Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keeping a Clean House

Be forewarned that this post is going to reveal a lot about my OCD-ness and other neuroses.  Hopefully this will be of some help to the other OCD-ers or even wannabe OCD-ers.

In creating our Boucher Family Binder, I dedicated a section to "Household Management."  In a previous blog post, I mentioned that this is the place where I keep anything and everything related to the running of our home.  I can't even begin to tell you what a difference these checklists are making in reducing my stress level.  I've always been a list maker.  Seeing what I have to do and when I need to do it forces me to be more productive.  

When I was still teaching full-time, I was always running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I'd go from school to home, eat dinner amid my schoolwork, convince myself that I was at a stopping point, maybe watch a show, and get to bed around midnight or later.  Housework was always relegated to the weekends, but it seemed to get postponed as we found more exciting things to do than dust or deep-clean the kitchen.  

When I transitioned to staying at home, I was overwhelmed with the time freed up for the housework (or at least the outside perception that I had all of this "free time" to create domestic perfection).  I had no idea where to begin.  Finally, two years into this stay-at-home gig, I'm figuring out that I need "do it" lists--very specific "do it" lists:  daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal "do it" lists.  I know this is silly, but I call them "do it" lists rather than "to do" lists so that it sounds like I have more of a commitment to actually do the things I write down.  

First, I have my Daily Do It List for keeping straight the logistics of my day.

This is where I relegate my daily mind clutter.  Before I go to bed each night, I write down any appointments or places I need to go ("go"), important or out of the ordinary tasks I need to accomplish ("do"), items I need to purchase ("buy"), people I need to call or somehow contact ("call"), and what we're having for dinner that night so that I keep the prep time in mind when I create that day's schedule ("cook").  Putting it all on paper before the day begins helps me to go to bed without obsessing over all that I need to accomplish the following day.   I used to go to bed with all kinds of mind clutter and keep myself up at night, thinking about all of the things I needed to do, go to, buy, cook, or people I needed to call/e-mail.  Now, I figure all of that out before bed, put it on my Daily Do It List, and go to bed without the mind clutter.

WARNING:  Before you read on, please keep in mind that everyone's definition of clean is different.  You must decide what is a healthy balance of safe (especially in the kitchen and bathroom) and manageable for your schedule and priorities.  You might look at my lists and think, "Is she crazy?!  Why does she vacuum that much?!"  On the other hand, you might look at my lists and think, "Gross!  She only vacuums under furniture once a month!"  The following lists are what works for me (as of now!), and they might be too lax or strict for your style.  Pick and choose what'll work for you!  

Now, enter the Daily Cleaning Schedule.  This is the list of the bare bones things I do everyday to keep the house functioning.  

I committed myself to doing these things each day to make them habit if they weren't already.  Wiping down the kitchen sink and bathroom sinks, tubs, and shower walls after each use is taking a huge chunk of time out of my deep cleaning routine.  Some call it crazy, I call it working smart, not hard.    

Then, I have my Weekly Cleaning Schedule.  

The goal of my weekly cleaning schedule is two-fold:
  1. No more playing "catch up" or panic with unexpected visitors
    • Having specific days for household tasks holds me more accountable to actually doing them.  This ultimately means I get to spend more time doing what matters.
  2. Keep Sunday a day of REST and WORSHIP.  
    • I have a new rule that it all will and must wait on Sundays.  Can I tell you how much more our family loves Sundays now?  
To create my weekly cleaning schedule, I listed all of the things that I think need to get done in our house on a weekly basis.  I consulted a few other websites for guidance on this.  No wonder I was getting stressed out!  I was keeping all of these things in my head and expecting to remember to do them all and try to conquer as many as possible each day.  That system wasn't working.  I ended up overwhelmed, and the perfectionist in me delayed housework because my mentality was that if it wasn't going to be perfect, it wasn't worth doing.  I'd wait for the right amount of time to come along to do a chore rather than doing what I could when I could.  Mothers of young children know that my system of waiting for the "perfect time" to come along to do a chore was bound to fail. 

After listing all of the things I want to accomplish each week, I considered what our family's schedule looks like each day.  I considered what my motivation level looks like on various days of the week, what items require more time or attention, and in what order I will be most likely to accomplish these items.  I tried creating a weekly schedule before, but it wasn't nearly this detailed or accurate in terms of what I'd actually do.  If something unexpected comes up like a last-minute playdate or a sick kiddo, I let myself off the hook when I need to and reassign items that don't get accomplished to other days.  I tell myself that the goal is to teach my children by example that it is important to care for home and family through cleaning and cooking and everything else, but that it's equally important to spend time with one another and having fun.  True to how I've always been, I'm much busier these days trying to keep up with my cleaning schedule, but I end up having much more quality time with my children and Philip because everything that needs to get done is actually getting done.  

Next, I have my Monthly Cleaning Schedule

As you might have guessed, these are the things that only need to be done once a month.  Quick tip:  Work with your microwave to clean it.  Put half of a lemon in a microwave safe bowl full of water, and let it run for five minutes.  When done, wipe down the inside of the microwave walls with the steam.  ¡Voila! 

Finally, I made a Seasonal Checklist of the chores that need to be done each of the four seasons.   

That's it!  These lists are keeping my home clean.  I hope they help you and your home.  Work smart, not hard, and spend more time doing the things you love with the people you love!

If you're interested in a copy of these lists as Microsoft Word docs that you can edit for your own use, e-mail me at cboucher08@gmail.com.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What We've Been Up To

Here are some of our latest pictures and the funny things that've happened lately.

The largest strawberry I've ever seen

Family trip to the neighborhood park a few weeks ago

They're starting to play together more and more.  Jane is surprisingly good at sharing her toys.  "Here ya go, Walt."

First bath together

Splash, splash, splash!


Walt in my favorite footie monster jammies

Army crawling with Monty

Celebrating Philip and Jane's birthdays with Philip's family.  Jane looks like she's making a wish.

Oatmeal and nanas.  Yum, yum, yum!

When I was pregnant with Walt and had a really sensitive nose, I started covering my nose with my shirt as I changed Janie's diapers.  I still cover my nose from time to time if the kiddos have stinky diapers.  I caught Jane changing her Baby Stella's diaper and covering her nose with her shirt.  Monkey see, monkey do!

We got some ice cream after dinner tonight.  Jane had two memorable quotes.
"Oooooooo, yummy!  So cold!"
"Janie, slow down!" 

Jane:  "Mommy, watch show?"
Me:  "No, no shows."
Jane:  "News?"

At lunch, Jane kept saying, "Mama, tray, tray, tray!"  I thought something was wrong with the tray on her seat.  Eventually I figured out that she wasn't saying "tray," but "pray."  She was upset that I offered her food without praying first.  I said, "Oh, Janie, thank you for reminding Mama to pray first."  She said, "You're welcome, Mama."

Philip came home from work.  As he reached the gate at the top of the stairs, Jane said to him from the other side, "Dada, come over here!"

Now that Janie's 2, we decided it's time to say goodbye to the binkie.  I was dreading the whole ordeal, and I was so nervous for her reaction.  One night we decided to go cold turkey.  As we got Janie ready for bed, we told her, "Janie, binkies are all gone.  Binkies went bye bye."  She looked at us, and I held my breath, waiting for screaming and tears.  She looked in the box on her changing table where we had kept the binkies and discovered that they were, in fact, gone.  She said, "Mama, Dada, binkies all gone."  Then, to our surprise, she climbed into bed with her stuffed animals without a fuss, and went to bed as usual!  She's never asked for a binkie since that night, and she's never tried to steal Walt's.  Who is this kid?!  

With allergy season in full force, there has been a lot of tissue use around here.  I ask Janie several times a day to come over so that "Mama can wipe the boogies from your nose."  The other day I was changing Janie's diaper.  She looked up at me and pointed to my nose.  "Mama, you got boogies in your nose!"  Thanks, sweetie.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flashback: Jane's 2011 & 2012 Superbowl Halftime Shows

It took me awhile, but I finally posted videos to a private YouTube channel so that I can upload them quickly to my blog.  

Jane has always loved music and television.  Therefore, the Super Bowl Halftime Show is a pretty big deal to her.  It has it all--lights, music, cool outfits, dancing, and television wrapped into one!  

We recorded Jane's "freestyle interpretation" of the 2011 and 2012 Superbowl Halftime Shows.  Seeing them back to back is a quick reminder of how much things can change in a year.  

Here's 11-month-old Jane dancing to the Black Eyed Peas in 2011:

Here's 23-month-old Jane dancing to Madonna in 2012: 

Part 2 of her 2012 Show:

I love little dancin' diva!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My New Office Space

Inspired by my new organization book, House Works, I decided to create a small office space.  As our family grew, we had to move our office downstairs.  The problem with this set-up is that we lost a central hub for all of our paper and office needs.  Consequently, the kitchen counter became a paper hot-zone.  By day's end, the kitchen counter collected the day's mail, receipts, to-do-lists, etc.  I was constantly battling the paper mountain to get a clean counter where I could prepare meals.  Since the desk was out of sight downstairs, the office work got neglected and piled up.  I needed a space where I could organize the daily mountain of paper, store reference books that I access frequently, pay bills, and write any correspondence.  In theory I could have continued to have that space in the basement, but it wasn't a practical solution for me.  Since I need to access the office materials frequently, and I can't always get downstairs with the kiddos when I need to, it's far more convenient having my office space within reach.  That way I can write a quick thank you note, pay a bill, or sort the mail while keeping an eye on the kids.  We settled on a corner in the front living room.  I'm sure I'll keep adding to it or making changes, but here's what it looks like for now.

This is an old table that Philip used in his apartment kitchen before we got married.  I added a cushion to one of the chairs, and we folded down one side of the table to push it flush to the wall.  The lamp was in Philip's sister's old room.  I may change the shade so that it goes better with my blue/green color scheme.    

This is my "action file."  Each day, I sort the day's mail and other papers into these 3 categories:  to do, to file, and memorabilia.  Each week, I file the papers from the "to file" folder in our downstairs filing cabinet.  "Memorabilia" contains mementos like Jane's art work or other precious memories to add to our scrapbooks.  "To do" contains things to read, bills to pay, correspondence to return, etc.  To make sure the folders don't become another bulging mess, I built appointments in to my new weekly schedule to take care of these items.  I purchased the teal file holder and the file folders at Target.

The magazine holders are Vera Bradley "book keepers" in the pattern Rhythm and Blues.  I love the cheerful pattern!  They hold my unread magazines, prayer journal, Bible, Catechism, House Works, and a few other books.  The yellow book next to them, Home Comforts, is also a must-read!  I consult this home encyclopedia very frequently. 
This box was a big mess before I decided to add dividers.  I sorted through all of our stationery and greeting cards, separating them by family member or category.
The dividers are 5-tab Avery plastic write-on dividers.  They were actually made for planners, but they work perfectly on their sides in a photo box like this to divide your stationery. 

My only complaint with this workspace is that I don't have a place to store tools like pens, scissors, stamps, a calculator, etc.  I fear leaving them out for little hands to discover.  I can picture our living room walls and furniture covered in ball-point pen.  Any brilliant storage solutions for my office tools?  

I love having this new "home" for our office needs.  Having an office on our main floor is making a big difference in tackling the mountains of paper.  While we still have the printer/scanner/copier, filing cabinet, and other office materials in the basement, this small work area serves most of our needs with the bonuses of being small and within reach. 

Hooray for tackling the paper mountain! 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week In Review

Walt started army crawling this morning!  

After his afternoon nap, Walt stood next to the ottoman with both hands for five minutes before buckling over.  A new record!

We were out and about running errands this morning.  While we were in the car, Jane looked out the window and said, "Mama!  Look!  Firefighters!"  I said, "Really?  You see a firefighter?"  She responded (in between giggles), "No, Mama.  That's silly."  Jane's first joke is on the books.

Jane, during every turn in the car:  "Woah, Mama!  Big turn!"  

Jane's favorite question today:  "Mama, what you doing there?"


(Scene from the changing table.)
Jane:  Mama, what's a clock say?
Me:  Tick, tock.  Tick, tock
Jane:  That's right, Mom!
Walt's been doing a combination army crawl/roll all day.  At one point, he went across the family room to get his stuffed monkey.  I give us another week before we have to put the baby gate back at the top of the stairs.
Talking on "the office" phone
We had a playdate with Jane and Walt's buddies.  They had a ball playing and running around.  The highlight for me was watching Janie give her little buddies big hugs before we left.  What's cuter than watching toddlers in their big, puffy winter coats and hats giving each other a big squeeze? 

Jane has a musical set with mini-cymbals that are about three inches in diameter.  Dr. Jane took one of the cymbals and went around, putting it on the chests of all of her stuffed animals, saying, "Check up, Ernie.  Check up, Elmo.  Check up, Baby Stella."  Apparently she learned a new phrase last week at her doctor visit ("check up"), and we didn't know it!

Jane developed an addiction to dry cereal in the last week.  It's her new favorite snack.  I think I must say, "That's all" a lot when I pour the last bit for her because while I was giving her her morning snack, she said, "That's all, Mama."

Jane held her sippy cup to her favorite stuffed dog, T-Bone's mouth.  As she pretended to have him drink, she said, "Slow down, Doggy!"

The weather was so gorgeous today that we were able to go for a family walk before dinner.  Jane walked ahead of me down the stairs on our way out.  She turned back and said, "Come on, Mama.  Hold my hand?"

Look at that baby sitting up in the stroller and his big sis on the back!
When I dropped Jane off in the childcare room for our evening event, she gave my leg a squeeze and said, "See ya later, Mama!"  I love that she's simultaneously loving and secure when I leave.

As Philip got Jane ready for bed tonight, she said to him from the changing table, "Dada, you so cute!"
The kids had a last-minute playdate this morning, and it was a ball!  Jane is especially fond of her little buddy, Connor.  Instead of playing alongside her friends, Jane is starting to develop an interest in playing with them.  It was so fun to watch those two be silly together and share toys.   

We went shopping for the kids' spring and summer clothes at a second-hand shop.  We got both of their spring and summer wardrobes for a whopping $140!  I don't know about you, but getting the kids quality clothes at a low price is my idea of a good time.  Probably a quarter of the clothes still had the tags on them!
It was a quiet day at home.  This was the first weekend in a long time that we had Philip all to ourselves for the entire weekend, so we did a few projects around the house.  Philip cleaned out the garage, I organized a few things in the storage room, and we got my new office space in the front living room set up.  (More on that another time.)

My awesome husband told me to have some me-time.  I went shopping with a girlfriend after lunch.  It was so nice to shop for a few clothes with the helpful expertise of a gal pal.  Getting out on my own with a friend was good for my soul.  Thank goodness for a husband who encourages me to have that time.

We had a fun night out on the town with some friends.  We had a yummy dinner out and followed it with some bowling and a stop to the attached arcade area.  Putting a little bet on the game brought out the best in our bowling skills.  I've never seen so many strikes and spares in one game!  Unfortunately for Philip, more of the strikes and spares came from our friends than his sidekick wife.  Janie and Walt played with two of their favorite sitters, and Jane even got to do a craft with them.  They put a bunch of glitter and pom-poms on a wooden "J."  So cute!  As always, it was fun to go on a date with my hubby, and the kids enjoyed having fun sitters to play with.

While I ate my breakfast this morning, I read an article on the Holy Father's upcoming trip to Cuba and the big news that Fidel Castro might re-convert back to Catholicism.  Philip asked a question about Fidel's regime, and I responded with an, "Oh, yeah!" for emphasis.  Jane decided this is her new favorite phrase.  She said "Oh, yeah!" in response to just about everything this morning. 

Walt is a crawling machine!  He does an army crawl/roll combo all over the place, and he's getting so fast!  Walt's no longer our potted plant bambino.  I think we're putting the baby gate back up tomorrow.   
Our not-so-little guy
My religious education students received the sacrament of Confirmation this afternoon.  What an honor to be a part of their big day!   

We decided to end the era of binkies for Janie tonight, and we went cold turkey.  We've been telling her for a few weeks that she's a "big girl," and we've ushered in a few changes like a bigger, forward-facing carseat.  We emphasize that we make the changes because she's a "big girl."  At meals, instead of having yogurt bites like Walt, she has "big girl yogurt" (regular yogurt out of a container).  So, tonight, when it came time for Jane to go to bed, we said "binkies are all gone.  Janie's a big girl.  Binkies are for babies."  She got on board right away and said, "Binkies all gone."  It's 10:00, and she's still asleep in bed.  Could it be too good to be true?  Perhaps tomorrow during naptime will be the biggest test.  Stay tuned!   

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Boucher Family Binder

UPDATE:  Since posting about my binder in March 2012, several friends have asked for my forms/templates.  To make it easier for everyone, I created a Google Docs page for you to access the forms and edit them for your own use.  Here is the link to my Family Binder Shared FolderI hope the forms are helpful!

I found a fantastic book about a month ago.  It's called "House Works: How to live clean, green, and organized at home."

The book has all kinds of practical tips to make your home run more efficiently so that you can reclaim the time you want to spend with family, friends, and doing your favorite activities. 

The author, Cynthia Townley Ewer, has a website (organizedhome.com) that has a lot of the same information within the book.  I highly recommend checking out the site!  With the free time I've gained during my Lenten Facebook Fast, I have been reading this book and implementing her recommendations, including the Household Notebook.

The Household Notebook is a central information hub with all of your family's essential information.  It may be morbid, but another reason I created our Household Notebook was out of fear.  I keep a lot of our family's information in my head.  If something ever happened to me, nobody would know a lot of the ins and outs of how our home and family work.  Now, I have great peace of mind knowing that all of the information from my head is both current and on paper so that things can continue to run relatively smoothly should something ever happen to me. 

In addition to being our family's go-to information center, I want our Household Notebook to be personalized and fun to look at.  Instead of buying a binder with regular dividers, I chose to personalize it.  I settled on a white 1 1/2" binder with a D-ring.  I found cute scrapbooking paper and stickers at JoAnn's and chose a floral theme.

Front cover.  I chose to include a quote from Blessed Pope John Paul II on marriage.

Front cover and spine.
Binder spine close-up

Back of binder.  I chose to include Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Nazareth Prayer for the Family.
Once I finished the cover for the binder, I created the dividers.  Cynthia Ewer from organizedhome.com gives you some recommendations on dividers for your notebook.  After reading her list and considering our family's needs, and ended up with seven dividers.  To personalize them, I stuck with my floral theme, and I put the pages into page protectors with a title centered on white paper, a solid-color cardstock, and a border behind it.  I also attached clear index dividers with the same headings on the side of the page protectors so that I can flip to each section quickly.  

Here are my seven dividers and a list of what will go into each section:

"Home Management" is my place for things like: a daily, weekly, and master to-do lists, cleaning schedules, household systems, seasonal chores, organization tips, cleaning information, decorating ideas, and auto information.  

"Meals" is my place for: weekly and monthly menu planner forms, grocery list forms, inventory forms, recipes to try, favorite recipes, and food storage guidelines.
"Finances" is the place for my monthly budget worksheet/receipt storing, bills to pay/online service and account information, credit card list, insurance information, utilities/services directory, and important warranty information.  This is my basic finance go-to place, but all sensitive information is stored under lock and key.

"Health" is my spot for a medical sheet for each family member, a medical authorization form, prescription drug records, insurance information, baby percentiles by month, schedule of visits to the pediatrician, a place for questions for the next appointment, pet health records, and a diet tracker.
"Activities, hobbies, & fun" is my place for the hours our favorite places are open as well as their addresses and phone numbers, rosters/calendars from groups we belong to, craft/activity ideas for me and the kids, a list of books to read, a list of movies to rent, and a travel checklist.
"Family & Celebrations" is my spot for a clothing sizes tracker for all family members (tops, bottoms, shoes, etc.), a master occasions list of birthdays/anniversaries/other important milestones, party planning forms, gift ideas, a holiday gift list, Christmas card address list, Christmas gift exchange list, holiday menu planners, and a décor inventory.  I think I'll ultimately end up with a separate Christmas binder.  (UPDATE:  Since writing this post, I created a Family Christmas Planner with a shared Google Docs page as well.)
"Emergency and Babysitter Information" is my spot for essential emergency information, the kids' schedules, and a family disaster plan.

If you'd like to make a Household Notebook for your home, and you'd like to to use my format, there's no need for you to go to all of the trouble on your own!  I already have all of the templates, forms, labels, etc. saved on my computer.  If you'd like them (any or all), shoot me an e-mail at cboucher08@gmail.com or write a comment below with your e-mail address.  I've seen these forms on Etsy for $3.00 a piece or $40.00 for the JPEG file for the entire binder.  Save yourself some time and money, and I'll send you what I have.  Take what I've made, and make it your own!  Pick and choose the dividers that work for you, select a theme that you'll enjoy, and make a Household Notebook that will help you reclaim more time with the ones you love!  In future posts, I will be introducing each divider of my binder, share the tips I've learned from the book, and upload divider-specific forms/templates.  Here's to having a home that runs smoothly!

UPDATE:  In case you missed the link at the top of this post, I created a shared folder on Google Docs with all of my family binder templates.  Enjoy!