Love Me Some Scheduling

Good morning and happy Wednesday! Amelia and I are happy to see the blue skies today after several days of grey and chill. I had a bowl of cereal today and am feeling very excited about my leftover beef short rib for lunch. Would anyone be interested in a semi-regular post about what I’ve been cooking and how it turns out? I’m never going to be a food blogger with fancy photos and unique recipes, but I try recipes from all over the internet and a pile of cookbooks, and I could point people to some really good ones.

I’ve been looking back over my list of tasks from Monday, and I think I can clean it up a little more. The daily tasks continue to be dishes and straightening the kitchen (so far so good, although I took care of some of last night’s dishes this morning because I’d meant to unload and reload the dishwasher before bed and realized that a couple of power blips Monday had meant that the load I started then didn’t actually ever finish. Whoops.), a daily load of laundry (which didn’t happen yesterday because when Neal washed his soccer referee uniforms Monday night he grabbed a whole bunch of other stuff to throw in with them and got me ahead of the laundry game), and generally clearing clutter as it’s created (which will soon become a post of its own as I think there are some kinds of messes that need some better solutions).

So as for weekly tasks, we have, with daily assignments:

Monday: Dust all those ridiculous thingamabobs.

Tuesday: Clean the litterboxes. I hate this the most so assigning it to Tuesday gives me the most time from today before I have to do it. Maybe this is too honest?

Wednesday: Sweeping and vacuuming the bedrooms/office. I’m totally going to do this today. We’ll assign clean sheets to this day too so that I’m doing all the bedroom clean up in one day. Also, Amelia woke up at three AM last night—she usually sleeps beautifully all night long but it happens—and spent the rest of the night cuddled up with me. Everything was fresh and clean when I woke up at six and switched sides with her, but I’m pretty sure her diaper leaked on my side of the bed before we both woke up for good. Yes, my chore list is self-serving. I thought we established this with the litterboxes.

Thursday: Sweeping and mopping the public rooms. I don’t really want to, but that’s the whole point of this, isn’t it?

Friday: Clean the bathroom. That way it’s always fresh before we have any weekend guests. This is actually, of all the tasks on this list, my favorite. I know, it sounds crazy, but I hate tasks that deal with clutter, and I LOVE tasks that are just simple scrubbing, and the reward for my labor is obvious and immediate. Yes, cleaning a bathroom can be icky, but that’s what makes a clean bathroom so nice and luxurious. Just trust me.

My mother-in-law pointed out that washing the windows every month is probably more than I actually need to do it, and she’s right. Especially since we don’t currently have a dog sticking his nose and feet all over the back sliding door. But I think I’m going to aim at washing a few of the windows each month. If I wash the nursery and office windows one month, the dining, laundry, and bedroom windows another, and the kitchen and living room the third, all my windows will be washed four times a year and the task will never involve that much actual work. I’m not taking responsibility for the windows in the garage. I’m pretty sure I can’t reach them from the inside right now anyway because there’s stuff stored in front of them.

So this is the list. You will notice that I have tried to be very pragmatic about the fact that I don’t like housework. Just because I’m trying to be more proactive about it doesn’t mean that’s going to change. It’s boring. And I break my fingernails a lot. But I’m no longer going to use that as an excuse not to do it, just to organize it in such a way that gets me working on it as little as possible, but doesn’t require me to play catch-up on the weekends when I’d rather go places and do stuff while my family is all together.

Coming up: identifying areas that just aren’t working for us. You know what I mean: those areas that are always a horrible mess no matter what. Those items that seem to be always littering all the surfaces because you don’t actually know where they go. We’ll locate the good, the bad, and the ugly either later this week or early next.


Progress and New Plans

Progress and New Plans

Well, it’s nine a.m. as I start writing this and I am awake and dressed. I had a slice of banana bread and some grape juice; not the healthiest of breakfasts, but it existed and it is in my belly and that is goal one. My kitchen is not pristine; there are a couple of glasses and a cereal bowl to put into the dishwasher and a pile to put away and the floors are a mess, but there are no dirty dishes from cooking over the weekend. Neal, being the incredible guy that he is, apparently read this blog Friday and rather than commenting much about it, he got up before I did Saturday morning and cleaned all the extant dishes and the countertops so I would have a fresh start today.

Be still, my heart! He’s so totally taken.

Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day and it did not disappoint! My MIL was over for the weekend (I’m still trying to talk her into moving over here. It’s a great idea and she totally should.) and she cheerfully changed diapers almost the whole day. I think she and Amelia both enjoyed it and I got a break. Amelia, with her Daddy’s collusion, got me a clothesline to be installed later this week or whenever it quits raining, and in the afternoon we went to the fish store and I finished populating my little fish tank. It looks fantastic and my new fishie Spike has already gotten a very good start on cleaning the algae problem we had developed while the tank languished in new-baby-induced neglect.

Designing a Chore List

Now that the pleasantries are covered, it’s time to get down to business. I promised last week that Monday morning I would start developing a housecleaning schedule so that I can keep the house cleaner every day. Now, this is my list only, so tasks Neal takes care of and will continue to take care of aren’t on it. These include:

  • Mowing: Mom keeps volunteering me to do all the mowing, but Neal keeps assuring me he’s got it.
  • Weeding: Routine weeding of the garden is something Neal will continue to take care of. He loves his garden and it’s relaxing for him to work in it. This is not to say that I will not help him with a big comprehensive weeding task anyone who looks at our yard can immediately see we need. That’s not going on the chore list though.
  • Cleaning the Garage: Not touching that baby with a ten-foot pole. ‘Nuff said.

So, let’s take the rest of the tasks and divide them by frequency. Later this week, I’ll assign them to a schedule by day. Hopefully I don’t always need to be so regimented, but I am in the process of setting up a new routine, so let’s make it as routine as possible.

Daily Tasks

  • Dishes: As previously mentioned, no more letting the dishes stack up. Let’s add wiping down the countertops to this task; this will be easy to do quickly each time the dishes are finished.
  • Clearing Clutter: This feels like a stressful task now, because rooms are cluttered. However, if I make a point of clearing any clutter I leave each day as I make it, it’s going to get under control really fast. This will also become a routine chore for Amelia as soon as she’s big enough to put her own toys in a bin, so it’s good for me to get started now.
  • Sweep the Kitchen: I don’t think the whole house needs to be swept every day (if you disagree, try not to cringe too loudly. Baby steps!), but the kitchen floor tends to develop a light dusting of sorted-through kitty kibble and scraps of onion paper with surprising speed. It would take like ten seconds to whisk it all up after the dishes are done each evening.
  • A Load of Laundry: Between cloth diapering, spit up, and the fact that Neal and I stubbornly continue to wear clothes all the time, it’s fairly easy for us to accumulate enough to run something through the laundry every day.

Weekly Tasks

  • Sweeping and Vacuuming: I think I can split this into the living and dining room one day and the bedrooms another. I’ll see once I start thinking about daily workload.
  • Cleaning the Bathroom: Self-explanatory, I hope.
  • Clean Out Refrigerator: This might be more of a monthly task. With me at home there seems to be more of a rotation going, plus leftovers are actually getting eaten. However, once it’s not a huge chore every time it might be a good habit to clean it out before I go to the grocery store each time. That’s more like twice monthly. Hmm.
  • Dust: This task is why I hate tchotchkes. Although I love an excuse to spell the word. Unfortunately, Neal accumulates tangible mementoes. He’s just that sort of person.
  • Launder Bedding and Towels: Yes, laundry is on my daily list, but I think sometimes I need an extra reminder to do this particular load. I want to eventually replace all my towels with plain white ones so that when I do this load I can drop some bleach in it and keep everything super bright.
  • Clean Litterboxes: Our cat, Miles, has two. Oh wait, one in the garage so three. Yes there are more kitty toilets than people ones in my house.
  • Mopping Living/Dining/Kitchen: This doesn’t have to be a big task. If I do it regularly, it’s little more than a barely damp cloth and a bit of cleaner. Maybe I can make up some Mrs. Meyer soap in a spray bottle so I can just spritz as I go (like the floor cleaners you drizzle in front of the mop) instead of making a big nasty bucket. Would this work?

Monthly Tasks

  • Wash Windows: Yup.
  • Clean Under Sofa: Our sofa weighs about a metric ton and a half. I can move it myself, but not without scratching the floor. So I’m not going to commit to a deep cleaning under there every week. I’ll just stick the vacuum attachment under there blind every now and again.

This is not as long a list as it feels when you look over the house and realize uncomfortably that you’re a slob. It really isn’t that bad, so why does it always feel so overwhelming? Le sigh. I’m going to go drop a load of baby clothes in the washer.

See? It’s working already!

Household Goals

Ok, so I’ve admitted that I’m not a great housekeeper, and definitely still learning as a mom or a . . . um . . . home-office-er? Admitting we have a problem is the easy part. Now here’s what I’m wanting to do about it. Some of these items are in direct response to existing problems, some are more proactive . . . it’s a mix. The list is equally eclectic as to theme. Some are housekeeping goals, some are motherhood goals, some are more lifestyle oriented. Bear with me, and maybe we’ll work to get these better organized and prioritized as we go. For now, the organization is vaguely chronological.

  1. Get up on weekdays and started with our day. Typically, Amelia wakes up between five and six, I go get her, change her, and bring her back into bed with me, and she has breakfast and I stay semi-awake for about an hour doodling around on my phone while she does it. And then we both go back to sleep for a while, all cuddled up. I don’t think this is an inherently bad routine. Heaven knows I have no ambition to be up at five on a regular basis. BUT we’ve been sleeping until ten. And that’s too late. Starting Monday, we’re turning the alarm I turned off on the first day of my maternity leave back on. I think eight-thirty, while certainly not early, is a good goal for a time to be up and ready to do stuff.
  2. Eat breakfast. I am good at making sure Amelia eats. I am not good at making sure I do. In fact, usually I don’t. Usually I’m not running on enough calories during the day at all for a breastfeeding mom, and it’s a problem. No breakfast and a light lunch result in heavy binge-y dinners that leave me feeling icky, not satisfied. We’re going for an all-day balance here.
  3. Set up a weekly cleaning routine. I’m a grownup. I shouldn’t need a chore list. But the fact is, I’m not getting the tasks done I need to. I vacuum Amelia’s rug when it looks dirty, and I’m never sure how long it’s been since the last time. I clean the bathroom when we’re going to have people over, not when it needs it. I need to set up a schedule and stick to it. I’ll work on a schedule over the weekend, share it with you Monday, and then we’ll check back on it every week or so to see how it works and how I’m doing.
  4. Stick to a meal plan. I don’t suck at this. I don’t go into the grocery store blind; I have a pretty good idea what I’d like to cook and what I need in order to do so, I make a list and stick to it with occasional sales-based variations. But once I’ve got the groceries home and put away the system breaks down a little. I need to think about what I’ve got going on during the week, how long a particular meal will take to prepare, and have a much better idea of when I want to prepare it. No more coming to myself at five with the realization that the only meals left on the plan all depend on a marinade being started in the morning. That’s how our eating-out budget gets screwed.
  5. Clean up the dishes from a meal that day. I think I can hear my mother saying “ewww” from here. But I’m not good about it, my husband doesn’t think about it, and then there’s a day when I go in the kitchen to cook and realize all my cooking pots are piled in the sink with old food dried on them. It makes me feel ashamed and discouraged. Why’s it not happening? Well, right now we finish cooking, we eat in front of the television (there’s a habit with a shelf-life, right there: three months until the baby is having dinner with us and we need to eat at the table), we set the dishes aside to play with the baby and feed her again before bed, and once she’s tucked in we go back to watch another episode before bed. There’s a lot wrong here: we need more quality weeknight time together than a shared episode of Cheers, the baby deserves more of Neal’s attention in the few weeknight hours she has with him (and he deserves more of hers), and those dishes aren’t getting done. I have some ideas here, I will make a post and, again, implement Monday. “Why not do it tonight, Jen?” I hear Mom saying, and the answer is: We’re grilling tonight, and I promise to what dishes we use right in the dishwasher, but it’s not a problem meal leaving an indoor mess, and if it’s nice we’ll eat it outside and not in front of the TV anyhow. Also Mondays are just good days for starting new things, and Monday gives me a couple of days to get the kitchen into really polished good shape ready for new habits.

I’m sure we have other issues to address, and we’ll get to those, but this is plenty to start with. Stay tuned to see how it goes.

What This Blog Is Not

A Place to Rant

I figure there are two types of people likely to ever read this blog: 1) people related to me (Hi, Mom!), who hear my rants anyway or, worse, know their general gist without having to ask me, and 2) people who like to read blogs. And as a member of class number two, I know what I like about the blogs I read. They make me feel human, part of a group of people with the same challenges. They make me feel empowered to try new things and make different decisions. And, above all, they make me feel happy. I don’t personally subscribe to the humor-through-anger school, and I’m going to do my best to avoid it here. Feel free to call me on it.

About Volume I

I named this blog for a reason: it’s intended to be about my life after becoming a stay-at-home mom, after making the choices that led me to the particular place I’m in now. That’s not to say that Volume I was boring; it wasn’t. There’s a great how-I-met-my-husband story, a lot of effort to get my degree as a non-traditional student, a long struggle to get pregnant and have the life I always knew I wanted. But that’s not what this is about.

That said, those events in Volume I of my life story obviously impact who I am today. I am married, and sometimes we have to make adjustments because we’re no longer the kids who got married a decade ago. I have a really strong commitment to Amelia’s education, and I’m willing to step outside the box to get her wherever she decides she wants to go. I am passionate about helping other women dealing with infertility, and about making discussing infertility something less taboo and more mainstream. But this is about how we’re moving forward, not where we’ve been.

Meant to Make Me Look Good

Don’t get me wrong, I hope I do look good. But I also want to keep it real. After all, I’m a confessed bad housekeeper, a newbie mom. My décor style still lies somewhere between what my husband calls “late college” and something I call “eclectic clearance aisle.” We’re both total geeks. This is about me improving, and, let’s face it, I’m probably never going to be that perfect woman with the soft salon-worthy coif and the perpetually clean house. I not-so-secretly loathe that woman. So I’ll tell it like it is. If I try some clever project in my house, I’ll show you the befores and the afters . . . and also the lived-with-for-a-months.

Why stick to awkward honesty? Well, I may have no ambitions to perfect womanhood, but I think there’s a lot of room to grow before we risk hitting that. And keeping a blog is about accountability, at least a little bit. I’ll tell you what works, I’ll tell you what doesn’t, and all the while I’ll remember that my tolerant husband and totally trusting baby aren’t the only audience.

Completely Apolitical

I am who I am: brash, opinionated, and aggressive. I’m conservative 90% of the time and surprisingly liberal that other 10%. I’m Christian and not ashamed of it. I’m passionate about women’s health, specifically about infertility. I’m feminist but not man-hating. This blog isn’t about these passions, but if they show up, that’s part of getting to know me. Enjoy it!