Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pre-clutter decluttering

I already found my new phrase. Instead of proactive decluttering, I like pre-clutter decluttering. Gotta fix the previous post.

Proactive decluttering

Last month (March) I made some decisions that I hope to help me keep clutter from even coming into my house.

First, we recently canceled delivery of our papers. We got our local paper on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I got this for the ads and coupons. I have not been very good about keeping up with my coupons (that's another story) and I began to feel like that instead of ads saving me money, they were really costing me money. I would often see something that was on sale and would put it on my list when if it hadn't been in the ad, I would have been fine without it. My husband would get the New York Times daily. While we cancelled that for financial reasons ($67/month) I am so happy to not have those papers all over the house. If he couldn't read the paper each day they would pile up until he could get to them. Good bye.

Second, I decided to not renew any of my magazines (see here for my magazine issue.) That's big for me because I was getting at least nine magazines. I never intended to subscribe to that many magazines. A few of them I got because I received an offer (because I had subscribed to a different magazine) where an entire issue wouldn't cost me much more than what a couple issues would have cost at newsstand price. They were great deals, so I thought, why not? I know that's how I got Redbook and Good Housekeeping. I won't miss most of these magazines and I will be so much better off not having them here. (And I won't let that happen again.)

I consider those decision to be proactive pre-clutter decluttering. (I'm working on a better phrase. I need something that means getting rid of clutter before it happens.) They are really keeping clutter from even entering my house. I need all the help I can get with that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great cleaning & organizing advice

One of the best pieces of advice I have heard about cleaning and organizing is

"If it takes less than a minute or two, just do it."

I don't remember where I heard it first but I have heard it several times in a couple different forms. The first time I heard it I believe the advice was "If it takes less than 30 seconds, just do it." Well, I can convince myself that most things that I don't want to do are going to take more than 30 seconds (true or not.) Thirty seconds is only half a minute, that's nothing.

Then I heard the form I agree with, "If it takes less than a minute or two, just do it." While I can talk myself out of doing lots of things because they are going to take more than 30 seconds, most of them can be completed in less than two minutes.

Often, if I do the job right away (instead of putting it off) it will save me time overall. Even if it won't save me time, they are often things that I am glad to just be finished with.

Here are a few examples:

One of my monthly jobs is to vacuum the dust ruffle on my bed. (I have a black dog that likes to rub up against it.) I remember last month realizing I was supposed to vacuum the dust ruffle right after I got finished wrapping up the cord for the vacuum. I really didn't want to unwind the cord and plug it back in, just to vacuum that small piece of fabric. Those words "If it takes less than a minute or two, just do it." popped into my head. So, grudgingly, I did it. When I was finished, I was glad I did.

Another great example is washing plastic bags. Unless absolutely necessary, I try not to throw away plastic storage bags. I like to wash them out and reuse them. Unfortunately, I hate washing them out. So, I let them pile up until they look like this:

and this

Once they get to that stage it takes a lot longer to deal with them than if I would just wash them out as I use them. Last week, I finished cleaning up the dishes and there were two plastic bags sitting on the counter staring at me. I so wanted to walk away and just deal with them later. Again, "If it takes less than a minute or two, just do it." popped into may head. So, I did it (even though I wasn't happy about it.) I know that it took very little time to do then and I didn't have those bags on the counter constantly mocking me, making me feel bad for not dealing with them.

A last example just happened over the weekend. My husband was out of town so as a treat the kids got to sleep on the trundle bed in the office. I made the mistake of looking under the bed before I pushed the trundle back under. This is what I saw

what you can't really see is the extent of the dust. Look at this:

I so wanted to just push the bed back. I hadn't planned on cleaning under there. I didn't want to. I had other things I wanted to do. But, those words just wouldn't let me leave the mess. I timed myself and it took 3:14 to finish it. That is over a minute or two but my son was also in there "helping" me and that could've added time. Even if he didn't add time, 3:14 is still not very much time. While I'm not convinced cleaning under there at that moment saved me any time in the long run (like some other tasks might) it still gave me peace of mind. I felt better knowing I cleaned it up than I would have if I had left it.

So, my advice, if it takes less than a minute or two, just do it (especially if it is something you really don't want to do.)

I'm linking up to Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Famiy.

My "to file" file

Recently, I wrote about one of my issues with paper clutter, magazines. (You can see it here.) Today, I'm going to write about another issue I have with paper, filing. I am terrible about filing. For as long as I can remember I have had a place where I kept papers that I needed to file. Maybe I didn't feel like filing them at that moment or I thought it would take too long to file them right then or I didn't have a place to file them or I didn't know where to file them. For what ever reason I put off dealing with that paper. I tend to be a procrastinator & a piler so it's no surprise that I often ended up with a pile of papers that I didn't deal with for a long time.

I have come a long way with my paper management. For example, I used to have a place where I would pile mail until I finally decided to sort it. Then, when I would sort it I would often make a pile of mail that I needed to deal with later. Now, I sort the mail as I am bringing it in the house and I no longer have that pile. I need to overcome my filing issue in a similar way.

My "to file" file has taken various forms over the years. I used to keep these paper baskets

in my kitchen as a place for my husband and I to coral our papers that needed action. They took up too much space on the counter, filled up too quickly and my husband never went through his. I moved them into the office. I stopped trying to get my husband to use my paper management system but still used them for my "to file" papers. I would periodically go through the basket and file the papers I knew what to do with, but there were always some things that lived there because I didn't know what else to do with them. Last year, I had this file carrier

in my kitchen. It held several files and one of them was a "to file" hanging file folder. The carrier wasn't doing what I wanted and was taking up too much space. I decided to stop using it so I took the hanging file folder and put it in the basket in the office. I had never filed my "to file" papers. That wasn't really the point of the hanging file folder. One of the problems with a "to file" file is that when I am looking for a piece a paper I need I often have to rummage through this huge "to file" pile. I finally decided it was time to empty the file out and never use it again.

The picture of the baskets above is what my "to file" looked like last week.

First, I sorted into piles.

One pile was easy, it was papers that I knew had a place in an already created file. These are the papers I am planning on filing immediately in the future. The way I look at it now is that it wouldn't have taken significantly longer to put them in their appropriate file than just putting them in the basket.

Another easy pile was the recycle pile.

The less easy piles were kids papers and random/miscellaneous papers.

At the end I was left with these things

I just didn't know what to do with them. These are some of the things that had taken up permanent residence in that basket.

First, the chalkboard. I think my daughter got this a couple years ago from my mother-in-law. It was probably from some kind of dollar store. I remember letting my daughter play with it once and then never again because the chalk dust got everywhere. I don't know why I was keeping it. Would the chalk dust falling off not bother me in the future? Would, somehow, chalk dust not fall off it when my daughter was older? No. I still couldn't throw it away, I put it in my donate pile.

Then there was the bag of parts to something. I can not remember what they are for. Obviously, they are not that important. If it has been so long that these shelves (or whatever) were put together that I can't remember them, chances are good I either won't need the extra parts or won't remember I even have them. I still couldn't pitch them so I moved them into the garage. At least it is a more appropriate place for them.

The little Home Owner's Diary, was given to me by my aunt around the time I got married. I have not filled it out completely. I put a couple paint chips in it, that's about it. I still couldn't throw it away, just in case I do decide to fill it out (I know, not likely.) Since I couldn't part with it I filed it in my house file. (At least that's a better place for it.)

The Anne Geddes birthday & anniversary book was a gift. One of those things that I filled out one time because someone gave it to me but I didn't really want, need or use it.

In the end, this is what my "to file" file looked like.

To avoid this problem in the future, I am planning on filing papers in their appropriate files immediately. I realize some of the things I mentioned above are going to probably have to be dealt with again (like the parts bag and the empty Home Owner's Diary) but at least this was a step in the right direction.

I'm linking up to A Bowl Full of Lemons weekly challenge.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Curse Puxatony Phil

When I heard the groundhog Puxatony Phil saw his shadow in February, I hoped with all I had that he would be wrong. I reminded myself that there is no way he really predicted six more weeks of winter and it is just a silly tradition (which is what I usually do when he sees his shadow, if he doesn't, I like to believe it is true.)

I live in the Mid-western United States. We seem to go from winter straight to summer. (Two weeks ago we had snow on Monday and then 80 degree weather by the end of the week.) Usually by the end of March, we can at least put the winter coats, gloves and hats away. Not this year. Last week, spring break, the kids and I walked to Dairy Queen on Tuesday and I was in shorts and a sweatshirt. It was beautiful. A little windy, but still very welcome weather.

Then, it snowed Saturday. Around five inches.

This is ridiculous. I am so tired of winter. I am tired of coats and long sleeves. I am tired of the kids being cooped up inside because it's too cold or too wet. I am ready to be finished with winter, even if that means we go straight to summer.

Each time we have another really cold snap I think, this has to be it.

But really, it's March 28, surely this has to be it?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 3/28

Meals last week were a disaster. I only planned a couple because my husband was going to cook three times. I can't even remember what threw us off track every day but we each only cooked once. So, this week I need to get a little more serious.

Monday-Tortilla Soup (A Slob Comes Clean) with cornbread
Tuesday-Spinach Artichoke Casserole (Stolen Moments)
Thursday-Fish (not sure what kind yet) & Cheesy Spinach Bake (Meal Makeover Moms)
Saturday-Meat Loaf

I sat down this morning to do my meal planning and it is still a struggle for me. It takes me a long time. Even with my Menu Plan Plan (which I posted here last week) it still takes forever. Maybe I should use one of those menu planning services. Hmm, something to think about.

 Linking up to Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie.

(When I went to link up, I saw Org Junkie has some menu planning resources listed. Perfect timing. I will be sure to check those out.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recycling electronics

I've been collecting broken electronic equipment for a few years. I've kept our last several cell phones and batteries. They are small and didn't take much room. Within the last year we had two dvd players die. Those were bigger than the cell phones but still pretty easy to store. Last year our computer died. Now things were starting to really pile up. I knew I didn't want to throw them in the trash because that meant they were going to a landfill. I knew they could (& should) be recycled but didn't really know where to take them.

They have been sitting in a plastic bin downstairs. I guess I was waiting for them to walk themselves to a recycling center. That never happened. I was tired of seeing them every time I went downstairs. I was tired of moving them to vacuum under them. I was tired of taking out toys that accidentally got dropped in them. I knew Best Buy would take most used electronics and recycle them for free. I found out they would take a CPU but it would cost $25 unless the hard drive was gone. I didn't want to pay $25 if I could avoid it. I knew I could probably take out the hard drive. Last week I looked online and realized the hard drive from our CPU was already gone. That's all I needed. I was going out without the kids and decided that was it, they were going.

I took
1 cell phone
5 cell phone batteries
2 dvd players
1 portable dvd player
1 computer cord
2 cell phone charging cords
1 scanner

They took everything. For free.

Again, relief. (Like when I recycled all those magazine pages.)

It didn't really take that much time to do. It was just deciding that I had had enough. It felt good to get it all out of my house. It felt good to know that none of it was going in the trash. It was one of those things about which I now think, "What took me so long?"

That won't happen again.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Conquering Paper Clutter-magazines

Like most people (I think most is fair to say) paper clutter is an issue for me. I have several areas where paper clutter sometimes get the best of me. One of them is magazines. Here is what I've done recently to overcome that issue.

Within the last few years somehow I subscribed to many, many magazines. I say somehow because it happened gradually and unintentionally. Off the top of my head these are the magazines I had coming here each month: Real Simple (my favorite by the way), Parenting, Parents, Rachel Ray, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Money, Oprah, and Consumer Reports. Nine magazines. That's a lot. I no longer spend time reading magazines. If I have time to read, I want to read a book. I did read magazines while sitting at my vanity while I was drying my hair. I say did because I got an iPad last year as a Mother's Day/birthday gift. Now, I like to sit with that at my vanity and read blogs while drying my hair instead of looking at magazines.

So, the first step I took was to not renew any subscriptions. None. Some have already expired and most should expire in the next several months. It's such a relief to know I won't have all that paper to deal with. When I get a magazine I feel the need to look through the entire magazine. That's only part of the problem. The other part is this:

When I look through magazines, if I find something I like, I tear it out. It could be a recipe, a craft, a product, activities with kids, books to read, money advice, marriage advice, or many other topics. From nine magazines, that's a lot of paper. After I tore them out, I didn't know what to do with them. Once, in the past, I organized all of those papers into file folders. That was many years ago.

For a long time I didn't even pull out the page I liked. I just folded it over. At the end of 2010 I told myself that if I hadn't dealt with the magazines before the end of the year I would recycle them. Just before 2010 ended, I went through all the magazines and pulled out the folded pages. I told myself that was enough. They have been sitting in a bag inside a box inside a basket, waiting to be dealt with. Every time I saw the basket I would stress a little.

Yesterday, I decided I was going to begin organizing them. I started with sorting. Then, I thought, forget this and (inspired by Nony @ A Slob Comes Clean and how she threw away 21 pounds of coupons) decided I was going to recycle them without even looking at them. As I was doing that, I saw something that I really liked and decided I couldn't get rid of them without looking at them.

So, I started sorting again. I was thinking about what I was going to do with them once I had them sorted. I already had folders started with some articles that I had never looked at. I thought about putting them in binders. How would I do that? Put them all in page protectors? That would take a lot of time. I thought about the amount of time it would take to do that and compared it to the amount of time I would probably use them. I haven't looked in the folders I created years ago. I figured it would be unlikely that I would look in them now. Usually, if I need something, I look online. It was going to be more trouble than it would be worth.

I stopped sorting.

I put all of that paper in my recycle basket and immediately walked it out to the recycle bin. Relief.

I went into my bathroom and then under my vanity found this:

Nine more magazines. I walked them right out to the recycle bin.

I feel like a weight has been lifted. That's one thing I can cross of my To Do list that has lived there for a long time. I won't miss one thing in that pile. The only word I can think of to describe how I feel about that pile being gone (I've said it before and I'll say it again) RELIEF.

Now, about that coupon pile.

I'm linking up to Org Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Healthy Back Bag

Organize with Sandy is hosting a link party about organizing your purse. I thought this would be a perfect time to share my latest bag and what I love about it.

First, I want to mention that I love purses and bags. I always notice when a woman is carrying a nice bag. My favorites are big ones, often in yellow or red. I get excited when I get a new purse or wallet not just because it's fun to have something new, but I like to empty my old one and put everything into the new one. It's not just purses, either. I like all bags. When my kids were little, I was on a mission to find the perfect diaper bag. (I never found it.) I've also been looking for a really good carry on, haven't found that either.

I'd be willing to spend a pretty good amount of money on a nice bag if I knew it was going to fit my needs perfectly. I'm too cheap to spend a lot on a bag in the hopes that it will work for me. As a matter of fact, I've always wanted a Louis Vuitton doctor's bag (I think they are also called speedy.) Although, I don't like the way this sounds, I covet them. I don't see myself getting one of those for a long, long time, if ever. First of all, we don't have that kind of money to spend. I can't justify spending that much money on anything right now, especially a purse. Plus, I am really hard on my purses. They get thrown in the seat next to me or sometimes smashed between bags of groceries in the back. I am usually getting several children in the vehicle and I'm only worried about my purse in that I need to make sure I have it with me. For lots of reasons, I've always carried relatively inexpensive bags.

When I was planning on going with my husband (and his students) to California this winter I was looking for a bag to carry. I didn't want to carry a backpack (it would be too big for just the two of us) and I didn't want to carry a purse. I looked around the internet and came across the Healthy Back Bag. After checking it out online, I went to Dillards and looked at it in person. It seemed like what I was looking for. I got it for myself for Christmas. I ended up ordering it online from ebags because I could get a medium and small for almost the same price I could get a medium at Dillards.

The medium was too big for what I needed in California (I think it will be better for when I have the kids with me) but the small has worked out wonderfully as my every day bag.

It's not going to win any fashion awards but it is very functional. It has several pockets on the inside and outside.

I have a place for everything. I got the microfiber, in black, so it is very durable. I've been carrying it since Christmas and it still looks brand new. One of my favorite features is where the zipper is. It does not zip along the outside, the zipper is on the side closest to your body.

That way it's easy for me to get into the bag while it's on my shoulder (and less easy for someone else to get into it.) Once again, it's more practical than pretty but for what I need right now, it's the best bag I have found.

So, the way I organize my purse is...
carry a purse that doesn't need to be organized.

I'm linking up to The Diaper Diaries for Things I Love Thursday and Organize with Sandy for Mission Monday


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Potty Help

It's spring break at my house this week so I am going to keep this short and sweet.

Sometimes when I hear a tip (or come up with one myself) I think, "That makes sense." This is one of those tips. When we have little ones on the potty, I think we forget what it's like to be sitting on a toilet with our feet dangling. It's hard to get the job done that way. Most parents I know that have small children have some kind of stool in their bathroom to help the kids be able to reach the faucet. Take that stool and let them use it to put their feet on while they are sitting on the toilet. It makes their job a little easier.

I'm linking up to Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 3/21

Our meals this week are going to be interesting. It's spring break for us. That means my kids are home as well as my husband. I'm going to hand off dinner to him several nights. He's not into planning all the meals he's responsible for at the beginning of the week. For that reason, I have no idea what we are going to have for dinner tonight, Wednesday or Thursday. I have listed the meals I'm planning. I've also listed my menu plan plan. No, it's not a typo, see below.

Sunday-@ Mom & Dad's
Monday- ? Husband cooks
Tuesday-Fit & Trim Tetrazinni (Meal Makeover Moms)
Wednesday-? Husband cooks
Thursday-? Husband cooks
Saturday-Breakfast for dinner

Hey, I like this. I could get used to sharing so much of the cooking. Maybe this summer.

My menu plan plan is what I follow so I have an idea of what to cook on each night. When I started menu planning I would sit down at the table and my mind would be blank. I really couldn't think of what I wanted to cook each night. I would take down my recipe binder and cookbooks but there are hundreds of recipes to choose from. I knew there had to be a better way. I found several people who would have nights of the week designated for certain types of food. For example, Monday would be chicken, Tuesday crock pot. I love that idea. It gives me a place to start. Here is what I have come up with:

Sunday-new recipe
(I don't always follow this here. Sometimes I make a favorite that is more involved than what I want to do during the week.)
Monday-soup or sandwich
(I love this. The soup/sandwich category is one I never would have included when trying to menu plan off the top of my head.)
Wednesday-left-overs or breakfast
Thursday-fish or beef
(This is usually pizza we make with a premade crust. It can also be little pizzas made with english muffins. I hope to also include homemade crusts, but haven't yet.)
(This is really a misleading name. It's most likely Mexican or Italian though I have tried stir fry.)

I'm not very rigid with how I follow this. While I might not have soup on Monday, I will probably have it some time during the week. Plus, the hope is that I will get more fish in our diet because I know I will be looking at fish recipes for Thursday (though I tend to choose beef instead of fish.)

I plan on tweaking this plan a bit. I think it could use some rearranging (like having a fish only night so I can't get out of cooking fish), but it is a whole lot better than what I did before.

As always, I'm linking up to Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our debt snowball

The final task for the weekly challenge this week at A Bowl Full of Lemons was to create our debt snowball. As I understand it, a debt snowball is a list of my consumer debts and their balances. I believe they are supposed to be listed in the order I plan on paying them off. Dave Ramsey recommends you pay them off in the order of those with the lowest balances first, regardless of interest rate. I just can't do that. One of my credit cards has a zero percent interest rate. There is no way I'm paying towards that while accumulating interest on my other card. I understand the philosophy behind that thinking, it's just not for me.

When I started getting my money act together at the end of 2010, I created a list of debt balances. A couple weeks ago, I updated that list. I just didn't know it was considered a debt snowball. I updated that list again today. It was depressing when I did it last year. It was depressing when I updated it recently. It was only slightly less depressing today because we should be getting our tax refund soon, which will allow us to pay some of it off.

In addition to being depressed about the bleakness of the situation, I'm very annoyed. You would think (or at least hope) that the total today would be less than the total from 2010. It's not. That's frustrating to me because I feel like I work really hard at being frugal. Not everyone in my house can say the same. (I plan on blogging more on that Monday.)

At this rate, it's going to take a long time to pay it all off. I've looked at our bills and there really isn't much more we can cut. I've got cable & internet reduced, I looked at the phone bill, our cell phones are on my parents' plan, we've canceled our newspapers. After paying our bills there is very little left for paying down our debt.

In order to pay this off, and do lots of things we want to do (like travel and do work on the house) we are going to need to make more money. My husband gets a raise in the fall but we are going to need more than that. I knew I was going to try go back to teaching this fall. Now, I realize I need to cast a wider net and be less choosy when it comes to what jobs I will be interested in than I might have been if we didn't have this debt.

I look at paying off this debt like weight loss. It's easier (and more fun) to put it on than take it off and it takes a lot longer to take it off than put it on. I'm not a very patient person when it comes to things like this. I want to take care of it now and it just isn't that easy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Roller Coaster dvd

With the warm weather, I begin thinking about all the fun stuff my family will do this summer. We live close to a Six Flags amusement park. As a kid, that was a huge deal. We went every couple years and some of my fondest memories from my childhood are those days. My kids are getting to the ages where that is something we will probably try to do each summer.

We took my daughter for the first time when she was three. She is a tall girl and when she was younger she was super tall compared to other kids her age. That year, a new ride opened. The Tony Hawk. At the time, she was tall enough to ride it. Barely, but she made it. (They have since raised the height requirement significantly. She was able to ride it at three but not four or five.) She is brave and riding a roller coaster didn't scare her one bit. I rode next to her and my husband and sister were across from her. It was awesome. Actually, my husband and I were a little nauseous but my daughter LOVED it. I questioned my judgement once the ride started and she was banging around (I did put my arm around her to steady her a bit.)

As we got off the ride and walked down the ramp, we came to one of those booths where you can look at and buy pictures and dvds. We saw our pictures and discussed the possibility of getting the dvd. I am SUPER cheap. I was going to say frugal but sometimes I'm really just cheap. My husband, on the other hand, is spendy. The dvd cost $20 or $30. Initially, it seems like a ridiculous amount of money. But, I love to take videos and pictures and especially did when the kids were little. So, we got it.

It was some of the best money we EVER spent. It was so cool. I was sitting next to her so I didn't get to see her face during the ride. With the video, I got to see how much she enjoyed it. Plus, she was only three. She will never remember it. Now, she will be able to see it, too.

I don't see us buying it every time but for the first time, totally worth it.

I'm linking up to Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries.

What a week.

So far, this week has been lovely.

First, I lost my wedding ring. It just fell off my finger somewhere. I think it is in the house but haven't found it.

Last night, I had to send my daughter to bed without any reading or snuggling. (We have never, not one time, in her entire life of seven years not read to her and/or sang and snuggled.) This because she was so hideous to me.

This morning I found out my mortgage payment didn't get made.

My son just called me stupid.


Do not follow money management advice from me.

I just found out that the payment I scheduled for the bank to pay my mortgage company went to my old mortgage company. I scheduled the payment for Friday the 11th. (That way we don't go past the 15th which is the date when we are charged a hefty fee. Of course, we are in no position to make the payment by the 1st.)

I was looking for some tax info and logged into my mortgage company. I saw that my payment was late. I checked my bank and the payment was made on the 11th, it was an electronic payment so it should have been there within two business days. I looked a little further and realized it was my old mortgage company.

First, I got a huge pit in my stomach. We don't have enough cash handy to make the payment while the bank researches where the money went. Instead of paying my mortgage company directly, which charges $6 to use the bill pay feature, I used my bank. I was trying to save $6 and now I'm going to have to pay a late fee of around $50.

Plus, I'm soooooo mad at myself. I feel like the biggest moron, idiot, dumb a**. I try to keep everything in order and I have a HUGE failure like this. I am almost 38 years old. How do I not have my act together?

Of course, if we were in a better place financially, I would have just paid the mortgage company directly because at the beginning of the month, bill pay is free. (Yea, they really stick it to the people who have the least. If it's the beginning of the month, it's free. If it's closer to the 15th it's $6 and if it's later it's even higher. I guess I'll be paying that fee as well.)

As always, lesson learned. I should have logged into my mortgage account online and made sure the payment was received. Next time, I will.

As if it's not bad enough being in the money situation we are in. (We are in such a hole that it's going to take a long time to dig out. It's really unnecessary and stupid. I'm embarrassed by it and disappointed in us. It's really rather depressing.) Now this. Grrr.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ooooo, I hate that.

I hate it when I do something that would annoy me if someone else did it.

I just saw a blob of jelly left on the cutting board. I let out a huffy sigh and thought, "Who did that?" Then I realized, I can't blame anyone else. It was me.

I hate that.

Project-me update 1

This week I decided to pay more attention to what I am eating. I need to eat more veggies and less processed food. Less junk. Here's what I ate yesterday:

Breakfast-cereal and milk
snack-yogurt & granola
lunch-salad It was simple (romaine lettuce, Trader Joe's chicken strips, almonds & croutons) but it was still a salad. Having a salad at lunch several times a week may end up being one of my goals because it is an easy way for me to get my veggies.)
dinner-blt wrap (minus the t because they're just not good right now)

I imagined writing this post, so proud of myself.

Then, I decided to have a few Girl Scout cookies with some milk before I went to bed. Mistake. I should have known. If I don't start, I'm fine. Once I start, I eat too many.

I like Do-si-dos (even thought they're not called that this year.) I imagined myself having two or three. I had more.

I thought about just leaving it a vague amount like too many or several but I'm going to put it out there. I ate an entire sleeve. I'm not proud of it, but in the end, that's what I had done. I'm not sure why I'm such a glutton when it comes to sweets but I really am. That's why I just can't have them around the house. I know this, I just have to stick to it.

Today I did ok. Then, some things got moved around and an appointment I had at 7 was moved to 6. My husband wasn't available to take care of the kids so they went to a friends. That meant we didn't eat dinner together. Big mistake. I should have at least taken something with me. I debated getting Taco Bell. I don't do it very often but this seemed like one of those times where it would be ok. I was going to, I wasn't, I was going to, I wasn't. Finally, I decided I wasn't going to because I didn't want to have to blog about that after my cookie deal last night.

Then, I saw the sign. I pulled in the drive thru. I convinced myself it would be ok because I would only get two crunchy taco surpremes and not the carmel apple empanada, like I wanted. There were two people in front of me and it took long enough that I came to my senses. I didn't get it!! I was so proud of myself. Isn't that pathetic? I'm proud of myself for not eating crappy food that is terrible for me.

I think a move like that should count for double negative calories.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More money management

The task today for the weekly challenge at A Bowl Full of Lemons was to create a budget box. It is basically a file box where you keep your bills to be paid, paid bills, stamps, envelopes, etc. I tried that once. I used one of these:

That didn't work for me. I used to keep my paid bills for a long time and read somewhere that it is unnecessary. For most bills, once they are paid, you can get rid of them. I have too much paper around here, anyway, so I am happy to recycle them immediately. (I have to say, it would be nice to have my mortgage statement from last month. I need to register my son for kindergarten and I can use that as proof of residency. It's not urgent, so I can wait for the next one.) Now, I use this box for insurance papers. We are constantly having to deal with our health insurance company about out of pocket expenses. It's perfect for that.

When my bills come in, I mark the due date in the upper right corner of the envelope and put them in this basket:

(I thought about moving the receipts and the candy cane pen before I took the picture but this is a more accurate picture of what it usually looks like.)

I keep stamps & envelopes in the basket.

I pay my bills every Sunday night. I take out the ones due that week and pay them online.

There are a couple things Toni has in her budget box that I will probably add to my binder. Hopefully, I'll update that before the week is over.

Side note:
You might have noticed the baskets in these pictures (and others) as Longaberger baskets. I bought ALL of them before we had kids. Back when I thought we could afford them. Plus, I did sell them for a while so I got them at a lower price and only used the money I made selling them to buy more. Now, I wish I had saved that extra money instead of spent it on these baskets. Live and learn.

Money Management Binder part 2

I was so excited to join the money management organization challenge at A Bowl Full of Lemons. I've already shown my money management binder here. I want to add to that.

The first part of the challenge was to create a budget that dedicated a place for every last dollar of our income. I recently created a budget based mostly on bills. I didn't have a specific place for any extra money to go. (Extra money, ha!) Yesterday, I took a piece of notebook paper and listed our income on the top. I then listed every bill (or category where we spend money) and the amount. Now I know what is left and have a place for it to go. (Not pretty. Ignorance really is bliss.) When I made my original budget I left the amount for credit card payments blank, since they vary. That gave me an inaccurate picture of where we were.

Here are some more parts of my binder that I didn't share in the previous post.

I keep all my usernames and passwords in a little spiral notebook at the front of the binder. I've never heard anyone talk about this but I suspect we are all in the same boat. I can not keep track of all of them. Sometimes a website requires you to use a certain amount of characters. Sometimes it will require you to use letters and numbers. Because of those reasons I have many different usernames and passwords. This little notebook came about because of that.

Here's the notebook in the inside pocket of my binder. I have a pencil bag holding a small calculator.

Here are my categories.

This is my bill checklist form. I made it myself in Excel. Very simple. As always, more practical than pretty. If you want a pretty one, iheartorganizing has a cute one that is free for March.

My budget review sheet. (The one in my binder has the amount budgeted typed in already. I am very open, but not that open.)

My bill paying log.

My spending log.

I'm glad I sat down and redid my budget and included it as part of my binder. I thought I knew what was going on, now I think I have a better idea.

I need a break.

I don't feel very good about my Mommying right now. I have had about all the whining and crying I can take. I don't feel very good about feeling this way, but I really don't want to be around my son right now. I had a few moments of peace when he had a time out in his room and now I can hear him whining and crying at his friend, again.

My husband left to go out of town last Wednesday morning and came back after the kids were in bed Saturday night. My son got sick after school on Friday and was sick all day Saturday. When my kids are sick they aren't quiet and cuddly. They are whiny and annoying. I try to be sympathetic. I sit with them and watch movies and tickle their faces. When someone is whining at me it doesn't make me want to do anything for them. He was better Sunday. My husband went to church Sunday morning (he sings in the choir) and both kids stayed with me. I was able to run after he got back but then he left for a concert at church. He was home for bedtime and put the kids to bed by himself on Sunday. He then left yesterday before dinner and will be back tonight around dinner.

I've had non-stop kids for most of the last week, without a break. When I start getting aggravated and frustrated, I think about the single moms who do this all the time and try to be grateful I don't always have to do it all by myself. But, I'm not a single mom. If I were, I'd be working and would at least have some time away each day. I'm not saying that would be easier, just different. You can't compare the two things. I shouldn't feel like I shouldn't get frustrated just because there are other moms who are in a more difficult situation.

Luckily, I have a hair appointment this afternoon. My dad is coming to stay with the boys. I also have a meeting tonight and my husband will be doing baths and bedtime all by himself. Hopefully, this will be enough to recharge me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My new project-me

I've been working on my Personal Improvement Projects (PIPs) since the beginning of January. I've been really happy with my progress and this blog has helped keep me accountable. I'm still working, but I like where I am. It's time to add a new project, though. I'm going to work on me. Really, I see all my PIPs as working on different aspects of me. This project is about my physical self.

Winter is a rotten time for me. I hate the dark, dreary days and the cold weather. I tend to slack on exercise. I've become a runner and I usually run outside. I just can't make myself run in this heinous weather. I can fool myself that my belly isn't any softer. When my jeans are a little tighter, I blame that on the fact that jeans shrink up a little in the dryer. (Right?) When my undies are tight, there is no denying I've put on a little weight. It's not surprising, I've been eating horribly lately. Eating Double Stuff Oreos and drinking sweet tea all day has finally caught up to me. I might be able to get away with those if I were running a lot, but I'm not.

So, here is what I want to do...
Run more. My half marathon is in less than a month. Yesterday, I looked at the training schedule I follow to prepare me for a half marathon. I saw that I was supposed to run 10 miles. Yikes! The most I've run lately is 5. I planned on running 8 and ran 8.5 instead. I felt so good when I was finished. Plus, my GPS watch said I burned over 800 calories.

Eat better. First, I need to get more fruits and veggies into my family. I'm sure we are not getting the necessary servings. That's important for our general health but, more specifically, I want to see what happens to my skin if I eat better. I've had skin issues lately and eating more fruits and veggies can only help.

Second, I've got to get off this sweet tea. I love my caffeine. I feel like I need my caffeine. I used to drink soda. I would keep it to one soda a day, in the morning. Then, I was introduced to sweet tea. Now, I drink Gold Peak sweet tea. I need to stop drinking that and drink water instead. I'm going to try to drink one glass in the morning and when this jug is gone, I'm going to try not to buy any more.

Third, I want to get processed, packaged food out of my family's diet. This is going to be really hard. I don't know how to do it. I make most of our meals from scratch. It's the snacks that usually come in a box or bag. During spring and summer it's easier to have fruits as snacks but I'm (and so are my kids--my son at least) getting really tired of apples.

I don't have a specific plan of action, yet. I'm throwing it out there and will figure it out as I go along.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Money Management

The weekly challenge this week at A Bowl Full of Lemons is to organize your finances. I am totally in for this one. I want to be organized with our finances. I have tried.

Before we had children, my husband and I were both working as teachers. We made very modest incomes but we both came into the marriage with very little debt. We were terrible with money. Like so many people, we didn't have any idea where our money went. It's not like we bought nice furniture or went on awesome vacations. We just pissed it away. I could just kick myself (and my husband) for how irresponsible we were. We should have saved quite a bit of money. We didn't save a penny. Really, it's embarassing to say that, but it's true.

By the time we had our first child, we had our student loans paid off and had zero credit card debt. The month before she was born we paid off my car, so we had no car payments. We were able to hold there for a few years. We didn't really save, but we didn't go into any more debt either.

Over the last couple years we haven't done as well. For a long time I didn't even really pay much attention to what we spent where. I knew we didn't have much extra money so my plan was to not spend money on anything unnecessary. Somehow, we continued to accumulate debt. A few months ago I actually tracked what we spent where. I was in shock. We had even less money left over after bills than I thought. I thought I had a good idea where our money was going but I was way off.

At that time I set up this binder. It is our money management binder.

(It's not near as cute as my home management binder. This binder is one that I got on clearance at back to school time.)

I have the following sections:

bill checklist
This is a list of what our bills are, in the order they are due. The purpose of this is to make sure every bill is paid each month. There have been a few times a bill has gone unpaid. Not because I chose not to pay it but because I never got the bill.

budget review
This is a list of each category where we spend money. There is a column for the amount budgeted and next to it a column for what we actually spent. The plan with this is that I can look at what was budgeted, compare it to what we really spent and make adjustments, if necessary.

bill paying log
I print out a calendar page for the current month. As a bill comes in, I write the name of the company as well as the amount due in the box of the due date. Then, when I pay the bill I write the date paid next to the amount

spending log
I print out (another) calendar page for the current month. For ever dollar I spend that is not a bill, I make an entry on the date I spent it. This is really to help me track what I am spending when I leave the house. I am trying to curtail my unnecessary spending and this is a way to look at the amount I am spending each month.

credit cards
In this section I have a page for every credit card we have a balance on. I was hoping to keep track of how much we paid each month so I could watch the balance go down. It hasn't been that easy. We have some monthly bills that we use a credit card for (like gas) and that amount gets paid each month, in addition to what we are putting toward the balance. If I wrote down the amount I paid on that card it would look like I was paying down the balance by a larger amount. My husband also often has to put something on our credit card for school and then get reimbursed. (I am never happy about this, it really is a mess and we don't always get reimbursed for everything.) The reimbursement is never fast so that is difficult to track.

I love the idea of this challenge and hope this can help me get my act together a little more.

Today's part of the challenge is to create a budget showing where every penny we bring in goes. That's a little different than how I use my budget page. I am happy to try it this way, obviously what I've done hasn't worked.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

This is not normal.

I started this blog to show an honest picture of an average mom's life. I may, at times, share too much. This may be one of those times. This is what I'm dealing with now, though, so here goes.

This is not normal. This can not just be normal acne. This is driving me crazy. I've always had good skin. Probably, at least in part, because I take care of it. I always have. I never sleep in make up. I wash it in the a.m. and p.m. Something has happened in the last few months that has caused this:

(It's not a very good picture but it's really hard to take a picture of your own face! I know my ear is totally in focus but the pimples are not.)

It's not flattering but it is exactly what I saw. Actually, it looked worse in person.

It's embarrassing. It's very embarrassing. They are those big, hard, painful pimples. They are all over my face and have also shown up in odd places, like my neck and shoulder. There is also what looks like a rash, mostly on my cheeks.

I haven't been able to figure out what's causing it. I haven't recently started using new face cleansers or creams. I am using the same laundry detergent I've used for a long time. I think it's something in this house or something I'm eating.

I know last summer my skin looked really good because I remember my aunt commenting on it at a baby shower. Last spring I started using Retin-A and felt like it helped smooth my skin out. That is what I think caused my skin to look so good my aunt commented. Now, this is what I have.

I have a suspicion it's either these granola bars I have been eating a lot of, or the sweet tea I've been drinking too much of. It doesn't make sense and I don't know how that would work but those are the only two things I can trace back a few months. Maybe too much sugar? I don't know, but I'm going to find out.

Here comes the sun.

After a week where it has been cold and cloudy, the sun is out. Yea! Right now it's sunny and 60. I'm stuck inside with a sick little boy (that's another story--see below) but at least I can open the shades and blinds and see the sun. Plus, I can finally open the windows. Fresh air!

It's amazing how much more energized I feel when the sun is out. I feel like I can do so much more. It's crazy but true. (Maybe I'm just crazy.)

I sent the girl to my mom's to go to a St. Patrick's Day parade and I'm going to go take care of my boy and try to get some stuff done around here.

Another story:
I've been debating all morning whether to take my son in to the doctor for a strep test. Before school yesterday he mentioned once he had a sore throat. That was it. I thought maybe he slept with his mouth open. Then he fell asleep on his way home from preschool in my carpool partner's van. His teacher's also sent home a note that said he pretty much laid around all morning. Shortly after he got home, he developed a fever. It got up over 101. He slept off and on all afternoon. He ate nothing after breakfast until late evening when my mom gave him an ice cream sandwich (one of his favorite things), which he didn't finish. (My daughter and I were at a Girl Scout event and my husband was out of town--good timing.) He seemed a little better this morning. His fever was lower but he was still whiny. Then he got more active and had some yogurt. Now, he's complaining of a headache and sore throat. His fever is right around 99, though he feels warmer (like I can tell by touching him.) So I can't see any clear reason to take him to the doctor. His tonsils are big, but they are always big. I don't see white spots on his throat but he won't open his mouth very wide (being the difficult child he is.) There was someone at his preschool with strep this week, but I don't know if they are in his class. He's complaining quite a bit but he tends to be dramatic about these things (typical male--just kidding.) It's one of those things where I don't think he needs to go today but the doctor's office will be closed tomorrow. There are urgent care facilities but they will cost $50 instead of $15. As late as it is, I guess we aren't going but I'm not sure I made the right decision. I hate being the one to have to make the decision. If someone would just tell me what to do, I'd be happy to do it! Such is the life of a mom, I guess.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monkey cake

This entire blog was created because I felt so inadequate after reading other women's blogs. I wanted to show women we don't have to be perfect. I try really hard. What I do is not perfect, but it is good enough.

(Remember that when you look at the pictures below.)

I've always made my kids birthday cakes. I get great satisfaction knowing I made their special cakes. They NEVER look like what the directions say they should look like. I'm not a cake decorator. I'm not very artistic or crafty. They come out fine and the kids always love what I have done. (They aren't allowed to see them until they are unveiled at cake and ice cream time.)

My daughter loves monkeys. She has slept with a monkey since she was around six months old. Last year she requested a pink monkey. This year she just asked for a monkey. This is what I did this year:

I used the Animal Crackers pan by Wilton. (Which I bought last year from Michaels with my 40% off coupon.) I cut the ears off and moved them down. I used chocolate icing for the dark brown. I mixed white icing with the chocolate to make the tan. I used two vanilla oreos. I pulled them apart and put the non icing sides on the ears. I used the sides with the icing and Kisses for the eyes.

I made cupcakes for the family birthday celebrations. Here they are:

I used mini Nutter Butters for the ears and vanilla wafers for the mouth. I used conversation hearts and life savers for the eyes. (That's what I had here. Last year I made the eyes with pink M&Ms since pink is her favorite color.)

I'm proud of them and proud of myself for trying.

I'm linking up to Sugar Bananas and At the Picket Fence and Inspiring Creations and Be Different Act Normal and DIY Home Sweet Home Project and Sumo's Sweet Stuff and Skip to My Lou.

Sumo Sweet Stuff

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I love my cordless stick vac.

I recently wrote about my daily tasks. In that post, I talked about my Eureka cordless Quick-up stick vac. I vacuum every day. I absolutely could not do it without my vac.

Dog hair is a big reason I have to vacuum every day. I hate seeing dog hair sitting on the floor when there is a baby (or big kid) on the floor with it. I started vacuuming every day when my first child started spending time on the floor. Before she could move around, I could put down a clean mat or blanket. That period didn't last long and I knew I needed to do something about the dog hair.

I have hard floors on the main level of my house with a couple area rugs. I tried using my regular vacuum on the bare floor setting. The big vacuum has vents where air comes out, that blew the dog hair away. I tried the Swiffer. That worked pretty well but there would sometimes be a pile of stuff the Swiffer couldn't pick up that I would have to vacuum (or leave in a pile in an out of the way place;) I also wasn't crazy about all of the Swiffer pads I was going through. Both because of the expense and the waste. I had a stick vac that came with an old vacuum. I liked the way it picked everything up but the cord was too short. It was more aggravation than it was worth.

Then I found my Eureka. It was a stick vac (which I knew I liked) and it was cordless (which I wanted to try.) I think it was around $30. It was perfect. I'm on my second Eureka. They don't last forever (but I'm also on my second regular sized vacuum.) I use it a lot. I use it almost every single day. In addition to me using it, there is often a child that wants to use it when I'm finished. This thing has been dropped more times than I can count. I'm surprised this one is still running.

Here's my vac:

My original vac was grey. I found this one on clearance at Target. It's purple. Once my original one needed to be replaced I got rid of it but kept the battery (I should have kept the filter as well, I will next time) so now I have two batteries. That is useful because I have enough juice to use it on all the hard floors as well as the small rugs I have in the bathrooms and by the doors.


I'm linking up to Things I Love Thursdays at The Diaper Diaries


I am working on my "Cleaning" page. I intend to (eventually) have all of my routines, tasks, calendars, and jobs on that page. My plan is to write a post each time I add to it. Today, I'm adding my dailies.

I call the tasks I do every single day my dailies or daily tasks. I have heard this called minimum maintenance. I consider my calendar of monthly tasks my minimum maintenance. Dailies are what I need to do each day just to get by. My monthly task calendar lists the tasks that need to be done every other day, once a week, once every other week, or once a month. Those are the tasks, in addition to may dailies, that need to be done to keep the house in decent shape. Not great, but good enough.

Each day I...
make my bed
complete 1-2 loads of laundry
tidy the house
do the dishes
(I feel it's important to mention I also feed and care for between two and six kids.)

I can go a day without doing some (or even all of these) but much more than that and the house starts to look really bad.

Make my bed
This is a relatively new addition for me. I used to be one of those people who believed it was a waste of time to make my bed if I was just going to sleep in it and mess it up again that night. I must say, having my bed made just puts me in a different frame of mind. For the amount of time it takes (hardly any) compared to the effect it has on me (huge) it is totally worth it. I feel like it helps me start the day right. Plus, every time I walk in my room and see a made bed I get a little boost. It sounds silly but I am so proud of myself and then I feel like doing more.

My main floor is mostly a hard floor with some area rugs. I use a cordless stick vac (Eureka cordless Quick Up) to vacuum my hard floors and a vacuum cleaner to vacuum the area rugs. I have two large, black dogs and if I don't vacuum every day or two, the dog hair drives me crazy. I know this is one area some experts would say it wasn't necessary to do so often. I started this when my first child began spending a lot of time on the floor. Since then, there has barely been a time I haven't had someone who needs to spend tummy time or who is crawling. Even if I don't have a crawler, kids just naturally lay around on the floor and I feel better having them on the floor if it has been vacuumed.

The cordless part is important. I tried using a stick vac that was corded and it was too frustrating. The cord was super short. I felt like I was constantly plugging, unplugging, and re-plugging.

Complete 1-2 loads of laundry
This is a relatively new way of doing laundry for me. I used to do all my laundry on one day. We have a laundry chute so I'd start by sorting the basket of laundry at the bottom of the chute. I'd make my piles all over the laundry room floor. As a load came out of the dryer I would take it to my family room to fold. After each load was folded, I put the clothes in the appropriate basket (each bedroom had it's own basket.) After the laundry was finished, the laundry room floor would be clear and there would be several baskets loaded with clothes to be put away. That is where I got stuck. I was good about washing and folding but then the clothes would often stay in the baskets. As things got busier around here, that method stopped working as well. For one, I wouldn't always get all the laundry finished. The piles would either sit there or I would have to put them back in the basket. Also, there might be something I wanted to wear (or wanted the kids to wear) and it didn't get washed. That meant they couldn't wear it on that day and it wasn't going to get washed until the next laundry day, maybe a week away.

I decided to try the 1-2 loads per day that many of the experts recommend. So far, it has worked very well for me. If I do 1-2 loads on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I often don't do any laundry Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The putting away of the clothes is more likely to happen because it doesn't take as long. (Although, I occasionally still find myself with clean, folded clothes left in a basket for several days. Especially towels. I'm getting better, though.) I also started having the kids empty their own baskets. Their drawers might not be as neat as they would be if I put the clothes away, but we are working on it.

I had to come up with a sorting system so the laundry room floor wouldn't constantly have piles of clothes on it. You can see a post on that here.

Tidy the house
This is something that doesn't take very long but has huge results. If the kids and I pick things up every night, we spend a small amount of time and avoid a huge mess. I try to have the kids take anything that is theirs to their rooms on their way to bed. I have tried a couple things to reinforce this. First, they both have what I call a "tidy basket." Their tidy baskets are small, canvas-like, handled baskets. They can load lots of little things in there and easily carry it to their room. I have also tried "fining" them for anything left out. They would have to complete an extra job for every item of theirs I find after bedtime. We have also tried doing a "10 minute tidy" before dinner instead of before bed. Sometimes when we are heading to bed, there is not time to spare to tidy. I'm going to have to reinstitute all of those.

Do the dishes
I clear the table and rinse the dishes after every meal. I try to have the dishwasher loaded as well but if that doesn't get completed during the day, I almost always make sure it is finished before I go to bed. If the dishwasher is too full I will leave some (rinsed) dishes in the sink overnight. I know there are people who would say I should just wash them by hand and put them away rather than leaving them in the sink. No. It's ok with me if they sit in the sink overnight waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Early risers

Like lots of kids, mine are early risers. My daughter (recently turned seven) has started to sleep in at times. My son, never. Seriously, I can probably count on my two hands the number of times, in his four years, he's slept past eight.

I always felt like the early rising was, at least in part, due to this crazy attachment they have to me. As soon as their eyes flutter in the morning, they jump out of bed and race to my room. This seems to be the case because they often sleep later if they are sleeping over at someone else's house or if I am out of town.

It is not unusual for my kids to wake between six and seven. At times, they get into a rut where they keep getting up earlier and earlier. Especially my son. If he wakes up at 6:30 one day, the next day he might wake at 6:00 and the next day at 5:45. I thought if they knew they couldn't get up before a certain time they would stop waking up so early.

For my daughter, I put an alarm clock in her room and told her she could come out when the first number turned to seven. That worked like a charm for her.

When I started this with my son, he was so young he didn't yet know his numbers. I had to come up with something else. I bought a timer (the kind you would put on a lamp) and attached it to a small turtle lamp we had. (This was one time holding on to all kinds of junk worked out. This was a lamp someone gave us for our wedding.) I set the timer for seven. At seven, the light turns on. If his turtle is on when he wakes up, he can get up. If it is not, he has to wait until it comes on. This works GREAT, if I stay consistent with it. If I start letting up, he gets into the habit of waking earlier and earlier and we have to start over.

Initially, I tried the type of timer that uses a dial to set the time. I wasn't able to tell exactly what time I was setting on the dial. This digital timer worked better for me because I could be more precise. While I wanted him to stay in his room until seven, I also wanted him to be able to come out at seven and that wasn't easy to set up with the other type of timer.

It's always difficult at first. Usually, the first day he comes in before seven I take him back to his room. Of course, he whines and cries and makes it hard on both of us. The next day I tell him he has to go back to his room on his own or there will be a consequence (usually loss of tv for the day.) He goes back, whining as he does it. After a day or two, he stays in his room until seven (or later) and it was all worth it.

I'm linking up to Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

Side note:
My son was such a horrible sleeper we saw a sleep specialist around his first birthday and then again around his second birthday. She recommends using an auditory signal. The theory behind that is that it's easier for the child to fall back to sleep if they wake up and don't hear something. If you use a visual signal and they wake up, looking at something requires them to wake up more than listening for something. They don't even need to open their eyes if they don't hear the sound. Also, if you use a visual signal they will lay there and look at the light, which will keep them up. My issue with the auditory signal is that if my son was asleep and the sound started, it woke him up. The lamp I use isn't so bright it wakes him up if he is asleep when it turns on. I did have to put a slipper on over the timer because it is a little loud when it clicks on.