Sunday, July 29, 2007

Laundry Lament

I got this question in last week, and thought to myself, "Now, here's a woman who's singing my tune!"

This mama writes, "I have 6 people in my house and no help from anyone-- my major problem is that the laundry is never ending I have stacks of it to do a week- how can i get more control???"

Now, take your six, add three more, and you're walking in my shoes. Laundry around my home is more like a scene from "Lion King." It's the circle of life, never ending, just going on and on and on...I've given up on trying to get "caught up." I would just enjoy those brief moments in life when there is more than one clean towel in the house and I have a pair of underwear to wear.

Here are some tips for you to stay on top of the laundry--

1. You say there are six people in your house? Put them to work! There have been PLENTY of times when my older kids had to begrudgingly wear dirty jeans or mismatched socks because they didn't launder their own clothes. My theory is when they are old enough to pick out their clothes and dress themselves, they are also old enough to participate in the laundry. Even little ones can sort clothes or help fold washcloths. And teens? Please! If you're still doing their laundry, then you really do have a problem! They are fully capable of doing the laundry, from start to finish. Enlist some help, mama. You deserve it.

2. Do less laundry. This one is easy. Clothes don't get dirty nearly as often as most people think they do. For example, I use one towel for several days. I wear my jeans two or three times. I wear the same pajamas for about four nights in a row. My theory is that if I can't see dirt and I can't smell stink, then I consider it wearable. I wasn't nearly so slack when I just had two or three kids, but I guess that's what happens when you have a house full of family and just one washer and dryer.

3. You can also make it easier on yourself by not letting the laundry stack up on you. Around here, I have to do at least one load a day just to stay on top of it. If it heaps on, then I'm in a heap of trouble. Doing one load, start to finish, is a great way to ease up on the workload.

Now it's time to hear from you. Do you have any laundry tips to share? I want to hear them!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Natural Insect Repellent

I've received two questions this week on alternatives to insect repellents that contain DEET, so I figure it would make a great blog. Before blogging, I turned to my sister, Regina (naturalist, camper extraordinaire) for advice. Here is the recipe that she uses:

Lemon Balm essential oil
Citronella essential oil
Tea Tree essential oil

She combines these oils, puts them in a spray bottle, and uses the mixture for camping and other outdoor activities. When we last visited her, the kids and I used it while we did some yard work and it worked exceptionally well! Also, she only uses the mixture on her clothes, not her skin, which is good advice no matter what insect repellent you choose to use. Of course, if you are visiting a nude beach, then I guess that won't do you a bit of good!

Repel also carries a DEET-free insect repellent that is worth a try. It contains lemon eucalyptus, and also works for deer ticks. I also want to add to remember to spray your animals if they stay outside. Those bugs can be ferocious! I hope this has helped out, and if any of you wonderful moms have more tips to add, please post them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I believe in girls

We all grew up with Barbie. My favorite Christmas memory is the year that I got the Barbie townhouse. It was spectacular! I came running down on Christmas morning to find it there, in all of it's pink plastic glory! As a child, I played with my Barbies until their hair stood out in a big blonde ratty afro. Now, with four girls of my own, I get to relive my Barbie memories. A few Christmases ago, one of my daughters got the Barbie fashion mall. I think I got more joy out of putting that beauty together than she has ever received from playing with it. I guess to a very real extent, we never outgrow Barbies, and hopefully, we never outgrow our girlhood.

That's why I am so excited about Mattel's new campaign for Barbie. It's called, "We Believe in Girls." Basically, it's about celebrating girlhood, that precious innocence of being young and feminine. Check it out here: I think our culture encourages girls to grow up way too fast. Pigtails give way to highlights and pink jumpers yield to belly shirts. Girlhood is great, and it's time we let our little girls celebrate it. Join me in a girl revolution. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Day in the Life of Hannah

For some reason, people have this idea that I live off somewhere in fantasy land, where kids are always good, laundry is never neglected, and there is always a hot meal on the table. So, here it goes. This was an average day last week.

6:00--Wake up to my wristwatch alarm and go walking (I'm as quiet as I can so the kids will stay asleep).

7:00--Kenna wakes up, so I bring her downstairs for our beverage of choice (soy milk for Kenna, strong coffee for mom). A little bit of Doodlebops always helps out as well.

8:00--Blair goes to work. I get the little ones dressed and fed. Breakfast is oatmeal! Kenna pitches a holy fit because she wants to feed herself, so I let her. Twenty minutes later, I'm still scrubbing oatmeal off the highchair and the floor underneath. Klara insists that she needs pink sprinkles for her oatmeal because she is a princess (she's wearing a cheerleading outfit with a pink Cinderella dress over it). Korben likes raisins on his, Karis prefers cranberries. Kyler wonders why he can't just have cereal. Katie sprinkles Nesquick on hers (which I didn't even know we had). Kelsey turns down the eggs because of cruelty to animals and then complains that her family eats oatmeal for breakfast way too often to be considered normal.

9:00--Summer is here, so we get ready to go to the pool. Kelsey and Katie make sandwiches and pop some corn. Kyler grabs two towels from upstairs (which are damp because he grabbed them from off of the floor of the bathroom). Karis can't find his goggles. Korben pulls his trunks down and moons his sister. Klara screams and runs out of the room. Kenna found the popcorn that the girls put by the front door and now it's all over the floor (and in her mouth).

1:00pm--We are back from the pool, and very tired. No, take that back. I am very tired. The kids sit down to read for an hour. I rock Kenna. Klara pretends to read, but she is actually bothering her brothers by sticking her feet in their faces. Kenna falls asleep. I write for about thirty minutes until I am informed by my kids that reading time is over. The afternoon progresses as I try to get some cleaning down and fold a load of clothes. I send the kids outside to play. Katie and Kyler soap down the trampoline with a bar of soap and the hose so that they can slide and jump all over it. Klara gets a new bottle of water and pours it into the bubble blower to try to make bubbles. Karis and Korben help her out by getting my dish detergent and adding it to the mix. Kelsey is content with her ipod and the swing set. I get two business calls. One was interrupted because I had to quiet Klara, who was upstairs singing to Kenna as she was sleeping in her crib. During the other one, I was in the pantry with the door closed so that it sounded quiet.

4:00pm--Kenna wakes up. Toys are dragged out. Klara finds the sharpie markers and put "blush" on her cheeks. I discover this right as she is heading toward Kenna with a pink marker. Her princess dress is covered in bubbles, mud, and sharpie markers. Kyler, Karis, and Korben are playing transformers and making a cartoon strip. Karis complains because Korben is copying him. Kyler decides to abandon the cartoon and go on a bike ride. Katie goes along. Kelsey begs to get on to check her "comments." Blair calls. He is on his way home, and I have no idea what's for dinner.

5:00pm--Blair's running late. Pasta is cooking on the stove. Klara has to go to the potty. Kenna follows us in. Klara passes gas quite loudly on the potty. Kenna laughs and tries to make the same sound by blowing spit bubbles between her lips. She realizes that she is spitting on the bathroom floor and begins playing in it as I am holding Klara on the potty so she can relieve herself. Klara starts laughing, now. I bride the kids to clean up. I tell them they can watch a show on the Disney channel if they pick up the house during commercials. If you ain't working, you ain't watching.

6:00pm--Dinner. Only one spilled cup of water (a record). However, this spill goes all over a Kelsey's plate so she needs to make another plate of spaghetti. Korben shows us a dance he invented by standing on his seat and rotating his hips in a circular manner (scary). Klara doesn't like the tomato chunks in the sauce. Kyler asks why we don't have dessert.

7:00--It starts raining. The little ones run outside to play in it. The trampoline is all sudsy because the kids never cleaned up their mess. Kyler clears the table. Katie loads the dishwasher. Kelsey wipes the table and sweeps the dining room.

8:00--Bathtime. Blair bathes Korben, Klara, and Kenna. I return e-mails. I have no idea what the older kids are doing, but no one is screaming, so I consider that a good sign.

9:00--The older kids get ready for bed. I rock Kenna to sleep. Klara goes to bed in mommy and daddy's bed. After I get Kenna to bed, I fold laundry on my bed as I tell Klara stories. Korben and Karis hear me telling stories so they come in my room to listen. Finally, I get the laundry folded and give Klara some books to read. I send the boys to bed and come in to sing them their lullabies (yes, I still sing their lullabies to them...). I go to Kelsey and Katie's room and find them still in their clothes, listening to music and talking. I give them ten minutes to get in bed.

10:00pm--I tuck in Kelsey and Katie (who are still talking and laughing when I leave their room), put away the folded clothes, and get ready for bed. Blair puts Klara in bed with Kenna and kisses the boys. Toys are still on the floor, and the laundry that I started earlier has not been put in the dryer. I return some e-mails, do some writing, wash the few dishes that are leftover from dinner, stick the clothes in the dryer, tie up any loose strings, and head to bed.

12:00--Eventually, I make it to bed.

Okay, so that is a typical day for me. Now you know--we're all in this together.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hitting Problem

I received a question a few days ago that I'm sure many moms are dealing with. A mom wrote in and asked what she should do about her one-year-old son who was hitting. I have dealt with this situation plenty of times myself. As a matter of fact, my 18-month-old little girl, Kenna, has unfortunately found that hitting is a great way to express her frustration.

First of all, I am ruling out the fact that the mom is hitting or spanking the child. If that's the case, then the child is simply playing copycat. Spanking is usually done when you can't think of a better way to handle the situation, not for smart moms like us!! And a one-year-old never should be hit or spanked.

Usually infants and toddlers will hit as a means to get attention. They love to get a rise out of people, and hitting someone definitely works. The most important thing is to not react with a lot of emotion (if you do, then the child got what he wanted). Do NOT hit back. I always grab the hand that hit, hold it firmly, look straight into the child's eyes on their level, and say "No," Then, immediately redirect the child's attention. Show them a design on the wall, your clothes, their shoes. Pick up anything that's close by and show it to them and tell them something about it. Just do something immediately so that they won't continue with the hitting. I have found that this works like a charm. The trick is to not show a lot of emotion and immediately redirect their attention. If they don't get reinforced for the behavior, then it will not continue.

Remember, also, that children go through stages. This may just be a funky phase that he is going through. Handle it with patience and diligence and it will pass smoothly.

Now it's your turn, mamas. If you have some advice on handling this situation, please write in. We're all in this together, and I love hearing from all of you wonderful, blessed, luminous women!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Question on Clutter

Here's a question that I just got in:

How do you keep the kids' toys under control? I have four kids that all have their "stuff" that is geared for their age. Individually, they don't have tons of toys, but multiplied by four it all adds up and drives me crazy.

Well, mama, just take what you have and double it. That's what I've got going on around here. First of all, it helps to divide the toys into two categories--personal property and communal property. In a big family like the one I have, most toys are considered communal property. However, there are some special items that are thrown into the mix as well. Keep the personal items (like Klara's Barbie dolls or Karis's pirate ship) in a special place in their room. Now, take all of the communal property and do two things with it:

1. Give away what you don't need (you'll be surprised at how much junk there is thrown in with the toys...).

2. Pack up the toys that they like, but no longer play with.
This is a great tactic because you are not giving the toys away, but you are opening up space for them to play with the toys that they are currently "into." When the thrill wears off, just pack up the current toys and bring out the other ones that you packed away earlier. Even though they are "used," to the kids they will seem brand new! I do this all the time, it's like a swap meet every season. All of a sudden, "new" toys appear and the kids squeal with delight, "Wow! I remember this!" Now you have happy kids, open space, and money in your wallet. Sounds like a winner to me!

And MOMS--if you have something to add, please feel free to post it. We're all in this together. Thanks!