Monday, Monday

Mondays get a bad rap.  Everyone hates them.  But why?  Mondays should be looked upon as a new beginning, a fresh start.  A new week has begun!  Let’s make the most of it!

Yeah — I don’t buy into that feel-good attitude either.  At least not today.

This Monday has been off to a bad start.  I woke up with an extra body in bed, not to mention the stuffed bunny that came with her, so I was crammed to the edge (read The Family Bed is Not for Us).  I have to carefully get out of bed to ensure I don’t step on the 4-pound dog who follows me everywhere.  When I arrived in the living room, I found my Curly Girlie on the computer explaining that she has been awake since 3:15 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I opened the front door to let the dog out only to find a critter (cat or raccoon, at this point it didn’t matter) fleeing from our overturned garbage cans and garbage strewn across the lawn.

Great.  Wonderful.  Just what I wanted.  (Read with deep sarcasm.)

I grumbled as I walked back to the bedroom to get dressed (hmmm…what is the proper attire to wear while picking up garbage?), hoping to get back outside before the trash truck arrived.  As I up-righted the trash cans I reminded myself that it could have been worse.  At least it wasn’t raining.  Or snowing. Or during a tsunami.

The trash truck could be heard around the block as I finished schlepping the last dregs of crap into the cans.  (Yes, literally crap.  I found some dog doo-doo to add to the collection.)  Bathroom trash, old school papers, used paper plates, rubbery baby carrots — all back where they belonged.  Do you know how difficult it is to pick old mashed potatoes out of grass?

Even though I used a plastic grocery bag I found as a makeshift glove, I was eager to get back inside and wash my hands.  As I exited the bathroom, I found that my dog had an accident in the hallway?  WHY??????  Where you too busy eating mashed potatoes from the grass to poop while we were outside?

After cleaning that up, it was on to the regular routine:  wake the kids up for the third time, pull out school clothes, find clean socks, etc.  By this time of the school year, you would think things would run more smoothly.  Not so.  The child who had already been awake for 3 1/2 hours had fallen asleep on the living room floor, the Princess was changing her mind about what she wanted to wear, someone was pounding on the bathroom door, and someone else was complaining that there was nothing to eat for breakfast.

Eventually, the kids got to school (a bit late) and I came home.  Big sigh.

Throughout this chaos, I managed to shoot up some quick prayers to help me through and to hold my tongue when I really wanted to scream and shout.  My life is deeply blessed, and I thank God for it.  Maybe that is why the “bad” day of the week is Monday.  God gives us Sundays as a day of rest and worship so we are prepared to face Mondays.

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An Alternative to the To-Do List

I really hate it when I work around the house all day and it doesn’t look as if anything got done.  I can be busy, busy, busy all day long and still feel like I accomplished nothing.  It is sooooo frustrating!


I have come up with a solution that helps me feel a bit better.  Instead of making a usual To-Do list, I make a To-Did list…or is it To-Done?  Let’s just call it a What I Did Today list.  Unlike writing a traditional To-Do list, full of things that need to be done, I write down the things I actually do.  After I do a job, I jot it down.  If I vacuumed, I write that down.  If I did the dishes, I write that down.  I make tally marks for each load I did.  I even break down the task into the separate, smaller tasks.  For example, I don’t just write down, “laundry”.  I write down, sort clothes, wash, dry, and fold.  Each of those smaller steps takes time to do, so why not give each its credit?  I even put a check mark next to each job to make if look complete.

By the end of the day, I have a list of accomplishments that I can feel proud of.  I can see where my time went and know I was productive.  It doesn’t hurt to leave the list on the table for other members of the household to “accidentally” see.  This little system helps me see the value of what I do as a stay-at-home-mom.  Sometimes, I need to remind myself of that.


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Welcome, Spring!!!

good robin
It’s here. It is FINALLY Spring! I don’t think I have ever been more anxious for Spring to arrive. This winter has been rather harsh — lots of snow and ice, sick kids, snow days — and I am ready for a fresh start.

Spring is my favorite season. Once you get past the early, rainy, muddy days of Spring, it is beautiful. And those early, rainy, muddy days are needed to give new life to the fading, drab, gray world of winter. I absolutely love the green colors in Spring. There are greens that you can’t see at any other time. Plants are a different, more vibrant color of green in Spring than they are in the Summer. I don’t know if it is simply my perception in contrast to the months of blandness of the winter landscape, or if there is really is a difference, but I love it!

It is so exciting to see the signs of Spring! Tulips are my favorite flower and seeing the first leaves push through the soil just brightens my day!

tulip close up

Here come the daffodils! In a matter of weeks, the side of our house will be lined with hundreds of daffodils! It is such a beautiful site. With some luck, we will have a beautiful bouquet on our Easter table.

Let the new energy of Spring take over! I’m ready! This might even be the year where I actually get some serious spring cleaning done. We shall see… Stay tuned!

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Shoe Safari

DSCF1536Shoes, shoes everywhere!  I am in the midst of a shoe project.  We have 14 feet in this house, 12 or which are still growing, which means we have lots of shoes.  Instead of getting rid of a pair of old shoes when the kids get new ones, they just seem to get shoved under a bed or thrown in a closet.  But no more!  I am on a mission!

STEP 1:  A few months ago, I had all the kids bring me their old shoes.  The were placed in a box and sat in the corner of the living room for many weeks.  After getting sick of seeing them there, I decided to finally do something!  That was about 3 weeks ago.  My husband and I, aided by our I-want-to-be-included-in-everything five year-old started sorting shoes and matching pairs.  The matched pairs were put in a box and the leftover solos were bagged up.  And, again, they all sat there, in the living room…until now!

STEP 2 :  No more procrastinating!  Eagerly, I decided today was the day to take action.  A plan formed in my mind and I hit the ground running.  The matched pairs were put into two large trash bags to be taken to a donation center.


STEP 3:  Slowly, as other shoes have been found, our mis-matched pile had grown.  Surely, thought I, there must be more pairs now!  I set about the task of spreading out the single shoes and searching for mates.  I think I found only four.  ONLY FOUR PAIRS from our overwhelming pile of unmated shoes.  Above is a picture of the shoes that are left.  Sneakers, Mary Janes, flip flops, flats…this is worse than my pile of mismatched socks!

How does this happen?  All of my family have two feet.  We all are in the habit of wearing matching shoes.  If this is the case, why are there so many single shoes???  The others MUST be in this house somewhere.  Therefore, I am organizing a shoe safari.  We must hunt down the missing shoes and return them to their partners.

STEP 4:  No mattress shall go unturned.  No closet ignored.  No furniture unmoved…until I help these poor, unfortunate souls find their sole mates.  Wish me luck.

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Cola Catastrophe


WARNING! Do not leave a carton of pop in your van when the forecast predicts sub-zero temperatures. The results could be disastrous.

Notice how the sheer force of the expanding soda burst through the cans and even ripped open the cardboard container.Cola Catastrophe 2


Tops popped offCola Catastrophe 7


Aluminum was ripped open.  Ouch!Cola Catastrophe 3


Physics in the works!Cola Catastrophe 9

Imagine what this sounded like!

Luckily for the poor, anonymous (ahem) people to whom this happened, there were no injuries.  And frozen cola is easier to clean up than the liquid form.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from I’m Working On It.


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Just Call Me Lucy

Well, that was a scene out of “I Love Lucy”. (It scares me to think that someone might not understand that reference.)

I have been slowly working at re-organizing my kitchen cabinets. When I cleared out my cabinet where I keep my baking stuff, there was a thick layer of dust. This mixture of deteriorated baking chips, flour, sugars, and spices posed a cleaning dilemma. No matter how careful I would be, wiping it out would surely cause a dust storm tumbling onto the cluttered countertop below causing yet another cleaning issue. Looking around, I spied the re-chargeable hand-vac in the corner. I haven’t used it in quite a while, not even sure if it still worked, but this seemed like a good time to try.

There was some debris in the collection chamber so I wanted to dump it out. Unfortunately, the release button wouldn’t budge and I couldn’t dumb the stuff out. “Oh, well,” I thought, “let’s just go for it anyway.” Patience is not more fortitude. When I am in a cleaning mood, don’t stop me, because it happens to infrequently.

I climbed onto the kitchen chair to reach the aforementioned messy cabinet. The chair put me at the perfect height to peer directly into the cupboard and I could easily reach without stretching. I directed the hand-vac through the doors feeling somewhat proud of myself for having this great idea. I am so clever! I pushed the “on” button, prepared for the magical moment of easy-cleaning.

Poof! Remember that un-emptied dirt collection bin? Well, the contents came spewing out of the machine vents straight into my face. I immediately turned it off, shocked. That didn’t really just happen, did it? So, of course, I had to try it again. DOH! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!!! Of course, I got another shower of dirt, dust, crumbs, and who knows what. So gross! I had images of movie archaeologists opening ancient Egyptian tombs, with a cloud of dust containing ancient diseases and curses.

I am so thankful I had my glasses on to provide some eye-protection. However, my face, hair, and navy velour sweat suit didn’t fair as well. The hand-vac immediately went into the trash. I found a small hand broom and finished the job.

Technology isn’t always the answer.

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No Excuses! Do Your Homework!


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If you are a busy family like us, you often find yourselves driving here and there on a regular basis.  Pick up the kids from school, take Billy to karate, take Suzy to soccer, Mitzi goes to piano, and so on and so forth.  Often, the kids not involved get dragged along either because they are too young to stay alone, or you just don’t have time to take them home before the start of their sibling’s activities.  But then they get BORED!  (Say that to yourself in a whiney voice to get the full effect.  I’m sure you have heard it before.)

Me:  “Well, do your homework!”

Whiner:  “I can’t….(whine, whine)….I don’t have a pencil.”

Me:  “Don’t you have one in your backpack?”

Whiner:  “No.  I don’t know.  Maybe.  But it’s not sharpened.”

Me:  “There must be one somewhere in this van!”

And then we…or rather, I…spend the next 20 minutes sifting through the van-clutter in search of a pencil with a point.  I say “I” because seldom is the child eager to work on his or her homework.

I have come up with a solution.  It’s not a stroke of brilliance nor do I assume it to be original, but it has helped us in these situations.  Every year, on the new school year supply list is inevitably a pencil box.  And every year, I buy a new one, despite the fact that we have several floating around in the house-clutter that could be re-used.  (Chalk it up to back-to-school excitement.)  I have taken one of these previously-used plastic boxes and filled it with school supplies to keep in the van.  Pencils, pens, a glue stick, scissors, tape, and an assortment of crayons.  I even added a pencil sharpener (not pictured) to solve the dilemma of broken pencil leads.

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DSCF1403 (640x383)The boxes are roughly 8″ X 5″ and cost about $.50 during the back-to-school sales, or about three times that at other times of the year.  Even if you don’t have kids, it would be a good idea to have something like this in your car.  I can’t count the number of times I have pulled into the bank drive-thru lane and scrambled around looking for a pen.  There have been times I have needed scissors in the car to cut off a tag or open a package.  Other things you might want to keep in your box are a calculator, sticky notes, stamps, nail clippers, or whatever you think you might need.

We now have one in each van and these boxes have proven very useful.  It’s really a simple idea, but I thought I would share it because it took my awhile to come up with it.  Maybe someone else will find it useful, too.

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“How’m I Doin’?”

Former New York City Mayor, Ed Koch, would often greet his constituents with his trademark phrase, “How’m I doin’?” Even as a young teen, that left an impression on me. How neat that someone in an elected position would directly and routinely ask those who voted for him how they thought he was doing at the job!

Too often, we undertake something with great ambition only to find our enthusiasm evaporates or our direction changes from our original intention. Or we are too busy patting ourselves on our backs for a job well-done that we can’t see that the job really wasn’t done that well.

I think it is important to occasionally step back and evaluate ourselves. I just did that with this blog. I spent time reviewing my posts and seeing if I am doing what I set out to do. On my homepage, I wrote:

I invite you to take a peek at our chaotic, cluttered life and how I am trying to make positive changes. On my blog I will post musings on motherhood, family anecdotes, and housekeeping triumphs and tragedies. Through all of this you may see my Catholic faith. I can’t do anything without Him (although I sometimes try, then fail)!

I think I have done a decent job of that.  I have shown you the chaos (The End of the Christmas Concert Season) and clutter (Bathroom Improvements, Part 1).  I have written motherhood musings (She-nager! and My Big Baby Boy) and family anecdotes such as Christmas Shopping with the Kids.  You can read about housekeeping triumphs (Attacking the Tub) and even the canning tragedy with my finger (The Corn Story, Part 2).  My faith is part of who I am and presents itself in varying degrees.  I try to share my faith without sounding too preachy.  It is a big part of who I am and therefore a part of my blog.

After reviewing, I am quite satisfied with what I have done so far.  Frankly, I thought I would disappoint myself, but I didn’t.  This blog has really helped me keep myself of track to reach the organization and positive goals I have set.  I have recently changed the look of karenthemommy.com, but not the content and direction.  I think things are going well.

Now it’s your turn.  Tell me, “How’m I doin’?”  Leave a comment or send an email.

Thanks for stopping by!

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snow days

SNOW DAY! A phrase that rings magic in the heart of every child, and even some adults. A day when kids get to unexpectedly stay home from school. They celebrate when they hear the news, oblivious that they may have to make up the missed day at the end of the school year.

This has been a bitterly cold, snowy time for Indiana, and many other parts of the country. Just as kids were scheduled to head back to school after the holiday break, Mother Nature dumped this lovely gift of sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow causing schools to close down. Instead of returning to classes, my kids, and many others around the country, have had three extra days off and counting.

Even though Snow Days can be a welcome break from the regular routine, after a while, it can become a bit boring or even stressful for a family trapped inside by the weather. There is such a thing as too much togetherness. Here are a few ideas I came up with that I would like to share. They can apply to families or individuals.

1. Family photos

Get out the old family photos. While you are reminiscing, make sure they are properly tagged with a name and/or date. If you are feeling techy, you can scan them into your computer. Create a file that can be shared among other family members. Many times there is only one copy of older photos. If a digital copy is made, it will be easy to share or download to a printing service.

2. Fashion show

Time for some fun! Let the kids get into your closet and try on your duds! Then, sit back and watch as your living room is transformed into a fashion runway. Maybe an older sibling can emcee the event. Grab the camera and snap some pictures so the kids really feel like stars. Remember, they need to help clean up when the show is over!

Don’t have kids, or they aren’t interested in being goofy? Explore your own closet and see what you find. Try on the things that have been shoved to the back. Don’t like it? Don’t want it? Doesn’t fit? Then start a pile of clothes to donate. How about that old bridesmaid dress? Is it staying or going?

3. Write a letter

Imagine going to your mailbox and getting your mail. You sit down to sort it all out…bill, bill, junk, junk, junk…the usual. Just think how you could make someone’s day by sending them a letter. A real, hand-written, put-in-an-envelope-with-a-stamp letter. In this technological age of texting, tweeting, Facebooking, etc., letter-writing is becoming a lost art. Send a letter, send some love!

4. Play cards

Wait? What are those things? They look like they came off of the Solitaire game on the computer!
Unfortunately, for some kids, that’s all they know of playing cards. Grab a deck and teach the kiddos some classic card games, like Spoons or Crazy-8’s. Or you could always go it alone and play your own game of Solitaire the old-fashioned way. Need a re-fresher on game rules or looking for a new game to try? Go to www.pagat.com for a huge catalog of card games and rules.

5. Pinterest

I am a Pinterest addict. I spend more time than I should browsing this wonderful, cornucopia of ideas.  I love sifting through the site and pinning things to my boards that I think I might try it one day. Well, there’s no better time than the present!  Turn your Snow Day into a Pinterest Day!  Make a recipe. Organize or do a craft. Put your pins into action!

6. Pamper yourself

I admit it, on Snow Days I often find myself asking, “Did I brush my teeth today?” My hair gets no attention and I’m lucky (or should I say my family is lucky) if I put on deodorant. I spend the day in pajamas and sweat pants.

Use a day stuck in the house to pamper yourself. Do a little personal maintenance that you usually might not have time to do. I think I might give myself a manicure. Youtube offers many how-to videos for really cool nail tips.

7. Watch TV

OK, so watching TV on a Snow Day is a no-brainer, and maybe something you want to avoid. But try watching something different. Instead of letting the kids watch dumbed-down cartoons, put on something educational and watch as a family. Find a documentary, learn about nature or animals, or watch government in action. Try something different.

Or if you want to be creative, find a movie, turn the volume off, and create the soundtrack! Assign each person in the room to one or more characters and create the dialogue as you watch the movie. One person can even play the Foley artist and make the background noise. Just make it up as you go along, and try not to laugh!

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Bathroom Improvements, Part 3

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Let’s review what has happened so far:

Friday, I woke up and enthusiastically talked my husband into deep cleaning the bathroom and putting up some new storage.  While I washed the walls with a damp sponge, Jayson scrubbed the tub and shower wall with Dirty Jobs Heavy-Duty Bathroom Foaming Cleaner and it looks AMAZINGLY better.  It actually took us two days to finish the tub because we took breaks.  Although there wasn’t much in the way of fumes with this product, we were working in a small area and our bathroom ventilation fan worked very poorly.  The fan was so bad that as I was washing the walls, I came across several areas where condensation had formed and left streaks in the paint.  It was especially bad where a picture had been hanging.  Because we couldn’t do anything about it we decided to repaint.  But I wasn’t about to repaint unless we got a new fan.  Why go through all of the trouble just to have the same thing happen again?  Hubby agreed.  We had long been disappointed in the fan’s performance.

Saturday was Install the Fan Day.  Let me tell you, we are not fans of Install the Fan Day.  This involved Jayson crawling into the attic.  The entrance to the attic is through the ceiling of the hall closet.  Of course, that meant emptying most of the crap from the closet into the already over-filled hallway containing the stuff that we pulled out of the bathroom.  And when you open that little door, clumps of 30 year-old insulation come tumbling down.  I have to brag.  Despite needing a machete to hack through the closet to enter the innards of our house, fighting with the old fan (which was very unwilling be replaced), and installing the new fan following directions with NO words, Jayson kept his language fairly clean.

As much as we don’t like to do much work on Sunday, we did do some drywall patching so it would have adequate time to set up.

Monday was supposed to be a super-productive painting day as my husband had the day off for Veterans Day.  Note I said, “was supposed to be”.  The drywall mud hadn’t dried completely, plus we had to do some little touch-ups where curious little fingers investigated this mysterious white goo (see picture above).

DSCF0922 (385x640)We also had a sick girl who needed cuddled.  I did manage to clean up an old shelf my grandfather had made and get that primed and ready to paint.  Jayson sanded the drywall stuff.  I mean, he made a LOT of dust all over the walls I had just washed.

Tuesday.  Three sick kids.  Not much done.  A bit more sanding, but that’s it.

Today is Wednesday.  Remember, this was just going to be a little one-day thing?  Yeah, right.  This morning I re-washed the walls in the bathroom so now it is ready to prime.  Will it get done today?  I don’t know…dance class and religious education tonight…

Stay tuned to find out more.  Same bath time, same bath channel!

Note:  I was not compensated in any way from the Dirty Jobs people.  I just bought their cleaner at the store and thought it worked great for our job.  Just sharing my opinion.

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