Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A word on cleaning

I have been getting a lot of e-mails lately from readers. First of all let me just say that they are all so sweet! They have been the nicest e-mails that totally brighten my day. Several similar questions keep popping up about cleaning -- "How do you keep your house so clean?" and "What is your schedule/routine for cleaning and laundry?"

So! Thought I'd answer you all at once. :) First of all, my house is NOT always perfectly clean. If I've given you this impression, I'm truly sorry because just like a lot of you, I have children. And we all know that when you have children, messes are never ending. I have two girls whose goal in life is to drag out as many toys as possible and then have a party with them.

I also have a baby who like all babies, creates as much laundry, spills, spit ups, dirty diapers and messes as is humanly possible.

My house gets trashed on a daily basis and is by no means perfectly clean all the time. Just wanna throw that out there and keep things real.

That being said, I feel like I do a pretty good job of staying on top of my house work and I'm more than happy to share my secrets.

Secret #1) My personality. I have always been a clean freak. When I was a little girl my sister would beg me to play dodge ball with her, but I was too busy organizing my room and re-arranging the furniture. As teenagers, she would stay up late listening to music. I would stay up late scrubbing our bathroom and organizing our hair accessories.

I really like things to be clean and orderly. And while I don't like to admit this to my husband, I actually enjoy cleaning. I love to turn on music and get lost in housework. Very therapeutic to just clean and let my mind wander. I feel the most content and happy when my house is clean and because of this, I clean a lot. A LOT a lot. My close friends who ask me how I keep my house so clean always get the same answer from me -- I'm always cleaning!

Secret #2) I have to admit that I DO have a little help. I have hired house cleaners who come every other week and "deep clean" my house. They do in about two hours what would take me four days. Kenny's not a fan of our cleaners (not them personally, but the idea of them). It drives him crazy that I spend the whole day before the cleaners come cleaning our house to get it ready for the cleaners! But before they can mop, dust, and scrub, I have to get everything picked up and put away. Plus I love to have all of my laundry done before they come so that for one peaceful day every other week I can feel like everything is "caught up."

Am I grateful that I am able to afford some help with housework? Extremely.

Does having help make it easier to stay on top of things? For sure. I only have to deep clean every other week and if I can't get to something, I know that the next week it will be done.

Does having help make it so my house is always clean and I don't have to do much? I wish! But no.

Secret #3) I have a daily cleaning routine. I'm going to share my routine, but I recognize that this won't work for a lot of you. It's unique to my situation at the time with small children and a husband who works late a lot of nights. I'm sure once my kids are older, my routine will change. I do believe though that what you do and when you do it doesn't matter. What matters is that a daily routine is in place so that your house never reaches the point of being completely out of control and overwhelming.

During the morning/early afternoon I don't clean a lot - other than picking up messes we make from breakfast and snacks. I'm busy shuttling and entertaining my kids, exercising and running errands. If I am home and have some time, I work off of my to-do list in my binder. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon I like to have all of my kids home. In fact, this year my girls are taking gymnastics and swimming lessons on Saturday mornings so that during the week we have our evenings free. The time change we just had is my all time favorite! I love it when it gets dark earlier because it makes it easier for us to be home in the afternoons. After Ellie gets home from school I give my girls some time to relax and play and then around 4:00 we have a snack and do homework and DEAR time. Then it's straight upstairs for a bath. This is when my cleaning starts.

Immediately after I put my girls in the tub I start a load of laundry. Then while they play in the water and the clothes are washing I attack one room at a time (upstairs). One room at a time is key! It's easy to go to put something away in another room and get side tracked. I don't lose my focus. I keep working on the same room until that room is totally picked up and clean. Then I move on to the next room. I work fast! I bustle around putting everything in its place, checking on the kids and switching out and folding the laundry. In the bathrooms I put items away and wipe off counters and mirrors. Because I do this every evening, bathrooms stay looking nice. I usually have time to get one load of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away during this time and another load going that I finish up later that night while Kenny is reading to the girls. Again, because I do a load or two every night, I don't get too behind on laundry. A lot of nights a load is left in the dryer and that is what I start with the next night. I always run the dryer for 5 minutes again the following night to get wrinkles out and to have warm clothes to fold. :)

I wash the girls' hair and get them out of the tub half way through my cleaning frenzy and then I put them to work!

Secret #4) My girls help. I've found that assigning them specific responsibilities is key - pick up the crayons in the playroom - put the barbies back in their bin - pull your pajamas out of the pile of laundry and put them away.

(Addison - age 3 - folding laundry in her bride dress)

I can't say "clean your room" and expect anything to get done, but if I give them a specific task they do a lot better. Yes, in the beginning this was way more work than help, but because I involve them with the cleaning every evening they are actually starting to become better cleaners. My timer and quarters are great motivation on those nights that they aren't feelin' it. Some nights we play music (Gwen Stephani is a favorite for cleaning - lately Christmas music) and some nights we play "freeze" where the girls clean until I say freeze and then they freeze for a minute and then start cleaning again. I know. Sounds so silly, but any way I can make cleaning into a game helps to get my girls moving.

(Just a few weeks ago - scrubbing the dining room chairs while mom mops the kitchen floor. In dress ups of course. My girls clean best when they look fancy. :)

After the upstairs is done, we all move downstairs and I make the kids dinner. While they are eating I pick up the living room/kitchen area. I would love to sit down together as a family to eat, but most nights Kenny isn't home early enough to eat with us and aside from cleaning the downstairs I am also taking care of Kole (feeding and holding him) while the girls eat. That's just our reality right now! Then Kenny gets home around 7:00 and I put Kole to bed and finish laundry while he reads to the girls and puts them in bed.

So I basically clean my whole house from 5-7 every evening.

My goal is to be sitting on my couch with kids in bed and everything clean by 7:30 - 8:00 PM. If nothing interferes with my afternoon at home, I manage to pull it off. Kenny and I eat a later dinner together and our popcorn is always popping by 8:00. :) Then it's time to watch our shows and hang out together while I blog. My little treat at the end of a long day.

A few of my favorite cleaning supplies:

1 - Resolve Carpet cleaner. Best carpet cleaner EVER. I love this for any little spills or spit ups on the carpet. Spray a little, wait a little, wipe a little. Magic. I am a freak about clean carpets and this stuff has been my best friend since having children.

2 - Cascade Complete for the dishwasher. Costs just a few dollars more than regular Cascade, but I see a big difference in the way it cleans my dishes.

3 - I so love Pledge! Always makes my tables so shiny and clean. Plus I just love the smell! Whenever I use it Kenny comes home and says "It smells good! You've been cleaning." I always think - actually I've just been Pledging. :)

4 - Plain old Ammonia for mopping my tile floors and Comet for bathroom sinks and counters. Boring and unoriginal, but after trying all kinds of new products I always come back to the basics. They get the job done!

5 - Weiman Granite and Stainless Steel wipes. My FAVORITE. They are five bucks each at Target and I LOVE them. I wipe down my stainless steel appliances with a wipe every day. Takes two seconds and they shine like new. I use the granite wipes once a week on my granite counter tops and they really make my counters shine.

Those are the supplies that I use over and over again!

Tips that have helped me to stay on top of house work:

-Make a place for everything. Don't let flat surfaces or that spare bedroom become a catch all for any and everything. Find a home for things and while you're cleaning put them there. (same as my tips on staying organized)

-Attack one room at a time and don't stop until that room is finished. Then move on to the next room.

-Create a daily routine (whatever works with your schedule) so that you are staying on top of the housework and not letting it get out of control.

-Involve your kids as much as you can. Teach them how to clean and make them responsible for cleaning up their own messes.

(Ellie - vacuuming with mommy - age two)

Hope that answers questions! Gotta go. I'm quite sure there is something in this house waiting to be scrubbed. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

So much fun having my cute parents visit for Thanksgiving this year! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent with them. My mom made sugar cookies and watched Christmas movies with my girls.

And my dad kept them busy making animals out of play dough and dancing with them in the living room to Christmas music. (LOVE Pandora Internet TV -- Christmas favorites are playing around the clock!)
Chargers were playing Monday night! I'm quite sure the win over the Broncos was completely due to the fact that we were at the stadium rooting them on. And eating our fair share of nachos. After eating our fair share of food at the pre-game tail gate party.

Of course the football didn't end at the stadium Monday night. It was on all weekend long and Kole seems to be just as much of a fan as his dad and grandpa are.

He especially loves half time when he is smothered with attention -- rewarded for his loyalty to the right teams. :)

And then it was Thanksgiving day and our TV took a mini break from football so we could tune in to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Lots of work getting the meal ready. A record was definitely set for the most my kitchen has ever been cooked in! Addison helped grandma with the dressing...

and my job was the rolls. Luckily I've made and destroyed Rhodes rolls enough times that I now have them mastered. I know. It should be simple. Let them raise and bake them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. But I'm telling you these rolls are really quite tricky. And they required a lot of my attention. So much of my attention that I couldn't possibly do much else of the cooking. Sorry mom. I love you. And I love your cooking. And I'll always wash the dishes after to make it up to you.

My dad carved the turkey...

and the table was set. Ellie made name cards for everyone so there was no confusion about who was sitting where. And we had a lovely dinner where we discussed what are grateful for this year and what we love about each other. Ellie also put two and two together and realized for the first time that turkey comes from a real turkey. She refused to eat her meat, adamantly opposing cruelty to animals. It seems my daughter is now a vegetarian. Right up until it's time to order McDonald's chicken nuggets.

My Christmas cards arrived and I can't wait to mail them out! While I didn't make them this year, I chose to assemble them myself so I can still get my homemade card fix. :)

We also received some very happy news this week. Kenny made partner at his law firm. Becoming a partner at a firm like the one he works at has been a dream of his for a long long time. It is tough. His firm has offices in San Francisco, DC, and many other large cities and he was competing with very talented attorneys from each office. He has worked incredibly hard for this and I am busting with pride for my smart man. (you can't tell right?... I could brag more, but I'll stop now to spare everyone from gagging.) We took my parents out to dinner to celebrate. A very special night that I'll always remember.
So so proud of you babe.
Also to celebrate I decided we needed to deck the house in more Christmas lights than ever! My philosophy with Christmas lights is the more the merrier. Kenny has a different philosophy about Christmas lights. He let me know his philosophy for over two hours while hanging from our ladder. Ellie rode her bike around the yard reminding her dad not to say "stupid" so much. Kenny and I were just grateful that she didn't understand a few other words that were expressed. It was quality family bonding time at its best.

Addison wanted to help with the lights too. She came outside and exclaimed "Oh! - I forgot my accessories!" She ran in the house and came back outside a few minutes later decked in her princess shoes, necklaces, bracelets, and Fancy Nancy crown. Good thing. Those accessories put her in the best little mood! I think next time we hang lights I'll try giving Kenny a few accessories.

Also over the break my little Kole started sitting up. My baby boy is 8 months on Tuesday and I would give anything to freeze him in this stage for a while. It's hard to believe that last year at Thanksgiving he was just a little ball in my stomach causing me to practically tip over playing tether ball with my girls. So much has happened since then and I can't begin to describe how grateful I am this year. Grateful for God - for my life - for my family - for all that is good in this world. Grateful for such a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Grateful that it is now time to start celebrating CHRISTMAS! This is truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Addison and I wanted to wish everyone a fabulous holiday!
Aside from starring on So You Think You Can Dance 2022, she is also on her way to becoming a pop star. A pop star who sings mostly holiday songs. ;)



The month of November... has Thanksgiving day
we gather for dinner... watch football and play
with turkey and stuffing... and cranberries too
we're thankful for family... and friends just like you.

So very grateful this year for all of the wonderful friends I've made through blogging.
I love you all! And wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Recent layouts

Sharing a few recent layouts. The first two are for my little man's book...

I spend a great deal of time kissing those sweet cheeks and tiny toes each day.

"Your Room"

"and kinda mommy's too...." :)

And a layout for Miss Addison's book --

Lost of LOVE going on around here!

It's been a bit harder scrapping for a boy. I'm trying my best to keep things simple and semi masculine but I have to admit that I'm totally lost without my paper flowers and butterfly punch!

Have all you fellow scrappers checked out the new Project Life albums? So cute! And so perfect that there is a girly feminine album and also one more suitable for boys. Planning on starting a PL album for Kole at age one. I'm feeling pretty cool since I made Becky's PL collage (second in from bottom right). What you can't see is that my huge pregnant belly was holding up my box. :) Good times.

SO SO excited for this week! My parents arrived today and are spending the holiday with us. We have so many fun things planned! Dinner dates, football games, decorating, shopping, pajama lounging, Christmas movie watching, Christmas card prepping, and of course lots of eating. Kenny didn't want the bananas to go bad in the banana pie my mom brought down today, so he decided he better take one for the team and personally make sure that didn't happen by diving in a bit early. I felt the same about the lemon pie -- nothing worse than rotten lemons. Hmmm... seems we've already started on the eating portion of the week!

Happy Monday before Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

All in a day

5:35 AM. That's what time Kole decided we needed to start our day this morning. I was ok with it because Kenny was in LA for meetings and it was all up to me to get the three kids ready and out the door by 7:30. Ellie had her Thanksgiving Performance so I wanted to spend a bit longer than usual on her hair. Addison woke up next and she was in a mood. Ten seconds with Addison first thing in the morning will tell you exactly how your morning is going to roll. She wanted to wear her too small brown pants. Where were they? Oops -- goodwill last week. Spent 30 minutes letting us all know how unhappy she was about that. Meanwhile, I'm running circles trying to get girls dressed, hair done, Kole fed, breakfast made, start a load of laundry with the one pair of pink pants that is acceptable for Addison to wear as soon as they are clean, lunch packed, me ready, kids all loaded in the car - it's humid and cold - grab jackets for girls and a blanket for Kole. Buckle everyone in. The girls have 7 dolls piled in the car on their laps. For the love. I can't even see their seat belts. Give my standard "ONE FRIEND EACH IN THE CAR!" lecture. Pull 5 dolls back out of the car and run them inside. Kole is getting fussy and needs a nap. Grab his binkie and a toy. Back in the car. Forgot Ellie's lunch. Back in the house. Make sure I have Kole's stroller. Back in the car. Purse? Back in the house. Grab purse and cell phone. Back in the car.

10 minutes later we're at the school. Unload all three kids and jackets, lunch box, back pack, stroller, purse, binkie, toy, blanket. Walk Ellie to her class. Humidity is awful. Two minutes outside and Ellie's perfectly straight hair that I spent 15 minutes on is turning into a frizzy mess. Addison's bandage on her foot is sliding off while she walks and she is BAWLING about her owie hurting. Kole is beyond tired and he starts crying. Ellie is running 6 feet ahead of me. I can't handle Addison's whining so I throw her on my back. Drop Ellie off at class and walk back to my car - getting really frustrated with Addison at this point -- "I want my daddy!" she screams. Feeling's mutual. Go home and get Kole fed and down for a nap. Put Addie's pants in the dryer and calm her down. Get the camera and video camera out to charge. Clean up the breakfast mess in the kitchen. Wake Kole up from his nap. Pack bottle, formula, toys, binkie, diapers, wipes, purse, snacks, water, camera. Fix my hair which is also a frizzy mess thanks to our lovely humidity. Load two kids back in the car and head back up to the school for Ellie's Thanksgiving Performance.

And here the three of us are. Waiting for the show. Kids are much happier. Addie has on her clean pink pants and Kole has had a nap (albeit a short one).

And Ellie makes a stunning pilgrim.
She belts out "This Land is Your Land" in perfect 1st grade pitch.
Her hat accentuates her humidity hair perfectly.

The girls are so happy to be together again after the show.

Parents are invited to the classroom for a Thanksgiving Feast of turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie.
We view on the overhead the kids' pictures of what they are grateful for this year.
I know what is coming because my Ellie tells me everything.
And then she tells me more than that.

I get a picture with my pilgrim that should have been taken without the flash.
My girls act silly with one of their friends.
Kole is an angel baby in his stroller. Smiling at kids and parents all morning long.
We all had a great time.
I was on a "mom high" remembering how much I love being a mom and how much I love my kids despite the exhausting morning.

And then we get home.
Addison had a fit over not being able to draw a star the right way on her paper.
Ellie had a hard time staying focused on her spelling words.
Kole knocked his mushed vegetables off of his highchair and all over the dining room floor.

I ate some chocolate.
Kenny came home. Thank goodness for reinforcement.
We put the kids in bed.

Now I feel much better and with my kids' sound asleep, I can safely say for the second time today that I love being a mom.

All in a day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

House Station #3

{House Station #1}
{House Station #2}

So you may remember my little nightmare spray painting project? Now that the painting is behind me I'm quite enjoying my newly black baskets. They are just right for my next house station - our "reading station."

Big basket is holding all of our Christmas books...

and I have a little hidden nook in the corner of my living room holding the rest of my baskets.

Far left basket holds the girls' books (especially for books on Ellie's reading level). Next basket is for my reading material. And then the last few belong to Kole -- diapers, wipes, and baby toys.

Part of the M.O.M system suggests having a "read and review" basket. A basket to hold books, magazines, and other information that you want to read and review when you have a minute. Things that are not time sensitive, but that you would like to read at some point. Part of Ellie's homework each night is to read quietly to herself for 15 minutes. I decided to set up a little reading station and implement a new evening routine for me and the girls so that Ellie and I can both get in our reading time.

Each night after homework, we set our timer for 15 minutes and have DEAR time. (I called it DEAR time when I taught school - stands for Drop Everything And Read. Anyone remember that?) The girls pick out a book or two they want to read and I pick something out of my read and review basket and we all read together. I try to time this when Kole is taking his last nap of the day. I set a goal to read each night with my girls for two reasons. One, I want them to learn that reading is fun and mommy loves it too! And two, if I don't have a set time like this to go through my read and review basket I never will. I always have good intentions to read in the evenings, but most nights I end up blogging instead. :) This has been hard for me! It's so tempting for me to clean when I have a free 15 minutes of quiet time. But when I do "drop everything and read" I'm always glad I did. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just a bit

While the leaves are changing and falling all around the country, our San Diego Palm trees are still intact - and still very green.

Thought I better create a bit of Fall for my girls. This is a fun, easy project I used to do with my 1st graders. First I traced several "leaves."

Created an example -

And then gave the girls watercolors and let them create!

And there you have it. Our very own Fall. San Diego style.

While our leaf banner is still hanging, I MAY have put down a bit of my other fall decor this last weekend.

We were a bit excited to break out the Christmas books.

And a bit excited to hang the stockings. Which MAY have inspired a bit of mantle decorating. Just a bit.

And of course we couldn't wait one more minute to pull out the fine Christmas china.

A few Christmas friends couldn't be left behind. And we MAY have stumbled upon a few pairs of Christmas pajamas.

And there's a slight chance we MIGHT have watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Just once.

While the leaf banner is holding its own, we MAY be just a bit anxious for Christmas around our house.