Sunday, March 30, 2014

Method to the Madness

See, I didn't start out as a cleaner. I am sloppy by nature. As a kid, when my mom had friends over she would shut my door so as to avoid embarrassment. I just didn't care. Same in college- I'd drag home my laundry over break that I had been saving up for weeks. But things have changed out of necessity. If I were to avoid laundry altogether for a week, I would have over 8 loads. Now the cleaning happens because I am the sole cleaner. And also the mild ocd anxiety issues I have about cleaning. But as I have said before, I am QUITE lazy. Whatever I do, I must be efficient and quick. I clean the bathroom twice a week, but I'm only in there maybe 15 minutes. And this is a full clean, a full top to bottom scrubbing the floors clean. Granted I have a tiny closet-sized bathroom.
I start after bedtime. Whoever goes to the bathroom last (usually my oldest), I'll spray the bowl with cleaner after the flush. Then I pull all hand towels, get one wet, and use the wet side to wipe down the mirror, and the dry side to wipe it off. I'll throw those in the hallway, along with any towels. I shake out the bath rug, and hang that over the shower curtain rod. I'll spray down the bathtub (start at the bottom, with the drain, faucet, sides, working your way up to you don't get cleaner raining down on you. I'll then spray the sink and sides of the sink. After that, I can either go finish up with bedtime, or if kids are asleep, I'll go back with my dish gloves. Dish gloves are my Godsend. Mine are nonlatex and have a cotton lining. Fab. I scrub the toilet bowl first, in case some of it sprays off toward the floors. I then spray the toilet bowl edge and underside of the seat, wipe, spray the top of the seat and back of the lid, wipe, and then top of the tank, handle, and top of the lid and wipe. I am super unecofriendly and I use toilet paper for this toilet clean, mostly so I don't have a dirty rag to worry about. I am conscious of how much tp I use, so it's not exorbitant. Then I clean the sink, then the bathtub. I start with the top working my way to the bottom. Now comes the floor scrubbing. I spray the floor closest to the door (sometimes the walls and baseboards around them if they are dusty or dirty- usually the bottom foot of the wall or less) and wipe up. I use the same rag I used for the sink and shower, just much rinsing in hot water. If you don't clean often, maybe you should use separate rags for each section. The rag gets rinsed out thoroughly after each pass. I work in small two foot sections, mostly because the floor gets slippery if not completely rinsed. I work my way to the tub, then to the sink, and finally to the toilet. I wipe the walls first (do this one day with a white washcloth and you will never look at your toilet the same way), then the sides of the toilet, and finally the base and the floor. I rinse the rag a lot, and when I'm all done with the floor around the toilet, I'm done with the rag. That goes in the laundry. I wash my gloves off, turn on the shower to rinse everything down the drain, and job over. 
I can do this in a quick fashion, especially since I do it twice a week. Some woman on the internets was saying how you shouldn't use water when cleaning. I don't know how I feel about that.
Anyway, I've learned if you set up a method for your cleaning, a schedule per se, you will get done so much quicker, and if you clean regularly, you'll find your cleaning sessions greatly shortened in time. 
For example, cleaning your toys, etc that can be bleached. Most people do this like twice a year maybe, or only after a sickness, right? I try to do it once a month, usually on a Sunday. Sunday tends to be my cleaning day. I wait until all of my dishes are done and after bedtime, as I don't have to worry about my sink being off limits. Then I just throw all the toys that won't be harmed by water into the sink and dump a cup or so of bleach in. Then I just let it sit overnight usually, and drain it in the morning. Be sure to use a white towel or one you don't care about, since even after rinsing, some bleaching of the towel will occur.

Also once a week, when I run out of my cleaning solution, I will make up two spray bottles. I just added a bottle with a bleach solution to my arsenal, so we shall see how useful it will become.
If you try to make certain cleaning practices into habits, your house will look cleaner and you'll get quicker. Have you ever had a kid who had the stomach flu, or had it yourself? It's horrible. You will do anything to avoid it, and afterward you clean like it's your job and rent is due. I feel- why clean after it happens? Maybe cleaning beforehand like you are cleaning up after will prevent it from happening at all. 
But I could be wrong. Call me crazy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Looks Can Be Deceiving

A few weeks ago I cleaned my closet.
It was much overdue.
I couldn't shut the doors, there were piles everywhere, too many hangers, etc.
I commandeered my husband's storage cubes since he had clothes in there untouched for the past two years. I sorted, made piles, donated things. I got serious about the closet.
In what little time I had.
Here is the remaining side of the closet:
It's hidden back behind the closed door. The door can't even be opened because of the stuff in front of it.
So I have nice tidy spaces amidst messy spaces. This, I found, is what being a mother is all about. You take care of the things you can, and try not to feel guilty about the things you can't. My closet is an easy space for me not to care about, since it is quite tucked away. My room is basically always shut so the boys can't rampage through it, and I rarely have visitors. No one will see this space (especially since the door can't be moved to access it). 
I recently came to the realization that: 1. I am the one who will clean things. If something is messy, it is up to me to clean it, or it shall remain in that state indefinitely. 2. It is FAR easier to keep a space clean if it is uncluttered.
Both of these realizations suck. I am not a cleaner, pre-children. Sure, spring clean. Sure, deep clean occasionally. But every day clean? Nope. I have had to whistle a different tune lately. Two solid-food-consuming boys make a mess. They have dishes, dirty clothes, messes everywhere they go. I can't turn a blind eye (well I could but my cleaning OCD would get the best of me). So I do dishes after every meal. Those five minutes post-meal save me from a 30+ minute daily dish-a-thon. I vacuum daily. I steam mop at least weekly, if not twice a week. I clean the bathroom twice a week. There are quite a few tasks that I do that pre-baby me would be shocked at. But pre-baby me really had no effing idea what she was getting in to. 
To the second point, eliminating clutter. Now I love me some clutter. I like collecting things. I do not like parting with things. But when you live in a 950 square foot house without a garage or really many closets to speak of, you have no where to put the clutter. It lives on the counters, on shelves, in broad daylight. When trying to clean around these piles, you start to realize how little you need the clutter. Now I am a clothes and shoes-a-holic. I want it all. I can foresee every reason to keep every item. I could gain or lose weight. I could get a professional job. I might need to go to a fancy event. Blah. A million reasons why I am a slave to my clothes. So I went though and got rid of. I gave my friends and family a chance to pick through it. That helped. At least it doesn't feel like such a betrayal to the intentions I had for the clothes if I give them to someone I know. So the piles dwindle down. 
I still have clutter. I still have areas I need to control. But it's like life, you deal with what you can when you can, and give yourself some grace to deal with the rest when you can.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can't Wait

On Friday this chub monster will be 2 years old.
I can't even fathom how fast the time has gone by.

Now that's a lie.
I worked for the past year, so that made time go by a bit quicker. Cut to me back as a stay-at-home mom, and I remember why I considered part-time work again.

I hold my own pretty well until after lunch and nap, and then I have no plans. We don't have disposable income so I can't go shopping or cart them around the mall. Plus they are loud and hate to be confined by strollers, so the mall turns into an epic screaming battle anyway. Which other shoppers don't seem to enjoy.
Go figure.

I feel the day creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep by. I text my husband to ask when he will get home. I try to come up with a game plan for dinner (hahaha and by game plan I mean I avoid it and internalize all the guilt for not having started some organic slowcooker meal 7 hours previous). I text my husband again to see if he was just kidding and he will actually be home sooner (he doesn't have an office job so some days he gets out earlier than others, but not really as of late).
I told my counselor I was depressed. Maybe I'm going through a midlife crisis, I ask her.
But the reality is, and she was observant enough to note and reply back, I'm going through a crisis of faith. I'm at war within myself about what I believe and what I know, what I feel and what I can see. It's not that I'm doubting my faith, because I am a Christian and I am not for one second doubting that. Where I am having issues is that I am a grey girl (my counselor called it like she saw it and it seems to fit). I see so many variants of grey. My husband, he is a black and white man. Things are very clear cut for him. He may not follow the tenants he believes to the tee, but it's either one or the other. I have a hard time with the grey. The pastor says one thing, and I think- what about that? He says that Jesus is above all names that can be named, including cancer and autism. When we believe in Him and take Him as our personal savior, we too are above all names that can be named. Then I think- what about my mother-in-law? She was one of the most spirit-filled people I have ever met. She lived a life of walking with God. She was diagnosed with cancer and decided to believe fully in the healing of Jesus, of being above all names that can be named. She passed away 2 months before our oldest was born. It was devastating. When pastors say that believing and following God's word will put you above all names that can be named including cancer, I want to shout out FALSE. Don't get me wrong- I believe in miracles and I believe in healings. Throughout the Bible people are getting raised from the dead and healed and cured. Nowadays people can still be cured and healed, perhaps even raised from the dead. But that, in my belief, isn't up to us. It's God's will. If He wants us healed, we will be healed. If it's His plan for us to die, then that's what's gonna happen. When pastors straight out claim that by His stripes we are healed and above the name of cancer, autism, etc, maybe they need to explain further. If they mean something completely other than belief equals full healing, then I need the sermon to be dumbed down for me. So instead of crying in the back of the church, I can understand what they are trying to get across. When a Godly woman like my mother-in-law doesn't get a healing, when she leaves behind 7 children who have already been abandoned by their father, and a pastor wants to say it is because she needed more gospel? I have something to say about that.
There are some other issues that I have racing around my head that I am trying to grapple with, about marriage, about my role, about direction, etc. I'm just a giant mess.
And then I wonder why afternoons are so hard, and I'm just struggling to make it through each day until bedtime.
I know that time will pass in a blink of an eye. Before I can say it, it will be a year from now, my baby will almost be 3, and I will wonder what happened. Maybe I'll have my life in order; maybe I won't. I don't know this. It's like when I was nearing the end of my pregnancy. I knew that I would eventually have a baby on the outside. I knew that I would have to get through labor to get to that point. When you are in labor, it is horrible. There is pain, there is doubt, wondering if this giant thing can even get out, will they be alright, will I be a good mom. The waiting part is torture.
As a society we hate to wait. In fact we don't wait. We need faster internet, faster social media. Kids want to grow up faster. We get extensions because we can't even wait for our hair to grow.
The waiting game is difficult.
And right now, I just have to cope with waiting. This rough season of life will pass. I just have to know that on the other side will be some clarity, some path, some purpose.

Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Spend your Money: Part 1

There will come a time when, as a new parent, you will decide what to buy for that little crying sack of half your DNA. Usually the time to start thinking about this is when someone announces they are going to throw you a baby shower and you need to select the items other people are going to purchase for you. Hurray! But then you go to Target with that little scanner and walk the aisles trying to decide what is Important. Or you look online at your favorite baby store and see all the things that you MUST get for your baby or you are basically depriving them of a future at an Ivy League University. How could you?
It's a bit overwhelming.
Or perhaps you are a friend of these rapidly procreating baby-factories who keeps getting invited to shower after shower and you want to get something actually useful, and not more baby powder (ps no one wants baby powder. No one uses baby powder. They actually recommend that  you don't use baby powder on babies, so just say no.). Here is my ever important guide on how to spend your money. You definitely don't need to take my word on it, but I have had two kids, seven nieces and nephew (only one nephew so far), and loads of friends with kids. We all have different ideas of what is most important to us, but the same themes run through what is very important to survival with children.

UnofficialBailey's Guide on How to Spend Your Money: Kid Edition

What to Splurge On
1. Ok there are few very romantic things about a new baby, or the whole getting-the-baby-out thing. They are messy and goofy looking. They poop and puke and sleep and cry. Don't believe me? Wait til you have one of these creatures. One of the most important things you can buy- a solid diaper changing table. I am NOT even joking. Most kids are not potty trained until they are 3 or older. So that's 3 plus years of shlepping a child on and off the table. We bought a very nice model that was used at a garage sale. It was, let's say, shabby chic. But it is a very sturdy wood table with many drawers. So useful. My sister bought a cute jungle-themed table and it was not sturdy. The table part broke, and she thought she would soon be done with diapers so she spent a year, a year!!, changing her son on the floor. That is just dedication I do not have. Get a good changing table.
2. Invest in a very solid stroller. This will be your chance to escape the confines of your house. Seriously. If you live in a wintery climate, make sure the stroller is rugged enough to handle going over snow and ice. Because after months of cabin fever you will go out in almost any type of weather. Make sure it can fit through a standard doorway. Many come equipped for jogging, etc if you feel that will be beneficial for you. I don't believe in running, but I still chose the running-type model. The wheels tend to hold up better to abuse and are good for off-road. We got a bumbleride indie and then with the birth of our second, a bumbleride indie twin. I get stopped all the time to give moms and grandmas info about what type of stroller it is. They are good looking and incredibly rugged. You can usually get last year's model for a reduced rate at a local retailer, like we did, and the resale value is incredibly high. My sister got a graco and the wheels were such crap that it was like pushing a heavy brick. I personally like the side by side, but others prefer the front and back style double strollers. My bumbleride folds down and doesn't need to be unassembled and reassembled to fit in my car. Godsend. Ain't nobody got time to assemble each time they get out of the car, especially with young kids.
3. A good highchair and carseat. These are kind of duh, but they really do make the most sense. The carseat will house your small child for years if you get the right model. We went with small removable carseats when the boys were infants, and as soon as they outgrew those we bought Britax adjustable models, the ones that grow with them up to 70 pounds. We got the style with side head foam for extra analretentive protection. High chairs are likewise important because that kid will be sitting and slobbering and pooping all over it for a few years. Most likely at least two. We got our highchair from my parents who bought it at a garage sale, but it was a great brand. It folded down flat (not that we ever did that) and was super easy to clean. These aspects are very important. Whatever you get, make sure it's easy to clean. Kids are messy. And after one bout of any type of gastro flu, you will appreciate the ability to clean.

What to Save On
1. Clothing. For the first six months all your baby is going to do is try to soil their clothes in as many ways as humanly possible. Do not buy anything white or off white unless they will be in it for less than an hour. Even that time frame is a little sketchy. If you have garage sales in your area, stock up. If you have mom-to-mom sales, stock up. You can get onesies for a quarter or a dollar, as opposed to $7+, which is just unreasonable. Also your kid is going to grow like a bean sprout so that outfit will probably get worn three times before they outgrow it.
2. Educational Toys. Your kid comes out like a blind mole rat. All these DVDs to teach them appreciation for the arts, etc are great in concept, but seriously. You will be nursing or feeding them while you chow down on whatever is close enough to prevent you from getting up watching whatever you want. They will be paying no attention. Enjoy this brief window to watch your shows and movies, because soon enough you will be watching enough Dora or Dinosaur Train that you want to drink your way to bedtime. Babies can make do with cloth blocks and whatever rattles, etc that you can get at garage sales or handed down from friends. Most toys don't get a lot of attention until much later, and the toys that you think will be popular with your kids often aren't.

What to Wait On
1. Bottles and pacifiers. You do your research and find a certain brand is the BEST omg how could any parent not buy them. Well guess what? Little fussbucket could care less how it was rated by Organic Snob Magazine. Your baby will choose what style of bottle or sippy they prefer, what type of pacifier they will accept. They are the master of their own mouth domain and you are a mere servant. Don't go crazy stocking up until you try out a few styles and find one that works for you.
2. Cloth Diapers. Oh yes, I was that mom. I was going to cloth diaper my sweet little bundles. Well crap hit the fan and it is a lot of work and pretty smelly work to cloth diaper. And I spent a small fortune buying every size of diaper for my brood. The good thing is most cloth diapers have a pretty good resale, especially Bumgenius (my brand of choice). It isn't worth it to blow a small fortune and never use them, and then feel the guilt of the diapers calling to you from the closet. If you feel you want to cloth diaper, buy one or two styles and give it a go for a week. See if it is a realistic goal for you. It may be. I knew people who cloth diapered for years very successfully. I was not one of them. And many of those people bought many and ended up switching styles. It just happens.
3. A pump. Many moms put a pump on their registry. They are crazy expensive. I borrowed my sister's because I am cheap. They say absolutely do not share pumps. Whatever. I believe it's a lot of hype. Do you know who you are getting it from? You should so you know it's clean. The motor can house moisture and bacteria or some such, so take it apart and check it out. And buy new tubes and cups. Obviously. But that sets you back a lot less than a new pump. Plus, there is a good chance that nursing may not happen for you. I've known too many moms that beat themselves up over their inability to nurse successfully. I nursed for AGES, slightly less than 4 years total, and I could not pump to save my life. So even if you do nurse successfully, pumping may not happen for you. If you plan on returning to work soon after then I can see needing a pump, but still I would look into borrowing one from a friend and trying it out before you make the big financial commitment.

And the most important thing to consider:
Parenting is hard work. There are really no instructions for your child. Many people will tell you how to do it this way or how to do it that way. No child will conform perfectly to one style. Don't stress out if things don't go as planned. I had a different labor and delivery than I expected. My first child was a lot different than I was expecting. Survival needs to happen. So what if you can't cloth diaper and homemake all of your own organic food and nurse exclusively for 2 years while making all their clothing from fair trade local cloth. Do what you can. Enjoy the child. Sleep when you can. The rest is just details that won't matter ten years from now. Give yourself some room for grace.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Dark Side of Kickstarter

Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sources are an awesome idea. I wish I would’ve come up with the idea. But I have a huge problem with it.
Ok, moreover I have a problem with the dark side of crowd-funding.
Maybe dark side is the wrong word.
I have a problem with rich people and celebrities using crowd-funding. Now I get it- we are a free country, yada yada. People can spend their money on whatever they want. They can go in their yard and make papier-mâché piñatas out of money and then burn it. Free country. Beautiful.
It’s just incredibly sad to me that we have become this society of entitlement. People think, well I want to do something and I really don’t want to put my own money towards it, so I will see who will give me money. I’m speaking ONLY of insanely wealthy people and celebrities. Joe Schmoes like you and me would need crowd-funding to record an album, publish a book, what have you. I think it’s a brilliant idea when someone with talent without money needs help getting their product or idea out there, and other people getting something they value (whether it’s an album, a book, recognition) out of helping. Rich people have the option of saying “I have the money and I can do this thing.” I’ve seen this wave on kickstarter of people who can afford to finance their dreams, but instead want to show “the world” that there is support for their idea, etc. I feel like this is anathema to the idea of kickstarter, of people helping other people achieve their dreams who would otherwise be unable. Instead it is morphing into celebrities wanting to make a movie and needing Joe Everyman to help finance it. Captain Megabucks wanting money to research for his book.
I understand this desire to fit in, to be recognized. Some celebrity says for $50 you get your name in the liner notes of a CD, a signature on a picture, et al. I’m sure that Teen Heartthrob of the moment could make a kickstarter for money because he crashed his car and wants to buy a new one, and people would line up to help him fund it. Granted- free country. Do what you want with your money.
Perhaps maybe we should be helping fund new artists, new creators, new sciences. We should be helping build wells in third world countries so the people there can drink potable water. We should be sending money to war-torn countries where children have no parents.
But I digress.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Epiphany and Nerdy Actors

I had a dream this morning about an actor. Granted, I am too much of a realist, even in my dreams, for the actor to be some big name heartthrob. Instead, a nerdy-cute actor was trying to get in my pants in a dream.
 I woke up but was halfway between awake and asleep, my brain thinking about how I would attract an actor, even a “lower-level” (so to speak) actor. My brain was processing how a famous person would ever be interested in me, also granted that I was a different incarnation of me, younger, unmarried, etc. This is the list you probably tell yourself if you were to seriously think of the ideal you. Mine was I would need to be thinner and more in shape. I would have to have a career path and be executing that career in a professional manner. I would have to be assured of myself and my values. 
When we dream about that ideal partner before we find them, it’s often someone accomplished, attractive, assured.
My brain was formulating how I would have to improve myself to attract the affection of this person from my dream. I woke up, and lay there in a brief moment of alone time (as a mom this is VERY rare). And then BAM. Epiphany.
First off: I shouldn’t be changing myself to be with a celebrity (obviously, and VERY VERY doubtful I would ever meet a celebrity let alone attract one, and also the very real fact that I’m married). Second off: If I believe these changes would make me that more appealing to a celebrity, how much more so would they endear me to my husband?? Wouldn’t he want me to be more physically fit, motivated, secure? Who wouldn’t want that? And third off: screw the men! I should do this because it makes me a more complete person to myself.
Maybe this is a dumb epiphany to you, but damn if it didn’t hit home for me. I try not to be one to fantasize about a life I could have lived given other circumstances; it takes away from the life I’m currently living. However, I am definitely one to sit around and lament all the things I’m not, and this kicked me right in the butt. It was like Future Me sent back a little message- hurry up and start being the person you want to be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gluten-free Update: Cry Me a River

Gluten-free update, maybe day 6? 5? I don’t know, all the sad wheat-free days are running together. I have no energy. I thought cutting it out would boost my energy, give me radiant skin, and I would start Benjamin Button-ing my way to a youthful 26. Nope. I am irritable. I have NO ideas of what to make. Sure, I have recipes from the internetz, but almost all include a BOATLOAD of ingredients and take time. And right now there just ain’t a lot of time.
I took my boys to the pediatrician for the body rash, as it progressed into a full-body thing after their hours of operation this weekend, and they announced it was a combo of eczema and a viral rash. I asked if changing our diet would help the eczema and she said most likely not. But dammit if I didn’t just spend a small country’s GDP on wheat-free and dairy-free and egg-free ingredients, so we are sticking to our guns. Also, I have a bit of disbelief towards doctors and what they prescribe. I worked in a health food store for a better part of early adulthood- I’m programmed to believe more in vitamins and healthy living. But then again if I got cancer I would blast that crap with enough radiation to make me glow, because reasons.
So no- I don’t have any delicious recipes to share. We’ve been eating grilled chicken, almond butter in rice tortillas, and gluten-free oatmeal, so there’s very little creativity going on. If you have some ideas I would gladly listen. I’m thinking of making beans and rice for dinner tomorrow, but the thought of no delicious cheese is mildly heartbreaking. After we’ve cut out everything for another week or so, then we will add stuff back in and see if there are reactions. And who knows- this dreary weather is enough to cause most of the symptoms I am seeing.
Dear Polar Vortex, seriously consider a hobby.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Surviving Gluten-Free: Day One Recap

Day One of Horrible Diet down. It ended with my youngest pooping by the large indoor plant, stepping in it, and running around the house.
Maybe in protest to no wheat, dairy or egg?
It was very fun to hand-clean, steam mop, and then regular mop the dining room.
Perhaps a bit obsessive?
But when you see little baby poop footprints all over your wood floors, it unleashes your inner OCD.
I made a very unsuccessful dinner (mostly because I followed the recipe which I don’t believe was intended for a family of four) of breaded chicken using many ingredients that I had to improvise on, since I am rarely appropriately prepared and also because grocery shopping with two screaming children makes me forget items and run through the aisles “Supermarket Sweep”-style.
I made a granola that I found pretty edible, but my husband deemed too expensive and one child won’t even deem to put in his mouth.
And then to cap it all off with poop footprints.

So all in all not one of my better days.
But if I can believe what the interwebz says about symptoms of wheat intolerance, I should be so happy and energetic with clear skin within a week or so of giving it up. I hope we all survive long enough to see that blessed day.