Wednesday, November 25, 2009

what i read

well, i guess cleaning sinks doesn't thrill everyone else as much as it does me. better luck next week.

since i've been posting what i'm reading, i thought i'd try to give a quick review of what i've read. i just finished Cecilia Ahern's There's No Place Like Here.


i had read PS I Love You and really liked it (and not just because i loved, loved, loved the movie), so i thought i'd give another book by her a try. i did not love it. in fact, i'm not really sure i liked it. but you know that feeling when you're reading a book you don't want to put down and you eagerly wait for all your work to be done and the kids to be in bed so you can go read that book? yeah, well, i wasn't feeling it. in fact, i was feeling something more like, "i gotta finish this book so i can move on with my life." i know, i know, i'm allowed to not finish but i refuse. because sometimes books like this surprise you and then you're glad you stuck with it. i kept waiting for it to get good... but it was just too far-fetched for me.

i'm not a big fan of fantasy... and i think she was trying to combine contemporary chick-lit fiction with fantasy. the protagonist, Sandy Shortt, has an obsession with finding lost things and somehow ends up in this alternate universe where all the lost things go. i guess that sounds interesting, but there were too many loose ends left "undone" by the end. and i really never felt like the main character learned or grew through the challenge of the story.

oh well. i think i'd still like to read another of Ahern's books... just to give her a chance to redeem herself. if any of you have read her stuff, do you have suggestions?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

i like a clean sink. i'm not neurotic about it, but i will not leave bits of food and gunk in my sink. not to mention, the dirtier you leave a sink, the harder it is to clean when you "finally get around to it..."

today's tip is one i've developed over a few years of finding the most effective (and easiest) way to keep my kitchen sink clean.

here is my sink "before." not that bad... but it can look better.

here's what i use: vinegar, baking soda, and boiling water. these are things most of us have on hand, but they are also a more natural way to clean . i don't exclusively clean with all natural products, but i try to use them when i can.
start by dumping a good amount of baking soda in your drain (both, if you have a double sink). i probably use about 1/4 of a box. use your fingers to work the baking soda into the drain, then pour a good amount of vinegar down each drain (maybe a cup or two). quickly place the stoppers back in the drain - this allows the vinegar and baking soda to react and clean out the pipes. both ingredients also work to remove odors (and i hate any kind of odd odor - especially in my kitchen. multiple pregnancies seem to have left me with an incredibly acute sense of smell. it totally annoys my husband).
after the vinegar/baking soda combination has had a few minutes to sit, remove one stopper at a time and pour boiling water down each drain (placing the stopper back in the drain). i usually pour the water down my lesser used sink drain first and quickly stop it while i open the other drain. the second sink will sometimes appear to be clogged but really it's just a combination of the "stuff" working and the slight vacuum that's created from stopping up the other drain. this picture isn't so helpful, but you get the idea.
now that the drains are clean, it's time to scrub the sink. again, i choose more natural cleaners, but that is really up to you. here are two that i like and use often - from Shaklee and Melaleuca.
both companies make great non-toxic cleaning products as well as health and personal care items. and their stuff is super concentrated so you don't need much. that bottle on the left i have had for 2 years now... and i use it often.

this time, i used a bit of shaklee's Basic H concentrated cleaner. and i mean a bit. a couple drops in each sink...

add more hot water to fill the sink just an inch or two.
use your sink scrubber (doesn't everyone have one of those???) to scrub the sides and bottom of the sink while it is filled. i like to use a cloth to wipe down the counters while the sink is filled with hot, soapy water. you can even spot-clean your floors (with a separate cloth). remove the stoppers and scrub the drain and the stoppers well.
the result is a clean sink in less than 10 minutes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

in an effort to be a bit more purposeful with my blogging, i'm trying out a theme on certain days. for now, i'm starting with tuesday's tip. over the years, i've stumbled upon and, consequently, accumulated a number of helpful household tidbits that i think are share-worthy. hope you find them helpful, too!

so, for today...
i finally have a set of matching glasses. this may not seem like a big deal, but when you start out small (with mismatched furniture and kitchenware), eventually having an actual "set" of anything is an accomplishment. i was happy to get rid of my hodgepodge collection of McDonald's and Burger King "collectors items" as well as random dollar store plastic tumblers. i like drinking out of glass.

the only problem with having a set of glasses is that when you have company, everyone's glass looks the same. this is great when you're setting your table. but what about after dinner when the table is clear and everyone wants to hold on to their drink? well, today's tip is totally credited to my ingenious husband. he has so many good ideas, and this one is one that we use over and over.

he grabbed the handful of those various colored rubber bracelets that had been collecting in our daughters' dress up drawer. you know,... they started out as only yellow - but now every cause has its own color and matching bracelet. it turns out they are perfect for marking drinking glasses. they are stretchy and, because they are rubber, won't slip off. we liked the idea so much that we officially commandeered the girls' bracelets and now keep them in a kitchen drawer for this very purpose.
if you don't have these rubber bracelets (or little girls who collect them), they are not too hard to come by. i'm not sure where exactly to buy them. around here, they just pop up like odd socks. however, if you do have little girls who have an "eclectic" collection of jewelry, try using their little elastic beaded bracelets. they especially work well on glasses that have a any kind of ridge or lip along the bottom. you could even break out the crafty bead set that their well-meaning family member gave them for their birthday that you stuffed onto the top shelf of their closet hoping they'd forget about it so you'd never have to endure the chaos of tiny hands trying to coordinate threading a 3 mm bead onto a piece of elastic all the while dropping them all over your floor and losing them in places like under the refrigerator and dining room table only for you to go skidding to your demise when you step on the forgotten pieces later that same day. well, i digress. clearly.

still, you should try it. it works :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a new era

well, this has been a long time coming.

i love dogs. i mean, i really love dogs. when we took our youth group on a missions trip to mexico, we made a border stop at walmart to stock up on gifts for the local children. the group bought crayons and candy. i bought dog biscuits for all the strays i had heard would abound.

early in our marriage i stressed chuck out every time we took a walk and i’d stop to talk to the neighborhood dogs. he was sure i’d get mauled.

suffice it to say, our 11 years of marriage has involved lots of pet-related debates, as well as on and off pet ownership. this time, it’s the real thing.

because, this time, i got MY dog.

i had been thinking about what i wanted. and what chuck did NOT like about dogs. he can’t stand the hair. and the poop. i told him there was not a bald, constipated dog breed out there. and if there was, we wouldn’t want it. but i know from childhood experience that there are small non-shedding dogs. (small dogs make small poop). so, a few months ago, i told chuck i had been thinking. and he totally surprised me by saying that he had been thinking, too.

so, i moved forward with the necessary research... knowing exactly what i wanted. and then, he shocked me even more by saying, “katie, you always loved that your parents actually bred dogs when you were a kid. why don’t you do that?” so, i did some more thinking. and some more research. (i like to research).

this week, we agreed that the time was right. i found the right dog... at the right place... for the right cost. and today, i made the drive with a wad of cash in my purse.

we joked about the fact that i was negotiating with a man whose last name was “stoltzfus” in lancaster county who had a distinctly pennsylvania dutch-sounding accent. but, i know from experience that not everyone named stoltzfus in lancaster is amish, thank you very much (i can just hear them now...) not to mention, what amish dog breeder is going to be advertising on the internet and taking phone calls.

well, i’ll tell you who - because i found him. tucker and i drove an hour north on winding country roads only to arrive at a farm. a farm that also had a one-room school house on its property. a farm with no electrical lines running to its house. and a buggy in it’s driveway. after a few minutes in the driveway, an amish woman about my age came out and told me that amos would be in from the fields in a few minutes. man, i can not tell you how much i wished i had brought my camera... except that, yes, i know that cameras are a no-no with the amish... but, come on. the irony.

so, after a few minutes, amos did indeed come along with a wiggly parcel wrapped in his coat. we chatted, i handed over the cash, he handed over the pup... and tucker and i made the hour long drive home... dodging buggies as we went.

the puppy is adorable, of course, but definitely smelled like an amish, farm puppy. the first thing we did when we got home was give her a bath. pictures and details will follow... but first, i’m waiting for my kids to come home from school and meet their surprise. they have no idea!

i’m still not exactly sure how the amish are on the internet...

Monday, November 9, 2009

stuck between a blog and a hard place

i haven't been posting a lot lately.
it's not for lack of ideas. or things to say. i have lots of them. let's face it, i'm full of them. however, i'm stuck.

writing has always been my outlet. those who have known me the longest can attest to this. my hidden stash of spiral notebooks and bound journals can also attest to this. and while i was never particularly secretive about this hobby, i have always been rather selective about whom i would allow to read my "stuff."

somewhere in the last 5 years, technology forced out my handwritten journals and introduced me to the wonderful world of blogging. and i liked it. somedays it let me tell funny stories about my kids. other times it served as my outlet for the day's frustrations. then, on very rare occasions, it became my virtual soapbox. when i began, i blogged to a very small community of bloggers - fellow moms, mostly sahms, who could feel my pain - or, at least, laugh at it.

then came facebook. facebook has linked me to everyone, everywhere, all at once. and i like it. for someone who strives for efficiency at all costs, it has consolidated all my efforts to make contact and keep in touch with people from my past and present and has even allowed me to make new friendships. it's an amazing thing. but now i'm stuck.

being connected with everyone everywhere means that my "audience" is not what it used to be. and you know what i mean. say it on facebook and it's out there. for good. and anyone who didn't see it will be told by everyone who did. sometimes this helps to keep us informed. however (and this is more often the case) it can also contribute to the ever growing cyber-rumor mill. even admitting that pushes me precariously to the very edge of my non-confrontational comfort zone. and THAT is my problem.

i am a people pleaser. i like people to be happy - happy, in general, yes, but happy with me would also be fantastic. this doesn't work so well in a social network as accommodating as facebook. i've seen seemingly innocent status messages spark 100 comment-long debates. others complain to no end about other's "stupid application notices." i find myself wanting to send people messages telling them how to "hide" the things that bother them, simply because the tension becomes too much. i know, i know,... i sound like a pansy. maybe i am.

unfortunately, though, this has transferred itself to my blogging. throughout my day i think of things i'd like to write about... but then i also think about the gauntlet any such blog must run once it's out there. and suddenly, the way i handled my 5 year old at breakfast this morning is being read by other moms, yes,... but it's also being read by far away family friends and church leadership and random teenagers as well as the child's aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. i realize that none of that changes what did or did not take place at the breakfast table, but it does give one the feeling of having placed one's self under the microscope.

ok, so, yes, that's what blogging is. and, no, i don't have to make my blog accessible to everyone. but then that opens up even more controversy. let's say my blog is only read by other moms. let's even limit it to sahms. the amount of judgment and criticism (albeit, innocent and well-intentioned) within that audience is enough to induce a bout of writer's block. oh, i still know what i want to write about. but i have a hard time figuring out exactly how to word it.

consider these possible topics:

we debated over whether our 8 year old son should read this well-known series...
what??? you let your child read that?
what's to debate? just be glad he's reading.

the kids have been sick. we went to the chiropractor...
are you kidding? a chiropractor?

so, then we had our flu shots...
flu shots?? are you crazy?

the kids picked out really cute costumes for halloween.
halloween, huh? we'd never let our kids do that...

but we took them to church for a halloween-alternative party...
halloween alternative? why do you need an alternative to dressing up and getting candy?

i'm tired of fighting with my 5 year old about what she wears to school...
children need to express themselves without restrictions.
fighting? with a five year old? my children know better than to argue with their authority figures.

no, as a matter of fact, our kids don't play any sports or take any classes.
what do they do, then? they need time for themselves and to be involved in competitive activities...

last sunday, i took my daughter to a birthday party...
a birthday party? on a sunday? hmm...

so, i am thinking about doing "X" but i need to see what my husband says...
what your husband says? you're a grown woman!
should you really be doing anything else? your family is your priority.

i could go on. and honestly,... none of these things are meant to target any one specifically (although i've gone back over this a few times, nervously wondering if i've worded it right or if anyone will find this post offensive... seriously, it's an illness) i've come to the conclusion, however, that many of us have the same thoughts. the rest of you just don't dwell on it for unhealthy amounts of time. i mean, we can call it "social networking" but aren't we making ourselves very vulnerable when we put all manner of opinions and thoughts and feelings "out there" to not only be read by the 20 people we talk to on a regular basis but also the boy we went to kindergarten with and mom's work friends and cousin Ann's boyfriend and the church secretary and... you see my point.

of course, all this only means something if you actually care what people think. and i can hear that now... "why do you care so much???"
well, i don't know.
but i do.
and i don't think that's bad.
but i think i need to learn to be able to write without fear.
and share even when it might challenge what someone else thinks.

but first, i may need a stiff drink.
what? you drink???

see what i mean?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

happy birthday, chloe girl

maybe this is 3 days overdue... but i didn't want to miss a chance to say happy birthday to my girl. chloe turned 7 on sunday.

what a young lady she is becoming. she is our peacemaker, our stability, our extra set of hands. she makes her momma proud when her dry wit puts her daddy in his place, and yet she is incredibly compassionate and nurturing.

even though her sister's injury stole the show on sunday, chloe didn't mind. she's always been one to fly under the radar and not draw much attention. for the most part this is a good thing... although those types can be more challenging to discipline as their issues are more "subtle."

a perfect example of who chloe is can be seen in how she received one of her birthday gifts. our children are rewarded monthly for good behavior in school (assuming they have had no discipline issues in the classroom that particular month). last month, patrick told me he wanted to use his october money to buy a birthday gift for chloe. i thought this was very thoughtful of him... even if his idea of the "perfect gift" for his sister was a star wars figure. so, i took him shopping the day before her birthday and he searched high and low for a "girl" figure - sadly, they are hard to come by, so he settled for some jawas. he insisted it's what she would want.

and she was really very excited as she opened that gift - because she knew he was excited to give it to her. she enthusiastically responded to the somewhat unorthodox gift and spent some time examining them and checking out their cool gear.

what patrick doesn't understand, of course, is that, while chloe does play star wars with him, she really doesn't care all that much about having star wars toys of her own. because what she really values is playing with him. having arrived only a short 13 months after her brother, chloe has always followed very closely after him in everything. she rarely challenges his leadership or preferences. when we suggest that patrick play something she likes, he says, "but she likes to play with my stuff!" and, at that moment, chloe usually has a little smile on her face that says, "it's ok... i don't mind."

don't get me wrong. there are moments when she puts her foot down and throws out a little drama...
and there are also moments when we tell patrick to go play polly pockets with his sister (just because...) - and he shrugs his shoulders, picks up a little blond toy, pretends she's ahsoka or qui-gon jinn, and moves on with life.

i love her...

Monday, November 2, 2009

here we go again...

yesterday was chloe's 7th birthday. however, in true chloe-fashion, she gave up the spotlight for another family member. yes, we celebrated. there was dessert and presents. but most of the attention went to lucy... and her chin.
on saturday night, after returning from our church costume party, we were eager to get the kids showered and put to bed. chloe and lucy were the last to get cleaned up and were supposed to be drying off when i heard some commotion. it sounded like laughing but quickly turned into crying. further investigation led me to chloe comforting a rather distraught lucy. chloe said, "i told her to stop fooling around, but she fell and hurt her mouth." apparently, she had slipped and landed on the tub floor. her mouth was fine, but her chin had not fared so well. the one inch gash was gaping open. not pretty. so... chuck got her dried off and dressed as i began the ordeal of calling and waiting on hold for our insurance to give the approval for the few stitches she would need at Patient First. we taped her wound closed, and lucy and i got back into the car to go out.

thankfully, the approval came, and Patient First was not busy. we were in and out in less than a half an hour. the more interesting details are better told by lucy, so you'll have to wait for her next video installment. for now, a close-up will have to do...