I give! The laundry wins!

I give up. I’m conceding defeat.

After months of waging war against my laundry, I am finally ready to throw in the towel. Literally.

I feel like the dirty clothes in this house dominate my life. They stack up in piles. They beg to be washed. In fact, they stink.

I used to have somewhat of a grip on the laundry around here. Back when the kids were in preschool, I would set aside one day a week to do nothing but laundry. No playdates. No errands. Just laundry.

But as our family grew, it was no longer possible to do all of our laundry in one day. It wasn’t physically possible for our washer and dryer to complete all of the loads in a 12-hour time period. And I wasn’t willing to stay up all night.

So, I switched to the one-load-a-day method. Every day, I would wash, dry, fold and put away one load of laundry. The only problem was when I would miss one day. I would start to feel behind. I would skip another day. Soon, I was so buried in being behind, I would start to feel hopeless. Then, I would have to go back to Plan A.

That’s when we went to the system of giving each person in the house one day a week to do his or her laundry. The oldest child was on Monday. The second on Tuesday. The third born on Wednesday. Then, the baby on Thursday (me), Me on Friday (me), my husband on Saturday and the towels on Sunday (me). I can’t even remember what happened to this system. I think I just got tired of trying to remind people whose day it was and trying to nag everyone to get their load done to make room for someone else.

Over the summer, I simple gave up on the laundry. I watched it grow in tall piles and topple over the tops of the brown baskets that indicate the laundry is dirty. Children begged to be able to wear clean underwear. The boys’ socks got so smelly I had to throw them away.

My husband tried to intervene even though I have fired him from laundry dozens of times. He CLAIMED that clean laundry — even when it’s in the wrong drawers and not folded up to my folding specifications — is better than dirty laundry. Oh, he’s always got some clever argument and practical reasoning. I still wasn’t buying it.

I kept telling him he was fired. He would smile. And then the minute I left the house for more than two hours, I would come home to find him folding laundry.

As summer turned to fall, our laundry woes have only grown. I have tried to do a load here and there. But between home schooling, chasing a toddler, working a part-time job, cooking meals, cleaning the house and driving people from place to place, I simply don’t have an extra 12 hours a day to devote to laundry. I just refused to do it. I would look the other way. Ignore it. Maybe it would go away on its own.

Well, I’m finally conceding defeat. We just can’t live anymore in a house piled up with dirty clothes. I’m completely out of laundry strategies. So, I’m just going to take it slow and steady. One load at a time.

If you don’t see me for a few days, please don’t be alarmed. I will be washing. Drying. Folding. Putting away. And as soon as I get done with all of the clothes, I know there will be plenty more waiting for me. I’m devoting my life to laundry.

I’m going to get started right now. As soon as I finish this blog post. And help the kids with their school work. And make lunch. And clean up the kitchen. And put the toddler down for her nap. Yep. I’m going to get to it right after that. Unless something else comes up.

What about you? Are you on top of your laundry? Or feeling a little defeated?


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I got you babe

Last year when we were out trick or treating, one of the parents gave a challenge that the adults should get dressed up too this year. I have had it in the back of my head the past few weeks, but I really couldn’t come up with any good ideas for a costume.

A few days ago, I was at WalMart shopping for costumes for the kids and I saw the wig with the pick. I could imagine that my husband would rock that wig! My plan was to dig deep in our closet to find some hippie outfits to go with the hair.

But alas, we don’t have any tie-dye T-shirts or a single pair of faded bell-bottoms! So, I popped into the Halloween store hoping to maybe pick up a few peace-symbol accessories. That’s when I found these outfits. I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist!

And here’s our little eskimo.

We loved our daughter as Cleopatra!

What’s Halloween without a ninja?

And a Jedi knight?

The whole crazy family…

Rock on!

I’ve always thought it was annoying that my kids start planning next year’s Halloween costumes on Nov. 1. Now, I’m starting to understand!

I’m going to have to rank getting dressed up for Halloween right there with roller skating, going down a water slide and having a water balloon fight. It’s one of those things that adults often sit back and watch. But it’s a lot more fun to get in on the action!

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Today is 010111. The date alone makes me want to make a resolution.
I was thinking about my proposed resolution up until the final minutes of 2010. I could hear the fireworks exploding in the distance, and my mind was still filled with thoughts of blogging every day in 2011. The idea alone was making me tense. I was starting to panic even before the first day of January officially arrived.
I was thinking about my life. The reality is I home-school about 30 hours a week. I work about 20 hours a week. Part of my job is to write on a blog. I have four children who are hungry all of the time. They also produce a ton of dirty clothes.
I don’t spend enough time reading my Bible or exercising or reading books or grocery shopping or cleaning. My house is cluttered. I need to clean out every closet and take the contents to Goodwill. I have a baby who likes to throw squishy bananas on the floor.
I want to update my blog every day. I can update my blog every day. However, I am choosing not to. (GASP!)
I know. This is so unlike me. I love to have goals and push myself to try new things. But I don’t want the pressure. I don’t want to turn something that is currently my hobby, my outlet, my joy into something I dread.
I am going to take a photo every day. And I am going to put it in a neat little folder on my computer so at the end of the year I can create a photo book with one photo of every day of 2011. I want to challenge myself to be creative with the photos that I take.
I might share some of those photos on my blog, but I’m not making any promises. I want to see how they turn out. And I’m not sure if they will really be that interesting to anyone outside my immediate family. I don’t want all of my e-mail subscribers to leave me because I’m overwhelming them with daily photos in their inbox.
So, thank you to those who encouraged me. I really did appreciate it.
And now, after being inspired by notasupermom, I’m going to post a few other things I plan to do in 2011:
I’m going to check my e-mail as often as I like. I might even put my iTouch in one back pocket, the iPhone in the other and carry my iPad under my arm and then have a showdown to see which one can retrieve my messages faster.
I’m going to drink at least two cups of tea every morning. I will drink my tea with refined white sugar.
I am going to kiss my baby’s bald head every day until she grows some hair. I am going to make her wear little hats with huge flowers and bows. I will talk in my baby voice as long as I can get away with it, saying things like, “You are the cootest wittle baby I evah did see. I wuv oo.”
I am going to be a more daring friend. I am going to take risks and go out on a limb for people.
I am going to let the e-mail pile up in my inbox until I reach my storage limit or Comcast threatens to shut down my account.
I am going to read books to my children in foreign accents. This drives them crazy and they beg me to stop. I am going to try to annoy them as much as possible with this. On some occasions, I will teach them grammar in my deep south accent and give them spelling words in my Chinese accent.
I am going to play lots of board games with my kids. I might even watch a few movies.
I am going to make as many different kinds of soup as I can until winter is over. I don’t care if no one will eat them but me. I will make soup.
I am going to continue to expand my shoe collection.
I will take naps. Lots and lots of naps.
I might update my blog every day some months. Or I might not.
So, 2011, bring it on. We just met, but I’m starting to love you already!


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Busy, busy, terribly busy

A friend I haven’t talked to in a while sent me an e-mail recently. “You are so busy,” she said.
I asked another friend how she had been doing lately, and she responded with one word: “Busy.”
It’s no secret that we are a generation that seems busier than ever before. And yet, I cringe when someone tells me I’m “busy.” I really dislike that word. I don’t like hearing it from others, and I don’t like it when someone uses it to describe me. I’m actually trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary.
Here’s the thing.
Every person on this planet has the same 24 hours in a day. Each one of us decides how we will use those hours. We are all equal in this regard.
Now, some people might have jobs that require them to work more hours than others. Some people have more children who demand more of their time.
But for the most part, we all choose how we will spend the hours in our day. Some of us choose to sign up for activities for our kids. Others choose to work outside the home or inside the home. Some people choose to work more hours than they really have to. Many people choose to exercise or keep their homes really clean or pursue a hobby.
And there is nothing wrong with any of those choices.
But that’s just it. Whatever it is that people choose, it really is a choice.
So, when people say they are busy, they are actually stating a priority. They are saying, “I don’t have time to do that because I have chosen to make other things a priority in my life.”
If someone repeatedly says she is too busy to spend time with someone, she is stating a priority. When someone tells me that I’m too busy, that person isn’t allowing me to state my priority. He or she has decided for me that I’m not willing to make time for… whatever.
Now, there are definitely times of life when things get crazy. Fall seems to be a time when all of the activities start up again and suddenly, it feels like we don’t have time for anything that is just relaxing and fun. The same thing can happen around the holidays.
It seems like we often forget that we need to schedule some “margin” into our lives. This is the white space where we have time to sit on the floor with the kids or sit outside in the sun or be available when someone drops by. Those moments of margin can be the relaxed times when some of the best conversations can happen.
So, yes. I do have a lot of responsibilities in my life right now. But believe it or not, I actually feel like I have quite a bit of margin. To me, I feel busy when I am constantly running from one thing to the next. We certainly have our seasons of crazy.
But busy? No, thanks.

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The first piece of irony for the day came when I found myself driving to a store to do my CyberMonday shopping. I had looked at those dishes all day online, but really, I needed to see those colors in person.
So, I had to drive to the store to look at them so I could drive back home to order them. Apparently, I couldn’t get the CyberMonday sale by purchasing them in the store. I couldn’t get free shipping in the store either, but then again, who needs shipping when you drive two miles to the store and buy want you want.
The second bit of irony came when I got back home. I decided against those dishes, by the way. But I found some others that were the perfect colors. That’s when my husband gave me the news.
“It’s dead.”
“Yes, dead.”
How could it be dead? How could our 5-year-old dishwasher have died?
Within minutes, my cyber shopping for dishes turned into cyber shopping for a dishwasher. Because, really? Doesn’t a nice set of dishes sound so ridiculous if you have to carefully wash them by hand? And who can afford to spend more than $100 on dishes, when we now need several hundred for a dishwasher.
I still couldn’t believe that it had died right in the middle of a wash cycle. It hadn’t even bothered to empty the water out of the machine first.
I didn’t like that dishwasher from the very beginning. It has always been temperamental. But, for the last month or so, it had actually been on great behavior.
I blame its attitude on the fact that it’s a “smart” appliance. It has a “sensing” wash cycle. Apparently, it can sense when it needs to do this or that. I prefer a good ol’ fashioned dumb machine. I prefer one that listens to me. I prefer one that turns on when I press the start button.
Not this one! Oh, no. It is so smart and so sensitive that it knows better than I do when the dishes are clean and when they are dirty. I can’t even tell you how many arguments we have gotten into. How many times I have stood counting to 10 as I firmly held the “normal wash” button. I want a normal wash. I don’t want a light wash or a heavy wash. But it usually won.
And now, without a sputter or spill, without so much as a moan or groan, it had died. Just like that. Did I mention it was only FIVE years old?
I wanted to pout, and so I did.
I have been trying to figure out how to be a better house keeper, with all of my schedules and lists and rules and the dumb iCal. But unless I do about four loads of laundry a day and run the dishwasher three times a day, I’m hopeless.
There are six of us living in this house. We work from home. We home school. We host small group once a week IN OUR HOME. We are home for almost every meal. I cook. And all of this creates dishes. Lots and lots of dishes.
The idea of washing them by hand put me over the edge. I had to go to bed, leaving my husband with these instructions. “Add it to your cart.” I didn’t care which dishwasher. As long as it was black. And I would prefer one that wasn’t smart.
I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered the sink full of dishes. I reminded myself that when I was growing up, we also had a family of six. And for many years we didn’t have a dishwasher.
We enjoyed quality time after dinner washing dishes together. One person washed. Someone else rinsed. Another person dried. And one other person carried from the dining room and washed the table. In the midst of it all, we usually flicked wet towels at each other and laughed and laughed. Those were good times.
I realize all of this is very much a 1st World problem. Millions of people survive everyday without dishwashers. Or even running water and electricity.
But I still would like to enjoy a few minutes of whining, if you don’t mind. I’m not ready to spend half of my day washing dishes by hand.
After lunch today, my son said, “How will we wash the dishes without a dishwasher?”
He did not realize there was another way. In fact, I don’t even know where the plug is for the right side of the sink. The side we will need to fill with rinsing water.
I guess that’s a good sign to me. Maybe we needed this learning experience. Maybe we all need to enjoy sticking our hands in a big sink full of soapy water. Maybe we will laugh and flick wet towels at each other.

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You! (and you and you)

A few weeks ago, I took my kids to home school swim at our local aquatic center. I was sitting in the zero depth area trying to hide my very pale legs under the water while I played with the baby.

A woman came running over to me from across the pool. I wondered if she was bringing urgent news that she had an extra bottle of self-tanning cream in her bag.

“Aren’t you the blog lady?!” she asked. (She really did sound excited when she asked, so I’m not exaggerating with the exclamation point.)

“Yes!” I answered. “I mean… maybe.” Was it my imagination or did she just call me “the blog lady?” My mind was racing to try to answer.

“I don’t know…,” I stammered. “I do have a blog.”

“I read your blog all the time,” she said. (Well, she did say something to that effect. Perhaps she said, “I used to read your blog all the time” or “I read your blog a few times.”)

She went on to tell me that I had even convinced her to watch Lost. After reading my Lost posts, she told her husband they had to get in on the series before the show ended, and they actually watched all six seasons in less than a year.

“WHAT?” I was thinking. (No, actually, I think I said, “WHAT?!” very loudly, but you know how noisy it can be at an indoor pool, so I can’t be sure if I said it out loud or just thought it very loudly in my mind.) Anyway, I couldn’t believe that not only did I have a reader I barely knew, but I had influenced her life in some weird, time-consuming, meaningless way.

I had met this woman more than a year ago at a park. It was the day I met my real life imaginary friend, Holly. We were discussing how we got to know each other through our blogs. This woman seemed interested, but I had no idea she had actually gone to the trouble to track down my blog address and had been reading.

She also couldn’t have known how she had made my day.

Blogging can be a tricky hobby. Anyone who blogs will understand what I mean. I write because I need to write. It makes me feel better. I don’t write so people will read. And yet, I want people to read. And when they don’t, or when I think they don’t, then I convince myself that my writing is ridiculous. “Why do I do this?” I ask myself. “Why do I feel I need to write in such a vulnerable, public way, when no one reads but me?”

And at just the moment I have convinced myself that not a single solitary soul on the planet reads my blog and I should delete the whole darned thing off the face of the blogosphere, some woman I barely know runs up to me at the pool and asks me if I am “the blog lady” as if I’m actually a real, bonafide blogger who has real, bonafide readers.

OK. So I know I have a handful of people who read my blog on a semi-irregular, halfway inconsistent basis. And I’ve even influenced a few others to waste a perfectly good year of their lives watching six seasons of Lost all at once.

But it’s so easy to get caught up in comparing myself to the woman who boasts she grew to 1,000 readers in one year or the blah blah blah blogger who gets 562 comments every day. Comparing myself in any area of life always leads me to trouble. I’m trying to stop. Really! I am!

So today I just wanted to say “Thank you” to The Pool Lady. And to the people who now strike up conversations with me about Ugg boots. And the friend who texted me a covert photo of someone wearing Uggs with shorts at the grocery store. And the people who have e-mailed me with the grammatical errors that annoy them most. Those things really mean a lot to me.

So, today, I have a question. I would love to learn more about anyone who might be reading today.

Would you leave me a comment with your name, your blog address (if you have one) and the answer to this question: “Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?”

I don’t have any reason for asking this question other than the fact that I love to know these things about people. Do you find that you are energized by being around people or by being alone? (Just for fun, you also can tell me if you find yourself comparing yourself to others in any ridiculous, unhealthy ways. =] )

If you haven’t left a comment before, just look for the little radio button that says “Name/URL.” You can fill in your first name and leave your comment. You don’t need to have a Blogger account or web site. Thanks!

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