Dear Mama, You can Conquer this Mountain 

Laundry. Mount Washmore. The never-ending chore.

Laundry! Once so clean in the moonlight!

Folded neatly and stacked tight;

It was beautiful then.

But the family must work and play and soil it and then,

I do the laundry, Yet again! 

(Set to the tune of “Memory” by Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Did you know that there is a hidden joy to laundry? Did you know that you can look in your hamper and smile? Did you know that it is possible to stroll through your house and not find a chair heaped with clean clothes? Did you know that you can go weeks without hearing your husband say that he’s out of clean socks? That all of this can be accomplished on autopilot? And even a toddler can help?

A load a day keeps Mt. Washmore away.

That’s it. Only handle one load of laundry every day. Sort, wash, dry, fold, iron, and put away one load – and stop.

Starting this method is the hardest part, but once you have managed to keep it up almost every day for two weeks, the clothes begin to behave themselves.

What does this even look like? FlyLady and Diane taught me how. Especially if you are a visual learner like myself, I recommend looking through Diane’s “Morning Routine.”

As for my own laundry routine, I try to avoid this chore on Sabbath, and I try not to start until I have fed the infants and gotten dressed for the day. Only then do I grab the dirty clothes basket in my bedroom and take it to the laundry room. There, I sort clothes into my lovely set of hampers that we received as a baby shower gift.


The bags are removable. So, if someone is taking my laundry to wash whilst I recover from illness or  childbirth, they can simply grab a bag on their way out. If my own machines are being repaired, the bags are easier to transport to the laundromat than baskets. Yes, I love this thing!

 

By “laundromat” I mean the closest neighbor who will permit my use of their equipment.

Anyways. I am the only one in the house who sorts things into the proper hamper, but that’s okay. Daughter throws her clothes into the hamper closest to the door, so I made that bag the children’s hamper. Husband throws one outfit at a time on top of my sorting system, so that takes maybe three seconds to sort out every day. No sweat. Whichever hamper is fullest I dump into the washer, start it, and then I get on with my morning.

Sometime before lunch, I have Daughter help me switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. The most fun part for her is in the afternoon. My toddler loves shoving the clean basket into the laundry room, dragging out the clean clothes, cleaning out the lint, fishing out the wool balls (fabric softener), shutting the door by herself, and shoving the clean clothes away to be folded.

Then, Daughter can put some of the little items away for me as I’m folding. Once everything is folded, I finish putting away the laundry that Daughter is still too short to manage. Nearly anything I can put on a hanger, goes on a hanger, so all the shirts, skirts, nice pants, and onesies fall to me. Since it’s only one load, though, a little effort gets it done easy. “All done!” we say. “Let’s have a chocolate!”

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I am paranoid about dressers toppling on my adventurous climbers, and I like the ability to find clothes quickly. So, I keep a hanger on the child’s closet door for all the onsies, shirts, or dresses. Pants and socks fit into a light storage basket with the diapers and wipes.

 

Grab an oblong hanger off one of those gift blankets from Baby’s shower, and snap the onesies on it in plain sight. 

Keep an empty diaper box by the crib. Once you realize your child has outgrown a garment, throw it in the box. When it gets full, tape the box shut, label it, then stow it away or give it away.

Helping me with chores has given my daughter a good sense of accomplishment, and I enjoy having her company. I also notice our communication skills get stronger as we work together. Her help certainly saved me a great deal of teeth-grinding agony when I was pregnant with twins and unable to bend or twist.

Our little balls of energy are ready to play games with us to learn how to run their own lives one day. Age appropriate responsibility can help tone down sour attitudes, believe it or not. Have fun teaching them early, while the mundane chores are still fun for them to master.
There you go. That’s the way I keep the laundromonster in check and have some fun teaching my little one while we do it together. Check out those links above. This method is adaptable to people who work outside the home, or work odd shifts, too. With a little change in attitude, you can do this!

How I fold and put away sheets. Disclaimer: This method has not been approved by anyone’s Aunt Mirna. My camera’s microphone is defective, so please bear with the audio quality.

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Dear Mama, Who is Going on a Trip

Panic! Anger! Frustration!

And you STILL forgot something important!

Yelling! Whining? Moping.

Does this sound like the morning of your departure when you pack up the family to go on a trip? The chaos tends to make the whole house dread going anywhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can keep your cool and settle into the front seat with a smile as you begin your adventure. Since I’m not sure precisely how to best adapt my preparation methods to your needs, I’ll just give you the rundown. You can figure out what works for you.

With three 3×5 cards, I have learned to avoid the travel frenzy. We may still be 25 minutes behind our plans, because I’m still learning how long it takes to load three little ones. However, we still have everything we need when we stay overnight six hours from home. Best of all, I can avoid that out-of-control frustration that can bring a cranky mama to a full, roiling boil.

Like most simple techniques that make my life easier, this is a method taken from the FlyLady. I have a notebook with addresses, basic routines, encouraging words, and a few recipes slapped together. In the midst of my book, there are my Travel Prep cards. The cards are basically my packing checklists. One is for arrangements, one is for my husband and me, and one is for the babies.

On the first card I have written:

  • Clothes cleaned and put away
  • House in order
  • Groceries to take along (to save a little money and health usually blown on gas station snacks and fast food.)
  • Maps printed
  • Hotel confirmation number
  • Check vehicle tires, filters, oil, fuel, wash, wipe interior
  • Polish/brush shoes
  • Wash sheets/fresh linens on the bed
  • Wash dishes

Having things in order helps make our “landing” at our destination and our “landing” back home much smoother! Obviously, I don’t always get it all down pat. I do, however, consider each chore and choose what I will leave undone. That way, things are not neglected from forgetfulness, but the least necessary tasks for this particular trip will be moved to the bottom of my “triage” on purpose. Already been to this destination? Skip printing the map. One basket of towels on the couch needs folded but there’s little time to do it? Okay. A formal event calls for nice shoes? Polish them. Really want clean sheets to collapse into when you get back home? Strip and make that bed to have it ready for you!

On the next card are the items that we need to pack for my husband and myself. These are items we usually need when we stay someplace overnight. For me, I have listed:

  • Pajamas
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Number X of complete outfits
  • Stockings
  • Dress shoes
  • Swim suit
  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Charger
  • Earbuds
  • Lip balm
  • Oils
  • Brush & Paste
  • Hairbrush
  • Pins/hair bands
  • Deodorant

Again, I read through and decide what is necessary. No pool? Skip the suit. Going to church with the friends you’re visiting? Grab the dress shoes and stockings.

Extra things to be sure my husband remembers to take include:

  • Deck of Cards
  • Dress hat
  • Dress boots
  • Radios

Now for the babies. This list I made when the eldest was a year old. For now, this works for all three kids. As they mature, I’ll make a new card.

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Formula
  • Bottles
  • Bottle warmer (Rabbit Trail: I thought this thing was ridiculous before we had twins and were spoiled with the $2,000 Medela bottle warmers at the hospital. Our own $20 warmer makes feeding two babies within one hour an attainable goal wherever we go.)
  • Sippy cup
  • Bowl/spoon
  • Cereal/food cartons
  • Bibs/burp cloths
  • Number X of outfits
  • Sleepers
  • Blankets
  • Socks
  • Dress shoes
  • Diaper cream
  • Oils!
  • Jerky (No Man’s Land Beef Jerky is a teething lifesaver!)
  • Toys
  • Jacket & Hat
  • Pack ‘N Play or portable bassinet
  • Car seat (This can be forgotten if we’re rushing next door to borrow a vehicle. Then it is wasted time running back to our house for the car seat!)
  • Stroller
  • Wrap/carrier

Again, these are things I need to consider every time we leave overnight. These cards help me make decisions about what is left undone or left at home, instead of running crazy and forgetting to grab something vital for our trip.

About three days out from departure, I begin skimming the Travel Prep cards. I consider who will wear what and when. We make reservations. When I make my usual grocery run, I get the extras we will need. Between regular chores and feedings those three days, I can get everything packed and ready by the night before we leave.

Another thing I love to do for travel is to pack small. I grew up watching Rick Steves’ travel shows and enjoyed the easy mobility of his simplicstic  approach. Some like to take the kitchen sink for security, but I like the security of being able to move swiftly. Now we are a family of five, compact travel makes an even greater difference!

For a weekend venture, I can fit my husband’s things, my stuff, and the babies’ outfits into one duffle bag. We all have clothes for each day and an emergency outfit in case of a horrendous spill. I keep a toiletry bag packed at all times, so I can throw it in the duffle and be done with it – no time wondering where to fit the toothpaste. The babies’ essentials are in their diaper bag, as usual. The toddler’s clothes fill the empty spot in her diaper bag. Then I have my catch-all bag for my purse, books, electronics, or whatever I’ll need while riding shotgun. This comes out to four bags, four big things we need to remember to grab in the morning. There is very little scrambling for odds and ends.

Most importantly, I must pray. It is easy to center these lists on myself, my plans, my perfectionism, and my pride. Despite the best travel methods, focus on the flesh like this can still destroy peace for the whole family and cause unnecessary grief. Instead, I must focus on using these tools to facilitate my service to the rest of the family. I must pray and remain in the presence of  The Perfect One, who extends grace to the tarnished. From there, He can empower me to extend His grace to my family, regardless of how well they “get with the program.”

Well, fellow Traveling Mama, I hope this spiel can provide you with some handy ideas. If the details are overwhelming, just pick five to-dos for your next trip and see how that works. With some forethought and attitude adjustment, packing up the family can be a peaceful affair, after all!

This post is one of a series titled, “Dear Mama.”

Dear Mama, Who just Gave Birth

I’m sorry that you can’t go home soon enough, that your baby can’t be discharged yet, that everyone is demanding answers from you when you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, that your labor didn’t go as well as hoped, that breastfeeding and pumping are hard, that you don’t have much support, that you aren’t bonding as you had hoped, that someone didn’t treat you kindly, that you are in pain, that your hormones are whacked… whatever has saddened you after that initial joy of birth, I’m sorry.

Even if a lot of bad things did not happen during birth, post-partum recovery can still stink. After my first successful pregnancy and birth, it seemed like everyone else was enjoying my new bundle while I was left to endure misery on my own. I told myself, and others told me, that a healthy baby is all that matters. That may be the most important thing, but mom’s blues matter, too. Perhaps no other human will understand your emotional and mental state right now.

The heart knows its own bitterness, And no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10

‭It is very difficult to talk and find someone who will only listen to your feelings without interrupting or explaining your needs away. Though they mean well, your loved ones may make you feel as though your feelings don’t matter…that you don’t matter.

It hurts.

However painful, though, this is the fire that will temper your strength for the years to come. You will need to tend to many of your needs by yourself, now. Your healing will be up to you. So keep taking care of yourself physically and the feelings will eventually heal, as well.

With a little one depending on you, it is important to take care of yourself first. They say that if there is an emergency on a plane, adults must first put on their own oxygen masks, so that they can remain conscious and help their children with their masks, too. For baby’s sake, please take a few minutes to freshen up every day. Then you will have the sanity to tend to baby’s needs for those continuous hours.
What does taking care of yourself look like? This is my self-care regimen that I do after the first daylight feeding and before “bedtime” at night. Whether I feel normal or down, am pregnant or recovering from surgery, I do these things daily to be sure I am cared for, before I face all the other needs clawing for attention.

  • Wash your face. Grime, sweat, yick, be gone. I splash water over my face, flush the dirt and germs out of my eyes and nose (prevents frequent colds and allergies), and pat dry. This takes ten seconds.
  • Brush your hair. Simply running a comb through and refreshing your ponytail helps you feel more put together.
  • Brush your teeth. If you’re an attachment mom, it’s still okay for baby to whine for two minutes while you take care of your oral hygiene. You might need to spend your money on baby’s braces someday. Don’t waste cash on your own dental issues, when you can simply prevent damage with a toothbrush. I recommend fluoride-free toothpaste.
  • Apply deodorant. I prefer Thai Crystal spray, because it has no aluminum.
  • Take medication, vitamins, and/or apply oils. This, I have to do to manage my thyroid issues. RAW Garden of Life vitamins help me feel much better.
  • Put on something that makes you feel good. Whether it’s a favorite pair of earrings, a nice lotion or perfume, a pretty scarf, or a quick dab of makeup, find something you like and use it. I put on some lip balm or gloss.
  • Sticky notes on my mirror remind me to do these things every day, saying, “face, hair, teeth” and “balm, oils, deodorant.” When establishing a routine, these written reminders are vital.

I don’t worry about getting dressed when we first bring baby home. We mamas need some upkeep, but staying in pajamas for those first days gives your unconscious mind permission to nap at any moment. Visitors tend to behave more gently when they see you in sleep clothes, too. Then after a while, it will be time to apply a tad more maintenance to stave off the blues.

When I get to two weeks post-partum, I get dressed “down to shoes” every day, so I can be ready go or do anything at a moment’s notice. Need something out of the car? Is a dog trying to play rough with another critter outside? Do you have a moment’s notice that you can hitch a ride to town for groceries today? Dress for  the unexpected every day, and the unexpected will be powerless to stress you.

Keeping these habits has gotten me through college days; establishing my own household; recovering from a stillbirth, a vaginal birth, and a C-section surgery; and having my twins in NICU for five weeks. I mean it. Take care of yourself for a few minutes daily, and you can get through a lot.

Ultimately, my Heavenly Father carried me through every transition and crisis. Self-love alone does not help anyone much. By prayer, love of my Maker, caring for the body and soul He gave me, and loving my neighbors as myself, I got through. Though they aren’t my savior, these self-care routines have been instrumental in keeping my spirits high and my attention focused on the One Who matters most.

Well, Mama, I guess I’ll be talking to you again in about a week. You have done a good job, helping your little one grow and make it to the outside world. Now, take care of yourself!

*Thanks to Marla Cilley, the FlyLady, for her constant encouragement and inspiration.

This post is the first in a series called “Dear Mama.”

Body Clutter: a Review

…Body Clutter is a marvelous book full of honesty, encouragement, understanding, knowledge, and love for all “flybabies” who need to learn how to care for themselves.

Start by marking “Body Clutter: Love Your Body, Love Yourself” as ...

Authors Marla Cilly and Leanne Fly discuss their health and weight in their book, Body Clutter. Both ladies have struggled with weight-gain, health issues, emotional bruises, and cluttered “stink’n think’n.”  The core message of their literature is that if you de-clutter the space between your ears, you can de-clutter the weight off your thighs.

Chapter by chapter, Marla and Leanne cover numerous aspects of healthy living, primarily eating, moving, and attitude.  First, the ladies discuss what causes the “body clutter.”  Each reveals their painful history and how they learned to turn to food for their comfort.  Soon, the reader can clearly identify overeating/comfort eating/gluttony for what it is – self abuse and continuing the pain others have inflicted on us.  Food is not God.  We don’t have to turn to food to solve our pain.

They lead the reader to de-clutter the negative, downtrodden attitudes that hold us back from healthy habits.  Then, the ladies cover the eating habits that have worked for them, such as what to eat, how much to eat, and how often to eat.  They next uncover how simple it is to imcorporate exercise, or “loving movement” into their daily lives, once the excuses in their minds have been diminished.  Finally, Marla and Leanne discuss how to read labels, shop for groceries, gauge portions, and obtain useful nutrition to fuel our metabolism.

At the end of each chapter, the reader is challenged to answer questions, such as:  What is your go-to comfort food?  How do you handle it? What was going on in your life when you began this habit? What are some small, doable baby-steps you can accomplish today? Have you hidden from others while you eat? What excuses have you used against exercising? How can you plan your meals so that you can avoid the last-minute visit to the drive-thru?

The numerous pros of this book are quite useful, but I must disclose one con.  The final chapters devolve into redundancy.  Some readers could find this useful to solidly drive the ideas into their minds, but I found this unnecessary and difficult to focus upon.

Redundancy aside, Body Clutter is a marvelous book full of honesty, encouragement, understanding, knowledge, and love for all “flybabies” who need to learn how to care for themselves.  I have personally incorporated baby-steps, inspired by this book, for the past week.  In future posts, I will report on the effectiveness.  So far, I have already found myself more mindful of what I eat, and more capable of managing my blood sugar and cravings.  Accomplishing my health goals seems ages away, but as sure as my poor habits got me into this body clutter, my new good habits will eventually get me out.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the process of cooking tasty meals at home and dancing my burdens away.

The book is available at Amazon or at the FlyShop, and I encourage you to study, answer the questions, and engage in the de-cluttering process for yourself!

L’Chaim (to life),

Drywitlass

FLYing Once More

FlyLady has had an impeccable effect on my organization, my attitude, and especially our home atmosphere.

I had read her book, Sink Reflections, before I attended college.  My sister had been raving about this “perfect” organizing method and loaned us the book.  The ideas sounded good, but I did not implement them in my parents’ house.  My mother didn’t like being told what to do by a stranger with a website, either.  Good ideas filtered into the back of my mind, nevertheless.

At college, my microwave counter in the dorm became my version of FlyLady’s “shiny sink.”  As long as that counter was in good order, I knew everything else could fall into place.  Especially useful on campus, was her “launch pad” method of laying out everything I would need for a day, the night before.  Utensils for Algebra, reports for English, personal notes for Chamber Singers, and work pages for Economics were packed up and ready in my bag.  I could wake up fifteen minutes before class, jump into the clothes I had laid out, run through my beauty routine, grab that bag, and show up for class feeling prepared for the entire day.  Some mornings, I could get up earlier to savor a cup of coffee.

Once married, I had my own sink to shine…most of the time.  I wrote up routines, which didn’t stick.  Then came the morning sickness that lasted all day, days on end. My sink was sorely neglected.  “FLYing” was not on my mind for months.  However, the FlyLady habit of dressing to shoes each morning would soon be a desperate necessity.  My firstborn was stillborn, and I wanted to die with him.  Previous near-suicide experiences taught me to fight before I was pushed into the pit, where I could be too overwhelmed to get out.  So I let my God bear my grief, I got out of bed and dressed down to my boots each morning, and I did not let myself be alone for more than a couple of hours.  After two months, the tears began to slow and I limped back to the land of the living.

Then again came the morning sickness.  Learning to mother an infant soon followed.  I was very grateful for my beautiful baby, but feeding was difficult and I couldn’t manage much else. Four months after giving birth, my house was a depressive wreck, and so was I.

I sat and looked around at the house full of one, big, disheartening mess.  Anger grew.  “Why couldn’t my husband pick up after himself?”  Blame increased.  “Doesn’t he see the trouble I’m in?”  I picked apart the room about me.  “This thing was his responsibility, and that, and that…”  My pity party was rolling well until I looked at my bedside table.  The items in that pile of clutter were mine, and I had placed each one on that table myself.  I couldn’t blame any of it on my husband, so why was it just was messy as the rest of the house?  Something within me clicked.  Some responsibility was mine to take.  I couldn’t fix my husband’s habits.  I could only fix myself.  I had to.  My man deserved better.  The baby deserved better.  That day, I found FlyLady’s day-by-day baby steps.  I began taking baby steps the next morning.

Gradually, but permanently, my habits changed.  I learned to take care of myself consistently.  Thirty days were listed in the Babysteps, but I only completed perhaps twenty.  The results still turned my house around.  I could recognize the “negative voices” (or lies of the enemy, as I call them) and put a stop to them.  My husband rarely ran out of clean clothes to wear, anymore.  I didn’t have to pinch my nose while washing dishes; the abhorrent mystery water simply didn’t come to my sink.  There was time to snuggle and nurse my baby while she cut her first teeth.  The living room looked nice and retained its gleam, thanks to the Weekly Home Blessing Hour.  I looked forward to having people visit my cozy home, and my husband wasn’t embarrassed when guests entered our domain.  Domain.  That’s what it was.  This house that had owned me, had now become my domain.  I could rule without struggle, attending to our affairs without worry.

After eight months of progress, I began to skip decluttering every day.  Then, I missed my hotspots.  One habit after another, I began to backslide.  Another illness and death in the family, and participating in a wedding five hours away, kept me from home and my habits were lost.  However, this is only a demonstration of how effective the FlyLady’s methods are, because it was easy to get back on track!  I went back to the day-by-day Babysteps.  Day one, I thoroughly cleaned and shined my sink and picked out my clothes for the next day.  Just that much made me feel good again.  After a week of following those two habits, most of my morning routine has now fallen back into place.  My before-bed routine is stronger than ever.  I’m inviting relatives to a meal and game night each week.  Turning a wreck into my home took months, before.  This time, it only took a couple of days!

In years to come, I look forward to keeping a calm and comfortable haven for my family and friends, and teaching my children to manage the same for themselves. Each day I find myself grateful for learning stewardship over the home we have been blessed with.  I am thankful for the self-control, discipline, and love I have been taught this year, even if it’s still a work in progress. Particularly, I am glad to have new tools with which I can bless our marriage.

So if you are hopeless, overwhelmed, immersed in chaos, or depressed with yourself or your home,  I encourage you to use these Beginner Babysteps.  They are a tool that will work for anyone willing to try.  May you claim for yourself the peace I have found.