If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Operation Organization Week 4: No Surrender!

I almost became a casualty this week.

Being in the flu's death grip for five straight days nearly destroyed my week's plans for organizational dominance.

I won't lie to you. I nearly surrendered to clutter's call.

But I ain't no deserter. And neither are you. We've come too far to wave the white flag!

No, sir! I soldiered on, but I did adjust my plan of attack.

My goal this week was my kitchen pantry. I decided I'd have to fight that battle another week. I simply didn't have enough ammunition this week, troops.

Instead, I conquered a smaller foe. I cleaned out the rest of Micah's dresser drawers and purged the outgrown clothes in his closet.

Here's the Before:

And the After:

In Micah's second drawer, his soccer shorts are on one side, athletic socks in the middle and basketball shorts on the other side.
In the third drawer, I put all of Micah's sloppy T-shirts -- the ones he wears to bed or to sports practices, playing outside, etc. His swimsuits and underarmor are in there, too.
A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Next week, the kitchen pantry will be mine!!
Hope you've won your battles this week!
Here's the drill:
1.) Post your Week 5 Goal on your blog along with a link back to this post OR a link to my button in the right sidebar.
2.) Leave your link to your Week 5 Goal post via Mister Linky below.
3.) Visit as many of your fellow soldiers as possible to cheer them on!
4.) Post your Before and After photos on your blog anytime between now and next Friday!
The winner of this week's $10 Pier One gift card is Rosario! Click here to visit her. Congratulations, Rosario!
I am working out details with a company for this week's giveaway. I'll announce it on Wednesday.
Fight the good fight this week, soldiers! We're halfway there!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tips for the Troops Week 4: Family Scheduling

Cough. Cough. Cough. Sniffle. Snort.

Can you feel my misery rippling across cyberspace?

The flu bug descended on the Means house and has left me a shell of the woman I once was.

Cue violins.

Alright, enough of my whining.

Can I just say thank goodness for Operation Organization?! And I am really serious. Since I’ve rearranged the kids’ rooms, the kids actually keep their rooms clean. Without bribing, begging or bartering. Everything has a place and things actually return there. What a concept.

So, when I awoke from my Nyquil-induced, coma-like stupor, I found that the house wasn’t in the shambles I’d feared.

Woo Hoo!

Can I share another victory with you?

Remember Micah and my tardy problem? (Twenty-two last year!!) Well, we have been 15-20 minutes EARLY every day since school started!

The school safety patrol didn’t even recognize us… (Oh, look, a new family!)They're usually long gone by the time we arrive. (I know, I know, it’s only been eight days. Be quiet!)

The key has been getting up 30-45 minutes early. That made all the difference. I will keep you posted on our progress. I’m thinking about putting a tardy counter on my sidebar. Accountability (and humiliation) is very motivating. Keep your eyes out for it.

Okay, well, speaking of family schedules and such, my friend Dina is back today to give her weekly “Tips for the Troops.” So, listen up, soldiers!

Take it away, Dina:

Well, troops- are you beginning to feel a little "lighter"? No, we haven't started a weight loss plan - but when you look at the areas of your home you have been working on does it feel like a weight has been lifted? I hope so!

This week we will cover Family Scheduling. Again, everyone has their own way of doing things and I am not here to say that everyone should be doing things the same way. But I will offer tips that may help.

First of all - let's talk clutter again! Cluttered lives and schedules this time.

Schedules and Calendars
Sit down and look at all the activities your children are in and see if there are any that need to go. I know that certain sports have seasons and those seasons can get crazy, but if your family is in a perpetual state of chaos, it might be time to cut some things out.

How do you keep track of your family's comings and goings? Well, I pray you use a calendar of some sort, or you are really flying by the seat of your pants!

There are so many options for calendars these days. If you like to know at all times what you have going on then a planner would be good for you. It might be a paper planner, or an electronic one. If you're on your computer frequently during the day, you could do a calendar right on the computer and print it off as you need it.

Then there are the good old paper wall calendars (this is what I use). You can get all kinds of these things nowadays. There are ones with cute little stickers and lines where you write in each family member's name. Mine is pretty simple, but does have a pocket on the bottom. I can put papers in there that need to go on appointments with me during that month.

My sister always had a huge dry erase calendar in her laundry room - right where they came in and out of the house. It was for one month and each child's activities were written in a color for that child. They could see at a glance what was going on for that month. (This was in addition to her paper calendar).

Let's talk kid calendars. Some kids work well with their own calendars in their rooms to remind them to take their PE clothes, or musical instrument on certain days of the week to school. This is an excellent way to teach them organizational skills while they are young.

Meal Planning
I know some people absolutely hate meal planning so they don't do it. Then all week they don't know what to eat and they wind up eating out almost every night. You don't need to be a gourmet cook to get a home-cooked meal on the table at night.

Some people like to plan a week or even a month of meals out. I plan three meals at a time. I sit down every Sunday and write down what we're going to have and make my list. Now, if we wind up eating dinner out one or two nights, I don't have a bunch of food stacking up in my fridge or freezer.

Here's the way I look at it: I know I'm going to be at the grocery store at least twice in a week. We eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, so I know I'm going to need to replenish them about mid-week. If we are going to eat at home the rest of the week, I would plan three more meals and purchase those items on that second trip. I must confess, my family rarely eats out. Usually only once a week - and this is what works best for me because I cook so much.

I think the point here is - find a system that works for you and spend a little time each week planning some meals for your family - whether you plan two meals or two months worth. Your family will appreciate sitting down and eating a home-cooked meal together!

Get the family involved! As you plan meals - ask the spouse and kids what they would like that week. This takes a little pressure off you and you have happy diners!

Another tip: When you know you are about to enter a busy time - maybe it's baseball or football season - it might be wise to do a little advanced planning. In my case, it's volleyball season - and it's starting now. So, as I plan meals, I'm planning some things that are larger and freeze well. I can pull them out game day and we still have a home-cooked meal when we get home.

More meal planning ideas: get together with a friend or two on the weekend and cook some meals to divide up for the week! Bonappetit.com has information about starting a cooking club.

Great tips. Thanks, Dina!

The giveaway this week is a $10 Pier One gift card. So, get to work and we'll see you back here on Friday to report! Dis-missed!

One final note: I was featured on Mama Notes last Sunday. It's a great blog with awesome information for young moms. Click here to read my interview!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Enjoying the Ride

It made me queasy just to look at it.

But there she stood with that look. You know, the look. That wide-eyed, pleading expression that reduces normally rational parents to spineless blobs of jelly.

Molly, 10 at the time, was desperate for me to join her on an amusement park ride called the Sidewinder.

Molly: Mom, please, please go on it with me just once. I know you’ll like it. I promise!

The Sidewinder … A serpent. How ironic. This was exactly what got Eve into all that trouble. It would be biblical to keep my distance. Can’t argue with that.

Molly wasn’t buying it.

Molly: If you don’t like it, you’ll never have to go on it again.

Yep. Death would take care of that, Child.

This mechanical devil -- shaped like a giant tire swing -- spins as it flings you, legs dangling, in a nearly 360 degree, death defying arc.

Barf bag, anyone?

I’ve always loved rides, still enjoy a good roller coaster. But I cannot do rides that spin. Anything that causes me to relive my horrendous bouts with morning sickness is not my idea of big fun. My “ride ‘til you wretch’ days are over. Kaput. Done.

Amazing what a pair of big brown eyes belonging to one of your darling offspring can do to your resolve.

Me (heart pounding wildly): Okay, I can’t look at any more. If we’re going to do it, let’s go before I come to my senses.

(I should have swam with the sharks first. This would have seemed like nothin’.)

A park worker too young to grow facial hair was our cracker-jack safety enforcer. Somehow having Opie check my harness straps wasn’t instilling a lot of confidence.

I closed my eyes, braced myself and prepared to meet my Maker. Or puke. One or the other.

It started slowly. No nausea yet. A few moments later, to my surprise, I began having -- dare I say it? -- fun. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. In fact, it was a darn good time. I actually ended up riding it two more times before the day was done. Voluntarily.

Fear. It’s such a paralyzing, joy-robbing emotion. Sure, there’s healthy fear, but most of us are far more adept at channeling the nail-biting, ulcer-inducing kind. Especially as parents.

Now that my kids are older, I can look back and realize how often I allowed my fears of what “might” happen -- all the “what ifs” -- to suck the joy and pleasure out of just enjoying the moment. When I’m not careful, I still do.

And then the moment is gone. Never to be recaptured.

The funny thing is, most of the things that have kept me up at night over the years have never happened. And the ones that did, God often used to cause me to grow a little -- sometimes a lot -- as a person and a parent. The kids learned a thing or two from them as well. Even the really painful ones -- like when Micah was diagnosed with a disease called cystic fibrosis. Maybe especially those. I've witnessed God's faithfulness and it's made me less afraid. He can be trusted, even when I don't understand His methods.

None of us knows the future. That shouldn’t, however, ruin the present. Moments with our kids are too precious to squander.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 (New Living Translation)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Operation Organization: Week Three Victories!

Better late than never.

Yes, I finally tackled Micah's closet (my Week 2 goal that became my Week 3 goal). And, if you must know, I JUST finished it. Gosh, you're nosy. It just matters that it got done, right?! Can I hear an amen?

I know, I know, you're dying to see it ... been waiting all week for this moment, haven't you? Okay, then, I won't keep you in suspense any longer.



I can hear the standing ovation from across cyberspace! Now wasn't that worth the wait???
Actually, I still have to work on his overhead shelf, but, right now, I'm basking in the glow of this week's accomplishment. So no one spoil it for me by reminding me we have four weeks left! ;0)
I've had a chance to visit a good number of your blogs and you guys are so dang inspirational. Great job, troops! You keep me laughing and inspired. Do you think I would have been frantically cleaning out that closet this morning without you?!
Okay, well, we're almost half-way there, Soldiers. So let's keep fighting the good fight.
Here's the drill:
1.) Post your Week 4 Goal on your blog along with a link back to this post OR a link to my button in the right sidebar.
2.) Leave your link to your Week 4 Goal post via Mister Linky below.
3.) Visit as many of your fellow soldiers as possible to cheer them on!
4.) Post your Before and After photos on your blog anytime between now and next Friday!
Finally, the random winner of the $10 Walmart gift card is Courtney at Beautiful Mess! Courtney did a fabulous job with file organization this week. You should go check her out!
And Diane (last week's winner), I haven't forgotten about you. I'll send your $10 Marshall's gift card today. Diane did great work on her bedroom dresser last week. Check it out at her blog, Where Do I Get Started?
Check back on Wednesday to learn this week's giveaway!
Well, link up troops and get ready to conquer!
And say a prayer that Mister Linky won't be grumpy this week!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tips for the Troops Week 3: Family Organization Ideas

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

That’s kind of how I feel about this whole Operational Organization project! We may not feel like we’re making much progress as we finish our tasks, but if we keep at it, we’ll get a whole lot accomplished!

I have made some progress in my Week 3 Goal, but I’m not there quite yet. I cleaned out and reorganized the top drawer of my son’s dresser:



On Friday, I will post B&A photos of my son’s closet. I haven’t had the courage to tackle that part of my goal yet!

I hope your assignments are going well, Soldiers.

Now on to my organizing guru friend Dina who has some more battle plans to help you win the war on clutter!

Hi again, troops! I'm back! I've enjoyed seeing your photos on your blogs. Isn't it amazing what we can get done when we decide to get it done?

I thought I’d give you some ideas this week on keeping families organized. I don't claim that my ideas are any better than anyone else's, but I will tell you some things that work to control these clutter problems in my family:

Mudroom Muck. We come into my home through the laundry room. My laundry room is very small, so I can't have things all over the floor. I have 2 kids and each one has a hook for their backpack. I'm a big fan of hooks. I have a row of hooks right by the door where I hang keys, hats, and the dog's leash. Some people also like cubbies in their entryway for shoes. Since I'm short on space inside we keep our "dirty" shoes - like boots and crocs on a shelf outside the laundry room door - in the garage.

I also have plastic wall bins hanging on the wall in my laundry room. Each one is labeled for each member of my family. I try not to let papers accumulate and stay in there forever, but it is a great "temporary holding place" for papers that need to go back to school, or even school schedules.

Paper Overload. Let's talk school papers/artwork quickly. Do you need to save every single piece of work your child has done since kindergarten? If you have a hard time letting go of the adorable artwork your child brings home, get a couple of frames and put your (or your child's) favorite artwork on display in there.

I buy plastic folders with the fold down top. (Not sure exactly what these are called, but the top folds down and ties with a little string). I get mine at Michael's craft store. I just write with a Sharpie what grade/s are in them, and I use a different one for each child. My kids are older now and I only save report cards, awards certificates and a handful of special papers or projects, so I can put a couple of grades in one folder. Then you can just stack them up on a shelf and they are out of the way and take up minmal space.

Personality Quirks. Organizing comes naturally to me, however, my husband did not get the gene. He is very neat and tidy (thank heavens), but he isn't really organized. I've tried so many times to set up a "system" for him, but to no avail. I have learned that just because the system makes logical sense to me, it doesn't necessarily work for him.

An example: He never uses the key hooks in the laundry room. In fact, when I moved them to the hooks it made him crazy because they weren't slung on the kitchen counter w/his wallet and glasses and other junk. Sometimes we have to work around people's habits. I had to give up some kitchen counter space for my husband's things. I had no other option. This was the place that came naturally for him to drop his stuff when he walks in the house. I bought a little organizer for his phone and put a tray there for his other things.

My point is, no matter how perfectly organized we are, we have other people in our homes who may operate differently. The best thing to do is to see how you can work around the habits they already have - instead of trying to "retrain" them. This just gets people frustrated, and trust me, it doesn't work.

Don't give up on little ones, though. I think many organizational skills are learned young. I know my Mom was very organized and she passed that along to my sisters and me and we are all very organized, too! I worked with my children when they were young and they have developed some good habits already.

Until next time.......

Be sure to report back here on Friday to post your link to your Week 4 goal via Mister Linky!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Great Expectations

It didn’t turn out like we’d planned.

At five years old, Micah could have easily passed for the Energizer Bunny. In a desperate attempt to burn off some of his inexhaustible energy, Mike and I had the bright idea to enroll him in YMCA spring soccer.

A college-level athlete, Mike entertained lofty visions of his boy’s emergence as the Tiger Woods Wonderboy of the soccer world.

Micah’s athletic drive, however, more closely resembled, well … mine. And, let me assure you, I ain’t no Wondergirl.

After a few mere practices, Micah’s coach made this assessment: Keeping him on the field is kind of a challenge. He’s a little distracted.

She was being far too kind. Micah, in fact, was completely oblivious.

Socializing with his girl teammates was a far more interesting sport than what was happening on the field.

During his first shot at competition, his dad and I beamed with pride when our son committed the game’s first-ever recorded “hugging violation.”

What’s that you ask? Well, Micah and his equally affectionate friend Brooke – on the complete opposite side of the field from where the game was being played -- were laughing and embracing so enthusiastically that they knocked themselves over and were rolling on the ground.

Mike: Good night! It’s a dad’s dream. My son was just benched for hugging. I can die a happy man.

As the season progressed, signs of an impassioned athlete remained deeply buried. The season’s low point was the game when Micah and Brooke discovered a nearby light pole. Exiting the field and without a care in the world, the two danced and sang as they ran circles around “the maypole,” completely unaware of the activity transpiring on the field.

I can laugh at the whole experience now, but looking back, Micah’s father and I had some pretty serious and weighty expectations for a five-year-old.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about standards vs. expectations when it comes to my kids.

According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, expectation is “to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of.” Standard, on the other hand, is defined as “something established by authority … as a model or example.”

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think it is somewhat unfair to have expectations of my kids. Expectations are often based on MY wants, my desires, which certainly aren’t all bad. But they can be colored by my own hurts, hang-ups, and often unconscious desire to rewrite parts of my own childhood.

I can never go wrong, however, by holding my kids to standards based on the authority of Christ. Those standards are always right and true. If my children adhere to them, they should never disappoint me, even if their path doesn’t meet my expectations.

Take that, Tiger Woods.

The Lord’s instruction is right; it makes our hearts glad. His commands shine brightly, and they give us light. Psalm 19:8 (Contemporary English Version)

NOTE: Fellow bloggers, I know I have been MIA on your blogs lately. Two kids starting school, a flurry of deadlines and ministry obligations and technical difficulties with my blog have had me leading a crazed existence. I have blocked out time later in the week to catch up with all of you 'cause I miss ya! ;0)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Operation Organization: Week Three

UPDATE: Okay, it's been one of those weeks. I had some freaky technology thing happen and I lost all your Mister Linky links! So sorry, troops! If you still want to be eligible for this week's giveaway ($10 Walmart gift card), please link back again in the comments section! I'll get it figured out before next week!

Hang tough!

That's my message to the troops this week! School is starting, things are getting busier and it would be easy to abandon your good intentions of sticking with this challenge.

If you saw my post on Wednesday, you'll know I am right there with you! It's getting tough.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Don't get soft on me!

Here are my Week 3 Goals:

Clean out the bottom of my son's closet (that was my Week 2 goal, but life intervened!)

Plus, so I don't get too behind, I'm also going to clean out one of my son's dresser drawers. I hope to get all three drawers cleaned out, but I'm trying to set realistic goals, so I don't get discouraged.

Okay, here's the drill:

1.) Post your Week 3 Goal on your blog along with a link back to this post OR a link to my button in the right sidebar.

2.) Leave your link to your Week 3 Goal post via Mister Linky below.

3.) Visit as many of your fellow soldiers as possible to cheer them on!

4.) Post your Before and After photos on your blog anytime between now and next Friday!

Finally, the winner of the $10 Marshalls gift card is Diane! Congratulations! Just email me at melinda@parentingconfessions.com with your email address and I will send you an e-card!

You have your orders! Now go fight clutter!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Illusion of Control: Hurricane Charley Five Years Later

When I awoke that fateful morning – five years ago today – I had no idea that my world was about to be completely blown apart.

Looking back, perhaps that was a good thing. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

I wonder why there’s no water, I said to a lady standing next to me in the grocery store.

Oh, people are stocking up. There’s some little storm out there – Charley, I think. But it’s supposed to hit north of here.

I shrugged my shoulders and went on my merry way. As a nearly lifelong Floridian, I was used to many hurricane “false alarms.”

It’s headed north of us, I assured our extended family the next day. Besides, it’s only a Category 1 or 2. No big deal.

About mid-morning, I called several friends who lived on the water, offering our home as a shelter if the storm did take an unexpected turn.

No, no! they all said. Nice of you to offer, but we’re staying put.

Late that morning, the storm had strengthened somewhat and it looked as if we might be getting some tropical storm conditions.

So my husband did what any prudent, responsible homeowner would do. He took our daughter and headed to 7-11 to stock up on Oreos.

Mike: If we’re without power and stuck at home, we at least need to have cookies.

A natural disaster of epic proportions was about to hit us (although we were still oblivious) and we were planning a slumber party.

This is when our story takes a very dark turn.

During Mike and Molly’s 7-11 run, the storm intensified into a ferocious Category 4 hurricane – and made a turn straight for us.

Our phone began to ring.

Hey, can we still come over? And can we bring our neighbors? How about our boat? And we have pets ….

Within two hours, fifteen adults and children and five animals transformed our humble home into a modern-day Noah’s Ark.

The winds picked up slowly, but Mother Nature soon let us know she wasn’t messing around.

We watched as our neighbors’ gazebo pulled apart and flew away.

Our pool cage lifted up off the ground and slammed into our pool.

Mike: I think I’m going to move away from the window now.

The kids went into the closets and the women barricaded themselves in the hallway with a mattress over the kitchen entryway.

The men were needed elsewhere. The winds – clocking at 170mph now – were about to burst our double doors wide open. If that happened, the roof would soon follow.

Quickly, they moved our couch in front of the doors and pushed against them with all their might.

I don’t know how much longer we can hold out, I heard our friend Jack yell. The roar of the storm was deafening.

Just then, a branch flew through one of our family room windows.

Water poured in through the outlets and light fixtures.

Then, just as suddenly as it began, it was over.

Even as a writer, words fail me as I try to describe what we witnessed when we walked outside. War zone. Utter destruction. Chaos. Nope. That really doesn’t cover it.

Usually, on this blog, I try to find the humor in even heavy situations. But even five years later, I just can’t find anything particularly funny about Hurricane Charley. In fact, this is the first time I’ve had enough distance from the trauma of the event to even write about it.

Mostly, in life, we live in the delusion that we are in control. That if we just do the right things, make the right choices, life will go our way. Our kids will turn out well.

Choices are within our control. Outcomes, however, are not. One day, we may watch as one of our darling children who we’ve loved and so carefully guided blindsides us with a storm we never saw coming. I’ve already experienced a few of those “parenting hurricanes.” I’m sure a few more will whip through my world before all is said and done.

It could get quite scary and depressing if I thought I had to weather the storms alone. But just as God helped us pick up the pieces after Charley, He will help our children rebuild their lives after their inevitable disasters, even those of their own making.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (New Living Translation)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tips for the Troops Week 2: Rolling with Life!

Life is so inconvenient sometimes.

This week I had big plans to clean out my son’s closet, as my Operation Organization Week 2 goal.

His dad had cleaned Micah's room (yeah, hubby!), but he stuck everything he didn’t know what to do with in the closet. (But I’m not complaining!) So, I had my work cut out for me:

Then I was out of town for four days.
And Molly started school.
And I have work deadlines.
And I had to take Micah back-to-school shopping.
And I had three visits to the chiropractor.
And I’m preparing to go out of town for the weekend.
Please tell me someone can relate!
So THIS is what his closet looks like NOW:

What?! You can’t tell the difference??
Yeah, just call me the Wizard of Organization.
But …. I’m not giving up! Repeat! I am NOT giving up! And if you are in the same boat as I am, neither should you!
Here’s what I am doing … I’m scaling back my goal to MAKING PROGRESS on Micah’s closet. Next week my goal will be FINISHING Micah’s closet.
The fact is there will never be a convenient time to get organized. We just have to adjust to life's craziness and be realistic about what can be accomplished from day-to-day or week-to-week. Remember: Little goals add up to a lot.
So, hang in there!!
Perhaps you’ll gain some inspiration from our Organizational Commander-in-Chief (my friend Dina). Today, she is giving some great tips for organizing Kids’ Rooms and Master Bedrooms.
Listen up troops!
Welcome to Week 2, Soldiers! Dina here! Hope you are making progress. Like Melinda said, the most important thing is this: Don’t Give Up! Be strategic and hit the battlefield. Hope these tips drive you to victory!
Kids’ Rooms
They can be a total nightmare! All those fun little trinkets that they collect in those party goody bags add up, don't they? Hopefully, if your area to work on is a child's bedroom you have purged all that little, well, crap!
To keep kids rooms organized, I think the key is keeping like items together. Storage containers and baskets are our friends. My son used to be into Legos, so I had a huge Lego container that they all went in (except the ones that got sucked up by the vacuum). Kids keep up with their stuff better when it's convenient for them to put it away.
Now he's into Nerf guns, so I have a long container that they fit into under his bed. I got him a little plastic open crate for the bullets so he can just walk around and collect them from ALL over the house and toss them right into the crate. Easy.
Master Bedroom/Linens
Let's quickly talk linens. If your towels are thinner than Grandma's hair - might be time to get rid of them. You don't need loads and loads of towels and sheets!!! Keep some towels only for guests.
Is your bedroom just a bedroom or a combo office/excercise room where you happen to sleep? Your room should be a calm, relaxing place. You can still have a desk or treadmill in there and accomplish this. But if your treadmill has become storage for your clothes it might be time to get rid of it.
Try not to let stuff stack all over your dresser. This is NOT relaxing to look at. If you're collecting papers in there, they probably need to be filed or trashed. (Remember that file system we talked about last week?)
As for the closet - this is another major item that I will only be able to scratch the surface on.
You have to get rid of your clothes (I'm afraid shoes also count here, ladies) that you haven't worn in a year. This is the major key to decluttering and organizing your closet.
Get everything except shoes up off the floor. Invest in some closet organization items such as over door shoe storage, hanging sweater shelves, etc. (Both Target and Wal Mart carry a good selection of closet organizing products.)
As with other areas of the house, you need to keep like items together in the closet. Who wants to dig through pants and shirts to find a skirt?
A few more ideas:
Browse through books and magazines to get ideas that will work for you. The magazine Real Simple is an excellent source of organizing and simplifying ideas. Your library probably carries books that can give you ideas as well.
If you have a certain style you like, you might want to pick up a magazine like Country Living, or Traditional Home. Their decorating ideas often contain organizational tips, too.
Report back here on Friday for Week 3 instructions (I’ll also have another post tomorrow unrelated to Operation Organization! Hope you’ll stop by!)
You are dismissed! ;0)
(I also haven't had much time to visit your blogs this week, but hope to catch up next week! If life doesn't get too inconvenient! ;0)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Swimming with the Sharks

I am snorkeling directly above a hammerhead shark.

What?! Did I just turn 40 and completely lose my mind?!

During a long day at Typhoon Lagoon Water Park with my sister and our combined five kids, I'd conquered the Crushing Gusher. Weathered the Wave Pool. Survived the Storm Slides.

I was pretty darn proud of myself. I’d earned some street cred with the kids -- and was quite pleased to call it a day.

My smug self-satisfaction, however, was soon shattered.

Molly: “Ooooo, look! There’s a ‘Shark Swim’! Let’s do that!”

Me: Oh, they have a shark tank? Yea, let’s go see the sharks.

Molly: No, you actually swim with the sharks! Awesome!


I mean, really, didn’t anyone see Jaws 3?! (The one where the crazed Great White gets loose in a Sea World-type park) Come on, people!

I could have wimped out. But I could just see the headline: “Mom Feeds Children to Sharks while Cowering by the Kiddie Pool!”

So there you have it. My fear of humiliation trumped my fear of snaggle-toothed predators. I would brave the deep and protect my young.

Our guide “Bob” seemed a wee bit too chipper for someone about to send us to our doom.

“You’ll be swimming with bonnetheads, hammerheads, sting rays and other tropical fish!”

A shark is a shark, Man! Ferocious, man-eating … Does it really matter what kind???!

“Oh, and be prepared. The water is 68 degrees.”

Great, Bob. If the sharks don’t get me, the hypothermia will.

“Don’t worry, the sharks are more afraid of you then you are of them,“ the lifeguard assured us.

So tell me, is that why you’re on land, Baywatch Boy?!

We were then instructed to get on our hands and knees on the shallow ledge (a perfect time for the prayer position). Then we were to push out into the 10-foot deep lagoon and use our arms to propel us.

This is about the time my 9-year-old freaked out.

Micah: What am I supposed to do, Mom?! It’s too deep!!

Me: Just grab my hand and we’ll swim together.

Micah translated this as “Grab Mom around the neck and pull her under.”

As I gasped for air, I heard a cheery voice yell: “Just relax! Swim with your arms.”

I’m about to drown in shark-infested waters. You relax, woman.

We were able to flail to the sandbar in the middle of the lagoon and regain our bearings.

Me: Okay, you can’t do that, Micah. I can’t breathe.

Micah: I can’t get down on my knees, Mom! It’s too deep!

Now I pictured a new headline: "Boy and Mom Marooned in Shark Pool! Footage at 11!"

Me (teeth chattering): You can do this. I know you can. We’ll do it together, okay?

Micah (whimpering): Okay.

We pushed off together, holding hands.

Gradually, he let go of my grasp and began swimming on his own.

I spotted the hammerhead beneath me (about three or four feet long) as I neared the steps.

And I lived to blog about it.

Today – the first day of school -- I sent Molly to swim with sharks of a different kind. And next week I’ll send Micah. Every day I release them into a sea of media, cultural and peer influences that, frankly, scare the heck out of me. I want to grasp them tight. But as they’re getting older, they’re gradually moving away. I have to gradually let them go.

I can’t shield them from every influence. I can’t be there to make every choice.

But I can be the counter influence. I’ve been troubled recently when I think of the amount of media we’ve allowed our kids to consume this summer. I can’t control the sharks outside my doors, but I do have the power to keep them from coming inside.

The sharks are always circling. So the media limits are back. But I have to do more than just limit bad influence. I need to always be deliberate in encouraging a relationship with their Creator.

Knowing their value in Him might not keep them out of the shark tank. But it will give them the ability to swim safely to shore.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:8 (New Living Translation)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

And the Award Goes To...

If you're looking to sign up for Week 2 of Operation Organization, click here.

Remember those end-of-year school assemblies, where they’d give out academic, athletic and character awards?

I’d sit there, palms sweating, hoping and praying they’d call my name. And when they did, it was such a thrill!

That’s kind of how I feel when one of you awesome blogging sisters gives me an award! I was extremely grateful to receive several recently. Thank you!!

But honestly, I’m even more thankful for the opportunity to say “right back at ya” to these special blogging ladies. After each award, I’ll tell you who gave it to me and why you absolutely have to visit her blog. That an order!! (Oops … I slipped into Operation Organization mode for a moment! ;0)

This is from Deb at He gave me a dream. She was as one of my very first Followers. She and I found we were kindred spirits and shared a dream and love for writing. She is a dear, sweet southern lady with a great deal of wisdom. You’ll love her genuine, beautiful writing style and personality.

This one is from Heather at Theta Mom. Heather is one of my newer blogging friends. She also confesses to being an imperfect parent. Girl after my own heart! Her blog is fun, authentic and absolutely adorable. You’ll love it.

Another mom blogger you’ll love is Courtney from My Beautiful Mess. I was the featured blog on her site last week. Thanks, Courtney! She has a infectious, positive view on life and motherhood. You’ll smile and be encouraged every time you stop by.

This last one is from Karen at www.karenevans.blogspot.com. I met Karen two years ago at a Christian writing conference. The first thing I noticed about her is her incredible smile. She is sweet and encouraging and a wonderful writer.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit these ladies this week! You’ll be glad you did! ;0)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Operation Organization: Week One Victories!

Update: Forgot to tell you a couple of things! 1.) Don't forget to post my button (see right sidebar) or link to this post in your Week 2 Goal Post. 2.) This week's giveaway is a $10 Marshalls gift card!

I took a walk on the wild side this week. I decided to tackle my daughter's room.

How one 90-pound child could accumulate so much junk boggles the mind.

It was a jungle in there.

I wish I had "Before" photos to show you. Unfortunately, my husband accidentally deleted my photos. If he hadn't just thrown me the sweetest surprise birthday party ever, I might have to hurt him.

But trust me, my friends, it was a frightening sight. I disposed of 8-10 trash bags and gave away at least 4-5 trash bags full of clothes, as well as a large box of books. The room is only 12x12 so that kind of puts the gross magnitude of the mess into perspective.

Now, her room resembles a jungle of a different kind:

Molly and Micah decided they wanted each other's beds. So Molly's bunk bed went to Micah's room and Micah's trundle became a king-sized bed for Molly. How 'bout those bedspreads? (On sale at Target!)

And there's absolutely no excuse for not doing homework now! Molly's old desk, with the drawers falling off, made its long-overdue journey to the trash heap. Again, found a cheap desk at Target.

Pre-makeover, Molly's walk-in closet was an "open the door and run out screaming" closet. Now, you can actually see the floor! I decided to hang nearly all her clothes on hangers, except for pajamas, socks, underwear and T-shirts and shorts. She can easily see what she has and it will keep the dresser from becoming an overflowing nightmare.

I also left room in her bookcase for her school textbooks, binders and folders. Maybe it will help with my morning madness.

Eye of the tiger, baby! I did it! ;0)
And so did you! Many of you posted your Before and After photos on your own blogs, which is great!
In fact, for future weeks, I'm going to request that everyone post their B&A photos on their own blogs, instead of emailing them to me. I didn't anticipate the fabulous response I received to Operation Organization (yea!!!) -- there's just no way I could post all your photos in one post.
However, some of you did email your photos, so I want to share!
The first ones are from Lil Ms. P who tackled her desk area.
Here's the Before:

And After!

Wow! Looks awesome, Lil Ms. P! I bet cleaning that one relatively small area makes the whole room look better!
The next photos are from Suzanne, who tackled a closet (brave woman!)


Love those stackable bins, Suzanne. Those are fabulous for making mess manageable. Great work!
Last but not least, are photos from Amber, who reorganized her kitchen counter. That's always a problem area for me, Amber, so good for you!!


Now we're cooking!
The rest of the B&A photos are on your individual blogs.
I am so proud of you! You are giving such a great gift to yourself and your family.
Okay, now we'll use these victories to propel us to our next battle: Operation Organization Week 2 Goal!
You know the drill:
1.) Go to your blog and post your Week 2 Goal. You can post your "Before" photo or you can wait until next Friday and post both your "Before" and "After" photos together.
2.) Link to your Week 2 Goal Post via Mister Linky below.
3.) Visit each other's blogs and cheer each other on! I'm out of town until Sunday, but I'll visit as many of you as I can when I return.
Finally, the random winner of this week's $10 Target gift card is Cindy (messy drawers)! Congrats! You earned it! Send your email address to melinda@parentingconfessions.com and I'll email you your gift card!
If you haven't joined my organizing challenge, you can still join in any time! Click here to learn more.
Once again, GREAT work, troops! Now back to the battlefield for our next victory!
*Note: If you didn't finish your Week 1 Goal, just make it your Week 2 Goal. Don't give up!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tips for the Troops (and anyone who want to get organized!)

Are we having fun yet, troops?!

Can I just say that you guys have knocked my socks off and it’s only Week One?!

Many of you already have your "Before and After" pics up and they look great! Awesome job, soldiers!

It’s been so fun to “meet” you and visit your adorable blogs!

(If you're new to my blog, learn more about my organization challenge here.)

If you’re a little behind, please don’t get discouraged! Keep working a little at a time. If you don’t finish your Week One Challenge, make it your Week Two Challenge! Every bit of progress you make will be appreciated by your family!

I promised some more organizing tips from my friend and Organization General Dina. Seriously, she is one of the most organized people I have ever met. I did not get the organizing gene. God gave mine to her. No fair.

Even if you’re not participating in Operation Organization, you’ll benefit from reading these great organizing suggestions!

Today, Dina will be covering tips for our Kitchens and Desk/Office areas. Next Wednesday, she’ll cover Kids’ Rooms and Closets.

So, without further ado, I will turn you over to our Commanding Officer …

Hey, troops! Dina here. I trust that you all have begun to de-clutter your homes! Or at least some area - be it big or small - of your home. If you haven't already begun to feel a little more peaceful and harmonious about your home, don't worry - it will happen! Hang in there and don't give up - and that's an order!!

I thought I would give a few tips relating to different areas of the home since each area can have its own specific challenges.

I'll start with the kitchen, which could be a blog all of its own! My kitchen probably contains more stuff than the rest of the rooms in my house put together. I do have a passion for cooking, so I use everything in there. However, I recently purged some dishes, bowls, and glasses that I hadn't used in years.

  • Make sure you aren't hanging on to your old appliances "just in case" (remember Phil 4:21). Have you used that bread machine lately?

  • Try not to let things in the pantry stack in front of each other. You need to be able to see what you have in there so you don't wind up with 5 jars of peanut butter. Keep canned goods together, cereal together, bottles together, etc. It's so much easier to be able to glance and know what you need than to dig around and waste time.

  • Keep cabinets organized by using products like lid organizers, pan organizers, and baskets and bins to keep small items together. (Melinda - you know what I'm talkin’ about, don't you?)
Let's talk desk space. An acronym people use for the loads of paper that finds its way into our homes every day is F.A.T. This stands for "file" "action" or "trash".

  • You need to decide as you open your mail if it is something to be filed, something that requires action (like a bill to pay) or just trash. Set up a system for the "action" category. Have a little paper sorter to put those bills to pay in.

  • You should have a filing system in place. This is pretty much a requirement for staying organized (right, Melinda?) Use hanging folders for each category and use manila file folders inside for further sorting. For example, if you have a file for your automobile, the hanging file would be labeled "2009 Ford". Inside you would put a file labeled "insurance" and maybe one labeled "loan", etc. When you need to find a document you won't waste hours searching for it.

  • The book Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach gives very specific filing instructions for important documents. This book helped me with my filing immensely. I highly recommend his filing system. I don't know how rich we're going to finish, but, by golly, my files look excellent!!

  • Don't leave little papers all over the place with notes all over them. Get a little notebook that you keep by the phone or on your desk and jot things down there. You can date the page as you go along and then transfer phone numbers to your book, or dates to remember to the calendar.

  • As you’re organizing, you’ll need some bins and baskets. You can find great deals on baskets, office organization, and kitchen and bath products at stores like Marshalls, Home Goods, Tuesday Morning and IKEA.

Okay, that’s all for now, soldiers … Keep up the good work!

Melinda here again … I'd say you're well-armed for battle! You have two more days to finish your goal for the week.

On Friday, you’ll post your Week 2 goal on your blog and come back here to leave your link via Mister Linky. You’ll also learn who won the $10 Target gift card!

Anyone can join in Operation Organization at any time, so keep telling your friends!

You guys are doing GREAT! Keep visiting each others' blogs and cheering each other on!

See you back here at the Command Post on Friday!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Time for a Change

Twenty-two times! TWENTY-TWO! Good grief.

One or two is understandable. Bound to happen. We’re all human.

But, how exactly do a mom and her son manage to be late to school TWENTY-TWO times in a single school year?!

It’s criminal, really -- and downright embarrassing.

We want to be on time. We hope to be on time. We pray to be on time.

But then we’re late. Again. And again. And again …. And again.

I leave far too many tasks until the morning and then run around like a raving lunatic completely baffled as to why this is happening for the 475th time. I’m a smart woman. Really. I am.

Here's the morning scenario I crave:

Micah and Molly wake up cheerfully to alarm clocks and jump out of bed.

Molly and Micah (in unison): Good morning, Mother! You look beautiful this morning!

Micah: We’d love to talk more, Mom, but we have to go get dressed in the clothes we laid out last night.

Children emerge five minutes later.

Molly: I’ll make my lunch now. You always buy such nutritious and delicious lunch choices, I have a hard time choosing what to pack! And I’ll pack Micah’s too. I garner such joy from doing acts of service for my brother.

Micah: While Molly’s making lunch, I’ll make our breakfast. Put up your feet, Mom. You deserve a break.

We eat breakfast and exchange meaningful and witty banter.

Molly: Sit down, Mom. I’ll clear the dishes and load them in the dishwasher.

Micah: Okay, time to brush our teeth!

Molly leaves for the bus stop. Micah and I leave for his school with time to spare.

Here's my real-life morning scenario:

I wake up too late.

Me: Micah, your alarm went off 10 minutes ago. Time to get up.

10 minutes pass

Me: Time to get up, Micah. NOW!!

10 more minutes pass

Me: I’m coming in there with the spray bottle. NOW!!


The only items that are dirty in the house are the ones that the children decide they MUST wear today or life as we know it will cease.

Me: Time for breakfast!

10 minutes later

Me: Your breakfast is cold.

10 minutes later

Me: You have exactly five minutes or you’ll go hungry today!

Micah finally consumes his breakfast.

Me: Okay, brush your teeth and we HAVE to go!!

Some mysterious force then prohibits him from making it from the breakfast table to the bathroom.

Me: We gotta go, NOW! Molly, your breakfast is still on the table. You’re on your own!

Micah: I can’t find my book bag!!! I need money for my field trip!!

Me: How many days until summer??

I want to say it's his fault. But he's the child. I’m the adult. I have to set better boundaries, give more consistent consequences. I have to have a PLAN. Novel concept.

(Molly's older and goes to school an hour later so we don't have these issues as much anymore.)

School is starting in mere days. Here's some things I PLAN to do differently:

1.) I will make lunches and iron clothes the night before, with the goal of enlisting the kids' help so they take more responsibility for themselves.

2.) I will make sure field trip forms and lunch money is taken care of the night before.

3.) I will get up earlier.

4.) I will make sure they put book bags at the door the night before.

5.) I will offer periodic rewards for being on time for a certain number of days in a row and consequences for the opposite.

6.) I will remember Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (New Living Translation)

7.) I will remember Proverbs 15:1.

8.) I will remember Proverbs 15:1.

9.) I will remember Proverbs 15:1.

So how about you? Do you have any great ideas for making mornings smoother around your house this school year? (Or am I the only
time-challenged parent in the blogosphere?!)
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