Thursday, February 23, 2012

Squeezing in a Post While the Water Boils

How did I survive last year?!? Alan is working overtime tonight (until after dark, at least). Should be no biggie. I worked today, too, but I only worked from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and had a good two hour break in the middle of the day to do paperwork, play on facebook, or whatever, because I was subbing but had no planning to do during the planning period. Also, we are coming off a vacation week (Mardi Gras here), so laundry is pretty much caught up. Dishes are pretty much caught up. There is food cooked from yesterday.

Still, I had to do carpool (an extra hour and a half, due to driving into the city and back home, but at least not in traffic like last year at this time). I had to check on Ander's birthday invites (finally sent out, even though they were lost in the classroom yesterday). I HAVE to do a load of laundry because Ander is out of uniform pants and it's too close to hot weather to buy more. I have to do dishes because the sink is full from cooking yesterday. I have to make supper, because the kids have to eat. I have to go through the school bags and the mail. I have to unload my lunch box and pack one for tomorrow. I have to get the boys ready for bed. Even if I do nothing else, I HAVE to do these things. Totally doable, when you get home before 5 p.m., like I did today.

But last year, I was at work by 7:30 a.m. and not even off until 5 p.m. Even then, I got e-mails all evening long. And I worked about one weekend a month. All of this, WHILE my husband was working overtime. In my mind, I had to. How else would we pay the bills? My job was so important. I was a bad employee if I didn't stay late, if I ran out at 5 p.m. on the dot, if I didn't answer that midnight email or get things done under those unreasonable time lines while traveling out of state three times a year and in state once a month.

It was insane. I was killing myself, trying to do it all. Instead, at least one of us is free now - to go through the school bag, make supper, or do that emergency load of laundry. When Alan is off, we can hang out, instead of running, running, RUNNING to accomplish everything we didn't do because we were working. Yes, we took a HUGE pay cut. But I feel like I'll live YEARS longer. Seriously. FREAKIN' YEARS.

I like the combo of some out of the house work and some being around the house. Subbing is perfect for that. Even when I sub for four to six weeks at a time, I'm not stressed, because I know a break is coming. And if I teach or whatever next year, having Loki in school will be a big help with that.

But I won't do to myself again what I did last time. No human should live that way. I was blind to what I was doing. I was blind to the harm I was causing myself and my family. Don't get me wrong. I still think a family can have two working parents. But no family can survive with two parents in long hour, high pressure jobs. Something has to give. This time, for me, it came down to my health and my sanity. I could have handled a high pressure job, except maybe for the health issues, if Alan was home to take care of the other stuff. But with him at work constantly, too, we didn't just lack balance. We lacked life.

Lesson learned.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Organizing My Weight Loss

It's time to loss weight, for real this time. I lost some last year, but with the stress of leaving my job and a couple of injuries, I managed to gain it all back. I know what works for me. Calorie counting and regular exercise works miracles. Honestly, I eat enough that I only have to go down to 2,000 calories and I start losing pretty regularly.

I am pretty disciplined. I get some relaxing from working out and I LOVE to dance. At the core of the problem is that I am unorganized about weight loss. I'm better at menu planning and grocery shopping than I used to be, but I am not good at calorie counting if I don't eat at home. Seriously, I just don't enter the calories if a computer isn't sitting right in front of me.

I'm trying a couple of solutions. One is that I added calorie entry and working out to my daily checklist (which also includes laundry, dishes, one weekly cleaning chore, one organizing chore, and 15 minute quick clean of the most important (translation: most seen or used) areas of the house. The other thing that I've done is to create a spot in my planner for writing down calories consumed when a computer isn't readily available. Also, I'm changing my alarm that goes off every night when I take my meds to include entering all unentered calories for the day. I use my checklist pretty regularly, always have my planner with me, and I take meds nightly. I should be good to go. Let's hope.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Top Eleven Reasons the Clarion Hotel in Monroe SUCKS (Because Ten Isn't Enough)

I would get on the Choice hotel website and tell them how awful their hotel happens to be, but their magical wi fi connects to Blogger but not facebook or their own website. Great work, Clarion. That's reason number 1.

Other successes that Clarion managed to achieve:

2. No one was working the desk at check-in. When someone finally arrived, they said hello and then made me wait five minutes after I asked to check-in.
3. They were incompetent at making the keys (all THREE of the desk clerks, since once they arrive, they seems to come in packs).
4. During my check-in nightmare, a lady came to the desk with three elementary school kids. She needed two extra blankets. They told her the blankets weren't dry and to come back tonight. She asked them to deliver them to her room, but the employee of the Clarion said, and I quote, "I might forget if you don't check back. So just come back later."
5, 6 & 7. This hotel, which costs only twenty dollars less than the Marriot (all hail the Marriot Monroe as my favorite example of excellence), is actually a motel. I can tell from the LACK of elevators (in violation of federal law, especially when my uncle who had back surgery last month was put on the second floor), outside entrances only to rooms, and the TOTAL LACK OF COFFEE SERVICE. WTF is up with no coffee in the lobby? Oh, that's right. There's no lobby for those of us assigned to the back of the hotel.
8. There is free breakfast, but they don't advertise it so you make other plans instead. I don't even want free breakfast. But if I was in a rush, I'd be pissed that I made breakfast plans. (Fortunately, the company will rock.)
9. The tv changes from the Disney channel to static channel at least once per episode.
10. They refused to make my mom's bed because, and I quote once again (this time, the note they left on the bed), "theirs (sic) a suitcase on the bed."
11. Despite my reservations for two adults and two children, they supplied one towel. When I called for more, they assured me they would be delivered. Five hours later, I had to walk outside IN THE RAIN BECAUSE IT'S NOT REALLY A HOTEL to get the damn towels myself.

Lack of coffee makes me cranky. I will forward this blog link to Clarion executives as soon as possible. I visit Monroe often, but not the Clarion. Never again the Clarion.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eating the Frog Is Nothing to a Cajun Girl

I know Eating the Frog is some sort of (still-unread-by-me) book, but I thought of the concept a long time before that book was ever written. You should know that, to a Cajun girl like me, frog legs are just part of a well-rounded buffet. Everyone eats the frog! Instead, I call it drinking the milk. Remember that plate of red beans and rice, mustard greens, and cornbread? (Okay, maybe that's a Southern thing?) Your teacher wouldn't let you get rid of your plate until you "at least drank some milk?" I remember. I hated white milk more than frogs. At least milk was good for me, though, so I drank the milk.

This morning, I decided to drink the milk before I got on-line. Even more critical, I drank the milk before I put my preschooler to nap in my bedroom and could not disturb him, since THAT mistake is the reason that a pile of clothes is neatly stacked in the corner of my room. For two weeks now, I do laundry in the morning. The dryer dings right after lunch, about the same time that my 3 year old, who used to fight nap times, whispers, "I'll nap, if I can nap on your pillow." No sane mom would ruin that easy compromise by walking into said bedroom, right? So the clothes stay, stacked. The book I read late last night sat on the floor - and since it's actually a Nook waiting to be stepped on, that's not okay. My water cup from yesterday, threatening to spill, at my bedside table. (I have sleep problems and won't interrupt possible sleep to erase the evidence.) My shoes cluttered the floor. This morning, while Loki sat at the kitchen table and ate cereal, I put away the laundry. I dropped the water cup into the sink. The shoes went into the closet, on the shoe rack. The Nook got plugged in.

I drank the milk. My bones feel stronger already.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

15 Minutes

I was able to do the following in 15 minutes this morning, with a 3 year old potty break and a baby (my cousin's 3 month old) needing soothing mixed in:

1. Sort laundry by color.
2. Protect lingerie in a lingerie bag.
3. Put a batch of laundry in the wash.
4. Unload dishes.
5. Load a batch of dishes.
6. Clean the kitchen sink, stove, and the kitchen counter.
7. Refill the paper towel roll.
8. Make a snack for the 3 year old.
9. Clean out the bottle and get it ready for the next feeding.
10. Start the chicken defrosting in the sink.

That's a lot in fifteen minutes. There are some things about being organized and some tricks that made it easier for me.

First, I teach the 3 year old to potty by himself. He needed some help adjusting his pants, but I've taught him to do the best he can and then ask for help politely. That took eons of patience - definitely not just 15 minutes - but the payoffs are huge. Second, I got the baby situated first. I changed him, fed him, and put him down in front of the tv, propped up so he thinks he is playing with the three year old. He only required one little "Ethan, B-Box is here." (How obnoxious is B-Box as a nickname?)

For the laundry, I have laundry baskets throughout the house wherever laundry tends to pile up. About once or twice a week, I have my five year old collect laundry from those baskets and put in in the main basket. Otherwise, I forget about them. They are gone from my mind. So, this morning, I didn't have to think about them. Also, I have 4 colored mesh laundry bags in my laundry basket. I used to have a sorting "center," but it took up a ton of space and let us avoid doing the laundry because at least one bag wasn't quite full. Instead, I pulled the four bags from the one large laundry basket. The white bag was empty (because we did whites yesterday). The lights bag only has a few things in it and the "special laundry" bag has some swimsuits that need to be hung dry next week when I am home all day to deal with it. But the darks bag was packed full. So darks it is. A small pile of laundry had accumulated ON THE TOP of the bags since yesterday's sorting, so that small amount got sorted - whites, one khaki, and the rest darks. The whites and the khaki went in the bags and back in the hamper. Tomorrow, there will be more to sort. But there is rarely more than a minute worth of sorting - and that is so worth this system! (Bonus tip - when I travel, I throw the mesh bags in my suitcase. I come home with sorted laundry and just resume my routine.) The laundry closet with the washer was recently culled of everything but detergent, pretreater, and dryer sheets. One shirt was sitting in the area, being pretreated for a stubborn stain. I retreated it with a quick spray and threw it in with the darks. When the clothes come out of the dryer, hanging stuff will be hung immediately so I NEVER have to iron. Other stuff gets put away, except the underwear and socks that are saved for the children to sort later.

Unloading dishes was quick because we load the dishwasher according to our cabinet layout, with stuff to the left of the dishwasher on the left and the right stuff on the right. Also, my counters are uncluttered, allowing me to stack like tupperware together before putting it up. I also open all the cabinets FIRST, before putting away a single item, so I'm not balancing bowls while opening cabinet doors. And my cabinets are clear of extra clutter, making storage easy since there is plenty of space and a designated home for each item. I loaded the dishes by grouping of like items, left on left and right on right. I tossed in the drain stopper and dish scrubber thingy (you know the thingy, right?) so they would get de-grossed. (Another bonus tip - all sorts of things can be dishwashed. The gross basket of kids toys by the tub? Dishwasher. The toys themselves? Dishwasher. The container for your toothbrush? Dishwasher!)

While the sink was empty, I decided to clean it. While spraying, I went ahead and sprayed the counters and stove and let that sit while I cleaned the sink. By the time I got to the stove, it was so easy to wipe the mess away, especially since I wiped major spills as I cooked last night. I ran out of paper towels, but they were stored nicely in my pantry, so I just refilled the roll. I noticed I am running low. Conveniently, my planner was at it's designated spot on the counter, so I wrote "paper towels" on next week's list.

I made a cracker and peanut butter for the 3 year old, who is trained to eat at the table and wipe up with the paper towel that I gave him and to drink water out of the cup left all day at his designated spot. Noticing that I am low on peanut butter, it went on the list in my planner on the counter as well. I ran hot water and soaped and rinsed the bottle, leaving it to dry on the counter.

Finally, my planner said lunch and dinner (leftovers at dinner) is chicken enchilada pasta, so I grabbed chicken to defrost. The chicken was labeled and in the "frozen uncooked meats" section of the freezer, so it was easy to find.

The point is not that I work very fast. I work at a normal, often-interrupted pace. The point is that, if you are organized, you can accomplished a lot in a little bit of time and watch tv, write blogs, or play on facebook instead. Um, exercise. Yes, that's what I meant. I meant you could exercise and go to church, a lot. ;)


Monday, February 13, 2012

How My Car Has Stayed Decluttered for an Entire Month

My car is a constant mess. It's full of trash, last year's Christmas gifts (still in the gift bags), assorted McDonald's toys, and rotten bananas. (That last one is particularly gross when you can't locate the source of the smell.) Sippy cups grow mold under the seats. The rest of my world can be fully in order, but my car is always a mess.

Was. Was always a mess. I have found a solution, a set of tricks, that seem to be working. For an entire month, my car has stayed fairly empty of trash while still functioning for working on the go, carpool with a preschoolers and a school age kid, and family road trips.

Here is the plan that I am using with success:

1. I bought a cheap plastic cereal container to use as a trash can. I line it with a plastic grocery bag, seal it shut, and use the open and shut pour spout for dumping my trash into the can.

2. Each time I stop to get gas, I empty the garbage can, wipe it down with a baby wipe, and reline it.

3. All trash goes in the trash can. Since it's covered, it doesn't spill.

4. I always pour out liquids (Coke Zero and coffee, mostly) when I get out of the car.

5. I keep a bag with baby wipes, spare clothes (for the potty trainer), and plastic bags (for lining the trash can) hanging from a arm rest in the car.

6. I take everything out of the car, other than the spare bag and trashcan, immediately upon stopping.

7. I use my passenger seat to hold everything. That way, I HAVE to remove it after each trip.

8. While waiting (usually in car pool), I wipe down the interior of the car with a baby wipe.

That's it. I feel like I have slaughtered a giant dinosaur! (Can you tell Loki is coloring dinosaurs today?)


Friday, February 10, 2012

Organizing Tips That Don't Work For Me

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I am fascinated by the idea of being organized. However, many tricks that experts use have been FAILS for me. What's with me that these things work for others but not me?

lady with glasses; professional organizer

For example, I washed my microwave today by boiling water and white vinegar in a bowl in the microwave and then wiping down. I loved the idea. No scrubbing. No harsh products in my food later. After all, I eat vinegar, right? I love vinegar.

Um, not so much. My entire house smells like I douched it. Gag.

(To be fair, I love this vinegar. I cleaned with white vinegar.)

I also read that the trend in organizing is to have a mail station

But why? My husband pays 90% of the bills on-line. For the other stuff, I have a checkbook in my wallet and just send the check to school or drop it off. I rarely mail anything. Who is using all this snail mail? It would be wasted space for me.

Others swear by on-line organizing of their calendar and task list. 

I tried it. I love my Palm, but otherwise, I just can't do it. I NEED my paper planner. When I write something on-line, it's like it goes to Never Never Land.

UPDATE: I wrote this post in 2012. I am shocked to learn that - three years later - Palm electronic organizers are still available on Amazon

I see pictures on Pinterest of organized kids' rooms. 

Are you freakin' kidding?!? Their rooms would stay like that for 2.2 seconds. I get using big, throw-in containers and baskets. But organized legos by color? 

Not happening.


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Since September 2010

Wow, it's been a while since I blogged. I guess facebook and Pinterest eat up my on-line time. I looked back at my last post, from September 2010. It was about how crazy my life was at the time. Almost a year later, I quit my job to stay home, refocus, and take care of Loki. I'm definitely emotionally better. I guess I need to see how I do physically through this break. And I guess I need to start job hunting seriously, since Loki goes back to school in the fall.