Thursday, December 20, 2012

Teaching Her to Pray

As soon as Valerie was old enough to understand and participate in her bedtime prayers, my mind went through a million conflicting thoughts and ideas about prayer and children. I'm an overthinker; I can't help it. I try to find a good balance between giving thanks and making requests, and encourage her to come up with things she wants to pray for. But it goes deeper than that.

She only has the attention span to cover a few topics, and sometimes, it's tempting to "help" God look good by praying for vague things, like "blessings" on family members, or easy things that will probably happen anyhow (a good night's sleep, recovery from a cold or minor injury). But what about the hard stuff? Like the cousin who has been suffering from chronic illness for several years?

I made a deliberate decision to keep some of the hard stuff in our bedtime prayers. If I want to model a realistic prayer life for her, it's going to have to include the hard prayers, too. Sometimes, we pray for the same thing for months or even years, without seeing any change. Sometimes, it feels like God's not listening at all. But it's not up to us to pray only for the things that would be easy for God to answer. It's up to us to lift up all of our concerns, and trust him to take care of them, one way or another.

Valerie has a very vivid imagination, and I remember a while back when she started asking me to pray for a unicorn. I tried to explain to her that unicorns weren't real, but she insisted that God could make them real if He wanted to. Touché, kid. You're right, He totally could. And I found myself wondering: Who am I to tell her to only pray for realistic things, while at the same time encouraging her to pray for a miracle in her sick cousin's life? Sure there's a valid distinction in my mind, but to a little girl who is just starting to learn about a God who created the whole world and all the animals from nothing? What's one more animal? I felt a bit silly, but I prayed for her unicorn. Every night for weeks, I prayed for her unicorn.

I know prayer isn't about just getting the things you want, and that's a concept we're working on, too. I pray that we will learn to want the things that God wants for us. But these things take time. I've been a Christian for over 30 years, and probably half of my prayers are still selfish. It's a long process.

A few months ago, we found out that some church friends were expecting a baby. Valerie, who loves all things baby, was very excited. Then our friends found out that their baby had a life-threatening lung condition, and wouldn't be able to survive outside of the womb. Their only hope was a miracle. This wasn't one of those "Please guide the doctor's hands" kinds of prayer requests. The doctors had already said that there was nothing they could do. What this baby needed was a bona fide miracle.

So we prayed for a miracle. Every night for two months, we prayed for a miracle. But God didn't choose to do a miracle. This past weekend, that baby was born, and ten minutes later, she died.

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to make the hard things part of our nightly prayers. But that didn't make it any easier to deliver the news to my four-year-old. That sometimes terrible things happen, and God doesn't do miracles. That sometimes, God says no, and we have no idea why. That even though God can do anything, sometimes he chooses not to.

She accepted the news better than I had, hugged me (probably more because I was crying than for any other reason), and went about her play. And my heart broke a little bit more, knowing that one more thing had been added to the growing column of "Things God won't do."

I don't know if I've chosen the right tactic for teaching her to pray. Everyone needs to come face-to-face with the "Why doesn't God _______?" questions at some point in their lives. Some people choose to reject God, or not to believe in God, in the face of all those question marks, and I understand that. I've been through my share of questioning, and I came out the other side learning to trust God more than my own logic. But I was older when I went through those hard nights. At least a teenager, maybe even in college. Is a four-year-old even equipped to deal with those types of things? Maybe I should have just let her have a God who blesses her family members, heals colds, and gives us good nights' sleep; rather than a God who can, but won't, make unicorns or heal babies.

I do take comfort in the fact that my children's faith is ultimately in God's hands, not mine. I am so very imperfect. All I can do is model my faith as honestly and openly as I can, and trust that God will draw her to Him; in spite of me, if need be.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Excerpt from one of the most entertaining car rides in recent history

V: Can we get some decorations like that and put them up in front of our house?
JA: Well, we don't really have a yard, and our house isn't on a road, so no one would see them. Maybe when we get another house, we can get one with a yard on a street and put up some fun Christmas decorations.
V: All I want when we get a new house is a kitten, and a grown-up cat, and a puppy, and a grown-up dog. And a goldfish. But not a zebra fish, because they are poison, and I don't want it to poison my goldfish. Did you know that zebra fish can kill sharks? But not in Kenya, there are no sharks in Kenya. Do you know why there are no sharks in Kenya?
JA: Because there are no oceans?
V: No, because the dolphins in Kenya are braver than the sharks.
JA: Ah, of course.
V: Aren't you glad I know so much about Kenya?
JA: Yes, very glad.
V: Do you want me to tell you more things about Kenya?
JA: Definitely.
V: Well, the people on the left side of Kenya have dreams about zombies. And the people on the - which side did I just do?
JA: Left side.
V: And the people on the right side dream about butterflies. But sometimes the people on the left side, dream about butterflies, to kill the zombies.
JA: Butterflies kill zombies?
V: Yes, if they are grown-up butterflies. But grown-up zombies kill butterflies. Hey! I just cut my own fingernail! Isn't that great that I cut my own fingernail?
JA: How did you cut it? With your teeth?
V: No, with my finger! Did I just do a miracle?
JA: I don't know that I would call that a miracle...
V: I just remembered one more pet I want to have when we get a bigger house.
JA: I don't know, you already want five pets. You'll have to feed them all, and take care of them all, and that's going to be a lot of work.
V: Just ONE more pet! A chameleon. Actually, a whole family of chameleons.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Muggins! (Muffin in a Mug)

2012-12-08 09.01.21

This is my new favorite breakfast. It's hearty, filling, tasty, quick, and easy. Win-win-win-win-win! I found the original Muggin recipe at Nana Clare's Kitchen. I haven't changed it much, but I have tweaked it a bit, and summarized the variants into one base recipe, so I'm sharing it again, here. I can't take credit for the original idea, though.

It all started a few weeks ago when Valerie asked if we could make chocolate cake in a mug for breakfast. We occasionally make chocolate cake in a mug together as a fun dessert (using this recipe), and I got to thinking, hmm, maybe we could make something healthier, like an oatmeal muffin, in a mug for breakfast? I whipped up a batch of Nana Clare's Muggins, and we were sold! I brought the jar of mix with me on our recent trip to WNY, and I've already passed it along to several people. It's Muggin Mania!

Without further ado, here's the recipe:

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white wheat flour)
1 cup rolled oats (I used old fashioned oats, but you can use quick oats)
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup wheat germ OR oat bran (I've been using oat bran)
3 Tbsp baking powder

Put mix ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar and shake until combined. Store for 2-3 months (if it lasts that long). Mix makes about 17 muggins.

Basic Muggin:
1 egg (I've been using large eggs, but small eggs might make it less spongey)
2 Tbsp plain yogurt OR unsweetened applesauce OR half a banana (All 3 are delicious, and very different)
1-3 tsp honey OR maple syrup OR other sweetener (I've been using 1/2 Tbsp or 1.5 tsp of honey)
3 Tbsp mix
*flavor variants*
*2 Tbsp of mix-ins* (opt.)

Put liquid ingredients in a large mug (at least 12-16 oz). Mix well with a fork or spoon. Add mix, and stir until combined. Fold in any mix-ins like fruits/nuts/candy at the end.

Microwave on high for 1.5 to 2 minutes. It's okay if the muffin rises above the top of the mug while cooking, it will shrink back down a bit when it's done. Jiggle mug a bit to loosen sides, and transfer immediately to a plate (if you leave it in the mug, it gets slimy from the steam).

A note on texture: Muggins have a slightly different texture from a regular muffin. They are extremely fluffy, since they contain an entire egg. It's almost like a cross between a muffin and a soufflé. Or maybe like a very fluffy baked oatmeal. I think of this as a good thing, since it means I am getting a whole egg's worth of protein, but I just wanted to give you a heads up, because it is different. It shouldn't be rubbery, however. If your muggin is coming out rubbery, you are probably cooking it too long. Try shaving 10 seconds or so off of your cooking time.

Most mornings, I am lazy, and I honestly just make the basic muggin as described above, with nothing added other than a dash of vanilla or a spoonful of peanut butter (which is not easy to mix in completely, and has me seriously considering investing in some PB2 to see if I can get that peanut butter flavor without investing all of that stirring energy). But here are a few variations to try:

  • Apple cinnamon: Use applesauce instead of yogurt, and add a dash of cinnamon and lemon juice. Maybe a few pieces of chopped apple, or some walnuts.
  • Chocolate chip: Add a dash of vanilla and 2 Tbsp chocolate chips.
  • Chocolate: Use the full 1 Tbsp of honey and add 1 Tbsp of cocoa and a dash of vanilla. You could even go crazy and also stir in 2 Tbsp chocolate chips or M&Ms.
  • Lazy-flavored: Instead of adding flavor, just use flavored yogurt. Increase the yogurt to 3 Tbsp and omit the honey.
  • Pumpkin muffin. I haven't tried this one yet, but it's at the top of my list as soon as I remember to buy some pumpkin purée.
  • Meat/cheese: I just made my first savory muggin with leftover ham and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. So good! (You'll probably want to reduce the honey, and I had to cook mine for almost double the normal time, because I added way more than 2 Tbsp of ham and cheese.)
  • Any combination of nuts, frozen berries, dried fruit, candy, spices and/or flavor extracts that sounds good to you. Like cinnamon-raisin, or blueberry-almond, or pumpkin-spice-pecan. Just use a dash of flavors/spices, and 2 Tbsp (cumulative) of the mix-ins.
I punched the recipe into My Fitness Pal, and it's a nice, healthy breakfast option. When prepared using the basic recipe (oat bran version of the mix, nonfat yogurt and 1/2 Tbsp honey), it has 192 calories, 21g of carbs, 7g of fat, 11g of protein, and 2g of fiber. You can increase the protein even more by mixing in some nuts. One muggin for breakfast tides me over easily until lunch.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Conversation with a toddler

JA: Dorothy, will you go tell Valerie that it's time to clean up and go home?
D: Okay! (running to find Valerie) Valerie! Val-val! (pauses) It's (pauses again, thinking hard) it's play time!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Christmas Shopping Guide for All of the Jule Anns on Your List

Things not to get for a Jule Ann for Christmas:

  1. Earrings. My ears aren't pierced, and I like them that way. Buying me earrings makes me think that you don't pay very much attention to me.
  2. Scented lotions, perfume sprays, body washes, etc. I'm a very utilitarian bathroom user. I use one kind of unscented lotion, which I buy in huge bottles, I use one kind of soap, and my only "perfume" is the baby powder scent of my deodorant. I rarely take baths, and when I do, I prefer my bath water un-scented and un-bubbled. I already have a shelf full of miscellaneous scented beauty products from past gift-giving occasions, used two or three times each. I try to use them, to honor the spirit of the gift, knowing that someone was trying to do a nice thing for me and make me feel pampered. But I'm just not the pampering type, and instead, all they do is make me feel guilty about good money that was wasted on something I won't use.
  3. Gift cards. I get it, I do. You want to give me something, but you don't want to choose something I won't use, like earrings or strawberry body lotion. A gift card lets me pick whatever gift I want! But gift cards stress me out. I'm not the most organized person in the world, and having gift cards sitting in a box by the door, taunting me with a certain amount money that I need to spend in a certain way, at a certain place, on certain things, adds an irrational extra stressor to my life. I hate shopping as it is, and adding that extra element of having to worry about which stores I have gift cards for makes the whole prospect of shopping that much more daunting. That might sound crazy, and maybe it is, but it's how I feel.
    Not to mention the fact that I think the whole gift card industry is a scam. You're giving your money to corporations now, which they get to hold onto (interest-free!) for an indeterminate amount of time without giving you any goods or services until the following tax year. Plus, you can't get change from a gift card, so they are either making sure that you leave them with a few unspent dollars on the tail end of the card, or they are making sure that you buy a little something extra that you probably didn't need to use up the card.
  4. Clothes that you think I should like. I actually like getting clothing as a gift, but I'm kinda set in my ways style-wise. I've tried to break out of my clothing comfort zone a few times, but I usually end up sidelining those articles of clothing for the old stand-bys. And if someone gets me a sweater vest for Christmas, I will probably look at it and say, "Well, it's not really my style, but maybe I should give it a chance!" And I won't return it, because I always feel bad returning things that people put time and effort and thought into choosing for me, but I'll probably only wear it twice before I forget about it and it falls to the back of my closet.
Things to get for a Jule Ann for Christmas:

  1. Things that you have lying around that you think I would use. I am not one of those people who cares about original packaging. Repurposed gifts please my frugal heart. Some of the best gifts for me are things like:
    • "I heard you like to crochet, would you like this big bag of yarn that I'm never going to use?"
    • "You still use a VCR, right? Do you want these old VHS tapes?"
    • "I was going to give this bag of dresses to Goodwill, do you want to go through them first and see if you want any of them?"
  2. Do something for me. My Love Language, without question, is Acts of Service. Nothing makes me happier, or makes me feel more loved, than having people do things for me. And best of all, it costs you nothing! A few ideas, if you want to put an Act of Service on your not-shopping list:
    • Come over for an hour sometime and help me clean. My house always needs cleaning.
    • Pull apart the dashboard of my car and take the pennies out of my CD player. It probably won't take more than an hour or two (I actually have no idea - I've never done anything like that myself), and I'll get a working car CD player at no cost to either of us!
    • Babysit the kids sometime, so I can have some solitary time, or so Jeremy and I can go on a date.
  3. Cash. I know, I know. Cash is a lame gift. But it's SO much better than gift cards! I get to put it in my bank account and spend it at any store I want. If you want to direct my spending, you can stick a little note to the cash saying, "This is for you to buy a new coat," or, "This is for you to go to the movies with Jeremy," or, "Buy some deodorant, hippie, you stink!" I'll tell you what: If you give me cash for Christmas with a note, I will take a picture of me holding/wearing/doing whatever I spent your money on, and send it to you. Everybody gets something fun out of it!
  4. Anything with a shared story or a memory attached. Two of my favorite gifts ever were presented with the following introductions:
    • "You know how you always make big pot of kettle corn for us when we watch LOST every week? I just saw this stove-top popcorn popper at a garage sale, and I thought it would be easier than using your big pot."
    • "You remember when we were at that cabin together, and we were always fighting over the awesome lap duvet? I finally found a place to buy them! (I got one for myself, too.)"
  5. Clothes that jump off of the rack screaming my name at you. As I said above, I do like getting clothing as a gift. And some people really excel at buying me clothes that fall straight from the box into daily rotation. If you are one of those people, go for it! I love fun clothes.
  6. Photos of you and your family. I love pictures! And I love having your face smiling at me from the fridge or the door or the photo ledges. Photo gifts are one of my favorite things to receive.
  7. Nothing at all. You don't have to get me anything, really. Not even if I got you something; I don't keep score. (If I did keep score, I would be humbled at how deeply in gift debt I really am, and I would feel even more guilty about all of the wonderful gifts I receive every year.) I believe that gift-giving should come from the heart, not out of a sense of obligation. I try to practice what I preach, too, and give gifts myself in a deliberately unequal manner. If I see something I think you will love, I might just get it for you for no reason at all, and if I don't find the right gift, I might not get you anything for Christmas this year. I think gifts are a lot more fun when they come unexpectedly as inspiration strikes, rather than when the calendar says they must.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Dorothy is now wearing the outfit that Valerie was wearing in my last post. Valerie was three and a half in that picture. Dorothy isn't even two.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Toddlers Who Are Growing Too Fast

Babies outgrow clothes so quickly. It becomes an almost daily routine for those first few months - trying to put something on, discovering that it's too small, and tossing it in the "outgrown" box. Once a month or so, I would sort through that box, pack things away, and dig out the next-size-up box. (I suppose this process involves a lot more shopping in some homes, but we rely mostly on gifts/hand-me-downs.)

Toddlers don't outgrow clothes quite so quickly. The "outgrown" box sits unused for months at a time; I almost forget that it's even there. If it weren't for the changing of the seasons, I might forget to switch out clothing entirely, and my poor kids would be going to high school in stretched-out 2T pants.

But the weather turned cool, and I started reaching into the back of Dorothy's closet for the long-sleeved shirts that had been shoved back to make way for the tank tops and sundresses. And they all seemed too short, so I pulled a few shirts out of the 3T box, laughing as I did so - there's no way 3T shirts will fit her! But they did. So I dug a little deeper, and pulled out a sleeper. It seemed so ridiculously huge, I brought it down to show Jeremy. "Look at this sleeper! There's no way it's going to fit her! It would practically still fit Valerie!" I put it on Dorothy to prove my point. But, um, er... It fit. Perfectly.

So, I tackled the Big Project. Weeding out most of the 2T clothes, and transitioning the 3T into the closet. And they all seem so BIG. She can't possibly be that BIG! But she is. It seems like Valerie was just wearing these shirts! Most of them hadn't even been sorted into the 3T box yet, they were still sitting in the "outgrown" box, waiting to be sorted. I looked back through my pictures, and I was stunned to find pictures of Valerie wearing these very same clothes from within the last YEAR.

I don't know why it's hitting me so hard to notice Dorothy growing up all of a sudden. Maybe because my attention is divided this time, so it happens without my noticing. Maybe because she really is bigger than her sister was at the same age (she's not yet 2, and she's already wearing clothes her sister was wearing at 3). Maybe because Dorothy was already a toddler a year ago when Valerie was wearing those outfits. Or maybe because I bought them cute, little matching outfits, and seeing Dorothy in Valerie's half of the set is that much more surreal.

I found a shirt in the 3T box that I remembered having matching shorts. I went to Valerie's drawer, and there were the shorts, still in Valerie's rotation. And I suddenly remembered that pre-schoolers grow, too, even more imperceptibly than toddlers. Those pants Valerie was wearing yesterday really did show a bit more ankle than they probably should. And far too many of her shirts barely cover her belly button. And the Big Project of sorting and purging Dorothy's clothes suddenly got a whole lot bigger. It looks like I'm going to be sorting a lot of clothes this weekend. You know, when I'm not looking through (not-so) old pictures and shaking my head with dismay.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Valerie's New Favorite Thing: Lists

There are two kinds of headlights: One is for when you're driving in the dark, and you need them to see. And one is for when it's morning, and you can't understand the GPS, and the headlights will tell you what the GPS said.

There are three kinds of Wonder Womans: One that does wonderful stuff, one that does amazing stuff, and one that's the queen of trash.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Everything Is Possible When You're Four

V: When we get home, can we pack up some sandwiches and drinks and cheese sticks and other good food, and some warm clothes and coats and blankets, and build a spaceship and go to a planet where it's always cold and build an igloo and live inside of it?
JA: That sounds like it would be a lot of fun.
V: Do you know how to build a spaceship?
JA: No, actually, I don't.
V: I know! We can watch Wallace and Gromit, and then we can learn how to build a spaceship!
JA: That's a fantastic idea!

(later, while watching Wallace and Gromit)
V: (quietly, to herself, taking mental notes) Okay, you have to saw the table...

V: Did you learn it, mom? Can we build a spaceship, now?
JA: I'm sorry, sweetie. It's not really that simple. You can't actually build a real spaceship in your backyard with wood and a saw. You need millions of dollars and a whole team of researchers and engineers.
V: But we can build a spaceship in our FRONT yard!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Valerie, the Photographer

Valerie loves taking pictures. She actually has a really neat sense of composition, and I like letting her take pictures, but I am always so nervous when I let her borrow my DSLR. So, when she asked for a real camera for her fourth birthday, we thought it was a great idea.

We did a lot of research before finally deciding on a camera for her. We wanted to get her a real camera, that would take good enough quality pictures that they would be worth getting prints. But we also wanted to get her one that would survive ownership by a preschooler. We settled on a "sport" camera, the Panasonic Lumix, which is waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof.

When she opened her gift, she was so excited that she dropped the camera. She gave us this horrified look, as if to say, "Oh no, you gave me a camera, and I broke it before I even got to take a single picture. You're never going to buy me anything nice ever again!" We smiled and told her, "Guess what? We bought you a special camera that won't break when you drop it!" Relief spread across her face, and she started right into taking pictures of random, awesome things that four-year-olds find worth photographing. We knew we had made the right choice.



The biggest problem with Valerie having a camera is that the number of photos I need to sift through before uploading has now increased exponentially. Not only does Valerie take hundreds of pictures of things that are interesting to her, but we take her camera along with us on outings when I normally would have left my camera at home. Not to mention the fact that I don't want to apply *my* artistic eye, such as it is, to the pictures that my daughter chose to take. So, while I am carefully wading through my pictures, carefully choosing my favorites, and carefully cropping them to my satisfactions before uploading them, I have had to develop a simpler system for Valerie's photos. It goes something like this: Copy all of them to a new folder, skim through and delete any that are absolutely terrible, and upload the whole folder.

So, consider this my apology, internet, for all of the bad photos, nearly identical photos, photos of giant, blurry fingers, and undecipherable photos that have recently been flooding your tubes from my corner of cyberspace. I'm just trying to respect the artistic integrity of a four-year-old. Oh, and I'm lazy.



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Thursday, September 06, 2012

File Under: Conversations I Didn't Expect to Have for a Few More Years

The girls and I were eating lunch in the park. There was a hole in the middle of the table that previous occupants had decided to use as a trash hole. Valerie started to put her own trash in the hole, and I stopped her.

"Actually, Valerie, that's not a real trash can. I know people have put trash in there, but it's not a very good place to put trash, because there is no way for the trash to get out and into the garbage truck."

"I can get it out, mama!"

Valerie starts pulling trash out of the hole. I didn't stop her at first, because I thought it was a good citizenship thing to do. But as she got lower into the hole, the trash started to get ickier.

"I think it's a good thing that you're trying to help out, but I don't think I want you touching the trash anymore. There are some pretty icky things in there."

"I just want to get one more thing."

"No, sweetie, that's a cigarette butt. That was in someone's mouth, so it has germs on it."

"But I can touch the OTHER end!"

"No, the other end is dirty from the smoke."

"But what about the middle? The middle wasn't used for ANYTHING!"

"Valerie, I don't want you touching cigarette butts. Thank you."

Valerie thinks for a minute, and then she asks, thoughtfully, "Mommy, when I'm older, can you buy me my own cigarette butt so I can blow smoke from my mouth?"

"I don't want you to smoke cigarettes, Valerie, not even when you're older. The smoke goes inside of your body, and it makes your body sick."

"Oh, so only bad people do it?"

"Well, not necessarily. Cigarettes are also 'addictive'. That means that your body thinks you want them, even though your brain knows they are bad for you. That's why it's important to never smoke cigarettes, not even once, because then your body might start to want them."

At this point, Valerie climbed off the bench and under the table. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me I had scared her. I explained to her that I wasn't trying to scare her, I just wanted her to know that this is something important. Sometimes mommies have to tell scary stories to help their kids be safe. She wasn't responding though, so I let her mope for a bit. She wandered over to some steps, and sat down, still looking forlorn.

I waited a few minutes, then I went over to her, and asked if she was still sad. She said she was. I asked her why she was sad, and she said, quietly,

"Because I still want a cigarette, and I don't know why."

I hugged her, and we talked about how sometimes your brain or your body want things that aren't good for you, and that's why it's important to listen to your conscience. I explained how knowledge is power, and knowing the scary things can help you make the right decisions when you want to do something bad. A light went on, and Valerie said,

"I know! It's like how my bum wants to pee through my underpants, but my conscience says to go in the potty."


"Last night, I dreamed that I was an old man, and I wanted a cigarette, but I didn't know they were bad. And the cigarette made me sick, and I was so sad when I woke up, because I thought the dream was real and I was still sick."

I don't know if other kids do this, but Valerie's primary way of processing new information is to create a work of fiction incorporating what she has learned. I hugged her, told her I was proud of her, and encouraged her to think about happy things, now.

"But I'm still sad, and I don't know why."

"I know how you feel. Sometimes, I feel sad for no reason, and nothing can cheer me up. But it will go away eventually, you just have to try to think about other things."

"But what if it never goes away, and I'm sad forever?"

"It always goes away eventually. Do you want to go home and read some stories?"

"Imagination stories work better. Can you tell me a story from your head?"

So I told her a story of a magical playground that comes to life with fairies and elves at night, and a little girl who met the fairies, and was whisked away to the fairy realm for the funnest day of her life. And as I told the story, the sad, sick old man sitting beside me melted away into a joyful four-year-old who could imagine those very fairies living in this very park.

I don't know if there is a *right* age to have these hard conversations with your kids. My approach so far has been something along the lines of, "When it comes up, and I have the time/energy to address it, as honestly as possible, in terms she can understand." As her level of understanding increases, so does the difficulty of these conversations. I'm glad she is possessed of such a powerful empathy, but it makes it even harder to introduce her to suffering and evil in the world. I'm just glad she's young enough that I can still spin a little magic to ease the transition.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Local Consignment Sales - Fall 2012

I've started assembling a list of local consignment sales for Fall 2012. If you know of one that I am missing, please let me know in the comments, and I will add it to the list!

Spring Chicken Sale
August 17-18
Havertown, PA

Cozy Tots
August 24-26
Bryn Athyn, PA

Bitty Bee's
August 25-26
Kimberton, PA

Just Between Friends - Lower Bucks
September 6-9
Feasterville, PA

The Clothing Tree
September 7-9
Allentown, PA

Simply Kids
September 7-8
Pottstown, PA

Growing Express
September 8
Ambler, PA

Just Between Friends - Western Mainline
September 13-15
Oaks, PA

L'il Angels
September 14-16
Bensalem, PA

Mainline MOMs
September 15
Drexel Hill, PA

Branch Creek MOPS Mom2Mom Consignment Sale
September 15
Harleysville, PA

The Clothing Tree
September 21-23
Quakertown, PA

Chester County MOMs
September 22
Downingtown, PA

Mother's Market
September 22
Calvary Church, Souderton, PA

Just Between Friends - West Chester/Media
September 22-23
Glen Mills, PA

WeeUsables Children's Consignment Event
September 27-29
Lancaster, PA

Just Between Friends - Reading
September 27-29
Reading, PA

L'il Angels
September 28-30
Northeast Philadelphia, PA

Valley Forge MOTTC
September 29
Oaks, PA

Smart Moms Sale
September 29-30
Eagleville, PA

The Clothing Tree
October 5-7
Wind Gap, PA

St. Luke's UCC MOPS
October 5-6
Trappe, PA

All Children's Sale
October 5-6
Wayne, PA

Best Dressed for Less
October 5-7
Burlington, NJ

Bucks-Mont MOMs
October 6
Lansdale, PA

Mommy Market @ UGFD
October 13
Lansdale, PA

Kool Kids
October 19-21
Morrisville, PA

Just Kids Stuff Yard Sale
October 20
Eagleville, PA

West Philly Grows Again
October 20
Philadelphia, PA

WeeUsables Children's Consignment Event
October 26-27
York, PA

Just 4 Kids
November 2-4
Maple Shade, NJ

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Wakeman Family Quotes

I just posted quotes yesterday, and already I have enough to post again! I think this might be Dorothy's first appearance in a quotation post. My girls sure are a lot of fun.

JA: Valerie, guess who just peed in the potty!
V: Who?
JA: Guess!
V: Dorothy?
JA: Yes!
V: Hooray! She can be the next student in my potty school!

V: Dorothy, are you done?
D: No, I Dody!

V: Look at my yellow monkey!
JA: Wow, I never saw a yellow monkey before!
V: Actually, ephemeral orangutans are yellow.

V: (playing with playdough) And then Jesus crushed the volcano!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Recent Valerie Quotes

"His name is Jake. But we call him Jakie-Bear for long."

"This is how you fix a car: God fixes a car."

"Which is scariest? Dragon, butterfly, or bear?"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Where I am right now

I deactivated Facebook about a month ago. I feel compelled to write something explaining this decision, but there are so many things all tied up together in it, and I can't seem to wrap my head around it all to compose a coherent blog post about it.

Camp Meeting this year changed my life. I wasn't expecting it to. I wasn't expecting an altar call to send me down this path. Sanctification. Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Theological concepts I have kept at arms length for my 30 years of Christian faith, and inhaled all at once when something finally clicked for me.

Tearing down the high places in my life. Prioritizing, and scheduling (which feels like a four-letter word to my spontaneous heart, but is proving to be genuinely liberating). I thought I knew what I was doing after 30 years of this, but suddenly, I feel like a newborn Christian. Scrambling to figure out how it all fits together. Groaning under the weight of the responsibility of two more souls. Failing daily.

Facebook is the social equivalent of snacking all day, rather than eating three square meals.* I'm yearning for depth. Looking for meat and potatoes in my friendships. Quality over quantity.

And under and through all of this is a recurring thread: The value of unexpressed thoughts. "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) Letting thoughts simmer and develop completely. I wasn't sure I wanted to, needed to, or even should blog about this. Because I'm still working through it all, and it's not fully cooked yet.

I have reread this post a dozen times, and have written three different concluding paragraphs, all of which I have deleted. I don't think it's possible for me to be satisfied with this post, so I'm just going to leave it at this. Imperfect, and unpolished - an excellent representation of my current state.



*Google+ is an all-you-can-eat olive bar.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Valerie Quotes

Since I'm on a Facebook hiatus, I thought I would share some recent Valerie quotes here. Enjoy!

"I can do even bigger miracles. I can change hell so that it's nice. And then I'll change the name to Monkeyland."

V: (Watching The Wizard of Oz) This is kinda like the Wizard of Oz
JA: This IS the Wizard of Oz
V: No, I mean the Strawberry Shortcake Wizard of Oz!
JA: (laughing) Yes, it probably is like that
V: Except this one is all gray

"I just realized something! Poops and toots are related!"

"Alright everybody, blast your seat belts!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drawing by Valerie, aged almost-four

"Valerie, can you tell me about this drawing?"
"It's a TV, and the TV's ear, and that's the show, and the TV is giving the humans cucumbers. Oh, and the TV has feet."

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day 31

What's that? April has only 30 days? Oh well, too bad.

I don't know where it came from, but I found some motivation again today. That pile of relocated clutter from the car was sitting right by the front door and bugging me, so I put almost all of it away. I found a new place for the girls' dress-up clothes (which had outgrown their current bin), and tackled the kitchen (again). That kitchen has been the bane of my existence for most of April, and I think it is a big part of the reason I didn't get around to as many of the sorting projects I had hoped to do. There's something about getting the kitchen *completely* clean that makes keeping it clean so much easier, and I never reached that point once all month. Even doing a little bit every day doesn't seem to cut it when you are also adding to the mess every day - it just maintains the messy status quo. And that is disheartening, and makes me not want to do even the little bit every day for a while, which just sets me back again. It's like the definition of a vicious cycle. I still didn't get there today, in spite of running two full dishwasher loads, and washing several big pots. But I'm close. And I don't want to admit that HADA is over unless at least my kitchen is clean.

I didn't have to make dinner (hooray for Casserole Club!), so I used my normal dinner prep time to finally un-rearrange the living/dining room from Friday's movie party. I vacuumed the dining room area, and half of the living room area (it's really all one room, but I like to pretend it's two), and cleared off the dining room table so we could eat on not-TV-trays.

Daily Total: 2 hours
Monthly Total: 32 hours and 10 minutes

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day 30

Today wasn't a fantastic day, but my in-laws called to see if we wanted to go to the park after they got off school, so we did. They gave me about a half an hour warning, which gave me enough time to clean out months of clutter build-up in the car. I didn't get the car completely clean, but I did clear it out enough to make room for two extra passengers, and that's something!

Daily Total: 30 minutes
Monthly Total: 30 hours 10 minutes

Flower Girl

I got married in 2001. I had three flower girls, because three of Jeremy's cousins were the perfect age, and all equally adorable. Who could choose?

Earlier this year, Jeremy's aunt gave me back one of the flower girl dresses, because she thought it was just about the right size for Valerie, now. It still looked brand-new. I hung it in the closet, wondering what special occasion might merit such a special dress.

Then Jeremy's cousin's fiancée asked me if Valerie would be in their wedding. "She can wear whatever she wants, it's up to you." I ran home, and tried the flower girl dress on her. It fit! It was a teensy bit too big, but by the time the wedding day rolled around, she had grown just enough. You would have thought I had bought it for her!

Note to brides: If you want an unofficial second shooter for your wedding, let your flower girl wear her mother's flower girl's dress.

I was going to write a whole post about all of the emotions that I felt watching my daughter wear that dress. Watching her spin around so the dress would flare out. Watching her oh so carefully place the petals on the path for the bride. But I can't seem to get it right. So here are a bunch of pictures, instead.














Hour-a-Day April: Days 23-29

Sorry for my absence. After the whirlwind wedding weekend, we all caught a cold, our sleep issues got even worse (I hardly thought it was possible!) and I just couldn't handle one more thing. So I slipped back into survival mode, and told myself not to think about HADA for a while, until I started getting a handle on the basic stuff again, like getting dressed in the morning and eating lunch.

Day 23: Jeremy stayed home from work, and we pretty much just took turns napping all day. I ordered enough pizza for lunch that I wouldn't need to make dinner.

Daily Total: 0

Day 24: I tried a new idea on for size. Rather than aiming for an hour (which was extremely daunting on little-to-no sleep), I decided to try to do 10-12 of those "quickie" projects that only take a couple of minutes, but I never get around to. I figured each one could count as five minutes, even if they didn't take that long, because sometimes it's harder to find motivation for the little things. Here's what I managed to do before the day went completely to pot:
-Cleaned the top of the fire extinguisher, which had an impressive layer of dust. (In fact, I can't remember ever cleaning it, and we've lived here 4 years!)
-Cleaned up a mystery spot on the wall that has been there for ages.
-Pinned the chrysalides into the butterfly tent.
-Put a new battery in the wall clock (and set it to the correct time!)
-Got out the water-based face paints and let Valerie do some face painting

I feel like there were 2 or 3 more things like that, but it's been a week, and I don't remember the rest. When Jer got home, I went down to the storage unit to dig out the crib, and I set it back up in a sidecar arrangement beside our bed. Having Dorothy in her own bed and having a big open space in my bedroom was nice, but getting sleep is even nicer. (Things have been getting steadily better again since I brought back the sidecar crib, so I'm glad I did.) Anyhow, that took about an hour, so even if I didn't do my 10-12 little things, I got my hour.

Daily Total: 1 hour

Day 25: The funny thing about sleep is that, once you're sleep deprived, getting more sleep doesn't solve the problem right away. It seems to just make it worse for a while. This day is pretty much a blur. It wasn't a total loss, though. We made rainbow rice and retired the water beads from the sensory bin.I managed to wash a load of diapers in here somewhere. I think we went to Baja Fresh for dinner.

Daily Total: 0

Day 26: No delusions this day. We packed it all in and went to a friend's house. Time well-spent. I think that saved my last shred of sanity. Hmm.... Maybe I'll even count it for HADA. Going to a friend's house isn't an unusual event, it's actually something I make time for fairly regularly, but getting us all dressed and out the door to go to a friend's house when I am barely dragging myself through the day is a pretty big deal.

Daily Total: 1 hour

Day 27: This is the only day this week I accomplished much, because (you guessed it!) I had guests coming over. I managed to knock out most of the dirty dishes (still not caught up, yet, though, ugh), and clean all the floors on the main level of the house. I rearranged the living/dining room area, because there was a possibility of 12 people coming over to watch a movie, and fitting 12 people in my house facing one direction takes some creative rearranging. (It actually only ended up being 4.) I also baked some bread, cleaned some mirrors, took out the trash and recyclables, and cleaned off the junk-collecting right-by-the-door windowsill. (Although I cheated and just moved most of the stuff up to my room.) All told, I think I spent 5 or 6 hours getting stuff done today, but, since it was mostly catch-up on the daily stuff I should have done anyhow, I'm only counting an hour for HADA.

Daily Total: 1 hour

Day 28: We took the girls to a birthday party for their cousins at Bounce U, which was fun and busy and tiring. Then we went to the mall together to get Daddy's glasses adjusted, and to buy some books for birthday presents. Instead of one adult staying with the kids, and the other one making a quick stop at the mall, we made it a family outing. Valerie helped me choose the books, and she really liked being a part of things. So, I'm counting the inefficient-but-quality-time trip to the mall for HADA, even though the rest of the day was a wash productivity-wise.

Daily Total: 1 hour

Day 29: Church, after-church coffee hour, quick stop at home to grab presents, then off to Nana and PopPop's house for a family birthday party. Then we stuck around until well after bedtime playing cards and stuff. I was going to go home and clean for an hour, but I decided to play cards instead. Since we were literally out of the house from wake-up until bedtime, there wasn't much time for productivity, but what the heck, I'm counting that card game. When's the last time I took the time to play cards?

Daily Total: 1 hour
Monthly Total: 29 hours and 40 minutes

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Days 20, 21, & 22

I think Dorothy must read my blog, because the very night after I wrote my last blog post about our sleep issues, she slept for 11 hours, waking only once to nurse. A world record!

Day 20: I woke up on Friday well-rested and eager to tackle a bazillion HADA projects. I dug out a racquetball racket, and went on a carpenter bee murdering spree, in an effort to reclaim our backyard (yes: I am aware that just killing them doesn't solve the problem long-term, and yes: I am aware that they are important pollinators, but my kids are terrified to play outside, and something had to give).

Then we started our container garden. I was going to start from seeds (I've been saving my toilet paper rolls for months!), but I finally caved and just bought four tomato plants for a dollar each from the corner produce place. I used the free dirt from the township to fill the containers most of the way, then we topped it off with some proper potting soil. I kinda have no idea what I'm doing, but we'll water them and hope for the best. I'd like to compost, but we have a very small backyard, and I'm not sure I'm up for adding another stinky thing to our lives. If anyone knows of a super-simple composting method that involves very little space, very little money, and very little effort, I'd love to hear it!

Then we went up to the girls' room and, with Valerie's help, pulled all the toys out from under the beds, as a first step towards sorting them and putting them away in the right places. We had been doing pretty good about keeping the room tidy ever since we built the bunk beds in March, until we started tackling the sleep issue. Then, whenever I went to put Valerie to bed, I would go, "Oh, crap, we forgot to put away the toys," and shove them all under the bed so I would have a clear path to the bed for Dorothy's bedtime. I didn't take a picture of the toys all pulled out, but here is a photo from March, as motivation to get things back in order:


My plan was to tackle the bedroom after I got Dorothy down for her nap, but at some point between pulling everything out and finding time to put it away, I got something in my eye. That might sound trivial, but it was awful. I tried every "getting things out of your eye" trick in the book, and nothing worked. I was in pain, and it just kept getting worse. We trudged through the rest of the day without getting a single thing done, and when Jer got home, I sent him and the girls to his parents' house so I could take a nap. A nap was the last thing I could think of for getting whatever was in my eye out - sometimes your eye can work it out if you just rest and leave it alone. I slept for two hours, woke up with my eye glued shut, and still hurting. I sent Jer to the drug store to get some eye wash, and I finally managed to get whatever it was out before bed. Then I slept like a log. And so did Dorothy, actually. She gave me an unprecedented 9-hour stretch that night. So, that was awesome, anyhow.

Daily Total: about 40 minutes, if you count the "pulling out toys" project that really just made things worse

Day 21: I woke up with my eye feeling a bit better. No foreign particles anymore, but it was really raw and sore - kinda like I'd been crying for hours. We took the kids over to the in-laws' house for a bit, to visit with Uncle Mark, who had just returned from Africa. Then we came home for Dorothy's nap and Valerie's quiet time. I used this time to get things together and shave and do my hair for the wedding.

Then I got two kids all dolled up and we trundled off to the wedding, where Valerie did a fantastic job as Flower Girl, and both my girls kept the dance floor hopping, and everyone had a great time. (No photos yet - I'm working on it.) We all tumbled into bed, exhausted. (Except for me; I couldn't fall asleep for 2 hours for some reason. Grrr.) Dorothy didn't offer a repeat sleeping-through-the-night performance, but I'm not surprised, with all the upheaval.

Daily Total: I guess I can claim an hour, here. I didn't get any productive projects done, but I did wrangle my whole family to a wedding - that's not something I do every day. And, considering how often I shave, that really should count, too. It still feels like cheating, but oh well. I need all the help I can get, right now.

Day 22: Sunday - day of rest. I was feeling so behind on my housework and whatnot, that I must admit, I had every intention of breaking the sabbath and cleaning the house. But we were all so worn out from the wedding, we took it easy instead. I spent an hour or so uploading pictures to Flickr, and I am so, so close to caught up, but I still have the wedding to upload. At least I made it through Easter! I think I need to take fewer pictures.


Daily Total: 1 hour
Monthly Total: 24 hours and 40 minutes

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hour-a-Day April Day Nineteen

Well, as expected, I didn't get a whole lot done today. But I survived, and that's the important part, right?

We went over to my in-laws' house for lunch, because my husband's grandparents are visiting on their way north from Florida, and they don't get to see the kids very often. We had a nice visit for a few hours, which kept Dorothy awake until her old nap time, then she fell asleep in the car on the way home and actually napped all the way through Valerie's quiet time. Simultaneous nap + quiet time = The only way Mama ever gets a nap. So, I got a nap. Score!

I did a few little things here and there throughout the day. I found my seam-ripper, and removed the itchy tag from Dorothy's Easter dress (it was much faster with the seam ripper than with the scissors I had used for Valerie's dress!). Then I washed the Easter dresses, so Dorothy can wear hers for the wedding on Saturday. I washed the dishes in the sink before bed (not all the dishes, but at least the sink is clear again!), strained the kefir, and washed the strainer and funnel so they're ready to go next time. I've also been trying to be deliberate about little things that will make my life easier later, like putting dirty clothes directly in the hamper when the girls get in the tub, and rinsing poopy diapers before putting them in the laundry pail. And I've been writing my HADA updates the next morning rather than staying up late, so I can squeeze in as much evening sleep as possible.

But the biggest thing today was the shopping trip. I didn't feel like going, and neither did Jer, but there was nothing in the house for dinner, so we compromised and headed to Giant as a family. We ate in the little café for dinner, then I started shopping with Dorothy while Pokey the Slow-Eater finished her dinner with Daddy. I had been making a list for the past few days of all the random things I have been wanting to get for a while that weren't exactly urgent. I got everything on the list except for two things they didn't have at Giant. It felt good to finally cross all those random things off the shopping list. (Some of them had been there for months, like a 3-way-bulb for a lamp in our room and some wide-mouth mason quart jars.)

Daily Total: 1 hour (I didn't set a timer or anything, but I know our shopping trip took at least an hour, so I'll take my hour)
Monthly Total: 22 hours

Hour-a-Day April: Days 17 and 18 and a Lack of Sleep

Dorothy popped out of the womb sleeping for five hour stretches. It was surreal and amazing.

When she was a little baby, I could put her down "drowsy but awake" and she would just go to sleep on her own. When Valerie was a baby, I remember thinking that this was a ridiculous myth propagated by baby book authors. But nope, it worked with Dorothy. I could hardly believe it.

And then, like the proverbial frog in a pot of cold water, I got complacent. I don't know what went wrong, but it happened so gradually that I didn't notice. And then one day, I realized that I wasn't getting enough sleep to function anymore. I was grumpy, and I had a short temper, and I realized that, one by one, every one of my sleep tricks had stopped working. I had one trick left up my sleeve: When she was tired, I could put her on my back, in the Ergo or the mei tai, and she would go to sleep, then I could slip her quietly off my back and transfer her to the bed. Then, about a month ago, she started biting my back whenever I tried to do this, and, just like that, my last sleep tool was gone, and I realized that I had nothing left.

I hate talking about sleep. In fact, I blogged here not too long ago about how I think people should butt out and stop asking new moms about sleep. But here's the thing: It had become a major problem for us. My 17-month-old was sleeping worse than a newborn. And I simply couldn't function like that anymore.

We started doing some sleep training. Not cry-it-out, but something in between. When we sleep trained Valerie using this method, she had one rough night, then a few okay nights, then she was sleeping for 12-hour stretches within a week. Dorothy has not been such an easy sell on sleep. Things looked like they were working well at first, then, she seemed to get caught up enough on sleep to become a fighter again, and the nights got worse again. We have an occasional good night, and I'll get optimistic for a day, then the next night, she will be up every hour again. I don't know how she does it, but I certainly can't live on that little sleep.

Anyhow, I never wanted to come on here and talk about our sleep struggles, but this is directly relevant to my lack of daily HADA success this year: I am so insanely tired that I can barely trudge through the daily stuff, let alone the "bonus" stuff. Yesterday was bad. Today isn't looking good either. I went to bed at 8:30, and I got to sleep from 9-12, then I didn't get more than a 45-60 minute stretch for the rest of the night. I think it's going to be another "survival mode" day.

Just to clarify: I am not looking for sleep advice. I am drowning in sleep advice. I can almost guarantee that any attempts to give me sleep advice will just make me more frustrated than I already am. I am simply explaining why I kinda suck at HADA this year.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Sixteen

Today I had external motivation. I was hosting a La Leche League meeting this evening, which meant, bare minimum, having a tidy living room floor (for babies to crawl on) and a clear dining room table (for snacks). But really, in my head, it means a lot more than that, because people I have never met before will be seeing the inside of my house. My friends are used to the general state of chaos that reigns in my house, but strangers are another story.

The day didn't start well. A rogue alarm clock, hidden somewhere amongst the toys in the girls' room, woke Valerie up earlier than usual, so she was a bit grumpy. Because of her waking up early, my morning routine of snuggling on the couch with Dorothy (who wakes up first) and watching a show was thrown off. I tried to get going on the house right out of the gate, but Dorothy is a creature of habit, and missing our morning show snuggle made her super clingy. By 10:30, I hadn't made a lick of progress, and I was starting to worry, because the morning is usually my most productive part of the day. I sent a text to a friend to see if she could come over and keep the kids out of my hair for an hour, and she said she would. Yay!

Things got better from there. Dorothy went down for her nap at 11, which is earlier than usual, and gave me a head start on the "making things worse before they get better" part of cleaning that is so hard to do with a toddler underfoot. I shoveled everything out of the kitchen (aside: in case you are not a reader of my Crappy Housewife blog, yes, I do actually use a snow shovel - best housekeeping tool I own), and started on the long overdue project of mopping the floors. My friend has a 2.5 year old, so I mopped in small sections, and dried as I went, to make sure he wouldn't fall on his butt as soon as he walked in the door. It makes mopping take a little longer, but if you have kids around, I highly recommend drying the floors after you mop them. It cuts down on the slips and falls, and it also prevents dirty footprints. Valerie even helped with this part of the cleaning - I gave her a sponge and a scraper, and she tackled the globby bits that the mop can't get as easily. Then she wiped the window markers off the sliding doors for me, too. I love that she is finally old enough to occasionally "help" in a way that actually helps!

Rachel showed up at about 11:30, and Valerie and Asher started playing happily together right away. So, with the kids otherwise occupied, Rachel and I tackled the kitchen together. While I finished mopping, she washed dishes. Then I started on the bathroom - one of my most-dreaded projects, but when company is coming, inevitably, someone will use the bathroom. Darned human beings and their biological needs. I did a good job, too - I even washed the walls and the outside of the toilet.

After Rachel left, I took Valerie to her room for quiet time. I brought out a "new" toy from the back of the closet, and spent a few minutes assembling it with her, then I went downstairs to spend a few minutes of down time with Dorothy. I removed an itchy tag from one of the girls' dresses (the careful, seam-ripping way), something I had promised I would do on Easter. I have a whole box of this sort of fairly quick "fixing" projects (sew up a hole, replace the batteries, glue on a broken piece, etc.). I'd like to start trying to get some of them out of the way this month.

After a bit of down time, I tackled the dining room. I shoveled everything into the living room (which was already knee-deep in junk from the kitchen), scrubbed the table (including in the crack!), wiped down the chairs, and vacuumed up all the dried out food on the ground.

When Jer got home from work, I sent him and the girls to the store so I could finish with the dining room. He picked up some dinnery things for dinner and some snacky things for the meeting. Then he had to go to an eye doctor appointment. Terrible timing! I was counting on that last hour with adult supervision to clear out the living room, which was still piled high with the clutter from all the other rooms. This part of cleaning up usually only takes me about half an hour (I kinda like to leave it for last for precisely this reason - it's nice to go out with a bang), but Dorothy was bound and determined to undo everything I did. After half an hour, I had barely made a dent in the living room, and she had emptied the recycle bin and the pots and pans cupboard to boot. I'm not exactly sure how I managed it, but somehow, I managed to get the clutter picked up, the floor vacuumed, and the chairs set up for the meeting before the first guest arrived (at the same time that Jeremy returned from his appointment). I didn't get around to the rest of the dishes, and the kitchen counters were still pretty gross, and I was still wearing my not-exactly-appropriate-for-going-out-in-public cleaning attire, but I was pretty pleased. I managed to finish all of the must-do's, most of the should-do's, and even a bunch of the nice-to-do's. Not bad.

I let Dorothy stay up for the meeting, because she is still very dependent on me for her bedtime routine, but fortunately, she went down pretty easily, even after the overly stimulating evening and delayed bedtime. After she went to bed, I did something I almost never do: I cleaned up after the meeting instead of declaring myself too tired and leaving it all until morning. I chopped up the leftover fruit into two fruit salads (one for us, and one for Jer), put away all the food, threw out the trash, and wiped down the table. I put all the chairs back, and tidied up all the toys. After working so hard all day, I wanted to actually have a clean living room to show for it!

Other things I managed to squeeze in today, that I don't exactly remember how they fit into the timeline:
-washed and dried another load of laundry
-washed the glider cushions and hung them outside to dry
-put away most of the clean, folded laundry that has been sitting in my room in growing piles all week
-put some bac-out on the pee-scented hamper bottom

All told, I think I put in about seven hours today, plus the two hours that Rachel put in helping me. A lot of that was catch-up on daily maintenance tasks, but I tried to be deliberate about doing things thoroughly, rather than just shoving things to the side so the house would look nice enough for guests. I only brought a few things up to my room "to deal with later"; most things got put away properly. The growing pile of "stuff that gets dumped here after people walk in the door" behind the dining room table has been completely relocated, and Jeremy finally took the pile of "take to the basement" things to the basement, which means that the recliner can actually recline again. I still have some work to do on the kitchen counters, but having a clean floor makes that job seem less intimidating for some reason.

Daily Total: 7 hours (I'm not selling my hours short today - I earned those extra hours!)
Monthly Total: 21 hours

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Fifteen

Today was Sunday, and on Sundays I limit myself to deliberately restful HADA projects. The weather was beautiful, and Anna (one of the older girls in church) asked me if she could play with Valerie, so we went to the park. I left Jeremy at home with Dorothy, and the girls kept each other occupied so I could just sit and chat with Heidi (Anna's mom), something I don't get to do often enough. We stayed at the park for over two hours, and the girls did everything from swinging on the swings to wading in the creek. It was a fantastic day.

Daily Total: 1 hour (I don't count more than an hour when it's a "fun" HADA project, because the hard part is making the time, not spending the time once I get going)
Monthly Total: 14 hours

Hour-a-Day April: Day Fourteen

Okay, I'm counting yesterday's hour, because I pretty much took today off.

I started the morning well. I folded some laundry, washed a couple dishes, did a bit of sorting, and I purged my underwear drawer of the smalls. There were 44 pairs (I used to stockpile underwear when we had to use the laundromat, so that I could go a month between laundry days). That sure cleared up a lot of space in my drawer!

Aside, unrelated to HADA: I've been wearing smalls since, well, since I started wearing adult sizes. Middle school, probably? I wore smalls through high school, college, law school, that year I took off of law school to get married when I gained 30 pounds, through two pregnancies and two births. And then my mom bought me a pack of mediums this year, and I got offended. Mediums? No way! I wear smalls! I've worn smalls for 20 years! Then I tried them on, and it was like a light went on. Oh! This is what it feels like when underwear fits properly! Whoa! The smalls have been sitting in my drawer ever since then, but I would always grab the mediums first. If I ran out of mediums, I would run a load of laundry, maybe wearing smalls for a day or two if I had to, but hating them when I did, and wondering why on earth it took me so long to figure out that, maybe, just maybe, now that I was wearing larger pants, I might want to actually wear larger underwear, too. I finally bought another pack of mediums, thus relegating the smalls to only the most desperate of laundry occasions. I would spend several minutes digging through the massive pile of smalls, trying to find one medium that might be hiding underneath, or at least one of the more stretched-out smalls. I've been putting off dealing with them, because I know used underwear isn't something you can really donate to Goodwill, so taking them out of my drawer meant throwing them away, and I hate to throw away useable items, even if I can't use them myself. (I know, that's a Hoarder thing. I'm working on it.) Anyhow, long story short, I finally purged them from my drawer. They are sitting in a bag in my "get rid of box", just in case someone happens to say, "Hey, I need 44 pairs of size small underwear, and I don't care if they are used!" But I'll get sick of looking at the bag eventually, and I will throw it out by the end of the month.

So, apparently, this post is 90% about underwear. I could have made it a lot more interesting by talking about how, after my initial HADA stint in the morning, we took the girls to Wentz Farmstead to watch the sheep shearing and play with colonial toys. Or I could talk about how, after such a fun day, both girls turned up their brattiness dials to 11 for the evening, and just getting through dinner and bedtime took every last ounce of motivation out of me. But nope, you get underwear.

Daily Total: Day off (about half an hour I could theoretically use later if need be)
Monthly Total: 13 hours

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Thirteen

Today was going to be my day off for HADA, but I ended up spending over an hour uploading and sorting pictures to Flickr. I never realized before how much of a time-suck my photography hobby is! And I only did a tiny amount of editing, too (cropped about 8 photos). But I'm getting closer to the end. I still have Easter and a zoo trip to sort through, and then I'll be caught up! Hopefully in time for the wedding next weekend where Valerie is going to be a flower girl. I'm pretty sure I'll want to upload those photos the minute we get home!

I haven't decided yet if I am going to count today's photo project towards HADA. The closer I get to caught up, the more likely it is that I would have gotten around to it anyhow, without an external push. I guess it will depend on whether or not I decide to take tomorrow or Sunday as my day off instead. I also got some dishes done (right after using them!) and made some more progress on the laundry, but that's all normal daily stuff. It just feels like a special project because I didn't feel like doing *anything* today!

Daily Total: 1 hour
Monthly Total: 13 hours

A note on the Total Hours tallies: They don't really matter. I only started doing it as a way of keeping track of whether or not I met my daily goals, and because I think it's nice to look back and say, wow, I managed to do 25 hours of productive work this month! But it's not about aiming for a high score. The reason it's only one hour a day is because one hour is a manageable chunk of time to squeeze in *every* day. My personality is more the "neglect everything for a while, then go on a cleaning spree for 10 hours and burn myself out, then do nothing again for a while" style. I'm trying to fight that, by tackling projects daily, in small doses. Next year, I may replace my Daily Total / Monthly Total with a more binary system, because it's all about the "daily" effort, not about the totals.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Twelve

We went to the zoo today. We have a membership, and we actually go fairly often, so the actual "going to the zoo" won't be counting for HADA. However, zoo days are typically "nothing else gets done" days, so, the way I see it, anything that got accomplished today other than going to the zoo is a bonus, and therefore HADA-worthy.

Before going to the zoo this morning, I washed a few more of the big dishes, and actually managed to take a shower. I ran another load of laundry, and the dirty clothes hamper is now officially empty. I also started working on sorting through my March photos to upload. Then I packed us a lunch so we wouldn't have to buy overpriced zoo food.

I took a ton of pictures at the zoo (as I often do), and I actually downloaded all of them right after getting home, AND hooked up the external hard drive to back them up. It often takes me weeks before I get around to that. It's such a simple thing, it only takes a minute, but I usually just put it off. I'm trying to be deliberate about things that don't take very long for HADA, too. Like making the beds in the morning. It only takes a minute, and it sure is nice to a) have a nice flat space for sorting things and folding laundry and b) get into a made bed at night. I've also been taking a few minutes to tidy up the girls room every evening (usually with the girls' help). I think a tidy space makes bedtime go more smoothly, and it means I don't end up stepping on any toys when Dorothy wakes up at 2 am.

I didn't keep explicit track of things today, but I know I clocked at least an hour in there. Considering we weren't home for most of the day, I'm pretty happy with that.

Daily Total: 1 hour
Monthly Total: 12 hours

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Eleven

I finally tricked myself into doing some of the kitchen today. I told myself I would just wash a few dishes, just enough to get the sink clear. Ten minutes, then I could stop. I did twenty. Then, I had some momentum, so I went back later, and did twenty more. Then twenty more. I have actually reclaimed one entire counter and the dining room table. Huzzah!

I also did some laundry catch-up. I would normally just count laundry towards regular daily upkeep, but I threw in two extra loads today in a deliberate attempt to get a bit of extra done, so I'm counting it. I also soaked a shirt and some tights with stains that have been waiting to be treated for a while. It's mostly folded and sorted, but I won't be able to put it away until tomorrow, because people are sleeping in all the rooms with closets.

I did a very small amount of bedroom sorting - mostly just moving things to better-fitting boxes. All in all, it was a relatively productive day, even if I don't have any dramatic pictures to prove it. It was probably the Batman shirt I was wearing (which, by the way, is so effective, I bought a second one).

Daily Total: About 1 hour and 45 minutes
Monthly Total: 11 hours

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Ten

I finally found a bit of motivation again today! I credit it to the fact that I said, "Screw the dishes, I want to work on my bedroom." Yeah, the dishes should probably be a priority, but I keep telling myself I have to do them first, then doing nothing, so I figured I would stop lying to myself about the dishes and at least do *something*.

I think I have figured out what I want to do with our bedroom. It's going to be a long, slow process, but at least I set the groundwork today.

A few years ago, we lived with some friends, and we had a wall of bookshelves in the dining room. When we moved here, we didn't really have anywhere to put the bookshelves, so we left them with our friends. Then our friends moved across the country, and left the bookshelves behind, so I reclaimed them.

I put them against the back wall in our bedroom, then moved the regular furniture (dressers and desks) back in front of them. My plan was to use them as longterm storage - things like Christmas ornaments that I only need to access once a year. I'm willing to move a dresser to get at Christmas ornaments once a year; you have to be creative when you live in a 2 bedroom apartment with limited storage space. I honestly never really used those bottom shelves, though, because lazy always won out over organized.

Then I remembered my joke about throwing a blanket over the boxes to make a computer "room" in the back of our bedroom, and I thought about my doubly-furnished bedroom wall. Maybe I could solve both problems at once!

I had to move a bunch of things around, and honestly, other than moving things from Spot A to Temporary Spot B to Semi-Permanent Spot C, I didn't get much sorting/organizing done. I did put my clean clothes in my drawers, and I relegated a few boxes of electronic stuff to the computer "room". I added a couple things to the "get rid of" pile, threw out a broken mobile, unpacked a box of hand-me-downs for Valerie, and consolidated some miscellaneous diapers we don't use to give away. I kept getting interrupted, so I'm not sure exactly how long I spent, but it was at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. I'm really excited about our new computer "room"!

2012-04-10 19.54.01

I may make the computer "room" a little bit bigger once I get the rest of the room assembled as I'd like, but for now, it's a functional, kid-free space for all the computers and miscellaneous electronics to reside. Yay!

HADA Codicil

Inspired by some of the awesome ladies over on our Hour-a-Day April Facebook Group, I'm adding an extra rule for HADA 2012:

  • Don't let anyone or anything steal your joy and sense of accomplishment for the things you have done. HADA isn't about becoming perfect, it's about deliberately spending an hour every day tackling the projects you rarely get to. If you did your hour today, YOU WIN. Period. It doesn't matter if someone else did two hours, or if the sink is still full of dirty dishes, or if there are still 17 more hours of organizing to do. If you managed to squeeze a whole extra hour of blood from the stone of your already-busy day, be proud of yourself.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Nine

I hate Mondays.

I didn't get much done today. But I did do two things that fit the HADA criteria:

1. Dorothy went down for her nap early, so Valerie and I had a tea party for lunch. I try to make a conscious effort to give her one-on-one time every day, but I must confess, it doesn't happen enough. It's rough being a big sister when your little sister is old enough to want to play, but not old enough to play properly. After our tea party, Dorothy woke up, and I instantly wished that I had used that time to take a nap myself instead. (The only way I ever get a nap is if I put Valerie in her room for quiet time right after Dorothy goes down for a nap. It's a balancing act, but I can swing it occasionally.) But then I remembered the look on her face when I told her to go upstairs and put on some dress-up clothes so we could have a tea party, and it makes up for it. Time well-spent.
(about 30 minutes)

2. I uploaded the rest of my February pictures to Flickr. I hate how long this process takes. It would only take a few minutes if I would just upload all of my pictures, but I am too critical, and I have to sort through and cull them before putting them on public display. Once I am caught up, I usually do pretty well at updating regularly, but when I am behind, the size of the project is daunting, and I don't do it at all. I'm inching my way toward the gazillion pictures we took at Easter, at least!
(about 30 minutes)

The day was pretty much downhill from there. I tried to get moving, but I just got more and more tired. I think I must be fighting an illness or allergies or something, because by the time Jeremy got home from work, all I could do was hand off the baby and go to bed. Then I slept for 3 hours while he took the kids to his parents' house for dinner. I got up to eat something, but I'm planning on going back to bed pretty soon. Just feeling pretty bleh overall. I hope I'm feeling better tomorrow!

Daily Total: 1 hour
Monthly Total: 8 hours

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Eight

Well, today was Easter, which meant we spent the whole morning at church and the whole afternoon at Nana and PopPop's house. But that worked out fine, because I have decided that Sundays in April will not be my days "off" for HADA, but that whatever I choose to do on Sundays should deliberately be restful. That way, I get to keep a sabbath AND be lazy one other day. Win!

Today, I started a crochet project that I've been thinking about for a while. I spent several hours working on it, but I was usually doing something else at the time, too - it's not like I sat and just crocheted. It's too soon to tell if it's actually going to work or not (it's a bit of an experiment), but it's something I wanted to try, so there you go.

Then before bed, I decided to upload a few more pictures to Flickr. It took me until the end of March to finally upload my December photos, and I would really like to be caught up before the whirlwind of summer activities starts up. I managed to dig through January and half of February (this took me about 40 minutes). I still have a ways to go, but I'm getting closer!

Daily Total: 1 hour (okay, it was more than an hour, but I only like to claim more than an hour when I'm being super-productive)
Monthly Total: 7 hours

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Seven

Bleh. Today was one of those days where I just couldn't get going. And then, when I did, it just seemed like I wasn't making any progress, which was disheartening, and made me lose what little momentum I had. Then I had some dumb little things come up, like my phone running out of memory, and having to upload all my photos and videos to my computer and figure out how to delete them from my phone. I got a bunch of dishes done, but there were so many to begin with, it barely looks like I made a dent. We went to the grandparents' house to dye eggs for a few hours, which was a fun diversion, but it didn't get the kitchen cleaned. Also, we lost the remote for the Roku (which is pretty much the only television we watch), and spent goodness knows how much time looking for it. (We still haven't found it. I finally downloaded an app for my phone to use it as a remote, but every time I try to sit and watch TV, it bugs me too much, so I get up and start looking for the actual remote again.)

I'm trying not to be too hard on myself, but I keep seeing other peoples' progress on HADA, and feeling like a bit of a failure. But one of my rules is "Don't give up. Missed a day? Just brush it off and get back on the proverbial horse the next day." Gotta remember that. It's still only the seventh, I can still get in a lot of productivity this month. You know, when it's not Passoveaster.

Okay, just so I don't feel like a total failure, here's what I did accomplish today:
-one dishwasher load of dishes, loaded, washed, and put away
-several big pots and both crock pots washed, dried, and put away
-solved the memory problem on my phone
-tidied up and vacuumed the whole living room (I was hoping this would turn up the remote - it did not)
-made a dessert to take to the egg-dying party
-tidied up the girls' room while Valerie was in the bath
-took out the trash (kitchen and upstairs bathroom) and recyclables (paper and co-mingled)
-made a list of all the words Dorothy can say (I've been promising my mom I would do this for weeks)
-did not find the Roku remote, but did download an app to use my phone as a remote, which I have been thinking about doing for a while
-made dinner

Daily Total: Way over an hour total, but it doesn't feel like an hour's worth of proper HADA projects. I mean, mostly, it's day-to-day upkeep stuff that I may not actually do every day, but I should do every day, and usually get to eventually. I think I'll call it half an hour.
Monthly Total: 6 hours

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Six

I was pleasantly surprised today that my husband had the day off work. I had all kinds of great plans for being productive today, but they were trumped by the romantic notion of a family errand day. We had lunch at Target, bought tights for Easter, went to a hair salon, got 50% of our hairs cut, then went to Payless and bought 8 pairs of shoes (4 for Easter and 4 for a wedding). I took a long, well-earned nap, after the insanity of the past two days. I did get the dining room table cleared completely for dinner, but I didn't even start on the dishes. A tiny dent is better than no dent at all, though, right?

I could do the dishes now, but I need a sweater for Easter, and I would rather go to a 24 hour store tonight than brave Saturday-Before-Easter crowds tomorrow.

So, I'm calling today my day off. There were probably a few minutes here and there of deliberate productivity, but not enough to call it a HADA project. I'd rather just call it a day off, go to bed less guilt-laden, and tackle the kitchen tomorrow.

Hour-a-Day April: Day Five

Day Two of Passover Prep. I made 10 quarts of matzah ball soup, 6 quarts of tzimmes, 10 pounds of charoset, and 3 whole chickens worth of dried fruit and kalamata chicken (in addition to the six-pound brisket and the dessert I had pre-made the day before). Set the tables, gathered all the elements, then led the seder with my husband (while my awesome in-laws wrangled the kids for us). Then we brought home an insane amount of leftovers, for which I had to find storage containers and fridge space. I finally went to bed, bone tired, at 11:30. I'm pretty sure I logged at least an hour in there somewhere. ;)

Teaser for Day Six: After all that cooking, I don't think there is a single clean dish left in my kitchen. I have some serious clean-up to do!

If you're participating in HADA, let me know! I started a Facebook group, and reading about everyone else's progress has been really inspirational. You've seen pictures of my bedroom. If I can do this, you can too!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Four

I am currently in the middle of preparing a Passover meal to serve to 24 people tomorrow night. Every year, I seem to add two more things to the things I make for Passover, and this year, I think I officially took on too many things. So, my HADA for today and tomorrow is pretty much all wrapped up in Passover prep. Today, I hammered out my menu and my to-do list, did my massive shopping trip, cooked the brisket, cut up the chicken, made the broth, made the matzah turtle bark, and, just for fun, wrote an English version of Mah Nishtanah. I also did a load of laundry, put away a load of dishes, and ran another load of dishes. Oh, and I can't forget the forced fridge cleaning brought about by all the Passover food that needs fridge space. All told, I probably spent 8 hours or more being productive today, not including my normal day-to-day parenting of two children. But I won't be greedy, I'll just take my one hour for HADA.

Daily Total: 1 hour
Monthly Total: 4.5 hours

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Three

Alright everybody, here it is, the whole reason you are following along with my HADA blog posts: Photographs of my messy house so you won't feel so bad about your own.

My bedroom. The dumping ground for everything that doesn't have a place yet. When I was going through last year's posts, I had to laugh at how many things are going to be a HADA project again this year. That's just the way my life is.

Believe it or not, my bedroom wasn't *too* bad up until we got bunk beds for the girls' room about a month ago. In order to make room for the bunk beds, I had to move the toy shelves somewhere. So I put the toy shelves in their closet, but then I needed somewhere to put all the boxes that were stored in their closet, so, surprise surprise, they ended up in my room. In a big pile in the middle of the room.

I got a bit of a head start on HADA this year. My mom came to visit for a week in March, and I got several projects done in anticipation of her visit, and several more done while she was here and I had extra helping hands. I got the space around the bed mostly cleared of clothes and stuff while my mom was here, and then I tackled the mountain of laundry that created (and actually got to the bottom of it!) before moving on to the other side of the room. I had shoved all the stuff to one side to make room for the pack 'n play a couple weeks ago, because I thought we might be able to use it for naps now that the girls share a room, but it didn't end up working out. So that was one chunk of room that was easy to reclaim. Then I set to work trying to clean with a 17-month-old undoing all my work behind my back.

Aside: A few tips for tackling projects like this with a toddler underfoot:
1. Use small trash bags and tie them off frequently.
2. Make frequent trips to the laundry room, rather than expecting a big pile of laundry to remain piled.
3. Even though it's inefficient, put things away as you go, rather than sorting things into piles to put away later. Believe me, resorting the piles 10 times is even more inefficient.
4. Whenever you come across a toy, put it in a prominent location, as toddler bait (to keep her away from the stuff you don't want her to play with). Sort and put away the toys last.
5. Use the bed for any pile-sorting you need to do, or better yet, use boxes to keep things separated. If you're lucky, she'll be distracted by all the stuff within easier reach, and leave the boxes on the bed alone.

So, I did an hour, but I forgot to budget post-sorting clean-up time, so then I had to do another 30-45 minutes so that we could, you know, sleep in our bed tonight, and so I could vacuum and feel good enough about my progress to take a picture.

I'm still not sure where the boxes are going to go, but I have 27 more days to figure that out. Plus, once I put the boxes away, I will lose the box-wall that is currently keeping a certain curious, button-pushing toddler away from the computer corner. Maybe I could just throw a big blanket over it and call it a room divider...

Daily Total: 1.5 hours
Monthly Total: 3.5 hours

Monday, April 02, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day Two

Today was one of those days. One of those go-go-go days where I had somewhere to be or something to do or someone to feed or someone's butt to wipe every moment from the time we woke up (an hour early) until a good two hours after bedtime (and still counting). How do you squeeze an hour of productivity out of a day like that?

It's 9 pm. I normally go to bed between 10 and 11. In theory, I could get my butt in gear and do an hour of cleaning right now. But I am just so drained. I honestly don't think I have it in me.

So, at the risk of bending the rules too much two days into HADA, I'm going to bed early, and I'm calling that my hour. Going to bed early, quite frankly, is something that I almost never make time for in my life, so it totally fits the rules of HADA. I promise, at some point, I will get to some properly productive HADA projects. Until then, I'm giving myself a bit of much-needed rest tonight.

Daily Total: 1 hour (to be confirmed in the morning - EDIT: yep)
Monthly Total: 2 hours

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hour-a-Day April: Day One

So, today was the first day of April. It was also Sunday, so I found myself slightly conflicted about Hour-a-Day April. I didn't want to start my month of productivity with a day off, but I also didn't want to take on any major cleaning projects on my day of rest. I finally decided to spend my hour today doing something restful that I almost never make time for. That seemed like a good middle ground. I told Jeremy that, once the girls were asleep tonight, I would sit with him for an hour watching whatever movie or show he wanted me to watch. And I would actually pay attention, and not play on my phone or computer, for the whole hour. We have overlapping tastes in television, so when we spend time together watching TV, we try to pick things we both like. But there are a lot of shows that Jeremy likes that I don't particularly like, like civil war documentaries. I thought it would be nice for him to get to watch something *he* likes, without having to take my tastes into account. He cheered when I told him about my plan.

In the end, he chose True Grit (the original, not the remake). I'm not generally a fan of Westerns, but I'm actually really enjoying it. He could have picked something I would have hated, but he knew I would probably like True Grit if he could ever get me to watch it, so he seized this opportunity. We watched the first hour tonight, and I must confess, I'm actually itching to watch the rest of it, but I'm going to wait, because I know how much he was enjoying watching it with me. Watching the second hour won't count for HADA, though. I want to watch it too much.

Day One Total: 1 hour
Month Total: 1 hour

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hour-a-Day April 2012

I've been neglecting my Crappy Housewife blog. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think one of the biggest is guilt. I don't really want to be a Crappy Housewife. Deep down, I want to be an Awesome Housewife. But the blog was never supposed to be about striving for mediocrity, it was supposed to be about clever tips. And I guess I just don't have that many clever tips, when it comes right down to it. Maybe I'll add more clever tips down the road, as they come to me, but trying to come up with one every day was stifling and, frankly, kinda depressing. I have a lot more respect for web comic writers, now, that's for sure. It's not easy trying to be clever every single day.

Maybe it's the early onslaught of spring, with its open windows and lovely breezes and the refreshing energy and desire for change that comes with it. Maybe it's the new bunk beds that I got for the girls' room, which forced me to do a lot of rushed rearranging (translation: moving piles of clutter) and left me with one clean, organized room, and one room piled chest-high with boxes, too cluttered to walk across. The tail end of winter brought one illness after another into our house, and we've had colds, flus, and ear infections in varying degrees for weeks, maybe even months; I've lost track. When you're dealing with all that, it's even harder than usual to kick yourself in the pants to wash those dishes, and the baseline mess gets worse than usual.

My mom just came to visit for a week, and we did a lot of fun things, like going to the park, the zoo, and the beach. But in awesome-mom fashion, she also helped me to get a handle on some of the day-to-day household stuff that had gotten away from me. And now I am inspired to keep going.

I've started to dig out my room (which is the catch-all for clutter, and the dumping ground for everything that "needs to be sorted"). I've done about a dozen loads of laundry in the past week, and, even more amazingly, it has almost all been folded and put away. I've started purging the girls' drawers of too-small clothes, and pulling the summer stuff out of storage. I can actually walk into my walk-in closet again, and I have been *gasp* actually hanging things up again. I pulled everything out of the pantry, organized it, and put it back in a way that makes sense. I cleaned off the top of the fridge. I have a long way to go, but I'm off to a good start. Now all I need is motivation to keep going.

Which works out nicely, because it's almost April. Hour-a-Day April was such a successful experiment last year, I've decided to do it again. The original post is here, but I will post the updated rules for 2012 below.

Hour-a-Day April 2012 Rules

  1. Think of something that you normally have a hard time finding time for. Sewing, cleaning, painting, organizing, playing basketball, crossing things off your honey-do list, it's up to you! It can be one big project, or a bunch of little projects. For me, it's going to be mostly sorting/organizing and deep cleaning. Those are the things I never seem to get to, because any motivation I have gets used up on the surface stuff before I get to it.

  2. Spend an hour every day working on your chosen project(s). Set a timer and stick to it. Kids need your attention? Stop the timer and give them your attention. You have all day to squeeze in that hour, and if your kids are anything like mine, it might happen five or ten minutes at a time. But by the end of the day, make sure you've clocked that hour. Know yourself. If the best way for you to get in your hour is to get up early, get up early. If you clean best after everyone else goes to bed, skip CSI. It's only for a month.

  3. Take one day off a week. If you're religious, you may already have a set sabbath, if not, just pick a day to be your "break" day. Or don't pick a day, and let it be a floating day off, so if you miss a day, you can just say, "Oh well, that was my day off."

  4. Keep others updated on your progress. Comment on this blog. Blog about it yourself, and send me the link. Tweet about it on Twitter and use the hash tag #HADA (Hour-A-Day April). Take pictures and post them to the HADA Flickr group. Phone up your mom. Put a gold star on a chart.

  5. Don't give up. Missed a day? Just brush it off and get back on the proverbial horse the next day. Even if you only do half the days, that's still 15 hours more productivity than your April would have otherwise had.

  6. Don't let HADA set you back on all the stuff you normally do find time for. If you're having a hard time keeping up with the daily stuff, count some of it towards your hour (but not all of it, or the point of HADA is lost).

  7. Don't let anyone or anything steal your joy and sense of accomplishment for the things you have done. HADA isn't about becoming perfect, it's about deliberately spending an hour every day tackling the projects you rarely get to. If you did your hour today, YOU WIN. Period. It doesn't matter if someone else did two hours, or if the sink is still full of dirty dishes, or if there are still 17 more hours of organizing to do. If you managed to squeeze a whole extra hour of blood from the stone of your already-busy day, be proud of yourself.

  8. Celebrate when it's all over! If you live near me, let's go out to dinner together and order gooey chocolatey desserts. If you live far away, have your own celebration and tell me about it. Go ahead and splurge, you've earned it!