Category Archives: house stuff

There is a Right and Wrong Way to Fold Towels.

AKA some things in your marriage are worth fighting for.

A long time ago in a land far away (er, 20 miles away in Maryland Heights), when I was just a child bride (seriously, the older I get, the more I realize just how young we were when we married) setting up a home with my new husband, we used to do the laundry together.

Awww. That’s cute, isn’t it?

Well, we did. We had to cart the baskets a couple of buildings over from ours to use the quarter machines that were always filled with someone else’s left-behind laundry (gag). We’d wash and dry and return to our cozy first-floor apartment to fold.

That’s where the trouble began.

Matt informed me that I was folding the towels wrong.

Ahem. What?

He showed me how he thought the towels should be folded. It became a lighthearted joke between the two of us, and just to be accommodating, I started folding towels his way. Start with the towel flat:

towel 1

Then you do these folds:

Towel 2

The way I always folded towels was like this:

towel 3

My way is one less step, and when you unfold it, it’s ready to put on the towel rack without having to refold it. However, his way folds up the towel more compactly, and it fits better on a bathroom shelf.

I just want to stop for a second and comment on how hilarious this is to me now, that he had an opinion about this. Read about his bachelor pad here for a bit of insight.

Anyway, over the years, Matt has helped less with the laundry. He still folds a load here and there, which I very much appreciate, but since I quit working, washing/drying/folding/sorting moved entirely into my jurisdiction, which seems fair. However, I was still folding towels “his” way.

Yesterday, as my hands were full of clean towels and I was trying one-handed to hang clean ones on the towel racks, they ended up like this:

towel 4

And it occurred to me: why in the world am I still folding towels his way? He rarely folds or puts away a towel; they just magically appear clean on his towel rack!

So now, nearly 15 years into our marriage, I’m taking it back. I can now one-handed put a towel on the rack like this, thanks to my revelation:

towel5

This is all kind of sad, but it’s real, and it makes me laugh a little.

All About Bennett (Early Birthday Edition)

1. As a follow-up to this post on his coughing issue: it’s asthma. I’m certain. He’s been on a steroid inhaler for 2+ months now, and we’ve broken out the rescue inhaler twice and used it for a maximum of a week each time when he started a little bit of a cough. No daily coughing anymore! It’s such a relief to feel like we at least know what it is. Now, he can’t stay on this steroid inhaler forever, and will likely go off it after allergy season passes. So it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds after that, but at least now we know.

2. His head wound has healed so beautifully I can’t believe it! Just a perfect pink line all through his eyebrow, which is sure to fade with time. It’ll be slathered in sunscreen all summer, but he always is anyway.

3. On Saturday, Bennett had his first practice baseball game, and during warm-ups, somehow took a ricocheted flyball to the lip. Gotta love getting a call from your friend (and coach’s wife) who’s already at the game, alerting you to the fact that you may see B coming back from the concession stand with a bleeding lip and ice pack, but that she’s checked it and it doesn’t need stitches. Sigh.

4. We decided, rather rashly for our family, to convert the guest bedroom into a bedroom for Bennett, which means all 3 boys have separate rooms now! Bennett was all for this, and he will gladly give up his room and bunk with Jack Henry when we have company, which was the deal we made with him upon making the switch.

Of course, he chose Illini as his theme, which is really cool because we had all kinds of stuff to go in there. Take a little look around!

uncle jake...recognize that old poster??

uncle jake…recognize that old poster??

reading corner

reading corner

inside the closet...my fave ikea storage unit (expedit) with some old illini crates.

inside the closet…my fave ikea storage unit (expedit) with some old illini crates.

view from the door

view from the door

nightstand...hayley made that frame years ago! cutie-pie little illini bros pic from 2008.

nightstand…hayley made that frame years ago! cutie-pie little illini bros pic from 2008.

2 old tees stretched over a canvas on the left; a cross-stitch of the chief that matt's mom made for him in college.

2 old tees stretched over a canvas on the left; a cross-stitch of the chief that matt’s mom made for him in college.

I have to admit, even more than when Luke moved into his own room 2 years ago (very few changes were made to decor), this felt like doing a big kid’s room for the first time. Which made me a tiny bit sad, but it was also really fun that he had ideas and input.

5. As of next Monday, he’ll be 9. NINE. One year from double-digits. Halfway to leaving for college. Birthdays now bring about a sense of urgency in me…there’s still so much I want him to know, and the years to learn those things are just flying by. And when I get reflective about Bennett and who he is and what it’s like to parent him, I get kinda weepy…I don’t know, I just love him so much, and parenting him has been challenging beyond what I envisioned and made me grow and stretch and I’m thankful for that and just hope we’re doing what’s right and good for him (and his brothers, of course) all the time. Does that make any sense?

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He’ll spend the weekend leading up to his birthday playing baseball, and his love for the sport combined with his love for his team makes that the perfect way to celebrate.

2nd season of t-ball ( sadly, i have no pics of him playing his first season!)

2nd season of t-ball ( sadly, i have no pics of him playing his first season!)

he'd just turned 4 here.

he’d just turned 4 here.

There will be lots of little celebrations over the coming days that I’ll be sure to document!

One Step Forward, Two Back: The Organization Edition

Seriously. Just when I get excited that one area of my life/house is totally under control, I realize that two (or eight, whatever) are totally NOT under control.

**Sneak: I have a fun organizing surprise coming your way in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned.**

I’m lucky enough to have have 3 freezers: the one in the kitchen (it’s a side-by-side, horrible in terms of storage, makes me curse at it regularly), our extra bottom fridge/top freezer in the basement that we brought here from our old house (when you buy 6 gallons of milk at a time, you need an extra fridge), and our half-size deep freeze, a floor model purchased years ago, and still an awesome investment.

I buy lots of stuff in bulk: shredded cheese, chicken, ground beef, bacon, bread. Plus more stuff. Plus all of the applesauce Heather and I make annually. So we use a lot of this space.

However, I often don’t know what I have in the freezers. On the first of the year, prompted by what I don’t know, I cleaned them all out.

And then, I made a list of what’s in them, and stuck the list to the side with a cute magnet.

For example, I had 4 bags of leftover turkey breast from Thanksgiving. So I wrote: Turkey Breast 4 3 2 1. Then, I just cross out the 4 when I grab a bag of it to use, so that I know there are 3 left.

this was taken a while ago, so more has already been used! it's one of those things that makes me wonder why i didn't ever do this before now.

this was taken a while ago, so more has already been used! it’s one of those things that makes me wonder why i didn’t ever do this before now.

It is SO NICE when I menu plan to look at the list and build meals from there. It’s also really nice when I don’t menu plan, and can look at the list and find something quick.

this is the list of what's in the chest freezer and top freezer.

this is the list of what’s in the chest freezer and top freezer.

In short: I’d highly recommend taking an hour to do this. Totally worth it.

Now, here are 3 areas that look horrible, to balance out that win:

just keepin' it real.

just keepin’ it real.

i blame this mostly on the kids.  they come in here and take random stuff out and then don't put it back the right way.  hmm, i think i just realized who's going to be cleaning this area up.

i blame this mostly on the kids. they come in here and take random stuff out and then don’t put it back the right way. hmm, i think i just realized who’s going to be cleaning this area up.

stuff from the last picture regularly finds its way out here to this fort/tent city area that the boys are constantly  building and rebuilding.  honestly, i don't even care anymore that this part of the house is a disaster. until we have company over.

stuff from the last picture regularly finds its way out here to this fort/tent city area that the boys are constantly building and rebuilding. honestly, i don’t even care anymore that this part of the house is a disaster. until we have company over.

Sigh.

Back to another success. Now that the boys are wearing close to the same size in many of their clothes, keeping them straight is difficult. Particularly boxers and t-shirts, but also things that have just been handed down (and therefore I can’t remember where it’s supposed to go now). The conversation usually goes like this:

Me: Luke, those pants are way too short. This is your last day wearing them.

Luke: Ok.

Me, 4 days later, sorting clean laundry: Ok for real. Who wears these pants now?

It’s annoying. And things end up in drawers where they don’t belong, thus they don’t get worn. Putting initials on the tags won’t work unless I want to cross things out. So, I came up with another plan.

Dots. 1 dot for Luke. 2 for Bennett. 3 for Jack Henry.

this cardinals shirt is jack henry's...probably passed down since luke, since it'a molina one.

this cardinals shirt is jack henry’s…probably passed down since luke, since it’a molina one.

It’s fail-proof. And, everyone in the family understands the simplicity of the system, so everyone can help sort clean, folded laundry.

It only took me forever to figure this out, but there are still lots of years with all 3 boys in this house and the opportunity to accidentally switch up their clothes, so better late than never, right?

What’s working for you? Or commiserate with me on the areas I’ve let go. Please share!

“Remember That One Christmas Break When We Built a Closet?”

I can just hear us 20 years from now, reminiscing on The Great Closet Implosion of 2013 like it was a happy memory.

Truly, the result is amazing and I am beyond glad that we didn’t just buy the hardware needed to reattach the old shelving. Having your closet throw up on the night of December 23 isn’t pleasant, and living with all of your clothing on the floor of several rooms isn’t pleasant either. However, if that hadn’t happened, we likely would’ve spent the next several years cursing the horrible layout of our closet, wishing the space was better utilized than it is.

We spent some time pricing different units online and in a couple of stores, and decided to do it ourselves using the allen+roth closet system from Lowe’s…it’s not nearly as awesome as The Container Store, but at less than 1/3 of the price, it was what we wanted to do. It mostly went according to plan, minus a couple of hiccups with installation, and my wish that the shelving that came with the units was longer so that we could use them above the hanging clothes (I’m still formulating a plan for that).

So here it is! For an organizing freak like me, putting everything back was fun and slightly overwhelming, because there were so many possibilities, starting over like we were. But I love how it’s all come together. The only thing left to do is figure out where to hang my belts, and I’m done!

Oh…and for the record: today is snow day #4 in a row, following 16 days of Christmas break. Sanity intact, but barely, as the boys play yet another game of whatever it is they play downstairs that involves a ball hitting a lot of stuff and a lot of yelling. Clearly, I am very concerned.

blogworthy.

I ran a quick errand to the mall this evening. Honestly, the awkwardness I witnessed at Aerie made me look around for a camera, and could be the focus of a blog post all by itself.

As it stands, in light of what happened after that, the story about how I saw a young 20-something-year-old man bra shopping for his girlfriend (who was not present) WITH HIS GRANDMOTHER will have to suffice as the opener. Seriously. People are so.weird.

As I was walking out of the mall, I got a text from my beloved. It was a picture of our closet, with all of the belongings from the long side of the closet on the floor, and the brackets dangling from the wall.

So yes. While my children slept, and my husband minded his own business, our 22-year-old shelf in our closet decided it had had enough, and dumped all of my clothes and the few remaining Christmas gifts stored up high to the floor.

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this is a first world problem. fully aware. still a major pain in the butt.

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previously, this bracket was the opposite direction. this is not very helpful for holding up a shelf.

I’ll cop to having said a pretty bad word in my head when I looked at the picture a second time, and realized that the kids’ one and only Santa gift had just tumbled to the floor.

Sidenote: this is the last year for Santa in our house, and he’s going out big: the kids are getting an iPad! They have NO idea. It will be such a fun surprise. If it works after the 7-foot drop it took, of course. (I did open the packaging…the screen did not shatter.)

The following is Matt’s and my text convo before I got home:

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The wine was waiting when I walked in.

And then Matt said the words I hoped he’d say: “Let’s just redo the closet.”

HOORAY!

The timing is horrible, but it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s ok-sized for a walk-in, but so poorly configured that the space is not nearly maximized. From the moment we laid eyes on this house, we’ve wanted it changed, but just haven’t wanted to spend the money on it.

With the brackets all busted and my belongings scattered about on the floor, this seems like as good a time as any.

So…have any of you used a custom closet company? Would you recommend them? We are not handy people, so installing this ourselves is likely out of the question, but I’ve already found a couple of online design tools that I’ll at least give a try. Fill me in on your experience!

Clean.

Confession time. And I’ve maybe mentioned this before. But I’m not the best at keeping a really clean house. Picked up? Mostly. But clean? Meh. I’d give myself a C. With the boys going back to school, I considered making myself a cleaning schedule for about one hot second, and then gave up that idea, because I would fail at that within a week.

[I don't do well with rigid schedules. So the idea that every Monday, I'd need to clean bathrooms, and every Tuesday, mop the floor, etc., makes me shiver.]

Sooo, it should come as no surprise, knowing the above, that I don’t clean the boys’ shower very often. And by “not very often” I mean I can probably count on one hand how many times I clean it in a year. I know some of you are gagging, and that’s understandable. I think I’d care more if:

a) anyone took a bath in there
b) I ever saw the tub (the boys have gotten really good at closing the shower curtain after showering, so I never even see it)
c) they complained about how gross it was. But let’s be honest here – it’s highly likely they’re peeing in there. In the place where they clean* themselves. Like they’re ever going to complain about how dirty their shower is.

And I KNOW I’d care more if I was showering in there.

When I happened to take a peek in there this morning, I was a bit disgusted by what I saw. Lots of pink mildew and a TON of soap scum (which, seriously, it’s a white shower. If you can SEE soap scum, it’s bad), but surprisingly, not a horrible mildew odor. I knew it was time to do something about this, because I was pretty sure I hadn’t cleaned it all summer. 3 boys x an average of 6 showers/week/boy x 12 weeks of summer = approximately 250 showers worth of nastiness in there.

Ahem.

I usually use a bottle of some kind of commercial cleaner, but this time I grabbed my bottle of Pinterest-inspired heavy-duty spray that I’ve used on my own shower in the past. I love that it’s cheap, green, and works like magic.

So after a little hard work** (see details below if you, too, have procrastinated shower-cleaning to the point of the authorities needing to be called), the tub, shower and tub mat are SPARKLING, and that is not an exaggeration.

See?

20130821-152822.jpg

I realize without a before picture, this means almost nothing, but trust me, it was gross, and now it’s not.

Which seems like about enough for one day, to quote my friend Suzanne. :)

*this term should be applied very loosely here, I’m certain.

**Here’s the how-to on this shower cleaner:
It’s simply one part white vinegar to one part blue Dawn dish soap (actually, err on the side of more vinegar than Dawn by a little bit). That’s it. Pour them in the spray bottle, shake it up, and spray it on.

3 things:

1. It smells bad. Not just like vinegar, because I use that all the time for things, but there is something about the combination of the 2 that makes for a nasty strong smell.

2. Plan to spray this on the shower, let it sit for an hour or so, and then come back and scrub it with a big scrubbing brush. It works best if you run some warm water in the tub, so that when you’re scrubbing you can dip the brush in there and suds up the solution on the walls.

3. It takes some scrubbing to get it off, so plan on it being a bit of work. However, your shower will literally be sparkling clean. And then you don’t have to worry about it for like another 3 months, right?

Story of My Life

There will never be any need to write a biography of my life.

Someone could simply copy the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and he’d be good to go.

I came downstairs to quickly reorganize a couple of things for 2 reasons:
1. My sister just moved out, meaning her storage stuff is no longer on our basement. I was going to put a few things away and
2. My friend Katie has started an awesome resource in her basement. She’s collecting clothes and shoes, infant-big kid, boy and girl, so that when foster families get placements, they’ll have somewhere to go for necessities for the kids they’re taking in. I knew I had a box of clothes I could give her, so I was getting that out.

Should’ve been simple. And yet, I turned it into this:

20130225-085347.jpg

Not pictured are the 2 large boxes headed to Goodwill, the 2 trash bags, and the heap of recycling.

I’ll be glad I did this when it’s done, but this wasn’t really the plan for the morning…

PS if you have things you’d like to donate to Katie, leave me a comment and I’ll put you in touch with her!

A Recap

Event causing the most stress: Luke’s science fair project. And what’s crazy is, he’s doing most of it at school, and it’s a really simple concept, so it shouldn’t be stressful! However, I think just me not having a good grasp of how it’s going combined with his general lack of being organized (but working hard at this) is resulting in him being a bit more snippy and emotional when I ask questions about it. Can’t wait until this is done.

Most potential to be life-changing: I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app. I know several people who have used it with a lot of success, so I’m excited to be getting started with it! In a lot of ways it doesn’t feel like a diet…just tracking what I do so I know where to make changes, if that makes sense. It’s really easy to use, and eye-opening in regards to how few calories I need to be taking in to lose weight.

Thing that goes with My Fitness Pal: 4/5 of our small group is doing the Color Run on April 27th. This will be so fun! (Well, as fun as running will ever be for me. Remember when I did that 5K a few years ago? Yeah. I’m not a runner.)

Sweetest kid comment: I was at a store with Jack Henry, looking at necklaces. I said, “Do you see anything pretty?” and without missing a beat, he said, “Yes” and smiled sheepishly. I asked what it was, and he pointed to me, grinning. Seriously. This kid is smooth.

Number of kid pedometers I pulled out of the hamper, accidentally deposited in there with dirty clothes: 3. Yes, each child did that once this week.

Most fun grown-up evening: Trivia Night to benefit our boys’ baseball league. Oh my goodness, I LOVED IT. I’ve said for so many years that my head is full of useless knowledge, and I’m not saying I was a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but it was fun when I knew something someone else at the table didn’t know! And, the parents on B’s team, who we sat with, are fun people.

Best change made to the house: the long-awaited light fixture change happened yesterday! I’ll save the new fixture in the playroom for a different post, but here are the other three before and afters:

kitchen light before 2

before

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after. my very favorite change!

kitchen light before

before. (these are for sale if you’re interested, btw)

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after. LOVE! only problem is that we bought bulbs that are burn-your-retinas bright, so we have to get new ones tomorrow to fix that issue.

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only an after for here…just changed out a boring builder’s-grade-ish light fixture for something more interesting. this was matt’s choice, and it’s actually an outdoor fixture!

One of Our Best Purchases Ever: The Ikea Chairs Story

Let’s take a little trip back in time, to mid-2002. You should be hearing Nelly songs in your head right now, and picture me driving a white Chevy Malibu.

We looked like this (I’m a 6-months-pregnant bridesmaid, but that dress hid my belly pretty well):
2002 - wedding

About 5 weeks later, though, in the spirit of full disclosure, I looked like this before an Illini game:
2002- illini game

Clearly, not a flattering angle for a pregnant lady, but still…that is a whole lotta belly.

Anyway. In our snug little home of a little over a year, I was several months pregnant and nesting. I LOVED this house – it’s probably still my favorite of the 3 we’ve owned – but the layout of the 50+-year-old ranch was a little strange. Right as you walked in the front door, you were in a good-sized, open room that was to function as both a living room and dining room (because there was no room in the kitchen for a table). The real living room was in the finished basement, so that entry room had only a dining room table in it for 2 reasons:
1. We didn’t already own any furniture that fit in the small space.
2. We were poor.

However, with a baby on the way, I just hated the idea that there was nowhere comfortable to sit in our entire main floor of our house. I pictured friends coming over to see the baby, and having to sit at the dining room table or on a barstool in the kitchen didn’t sound OK to me.

So I begged and pleaded with Matt, and after doing some shopping, we settled on the super-cheapest furniture we could find and actually liked the look of: 2 Ikea Poang chairs (at $49.99 each, I think) and a Lack side table (the table was $9.99 10 years ago, too, but back then it was made of real wood, not plastic and fiberboard). In addition to being in our tight budget, it also fit in the small space we had to fill.

We joked about how inexpensive they were, and had the mindset that we’d just keep them as long as we had that house, and then if there was a place for them in the next house, fine, and if not, we’d just sell them at a garage sale. I did love having them there, especially that first Christmas with our newborn Luke, when I’d sit in one of those chairs and feed him by the light of the Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

Well, at the next house, they fit perfectly in front of the window in the office. And they stayed there for 6+ years. Despite being off-white, and having 3 baby boys, 2 who spit up profusely, they still looked pretty good. We only washed the slipcovers once at that house (due to marker on a cushion) which was enough – getting the covers back ON those chairs is a 2-person, involves-some-cussing-type task.

When we moved to this house almost 3 years ago, the Poangs and Lack came with us again, though a bit begrudgingly by now. Matt and I were both kind of sick of looking at them, but again, they fit in the corner of the office just fine. Plans and budget to buy other furniture for that spot were not in place, so it just seemed best to keep using them for a while.

ikea chairs

So here we are 3 years later. No plans to replace those chairs right now, so when I took down the Christmas tree and put the room back together, I noticed how hideously dirty the covers were. Several marker marks, a really dirty spot from a shoe, and an pencil mark mysteriously in the shape of an x; I decided to wash them. I reminded Matt how horrible it was to get the covers back on, and I told him I’d likely need some help when they were clean and dry.

It took him doing most of the work to wrestle those covers back on, and then we decided to tighten up the screws on the chairs, which hadn’t been done in 10 years, so they were a little wobbly.

After all of that, I’m thinking they aren’t going anywhere for a few more years. In fact, I joked about sending them off to college with Luke when he has his first apartment. Which will probably actually happen, since we’ve kept them this long already…

15 Minutes

This morning, I got one of those “whoa, times have certainly changed” wake-up calls.

I had a meeting to be at 8:45 this morning, so I was going to need to leave the house, completely ready to go, earlier than I usually do. Luckily, the boys all woke up a few minutes earlier than they usually do, and when I got out of the shower, I found them already downstairs.

I informed them of my morning agenda, and said, “I could really use your help getting everything done this morning. You know, dishwasher, lunches, breakfast…”

They agreed without complaining (whaaattt?) and I told them I’d be back downstairs in 15 minutes, after I’d gotten myself ready.

15 minutes later, I could not believe my eyes when I got down to the kitchen.

Cereal, milk, bowls, spoons and cups were sitting on the bar, ready for breakfast.

A snack of pretzels was in a small container for each boy, along with a full water bottle.

Luke was sitting on a barstool in front of the microwave, having just finished completely preparing his and Bennett’s lunches, which consisted of a heated-up cheese tortilla wrap (put in their thermoses to stay warm until lunch), a container of applesauce, and a serving (slightly larger than I’d put in there, but HELLO, WHO CARES??) of Tostitos.

Oh, and the dishwasher was almost completely unloaded.

Most mornings, the boys are really helpful, doing parts of all of the things listed above. However, I had no idea they’d kill it like this when given the opportunity!

I mean, just 5 or 6 years ago, leaving the 2 of them alone for 15 minutes could have been disastrous. How far we’ve come :)