Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions

As you may know, I hate New Years/making resolutions.

But lately I've been feeling like maybe I should set some goals.  Not resolutions.  Goals.

And then I remembered that after September 11th, I did a lot of soul searching (as I am sure many of you did) and I wrote down my Lifetime Goals.  It's been nearly a decade since I developed my list so I thought I'd pull it out and see how I'm doing.

The first thing I noticed was that my list was hand-written.  Oh yeah.  That just cracks me up because I use the computer for EVERYTHING nowadays.  Even my grocery lists are typed!

Just for a little background information, at the time I developed my Lifetime Goals in September 2001, I was 31 years old.  I had a 2 year old and a 3 month old.  I was on child-rearing leave from my job.  We had dial-up internet access and I did not have a personal email address, only a work email, which I think I checked only two times while on maternity leave for nearly a year.  (My how times have changed!  Now I check email about two times per hour.)

I listed goals in four different areas:  Lifestyle, Travel, Personal, Financial.

I'm doing great with my Lifestyle Goals and if I had to list goals today, I would list the exact same items as I listed a decade ago.  Among them:  live a cancer-free life, never need false teeth, exercise regularly.

My Travel Goals make me laugh.  Clearly I did not anticipate having 5 children!  The destinations listed on my travel goals were:  Prague, revisit Italy (where we honeymooned), Iceland, New Orleans, and Hawaii.  Even today, I would still really love to visit Prague, Iceland and Italy.  I can check Hawaii off my list (visited there in 2004) and I have no desire to visit New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

My Personal Goals were many and most are still relevant.  One goal included raising 3-4 children so I guess I will have to revise this one to include FIVE children.  Another goal was to get a second masters degree or possibly a PhD.  I can tell you that I have absolutely no desire for that at this point in my life.  I suppose I was thinking that I'd be gainfully employed, with someone else (my employer) footing the bill for the additional degree and probably thought I'd work my way up the pay scale with said degree.  So I am crossing this off my list completely.  (I have completed 6 graduate degree credits as well as a number of other workshops so it's not like I've given up on the idea of furthering my education.  I just do not want to embark on another degree program.)  I'm doing ok on the goal of staying happily married until 'death do us part' but I am not doing very well on my goals of hugging and kissing each family member every day and also telling each family member each day that I love them.  This is something I struggle with.  I know it seems like it should be so easy.  I try.  I do.  It's just that I'm not great on the follow-through.  (But at least I'm consistent, right?  Ten years later I'm still working at it.)

My Financial Goals are short:  live debt-free (except for a mortgage) and to pay college tuition and books for my children for an undergraduate education.  Again, I was NOT thinking I'd have FIVE kids to put through college!  So I think I might have to refine this goal a bit.  We do have college savings for each kid (but not nearly enough to put them through college, at least not yet) so I'll have to give some thought to this.  At the very least, I'm going to commit to driving them to college on their first day.  Ha!  Only joking, of course I'll drive them but I'm gonna help them financially too.  But they're gonna have to contribute as well.

So I think I'm going to update my Lifetime Goals, add some sub-sections and figure out how to save for college AND visit Iceland.

Christmas Pics

We had a lovely Christmas and I think we got some great pics.  But I don't know for sure because the camera is AWOL.  I think the camera is in Ireland with my husband and daughters.  They will return on New Year's Day so look for some Christmas photos sometime next week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Viola Virtuoso

My younger daughter auditioned for the Honors Orchestra at school and earned herself a spot!  I am so excited for her!!  The Honors Orchestra is comprised of 4th and 5th graders from the (ten) elementary schools in our district and students were selected for their "skill and musicality".

I am a little bit surprised that she earned herself a spot.  She practiced the audition piece only a couple of times.   I had no idea how the song was supposed to sound so I didn't know if she was playing it well or not.  She's not keen on practicing so part of me was hoping that she wouldn't get selected for the Honors Orchestra.  Part of me wanted her to realize that if you want something, you have to work for it and not just show up at the audition and expect to earn a seat.  So far, her approach seems to be working for her and I come out of this sounding like the adult character in the Charlie Brown cartoons:  blah blah blahpty blah blah blah.

But I think she is going to have to practice to keep pace with the orchestra.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Generation Gap

We got up around 2AM to watch the lunar eclipse.  I'm so glad I got up to see it!  My husband and I went outside with some hot tea, hats, coats, gloves and binoculars.  It was amazing!  It is NEVER truly dark in West Chester -- too many streetlights, houses too close together, etc.  It is often difficult to even see stars on an average night.  But due to the shadow over the moon, last night was darker than normal; the stars were shining brightly and we even saw a shooting star!  (My 7 year old son informed me that it was actually a meteorite.)

We woke the kids up to see it.  They weren't interested in going outside so they just watched, briefly, from the window.  Except for my oldest.  When I woke her up she said, "I'm really tired.  I think I'm gonna stay in bed and just watch it online tomorrow."

That just says it all, doesn't it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear Santa


My 5 year old son is learning to read and write and wrote a letter to Santa.  When I read it, I was so touched because he didn't ask for presents for himself.  He asked for presents for his little brother.  He then explained to me that the baby didn't get any presents last year and he wanted to make sure that Santa didn't forget him again this year.  So sweet.

(I didn't buy the baby any gifts last year because he was too young to know the difference but I guess I can't go with that plan again this year!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Secrets from the Family Closet

As you can imagine, doing laundry for seven people can be cumbersome.  Over the years I've developed some coping strategies and I'll share them, maybe some of them will work for you.  (Sorry to disappoint those of you who thought this posting was going to be about deep, dark family secrets.  Laundry secrets are not quite as exciting.)

No Laundry Day
I used to do laundry once a week.  (Like before we had kids.)  And then it was twice a week.  And then every other day.  Finally I gave up on Laundry Day.  Every Day Is Laundry Day in this house.  But you know what?  If you do a couple loads each day, you can keep on top of it and then it doesn't get overwhelming.  

Ok, to be perfectly honest, I am good at getting the laundry washed, dried and brought upstairs.  What I am NOT good at is getting it put away.  I used to assign a laundry basket to each family member and would put each person's clean clothing into their basket.  And then the baskets would sit on my bedroom floor.  For days.  I'd never get around to putting away the laundry.  Which is part of the reason for the family closet.  Now that all the kid clothing is in the same room, I can just shelve it and be done.  No stepping over baskets, no nagging kids to put away laundry.  So far, so good. (But this is only Day 4 of the Family Closet.)

No Sorting
When I was growing up we had a clothes chute, which was an exciting and fascinating concept to me at the time.  But now when I think about it, I think of all the clothes getting mixed together and know that translates into someone spending a lot of time sorting clothing into different piles prior to washing.  

We sort the clothing by color when it goes into the hamper.  It takes approximately 3 seconds to sort clothing as you are throwing it into the hamper and takes approximately forever for ME to sort it otherwise.

No Folding
This is probably my biggest time saver.  We don't fold our clothing.  Shocking, right?  I used to fold clothing.  But if my children were trying to find a particular item in their drawers, they'd unfold the clothing and then just shove the leftovers back in the drawer because they lacked the coordination to refold.  (As they got older I discovered that it wasn't just coordination that was lacking, it was that just didn't care if their clothing was folded or not.)  So eventually I just gave up.  What do I do instead?  I stack the clothing one on top of another.  This way the kids can sort of "page through" their shirts, pants to find the one they are looking for.  The clothing pile remains intact, they locate the item they are looking for and I'm happy because the clothing remains flat and tidy instead of disheveled and wrinkled.  Are there exceptions?  Sure.  My husband and I still have our clothing folded.  And I have started folding my oldest daughter's jeans because now she is so tall now that her jeans take up too much space (lengthwise) when they are stacked.

No Ironing
I use Downy Wrinkle Releaser on almost all of our wrinkled clothing.  A few squirts, a few tugs of the fabric and it's "good enough".  Exceptions?  My husband's work shirts, dress clothes for the kids (we're talking holiday clothing) and any item of mine that looks like it needs ironed after using the Dony.  But 99% of kid clothing remains un-ironed at all times.

The Dot-Method
I read about this years ago in a parenting magazine and it has been a fantastic help over the years.  We use permanent marker to mark each child's clothing to identify which child it belongs to.  My oldest gets one dot, my second oldest gets two dots, and so on.  It's genius because as you hand clothing down you just need to add another dot to the clothing tag (or collar or waistband).  As soon as a new item of clothing comes into our house, it is the responsibility of the owner (assuming he/she is old enough) to dot his/her clothing and then when the laundry is clean I just have to look at the collar or waistband to know where to shelve the item.  This may not be necessary for some families but because four of my children are so close in age, many times their clothing is very similar in size and sometimes I have two kids wearing the same size at the same time.  With a glance I can easily tell which items belong to which kid and can shelve them accordingly.

Sock-Locks
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I have written about Sock-Locks before but I really need to write again about how much of a time-saver they are.  Each person in our family has been assigned a specific colored Sock-Lock.  When you take off dirty socks, just thread the socks through the teeth, put them in the hamper and then wash and dry as you would anything else.  Then when you are sorting through clean laundry, just toss each person's socks into his/her bin and you save hours by not having to match socks together.  Does each person in my house use Sock-Locks every time?  No.  But if most of the people use them most of the time, then the system works well enough for my liking.





If you have any laundry tips please leave them in the Comments.  I'm always looking for ways to streamline my household!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Family Closet

I've become obsessed with the concept of the Family Closet, ie, one location to store all the family's clothing.  I think I first saw the FC in action while watching an episode of the Duggar's show.  Now that I have five children of my own, I feel like our clothing/laundry needs have changed and I decided that I needed to have a FC.

So I started to do some research (which is how I approach almost every aspect of my life) and read about how other people created their own versions of the FC.  Then I took an inventory of all the kids' clothing (using a spreadsheet) and then created another spreadsheet to try and figure out how many shelves I would need and how I would group the various items of clothing on the shelving.  I began pricing shelving online and then went to Target in search of shelving that I could see and touch (as it is difficult to determine how sturdy shelving is when viewing online.)

Score!  I found an adequate shelving unit on sale so I brought it home and started organizing.  Once I got started, I felt compelled to keep going.  So I convinced my husband that we needed to go back to Target to get four more units (so that we'd have one for each kid.)  With a sigh he agreed and off we went.  (I think he knows me well enough to know that once I get an idea in my head, there is no stopping me.  It's just easier to go along than it is to try and reason with me.)

I was giddy on the ride home from Target just thinking about getting the FC organized.  (I realize that this is not normal.)  We spent most of the day on Sunday putting together shelving units and organizing kid clothing.  And the FC is complete!










The baby's room is doing double duty as both a nursery and the FC.  Once the baby moves in with his brothers (which won't be for another 18 months or so) then I will add additional elements to the FC, such as:  a counter for folding clothing and wrapping gifts, a drying rack to hang damp towels after showering and moving the ironing station from the basement to the FC.










In planning the closet, I estimated that I needed approximately 30 small/medium sized bins to house items such as socks, underwear, gym uniforms, leggings, etc.  When I priced the bins online, I discovered that it was going to cost about $170 to get what I wanted.  So instead, I went to the dollar store to see if they had anything similar.  The bins at the dollar store were smaller than I wanted and they had about 10, not 30.  So I decided to comprise, save some cash and buy disposable tin serving pans instead (which you can see if you double-click on the photos).  The disposable pans ended up costing $33 which was a great savings.  Although as my husband pointed out, that may have been "penny-wise but pound-foolish."  Only time will tell.  Between gift cards and a sale at Target, I ended up spending about $210 on the shelving units.  So for less than $250 and less than 24 hours worth of work (including research, planning, shopping, assembling, organizing) I was able to make the FC a reality.

However, in the meantime, Christmas prep has come to a grinding halt and the rest of the house looks like this:










But soon enough we'll get to this room and get the house ready for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Academic Award










My oldest daughter received an academic award at school last week during an awards assembly.  Not only did she make Honor Roll, but she actually got an AWARD.

This is H.U.G.E.

For those of you who know us personally, you know how much this dear girl has struggled academically.  She used to sob her way through homework and get so frustrated that she would shout insults at herself and would punch herself in frustration.  Once when she was in second grade, she asked me what kind of job she could get when she was older because she didn't know how she was going to get a job if she couldn't tell a 'letter b' from a 'letter d'.  My heart broke for a 7 year old who is already worrying about getting a job as an adult.  Many, many times she would be in tears asking me, "What's wrong with me?"  We started down a L-O-N-G road of getting her help.  This took a couple of years and involved educational testing, multiple learning disabilities, IEPs, eye glasses, dietary changes, love, prayer and support, to name a few.

My dear girl NEVER thought she would win an academic award.  She works so very hard just to keep her head above water and never saw herself as shining in school.

Until now.

Her teacher emailed me a couple of weeks ahead of time and said that my daughter would be getting an award, that it was a surprise, and could I come to the award assembly?

The assembly was long and lots of kids got awards:  honor roll, sports, etc.  After the general awards, each teacher awarded one or two students a special award for going "above and beyond" in the particular subject area and for having "exemplary manners".  When my daughter's teacher called her name, the look on her face was one of shock, pride, disbelief and delight.  I was so very proud of her.  It was really great to know that her hard work is paying off and it was wonderful to know that her teacher noticed her efforts.

She had a spring in her step afterwards and as soon as she got home, she took pics of the awards and posted them to Facebook and emailed the pictures to her grandparents, aunt and friends.  The next day she wrote a thank-you card to her teacher for giving her the award.  Her teacher was so surprised and said that she had never, in all her years of teaching, had a student thank her with a card for an award.

That's my girl.