Category Archives: Life

Flu-mageddon

I don’t know that I was feeling particularly gung-ho about 2018. After the year that was 2017, I was feeling pretty content to take things as they came, instead of constantly feeling like a deadline was looming.

Still, though. I had great hopes to blog more, write more in general, and have more time to be creative with my kids.

And then we got sick.

Y’all.

We don’t get sick like we’ve been sick for the past two weeks. We don’t get sick at all, really.

But the flu this year has been rough, and we can attest to that fact firsthand, sadly.
I know it’s not just our neck of the woods, but Tyler–the closest city of any size to us–is apparently number 1 in the nation for cases of flu (according to Walgreen’s data). Great for the makers of Tamiflu, Elderberry syrup, and Occicilium. Bad for…every last one of the rest of us.

Our first victim (Simon) started heading downhill a little over 2 weeks ago, and that nasty virus systematically worked its way through every last one of us…except sweet Honor. Even as I sit here, typing, sniffing constantly, and trying to ignore my super raw nose and raspy chest, I am still so, so grateful for the mercy of the baby’s not getting sick.

Not that it probably would have knocked him back too much. The littlest ones definitely had the mildest cases, suffering mostly from a day of fever and a few more of general blahness and low energy. Shaun and I didn’t get it for a few days after the first few fell, but once it hit, it knocked us out for a good (actually, scratch that: BAD) 5-6 days, and I’m STILL not well. It’s gone from flu to head + chest cold to sinus infection + chest cold to…just all around mild misery.

I have sipped every Elderberry concoction and slathered and huffed every applicable essential oil. I have swallowed garlic until I created a raw spot in my esophagus and guzzled hot raw honey, lemon, and water. Far from trying to imply that none of them have worked, I firmly believe that I would be in much worse shape without them (I could definitely feel the healing effects as the Lord has hauled me, bit by bit, back out of this sickness hole). But I can’t quite seem to shake the last little bits, so if you think to pray for complete healing, that would be great.

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Don’t be fooled. Those are 6-day-old braids, and even that wan smile is a total fake. 

Today kind of marked our official re-entry into the real world. It was a typical Monday for me. And it’s a legit MONDAY. I teach a BODYPUMP class at 5:45 AM, then race home to get myself ready + help the kids finish getting ready for home school co-op (although, they have come SO far since the first couple of weeks we started going when they pretty much could have written the manual for how to wander cluelessly from room to room without getting anything done for 45 straight minutes; they’re actually impressively efficient these days), head to co-op, where my day looks like: teach, grade, grade, eat while grading, teach, teach. THEN, we hauled it to the grocery story and shoveled all of the essentials into a basket, hustled through the line, and made a beeline for dance class. Let me assure you that, at the end of a day like this, nothing thrills my heart more than wedging 3 little girls into tights and leotards and tap shoes. But they love it. So, what can you do? (Try not to stick one of their at-once-dog-paw-esque-while-still-claw-like little feet through the foot of the tights, that’s what #somanyruinedpairs).

There is this unspoken understanding that all good dance moms should stay on the premises until their daughter’s dance class is over, buuuuuutttt…I have 4 males under 12 with me. And ain’t nobody need me bringing them to hang out in the hallway for 45 minutes. So, I always thumb my nose at good dance mom protocol and run errands instead. Usually, it’s the grocery store at lightning speeds, but since we’d already accomplished that particular feat today, we headed to Goodwill where I rarely (sadly) go anymore but which I still love to hit up for a blitz session every now and then (I came away with good clothes for the boys, including GAP jeans that are actually long enough for my older boys’ constantly growing limbs {for now} + the world’s cutest lion costume for Honor…just because).

If you’re wondering what one feeds 7 children at the end of such a day, the answer is usually something that I’ve prepped on Sunday afternoon. But not today. Today, we went the super classy route of not one but 2 bags o’ burgers from Braum’s (10 burgers, $10, BABY…and not one ounce of real meat among them, I’m sure #meforpresident).

ANYWAY, I have digressed rather impressively by indulging in a play-by-play of our Monday, but I do get asked regularly what a day-in-the-life looks for us, so there’s a typical Monday. Yes, they are all that busy. Yes, I dread them with every fiber of my being. But then, they’re happening, and it’s fine.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, we did manage to achieve a few milestones, intentional or not, during our own personal Flu-mageddon.

1. It snowed. Obviously, that would be one of the ones we can’t take credit for. It very rarely snows in East Texas (maybe 5 times, briefly, in the last 10 years), and this was no exception, since this is all we ever got…

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…and it only stayed that way for about 24 hours. But it was still fun to distract ourselves from our coughs and bedraggled, snotty existences to spend 30 minutes donning “snow gear” (sad little instantly drenched Dollar Store gloves + scarves + hats) only to come running back inside after 15 minutes.

2. I introduced the girls to Pride and Prejudice (the BBC/A&E version, thankyouverymuch), and they LOVED it. That one I take full credit for. Although, I probably would have delayed their induction into Jane Austen hall of fame if not for the fact that all any of us wanted to do was lie on the floor and moan.

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In which we finally got some sun, and Honor showed his appreciation for our constant supply of Kleenex

3. Honor turned 1. And looked incredibly cute doing it. (But then, he generally does…I’ll have to snap a picture of him in his lion suit for you guys).

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He is a CONSTANT source of joy and stress relief in our house. We are all legit obsessed with him, and he doesn’t seem to mind a smidge.

His first word? (at 8 1/2 months, no less?) “STAHP.” And yes, he uses it both appropriately and liberally. He’s also standing, and Shaun tricked him into taking what miiiiiight be construed as his first step before leaving on a work trip (so that he wouldn’t do it while Shaun was gone, obviously), so he’s practically walking. Ha.

And now, you may consider yourself sufficiently bored to death caught up on our lives.

As always, if you’re interested in the day-by-day play-by-play, you need to be hooked up with my Instagram page, where I find it much easier to bang out a post and throw up a pic than I do to vomit up a behemoth of a 1,500 word post (as I am so wont to do when I actually blog these days…need.to.edit).

What about you guys? Any flu (or otherwise) stories to tell?

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Mama Life Hacks {#24}: The Nightly Clean-up

I am not a clean freak. I prefer my house to be clean. But I can function just fine (for a while, at least) if it’s not. In fact, it doesn’t feel like my house is ever COMPLETELY clean, since if the kids and I have cleaned two of the bathrooms, the high likelihood is that the other three need a scrub (yes, that means we have 5 bathrooms…that might be part of the problem). I do not have a compulsive need to deep-clean every surface of my house on a weekly basis, as several of my friends do (which is both a blessing to my sanity–hello, 7 constantly-mess-producing children–and a curse–I know that if I were compulsive, my house would, indeed, be cleaner).

HOWEVER, I feel the most mentally at ease and–there’s no better way to put it–okay with myself as a human when my house is picked up and reasonably clean. And that is what today’s Mama Life Hack is supposed to help with.

And it’s so simple, so obvious, so ridiculously basic that I fully expect every comment on this post to be some iteration of “DUH, Abbie, or “Why didn’t I already think of that?”

But first a little back story. We clean every morning. After Bible reading and before we start school, the kids all do their “morning routines.” For the girls and Theo, this involves unloading the dishwashers, picking up the common area (living room/dining room/kitchen/stairway) and putting away any toys or books we’ve gotten out (even though this process generally happens between 8 and 9, there have been children up and playing since 6:30 usually, so, yes, there’s already at least some mess by the time the sun comes up).

The older boys alternate day-by-day with: 1) loading the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher/cleaning the sink and surrounding counter and 2) sweeping the kitchen/dining and wiping down the island, stove, counters.

(I include this detail because I get a lot of questions about what kind of chores my kids do at which ages). 

During this time, I flip laundry, feed the baby, answer emails, etc. I’m not cleaning alongside them, necessarily, but we’re all doing something productive.

This way, we start our school day with things in the spaces we use most under reasonable control.

Fast forward to the end of our day, and MOST (not all, but most) of this work has been completely undone. Pencils have been sharpened to nubs and dropped on the ground (thank you, Theo), papers have been shredded on the floor (ahem, Theo again), lunch has been made, snacks X 7 have been eaten…twice (goodness, that’s a lot of food), books have been hauled out of lockers, bathrooms have been strewn with toilet paper (among other things #ew). We try–oh how we try–to put things back as we go. The food gets put back at lunchtime. The paper mounds get picked up. The bathroom gets de-TP’d. But when the focus is on learning, not cleaning, and there are still more messes to be made, it’s inevitable that we miss a pencil or 6, and there’s a doll or 3 under the couch.

Oh, and then there’s dinner. I do simple food: Taco soup, chicken tortilla soup, chicken and squash grill, spaghetti, chicken pot pie (my most-well-loved-by-readers recipe). But there’s still some cooking debris that’s inevitable with the process of refereeing 7 kids while preparing food for them (although to be fair, it doesn’t feel like refereeing 90% of the time; they’re honestly usually playing happily, reading, helping me cook, or doing something outside).

My point? Despite our best efforts, our main living areas are still at least a little bit messy at the end of every day.

And I’m tired. And not the least bit interested in starting all over again with what feels like (no IS) a never-ending process.

One day, as I was expressing to Shaun my frustration with the amount of work yet to be done at the end of the day versus the amount of fortitude left with which to tackle it, he said, “We just need to set a timer for after dinner clean-up and get it done.”

At first, my emotions rebelled against the simplicity of the suggestion. It couldn’t possibly be THAT easy.

But then, I remembered an article I read once about a mother of many (also a homeschooler) who instituted a 5:00 PM clean-up train, in which each member of her household was required to fall in line as they snaked through the entire house picking up errant socks and books and general life detritus. It had sounded intimidating  (even though she said they enjoyed it) to me at the time, but I could see the appeal in ending each day with a picked up house.

And so, despite my temptation to sulk, rather than truly look for a solution, I said, “Okay, let’s try it.”

So, we did.

And it worked.

So, we still do.

Every night at 7 PM, our trustworthy Alexa  begins chirping to let us know that it’s time to clean. And we get to work. Everyone but Honor pitches in. (Still trying to figure out how to train an almost one-year-old who doesn’t walk to throw away his own diapers).

The smaller kids repeat a version of the picking up routine they do in the mornings, every now and then with the addition of a rug vacuum. And the older boys and I usually tag-team the dishes + large pan scrubbing + sweeping. Shaun helps with picking up, redirecting wandering attention (AHEM, Theo and Twins), trash duty, or whatever else needs doing.

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Gittin ‘ur dun. P.S. She’s standing on my fave kid stool of all time. 

We turn on music. We might even boogie down a little. But mostly, we work. It takes 20-30 minutes with all of us hustling at our respective tasks to take the main living area from cluttered-enough-to-be-stressful:

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The milk is out. Dishes are piled in the sink. The island is strewn with leftover…stuff. And I do believe there are containers of garlic powder and cayenne on the sofa table???

to this:

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Don’t be deceived. This is clean-from-a-distance. Some nights, I have time/energy to wipe down the cabinets or rearrange the fridge if the dishes are light. Most of the time, though, this is simply main surfaces wiped down, floors swept (not mopped), dishes done, and clutter put away.

It’s not deep-cleaned. But do you know what it is? Stress-free!!

Half an hour of corporate cleaning makes my brain go AAAAAAHHHH every single night, and it’s glorious.

Now, obviously, I have lots of helpers, and some of my kids are older. But that also means that I have more mess-makers. And I can tell you that, after years of training the little ones, they are finally starting to get it. (So, if you only have wee ones, there’s still hope). The olders were gone the other night, and Della (7), the twins (5), and Theo (3) managed to help with dishes, pick up and vacuum the living room, put away toys, and throw away trash quite proficiently.

MOST of the problem with everything feeling so overwhelming was my assumption that–even though I require my children to help throughout the day–once it hit evening time, I was completely responsible for setting everything right. (No clue why). And, given how tired I usually am, many nights, that just wasn’t happening. With the result, of course, being a more cluttered and stressful start to our mornings.

The oh-so-subtle shift from: this is MY responsibility to this is OUR responsibility and let’s see how quickly and joyfully we can knock it out has done wonders for my energy levels, motivation, and attitude.

The kids don’t mind a bit. In fact, because of the music and camaraderie, they actually–gasp–enjoy it.

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Another important part of our evening routine: the older kids’ reading the children’s Bible to the oh-so-attentive littles after we clean. 

So, there you have it. The little cleaning trick that has revolutionized our nighttime routine.

Notice that it’s similar to the other mom’s idea but not identical. Different time. No conga line. BUT. The elements of togetherness, fun, and work are still present. And I think those are the keys.

Let me know if you give this a shot or if you already do something similar. I can’t believe it took me so long to implement this (thanks, Shaun), but I’m so glad we did.

P.S. I’m working on a no-sock-left-behind system that my Instagram peeps helped me devise, and I can’t wait to share it soon.

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