The Birth of a Reader


Fritz finished read the Harry Potter series a week ago yesterday. The next day he started the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. He’s quite a ways through the third book now. He read the second book in two days. He read until very late last not and couldn’t put it down until he was done. There’s always a book or a series that grabs a kid, one they just can’t put down, and that’s when you know a reader has been born.

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.

February Science Experiments

We pretended to be owls and hunted different colored pom-pom mice. We chose the color we could see the best for the first one we grabbed. Both Fritz and Adrian picked yellow while Cameron chose black.
February Science Experiments

We looked at Lola’s hair under the microscope.
February Science Experiments

We made fossil casts. We pressed shells and things into clay and then poured plaster of paris on top of the clay.
February Science Experiments

We looked closely at the layers of a sedimentary rock.
February Science Experiments

We completed a logic puzzle identifying which fossils are found in what layer at the Grand Canyon.
February Science Experiments

We looked at cut pieces of trees and learned about the rings and what they mean.
February Science Experiments

We compared different soil samples under the microscope.
February Science Experiments

We learned about and made biomes.
February Science Experiments

Art in February

Art in February
Boundaries: The boys had to represent a boundary somehow. Cameron kicked the door to show breaking down boundaries (he wanted to actually kick the door down, but I vetoed that). Fritz connected the boundary between the floor and the guinea pig cage with Duplos. Adrian showed himself refusing an orange because eating one is a boundary he is not willing to cross (he is allergic to oranges).

Art in February
Imaginary Friend: The boys had to create an imaginary friend and give it a back story. Cameron’s friend is an unnamed Asian owl that does not speak English and is an unemployed vagrant. As this owl is imaginary, Cameron chose not to represent him in physical form. Fritz drew a rattlesnake named Jerald. This rattlesnake is always paying attention and reminds him that dreams are not real. Adrian adamantly refused to come up with anything, though he stood on his head on the couch for quite some time thinking about the fact that he wasn’t going to even try to come up with an imaginary friend.

Art in February
The Muster: The boys had to create a uniform for whatever cause they would fight for. Cameron would fight for the right to sleep all day and Adrian would fight for the right to watch YouTube videos all day. Fritz, however, actually took the assignment seriously and made a badge for his uniform. He said he would fight for the rights of all people no matter what their gender or race.

Art in February

Collaborate With Son Lux: The boys had to listen to a song by musician and composer Son Lux (Ryan Lott) and use it for inspiration to collaborate with him. They chose to make a stop motion animation, Boom Goes the Dynamite, with 7 seconds of the song as the soundtrack. The little guys made the backdrop and Cameron made the clay characters.

Art in February
Whitescapes: The boys had to find two white objects and compare the colors. Then they had to change the light source and compare them again and name the colors they saw.

Ani Made a YouTube Channel

A couple weeks ago I suggested Ani start a YouTube channel to talk about and support people (particular teens) with chronic illnesses. She made her first video where you get to see her for a few seconds without make-up and see just how bad she usually looks.

Warning: My daughter is really perky. If she’s this upbeat sick, she’ll be scary healthy, if she ever does get healthy. She was on the good drugs when she recorded this, the ones she got at the hospital that she’s been taking extremely sparingly when the pain is at its worst, so that may explain her perkiness.

She’s got lots of great ideas for her channel, Invisible Recovery, including interviews and talking about what it’s like dealing with all this. She plans to post one video a week. Honestly, just planning this and thinking about helping other sick teens not feel so weird and alone has given her such a big boost. And, apparently, I will be one of the interviewees one of these weeks (I made her wrong, you know).

As for how she’s doing right now… Not great. She hit her deductible for the year on February 4th so that’s pretty awesome. 10% for the rest of the year! She’s in a lot of pain and while the doctors at the hospital said she’s a zebra, no one seems to want to figure out just what type of zebra she is. They are reasonably sure she’s not dying or at least not from something they can figure out. Our insurance company is playing doctor right now and so she can’t have the pain medication her doctor wants her to have until she tries two others. At least the one she’s on right now is working better than Aleve. Her next appointment is in 2 1/2 weeks with the rheumatologist and then a few days later with a neurosurgeon.

She’s found two things that make life a bit better for her. One is drinking pickle juice. She told me she wanted the pickle jar and a straw. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. She drank all the juice in one sitting. It really helps the POTS because of the salt. It makes her drink more water and also helps her body hang on to that water increasing her fluid volume. That helps her heart rate stay stable when she changes position and so decreases the unpleasant POTS symptoms. We should just buy her the pickle juice. In quart bottles, preferably.
Ani Made a YouTube Channel

For years Ani’s been complaining that her neck feels too weak to support her head. It’s gotten progressively worse. That’s where a lot of her pain is coming from. So we’re wondering if she has some craniocervical instability going on. We had a neck pillow for use on airplanes so Ani decided to try it as a makeshift neck brace and it helps so much. It reduces the pressure she feels at the top of her spine and helps a lot with the neck pain. It looks pretty silly, but it works, so we’re going with it.
Ani Made a YouTube Channel

It’s wonderful to see her excited about something again. Really, the only thing that truly has been giving her joy lately has been her job. Invisible Recovery has given her something to think about and plan. I think it’ll be just as good for her as it will be for other people.