Hijacked: Household Pets & Their HiJinks

Oh, progress! How much of it I make, and how little of it seems to happen! Every box I pack is just another drop in the bucket, and the bucket is a 5 gallon pickle barrel.

Actually, ok, fine. The kids rooms look great! You can see the floor, there are no hidden dishes anywhere (I’m watching like a hawk), and they both independently opted to pack the majority of their toys – this inspires twofold glee on my part because, one, the toys are out of the way for the next month, and two (more importantly), when we unpack, I can get rid of all the toys left that I hate, and everything else will be like brand-spanking new! (Not to say I haven’t been tossing out the dreaded broken, outdated toys the second they turn their backs).

The living room looks nice. I’ve packed up all the games and extras, except the Wii. The dumb dog has decided that our blue recliner is his to do what he likes with and shredded the upholstery (he nurses on fabric, and being a big rottie, that’s no gentle kneading).

This leaves the kitchen – easy fix, but often gets lost in the shuffle when I’m focused on the rest of the house. Poor room. The kitchen, the bathroom (why don’t I ever seem to want to clean the bathroom? I don’t get it), the dining room, and the entry/office space.

The entry/office space. Bookshelves full of books. Umpteen folded boxes, haphazardly stacked wherever they’ll fit. Other boxes half-filled, waiting for filling and a home. Shoes. Omigod, shoes. Everywhere. They won’t stay put. And then there’s my poor desk. I try organizing. I get good at it for a week, and then it all falls to hell. I have stacks and stacks of papers – most of which I don’t need, several of which are children’s schoolwork and I feel guilty for throwing out; I have stuffed animals, learning materials, and at any given point in time, a cat. He’s cute and disastrous. Every time he jumps up there to claim his perch on my 1995 computer monitor, he knocks something over, dips his tail into my coffee, or somehow otherwise disrupts my chaotic semblance of organization. Yes, I know what I just said… it doesn’t matter, he’s so cute! See?

Captain Jack Butterfingers

He and his kitty & canine brothers all do their part to reduce motivation factors to zero. Between their cuteness, insistence on their needs being met RIGHT MEOWING NOW! and their inability to navigate the house without making a mess…

See? They’ve even got me blogging about them. Wasting more potential energy. ::Shakes fist:: One day, I’ll defeat you, lovable, cuddly, havoc-making creatures! ONE DAY!

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Lazy days of summer? Nah….

So we found out that the challenge didn’t work. No surprise there. Let me tell you what does work: the combination of quitting smoking, the kids being home all day because school is out, and moving.

One might think that would sound like a recipe for disaster – short fuses and an unsuccessful attempt to quit a bad habit. One might not be completely wrong in many situations. However, it feels so right, here and now.

Like I said in my previous post, I am looking forward to (and intimidated by) the opportunity to start over fresh in our new house. We all get to start over! Except, here’s the thing: It’s not magically going to work that way once we cross our new threshold. It’s not like, miraculously, everything we wish we were doing and everything we say we’re going to do is going to happen without effort. No, it’s going to take practice. It’s going to take the creation of new habits to replace the old. It’s going to take a gradual familiarization with the new territory. In other words, it’s going to take some work.

The Missus and I bought a book – not the most compelling read, as it’s a bit pedantic and preachy sometimes, but an awesome book nonetheless. It’s called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Non-Smokers Using Allen Carr’s Easyway Method. This book has helped me to look at the desire to smoke in much a similar way to how I look at mosquito bites – annoying, itchy, but if I leave them alone, they’ll go away. And when the urge gets to be so that I can’t find any distraction, if I find myself in the midst of a project I can’t leave until it’s finished, well then, the urge will usually pass.

Yesterday, that project was my daughter’s room. J.J. and I worked together for hours – cleaning her floor, sorting her books, packing her toys and winter clothes. She has a lot of stuff. I mean, really, what child needs that much stuff? But she did opt to pack most of it away for after the move, or even some things to give away altogether. And when she wasn’t looking, Mom tossed the age-inappropriate toys with missing pieces and jagged edges.

Today, we made Too-Much-Awesome Muffins. Muffins with blueberry and chocolate inside them, and they were indeed full of Too Much Awesome. The nice thing about those muffins, though, is that they take time to make, and distract me from wanting that first cigarette of the day. And I get some productive time with the kiddos, teaching them the finer points of baking: “Don’t over-mix the batter!”

This afternoon, B.R.’s room is going to receive the same treatment as his sister’s, and more boxes will be packed. There’s been an awful lot of talk about animals, the environment, and building, so maybe we’ll think about some projects we can do. Or we’ll figure out how to make our own “I Spy” book (J.J.’s idea, and I’m so excited!). In any case, there’s plenty to do, and I have all the time in the world to do it all!

Who says summer has to be lazy?

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First post of summer

Well, the challenge was a nice thought. Maybe I’ll try it sometime. I failed, when I put it out there, to take into account that I was in no emotional space to take on a challenge. I wanted to, but having just sent two friends off on a journey to the next plane and transitioning from working full-time to unemployment, I really should have been more forgiving of myself.

But now, here I am! Getting ready to move! Getting ready to spend my days with my children, laughing and learning! Getting ready to keep the house looking GOLDEN! Getting ready to churn out my zombie dolls – I may need to learn how to sew doll clothes, actually, because the churning isn’t happening so fast with the crocheted variety.

Everything’s different – everything. Or will be in about 2 1/2 weeks. I’m excited, but apprehensive – can I really do this? I will, in many ways, be starting over my life. It’s like somehow we were granted a reset button, and what should have been two years ago is happening now.

I have a chance to do this right, to not make the same mistakes that I did over the last two years.

I’m trying to understand the implications of this. Obviously a happier home, and a happier family. But liberation! I know what my role is this time, I know what I need to do, the guesswork is eliminated.

How many people are so lucky?

That luck is intimidating.

So, today, I’m not thinking about it. I’m listening to Bad Religion and keeping myself busy with chores (for myself and the kids), “punk rawk pancakes” (I burned mine quite nicely), packing, games, etc.

At some point, we’ll get out in the sunshine, which is making its first appearance since summer began.

Today is a lovely day, and it’s so nice to be back!

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Let the Challenge Begin!

I’ve GOT IT!

I’m the kinda girl that loves a good challenge. If someone else is telling me what to do, and there are prescribed rules to follow, and yet it’s completely voluntary whether I participate, I’m game. I can quit any time I want, and I choose not to, because it’s a challenge! I’m never one to let a good challenge get the best of me!

What the poop is this girl babbling about? you ask.

I’ll tell ya.

My biggest complaint about undertaking this decluttering/cleaning/blogging project is that I have not been able to maintain it the way I want. Something every day. One sentence and one bag of trash to the dumpster. Real life keeps happening.

Oddly enough, though, I’ve noticed that there are certain things I do daily regardless of what else is going on. Things like… challenges. This is because they’re broken down into small components that don’t seem like much at the time, but when you look back at the end, it’s kind of overwhelming to see how much has been accomplished.

Will it work the same way if I make my own challenge?

Maybe. I looked around the internet and about the only thing I could find was, “Throw something away ever day for a month!” See, that doesn’t work for me. There’s nothing challenging about that, and I know that, for me, the results at the end of the challenge will be severely UNDERwhelming. I need something with a gimmick, something that inspires a little creativity.

This is what I am setting out to do right now, this moment: I am going to come up with a 30 day challenge – because 30 days is reasonable – that can be done repeatedly. And I’d love for you to join me and share your feedback on how the challenge works for you! If it can be tweaked to be more fun and productive, it will! There’s so much more potential that could be added to the list, but for sanity’s sake, I think I’ll limit it a bit for now.

Here goes!

Day 1: Clear out all existing trash bags. Take them to the curb or the dumpster (if it’s not trash day and you have trash pickup, set it in the garage until trash day).

Day 2: Clean out the fridge & freezer. Food storage guidelines here will help you decide what to toss. If it’s still good and no one in your household has touched it recently, get rid of it. If it’s unopened and no one has any expressed any interest in changing its status in the last three weeks, give it to a pantry.

Day 3: Toss obvious trash from bedrooms. By obvious trash, I mean those little scraps of paper we write phone numbers on, receipts that get stacked up on the dresser, new clothing tags, that soda bottle that’s been sitting there forever, etc.

Day 4: Toss obvious trash from bathroom(s). Don’t forget to check for expired medicines and vitamins!

Day 5: Toss obvious trash from living/dining/game rooms.

Day 6: Toss OBVIOUS trash from craft rooms and workshops. I can’t stress the “obvious” part of this sentence enough. If you have scraps that are just sitting around, toss them. Plans that are done and never going to be touched again? Toss them. Try not to think too much on this one.

Day 7: Toss your partner’s most disgusting piece of clothing. Obviously, you may want to warn them first. But you’ve been working hard, and you deserve a reward. Those pants with the hole in the crotch they keep wearing? That shirt with the pit stains that won’t wash away? The moth-eaten underwear? Whatever it is, get it out. Maybe you want to offer them a chance to do the same.

Day 8: Empty the house of trash bags again!

Day 9: Go through one shelf of books/media. Pull anything that you don’t intend to use again and that doesn’t have a significant meaning to you. Pull anything that you acquired over a year ago and haven’t touched since.

Day 10: Go through another shelf of books/media.

Day 11: Go through another shelf of books/media.

Day 12: Go through all remaining books/media.

Day 13: Everything you’ve pulled off the shelves over the last 4 days – take it to your local library for a donation or give to a thrift store or shelter.

Day 14: Toss your kid’s most annoying outgrown toy. When they’re not looking.

Day 15: Halfway there! Trash day! Take all the bags in the house out again!

Day 16: Go through your closet and dresser. If you haven’t worn it in a year, if it doesn’t fit, if it looks shabby, get it out. Don’t forget shoes and accessories!

Day 17: Help your partner go through their closet and dresser.

Day 18: Go through one child’s closet and dresser.

Day 19: Go through another child’s closet and dresser. If you have more than two children, you may want to divide your time equally over day 18 and 19 between their closets.

Day 20: Take all the clothing, shoes, and accessories you’ve pulled over the last four days to a thrift store, a shelter (particularly children’s clothing!), or second hand clothing store.

Day 21: Clear the bathroom(s) of products that haven’t been used in the last 6 months. I’m talking about mostly used-up shampoo/conditioner, lotion, soap bottles that are 7/8 empty. My kids are 4 and 6. I will probably never use those two bottles of Johnson & Johnson’s that are sitting under the sink and have been since my son was 1 year old.

Day 22: Do the trash dance! Get those bags out!

Day 23: Games and toys. Start in the playroom, if you have one. If not, then just work through the main part of the house – staying out of the bedrooms. Toss anything that is broken, missing pieces, or not age-appropriate. It may be wise to do this when the children are asleep or in school. And the partner is at work. If it’s been tucked away for three months and more and forgotten about, toss that too. Obviously, it won’t be missed.

Day 24: Did you get the closets yesterday? Make sure the games and toys are pulled out of the closets too and checked for the above criteria!

Day 25: Toys & games in one child’s room.

Day 26: Toys & games in another child’s room. If you have more than two children, you may want to spread your time amongst their rooms evenly over this week.

Day 27: Toys & games in your room. You know they end up there – those toys the kids just have to “share” with you (and you’re thinking, “What the hell am I going to do with a Bakugan ball??), or the toys that get hidden under your bed after they’ve been used to bludgeon a sibling one time too many. You know you have them.

Day 28: Take all those old toys & games and just take them to the curb or the dumpster. If it’s something that really is in good condition, but just isn’t appropriate for the family, get it out of your house and to your choice of donation sites NOW. Don’t let it sit around waiting to be discovered by your children or partner who’ve forgotten how “awesome” this thing is, and will likely forget again within a week. This is where the decluttering process traps us.

Day 29: Happy Trash Day! Last one for this challenge, too! Kind of sad, isn’t it?

Day 30: Pick one thing – ANY thing – that has just been sitting in the back of your mind over these last 30 days as something to toss, and do it. Throw it out. No more excuses!

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Confessions of a wayward blogger… and housekeeper.

Oh, my poor neglected blog! I have a litany of excuses as to why I’ve left you so high and dry for so long, but really, it all comes down to the same thing: I’m a terrible blogger.

*Sigh* I can say I promise to be a better blogger, I promise to come back and write every day. But then what happens the next time I get sick or busy? There are no consequences, other than your loneliness. Dear blog, surely there is some way you can hold me accountable for my mistreatment of you!

I have noticed a direct correlation between this blog and my cleaning habits. When I stop writing, I stop cleaning (and vice-versa). And yesterday, I spent the day cleaning, and look at that will ya? Here I am, blogging again!

This last stretch was a particularly long one. Winter did not want to leave our house without making himself quite known. We have all been sick with one thing or another – in fact, in these last three weeks, my kids were diagnosed with strep, I was diagnosed with bronchitis that was more painful than any bronchitis I’ve ever had, my brother (who is staying with us for a few weeks) also caught bronchitis, and my sweet missus has been the healthiest out of the bunch! This is anomalous, and I shall knock on wood for her health. I’d encourage you to do the same. All together, now! ::knock, knock::

But the bronchitis took me out of the game for a bit. I napped on the sidelines, every now and then waking up to survey the damage done by the other team. Stinky litterboxes. A trash pile in the kitchen. Laundry. Toys strewn about haphazardly. It was enough to send me straight into my next nap.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I turned on my Slacker station (titled, “I Miss the 90’s,” nothing beats it) and set to work on the kitchen and bathroom. To me, those are the most important parts of the house. The kitchen especially, because that is where the food is prepared; a well-kept kitchen, to me, correlates with the health and well-being of a family. And bathroom is important because it’s the one room the missus gets OCD about, and while I appreciate a clean and sanitary bathroom, I also appreciate the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from seeing her reaction when the bathroom has been cleaned. It’s like Christmas morning for her. That’s motivation enough.

The rest of the house is a little more challenging to motivate myself to tackle. It seems like no matter how thorough a job I do, if given the opportunity, my offspring will have it returned to its previously disastrous state in fifteen minutes, tops. I’m being generous, it probably wouldn’t even take that long.

I really need to work on having the kids pick up after themselves. Not for their lack of want – they love doing chores (I know, right?), and I can’t do anything around the house without them asking if they can help. Until it comes to picking up their belongings. Ahh, see, you thought I had some sort of superbreed of younguns didn’t you? Nope, they’re pretty normal. They don’t like to pick up that which belongs to them. There’s always a reason for something to be out. That telescope lying on the floor the last 3 days? “I’m gonna look at the stars tonight!” The blankets on the floor? “It’s cold in here in the morning!” Nevermind that it’s now noon, they need the blankets (on the floor) for tomorrow morning.

I’ve been working on one thing at a time with them. I’ve finally gotten them in the habit of picking up their dishes when they’re done with them. That’s a start. Now to get them in the habit of picking up after themselves a couple of times a day. Really, children are flexible – you give them a reason to change, and they’ll usually try it out. It’s me I’m worried about. I have to make this change happen, and until it’s second nature to them, I have to be consistent in my enforcement of this new expectation.

I’m the kind of mom that’s inclined to roll over and say, “Fine, you don’t have to do it now, but LATER! Later you will!” And later remains undefined… and unenforced.

Maybe it would just make more sense to throw everything away. Think they’d go for that?

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I’m still alive!

It’s been a moment since I updated my blog. Starting a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been fighting a recurring illness, somewhat obscure in its manifestation. I think it’s probably the strangest sinus infection I’ve ever had. It has had my behind kicked from here to Timbuktu on and off the whole time.

Regardless, I’m finally adjusting to the way I feel and compensating. And now that I’ve been able to shift gears, I don’t like what I see… the house has all but fallen apart. Even the delegation of chores fell apart. I can’t enforce that when I’m lying in bed half asleep!

It hasn’t been a total loss, though. The house is still not nearly as much of a sty as it used to be. I can see the floor without straining too hard. The litterboxes have been kept up with.

I set out to do laundry a few days ago, but the pipes to the machine, and the machine itself, had frozen. Several days later, it’s 50′ outside, and the machine still doesn’t work. My kids are out of clean underwear and pants. This is saying something, because they have a lot of clothes. It’s very frustrating. And the laundry beast is winning.

I also need to start packing. In packing, I can start throwing more things out. I cannot wait to move. It’ll be a fresh start – at organization, at a house of our own – just in time for spring.

So I’m still here. I’m just sick and busy. 🙂 And my SD card on my phone is apparently unreadable, which means no pictures for the time being, and that is sad-making.

Tax-return is about to get here, though, and I can use that to buy a new SD card, so that is happy-making. Hope it works!

-Juana Bee

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What? No pictures??

Well, but this has certainly been a busy week! I’m really not sure what all I’ve done since Monday.

Let’s see, I didn’t update on Tuesday because I spent the morning in an appointment with my lawyer, and then in the afternoon, I observed at another preschool to earn hours towards my Lead Qualification. Wednesday and Thursday, I went to work early, and had many things to do as I adjusted to my new schedule. I have begun working an extra ten hours a week, which is glorious, indeed!

I feel like I’m finally adjusting to my new schedule. I’ve already got a solid chunk of the day’s work done, and there are still two hours to go before I head off to earn my bread. My daughter starts at her new preschool this morning, and in filling out some of the financial details, I’ve discovered that with the child support we’ve just started getting, and my additional hours at work, we now exceed the federal poverty guidelines by a couple hundred dollars a month. I’m not sure how to take this – does this make us middle class? Having been a proud working class woman for so long, it leaves a funny taste in my mouth… middle class. Hmm.

I have made some lovely strides during the course of the week, though. The lack of updates can be somewhat blamed on this. I’ve been too busy puttering around sorting through boxes and clutter, keeping up with the dailies, and clearing closets. I now have a hefty load of things to take to the thrift store – I just need to commit to taking it. For the first time since we moved in, our coat closet is – *gasp* – a COAT closet! I cannot tell you how exciting this is for our household. A place to put our winter things. Refreshing!

Bills are paid up, housework done, child in preschool, things loaded up to give away, Mom’s schedule chart is made (though it already needs modification), and a bonus: we have yet another kitten. This makes a total of three cats, one dog, a gazillion fish (livebearers – the number is always changing), and a tarantula. It’s time for that house that’s coming our way!

The kitten’s name is – depending on whom you ask – Captain Jack Butterfingers, or Mermaid, if J.J. is around. Mermaid?? I don’t get it. He’s about four months old, and gets along really well with the other cats. I caught him and Buddha playing and passing out on top of each other yesterday. Capt. Jack isn’t quite sure what to think of the dog yet, though. One minute, he’s using the beast as a footbridge, and the next, he’s puffing up and yowling at him. We’ll see how that turns out. Again, the house will do wonders for everyone’s sanity.

I get to spend ten hours at work today for the usual, plus a workshop. Then I get to go back and spend seven more hours there tomorrow, for more workshoppy things. I’m really interested in the material we’re going to be learning, but I can already say with utmost conviction that I will be completely exhausted. That laundry beast probably won’t be tamed in the next 48 hours. I suspect this blog won’t hear from me til Sunday, either.

So, until then, toodle-oo!
Juana Bee

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