My Kids are Pretty Cool

Ani went to ATA Worlds in Arkansas last weekend. She got to watch our (former) instructor test for his 5th degree black belt and watch some amazing competition. Being there gave her the itch to get back to training.
My Kids are Pretty Cool

Cameron is just plain amazing at taekwondo. Last Saturday there was a Daddy and Me board break class and Cameron did a spin heel speed break on a wooden board.

Fritz just finished his third summer swim season. He is not the fastest swimmer, but he loves being in the pool. This year he shaved over 8 seconds from his freestyle, over 13 seconds from his backstroke, and added breaststroke.
My Kids are Pretty Cool

Adrian is on the slow path to black belt. He moves up a belt color about once a year. After 3 1/2 years of being a low rank, he tested on Monday for his purple belt and will finally join the high rank group. This means he gets to spar and use a weapon in each hand, both things that he’s really excited about.
My Kids are Pretty Cool

I Made a Thing

We have a new instructor at taekwondo. It’s been a little traumatic losing the only instructor we’ve ever had because he’s just amazing and seen four of us to first degree black belt and one to second degree black belt. He was instrumental in changing our lives. He moved to a school 5 miles away so we could have followed him there, but we decided to give the new guy a chance and I’m glad we did.

Our new instructor is amazing with Adrian. The kid is rather difficult and we know this. But, somehow, things that used to turn into a battle of wills just don’t anymore. We’ve discovered that things Adrian has been taught, he has not learned. I don’t know if it’s from not paying attention or just not wanting to be there so ignoring the instructions. Whatever it is, he has actually been telling our new instructor he doesn’t know how to do things and asking for help. Our instructor then shows him and Adrian can do them. He also ignores certain behavior from Adrian that our previous instructor would engage in a battle of wills over. The interesting thing about that is Adrian will see that our new instructor is obviously and purposefully ignoring whatever Adrian is doing and the kid stops and does what he is supposed to do.

Anyway, our new instructor is very talented and seems to really enjoy working with kids. But he’s so awkward when he’s not doing taekwondo. It’s funny because he’ll retreat to the corner in between classes like he’s trying to hide, but then when class starts or you talk to him about taekwondo he’s animated and not awkward at all. That reminded me of James Roday who played Shawn on Psych. He was so gregarious as Shawn, but any time they had a panel or interview or whatever he was pretty quiet and if they were sitting on a couch, he would always pick up a pillow and hug and rub it through the interview. So I jokingly said I needed to make our instructor a pillow. My friend kind of egged me on a little bit and that led to me making a thing. We’ll give it to him tonight at beginner belt graduation (Adrian’s finally, after 3 1/2 years, made it to the high ranks!).

Ani had physical therapy yesterday morning so on the way home we went to Michaels and got fabric, a pillow form, and a pineapple applique.

I printed two copies of the Victory logo and cut it up to use as a pattern.

Then I started sewing. My mom does applique stuff all the time. I think I have once before ever. I was pretty happy with how the Victory logo came out.

I made an envelope pillow case to fit the pillow form. I googled for instructions because I literally had no idea how to do it.

I sewed the Victory logo onto the center of the front of the pillowcase.

I sewed the pineapple applique onto the back of the pillowcase as a nod to Psych and the whole reason I even thought of making him a pillow. I stuffed in the pillow form and it was almost perfect.

I added a few more stitches to fix the corners better and I am very happy with it. I just may have to make one for us to keep!

Cameron’s a Second Degree!

Cameron tested for his second degree black belt in taekwondo on Saturday.

On Monday he received his new belt at the Black Belt Candlelight Ceremony.

They sat and thought about the journey that has gotten them this far on the path to black belt and beyond.

Then they punched toward their candle flame to put it out (Cameron’s the second in the row).

They each got to come up and receive their new belt from their instructor.

He was most excited to get his new belt because it means that after a year and a half he finally gets to start learning a new form.

The amount of time and effort behind a new belt is huge.

His old belt was pretty much gray now from so much use.

Because of some changes in chief instructors, Mr. Meza is no longer at the location where we go, but he has been our instructor for the last 3 1/2 years (and he’s still close by so we’ll still see him a lot).

Weird

Ani’s been doing some digital art on my iPad. She’s just learning how so she’s been using pictures as reference for what she wants to draw. Because of this, sometimes some strange pictures show up in my photos on my phone (since it shares an account with my iPad).

The other day I was going through my photos and was highly amused by this picture of a gnome right before this picture of Cameron giving a private lesson at taekwondo. The similarities between Cameron and the gnome made me laugh so much.

Weird

Physical Therapy

Yesterday Ani started at least a month of physical therapy 2-3 days a week. Her therapist is experienced with people with Ehlers-Danlos (really important to prevent further injury). Her neck issues appear to all be totally related to the EDS.

Physical Therapy

When she moves her neck, her vertebrae don’t work together, but instead twist in opposite directions. This equals pain. Her front neck muscles are much weaker than her back neck muscles. This equals pain. She has craniocervical instability. This equals pain. So much pain. Doctors laughed at her for saying her neck felt too weak to hold up her head. Well, the physical therapist isn’t laughing. Ani was right about that all along!

Physical Therapy

The goal of the physical therapy and (so many) exercises she has to do in between visits is to strengthen her neck and retrain the muscles to keep her vertebrae in alignment and moving properly together. The ultimate goal is to get her back on the mat training at taekwondo. For now, though, after her first two visits, her neck is really hurting. We are hopeful that in a few weeks it’ll be much better (me more than Ani to be honest – she’s pretty much resigned to being in horrible pain for the rest of her life).

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Fritz, upon discovering today is the first day of spring, wondered just why we had spring break last week before spring started. Good question. Of course, living in south Texas the temperature has been quite spring-like since, well, January.

Last week was fun. Cameron went on Trek. This is a thing Mormon kids do to simulated being pioneers. They wore pioneer clothes (plus tennis shoes because we’re not that crazy). Slept outside. Cooked some of their meals on a fire. Were put in groups called families with a Ma and Pa. Pulled handcarts (and in the case of Cameron’s family, also pulled the chariot of their “sister” in a wheelchair). Got sunburned. Walked 26.6 miles over three days. Sang 99 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. Twice. And then sang 499 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. He absolutely loved it.

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Wednesday Ani saw her rheumatologist and got some diagnoses and a treatment plan that is already helping a little bit.

Friday I took the kids to see Beauty and the Beast. We loved it. It was absolutely perfect. We’ll definitely be buying it when it is released on DVD (or, rather, digitally from Amazon because that’s what we do).

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

It’s been a year since we started redecorating Ani’s room. We’ve still got a few touch-ups left to do, but now we’re ready to move on to Cameron’s and the boys’ rooms. Saturday we went and got paint chips from Home Depot in pink (Cameron), blue (Cameron and Fritz), and yellow (Adrian) to choose from. Cameron and Fritz separately picked the exact same shade of blue.

Spring Break also included lots of reading (I’ve read 13 books so far in March), youtube videos, video game playing, and Cameron working at spring break camp at taekwondo after he returned from Trek.

Today we went back to school and everything went great. Everyone focused and worked hard and we even got all of our all together work done (rarely does that all get done in one day). Ten more weeks of school and then we’re off for the summer!

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.

Daily:
*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)
*Journal
*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)
*Dishes
*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)

Sundays
*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)
*Church
*Skype Jamie’s Mum

Mondays
*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)

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

Wednesdays
*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)

Thursdays
*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)
*Cans
*Taekwondo
*Mail Aunt Betty Letter
*Sweep Dining Room

Fridays
*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

Saturdays
*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.