Ready for Unexpected Visitors?

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Journey to Homemaker

Have you ever had anyone show up at your house unexpectedly, at the worst possible time? Your kids were dirty, screaming and fighting, the dishes were piled in the sink, the floor was filthy, clean (or dirty) clothes were piled up, there were toys strewn everywhere, and you looked a mess...or worse, you weren't dressed yet and it was afternoon already. Sound familiar?

A couple of months ago, our neighbor showed up unexpectedly to introduce herself (and complain about my dog). I was soooo embarrassed, because the house was a mess, the kids were in their pajamas, and although I was dressed, I was a total mess because I hadn't had a shower and had just woken up from a late nap with the kids. I was mortified.

I kept her in the front hall (with the dirty floor) and luckily she couldn't see much of the house. She's the nosy type that not only asks a lot of questions, but also gets in your personal space. And she feels the need to come over and chat every time we're in the back yard, even if only the kids are in the back yard (really, coralled on the back porch, with me watching closely while I clean the kitchen). So I was really worried what she might be thinking. And of course, you never know if someone is the type to call Social Services on you just because she doesn't agree with the way you bring up your kids. I've heard stories that would curl your toes! My mother-in-law had CPS called on her by a neighbor because her kids were skinny. Those kids were eating the poor woman out of house and home...they were just skinny kids!

You'd think I'd have shaped up after that experience, but I didn't. Not much at least. There were other times I almost got caught in my nightgown, with a messy house, etc. Last week, my son fell over in his booster chair, slammed his cheek on the floor and bit his tongue really deep. I had to take him to the doctor. My neighbor had to come over to watch the kids. Thank God that the house was reasonably tidy, and we were all dressed and clean. That could have been really bad--neighbors left alone to see a messy house up close!

Not to mention if it had been a different type of injury and the neighbor or an overly zealous doctor had called CPS on us, I could have arrived home to a social worker wanting to inspect our house. (Which will never happen, I'm educated on that topic, and know my rights and the steps to take if ever they show up--go to www.hslda.org for more info, and if you homeschool or are thinking about it, JOIN THEM they will help in these situations!)

If you are struggling with your household duties, as I am, make it your first priority to have you and your family members clean and neatly dressed--nothing fancy, just clean and in decent clothes. Your next priority should be having a reasonably tidy house...particularly the areas of the home visible from the main door, and also the pathway to the main bath, should someone drop by and end up needing to use it. If at least this much is done, you will be much better off for it.

It is also a good idea to have a plan in case of emergencies. If you suddenly become very ill, go into labor, etc., who will be able to get there right away to watch your children if you have to go in an ambulance? How will they know what to do if there's no time to tell them? Here is where a home management binder can come in very handy. You should have emergency numbers in it, and posted on the fridge as well. All your main medical info and insurance info should be in it, as well as your master schedule.

It may even be a good idea to have a separate babysitter binder as well, in case you need to take yours with you. It can have emergency numbers, rules for the children, instructions for the sitter, a master schedule for the children, a list of allergies and medical conditions for the children, the locations of necessary items (diapers, bedrooms, clothing, cleaning supplies in case of a huge mess, extra bed linens in case of accidents, etc.), meal suggestions and preferences for the children, and other necessary info.

It is also a good idea to include contact info for other sitters or relatives that can cover if your sitter has an emergency. For my last child's birth, my sitter's husband had to go to the emergency room just as I was going into surgery for my c-section, and the hospital I was in was an hour away. My sitter had to wait til we got out of the recovery room before we got the message, and then my husband had to leave me and drive an hour home before she could go to her husband in the hospital. There was no room in her car for our kids, and she'd have needed three car seats anyway, which she didn't have. If we'd had back-up sitters lined up, that situation wouldn't have been a problem.

If you have a babysitter binder that you keep near the phone along with a local phone book, the babysitter will have everything they need to care for your children. I already have a babysitter's guide with most of the necessary info, and plan to add other info from my home management binder. That way I can keep personal info in my binder, and take it with me or put it away so the sitter doesn't need to see it...she'll have her own sitter binder to use instead.

I think I finally learned my lesson when my son was hurt. I was very thankful that we were dressed and ready to go, because the doctor's office was already closing and they said they could only wait fifteen minutes for us. If he and I had to get ready, there wouldn't have been enough time, we couldn't have gone in. And the injury really wasn't serious enough for an emergency room visit. Who wants to pay five hundred dollars and wait three hours to be told "he'll be fine, just give him ice cream and pudding for the next 24 hours." Yikes! So being "ready for anything" came in handy. Well, ALMOST ready for anything...we never did find his sneakers. I had to carry him into the doctor's office, lol. I'm glad he's only four!! :-)

Lovely Aprons and Pretty Dresses

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Journey to Homemaker

Aprons are making a big comeback nowadays. At least they are in homemaking circles. Most Christian homemaking blogs contain a post or two about them, particularly if the blog owners believe in modest dress. There is something about how you feel in an apron. It is the homemaker's "uniform". When you put it on, you feel as if you have truly begun your day.

I often feel more productive when I am dressed, my hair done, and wearing socks and shoes (I am a lover of slippers). But when I don that old-time wardrobe necessity, that's when I feel truly ready to work. The aprons I have now are simple, modern, solid-colored aprons with logos on the front. Only one is long and has pockets. As a plus-size woman, most aprons don't give me the coverage I desire.

A lot of homemakers like the cute half-aprons of the fifties, the kind meant to use while serving your dinner party guests. But for me, those are kind of pointless, because when I spill stuff, it's down the front of me, not on my lap. There are many styles out there, the no-tie type often seen in Jane Austen movies being a popular one. The type I like is one I would consider more of a pioneer style--feminine but not frilly, flowing and very practical...giving me the full coverage I need. These are hard to come by, but I found a pattern for them online here: www.candleonthehill.net/store/catalog.php?item=40&catid=12&ret=catalog.php.%3Fcategory%3D12

I plan to get the pattern at some point, but I may for now try to just wing it. I know, I know...I don't know how to sew. LOL. But I found a free pattern online that tells you how to make a similar apron for a child. I just have to figure out how to make the back of it, since I think it is different. I have some nice blue toile I plan to use, and then make one for my older daughter to wear. That style with that particular print should make a really lovely apron. If I ever get the time!

Lately I've been wearing my nicer dresses around the house. I always avoided that, for comfort and also to keep them nice. But how many "church" dresses can you have? Plus they are mostly prints, so stains won't show as much as they do on my solid-colored casual tops. And most of them are actually pretty comfortable, and really aren't all that dressy. I twist my hair up and clip it, then blow dry my bangs and curl tendrils over my ears. It's quick and easy, and I look pretty good.

Now I need some comfy shoes for the house. I feel silly in a dress and sneakers. Those go better with my denim skirts. I have some nice sandals I wore all last summer. Very comfy, and I don't have to search for matching socks. I'd never worn sandals before because I thought I had ugly feet. But I did my toenails (and plucked hairs from my big toes--I know, too much information, lol) and moisturized my feet, and they looked pretty good. I actually felt prettier.

Wednesday I was on the back deck with the children, sweeping up the sand from their sandbox. I actually wasn't worried about people seeing me, because I had on a nice dress, an apron, had my hair done, and was peacefully sweeping the deck. As a mother of a "large" family (small compared to most people at my church) I often feel like the "poster child" for moms of large families. You feel uncomfortable if you and your children look like slobs, and you're screaming at them as they run wild. Really, it's the moms of one kid who should feel like that if they look that way, they don't have as much of an excuse, lol! But since you're a spectacle if you have more than two kids (especially as young as all mine are) you don't want to be any more of a spectacle than you have to!! So looking nicer is definitely a good thing!

Diving into the Dining Room

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Journey to Homemaker

Boy, I could swear I blogged yesterday. Guess not! Well, I was pretty busy! I really hated the way the dining room (really a dining area) was looking, full of junk it had accumulated. So I dragged everything into the living room. I just bought a table to use temporarily til I can find a cheap dining room table. It's one of those heavy duty long plastic tables with the folding metal legs. This particular table also folds in half and has a carrying handle. But it's narrower than I want, and not heavy enough...the kids have pushing matches with the table! So I plan to return it. But since it folds in half, it was easy to get out of the room, which was nice.

I swept the floor, dry-swiffered it, wet-swiffered it, and mopped it twice. Looks pretty good, the best it's looked since we moved here. I vacuumed out the chairs with the booster chairs on them, and put them back. (I was glad to find those heavier wooden chairs, because my son had tipped over in the folding chair with the booster on it, and bit his tongue BAD.) Then I moved one of the free dressers I got into the dining room. It's chipped and really old, but it will do for now. There's another set of two low dressers I plan to repaint and move in there, but I haven't picked them up yet. So for now this old tall white one will hold my table linens and some of the baby's pajamas, for quick changes.

On that dresser I put a Battenburg lace runner, a picture of my baby, and a bud vase with a few carnations in it. Just adding those touches distracts from the ugliness of the dresser.

Fresh flowers make an amazing difference in the house! My husband recently brought home a bouquet of wildflowers, which I've decided I like much better than roses. I love roses that smell nice, but most store roses don't anymore, and don't last long at all. The wildflower bunches always last a long time, and then you can get rid of the flowers that are wilted and still have a few good looking ones. Alstromeria (sp?) are so pretty, and last a long time. We can get those flowers for about $5 a bunch. I've decided that as long as we're not broke, I'm going to buy a bunch every two weeks, and have one vase on the table, and take a few buds and put them in bud vases around the house.

On the dining room table I put a red jaquard tablecloth and a round, white linen doily (it MUST be linen, I just couldn't get it pressed well) with crocheted lace trim, and a glass vase of flowers on top. Looks pretty good for a plastic table with mismatched chairs!

My husband really liked what I had done. Unfortunatley, I was up so late, I ended up with a big mess to put away, from all the junk I'd left in the living room! :-( But the living room is almost picked up, and after that I plan to start on the kitchen. The counters are a mess, and there's unpacked boxes of kitchen junk stuffed in a bunch of cabinets...and some unused cabinets! Time to tackle that. The dining room isn't perfect still--didn't dust the trim or the ceiling fan, etc. But with the kitchen and other rooms so messy, they take priority over deep cleaning.

It makes me feel better getting stuff accomplished, and I'm so happy to sit and stare at my clean dining room! :-D

A "Tidy" Attitude

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Journey to Homemaker

I've discovered lately that there is a big connection between the condition of my home and my emotional state. When I keep up with the housework and everything looks at least a little tidy, I am calmer and happier. The better the house looks, the better I feel. If I let the house get cluttered during one afternoon and don't clean it up, my mood deteriorates quickly. By the next morning I'm in a terrible state. I let too many small things get to me, and it can get to the point that I break down and cry, or get depressed and shut myself up in the computer room.

For the first time in a very long time, for the last week or two, I have kept the house tidy more often than messy. It has really improved my emotional state and attitude so much that even my husband noticed.

One thing I have done to make a difference is not let myself say "I'll do it later." Instead I tell myself "I'll just put a few things away now." I either end up doing it all, because the hardest part is getting started, or I do a little bit whenever I pass through the room, and it gets done over a short time. When the kids are eating lunch, instead of sitting and relaxing, I clean the kitchen and organize some things, a little at a time. That does the most for keeping up with the kitchen...which is always the messiest room.

The hardest thing is to keep up with it. If I get busy and the kitchen gets messy all of a sudden, I am at risk of letting the whole house get sucked into a vortex of chaos. Flylady often talks about "hotspots". In my case this is so true. My big hotspot is the penninsula counter in the kitchen. If I let a mess "flame up" there, next thing I know the whole living/dining/kitchen area is one big inferno of chaos! With four small children, it doesn't take long for a mess to crop up, particularly with all the meals I need to make them.

A lot of the homemaking blogs I visit talk about how it takes 21 days to form a habit. Unfortunately I never seem to be able to maintain a new routine for more than four days. But I'm improving, at least!

Kitchen Organization on a Budget

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When I organized some of my kitchen drawers, I didn't have the money to buy neat organizing thingies. So I came up with cheap imitations. I used a tall round tin I found at a yard sale with a victorian picture on it, as a container for long-handled cooking utensils, and placed it next to the stove. For the drawer with other cooking utensils, I cut the bottom off some cereal boxes and some soda cases (the long type of box that you can keep in the fridge). The sides were about an inch and a half tall. I put long utensils in one, measuring spoons in another. There is another small box I use for smaller miscellaneous items.

Boxes are great to use in the kitchen, because no one really sees what's in your drawers and cabinets, and if they do, they'll probably marvel at your ingenuity and organizational skills. You can replace them at a later date with wicker baskets or plastic dividers if you want.

To organize some items in my baking cabinet, I'm using plastic jars that my cous cous and peanuts come in. They are sort of square shaped with round lids. I'm using them for brown sugar and shredded coconut so far. I buy this cous cous a lot, so it won't take long to accumulate a lot of them...if I can keep my husband from throwing them away!

I re-organized my tupperware cabinet. My loving husband put it all in a jumble up on the top shelf, which I can NOT reach. So I stacked and organized them, and put the kids' sippy cups on the bottom shelf, so it's all in a place that makes sense.

If you buy the cheap gallon tubs of ice cream at the store, you can save the tubs for keeping cleaning supplies in.

Budget Decorating

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I've been making some progress at home. I've organized some drawers, and have turned my attention to some decorating. I really should do more decluttering and organizing first, but I wanted to make the house look nicer too.

We moved here just last fall, and had gotten rid of a lot of the furniture we had (which wasn't much) thinking we'd buy new. Well, the money hasn't been available, meanwhile we're sleeping on mattresses on the floor, eating sitting on the couch, and stacking our clothes in the closets with no drawers to use.

Now that I've accumulated some furniture (see previous post) I have some great plans. I plan to paint all the furniture a nice sage green. Someone from Freecycle is giving me two low, wide dressers, which I plan to also paint green, and paint the knobs white with a spray of flowers on each. Then I'll put them in the dining area, to use for arts and crafts supplies, homeschooling supplies, and kitchen/dining room linens. I have some pieces of wood in the basement that will make great wood shelves. I'll paint them green also and buy some white brackets to put them up, two on each side of the dining area's window. I have a Battenburg lace valance that I'll put over the windows, and I'll buy some matching lace trim to trim the edges of the shelves. Then I'll put some pictures, small religious statues, and small baskets on the shelves.

For the table I'll try to find a nice table cloth, and keep some fresh flowers in a vase. When I get a table, that is! The table and chairs will be green also (cheaper to just get a whole gallon of the green paint for everything).

I'm not sure what to do with the dressers. The kids' clothes are in plastic drawers, stacked in the laundry room. There's no room for both dressers in there because of the clothes rack. I'll probably use one up in our bedroom. Maybe I'll keep the other one in the upstairs hall closet. It's big, like a bedroom closet, and I can keep the kids' bedding in there, and maybe winter coats. We have tons of closet space here.

The bookcase I will put in the computer room. I have many baskets that I am utilizing as decoration and storage througout the house, primarily in the living area.

The other day I took my yard sale and thrift store doilies and pictures and redecorated the living room. I have a set of shelves with religious statues that had become cluttered with Christmas candles, our Nativity set, children's books, etc. I cleaned it off, dusted it (first time ever...seriously, I'm a bad housekeeper, I never dust) redid the decorations. I took some of the smaller picture frames and replaced the tacky pictures with pictures I printed off the computer of my kids. Sad to say, the only picture I had on my walls our whole marriage was one Walmart portrait of my first son when he was a newborn. So for the first time ever, there are now framed pictures, one of each child, in our living room. The top shelf of the unit has a large round doily with the lace draped over the edge, and two tall statues of saints. The next shelf has two smaller statues, a doily with pink flowers embroidered on it, and a small picture of my newborn daughter. The next shelf has a Battenburg lace runner on it, a very small religious statue, and a picture of my almost-two-year-old son. The bottom shelf has a round basket with books for my children. If I ever figure out how to post pictures on my blog, I'll post a picture of the shelves. It was a big improvement.

I also put up a matted framed picture with the Footprints poem on it, and another with a poem about marriage. I added two picture frames with pictures of my oldest son and daughter, next to the larger picture of my first son as a newborn, creating a grouping of pictures, which looks much better than a single lonely picture.

I found an old cheapo plastic wall clock that was in bad shape, banged up from the move. I took off the plastic face, and decided it was to scratched to be saved. The white cardboard face was warped from moisture damage, and stained as well. I printed off a piece of paper with a light green scrollwork background, then fed it back into the printer and printed off a clock face from the internet, and put it into the clock. I used double sided tape to keep the face in place, and put the clock on the wall in the corner behind the tv, so no one will get too close to see my cheap fix. ;-)

I need to do something with the curtains. I had bought some tan fabric that has a suede look to it, and hung it from tension rods and rings with clips on them. But in the sun, the fabric looks terrible, like a seventies gold! I may use it instead to reupholster our ugly stained cream colored couch. I'm thinking white Battenburg lace curtains, or something similar.

With our budget of...well, next to nothing...I'm trying to be creative. I'm using and re-purposing things that I'm finding as we (still) unpack. I've found some fabric that I may use to make bedding for my daughter, who just got a toddler bed. I also have some toile in a blue print that is soooo cute, and may make an apron out of. If it works out, I'll make a matching one for my daughter.

Now if I can just find a table!!!!

Happenings, and bargains

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Journey to Homemaker

The diet isn't going so well...we're tight on money, so I really can't afford to have some of the more expensive foods I need. But I'm trying to watch what I eat. I'm holding at about 243, so that's not too bad.

My husband isn't applying for that job transfer. His bosses said he's not really ready for the next step up yet. We're pretty frustrated though. He liked that job a lot, but then they transferred him to a different building to help them make improvements in that building, and his new boss has a major attitude. Plus they told him he'd be switched to first shift, which we really want, and now they're hinting that it's not going to happen. Plus they didn't give him as big a raise as they'd promised. So he's not feeling very appreciated. All that, plus they raised the insurance rates for the employees' families in order to offer benefits to gay employees' "partners". It's all making him feel like looking for a new job. He'll probably start looking in two months, when his contract is up and he's free to leave. It's too bad, things were going really great there for a while.

I've been taking Zoloft for about six months now for stress and depression, and since the baby was born, I've been feeling better. Probably getting my hormones more balanced, plus the beneficial hormones from breastfeeding. So I've been cutting back on the medication. I'm only taking 2/3 of a dose everyday. I'm doing okay on it, but had a bad couple of days. The hardest thing is weaning myself off it when it's a "good time"...which, as a mom of four, there's never really a "good" time, lol. So when I have a day when a lot of small things go wrong, I start to lose it. I stop cleaning, don't spend as much time with the kids, they get cranky, and it all goes downhill. I'm trying to stay motivated by reading some of my favorite homemaking blogs for inspiration, and that helps.

This past weekend I scored big time at a yard sale. I got a ton of stuff for $24--five wood chairs, two dressers, a bookcase, a sewing basket, and some nicely matted poems in picture frames. The furniture is older and needs to be repainted, but totally worth the money. I hesitated on the ten dollar table, and someone scooped it up! Grrr. Oh well, it was too small, really. I also picked up some matted picture frames and some nice doilies and battenburg lace table runners at the thrift store. Good bargain weekend overall. Now I just need a table!

Master Bedroom Cleaning Spree

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Journey to Homemaker

I've recently been reading some great blogs. One is www.the-sparrows-nest.com. She's new, but her blog is so interesting and inspiring. Also www.xanga.com/MrsCatherine. She has a magazine and a yahoo group, too. Her house is soooo nice. She has been posting a lot lately on organization, decluttering, and cleaning. She talks about doing one drawer of decluttering at a time. I haven't been able to do that lately, but I got a lot done yesterday, including a few drawers, one at a time.

Yesterday, my husband was off work, so he watched the children for me so I could FINALLY get some work done. Lately the baby wants to nurse all the time when she's awake, and when she's asleep I am feeding, changing and caring for the other children. I can barely keep the house tidy. So I folded four loads of laundry and put it away (wow, what a concept!), refolded and put away the piles of folded clean laundry all over it for the last two months (I'm not kidding, it was since before the baby was born), changed the sheets on the master bed (it's been way too long), vacuumed (even longer), emptied the overflowing trash can (told you I'm a bad housekeeper), and actually MADE the bed! My husband was thrilled. We don't have any furniture in our bedroom right now except for my nightstand--unless you count a mattress on the floor and my husband's cardboard box "nightstand"--so keeping the room clean is really important.

I also organized five kitchen kitchen drawers. They look really great! I can actually find stuff. Oh, and the dishwasher is fixed, so there's actual CLEAN DISHES in the cabinets!!! Wooo hooo! I hate doing dishes, and it takes a long time by hand, so with all the kids I usually don't get to it often enough, so my wonderful husband does them for me. But he only does them every few days, so you can imagine the mess and hassle in my kitchen, never having a spoon clean when you need it. My fault, not his. My clean drawers make me so happy, I plan on doing a few more, plus some bathroom drawers in the next few days.

If I can just get on top of the laundry and the kitchen, it will make my life so easy. My husband is thinking of applying for an in-company transfer and promotion to a job in another state, so I really want to unpack now, for the first time in our almost five year marriage. If he gets it, it would be the first professional move we've had, so I want everything unpacked and organized, so it can be easily unpacked and arranged if we move. Plus, it would be nice to look for something and know where to find it! :-)

Joining Weight Watchers

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Journey to Homemaker

I've been struggling with my weight fluctuating between 246 and 249. Well, not struggling much...I've gotten lax about my eating habits because I've been really hungry and I still lost no matter what I ate. Now the weight loss has leveled off, and I'm still really hungry, which I often am when I'm breastfeeding. So I've decided to join Weight Watchers.

I've heard really good things about it, and it seems like I often hear online and on tv weight loss shows about people who lost 100 pounds or more on WW. They have two plans, Flex and Core. On Flex, foods have a point value, and you're allowed a certain amount of points each day to use, plus an extra 35 points per week as a buffer. You can eat what you want. On Core, you can eat all you want, but only from a certain list of foods. At first Core sounded good to me, but then I found out all the dairy had to be fat free. I hate fat free dairy! So I think I'm going to do Flex. I get a lot of extra points for breastfeeding. I'll still have to probably use low-fat dairy in order not to use up all my points, but that's better than fat free. Yuck!

The meetings seem to be really short, in my opinion. If I'm paying twelve bucks, I think I should get more than a half hour. But I really need the accountability. Plus, I don't think I have enough of an idea of the calorie and fat amounts in certain foods. I blew a ton of points the first day on mayo! Right now I'm using a lot of the Smart Ones Weight Watchers frozen entrees, desserts, cereal, etc. It's expensive and not natural food, but for now it helps me stay on track til I get used to the program. I've done much better today. I probably actually didn't use up enough points. You're supposed to use them up.

Hopefully this will help me lose the weight. I feel I can't truly be a good wife and mother if I'm too lethargic to do housework, too tired and fat to play with my kids, too big to look sexy for my husband, and so unhealthy that I cost the family a lot in healthcare and risk dying on them. I owe it to them to get healthy. Plus I don't want my kids following in my footsteps. Being heavy makes life hard in so many ways, and I don't want that for them.

Guess we'll see what happens when I weigh in next week!