Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I am an organizer.  (I know, I know, you're shocked...).  I like order and am a firm believer in "a place for everything and everything in it's place."  Noting that my house is usually in some semblance of order, people often comment that I'm "lucky" that my kids are also neat.

First, let me say that "luck" has nothing to do with it.  Just like with eating, sleeping, reading, and (insert desired action here), my response is, "They did not come out that way."  The truth is, kids are kids, and they need to be taught.  They need to be taught how to eat, how to sleep, how to read,... and how to be neat.  (This could be a whole other post, but I will refrain for now).

Second, my kids are not all neat.  Each of my four children have very distinct personalities - a blend of Chuck and me with a smattering of where-in-the-world-did-that-come-from.  They have their "neat" moments but they are kids - and they would much rather adopt the "leave it where it lands" mentality of organization.

What works for me does not necessarily work for everyone, but we have incorporated a few rules in our house that helps keep us all sane.

1)  Put it away.  It's pretty simple, I know, but a lot of people never get their kids to this place (it also applies to adults!)  If you got it out, put it away.  If you are finished with it, put it away.

2) Help in the clean-up process.  Every now and again, Chuck and I will announce a "whole house clean-up."  It takes less than 10 minutes.  The kids have to stop what they are doing and go through the main areas of the house (kitchen, dining room, living room, family room) and look for things that are out of place.  Might be Dad's shoes, Mom's book, Tucker's cars, Patrick's sketch pad, etc - you get the idea.  But regardless of whose it is, they put it away.  I think this is important because it builds accountability and community.  Plus, I've often made the point that I put away a lot of things that aren't mine.

3)  Make common areas common.  Because we live in a rancher, our kids rooms are not far from the living areas of the house.  For that reason, we don't have a play room.  We also don't allow them to keep toys in the common areas.  They can bring toys, games, etc into the living areas, but when they are finished playing, the toys go back in their bedrooms.  This is important to me, because it means that our house does not look like it has been overrun with children.  Our house looks like we all live in it, but it does not look like the kids have taken over and pushed us out.

4)  Limit the amount of "stuff" kids have.  This is a hard one - one that causes some of us to get a bit defensive.  But, the truth is, we all have way more stuff than we need (if you are on a computer reading this, then - yes, you fall into that category).  I'm not saying it's wrong to have stuff, but I do think we need to teach kids, from a very young age, how to manage their stuff rather than be controlled by it.  Here is the method we use:  Our kids have a certain amount of space in their bedrooms - closets, bins, shelves, baskets, etc.  When that allotted space is full, no more stuff.  That means, when a birthday is coming, I might remind that particular child that they need to make room for new things.  In fact, before Christmas, I usually facilitate a mass purging.  The kids have learned to decide what is important to them, what they really play with, and what has value.  They also decide if something should be thrown away (the itty bitty pieces of happy meal toys) or donated.  Sometimes they designate a younger cousin or friend to "inherit" the toys.  Other times, we donate to a local charity.  But, through this process, they have also learned to give to others.  They've even begun to comprehend the spiritual principle that you can not receive (physically and spiritually) unless you have first given.

5) Limit the amount of "stuff" adults have.  Ok, this one might be even harder.  I think we can all agree that kids will best learn what their parents model.  The same things I ask of my kids, I maintain in my parts of the house.  No new kitchen gadgets unless there is a place and a need for them.  Nothing new in a full closet or drawer, unless something has been taken out to make room for it.  It's not easy, but it is simple.  And I enjoy not feeling like I'm being overtaken by my house.

These methods really can be effective.  For some kids, it will mold the way they naturally keep their own space clean.  For others, it may only "contain" their mess for as long as they live in your house.  But, you would be surprise how well it works.  Just the other day, Chloe came to me and asked for a laundry basket.  I handed her one but asked why.  "Oh, Lucy and I really need to get rid of some stuff.  Our room is getting too crowded."  

Be still, my heart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I assume that not a lot of men read these posts (except for my husband who humors me when I need an audience...), but, in any case, this is a post that won't apply to the male persuasion.

Ladies, today's tip is simple.  Do yourself a favor and get a good bra... that fits.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but, at the risk of sounding a bit too Oprah-esque, I believe there are quite a few women out there who are wearing the wrong bra in the wrong size.  A few years ago, I was one of those women.  (Truth is, 4 kids later, I didn't always recognize my chest let alone know what size bra it needed.)  One day, a friend I had not seen in some time came for a visit, and I couldn't help but ask if something was different.
"Did you lose weight?  Are you working out?"
Her answer was funny... but got my attention.  "Nope," she answered, "Just found the right bra."

I thought about it, and later that summer while shopping at the Leggs, Hanes, Bali... outlet, I took advantage of the free bra sizing service they offer.  They told me the proper size I should be wearing and then suggested bras with the features I most needed.  I walked out of that store amazed at what a difference the right bra made.  My shirt fit differently.  My entire outfit looked different.  My posture had changed.  It was the quickest and easiest diet I had ever been on.

Here are a few pointers I'd offer...
1) Get over the awkwardness of being sized.  You don't have to strip down to nothing.  It's easy and fast.

2) Don't get hung up on a particular size.  Quite often women are amazed at what size they actually are (whether it be how small or how large).  The truth is, you will look best in the proper size - not the size that you want to believe you wear.  Also, wearing the right size can often help to "diminish" a larger chest or "enlarge" a smaller one.  They don't call it WonderBra for nothing...

3) Consider features you may not have used before.  To this day, I swear by the wonders of underwire and a molded cup.  Ladies, you all know it's true - after several years and a few kids, it can take origami strategies to put a bra on.  Do yourself a favor: choose a bra that holds it's shape when your body can no longer do the job.

4) Be ready (and willing) to make an investment.  I'm not talking hundreds of dollars.  But a good bra will cost more than the $7.99 special at Walmart.  If that one works for you, that's fine - but, usually, there's a difference - and it shows.  Shop at the Leggs outlet - and you'll find that the bras are significantly marked down (to about $20- $25) and they often are combined with other discounts and offers.  Consider that the right bra will make your shirts fit and take off about 5 - 10 lbs.  It's worth it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I got no tips...

I have tried to think up some witty Tuesday's Tips... but it's just not happening.  Truth is, I've been too busy living tips.  Like...
- lots of grilling and easy dinners for our fast-paced summer schedule
- lots of grilling and easy dinners for lazy, HOT summer days when I don't want to be in the kitchen
- crazy advertisement-scouring, deal-finding back to school shopping
- going through the kids' school folders
- organizing the kids rooms / purging / simplifying (some of this is still on my To-Do list)
- reading for fun, reading for work, reading for both

I am sure there are others, but I just can't think of them.  This fall marks my official return to the classroom (as I will actually have a classroom), although I am still part time.  I will barely be part time, in fact, I'll most likely be there all day, but it's part time.  The kids have spent a few days in my classroom while I work on organizing and planning.  Fortunately, much of this can also be done at home, but there is just soooo much to do.  I have to admit, I had no idea how much I missed teaching.  Working is, well, work, but - then again - so is being at home.  So, I've just moved my location and restructured my schedule a bit.  

Making my transition a bit easier this fall is the fact that all 4 kids will be in school (yikes!  how did that happen?).  Even more convenient is the fact that my kids' school, my school, and our home are all within 7 minutes of each other, so I have easy access to all three.  Tucker is ready for kindergarten and the older three are excited to have him there.  I can only imagine what this year will look like.

For now, I am doing lots of reading.  I just finished The Hobbit and have moved on to Johnny Tremain.  I'm still trying to squeeze in some fun, summer reading - especially since I bought myself a Nook color.  What a fun toy! (and, yes, I can admit that it is a toy - but it's a pretty handy one).  

In addition to planning to teach totally new material for 4 preps, it's been a summer of vacation, kids, gardening, library, and pool time.  We (mostly Chuck) have lots of VBS prep ahead, the two older kids will have a week of sleep-away camp, and Chuck and I will be traveling to Minnesota for a wedding.  And with all this, I am amazed at how often I hear one of my children randomly say, "I'm bored!"  Really?  How?  When?  Gosh, I remember those summers...

That said... time for another trip to the library.