Housework


I don’t do a lot of product reviews on this blog, because, well, I don’t like that many products.  I did once consider doing ONLY negative product reviews, but decided even that would get old after a while.  Anyhow, here are some things that I have been impressed with as of late:

Book: The Green Parent by Jenn Savedge – I have given a couple presentations on “going green” this year, and in the process of doing research, I’ve decided that this is my favorite greening guide book.  Not to say that I’ve read all of them, but this one is great. It’s straight-forward, easy to understand, broken up into easily digested sections, and most of the information in it is relevant even if you aren’t a parent.  Added perk: I picked up the copy I read at the library. ; )

Music: Blink by Plumb – I happened upon Plumb via a post from another mom in a forum.  I immediately fell in love with her voice, which for me falls between Sarah McLaughlin and Enya on the “ethereal” chart. Plumb’s Blink album is completely inspired by motherhood.  It’s full of songs I could have written if I was a talented songwriter and that I would sing if I didn’t score a negative 8 on the ethereal chart.  Plumb is a contemporary Christian singer, which is not a genre I usually listen to, but I think this CD will be my new standard “new mommy” gift.  You can sample Blink on Amazon.

Home: Biokleen Spray & Wipe All-Purpose Cleaner – I have vowed to start making my own cleaners, but I’ll be keeping this one.  I love Biokleen’s All-Purpose Cleaner because it really is all-purpose and it is also a green cleaner.  It has gotten marker out of the rug, mystery stains off of the chairs, lifted milk and potty smell off of carpet and fabrics, taken red sharpie off the refrigerator, and tackled many other cleaning challenges that you probably don’t even want to know about.  And when Callen grabs it and squirts it at his sister for shniggles, I don’t have to worry.

Beauty: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer makeup – I don’t like to spend a lot of time getting ready to face the world.  Even if I didn’t have two kids.  So this makeup from Neutrogena, which is a 3 in 1 product, is great.  It contains retinol, SPF 20, and a tinted moisturizer.   It’s not thick like a sunscreen, but provides nice coverage.  The only problem I have with it is that it scores a 5 (moderate hazard) on EWG’s Cosmetic Safety Database.  If I can find a similar product with fewer chemicals in it, I’ll be madly in love.

Web: GoodReads.com – My friend Nicole turned me on to this, and I am hooked.  I love to read, but I don’t have time to keep track of what’s on the bestseller list, and I don’t have the mental capacity to remember the names of the books that people recommend to me.  That’s where GoodReads.com comes in – it’s like Facebook for people who read. In addition to creating your own virtual bookshelf sorted by to-read, currently reading, and read (with a 5 star rating system), you can also link up with your friends and see what they have on their shelves as well.  If you have a smartphone, it would be a great resource to pull up at the library or bookstore!

Leave a comment and let me know: What is floating your boat right now?

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Right at this moment, I should be writing about three different articles that I have floating in my head.  Really, there’s nothing to stop me.  It’s 9:10pm and the rest of my family is in bed… asleep…probably. And therein lies the problem.

Before kids I loved commitment.  If anything, I was over committed.  At work, I took on duties that were not part of my job description.  If I thought of something that would help my coworkers or the organization I worked for, I took it on and made sure it got done.  In my free time, I was committed to training for sprint distance triathalons. And of course, I was committed completely and without competition in my love for my husband.

Now, “after” kids, I have a hard time with commitment.   For small-scale commitments, I often find myself paralyzed by my fear of starting a task or project.  The primary basis of this fear is interruption.  I can’t stand to leave something undone. Being the owner of two toddlers means that life is lived in 15 minute segments.  Anything that cannot be accomplished in that amount of time is a dangerous escapade of recklessness, most often resulting in wailing children, teed-off mommy, or both.  Even within these 15 minute segments, I do not have control at least 50% of the time.  I’m outnumbered. They know it.  I know it. They know I know it and they rub it in by alternating who pushes my buttons in each 15 minute time segment.  Tasks that are nearly un-accomplishable during daylight hours include washing dishes (hence my hatred for the task and the name of this blog), mopping floors, folding laundry, talking on the phone, showering, writing, and many more.

Now, certainly I do have occasions where I go an hour or more without being interrupted.  Nap time, evenings, and the theoretically huge but perceptively small four-hour blocks of time when the kids are at parents day out and I am not working.  The problem there is that my fear of interruption has become a bit irrational.  Sure the kids usually sleep from 8pm to 2am.  However, I still hesitate to start writing because someone might wake up, or my brain is not as sharp at the end of a long day as it should be for my best writing to come out, or if I do get a good draft written, how long will it be before I’ll be able to come back to it, and can I keep my train of thought?

My other commitment issues come from that time-honored scape-goat that all mommies are strapped to (willingly or un): guilt.  As I mentioned, before kids I had three large-scale commitments: hubby, work, and hobby.  Now, the kids, in all their innocent, dependent, defenseless glory, have taken that list and smashed it to bits.  I feel guilty about where this lands hubby on the list, but I love him with all my heart, and feel that raising our children well is one of the best gifts I can give him.  Work has nearly disappeared from the list, and the little amount of work I do makes me feel guilty for taking away from family time, although the extra cash helps a little as we’re currently paying two mortgages.  Anything I do that gets anywhere near hobby-ish (including writing and fitness) immediately gets soaked in guilt, what with all the other commitments I am already not satisfying.  On the other hand, I feel that I’ve earned the right to have some time to myself, and that truly, I need that time in order to be the best mom I can be.

So, I am struggling to strike a balance, to ascertain whether I have too many commitments on my list and what should be scribbled out.  I need to reprogram my brain to work without fear of interruption, to utilize my “me” time to the fullest extent, since “me” time is what gets scribbled off the list first. I love my children to bits, but I don’t want to be one of those moms who lose themselves to the process of mothering. I’m curious as to how other moms do it, and how long  it takes to learn this skill.  I’ve been at it three years and counting.   Isn’t there a class I can take?

clothes-lineI love my clothesline.  You know, clothesline?  A string between two poles in your backyard with clips on it?  Your grandmother probably has one.  It’s totally making a comeback.  In fact, I was surprised when the topic came up among the moms on the playground a few weeks ago, and several moms professed their love for outdoor laundering.

Some people imagine that hanging clothes out on a line to dry them is a lot of extra work, as compared to popping them in the dryer.  Personally, my clothesline has saved my lazy butt more than once.  Earlier this week, I was in the laundry room getting shoes for one of the kids when I looked over and noticed there were clothes in the wash machine.  How did those get there?  Well, I put them there, of course! (unless the laundry fairy came to visit…)  When did I put them there?  Good question.  So, I open the wash machine, and of course, the clothes have already been through the wash cycle and things are smelling a little musty in there.  No worries, this was not the first time this has happened.  I took the whole load and hung it out on the line.  A couple hours later – the same amount of time it would have taken me to re-wash them and then dry them in the dryer – my clothes were dry and smelled wonderful, thanks to Mr. Sun.  In addition, I saved water, soap and electricity by not having to wash them again and not running the dryer. (Hello, fellow tree-hugger Mamas!)

Another way the clothesline fosters my laziness – wrinkles.  Clothes that dry out on the line are far less wrinkly than clothes that come out of my dryer.  I hate to iron.  If my favorite shirt is wrinkled, I’ll find something else to wear before I’ll iron it.  Luckily, hubby loves to iron, so I just wait for when he’s around to pull out my wrinkled stuff.  Line-dried clothes are also a bit stiffer than clothes out of the dryer, partially because they miss the chemical bath of the fabric softener.  So, they’re sort of pre-starched when you do need to iron them.

And lazy-saver number three – stains.  I try to spot treat my kids’ daily mishaps, which seem to be primarily food related at this stage in the game, but I often miss stains, or the stains get pre-treated, but just won’t budge.  Bring on Mr. Sun!  My clothesline love affair actually started when my firstborn came home from the hospital and soiled her first cloth diaper.  The Sun can get almost any stain out of cotton-based fabrics, or at least lighten the stain substantially.  Many a tiny t-shirt and sundress have been saved through a 2 or 3 hour stint of hanging in the sun.

My handy-man hubby was nice enough to rig my line up close to my kids’ play area, so it’s easy for me to put clothes on or take clothes off the line while the kiddos are busy climbing, sliding, and swinging.  A load a day is a utilitarian way to make sure that we all get a nice little dose (about 15 minutes) of fresh air and vitamin D rays (sunlight).  Obviously we spend more time than this outside most days, but this gives us a bare minimum, even on those really hot scorchers.

My friend, Liz, has a clothesline too.  She likes to hang her clothes out on the line because she just feels like that’s the way it should be done. “You know, like Little House on the Prairie.”  Liz also pointed out that fewer trips through the over heated, tumbling dryer means your clothes last longer, too.  Another friend, Aimee, says she uses her clothesline mostly for large items like sheets and blankets that are hard to dry in a dryer.  Her line is retractable, so when she’s not using it, it magically disappears into a little holder that hangs off the side of her house, maximizing space in her smaller backyard.

If you don’t have a clothesline, you need one.  If you’re fashion conscious, do it because it preserves your clothes.  If you’re earth conscious, do it because it preserves natural resources and decreases the amount of chemicals you have to use – no stain remover and no fabric softener. If you’re budget conscious, do it because it saves you money (by preserving natural resources and your clothes!).  If you’re a mom, do it for all three of these reasons, plus it gets you and the kiddos out of the house!  And, if you’re like me, you can add laziness to the list of reasons why you need a line in your life.

On the evening of the Senior Awards Banquet, my mom and I sat together in the gymnasium bleachers to watch my cousin Jeremy receive some award, I don’t remember what.  I was a junior, one year younger, and was interested in what types of awards I might be eligible for a year later.  There were pins given for the top grade in each class subject.  After Travis Brawner, a handsome guy who was the star kicker of the football team and a pretty good pole vaulter, received his third or forth pin in home economics, I turned to share my surprise with mom.  She grinned at me and said, “You should marry that boy, Fawn.  He is better at the domestic stuff than you are!”

Flash forward 15 years.  Travis is now an ENT doctor, so he probably spends more time sewing stitches into people than pillows, but he’s also probably still better at the domestic stuff than I am.  I’ve often said that I am a pretty darn good mom, but a really lousy homemaker.  Luckily, I managed to pick out a really awesome husband (the second time around, anyway) who is great at doing a whirlwind housecleaning when the need arises.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a slob, but it’s those every day chores that really get me in a pickle mood.  Repeated loads of laundry and dishes, vacuuming, dusting, mopping, etc…all while being followed closely behind by two toddlers who can undo, unfold, mess up, and spill out faster than I ever imagined.

I like projects.  I like to check things off my list.  I like to see the fruits of my labor.  Being a stay at home mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had, hands down, partially because you don’t get any of that.  I honestly can’t remember if my preconceptions were wrong, or if I just didn’t give it much thought before I decided to stay home.  I do know that I decided to stay home for my kids, not for my house. Either way, I am admittedly one of those moms who often finds herself being smacked in the face repeatedly by the realities of what stay at home motherhood really is.  I still would not change my choice, but if I knew then what I know now. . .well, who knows? Maybe nothing would have changed anyway.

My children, homewreckers that they are, still top the list of my passions, along with afore mentioned hubby.  Right underneath those are projects that help others and make a difference, writing, travel, staying in shape, and learning about new things.  Barring personality-changing head injury or hormone injections, you will likely never see decorating, cooking, shopping, or crafting on my list of priorities. Not to say that I don’t admire those pursuits.  I once was a loyal subscriber to Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I have wonderful friends that are gifted chefs, visionary interior decorators, and enthusiastic shopaholics. But, somewhere along the line, I have become the antithesis of all that.  If you want to offend me, call me a soccer mom or a play date princess.  I don’t fit the stereotype of the stay at home mom, and as I meet more and more stay at home moms, I’m finding that there aren’t many of us who do.

So, that is what this blog is all about.  Sharing what I have learned and what I am learning as I skip, stumble, jump, trip, prance, and plod through this life’s adventure called mother-wife-homemaker-womanhood.  I hope you will take something useful from it, and share your thoughts with me, too!