Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

My sweet Lizzy is sixteen! It seems impossible.
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There is NO WAY it's been sixteen years since she was born--a day I remember like yesterday.

She was baby number four--and C-section number four--and we also thought she was boy number four. An ultrasound slip of the tongue had given us this privileged information, much to our chagrin (we didn't want to spoil the surprise), but we were very excited because we knew we were on our way to having our own basketball team! We had blue everything including a baseball outfit for the homecoming.

After trying VBACs with Joe and Will I reluctantly agreed to a scheduled date for Lizzy. I can sometimes be a stubborn woman but my real reason for wanting to go the "regular" route was because I didn't like leaving my other kids, not even to go have a baby, so I didn't like the longer recovery that a C-section required. I also wanted a cool birth, like a water birth. It is very hard to perform surgery underwater.

But you know what? I did end up having a very cool birth with a very cool doctor who let me walk into the surgery room, climb up on the table, suffer through an hour of trying to get the epidural in (that part wasn't cool), while listening to very cool music while the doctor sang and did some tap-dancing. After the shock of hearing that "he" was a "she" they let me keep her in the surgical suite while they stitched me up and I even got to breastfeed her right there on the table--almost unheard of in the world of c-sections. Yep, it was cool! And the best, best part is, we ended up with a very cool daughter!

Now, she is growing up. She is so sweet and loving and helpful that I can hardly stand to think that she will be leaving home in a few short years. It's probably too late but I should have convinced her that on-line college would be a great way to go--then she could live at home another four years! I think she has her sights set on something bigger and she works hard in school so she will probably be able to go anywhere she wants to. I'm going to miss her. Sniff, sniff. I guess this is supposed to be a happy post so let's get to the party part.

Okay, so, you know how I told you that with Kim's bday I finally figured out the perfect way to have a slumber party? Okay, well, I learned something with Lizzy's too--do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow your child to schedule their driving test on their birthday.

We woke up to SNOW on Lizzy's bday and she had only driven twice in snow:
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And then she failed her driver's test which absolutely devastated her and ruined her special day!

But, then she practiced up:
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and passed with flying colors a couple weeks later:
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In our state, kids can only drive relatives for the first six months. When my sister was here Lizzy took my niece, nephew, Vu and Patrick to the playground. When she got home the thought occurred to her that a policeman would never believe all the kids were related!!
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She had a cold but fun party at the coast with lots of friends:
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We were going to order a 6 foot Subway but they were $75! Can you believe it??? So, we made our own for CHEAP!
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Came home for a big spaghetti dinner:
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Presents:
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Guitar Hero, Laser Tag and a sleepover (only the girls of course!):
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And the next weekend we went to see the play WICKED with my mom--it was COOL!:
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Lizzy, I love you so much! You are a wonderful daughter and friend. May your life be filled with joy:
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Final Results From Extreme Homemaker

More results--most of these were things I knew but wasn't doing--

It helps to have an outsider give advice. My sister, Nicole, and my son, Will, gave me lots of good kitchen organization ideas--rearranging cupboard space (thinking about what we use on a DAILY basis), placing several large matching baskets in the empty one foot space above the cupboards for storage, buying a rug for the back door to keep dirt from coming in.

A master grocery shopping list. I've just never taken the time to do it--it seemed like it would take forever--but I found one on-line that covers most of our needs. Copy and print! Cool!

Start homeschool in the morning or the day will quickly become too short:
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Keep a daily routine for myself--check calendar, make bed, start laundry, get dressed (same order, same routine, every single morning)

Keep daily routine for kids--I have their bedtime written on an index card and taped to the fridge. It says: bath/shower, pjs, lay out clothes for tomorrow (including socks and shoes, put backpack by front door (make sure homework is signed), pick up bedroom, snack (if you are done with the above by 8:00), brush teeth, read in bed. It is so much easier to ask my kids if they have finished their check-off list than to go through each step every. single. night.

Tie in rewards to jobs--I can't have my morning coffee until I've started the laundry (GREAT reminder!)

Dovetail--do two things at once--listen to a book on CD while folding laundry--this is the only way I "read" these days. I get books on CD from the library.

Organize paperwork--keep folder for school schedules, another for sports schedules etc.

Keep spiral notebook for record of dentist, doctor, yearly check-up appointments--this is esp. helpful in large families for mothers who can't remember who went where when! (And who needs to go where when again!)

Break down big jobs--when a job feels overwhelming, break it down into smaller increments. For re-painting a room (we're currently working on Kim's), make a list with each step detailed--you can't eat an elephant in one bite! Not that I like to eat elephants! Yuck!

Be proactive--do things before they become an emergency, like get gas when needle falls to 1/4
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Pick one room of the house to concentrate on for a week or, for bigger projects, a month

Keep a project list broken down by room or area

Keep a weekly to-do list

Keep a dinner menu

Delegate--think of new ways for kids to get involved and help. I once had a bout of Pericarditis and I was amazed how much my kids could do for themselves and for each other. I forget this! My girls love planning birthday parties for their younger brothers and, truthfully, they are much better at it than I!
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Always keep a "Things to go to Goodwill" box in the house--fill it regularly. I used to keep things "just in case." Then, a friend convinced me that keeping things I did't need was really a type of sin because I was keeping something that someone else NEEDED! That really helped me learn to let go! Now, I am the opposite and our house has a lot less STUFF WE DON'T NEED! It's actually freeing! Flylady is a good resource if you want to clear out and clean out.

Finally, my last part of the homemaker was to start taking better care of myself. Why is it mom always comes last? I started exercising again--at the least, getting out and riding bikes with the kids.
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I'm getting out in the sun more (brief tho it's been), trying to get back into reading my bible every day and having even just ten minutes of quiet time, and drinking one of my green monster shakes every day. I love my Magic Bullet! Recipe: several handfuls of greens/lettuce/spinach; 1/2 banana; big handful of berries; 1 t. flax oil. It's yummy!
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The good news is, I feel a lot more in control and we do indeed seem to have more ladders, less slides!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday . . .

Okay, so, more detail on the outcome of my home makeover. It was good to look at our household as an outside professional looking in. It was good to contemplate organization and time management (and lack thereof) from a business point of view.

Some of my best solutions came from looking at what worked well in the past. I don't know why, but when summer comes or holidays (or adopting a new child or going back to college), I get out of good habits--which is one of the main reasons I was struggling--lack of good habits and routines that kept things organized. We lacked rhythm (and I'm not referring to the rhythm method--BTDT--doesn't work!)

The main routine I had stopped using was my weekly plan for the days of the week. You know how your Grandma used to say, "Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday,"? She was smart. Instead of being stifling, it's freeing to only have to worry about that work on that day. I've used this plan for years and years and apparently, I still need to. This week went much smoother! I have tweaked the plans over the years but the one I'm using now is:

Monday: Household reorganization day--recover from the weekend--this means lots of picking up, putting away, general clean-up

Tues: Clean fridge, make grocery list, have personal shopper get groceries (ie teenager), clean purse, resupply snacks in purse and car, charge phone, clean and vacuum car.
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Wed: This term I have classes most of the day so when I am home we just pick a craft/reading/sewing/cooking project and have some nice time together. Wed used to be my laundry day. I do laundry every day but I would do all the extra stuff like sheets, mending, delicates. Now, I just never mend and never change my sheets. That is a joke. Sort of.
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Thurs: Errands, playgroup or outing with friends, clean bathrooms, 30 minutes working on garage or yard.

Fri: Desk day--bills, banking, e-mails, phone calls, 15 minutes on taxes (you would be amazed how much this helps come tax time!), journals (write in 1-2 of the kids' journals), write thank-you notes, send cards, wrap gifts, everyone spends 15 min. cleaning their bedrooms.

Sat: Hour of power!!! I love it, the kids hate it! Everyone spends 45 minutes doing chores (and if they didn't clean their bedroom Friday they do it now--hence HOUR of power),household repairs, lawn mowing, sports games, kid maintenance (this means baths, washing hair, clipping nails, haircuts, good flossing by mom).
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Sun: Church, family, friends, relax, organize week, dates with hubby or kids.
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Here's my one rule--if it doesn't get done on the scheduled day, it doesn't get done 'til the next week; otherwise, I would just be overloaded by the end of the week. I don't get all of this stuff done every week, it is just a general guide to implement triage as needed!

Weekly routines--they work!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Patrick's Easter Dilemma

Patrick received a chocolate cross for a prize at an Easter egg hunt. After looking at it for a very long time, he told me he didn't really feel it was right to eat a cross.

Being the wise theologian that I am, I didn't know what to say! I thought about offering to eat it for him but didn't think that was appropriate given the serious look on his solemn little face.

We got home and he looked at it and looked at it. I assured him that God would probably understand if he ate it. At that point, I did offer to partake. He didn't look convinced.

He put it on his dresser. Then, about ten minutes later, he went and got it and said he thought God would be okay with him eating it because otherwise it would just get rotten and then he would be WASTING it. God wouldn't want him to waste it! I happened to be sitting on the couch with the camera so I caught it all on film:
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Before he took a bite he stopped and decided he should first pray. His prayer was something like, "God, I know you love me and you know I love You . . . so I hope you don't mind if I eat this cross."
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Then, he took a bite.
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Then he ate the whole thing.

I think God understands that chocolate is meant to be eaten!

A Station Break For Easter Pics

I will post about my consultants soon but I am so far behind on pictures, first Easter:
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It's obvious Easter was in April because we were actually able to dye eggs OUTSIDE!
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Easter Morning:
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I'm pretty sure that in, oh, let's say about ten years, my nephew is going to hate this picture!:
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My mom made Etame's dress and hat--can you tell Etame gets absolutely NO attention at all--none, zip!
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Everyone loves having Will and James with us:
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover

My consultants have spoken! Yes, "consultants," as in plural! I had quite the variety.

I started off a little frustrated because I had to fire the first guy. His only advice was, "Less kids, more pick-up!" What kind of help is that?!

My second consultant was one I have used multiple times but when I called she said she was in the middle of planning a trip to Germany, planning a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary hoe-down, and on her way to a soccer game. On top of all that, she said she was PMSing. I ended that phone call quickly.

My third and fourth consultants were quite helpful. They gave me several great ideas for reorganizing the kitchen and creating more storage. Consultant #3 lives with her family in a twelve foot wide, two bedroom brownstone. She knows about storage and space.

Consultant #4 is single guy but he's creative and has a knack for seeing things in a new light.

But I really hit the jackpot with consultant #5. The lady rocks--even if she is a little strange! She's one smart lady! Here was her advice on streamlining life, organizing my time, and assessing the problems causing the time dearth:

First she started with some questions:

What has worked to keep the house organized and running smoothly in the past?
What is working well now?
What is not working well right now?
How is time being spent wisely?
How is time being wasted?
If you had more time, what would you do with it?

Her next set of questions were similar, except I was to imagine I was an outside professional looking in. If I had been hired by the Crazy family to come in and reorganize/streamline/evaluate time usage, THEN what would be the answer to questions 2,3,4, and 5? What changes would I recommend?

THEN, I was told to kick it up a notch and imagine that this professional reorg guy was Jesus himself! THEN, how would I answer those questions? THAT really got me thinking!

Wise consultant #5 told me that generally, we have the answers to our own problems, the key is just sitting down and brainstorming possibilities. After a weekend of consulting and brainstorming, I have made a list of solutions that I think will definitely give us less chutes, more ladders! I'll share that next time!

But first, I told consultant #5 I would do a little advertising for her. As I said, she's . . . well, let's just say, she's a little eccentric. She will only accept payment in Starbucks or bookstore gift cards. Apparently, she loves coffee and books as much as I do. Oh, and she also loves Goodwill, which is where she got her weird outfit. She must be from the Pacific NW or something!


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Oh, and just for fun, can you guess who the other consultants were?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chutes and Ladders

Lately, I feel like I'm in a gigantic game of Chutes and Ladders. I move several squares ahead--and sometimes even hit a ladder--only to wake up the next day, spin the spinner, and hit a bunch of slides. Too much to do, too little time--or so it seems.

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I decided to take a gigantic step and hired a professional time management/re-organizational consultant who is going to come in today and give me advice.

Together, we'll reinvent the game so there's more ladders and less chutes. I'll let you know what I learn . . . .

Monday, April 13, 2009

Catchin' Up

Life is good--even though I haven't been bloggin'. So, a little catching-up including pictures of the world's most adorable baby!

Lots of time playing basketball:
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And going to track meets--in all our years of sports, we've never had a track and field athlete--something new for us in sports!:
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And climbing trees:
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And going to Easter egg hunts (more Easter pics later)
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And dyeing Easter eggs:
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And enjoying my visiting nephew:
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And enjoying another visitor--the sun!
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And having my sister and niece here:
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And entertaining the world's most adorable baby (adopted from Ethiopia)--could she be any cuter?
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And just enjoying every day--could he be any sweeter?
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