Friday, June 24, 2011


My huband, Topher, directed "The Hit" at the Hale Theater in Orem. You should go see it! Here's what he has to say about it:

So, my show opened at the Hale last night and I love it. It's really funny and the cast is perfect. It's equal parts farce and sitcom, and it's only 90 minutes long. Seriously, a great way to spend a summer night. It's called The Hit, and it runs to July 30th. (My birthday, but you knew that.)

You can buy tickets by clicking here.

Please, please see this show. Take your kids. They'll love it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Summer Now, Are You Ready?

It's the last day of school for my kids and so I've got to type fast. I don't have much time. I'm sure many of you know what I mean. I know my recent posts sound bossy, like I'm telling you what to do, but it wasn't intended to be that way. I hope you'll give me the benefit of the doubt. For example, in a frenzied hush, Kacy asked me, "Did you really MEAN you keep one binder per kid PER YEAR of schoolwork?" (It is, afterall, the time of year when we're faced with our kids bringing home a desk full of work they "have to keep" so it's time to make some difficult decisions--and by decisions I mean send them out to play while you throw stuff away in the garage so they won't see) and I explained that it was the amount of work that I keep--about a binder's full, but I don't keep it all in a binder in protective sheets or anything because I think that's a waste of binders (money--I'm super thrifty). But I don't scrapbook or anything like that. It's just a small stack of papers I keep per year. Does everyone feel good about that? I hope that sounds manageable. I do imagine Phoebe, in the future, at about 14 or 15 going through her (one) box and wanting to organize it and scrapbook it all pretty. It seems like something she might want to do.

In the interest of full disclosure, my buddy Cimony told me she was distraught because I had mentioned on my blog months ago that women uh. . hem my age. . . shouldn't wear capri's anymore because they're not flattering. And then she felt weird wearing hers, so she doesn't anymore, and then she saw me wearing my jeans cuffed. I can't remember what I said exactly, but it sounds like some rash judgement I would make in a fit of rage. Well, I'm officially taking that back--or qualifying it. First of all, let's agree not to use the word "capri," "clam digger" or "floods." If we say they're "cuffed pants" or "straight pants" ala Audrey Hepburn, can we live with that? I, for one, am more comfortable with that. And let us never speak of skorts. Ever.

Now that I've said my peace, I feel I can get on with Summer. Oh dear.

Now I'm not being bossy, but I have done some things to get ready for Summer. These are ideas I've stolen and used from other people's experience, so I feel it's my duty to share (as bound by the unspoken mother-bond I feel we should all have to make each others' lives easier):

1. I stocked the fridge, freezer, and pantry so my kids could make their own breakfast and lunch. I posted a list of ideas for what to make for breakfast, lunch, and a snack and taped them on the inside of my pantry door.

2. I put together simple binders of activities (writing prompts, blank paper, new pens/markers, workbooks from the Dollar Store, articles my kids might like, etc) from Kacy. They can pull these out when I tell them to get off the computer/video game and do "something else creative."

3. We made a list of things to do in the Summer and posted them on the inside of the pantry door (my kids spend a lot of time in the pantry). I let the kids lead this, then I added some. So when they ask "what can I do. . . ?" I'm ready. Examples: Make a comic book, go to the Bean Museum (Margaret), make a movie with the neighborhood kids, have a lemon-aid stand (Owen), learn to bake something new, make an obstacle course for some friends, play night games, go swimming, make up a play with your friends (Phoebe), go bowling (Hugh), make a book, read a new book series, make a song on garage band, make a new video game or app (Miles), make homemade popcicles, you get the idea. . .

Good luck. We can make it to August. It's just August, you guys.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I did a presentation for my local church (Relief Society--the Woman's Organization at my church) all about cleaning and organizing and how to hate it a little less. I went through the series "How to Hate Cleaning LESS parts I, II, and III.'' I didn't have time for "Teaching Children to Clean," but it's here, here, and here. I DID have time for a bit about organizing paper and documents and all of that. I thought I would include it on my blog, so here it is:


USE YOUR COMPUTER: Scan and save what you can online and on your computer. Make sure you back it up. This works well for photos, receipts, lesson plans, ideas, family history, recipes, articles, even schoolwork. Pay as many bills online as you can. Don’t subscribe to catalogues—just go to the website.

PHOTOS: I keep digital copies on my hard drive, back up my hard drive, and keep a digital disk for each kid and one “real” copy of each photo. (Because I’m a freak. But it doesn’t take up much space.)

MAIL: Treat your mail with hostility. Do not let it touch the counter, like it’s carrying some sort of disease. Throw away junk mail right away (or set aside to shred later), open bills, file the statement, file the bill with envelope, throw everything else away. Put invitations/announcements in one place. Make this a habit. Shouldn’t take more than 1 ½ minutes. Don’t subscribe to catalogues—just go to the company website.

Schoolwork/Sentimental Cards: Have a predetermined space for each child, each school year. I keep one binder for each child, each school year. I don’t want them to have more than that saved each year, so I’m careful about what I keep. If it’s a large item, take a picture of it, then throw it away. If you’re having a hard time deciding if you should keep it or throw it away, think, “My son will move this project at least 9 times.” Is it worth it?

DOCUMENTS: There are documents you need to keep and get to quickly and save for a long time. Keep them in the same place. They are the information you need when you buy a house, start school, apply for a loan, etc. Birth Certificates, Insurance Policies, Titles, Tax Return Receipts, etc. Keep them in a fireproof container. Keep copies at a different location.


Clean out/replace your heating/air conditioning filters regularly.

Why? Clear filters are inexpensive and save you in utility costs.

Clean out your clothing dryer regularly and REALLY clean out the coil and pipes leading to the outside vent every six months—check every pipe.

Why? This can prevent home fires and increase the productivity and life of your dryer.

Run vinegar through your dishwasher and washing machine every 3 months.

Why? Hard water stains will clog the filters and it will increase the life and productivity of your machines and get rid of the hard water stains.

Keep the area around your water heater, heater, air conditioner (inside and outside) clean and free of clutter.

Why? This can prevent fires and accident (especially during an emergency).


If your house is clean

And everything has a place

And is in that place,

Then all you have to do is MAINTAIN,

Which is different than cleaning. . .


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Obligatory Easter Pictures of My Children (even though you didn't ask)

I can never get a picture of them all together. These are my children on Easter:
This is Phoebe wearing a baptism dress my mom made. I love it because it matches her eyes.
Margaret won't look at the camera and smile. This is the best I could get. She is naturally suspicious, as the youngest of brothers and a sister who like to tease.
You guys, beauty takes time and prep: curlers, sunglasses, Tweety body soap, and candy, specifically.
I know I'm not objective, but these are some good-looking kids! Owen always manages to beat himself up before picture-heavy days (Specifically: school picture day, Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day). It's a gift.
She's the only one who will let me take her picture and doesn't try to sabotage it at the last minute, so she gets an extra photo.

This is what my kids normally look like (the above photos were only a blip in time before it all fell apart):
Hughie Dewey Luey
Miles with his "signature style piece--"the smelly striped hat.

Margot. . . looking for the Easter Bunny. She was enchanted by the whole idea of a bunny (animal) leaving her presents (candy) for fun (a game!) All her favorite things.

I Have a Teenage Son and I Still Make Him Clean

When the girls showed up for Miles' party, Topher said, "It looks like the girls are here to babysit the boys." Yes, girls at 13 look and act a lot differently than boys at 13. How funny and awkward!
A girl made this for Miles. I almost cried, for many, many conflicting reasons. But he shared some of his candy with me and it eased my pain.
Here they are playing Just Dance 2 on a projector in the backyard. So fun. My only responsibilities that night was to provide more candy, pop, chips, and popcorn. I just kept it comin'! A lot easier than organizing pin the tail on the Lego-guy or treasure hunts. SEE, having your kids grow up (sniff) IS easier (sob sob).
Miles used to make this face as a baby and I made him do it for me at Yogurtland when I was feeling sorry for myself that he's a teenager now. "Where did my baby go!?" I yelled, and he responded by making this face and saying, "Goo-goo gah gah! Get me more food!" which I appreciated because it brought me back to reality and made me remember that babies are really demanding and Miles can make his own ham and cheese sandwiches now, which is really great.
This is Miles at his party wearing his new Angrybirds t-shirt and feeling pretty awesome about it. I know, I used to think that I would never let my kids wear video gaming/cartoon t-shirts, but now I'm an older mom and I don't care about dressing my kids to fit my style (Choose your battles, new moms! Lady insisting your baby's head scrunchie bow matches her socks and shoes and dress--I'm talking to YOU! If you need more instruction, READ THIS. CARLY KNOWS) I had a friend who told me she wanted to homeschool her kids because (and this was the number one reason she listed) she didn't want her kids to go to school with kids who wear Spongebob Squarepants t-shirts. I said, "Hmmm, interesting" and have since thought of a hundred different "zingers" I should have said, but didn't. I guess we all have regrets.

Right on cue, after less than a week of being a teenager, Miles, now 13 (ahem), asked me if he still had to do his Saturday jobs because he spent the morning helping with the neighborhood clean-up with the other youth in our church ward (congregation). I held my ground and said, "Absolutely. What, you think because you are serving others you deserve a reward? That's not much of a sacrifice. And that also means that I should do more work?" He said, "Yeah, I guess you've got a point." (I love having a logical first child!) And then he did his jobs (sweetheart). But don't feel bad for him, they only took 10 minutes and now he's playing Kirby's Epic Yarn. Life is good for that boy.

I held my breath because, really, I want to give him a reward. He deserves it. He's a really good kid and I want him to want to serve others, but on the other hand, I don't want him to expect that every time he does something nice for someone that he'll get rewarded in an expected way because that's not how life is (do I sound jaded?) And I really didn't want to do his jobs for the day. I haven't watched Parks and Rec yet. I've got a lot on my to-do list.

I did teach Hugh (6--see, still a BABY) how to wipe down all the tables and chairs today and how to really sweep the kitchen floor. That took me a long time, like 15 minutes, to stand and teach, watch, let him try it the hard way, show him an easier way, get a smaller sweeper, show him again (he's really stubborn and knows how to do everything himself, wow), and then LET HIM DO IT. It wasn't perfect (the floor, especially), but I let him feel really good about being a big helper like the older boys, because now he has 2 jobs instead of 1 on Saturday cause he's a big kid. He bought it all and loved it. BECAUSE THEY ALL WANT TO GROW UP, which is my life's burden. (pause for dramatic effect)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teaching Kids to Clean: BY AGE

When kids are really little:

*Whenever they want to help, LET THEM. NEVER SAY, "NO, you can't help me clean/cook/put this away, etc. ALWAYS SAY YES.
*When they're little, give them a wet rag and tell them to wipe the floor or the window and praise them for it! Be specific in your praise: You are such a good cleaner! Look at how clean that wall is! Great job!
*Example: Recently, Margaret has become obsessed with setting the table when I'm cooking. She gives everyone 3 forks and 2 knives. But she's 3 and they're in the right place. So, when she's not looking, or when she's "done" and has moved onto her next project (making some sort of mess) I quickly redo it. She doesn't see me do it, I don't correct her, because she's 3 and she's associating a positive feeling with helping, which is my goal.

When they're a little older, but still little kids:

*ONE THING AT A TIME. Start giving them specific, easy instructions.
Example, if I was asking Hugh (6) to set the table, I would tell him: "Put the fork on the left and the knife and spoon on the right side of the plate." And then I would praise him when he did it. If he didn't do it right, I would say "Oops, almost--try again!" No big deal. I would focus on one thing--the silverware, and not on anything else. One thing at one teaching time.

*Make sure it's a routine and make your expectations CLEAR. Again, my big cleaning day is Saturday morning, so it's really predictable for kids. Also, if they know that "their day" to clear the table is Sunday, or that they need to make their bed everyday, that predictability helps avoid surprise and any room for negotiation. I find myself saying, "Remember, you can't go to your friends until you do your Saturday jobs. . ." But it's A LOT easier when you have older kids doing their jobs because the little ones know that's just what we do and they want to be like the older kids anyway. That's when the teaching/following-up really pays off.

When they're older kids:

*I think by the time they're 10, they should be able to do everything you can do. (It isn't brain surgery) I think sometimes we think they're too young to scrub a toilet, but they're not. And if they have to clean it, then maybe they'll be a little more careful with their aim, if you know what I mean.

*Play up the "now that you're older. . . " thing. Kids like to feel older, and sometimes that manifests itself in horrible ways like sequin tattooed looking tank tops, so use this principle to your advantage. Give them these jobs along with a privilege like a later bedtime or more computer time. Something that doesn't put you out, but that means something to your kid. When you put these two things together, they start connecting responsibility with a positive reinforcement.

*Remember that it's never too late to start.
Example: I have missed two great teaching tools for my kids which I plan on rectifying this summer, by teaching my older three (8, 11, and 13): laundry and ironing. I'm waiting so I can teach them all at the same time and let them try it on their own when we have a full day to go through all the steps from cleaning-drying-to ironing. I'm hoping this will help them see that you can wear jeans more than one day, and not to wear 3 pairs of socks a day (what?)

Teenagers and beyond:

My oldest turns 13 on Monday, so I don't have a lot of expertise in this area. But here's what I plan on doing (which I totally admit might not work and will need adjustment):

*Stay consistent. I'm just not going to give up on everyone having 2 jobs to complete each week. I'm not unreasonable, but I'm not going to let up on it. For example, I'm not going to let them off the hook when Saturday mornings become busy. They can do their jobs Friday night, Saturday afternoon if something like a practice or rehearsal comes up, but it will be their responsibility to make it up.

*Bribery. I expect that as my kids get older, they'll just want more increasingly expensive things and I plan on bribing them, which I've noticed teenagers respond to.

*Practicing being an adult. If I've learned one thing from 80's John Hughes' teen movies is the idea that teens want to be taken seriously, like adults. I plan on keeping the idea that cleaning and taking care of their stuff is part of family life and what adults do. Whether it's preparing to live on their own, on a mission with a companion, or at school, whatever, I will explain and reexplain WHY I clean (it helps me relax and saves me time in the long run) and then I will show them episodes of Hoarders: Buried Alive and let that soak in.

Other things to keep in mind when teaching kids to clean:

*Don't be afraid to change your routine or what you're doing. A lot of people think, "Well, my kids aren't used to this and they're teenagers so there's no way they'll go along with it. . . " I definitely think it's harder to start any habit the older you get, but it's not impossible. Basically, as it is for most mothering things, it will be harder FOR YOU. The older the kid, the more rechecking and accountability they need. Or incentive. But if you stick with it (give it 3 months--I'm not kidding) and reward yourself (I'm currently obsessed with Yogurtland), you can do it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I like to hear about other people's routines. I think it's interesting. But, then again, I also think science fiction and office supplies are interesting, so I might not be the greatest judge of "what's interesting" (also, I'm considering becoming an extreme couponing hoarder--doesn't that sound fascinating?! Could I do it?) This is what I do for my cleaning routine with kids:

I do "Saturday jobs" that I write out for the kids on a notecard in Sharpie, mostly because I love any excuse to write in Sharpie. Each kid has 2 jobs. That's it. No big deal. But they can't play with friends, play video games, etc without having done their jobs. (I let them--encourage them--to sleep in and watch cartoons because that's a Saturday kid tradition I love-until about 10 am, then I get anxious to get on with the day) My kids are really familiar with these jobs, but before they were, I wrote out notecards (in Sharpie)--one for each job and what was required of each:

I do this EVERY Saturday. They help clean the kitchen after dinner throughout the week and are familiar with picking up each day.

*Don't make kids responsible for something you haven't taught them. I learned this important truth when I was studying teaching in college. Basically it means you don't test kids on any information you haven't personally taught them. Assume nothing.

So, in the beginning, I would have a card and go through each step with them. For example, if the first step on "Clean the downstairs bathroom" says:
*Spray cleaner on sink, wipe down and rinse.
I would show them the fastest way to do this--like opening the rag and using the palm of my hand versus a corner of it to wipe it down faster, or how not to use too much spray or you have to rinse forever, or how to wait a minute for the cleaner to break down the grime, etc. These little "tips" show my kids that I want them to succeed, that I expect them to, and that I'm willing to help them do it FASTER, which is what they're most concerned with now (get it over with so I can go play).

So the card would look like this:
Clean the Downstairs Bathroom:
*Spray cleaner on sink, wipe down and rinse.
*Spray cleaner on toilet, top to bottom, wipe down-don't forget base of toilet
*Spray cleaner in toilet bowl, scrub with brush-rinse brush and put back in base.
*Spray cleaner in shower, scrub, rinse
*Wipe down floors
*Get Windex, paper towel, and wipe chrome and mirrors

After I feel they have mastered a card, the next week they would do a different job so that they're used to doing all of them. Of course they have their favorites (take out the garbages in all the rooms and replace liners) and their least favorites (wipe down kitchen table and chairs), but they're willing to do it. And sometimes some of them come to me early in the day to request jobs and get them done with faster so they can go outside faster.

(these are the jobs I'm currently enforcing with my kids' ages, family's needs, etc)

Clean Downstairs Bathroom
Clean Upstairs Bathroom
Wipe Down Kitchen Table and Chairs
Sweep and Mop Kitchen Floor
Vacuum Family Room, Living Room, and Stairs
Vacuum Bedrooms and Halls
Take Out Trash
Windex Windows and Mirrors

This is where a lot of parents drop the ball, in my opinion, because it's just so easy to drop that really heavy ball of following up. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I was a kid, sometimes when it was my job to clean the downstairs bathroom, I would just spray Lysol in the room and say that I did. I know, sorry Mom! So now I'm suspicious of my children and I check the jobs (time consuming) because I don't want them to get lazy and shortcut actually doing the job. I'll make them redo certain parts if I don't think it's good enough. I try really hard not to get mad or impatient. I try to stay calm and say, "Did you really clean out the tub because it looks like you didn't clean the jets and so just try again!" Also, if they know you're going to follow-up, they're less likely to try to shortcut, because it will take longer when you have to, inevitably, do it again. Sometimes they're done it, it just isn't done that well (Like mopping the floor--I'll ask, "Did you sweep before? No? Well, try again! There's still some gunk on the floor and it's gross.")

For general, daily picking up, I keep it simple:

Each of my kids has their own bookshelf and one toy box that goes under their bed (I don't have to look at it.) The toy boxes house their favorite, most used toys and are great because if I say "pick up your room" they know what I mean is I don't want any junk on the floor, so they can put it (usually legos) in their toy box and it's simple and fast to put it there. Then, every Season or so (every 3-4 months), I have them go through their toy boxes and throw stuff away (at their discretion) or put it away in the toy room.

In the Family Room, I have one teal bucket for toys Margaret (3) uses so I don't have to organize those everyday, because she's little and I don't want to put away each random Polly Pocket or puzzle she takes out everyday. I'll go through this bucket every month or so and organize it. (Actually, I'm in the process of getting rid of it now, because she's it's become a dumping ground for unplayedwith toys. But you need this kind of thing if you have really little kids, in my opinion.)

We have a toy room/storage room that houses our video games, puzzles, board games, Barbies, cars, superhero figures, ZuZu pets, etc in their own containers. Each category has its own container. If the kids want to play with something they take it out, then put it away when they're done. It's simple because there's ONE PLACE for Barbies. There's ONE PLACE for DS systems and games, and there's ONE PLACE for puzzles. So if the kids don't know where something is, I say, well, there's only one place for X. . . and they see why it's important (and easy) to put that one thing in its one place.

* I expect my kids to make their beds (they don't have top sheets, just a comforter, so it's easy--thanks for the tip, Kacy!),
*have their room picked up (which means everything's off the floor--no random Legos or books or pieces of paper,
*and to put away their backpacks and shoes (for the love of Zeus, this is the hardest thing for them to learn! This and random socks found all over the house. They put their shoes in front of the bin, next to the bin, but rarely IN THE BIN) These are the three things they are responsible and I know they can do, everyday.

I check up and insist on these three things. Not too many, not too hard.

Teaching Your Kids How to Clean: MY PHILOSOPHY

Teaching kids to clean is a tricky thing because you don't really know if you're doing it right until they're grown, and by then I assume I'll be really tired. I'm making the best of my investment to the future by being consistent and faking enthusiasm. Oh, and biting my tongue a lot of the time, too.

These are the things that have worked for me. Jury's still out, obviously (again, disclaimer: kids not grown. It may be mom-hope and not reality). Also, this is the first in my 3 part series on teaching kids to clean. I know, I'm a sucker for the "3 part series." (It's a good way to cut down one really, super long post)

MY OVERALL PHILOSOPHY: I tell them we clean because we all live together and work together to help each other because that's what a family does and we want to live in a clean house together because it shows a. we're grateful for what we have, b. we take care of our stuff, and c. to ultimately want LESS stuff because we know what we have and how to take care of it, and d. this is part of growing up and being responsible. They see how little Margaret can do, and they feel proud that they can do a lot.

Deemphasize It’s Importance: I find myself saying, "Let's just do it really quick so we can go play!" a lot, or "This doesn't have to take very long--Let's just get it done fast!" My mom used to time us, to see how fast we could get a job done. Some kids love that (younger), some hate it and it brings them to tears (Hugh) because they want to win. Whatever. Don't make it a big production. On Saturday morning (more on that later) I have them do their cleaning assignments before they play video games, play outside, etc. We've been doing it for so long that they get up, watch some cartoons, and when they're ready to play, they ask me what their jobs are or they quickly request which jobs they want. They don't fight me on if they have to do a couple of cleaning jobs, they fight me on which ones they get to do because they're in the routine. I have great ideals about how the house will never be messy, but that's still a way off. My advice is to just do it quickly at first. Habitual becomes the goal.

Respect: Give them some perspective. Is it my job to do all the work? Who should do it? Why? Let them express how they feel when they come home and the house looks and smells clean. How do they feel when they can find whatever they're looking for?

Acting: I'm a big believer of fake it 'till you make it. I pretend I love to clean and I'm obnoxious and silly about it, and somehow it gets them to do it. I sing and turn up the music really loud and tell them to time themselves doing it and whatever else I can think of that's obnoxious in the moment.

Spend your creativity on teaching, not planning: Don't spend too much time on colorful charts and laminated pictures of cleaning steps and elaborate reward systems. Make it simple. Spend the time showing them how to do it, letting them try it, and then correcting when necessary, or as I like to call it "offering some helpful tips to make it easier next time!"

Don't pass on your bad beliefs: If you hate it, see it as a punishment, pretend you don't. Keep it to yourself. Affect the next generation positively by breaking any bad habits. When they're old enough to know you're not in love with cleaning, they'll appreciate the tools and habits they've learned and share in "the big joke" with you.

KEEP IT SHORT: One of the reasons I can get my kids to clean is because they know it won't last forever. I tell them--see you guys can do each of these jobs in 5 minutes--5 really good minutes. Just do it. Don't make a big deal of it. And then (this is the non-negotable) go have some fun. Model a balanced life. Work hard, play hard. I let them play video games after cleaning, or play with a friend. Something fun.

This is a funny one, but I'm totally serious. I tell my kids, "See? That wasn't so bad! Look at how clean those chairs and tables are and YOU did that! Awesome!" Show them they can do grown-up things like cleaning and expect it from them. Then remind them that you do it all the time, and all you're asking is for them to do it right now. Really quickly. No big deal. I also praise myself out loud in front of my kids. I say stuff like "Look at how clean that hall closet is! I am amazing! I am an incredibly amazing individual--Look what I did!" (This is also part of the obnoxious part mentioned above.)

COMPENSATION: I don't pay my kids for cleaning. I don't pay them for grades, either. It's not my thing. I'm not morally opposed to it, it just doesn't work for me. I want them to want to do things as habits like brushing your teeth and putting on deodorant. I want it to seem like not that big of a deal. I don't draw lines about men/women, class, rich/poor, I just make it seem like something that is important for every adult to know how to do. Because it is. (I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who has never cleaned a toilet--can you imagine?) Living in a clean, organized house is a great thing and they should all take part in the joy of that.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Hate Cleaning LESS: Part III

Now that you've dug up all those awful stories from your past, it's time to:

Transform your stories from "I used to feel. . . I used to think. . ." to what you want it to be by acknowledging your strengths--the things you like to do in homemaking and focus on those.

The process: This is a tricky step because it's really personal. For me, it had a lot to do with reading the books Virginia Woolfe’s A Room of One’s Own and Simple Abundance and focusing on my love of art, philosophy, talking, and simplification. Specifically, here are some things I did:

*I became interested in finding the ways simple, seemingly mundane tasks can turn into times for contemplation and meditation. Sincerely. I started to really think about why our lives are mostly comprised of small, ordinary tasks and what kind of meaning there is in that mentally and spiritually.

*I really considered what kind of life I wanted and wanted for my children (I frequently revisit this idea) and how my ideas of feminism would translate to them in specific ways. I try to be equal with teaching the tasks for each gender and I decided that knowing homemaking skills is vital to each of my children and will have a positive affect on their future family life.

*I changed from focusing on what was wrong with my apartment/flat/home, to seeing what it could become (this chair will go here, we'll frame this piece and put it there, etc.) in a week, month, or year's time.

*I would throw out a lot and only bring in items into my home I really loved, which made caring for them and cleaning them easier. Dusting a picture I loved, or a lamp that has cool design is a lot more enjoyable than dusting junk someone gave you at for your wedding that you didn't even register, but just put up because you didn't know what else to do with it and Dillards wouldn't take it back.

*I went through hand-me-downs with a more discerning eye so that my kids had fewer, but nicer clothes helped cut back on the amount of laundry I had to do.

*I threw away the mix-matched kids cups from random restaurants to choosing teal, matching ones for $3 from Target made putting away the dishes seem more deliberate. I slowly did the same thing with office supplies, toys, decor, etc.

*When I'm talking on the phone with a friend, I will clean. Dusting, wiping, picking up, going through, most everything but vacuuming can be done on the phone which makes it more enjoyable and makes me feel less guilty about talking on the phone.

*And cleaning out the home, room by room and having a place for everything, versus finding everything a place, was a big break through for me. For example, I would have a place for cups, a place for dishes, a place for jeans, a place for schoolwork, a place for wrapping paper, etc and when that space was full then that means no more stuff. I think a lot of people just try to find/cram in more space instead of editing their stuff. They have too much stuff. How many spools of ribbon do you need? Well, first know how much you have by having it all in the same place and when that place is full, then it's enough. How much schoolwork should you keep for each child? Well, a binder for each kid for each Elementary experience seems realistic, so get a binder for each kid and when it's full, it's enough.

Then the dialogues I associated with homemaking changed. Now I tell myself:

*I am modeling the way life should be (vs. the way it is) to my children: clean, orderly, full of beauty, art, literature, music, and peace. A way of life that is important to everyone-- women and men.

*This isn't a to-do check list, this is a WAY OF LIFE. By teaching this to my sons and daughters, I am affecting generations and changing the world. This is meaningful work because it will help my children everyday of their lives.

*I will have balance in my life and not let things be more important than people. A clean, orderly home makes others feel welcome and calm when they come to my home, but I will also make time to read and watch tv and not let the ideal take over the reality of living with five children.

*It's easier for me to do this work myself, but if I do it all, I'm not doing anyone any favors. I need to take extra time to teach and reteach and then check and reteach if necessary as my kids learn to do this.

*It will never be "fair." Life isn't fair. And most of the time, this works in my favor.

*I will never iron my pillowcases and sheets, but I won't judge my mom for doing that. It makes her happy and I think it's endearing.

*When in doubt, I will throw it out and not waste my time weighing the options or I'll never get anything done.

How to Hate Cleaning LESS, Part II

This is the second in my three part quest to make cleaning a little less painful for someone. Anyone. Why am I doing this? Because those Saturdays my parents taught me how to clean have to mean something. Because the little voices in my head should be shared to make me feel less frightened. What?

So after you know what it is your ideal is--or what you like--I think you should acknowledge the dark side of cleaning. A mental dusting out of your brain, if you will. Go ahead and name the reasons why you hate it, but be specific:

Acknowledge your biases, traps, and weaknesses.
Make a constant effort to rethink the way you want to think about cleaning by first acknowledging how you feel about it and why. I think the best way to do this (identifying how we feel about homemaking) is by revealing the stories we tell ourselves, sometimes unknowingly. For example:

*How did you feel about cleaning and organizing when you were a child?
*What did your mother teach you about this?
*Your father?
*What role does is have in your life now?
*How does it make you feel?
*What's the first thing you think of when you hear "homemaking?" Why?
I'm sure some kind of specific story could be generated from one or more of these questions that may reveal the genesis of your true feelings about cleaning and organizing today.

At different times in my life, I have felt different ways about homemaking, and that can be a freeing idea because it means that if you have a bad attitude about it, it also means that it doesn't have to always be that way. These are the shortened versions of the dialogue I had in my head when I discovered myself to be a mother of young children with demands of cleaning and organizing becoming, oh-how-do-you-say?-OVERWHELMING, and I started rethinking all of it:

*I don’t deserve this. (I'm too educated to have to do this all day.) What am I modeling to my children about feminism and women's roles by taking on 90% of the cleaning and organizing?

*I have better things to do. Reading/Watching tv is a better use of my time. It will just get messy again, but the information I learn will be with me forever.

*I’m alone in this, I’m the only one who does this. It's not fair. At the beginning of our marriage all of this was 50/50. It's like it was when I was little and the girls always did more housework than the boys. It's not fair.

*My mom ironed the pillowcases and sheets?! How do I live up to that!? She made it look easy. What am I doing wrong?

*I should keep this stuff because it's wasteful to throw things away and I might need it later. Plus, we're kinda poor and I could make something unusual and useful out of it. A different purpose for this sour cream container!

Identify these stories so you'll be able to address what specific roadblocks you have when it comes to cleaning and organizing. That way you know what you're looking for in order to resolve these issues, or at least change them in some way. Otherwise, the list seems overwhelming.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How To Hate Cleaning LESS, Part I

We don’t like to talk about it, but “Homemaking” is a CREATIVE SELF-EXPRESSION. It gets a bad wrap and generally, as a society, we value being busy, and there is a hierarchy to that busyness and taking care of one's home is at the bottom.

I find the CREATIVITY in cleaning and organizing and all those other homemakey things in the style I decorate my home, in the colors I have in my home which invite certain feelings, and I try to organize it all with my ideal aspirations in mind. There are ideals I have in my mind that my home is nowhere near (I love stark, open, modern clean lines and bold modern art), but knowing if an item (pillow, print, toothbrush, etc) is near that ideal, or like it, makes inviting things into my home or not, a simple process.


Know what you like. This ideal only has to mean something to you. Close your eyes and imagine WHAT YOU WANT your home to look like and feel like with no limit of money, time, help, etc. What does your ideal home look like?

Acknowledge why this work is worth doing to you. Do you like to have a clean house? How does it make you feel when you walk into your home and it's all organized and everything's clean and in its place? How do the other inhabitants of the home feel or react to their surroundings? How much do you value this?

To me, this first part is the most exciting to think about. Over the years I have collected pictures, fabric swatches, wrapping paper, cards, and art prints that I love that somehow speak to me. I have used these little ideas (kept online or in a single binder) to help me choose wallpaper, furniture, drawer knobs, and lamps over the years. The best compliment I can get is when someone comes into my home and says it looks like me, because then I know I'm being deliberate.

This part of the hating-cleaning-less process is also a great way to save money. I like finding a bargain as much as I like having a clean house, and I used to have a tendency to buy something because it was such a great deal. Even if I liked the item, and it was a steal, and even if it only cost 2 dollars, it's money wasted if you don't need it and it won't fit into your ideal space. It has helped me pass buy the darling item (dishes, pillows, etc) at Target to wait for the perfect item.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Practical Ideas to Cleaning (Try 'em out!)

I'm feeling that my Spring Cleaning Post (see below) was pretty tough (but true), and that some people just want ideas. Believe me, I have wondered what it is, exactly, my parents did to me to change me from a clutter-prone, messy, moderately hoarding teen to the minimalist who delights in a "fresh linen" scented home I am today. I have come to realize, through meditation (in the form of completing seemingly simple, mundane tasks) that I have a list of dialogues going through my head. Through persistence and enthusiasm (oh, the enthusiasm), my parents taught me these things over and over to the fact that they became as automatic as brushing my teeth or putting on lipstick (another post for another time). I've added some of my own, too. Enjoy!

*Think about the ENERGY—mental, time, etc—it takes to keep this item. You have to see it, store it, move it, clean it, hold onto it, think about it, stumble across it. . . Is it worth the time and energy?

Keeping an item you “might need” prevents something NEW and BEAUTIFUL and MEANINGFUL from taking its place. This less important item has weight in your life. Is it worth it? Do you want a home full of things you might need, or a few things you are crazy about and love?!

Start by organizing and cleaning a place just for YOU. Pick up a copy of Virginia Woolfe’s A Room of One’s Own or Simple Abundance. Make this area in the home special and meaningful to you. Your favorite place.

Smell: Choose a cleaning product you love light a candle, essential oil, something invigorating or relaxing.
Sound: Put on your favorite music while you clean.
Touch: Use cleaning materials that feel good on your skin, or protect yourself when you have to use the heavy-duty stuff.
Taste: Reward yourself with a treat while you clean (gum, chocolate, soda)
Sight: Declutter—make it look like you really cleaned! Create a space YOU LOVE.

These items should be a few, treasured items stored in a proper place. Pre-set a limit and stick to it. Or take a photo of it (or scan it) and store it on your computer. For example, one box of school projects per year=12+ boxes of “school work” for each child. When they leave home, what are they going to do with 12+boxes of pictures and papers? (I have one plastic tub for grade school and middle school, and then a second for high school)

For example, if you’re cooking and you take out the vanilla, you put it in the mix, then put it back in the cupboard. Immediately. Don’t set it down to put away later, don’t movie it to the side. Don’t put it down. Touch it once.

5 Minute Tasks:
Break down your weekly cleaning chores into short, daily, 5 minute tasks. Do one or two a day. Do it during a commercial break or while you’re talking on the phone.

Home Maintenance:

Does everything have ONE convenient place? Make cleaning and organization simple enough for a 5 year-old to do by making sure everything has a regular place. One place for shoes, one place for pens, one place for important papers, one place for bills.

The less junk you have, the less you have to clean. When it doubt, throw it away! If you’re reluctant to do this, keep a box in the garage and throw stuff out there, and every 2 weeks, throw what’s in there out.

Fill out notecards for every cleaning task you want done.
For example: “Clean the downstairs Bathroom” has a list of items like:
*Spray cleaner on sink/around faucet and base and scrub clean
*Spray cleaner around top, seat, and base of toilet—wipe down
*Put toilet clean in bowl/scrub around sides
*Spray shower with cleaner/wipe down all faucets, walls
*Wipe down floor
*Windex mirror with paper towel
*Take out garbage/replace liner
Give these cards TO OTHER PEOPLE. Then, they know when they’re “done.”

Check out “I want you to let go of your perfectionism because that is what has been stopping you dead in your tracks and just get up and do something.” –flylady

Start with a place for everything. Make a specific list of everything you need to clean out (laundry room, boys’ closet, kitchen cabinet under sink, etc.) Then do the “Clean Sweep Plan:” Get three boxes or bags:
1. throw away
2. keep
3. give away or sell
As you go from room to room, put everything in one of three piles. Make it easy on yourself and, when in doubt: Throw It Away!

Throw away 20 things a day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tough Love

I guest posted on Today's Mama all about Spring Cleaning. Yeah, I capitalized it. It came off a little stronger than I had intended, but I guess those are my true feelings on the subject. I could give you all a list of links of cleaners I love or organizational tools I'm obsessed with, but that will only distract you from the hard truth that to just have to do it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Should Make Some New Goals.

I just guest posted on Design Mom thanks to the mysterious and generous Gabby. I was gone to San Diego for 24 hours to return to my loving, grateful family (One point for mysterious: Who leaves for a 24 hour trip?! ME!) Coincidentally, the first thing sweet little Margaret said to me when I arrived home was “Get me a drink of water.” (One point for not mysterious: Who lives their life in constant fear of the unrelenting demands of a 3 year-old?! ME!)

Turns out, and I know this will be A BIG SURPRISE TO MOST OF YOU: I’m not as mysterious as I sometimes think I am. My fallback to making dumb jokes about potty training and “woo-whooing” when someone takes my picture in a convertible should have been my first clue, but I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer.

Here is a peek into my mind as I assessed how well I was keeping up on my goal of being more mysterious:


1. Using my maiden name when traveling (Valentine sounds so international!)

2. Driving in a Murano Crosscabriolet (not yet released to the public!)

3. Walking through the hotel room to my room (I could be anyone!)

4. Traveling by myself (no talking down a toddler from having a meltdown in public--surprisingly refreshing!)

5. Representing Design Mom as a freelance writer (Time Magazine's Top 50 Blogs!)

6. Name dropping famous people I know (Ever heard of a little band called. . . Maroon5? )

Not Mysterious

1. Referring to myself as a Mommy blogger.

2. When answering the question, “How many kids do you have?” at dinner, I took a big bite of roll, not anticipating it being so hard, and quickly found I would have to gnaw it like a hungry dog devouring a bone and simultaneously say, “Oh, I have 5 kids.”

3. Taking out my crappy camera from Target to photograph the car when everyone else has expensive Cannon's with fancy zoom lenses.

4. Not tweeting during conversations, or ever, and asking someone what they were they were tweeting about (lame).

5. Making a joke about breast pumps and poo during dinner in a self-deprecating way (does it count if they got a good laugh?)

6. Not knowing how to turn on the Murano (new cars have buttons, people! Learn from me!) or why the car when on, won't go (emergency brake, Einstein).

I was driving partners with a Christina from Mommy Loves Coffee and she is super cool.

I took this picture (with my dumb camera) to remember that cool tree on the Nissan Design property. The whole Design Center was so inspiring, with cool architecture and hipsters walking in and out.

This is the show car that eventually turned into the Nissan Quest. The inside of this car was incredible, with orange Jetson-like interior seats and no trunk which makes a larger interior. If it were on sale like this, I'd buy it tomorrow.

(*I received flight, hotel, and food from Nissan, just so you know. They didn't tell me what to write, but they were really nice to me and let me in the lobby, at least, of their Design Center. )

Monday, February 21, 2011


I'm not fancy enough to have people beating down my door (metaphorically) and emailing me to design/pretty-up my site (literally), so sorry for the annoying "this photo is no longer available" posts where my cute wallpaper used to be. I learned how to change the background to my blog ONCE BEFORE, isn't that enough? And I'm too impatient this week to relearn it. Aren't I glamourous? Do you want to hear about how I clean my bathroom? I have three steps. . . I'm just kidding. That's classified, special information I'll save for my book.

No, I'm not writing a book. (Or AM I? I'm so mysterious!)

But I did get a new hairdo for the Spring. Yes, I am a predictably female and getting my hair done makes me feel better on the inside, too (not so mysterious now). And here I thought I had Seasonal Disorder (SAD), but turns out I forgot to cut or color my hair for 6 months! Whoops!

I haven't had short hair for a long time, and I forgot you have to "do" it. No more ponytails. Wow--this could be a WILD SPRING! I had enough energy to sign some kids up for Spring Soccer and Track. I don't know if I'll be able to go through with it, but signing up is good intention enough for today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I just guest posted for CJane, my sister-in-law (I'm sure you already know the link) and I wrote about Valentine's Day which, incidentally, has me thinking of Valentine's Day and how I see it differently now that I have my own kids.

My son Miles is sending his first Valentine to a girl, on purpose and not in the obligatory you-have-to-give-everyone-in-the-class-a-Valentine-sort-of-way. It's one of those Student Council pink cookies kind of thing and he's giving it to her anonymously. I'm trying not to act too excited, but I don't hide my facial expressions too well. Topher tells me that the more I want to talk about girls with the boys, the more I'll be disappointed.

Owen has spent approximately 38 hours on his class Valentine's box because he's trying to incorporate a mechanical mechanism in it that will "spin" the candy. This is completely his own idea. I just give the kids a shoe box (only one had a lid--I don't keep shoe boxes, I'm a minimalist!), some paper I have lying around, markers, paint, and tell them to go to town. This year I was really special and got some stickers. The kids were impressed. Not "scented, colored doilies" impressed, but "Hey, Mom actually bought some heart stickers!" impressed.

Phoebe would hand write a thank you note to everyone in her class if she could because she's nice and genuine. She actually thought about who would get each Valentine and if they would like the one with a free coupon for a donut or hot chocolate best. I really like that about her. It would never occur to her that some kids (boys) would just write their name on a random Valentine and give it to "whoever." I love that I bought donuts one day weeks ago at Krispy Kreme and they gave me enough Valentine's to give to all my kids' classes. That was super convenient. Things like that make me loyal to a store (I'm not joking).

Hugh wrote his name on each Valentine, as suggested by his teacher, which I thought was weird. She made the suggestion that they don't try and write each kids' name, but just their own name over and over to practice. I'm all about "lowering the bar" and everything but for me, not my kids. Also, it's a Valentine--shouldn't they just be able to do whatever they want without it being turned into homework? First the greeting card companies, now THE SCHOOL wants to be the boss of Valentine's Day? Sheesh.

I got Margaret a pink t-shirt with a kitty on it for Valentine's Day that says "I'm purrrrrfect!" which I'm normally opposed to (cheesy t-shirts with stupid sayings), but since she thinks she's a cat most of the day and she has been potty-trained for weeks now (SUCCESS!!!) and it was on sale for $2.50, she has it. Valentine's Day will most likely be a regular day for Margaret: She will be mostly naked, won't let me brush her hair, and will meow when she wants food, and hide under the furniture when I tell her she can't have a popcicle.