Little Steps in Organizing

I have been sick this week. After the boys both had gastro for a week followed by another couple of weeks with asthma, croup, runny noses and the rest, their germs were shared with me in great enough numbers for me to go downhill as well. So the greater part of the last week has been spent in or around the bed, I’ve been confined to base this week- until yesterday and I was feeling pretty miserable for a while before I had to give up some things and stay home.
However life goes on and I’ve found the best way to get some sorely needed organising done is in very small chunks. I had joined in with the Organising Junkie’s 52 weeks of Organising at the beginning of 2011 and I’ve totally fallen off the wagon with that but these small sessions are going to get our house back on track. My biggest challenges right now are the sheer volume of things in our house that need to be more organised so that we can all function with less stress. Even though I’m getting around quite happily now on my previously dodgy ankles I still don’t have the stamina to do huge amounts of organising/tidying/cleaning at once. We are using the timer and doing 10-15 minute sessions with me organising something, the boys clearing out something to help me organise (The bottom of my wardrobe) or the boys problem-solving for one of our big issues.
SHOES. There. That is one of the biggest issues we face. I’ve said it. When it is time to leave for school or go to the park or go anywhere there is always someone who can’t find shoes. They could be in any room of the house, often in the living room, in the backyard beside the trampoline, in my car or A’s car and very occasionally in the plastic crate we had designated for shoes in their bedroom. It clearly wasn’t working and it was causing great angst for everyone, especially when we were rushed.
So, with the help of Eric, I organised a Shoe Docking Station on the back veranda. I thought it was just going to be a place where the shoes were all kept together but being boys, we had to have a docking station and I’m pretty pleased with it.
It isn’t fancy. I’ve just used home made laminated computer labels and stuck them down on an old TV stand we had and there are now designated “parking spots for the important sets of shoes. So school shoes, sports shoes, sandals and thongs have their own spaces with one changeable parking spot to be used for tags for hockey in Winter and runners for Little Athletics in summer.
A has raised the issue of spiders so we are going to practice precautionary shoe thumping. What I really like already is that I can pop outside and know straight away what is missing so they can hunt for exactly what they need. I’ve put some photos in but be warned. It isn’t “pretty” but the boys like it and it is functional and that’s what counts for my family right now.


I’ll see less of you next week!

That is our little catch cry at the end of Weight Watchers meetings and I often say it with grim determination that doesn’t come to fruition.  We also say as we high five the people next to us at the start of the meeting, “you are looking great”.  It sounds bit corny as I type it (sorry C when you read this!) but it really does lift the mood at the start of the meeting and it also means the meeting ends on a positive note.  It was positive all round for me this week because I lost 2.5 kg!  Even more high fives at the scales!

I actually thought that I wasn’t doing too much different but then we I gave it some thought I really have started doing things differently.  The biggest change is that my exercise has gone from  zero to 30 minutes most days and lots of incidental stuff.  I’m spurred on the “incidental” department by my trusty pedometer.  I haven’t yet reached the desired 10000 steps in a day.  My highest was 9000+ but my average each week is steadily rising.

I am also trying to be very mindful about what I eat and to a certain extent get the boys to think about what they are eating too.  This morning I told them that they had to have something for breakfast that wasn’t a ham and cheese toasted sandwich.  I don’t have anything against ham and cheese toasted sangers but to Daniel in particular they area food group of their own!  So Daniel ended up having an orange and a mandarin which wasn’t ideal but we did discuss that fact that he probably had a Vitamin C force field around him.  Eric bravely tried oats and didn’t finish them but it is all a good start and at least they are thinking.

The fact that we are very short on cash certainly has an impact on what I’m eating as well because I’m eating at home wherever possible, cooking my own food and only having very well considered takeaway.

I’ve now got a very good looking graph on the kitchen wall and I’m hoping to keep it looking good.  I’d really like to have a different “tens digit” in my weight next week!  The photo of Vera?  She is my next secret weight-loss weapon.  Once we get here a collar that fits she and I will be pounding the pavement regularly!

So It’s A Stay-Cation

I’m still trying to resign myself to spending the Easter holidays at home *every single day* and in the meantime I’ve been doing every Easter activity I can do with the boys that involves sitting down and producing something worthwhile.

So far we have blown out eggs and attempted to dye them with crepe paper with wildly varying results (more of that in another post).  We also made  rudimentary egg baskets/nests with plastic bowls and feathers.  They were nothing like the ones on the site that I got the idea from but the boys did them all by themselves and are very pleased with them.

Then we made goo – the old classic with corn-flour and water.  This has kept both boys happy for over half an hour so far and Daniel is still very happily pottering downstairs with a big messy baking tray of goo after trying to see just how much goo he could plaster over his big brother – as you do!  Eric has gone off to take more photos to document the process and I’m planning on showing them this clip from the Myth Busters show which examines whether or not it is possible to walk on goo.

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To be fair…

I’ve got two little “minders” home for their Easter holiday as of today and I am determined to make it as good a holiday as possible given that they have done an awful lot of running around after me in the past three weeks.  We’ve brainstormed a list of “places to go” and “things to do at home” today and will do some more work on our list tomorrow.  Eric seems to think they should rank their ideas in order of preference next – I don’t know where he gets this from!

We’ll have to wait until after Monday afternoon to determine what will really be manageable because that’s when I’m seeing my specialist for the verdict on my ankles thus far.  I’m not too worried about the right ankle because it is doing well (for a sprained ankle) but the left (fractured one) is causing some grief.  It is still very painful, the splints rubbed against my skin when they first went on without socks so there is some major skin irritation gone on and worst of all my foot keeps cramping up.  According to the physio I saw today it is sort of seizing up (she called it a type of “dystrophy” but we won’t go there).  Apparently it doesn’t like being not used so the foot and calf are all very tight and uncomfortable which all helps to make me a bit more miserable.  The GP suggested a magnesium supplement which the chemist said would take 3 weeks to work (!!!) and a non-stick dressing for my wounded bit.  The physio massaged it all very carefully with me watching her every move.  I’m sure my howls would have given it away if she did something that hurt too much.

So it is lucky I have my Dan around.  After my post about Eric’s breakfast preparation efforts which could be used to, er, embarrass him in years to come I thought I had better share some of Daniel’s quirks.  He is insatiable in his quest for knowledge.  This leads to some quite startling questions ate any time at all.  The most recent I can remember is a few nights ago when he was eating dinner just with dh and I and he came out with, “What’s sexual assault?”  The boys and I watched about the last third of the Titanic movie this evening or rather Eric and I tried to watch it amongst the barrage of questions from Daniel.

Why are the kids on the life boats? What was wrong with this ship?  How many people on the lifeboats? How many fell in the water? How many got stuck on the ship?  Is this a horror movie? Why is it all slanting?  What is the captain going to do? Are those the other captains? (referring to ship’s officers)  Is Jack going to die?  They should look out for all that broken glass in the water because they could cut themselves couldn’t they Mum? Will that bad guy die? I think that bad guy should die! Why did the bad guy pick up that kid? Who’s the old lady? (referring to Rose at the end of the movie) And then to top it all off as the credits start rolling: “Do you think that if they made solar panels about 5c each that everyone would have them?”

He then announced that he and Harry (the stuffed toy horse) would be joining me in my bed because he might be thinking about the Titanic all night. Oh dear, parent of the year again – not!

Life Skills

Since my tumble down the stairs resulting in two injured ankles, I have learned many things – how to use crutches, how to go up and down stairs on crutches, the best way of calling a cab and the best sort of socks to wear when you have to wear them under splints 24/7 for SIX weeks  – only three to go!

Eric has learned a few useful things too.  He now knows:

how to make a cup of coffee (very important for his mother’s survival)

how to make a toasted sandwich (necessary for his survival)

how to change the shelves in the oven and turn it on

which things I need on my trolley when I go from place to place

He has also walked to the local chemist by himself when I was stranded at home and really needed prickly heat powder to put on under the aforementioned socks.  As the days go on he is using his school diary to keep track of the pick-up arrangements for each afternoon which is very useful given that the arrangements are different every single day!

I wish I could say something similar for Daniel but he’s just not into trying new things without a lot of help. His main interest in my injuries is the fact that I have much more time than usual for reading stories to him and listening to him read to me.  So he is learning in a more indirect way from what has happened.  To be fair, he has filled a few water bottles for me and he quite enjoys getting me a Berocca each morning.

All of this has really made me think about the times at which we begin to teach life skills to our children.  I think about it more, when I’m stranded somewhere at home needing something done and I wonder whether I can ask one of the boys to do it.  Will they be able? Will they be willing?  I’ve got a long mental list of things they do know how to do already but I’ve been thinking about how to move them on and some more things I could teach them.

Given that Eric is 10, I’d like to teach him to do simple ironing, start a load of washing choosing water level and temperature, do some vacuuming and where to access the electricity box and water in an emergency.  For Daniel my ambitions include stacking dishwasher, hanging out small washing on clothes airer, folding things and taking simple phone messages.  That’s just off the top of my head and I’m sure there are many more things.

I’d like my boys to get into very familiar routines for mornings, after school and evenings so that the jobs we wanted them to do and homework requirements etc were all just happening instead of coaxed out of them step by step each day.  That means of course that I need to have better routines for myself and I do recognise that.  I’d like them to develop their problem solving skills so they can see that there is often more than one solution to something that is bothering or perplexing them.  I’d like to help them develop their emotional resilience while also leaving them secure in the knowledge that it is ok for a boy to cry.

Eric and I are going to a funeral on Thursday and it will be his first one.  His teacher’s mum passed away last week.   Other students from his class are likely to attend with their parents so he is feeling some safety in numbers. A friend and I had a conversation with Eric and her daughter this afternoon about the sorts of things that happen at a funeral and why they are important. We talked about what it means to the family left behind to see that their community supports them.  Both children now have some concept of what they will see, hear and perhaps feel.  Dh and I decided that it was important for him to attend a funeral now for someone he didn’t know well because there will come a time when he has to attend a funeral for someone he does know well.  When that time comes it may be a bit less overwhelming because he knows the sorts of things that will happen.

Now is the time for us to be mindful of the learning opportunities that are out there in everyday life for our children and to make the most of them even if it does take longer to get things done and they may not be done as well as we would have done them.

You may have noticed that I didn’t put on Eric’s list that he knew how to make toast with honey.  To explain I give you (as accurately as I can remember) our conversation on the Sunday morning before last.

“I’m going to make you a coffee Mum.  Would you like something for breakfast?”

I take frantic mental inventory – what can he make and bring into bedroom without spilling it?  I think that rules out cereal so I settle on toast with jam.  He disappears.

“There’s no jam anywhere Mum.  Can I put something else on?”

“Um, yes. How about some honey?”


At this point the kettle stopped boiling ages ago, he’s been to the fridge several times but no smoke alarms have gone off.  Then he appears again.

“I’ve sort of made a mistake.”

“Oh yes?”

“I sort of put the margarine and honey on but I forgot to put the bread in the toaster.  Should I put it in now?”

“Um, no, that will be fine, you can just bring it in to me the way it is.”

As it turned out, he probably could have put the bread in the toaster quite easily because he eventually appeared with barely lukewarm coffee and two slices of stale bread with a tiny smear of margarine down the centre of each and about 1 teaspoon of honey altogether between two pieces.

“Thank-you gorgeous, it was so nice of you to make me some breakfast!”

“That’s ok Mum, nothing to it” and he struts away, chest out feeling very proud of himself.

We might still be learning but I’ve got very good material to work with!



The Love Fest

I like St Valentine’s Day but dh does not.  Where once he used to go along with the whole present and going out thing he now refuses to participate at all.  I knew I’d be “flogging a dead horse” if I tried to do anything about the big day with him this year so instead I decided to focus on the three men in my life.  The boys will hopefully learn a bit about simple celebrations and ways in which you can show people you love them.  I wouldn’t suggest it now but maybe they will store away some ideas for when they have “sweethearts” of their own.  So I’ve had a bit of fun getting tready for our mini Love Fest which we held tonight.

I got the Valentine’s Wreath Idea from here.  Mine is quite different in that I went with flat felt hearts in a rich red and I got the wield my new hot glue gun.  The finished effect is simple but well, effective I think.  The rest was easy: red plastic tablecloth (boys eating spaghetti – I shouldn’t need to say anything else on that subject), white serviettes with hand-painted hearts, some red heart sequins sprinkled up the middle of the table, red tea-lights in our special rose decorated wall sconce and the “piece de resistance” (as far as the boys were concerned) chocolate heart rose buds on long plastic stems.

We dined on spaghetti bolognaise with choc mint drumsticks for dessert anda good time was had by three of us.  Vera the dog was intrigued by all the goings-on and desperate to be included.  She did score some leftover spaghetti sauce in the end!

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Organizing for Homework

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I was MORTIFIED last year when both boys came home with report cards that had unfavourable comments about homework and personal organization.

Things had really fallen apart with routines and homework to the extent that it was all too hard for all of us.  So I resolved to start this year with better routines and habits and needed a dedicated space for homework.  In our small, overcrowded house that was a big ask.  Until the end of last year the boys did their homework at the dining table and if they weren’t finished by dinnertime it got shoved aside into what was already a blazing hot spot (to use FlyLady terminology).  Then things got lost and homework wasn’t done and we slipped right out of our good routines.

When I looked at this year realistically, I could see that we were likely to repeat the same patterns if something didn’t change.  We would still have irregular hours at times until I am back in full time work and this meant that the boys would be getting home and starting homework right on dinner time.  They needed to be able to get up and leave it and then come back and find things as they had left them.

So I’ve surrendered the use of the two desks in the main bedroom to the boys for that part of the day that they need to do homework.  This has multiple benefits.  It forces me to keep my desk reasonably clear.  The room is air-conditioned.  There is easy access to a computer if I allow it.  I can be in there dealing with laundry and/or ironing at the same time and there are far fewer distractions.

The boys thought the homework space looked great and Eric has put it to good use this week.  We’re still waiting for the big Year 2 boy to come home with homework and then it will really be put to the test!