just one or two stores and go to it!!! Kroger is great with her list if you have one.

Mind over Potty

Like most mommies, the bathroom is the one place we feel we can LOCK the door! Now, there are sometimes waggling fingers, toy soldiers pushed under for our inspection, etc. but for the most part, it's peace. We become friends with the potty. And heaven knows, after all the postpartum fun of hemorrhoids and sitz baths, we have history there. LOL I keep things I want to read, scripture I want to memorize in there, too.
And at night- glory! Once those kids have had their last "sippy milk" (Alex) or "sippy water" (Kathryn)- served in 2 oz. glasses to keep the bed from floating away in the night- candles and bubbles and a book can soothe the soul. I drag my laptop in there, put on Pandora and Michael Buble and just crash. Not every night, but as often as I can get it. My friend Mary Ellen adds popcorn to this routine. Feel free to add comestibles, but no offense (Mary Ellen)- the smell of popcorn reminds me of a ballpark, so a small piece of dark chocolate is more up my alley.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids' Bedrooms

Now we move to the rooms where I need the MOST tips- someone help me, please! I truly hate cleaning kids' bedrooms. Our system works like this: I tell Kathryn to put everything off her floor onto her bed (clean enough to run a vacuum), and then I will help her sort. Once we start 'sorting,' her attention span wanders around like a confused fly at a picnic, trying to avoid the swatters and flitting from one dish to the next. Then I feel my blood pressure rising. "You know you're not allowed to eat in your room! Why is there a decomposing grape under your bed?" OR "HOW did those get THERE?" Sigh... Obviously running a daycare would send me into a psychiatric ward in a hurry. I'm too much of a perfectionist.
So Nathan has stepped in. Every night but one is his night. That means he makes his grand entrance with an "instrument of love" draped casually around his neck- which by the way, he isn't wielding- he just thinks it makes them move more quickly ;o) He sounds like a happy football coach. "You can do it! Come on! Quick, quick- move those feet!" They seem to love this. One huge box is brought out and EVERYTHING goes in there. Thus, the room appears to be clean. I'm not complaining about his assistance, as it is greatly appreciated. BUT I KNOW WHAT'S IN THE BOX!!! Ugh. So once a week, the evil step-mother drops in for a sorting session. Why does this stress me out so badly?
So! I'll impress you later (if you're easily impressed) with tales of my organized bath and pantry. But this is part of my house where I need loads of advice. Any to give, mommies?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Room by Room

So, I thought I'd go "room by room" and give any tips or thoughts that come to mind for you gals just starting out or those (like me) always looking for new ideas. My laundry room is always my home office/sewing room. This lends itself toward disaster! It is probably my toughest challenge to keep clean. Some things I do to work on that:
1. We bought those round slider things (cheap, cheap at WalMart) and put on the bottom of the washer and dryer. If I need to pull them out to grab a sock or clean the floor (this is getting desperately needed, at the moment ;o), I can slide them out without help.
2. I don't feel too guilty about it being my 'drop zone.' I'd rather have one space to drop misc. items than all over the house. If you have a hot spot like this one, just spend 5 minutes a day decluttering. It's amazing how much you can sort in 5 minutes.
Some ways I practice frugality in my laundry room:
1. I make my own laundry soap. Here is the recipe. The ingredients are readily available at Publix. I make 5 gallons at a time, and the stuff lasts forever! OK, on actually making it. I only let it sit 8 hours before pouring it into the gallons. This is my least favorite part of the process. The stuff literally gels up and looks like (how is the feminine way of saying this?) OK, snot. Begging many pardons. Try not to think about it, and you'll have great laundry detergent (more effective than any I've found) for just a few cents. I use a kitchen funnel to put it into old water gallon jugs (60-something cents from Wal-Mart).
2. White vinegar works as a liquid softener. I use this when I can't find the wonderful Snuggle on sale.
3. Dryer sheets. Confession time. With as much money as I save elsewhere, I BUY THE BEST! I adore the smell of Snuggle. So with apologies to the money-saving purists out there, it is my little investment in happiness!
4. One thing I despise is soured laundry (especially kitchen and bath linens- ugh!) I put a dab of Chlorox 2 (color-safe bleach) into ALL my laundry. The Wal-Mart brand works, too. And no nasty smells.
5. I set aside one block of time a week for ironing. I pop in a DVD and get to work. I used to HATE ironing. But now it's the one time I can be still ;o) I love this relaxing time!

Life in my laundry room is very, very real. About once a week, I rewash a load instead of ironing it (heehee- I KNOW no one else does this). About once a month, I vow it will never become cluttered again. About 10 times a day, little people drop toys or books in there. But it is my workspace, and I think worth the effort to keep it running smoothly. Any tips for me? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, August 09, 2010

My lovely Spanish students

Being an Older Woman (than 10% of you ;o) Means It's Time for Class

God has blessed me with a few young-er ladies in my life who come to me for advice. It is a solemn responsibility, and one that I try to do with God's help. I also find that passing along what I've learned helps me REALLY learn it and put it into practice better. They say you don't really know something until you've taught it.

So! With that in mind, I thought I'd do a few blog posts on wifely/homemaking-ly topics. I'd love your input. Throw in some tips for ME please. I'll take all I can get. The following is excerpted from a letter I sent to a friend of mine:

Get up long enough before the kids to get dressed and ready for the day. It changes the atmosphere of the house when you’re welcoming them into your day instead of resenting them as unwelcome alarm clocks. You are the mood setter for your home.

Dress and fix the girls’ hair. Kathryn is just grouchy when she is a mess. I’ve found a different little girl when she feels neat. Don’t know why this is (I’m happy in pjs ;o), but it’s true.

Plan a menu each week. I don’t follow it 100% of the time, but at least I know my options.

Keep a pad of paper near the frig to write down things that you need from the store.
Put your housework on a schedule. Flylady or your own thing. Doesn’t matter. If you feel you don’t have enough time to get everything done, try writing down where your time is going. You’ll be surprised where those 5 and 10 and 15 minutes disappear.

Talk up Daddy to the girls. It’s contagious. Tell them how handsome he is. How strong he is, etc.

Philippians 4:8 Fill your mind with the positive things about your man. About your children. About your role. About God. Light a candle. Pick some flowers from the side of the road. Put on some happy music that makes you want to dance. Try just smiling at your children when they come into the room.

Set a bedtime, girl. Rested mommies make better mommies. Learn to go to bed alone, if you have to (I hate it, but Nathan just doesn’t need as much sleep as me). Our compromise is he gives me a hug when he comes to bed. It makes me :o)

You’re home. Get those babies out of the house and go to a local park or mall or whatever and walk. I know walking WITH them is either a crawl or a run. When I tried walking with Kathryn, it was ridiculous. We had to examine EVERY rock, bug, flower. You might find a double stroller on Craigslist and push them instead.

For praying. Do you have a copy of The Power of a Praying Wife? If you do, get it out and pray one of those prayers every day (Don’t announce you’re praying for him- they find that offensive). Don’t forget, you are under his spiritual authority. But he is directly under God’s. When you need something, feel free to talk to His boss. I can tell you with complete confidence that God can get the job done. Don’t feel he is meeting your emotional needs? Talk to God about it. I know this is sooooo much harder to do than say. But it works!

Speaking of which, how are you and God doing? Make sure you stay on good terms with the Father. Sometimes, when I want quiet time and the kids have been nutty, I skip their afternoon nap and put them to bed at 8:00. Then I go out (Nathan’s home, of course) and get a small drink somewhere and just sit, and think, and write out my prayers. My sister-in-law Marianne just goes to a nearby (well-lit) parking lot sometimes and spends time alone.

And here’s the toughie:
RESPECT: Here you don’t have a choice, dear. Scripture commands it. If you are not treating him with respect, you are being sinful. Suck it up, confess it and move on. Ask God to check you when you are about to step out of line. It is not about whether or not he deserves it. Men who are unconditionally respected tend to become worthy of respect over time. Just do it.

Practically speaking, respect means: controlling your tongue, controlling your body language, caring about what he cares about, treating him the way you want to be treated. And no, YOU CAN NOT SUCCEED AT THIS- YOU ARE A FAILURE. And so am I! This calls for walking by the Spirit. When you’re frustrated, pray “Your patience, Lord.” He has the power to work through you!!!