Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to Keep a Clean House in 5 Easy Steps

How to Keep a Clean House in 5 Easy Steps 


If you didn't snort at that title, 
then please read it again. 

There is NOTHING easy about keeping a house clean. 
NOTHING. 





Everyone has their own method of doing it 
(or, alternatively, not doing it). 
So herein I'm sharing the ways that I keep my house clean. 

But before I dive in, 
I want to acknowledge that keeping a clean house 
requires some ratio of money and effort. 

The more money you have, the less physical effort needed.
The less money you have, the more physical effort needed.

I'm sure Oprah never spends a second tidying up her house. 
As for the rest of us, 
it's going to require a larger degree of actual work
although that can vary with both children and hired help (again, money). 


Step 1: Own Less Shit 

We are a ridiculously materialistic society.
When I gave my house tour
I had a little rant about how 95% of the houses in our neighborhood, 
having so much shit in their garage that they can't park both cars. 
AND these are all houses with full-size basements, 
which I'm sure are also crammed with shit. 

It's simple: 
The less shit owned, 
the less to clean up. 

You can be the most organized, 
storage-solution-friendly person possible
hell you can be the Poster Child for the Container Store
but in the end: 
the more shit owned = the more shit to put away. 


Step 2: Get the Mail Under Control 
(and other paperwork) 

When I walk into the vast majority of homes
the first thing I spot is piles of mail. 
Weekly ads, junk mail, magazines, catalogs, etc. 
And school-age children bring home their own piles of paper. 

Next to laundry piles, 
paper piles are the greatest eye sore in a house. 

My method: I go through the mail IMMEDIATELY. 
This means walking in from the mailbox, 
hovering over the recycle bin
and immediately ripping junk mail right in. 

If something needs follow-up 
(coupons, bills, paperwork, etc), 
it goes upstairs to our office. 

If I want to pursue a catalog or magazine later, 
it goes in my nightstand. 

Within 45 seconds of bringing the mail in the door, 
the mail is no longer visible. 

Don't have time to go through the mail? 
Then I leave the mail in the mailbox until tomorrow. 
Or the next day. 
Our mailman may hate us, 
but I give him a sizable gift at the holidays 
to thank him for all his Tetris efforts. 


Step 3: Find a Laundry System 

I am often exasperated at the MASS AMOUNT OF LAUNDRY
 that can be generated by my family of four. 
Like how is this even possible? 
Do we change our outfits 3 times a day? 
What in the world is going on? 
(These remain unanswered questions)

My current system works prettty well at keeping the piles at bay. 
I have two reoccurring laundry reminders on my phone: 

Cold-Water Laundry (darks, jeans, etc) every other day. 
Warm-Water Laundry (whites, underwear, etc) every 4th day. 

On those intervals, I do exactly one load of laundry. 
One load is bearable to wash, dry, fold, and put-away in 12 hours. 
It's not overwhelming and it doesn't suck up too much time in my day. 


Step 4: Daily Clean-up

Every single day
I pick up every inch of our house. 
Every piece of paper gets put away. 
Every dish washed. 
Basement piles get carried down and put away. 
Toys dug out from under the couch. 
Blankets folded. 
Haul the dirty socks from the mudroom to the laundry basket upstairs. 
Hang up Adam's jacket after work (cue eye roll).
 Every. Single. Thing. 

The idea is that at one time every day, 
my house should look like an HGTV reveal. 

I split this time into two. 
I do the first floor/basement after kids go to bed, 
but do the upstairs in the morning after my shower. 
Very infrequently, I do this pickup during nap, 
because the kids destroy it so quickly afterwards. 

If this is done every single day without fail, 
it becomes a pretty quick process. 
I tend to skip this on Saturdays
but then I spend even MORE time on Sunday 
than if I'd just done it Saturday. 

Skipping one day is dangerous. 
Skipping two days is catastrophic. 
Skipping three days I might as well just burn the house down and start over. 


Step 5: Hire a Cleaning Service
(Yes, this is where the money part comes in.) 

There was a time I thought: 
"Oh, if I just had a bi-weekly cleaning service, 
my house would be clean all the time.
WRONG. 
I have at least a dozen relatives and friends 
who have a bi-weekly cleaning service, 
yet their house is a disaster
Oh the pictures I could post 
(except someone would find them and murder me). 
A cleaning service in no way guarantees a clean home. 

However... 
a cleaning service can help 
by freeing up time to do other house-tidying. 

We have a cleaning lady 
(she prefers the term "Domestic Goddess") 
who has cleaned for us since Aaron was born. 

Because she spends her time cleaning, 
I can spend my time picking up. 
I can spend more time tackling home organization
because I don't have to worry about taking time to do the toilets. 

And just to be clear (again),
 I am fully aware that most homes cannot afford a cleaning lady. 
Hence the ratio of money and physical effort: 
for those without money for a cleaning lady, 
it's going to take a higher level of physical effort. 



Aaron at the same age as Oliver now, 
sweeping the floors in our old townhome


And that my friends, are my 5 "Easy Steps" (har har) for keeping a clean house. 
What tips/tricks can you share?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Aaron is 5

As of today, Aaron is 5 years old. 


Aaron is such a joy. 
He is a well-behaved kid who follows rules 
and wants to stay in good standing with those around him. 
At the same time, he's also goofy, energetic, and a little crazy. 

He is most definitely an Extrovert
and I suspect very much a Feeler too. 

If I could sum him up in two words, it would be: 
Inquisitive and Imaginative

This child is just bursting with curiosity
about everything he comes in contact with. 
And his imagination, wow.  
I know most children are imaginative at this age 
and it's hard to tell how much is him versus the age. 
We do get comments from people about his stories, 
these elaborate stories he makes up, 
and so we've gathered that his imaginative stories are unique to him. 


Adam took him shopping one weekend morning to get a baseball helmet
 (we are starting little league and I despise baseball so please pray for me)
I sent a text asking how it was going. 
Adam replied:
 "So many questions.  So many stories.

Yup. 



***

Aaron's obsession with Monkey has not diminished. 
Anything he learns about, 
he tells me how he and Monkey relate to it. 
He and Monkey have a whole world together, 
a whole separate life that lives in his mind. 

(Random, out-of-the-blue question)
Aaron: "How do birds get sick?" 
Me: "Well, they could get sick on trash that people don't throw away.  
Or sometimes people spray plants with pesticides to keep away bugs, 
but it also makes the birds sick." 
Aaron: "Monkey and I spray our plants to keep away bugs, 
but we use a special spray that doesn't make the birds sick." 


One time we were talking about house fires 
(as I was explaining my recent smoke detector purchases): 

Aaron: "If the house catches on fire, 
I will bring out all of our stuff so it doesn't get burned." 
Me: "No no no. If the house is on fire, you get out right away." 
Aaron: "But what about all our stuff?" 
Me: "We can always buy more stuff,
 but we can't buy another you or another Oliver." 
Aaron: "What would happen to our stuff?" 
Me: "It would burn up in the fire. And then we would get more." 
Silence. 
Aaron BURSTS INTO SOBBING TEARS: 
"But I don't want to leave Monkey behind! 
 I don't want Monkey to burn in the fire!!!!!" 

Monkey on his lap as he reads to Oliver

***

Aaron also LOVES to travel.
He's always asking when we are going back to the lake. 
And when we can go to Florida again. 

Aaron: "Why do Mom Mom and Pop Pop live in Florida all winter?" 
Me: "Because Pop Pop is retired so they can stay there." 
Aaron: "'But Mommy, you are retired!  So we can go live there!" 
Me: "Yes but Daddy isn't retired. 
And Daddy needs to stay up here to work. 
And if we go to Florida, we won't see Daddy all winter long." 
Aaron BIG SIGH: "Ok." 




***

He loves to talk about our schedule. 
Everyday he looks at the calendar and asks: "Where are we?" 
And then we discuss all the plans and events that are coming up. 
We have discussed his birthday schedule for weeks. 

Aaron's Requested Birthday Schedule: 

Waffles and pancakes for breakfast 
Mommy & Aaron trip to LegoLand Discovery Center 
(Grandma watches Oliver at home) 
Lunch at Chick-Fil-A 
Dinner is dino nuggets with mac&cheese* 

*I chuckle that while many kids subside on nuggets and mac&cheese,
 we don't keep either in our house, so he requested it for his birthday dinner. 

Saturday is his big birthday party at the local community center, 
which has an impressive indoor pool, slide, and kids area. 


*** 

Aaron is still very much a mama's boy. 
Although as of this week, he started requesting daddy put him to bed, 
which is a surprising turn of events. 

Every morning, though, at 6:30 when his light turns green, 
he bounds into our room and snuggles up right next to be in bed. 
Adam always tries to coax him over to his side, 
and he replies: 
"But Mommy has the BEST SNUGGLES." 
Damn straight, kid. 

One very rare Sunday afternoon, I took a nap on the couch. 
Aaron stayed curled up to me the whole time, 
never leaving my side. 




*** 

I'm pulling Aaron out of preschool for the summer, 
and we will spend every day together. 
A last "hurrah" before kindergarten. 
(Let the record show that I may regret this.)

And believe it or not, I'm excited for Aaron to go to kindergarten in the fall. 
I'm sure I'll still cry like the other parents, 
but truly I'm excited. 

He's going to LOVE KINDERGARTEN. 

***

I'm sure every parent says this about their child, 
but it's impossible to sum up him up in a post. 
These are just a smidgen of his delights.  




*Updated April 13th*

STATS! 

There are some people who love stats (Allena!)
and I may as well write it down somewhere so I can reference in the future. 

Height: 46" 
Weight: 52 lbs 

The doctor made the hilarious comment that 
Aaron's BMI (17.6) would be labeled as overweight. 
But as anyone can see, Aaron is not. 
The doctor pointed out that Aaron is extremely muscular for his age. 
He is lean but STACKED with muscle 
which gives him a much heavier weight than most kids. 

Where does this come from? 
Neither Adam nor I are muscular people. 
The kid eats extremely well-balanced meals (better than most adults) 
and is extremely active (again, moreso than most adults). 
Because of his love for food, 
I emphasize every day the importance of balanced healthy eating. 
And he is overly aware of what is healthy vs not. 
He will ask every meal what is healthiest on his plate, 
and how that compares to other healthy items. 
LOVE HIM! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

This or That

Got this from Natasha
I actually filled it out in the airport on our way to Florida, ha. 


Cake or cookies

Absolutely cookies! 
Oreos, chocolate chip, monster, sugar... 
give me them all (except gingerbread). 

I do like cake,
 but many cakes tend to be dry and the icing too sugary.
 Cookies are generally perfect
 (unless you burn them, of course) 


Call or text?

 Text 100%. 
The main person I call is Adam
so we can talk [uninterrupted] while he drives to work. 
Occasionally I’ll call my mom because she gets confused by text. 
Everyone else in my life, text. 


Coke or Pepsi?

I laugh at Natasha's passion for this, 
because it truly is a hard one for me. 
I drink cola soda maybe once a year at most.  
Growing up I preferred the sweetness of Pepsi over the bitterness of Coke,
 but now it doesn’t bother me. 
So, I really don’t know. 
Although, I think there’s only one correct answer here: 
Mountain Dew. 
Hehe.
 (Again, only drank about once a month at most) 


Dogs or cats?  

Neither.
 I’m a no-pets person.
 I think generally I would take cats 
because they are less likely to scare me as a runner. 
They also don’t bark and jump up on you when you visit someone’s else.
 And I think they generally smell a little less than dogs
 (not by much though) 
although the smell may be offset by the shedding so... 
yeah, I'll stick with neither. 


Eggs or pancakes

PANCAKES. 
I grew up with Saturday morning pancakes homemade by my dad 
and they will always been a special weekend breakfast treat.

 Eggs on the other hand, repulse me. 
The smell, the texture, the taste... GAG GAG GAG. 
I’m not a stickler about Adam doing dishes unless he makes eggs
 and then he had to wash every pan and utensil because I can’t be near the smell. 


Facebook or Twitter?  

Meh, I guess facebook. 
I check my twitter account maybe once every few months. 
I check Facebook once a week. 
I used to be all about Facebook but now it just annoys me.  


Instagram or Pinterest? 

INSTAGRAM! 
While I use Pinterest as a bulletin board to store ideas, 
I am on IG all day. 
It is easily my favorite 
and I'm trying to move everyone I know off facebook and onto IG. 

One of my recent IG photos, 
Oliver buried in the sand in Florida: 



Marvel or DC

DC. 
I like DC better than Marvel purely because of the Christian Bale Batman movies 
and the new Wonder Woman. 
But I’d like to add a third category here: X-Men. 
Also owned by the same company as DC and Marvel, I love X-Men. 
I love how developed their female characters are, 
as opposed to the other two. 
DC redeemed itself slightly with Wonder Woman
 but Marvel is a disgrace to women.
 Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a sad after-thought whose only purpose is boobs. 


Paperback or e-book

Paperback all the way. 
I can’t get into e-book. 
I tried with Adam’s kindle but it’s not the same for me. 
I love the feel of a book. 


Summer or winter? 

Winter for running; I’ll run in -3 F over 95 F + humidity anyday. 
For everyday life though? 
Probably summer. 


Sweet or spicy? 

Sweet. 
While I continue to expand my palate the older I get, 
I still am very much a wimp when it comes to spice. 


Tattoos or piercings? 

Tattoos. 
While I have neither, I would not be opposed to a tattoo
 (and if I ever run a marathon, I plan to get a tattoo along my foot) 
but have zero interest in piercings. 


Tea or coffee

Tea. 
I enjoy the smell of coffee but the taste is too bitter. 


Yoga pants or jeans

Jeans. 
I feel so much more presentable in jeans. 
Yoga pants, while great for cuddling, make me feel like I’ve given up on life. 


Zoo or aquarium

Both.
I love both so much. 
We have memberships to both Philly Zoos (the big one and small one) 
and always love our time there. 
We have been to the Camden Aquarium a handful of times and equally love it. 
I think my only preference of zoo over aquarium is that it’s easier to spread out crowds in an open zoo than in a contained aquarium building. 






Thursday, March 15, 2018

Routine - Spring 2018

With the pending changes next fall, 
(kindergarten for Aaron, preschool for Oliver) 
I'm taking a moment to document our daily routine. 

The last time I documented was Fall 2016, 
where Oliver was still napping in his swing 
and Adam was still working Big Law Firm Hours

*** 

6:00-7:00am: Wake-up 

Oliver starts making noise at 6, 
and Adam usually gets him around 6:15ish, 
when he hangs out in bed with us. 
Aaron bounds into our room when his clock turns green at 6:30. 
Then Adam goes to shower, 
Aaron gets dressed, 
and Oliver hangs with me. 

7:00-8:00: Breakfast, TV, and Running 

Adam gives the boys breakfast. 
This is when I go running (about 3-3.5 miles) 
or if I'm not running, 
I'll try to get as much done in that short time period as I can before Adam leaves. 

They all eat cereal together, 
then Aaron and Oliver watch 1 PBS Kids show (25 minutes)
(Examples: Daniel Tiger, Cat in the Hat, Bob the Builder*, etc). 

*Adam, as in my husband, (not a typo) LOVES Bob the Builder. 
It's kind of weird. 


8-12: MWTh: Aaron is at preschool. 
Adam drops him off and I pick him up. 


8:00am-9:00ish: Get Ready & Upstairs Pickup

Oliver plays in his crib, 
while I shower and do my makeup. 

If Aaron is home, he entertains himself wherever. 
Sometimes his art center or he plays in his room. 

After I'm ready, I use this time to pick up the upstairs. 
The downstairs is picked up every night, 
and then I pick up the upstairs every morning. 
I've written before about being a clean freak
And that means that I usually won't go downstairs in the morning 
until every upstairs room in my house is ready for it's HGTV shoot (eye roll). 


9:00: Snack-time 

I ALWAYS make sure my kids have eaten before we leave the house. 
I very rarely pack snacks for on-the-go, 
because said snacks are either messy or unhealthy. 
I'd rather they eat fruit at home 
and disperse pretzel crumbs on the floor, 
than make my car sticky or crumbly. 



9:00ish-12:00noon Out-of-the-House Activities 

I wrote extensively about our out-of-the-house activities here

Some days have reoccurring activities, 
like every Monday, Oliver and I make the trek out to The Grocery Mecca

Wednesdays are usually mine and Oliver's "errand days," 
where we hit up all the required "to do list" of things. 


But most other days we are doing FUN activities. 


12:00-1:00: Lunch and Preschool Pickup

We try to be home for 12noon lunch. 
This is when I often pack Adam's and Aaron's lunch for the next day. 
An example of our menu here


1:00-3:00ish: Nap and Quiet Time 

Oliver naps in his crib consistently about 2 hours. 
Every now and then we have short streaks, 
with molars or stuffy nose causing him to wake early. 
But generally, 2 hours is the norm. 


Aaron gets 2 hours of quiet time in his room. 
He can do whatever he wants during that time alone. 
And sometimes he opts to be completely naked
 (wrote about that here). 
He usually spends the first bit of time playing with 
whatever toy he has selected from our Toy Rotation
and then spends the latter half "reading" (thumbing through books). 
Where's Waldo has been a recent big hit for him. 
He LOVES LOVES LOVES looking through the Waldo books. 



Me? 
I spend this time in a mix of productivity and relaxation. 
Sometimes the "to do without kids" list is super long 
and I spend the whole 2 hours running around the house 
or on the phone making calls. 
Sometimes I can sit and read or blog or catch up on This Is Us. 
As I type this, I think I'm 2 episodes behind on This Is Us. 


3:00: Snack

Now that we've moved to a late dinner, 
this is a very critical snack to hold them off. 

We don't normally have a chocolate snack, 
but this photo of him eating a Valentine's Day cookie cracks me up. 



3:00-6:00: The Great Void 

This will always be the hardest part of the day for me. 
The Great Void is this empty space post-nap and pre-dinner, 
where often the kids are starting to dissolve 
(you know, that late-day energy / cranky combination). 
I am very curious to see how this changes with kindergarten. 
Will it get better or worse???

As for us now, when the weather is nice, 
I try to get us out to parks or the small local zoo. 
Too hot or too cold, this means a LOT of library time




6:00-6:30: Dinner Prep

I've moved away from prepping meals at naptime, 
to assembling meals right before we eat. 
Many factors for this, but mostly it is to free up naptime for my relaxation. 
Some meals still take multiple steps to prepare, 
and thus make better naptime cooking, 
but I'm trying to move away from that. 


During this time, the boys get another PBS Kids show (25-min), 
which sometimes turns into 1.5-2 PBS Kids shows 
depending on the length of dinner prep. 


6:30-7:00: DINNER AS A FAMILY 

I caps lock this just to emphasize how much I still cherish this wonder. 
After so many years of eating alone with the kids while Adam works, 
it's amazing to fulfill a lifelong dream to sit down as a family together. 


7:00-7:30: Bath/Shower and Bed 

Aaron gets a shower every night, 
unless Oliver needs a bath then Aaron joins Oliver in the bath. 

I recently bought the boys robes, 
and they lovvveeee running around in their bathrobes. 
I often find Oliver sitting in the corner of Aaron's bedroom, 
flipping through a book. 
He hasn't open-peed..... yet. 


Adam usually puts Oliver to bed, 
while I put Aaron to bed. 
Every now and then we switch. 
It's nice to have that flexibility 


7:30-9:00: TV with Adam 

We jump around to a variety of different shows. 
On Netflix this means series like The Crown or OITNB or Travelers 
(LOVE  Travelers!) 
but when we exhaust those series, 
we resort to random TV like Duel Survivor and Robot Wars. 
We are such nerds. 


9:00: Read in Bed. 

One of my resolutions this year was to read 30 minutes every day. 
I tried to incorporate this into naptime, 
but I kept resenting the 30 minute commitment chewing up my productivity time. 
I've done much better fitting this in before bed. 
I think it also helps me sleep better. 


10:00: Try to be asleep by this time

Sometimes I fail. 
Particularly when I'm reading a really really really good book. 
Oh my that was a good one!