My Cleaning Plan

The other day I was talking to my best friend on the phone and mentioned that the room I was in was echoing because I had taken all the furniture out of it. She asked why and I explained that I do that every month so I can sweep and mop under everything. She said I have it way more together than she does. This is not true, however. She’s a single working mom and still somehow manages to feed her kids and get them to school on time and everything. I, however, am slightly neurotic and inherited a love of marking things off lists from my mother and so I have, over time, developed a cleaning plan that works really well for me.

I took the ideas I use from FlyLady, Side-Tracked Home Executives, and some other random cleaning gurus. For a long time I wrote my to do’s out on paper (and even tried the SHE index card system – which did not work for me at all). Now I use some apps on my phone. I use the calendar that came with my iPhone for scheduling, Wunderlist for my to do list, and MealBoard for menu planning, grocery list, and pantry inventory.

I have things I do every day, every week, and recurring on some other schedule. They are all entered into Wunderlist so they show up each day for me automatically. Some things are somewhat silly to be listed as a to do, but, as I said, I really like checking things off my list so I leave them. As things come up (like if a kid is doing a multi-day thing for Scouts), I’ll add it to my to do list temporarily. If I come up with something extra to do (for example, reviewing a book I have finished), I add it as needed. Below are my regularly scheduled chores.

*Pray (I’m great with bedtime prayers, not so much with morning so this reminds me)
*Upstairs Toilet (either wipe it down with a Clorox wipe or use the brush inside the bowl)
*Downstairs Toilet
*Vitamins (I put them out on a shelf so people can pick theirs up and take them any time)
*Read Scriptures (currently reading the Doctrine and Covenants and using a verse by verse book to help with studying)
*Add to Letter (I write to my aunt every Wednesday, but if I write it all at once I forget a lot of things so I add things daily)
*Spot Clean Cage (guinea pigs – pick up their poop)
*Family Scriptures
*Picture of the Day (I’ve taken a picture each day since 2011, plus in 2009)
*P365 Page (add the picture of the day to a digital scrapbook page)
*Finances (yes, I update our finances every day – I actually enjoy it)
*Indexing (I do one batch a day)
*PokeWalk (with Fritz)
*Wash Critter Kitchen (sugar gliders are horribly messy when they eat so we have a plastic container with their food dish in their cage)
*Critter Food 1/2/3 (we always have three mixes of food cubes for the gliders in the freezer and each morning I take one out, put it in a dish, and stick it in the refrigerator so it’s thawed by evening when they get fed)
*Brush Lola (she is such a shedder!)
*Notebook (I check the next day’s meals and schedule and add them to the to do list, noting if I will need to take any meat out to thaw or make bread or whatever in the morning)
*Pinterest (I’m always looking for gluten and dairy free recipes)

*Cut chicken (I have chicken issues so I get all the gross stuff cut off at one time and freeze single breasts in ziploc baggies so they are ready to be used as needed; I cut the chicken on Sundays because I grocery shop Friday and Monday is trash day and if the nasty bits sit in the garage in the Texas heat longer than a day it is really gross)
*Sacrament (because of the Celiac we have to bring crackers for taking the Sacrament at church)
*Write to Steven (he’s a friend of Ani’s serving a mission right now)
*FHE (because of the big kids’ work schedule and Jamie taking taekwondo on Monday evenings, we do Family Home Evening on Sundays)
*Skype Jamie’s Mum

*Sweep Living Room
*Trash (Cam) (taking out the trash is Cameron’s assigned job)
*Cans (once they pick the trash up, we have to bring the cans back in)

*Sweep Kitchen
*Taekwondo (I only add taekwondo to the list when I’ll be going there – otherwise it would be on there almost daily)

*Bathe Lola (Cam) (another of his assigned jobs)
*Refrigerator (clean out the leftovers we didn’t eat)
*Sweep Stairs
*Print Letter to Aunt Betty
*Take Cameron to Work (he works Wednesdays, but Ani doesn’t)

*Catalog Food (I go through our cabinets and make sure my food inventory in MealBoard is correct)
*Menus (I plan a week at a time and grocery shop on Friday morning)
*Trash (Cam)
*Mail Aunt Betty Letter
*Sweep Dining Room

*Guinea Pig Cage (I put the girls in their pen on the floor and wash their bedding and clean the coroplast)
*Plan FHE
*Prepare for Sunday School
*Sweep Craft Room

*Prepare for Relief Society (if Sunday will be from the Gordon B. Hinckley manual or Teachings for Our Times)
*Pills (refill the pill containers to make it easy to put them out each morning)

Every 4 Weeks
*Mop in addition to sweep (when I do that I remove all furniture possible from the room; when I do the counters that week I remove everything as well; when I do the dining room I also wash the table)
*Wash Sheets, Dry Sheets, Make Beds

Every 24 Weeks
*Wash and Dry Mattress Pads (when I do the sheets)

First of the Month
*Cabinets (wash their doors and also the center island)
*Change Welcome Sign (my sister gave me a felt sign years ago and each month has a different little picture to go on it)
*Lego Calendar (I have a perpetual Lego calendar that I happily rearrange every month)
*Clean Dishwasher
*Clean Disposal
*Clean Washing Machine (I get little tablets for cleaning those three things each month)
*Lola’s Heartworm Medicine

If I don’t get around to something that is not a daily recurring chore, I just let it go to the next day. For example, I really hate washing the cabinets every month. It’s probably my least favorite chore (well, other than sweeping and mopping the stairs – I HATE that one). I finally got that one done on the 4th even though it was originally assigned on the 1st. Wunderlist puts overdue tasks at the top of my daily list in red so it annoys me until I do it. I never let things go way too long, mainly because I absolutely love ending a day with the entire “Today” list empty. That’s another thing my best friend recently noted about me. I feel the most productive when I’ve got a clean house and have marked things off my to do list. (But I’ll be honest… some days I don’t do much other than school, walk, and read because sometimes you just need a day off.)

Currently, I have an added recurring daily chore of plan school. As long as I do a little each day I get the next year’s plan done before the end of the current school year.

I check our laundry basket daily to see if laundry needs to be done. Usually that happens twice a week (and I add Wash Clothes, Dry Clothes, Fold Clothes, and Put Away Clothes to the list those days because marking off four things is way more awesome than just one). Towels get washed as needed, usually every week and a half or so. Ani and Cameron do their own laundry.

Dishes get washed a minimum of once a day, generally at night (so they get put away, generally by Fritz and Adrian, in the morning). Often the dishwasher needs to be run twice or even three times during the day and that gets done as needed.

I walk 10,000 steps at a minimum each day. Regular movement around the house is about 3500 steps. The PokeWalk adds a couple thousand. Taekwondo days also add a couple thousand. I have a path I walk around the main floor of our house. It’s an open floor plan so I make a convoluted circle of just over 100 steps over and over. It would be boring to just walk around and around like that so I read while I walk. It is one reason why I read so much. I read while I exercise. I also do a little picking up as I walk. Each time around I grab something in a place that doesn’t belong and as I make the circle I put it where it goes (or on the stairs if it belongs upstairs). That kills two (really three) birds with one stone.

I don’t put school on the to do list, but of course that gets done every morning. We try our best not to run into the afternoon, but on taekwondo days sometimes that is unavoidable.

My kids are big enough that on occasion I assign a random chore to one of them. Fritz is getting really good at sweeping the craft room (it’s the easiest to sweep since it’s small and pretty much empty). I am more likely to assign stuff to them when I’ve been busy doing other stuff and running out of time in the day.

Deeper cleaning projects I do as the urge strikes. Like right now I really want to clean the shelves in the craft room (again), but I haven’t quite gotten around to it. A while back I decided to use a toothbrush to clean the dirt-catching crevices in the cabinet doors. I did one door per day. When I get the urge to do a deep cleaning project, I add it to my daily to do list temporarily. I almost never do any major cleaning on the weekends (unless I feel like it). Weekends are for relaxation and church for me.

It really doesn’t take long to complete all the things I’ve assigned myself. Some of them literally take seconds, but need to be done every day to keep our house running smoothly. I am much more calm and am a much better wife and mother when my house is straight. I hate clutter. Because of that, it is imperative for me to have a “company-ready” house and my cleaning plan helps make that happen.

I’ve found that getting as much done as possible early is best for me. I am a morning person naturally. I have also found that if I do not get on the computer before a good number of my daily to do’s are done things also go better. It’s Newton’s Law about objects in motion staying in motion. As soon as I end up at rest (on the computer) I’m somehow stuck and have trouble getting moving again (the 250 step per hour reminder on my FitBit helps with that, though). Really, if things aren’t done by about 4, they probably aren’t getting done since I’m really tired by then.

The most important thing I have learned through tweaking and adjusting my plan is it will only work if it is customized to me. It’s why I had to take ideas from others, but still make it mine because me and my house are unique. So that is my advice to others who want to make a cleaning plan: Don’t just copy someone else. Make it your own. And, most importantly, make it something that you will do, is realistic for you, and meets your goals or you will not succeed.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The other day I was cleaning and told Alexa (our Amazon Echo) to play songs by Sabrina Carpenter. A couple minutes later the volume went up. Ani’s been staying in the room that will be my parents’ when they move here so she can be near the rest of us but still stay in bed most of the time and not have to go up and down the stairs while she is still unsteady. Clearly, she approved of my choice in cleaning music. A few months ago Ani and I went to see Sabrina in concert. It was amazing. She is an amazing singer and performer.

And I learned something I never expected to learn at a 17-year-old’s show.

When we got there, just ahead of us in line was a man, probably in his early 20s. He had long dreadlocks, was generally scruffy, and wasn’t dressed nearly as nice as everyone else in line. He definitely didn’t look like someone you’d expect to see at a Disney star’s concert. Not who you’d expect to enjoy upbeat pop music.

And it was obvious the security people agreed with my split-second assessment. As everyone eyed him, judging him and whether he belonged there, the security spent two or three full minutes thoroughly wanding him. Everyone else got a cursory pass front and back and a quick peak in bags and purses and were sent on our way. Nothing alarmed when they wanded the guy so he was sent on into the venue.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

We found seats and I discovered I was right next to the scruffy guy. I wondered what in the world he was doing at a Sabrina Carpenter concert. Surely he wasn’t a fan. Her fans don’t “look” like him, do they?

And then the concert started.

I think that man may have been the biggest Sabrina fan in the room. He sang along every word and danced to every song. He openly cried several times. I talked to him a little bit. He hadn’t heard she was coming to San Antonio until it was too late (the tickets sold out in just a few minutes), but then the venue released a few tickets that had been held for season pass holders in the middle of the night before the concert. He stayed up half the night in order to snag one of those tickets. He was so happy to be there and it showed. He’s had some tough times and Sabrina’s music has helped him get through it.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the judgment from all of us in line and the security people contributed to his “tough times.”

Thursday Jamie and I went to Chipotle to get lunch while Ani was sleeping in her hospital room. We ate outside since it was a nice day. A man came up to us and apologized profusely for bothering us, but wondered if we had any change we could spare so he could get something to eat. He didn’t look like a typical homeless person. He was dressed relatively okay. Immediately I wondered if he was scamming us.

But then I remembered that young man at the concert. Just because this man didn’t look like what I think of as a homeless or hungry person, it doesn’t mean he isn’t. I gave him a couple dollars. I can spare it and if he is hungry at least I didn’t turn him away and if he was lying, well, that’s on him.

Yesterday we had family home evening (we do it Sunday because Monday night half the family isn’t home). We did some things for the little boys’ Cub Scouts electives. We talked about hidden disabilities. Their own sister has one. She’s sick, but she can push herself and put on make-up so she looks okay to everyone else. Their older brother has one, too. As long as he doesn’t have to read something out loud, you’d never know just meeting Cameron that he has dyslexia.

You never know just looking at someone what is going on underneath. We all are constantly judging people and that’s okay. That judgment could save our lives. But when we are clearly in a safe place and we still judge that this person doesn’t belong at a 17-year-old performer’s concert or that person doesn’t look homeless and is just scamming asking for money for food or this other person looks healthy and so couldn’t possibly be spending 3/4 of her life in bed, then it’s a problem. That’s when we lose compassion. And now more than ever in this world what we really need is compassion.

I’m really thankful I got to get the whole story of that guy at the Sabrina Carpenter concert. I’m glad it didn’t just end with seeing him head into the venue wondering what in the world he was even doing there. I’m grateful for what he taught me.

It’s been a long week

It's been a long week

Ani’s been having a whole lot of pain. The doctor keeps asking us what the major problem is and we’ve figured it out. Pain. Pain prevents her from sleeping. Pain makes her tired. Pain makes her miserable. So much pain. She complained about feeling like her neck isn’t strong enough to hold up her head for quite some time now. Now her neck hurts horribly. She has headaches and has complained about it being particularly bad just above her left eyebrow. Her spine hurts all the time and sometimes that pain radiates out toward her left side. She went to an Airrosti doctor last summer and that helped her back pain quite a bit, but it’s even worse now. A teenage girl shouldn’t have so much pain. She’s also having random times where her extremities and face get tingly and numb. Her tongue really seems to like to go numb.

Last Friday she had an MRI of her brain. It shows low-lying cerebellar tonsils (and she has pretty much every symptom) so now Chiari malformation is on our list of possibilities. Next Friday she is having an upright MRI with flexion and extension. That’ll tell us if that’s the problem or not.

Saturday she was in severe pain and had barely slept in four days so we took her to the ER. They gave her pain meds and anti-nausea meds and for the first time in weeks, she was pretty much pain free when we left the ER and got a wonderful night of sleep. I noticed soon after they gave her the medicine she was moving her neck all around. I hadn’t realized how little she has been moving her neck.

Monday she saw an allergist (she’s allergic to cats and is so mad at her father for passing that along to her). He did a CT scan of her sinuses and she had a very nasty sinus infection. So nasty she’s on strong antibiotics twice a day for two weeks and we’ve been told it might not be clear by the end of those. So nasty what when her primary care doctor got the report he called to be doubly sure she takes all her antibiotics. She had no symptoms from it, though we are wondering if that’s what was causing her recurring low grade fever last fall. Guess where the sinus infection is. Right above her left eyebrow. Right where she’s been complaining of a headache for months.

Tuesday she saw her regular doctor and he put her on pain medicine. Of course we haven’t been able to actually get that medication because our insurance company says she doesn’t need it. I love it when insurance companies play doctor.

Wednesday she was dizzier than normal and got worse throughout the day. Eventually she was so bad she was stumbling and fell a couple times. That was weird, and new, so we took her back to the ER. They were concerned enough that they admitted her. We ended up sitting in the ER all night waiting for a bed to open up for her. (And because of that I was awake for 40 hours straight.) They released her last night.

They don’t know what the main cause of her issues is, but they did discover she has POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). Her heartrate relaxed laying down was 55-65 beats per minute. When she’d sit up, it would jump to 130s-140s. More than double. Her blood pressure doesn’t really change (sometimes goes up) when she stands. We had wondered if that was one of her issues. Now we know. When they discharged her they told her it must be because she was dehydrated, but both Saturday and Wednesday in the ER they gave her a bag of fluid and both times said she wasn’t actually dehydrated before giving it but it was something they could do. They told her to try to drink 1 1/2 liters of water a day (she usually drinks more than that anyway). So not too helpful on how to treat it, but good we now know what one of her issues is.

Meanwhile, yesterday while Jamie and Ani were at the hospital I had to run home and take Fritz to the allergist (huge surprise: mild peanut allergy). Then this morning Lola had a check-up at the vet. We already have three medical things scheduled for next week (and need to schedule a blood draw for Fritz to check to see exactly how bad his peanut allergy is and to check for a few other things as well).

It’s been a long week, but we might be closer to a diagnosis for Ani. Her sinuses are hurting now and she’s got nasty postnasal drip and she’s been running a fever. These are actually all good signs that the antibiotics are working and her sinus infection is breaking up. Her pain and dizziness are getting a little better (headed back to just bad rather than extreme) so I really think the sinus infection was really complicating things.

Silent Letters That Aren’t

In spelling, the boys have to mark silent letters sometimes. The problem is, we actually pronounce some of those silent letters! I asked about a couple of the words on Facebook and it was split about 50/50 among my friends as to whether the letter was silent or not to them. Clearly, where Spelling-You-See is made, they are silent.

Words like could and would, the l is silent for us (as they are in the answer keys). Same with e’s at the end of words like have or place or one. But with words like talk and palm, we definitely say the l. Those are definitely not silent letters (and, so, I’ve changed my answer keys).

Ani’s Really Sick

Ani’s been chronically ill for several years now. It’s getting worse. She’s always been sickly. She reacted badly to her four month shots (and almost all vaccines since as well). At 2 she was diagnosed with insomnia. At 13 she was diagnosed with migraines. At 14 she was diagnosed with Celiac (which explained issues she’s had since she started eating solid food and going off gluten did help a lot). At 15 she was diagnosed with inappropriate sinus tachycardia (and is on a beta blocker for it). She’s almost 17 and a whole lot of doctors are trying to figure out what in the world is going on with her.

Her main symptoms are extreme salt craving, muscle weakness particularly in her upper back and neck, muscle aches particularly along the sides of her thighs, joint swelling, easy bruising, extreme fatigue that is worse when she first wakes up, constant nausea, dizziness, ringing in her ears, brain fog, frequent colds, skin darkening on various parts of her body such as her toes and arms kind of like a spotty tan, feeling like she can’t properly inflate her lungs (but pulmonary function test was fine), vision going black when she stands up no matter how fast or slow, depression, panic attacks, and feeling dehydrated. Her primary doctor had her test her blood sugar for a few weeks. She usually was in the 90s to low 100s fasting in the morning, 140s up to low 200s before dinner, and in the 80s and 90s two hours after dinner (insulin resistance pattern). Her thyroid has been thoroughly checked twice and is definitely not the problem.

She saw an endocrinologist last week. She’s testing her for Addison’s Disease in three weeks. Friday she’ll be having an MRI of her brain and brain stem to see if there’s some reason she’s having two migraines a week and has a constant headache all the time. Monday she’s seeing an immunologist to see if everything is related to an undiagnosed allergy or immune system problem. Mid-March she is seeing her rheumatologist to rule out chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. She also will be having a sleep study because of her insomnia (edited: That has been scheduled for Tuesday night). That hasn’t been scheduled yet. Hopefully ones of these tests or doctors will get this figured out.

The biggest problem is how much being ill interferes with her everyday life. She had already concluded that traditional college is out for her. Her health crashes too easily. For the last three years, she started getting up early for seminary and made it anywhere from one to seven weeks depending on the year. This year she tried hard (seven weeks), but by mid-October she had been sick constantly since the end of the first week and it took until sometime in November before she could get out of bed to do more than just go to work. Luckily, she has managed to find a job she loves that can turn into a career that only needs on the job training and a black belt. She hopes to be able to take college classes, but on-line may be her only option. It was both sad and nice when the endocrinologist confirmed that’s really her future right now and attending college classes is likely to just make her health worse.

For a long time we’ve been not allowing her to do much because she pays for it with her health crashing. But we realized that that isn’t a good idea because she still is a 16-year-old girl. She deserves to have some fun in life. So, recently, we’ve allowed her to do more. She went to the MLK walk and to Pax South. And she had fun. She paid for it. She’s paying for Pax now (it was Saturday). But it’s better to have fun and then end up in bed for a few days than to be in bed most of the time anyway, but never get to do anything fun. She’s good at determining what is worth it and what isn’t.

It’s hard to have a chronic illness, especially when you are a teenager. It’s even harder to have no idea what it is. Sometimes I feel like we are on an episode of Mystery Diagnosis. We’re determined to get a final answer with this round of specialists and tests. We just need Ani to be healthy.

Welcome to 2017!

We’ve made it to yet another year. This year Ani will turn 17(!) in February, Cameron 16 in October, Fritz 11 in July, and Adrian will be 9 in June. I will be 39 in April, Jamie will turn 42 in November, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in June.

In the fall, Cameron will start 10th grade, Fritz will begin 6th (middle school!), and Adrian will be in 4th grade. Ani will graduate in June. Hopefully, she’ll be healthy enough by the fall to take at least some on-line college classes.

Cameron will test for his second degree black belt in June and with any luck (and some better health) Ani will test for hers in December.

Ani will be seeing an endocrinologist the end of this month. We’re really hoping for some good, solid answers, a diagnosis, and a plan for treating whatever the heck is wrong with her.

Jamie and I are planning a trip to visit his mom in Ireland at some point this year. It’s been almost four years since we’ve seen her in person. If all goes well, my parents will finally sell their house and move in with us… in 6 months to a year (it’s always 6 months to a year).

During Family Home Evening last night, we all set some goals for the new year.
Jamie: Grow food we regularly eat rather than what he things sounds cool
Me: Tell the kids what chores I want them to do rather than expect them to notice things that need to get done and get annoyed when they don’t notice or do it
Ani: Get diagnosed with what is wrong with her
Cameron: Do more stop motion animation
Fritz: Play with the sugar gliders more often
Adrian: Start a YouTube channel
Maddie, an almost 17-year-old who collects mothers because hers passed away and spends a lot of time at our house: Get a job
Whole Family (Maddie came up with this one): Go on a family date every other month

Between the things we know are going to happen and the goals we’ve set, it’s going to be a great year!