Monthly Archives: October 2013

Classroom Management and Household Management: Schedule and Procedures

In this series, I hope to describe ways that the classroom is not unlike the home, and how treating it similarly has helped me not lose my mind completely.  But I wouldn’t mind your help! If you have a question on how to run your “home room” with more structure, suggestions on how you do the same, or just an observation, feel free to leave a note for me in the comments!

In a classroom, there has to be an understanding of how things are supposed to go. Each classroom has a procedure for certain things, from bathroom breaks to passing out papers. It prevents small things from becoming obnoxious speed bumps to learning. A daily schedule that has little variation helps as well – it allows for students and teachers alike to know what to expect, and how to maneuver throughout the day. Procedures and schedules help the teacher to know what to prepare for and help everyone know how to manage their time wisely.

It wasn’t hard for me to fall into a schedule at school  – it’s necessary, and you work things out with other teachers.  It’s just common sense really, something you do without even thinking about eventually. Procedures for the small things are the same way –they’re just second nature in the classroom.  At home, which is naturally a more relaxed environment, it’s not always the case.

Adults at home do naturally fall into a routine; you know yours without even thinking about it. Children behave better and are more comfortable with a set routine, yet for some reason they are frequently working to upend it. That’s why I highly recommend creating a schedule and implementing procedures, and cling to them like a lifeboat. Here’s why…

When certain things happen in a set order daily (or at least weekly) children come to know what to expect, and like the students I mentioned above, they can prepare themselves accordingly. It also means that there are SO many fewer arguments over the small stuff because ‘that’s just the way it is.’ We wash our hands before lunch, naptime is immediately after lunch, snacktime after that (around 3ish when school is over). We wash our hands after using the potty (unless you only pee, and you’re not going to go eat something – then it’s ok to use the sanitizer… it’s better than nothing when they think they’re going to miss something). The kids know all of these things, and to them that’s just the way it is.

Right now, the two year old is beginning to protest naptime after lunch. He’s starting to get old enough where he still needs at least a short nap, but could keep himself awake if he needed/wanted to badly enough. Without one, though, he’s a mess by the end of the day. He’s proclaimed “No, I no need nap… I watch TV instead!” or “I nap, then get right up!” Which means that he lays there for about 3 minutes, then tries to sneak around the house and pester his sisters. Of course, this isn’t allowed – it’s naptime. His sisters, if they’re home, are having ‘quiet time’ reading, coloring, playing quietly, or getting an hour of TV/iPad time, and he can have that… if he sleeps first. These are the rules. I don’t cave in because he’s not ENTIRELY sleepy yet, or because he throws a fit, or keeps getting out of bed. Even if he gets up five times, he goes back down, because that’s the procedure.

Now I’m not saying that the kids are CONSTANTLY trying to get out of washing their hands, refusing to sit when it’s snacktime, or throwing fits during naptime. I don’t have to fight them all the time – it just happens every once in awhile when the little ones reach a stage of trying to test their bounds. “A little rebellion is good, healthy even!” (Name that movie!) Eventually, the two year old WILL be allowed to just have quiet time, and he’s testing to see if that time is now (dear Lord no NO no… not yet). In fact, they’re not constantly testing me BECAUSE they know that this is the order in which things go, and these are the procedures they’re expected to follow. I don’t change things up on them without giving at least a bit of notice.

Sometimes it’s a pain for me to stick to the routine, when it would just be easier to let them eat lunch/snack whenever they wanted to, or caved in to every request, but I would pay for it later if they knew they could wear me down. A little ‘stick-to-it’-ive-ness goes a long way in the end. It’s taken me two years with these kids to really get a good schedule that works, and even then it bends and flexes with the seasons, but it’s never been completely uprooted. Even on the days that we have a grand outing that takes the whole day, I still try and keep elements of the schedule in the day. This is also helpful when that day ends and they need naps/snacks/quiet time/whatever. They get the sense that ‘this is what is happening now, no arguments,’ and the rest of the day goes peaceably. Having these procedures in place make the day go by a million times easier.

What about you? What does your schedule look like?  Do you have one? Or do you have kids that buck the system no matter what? What do you do about that? Let me know in the comments!

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Communication and Vinyl Flooring

My husband and I have great communication skills. With each other, at least, heh. We find each other quite amusing, which is good, I suppose, since we’re stuck together ’till death.’ I had a friend in high school who, after watching us interact,  remarked that though one could tie us up back to back and throw us in a closet, we wouldn’t get bored – we would still have stuff to talk about and be able to laugh at/with each other.  It’s true.  Besides that we are good at discussing issues before they get out of hand. We don’t allow the silent treatment with each other, and we make sure to listen to the other, especially when it counts.

Honestly, we hardly ever fight. I mean real fights where feelings get hurt, yelling occurs, etc. Nope. I can’t recall the last time we did that. It’s literally been years. Now, little spats of frustration, especially when we’re both tired and grumpy, occur with more frequency, but those are mostly grump-fests that cure themselves with dinner and a good night’s sleep. It all comes back to our communicating with each other.

However, there are some days where even the best of communicators are no match for misunderstandings and home renovations. This was one of those days.

On the list of fixing up our house – along with the living room shenanigans – is removing the carpeting from the dining room and the bathrooms (my entire house is wall to wall carpet, have I mentioned that?), and putting down something not-carpet, and cheap. On one of our many trips to Lowes to gather supplies for the living room, Mike happened to wander back through the flooring and notice that some of the luxury vinyl was under a dollar for a square foot. He mentioned this to me before my running about today, when I visited a discount store that boasted cheap flooring.

With this knowledge in mind, and my good friends Boundless Confidence and Naïveté in tow, I thought “ Huh, so ‘under a dollar’ must be a really good price for cheap flooring.” Therefore, when I found nice vinyl flooring  for $1.11/sq ft, I figured that was a great price for something that looked pretty good, and that everything else at Lowes had to be at LEAST $1.50 – $3.00 for the same or similar. (I hadn’t done my research yet, mmmmkay?) So I picked out all the tile I needed, and even got a couple of nice patterns for the bathrooms that match what we have (they match perfectly, it was serendipitous).  After a little back and forth with Mike on the phone, the vinyl tiles were purchased, loaded (those things are heavy!) and almost on their way home.

I still had to make a trip to Lowes, (after a grocery run – ‘dem kids gotta eat) since Mike had run out of plaster for the living room walls. Just out of curiosity, I visited the flooring section, to see if what I got looked as good as what was in a not-discount store.

Well, it looked good. It looked even better when I saw the price. Most of it was running for $.88/sq ft, and the cheapest was stinking $.38!! *Long exasperated sigh*

So I get all of the goods home, and Mike and I… well, we don’t really have a fight… we have a “but you said” exasperation fest. You see, Mike was just breezing through the flooring, and happened to see a sale sticker – he didn’t actually look at the rest of the prices like I thought he did. I thought he was more certain of those prices, and when Boundless Confidence talked through me about those at the discount store, he trusted that I knew what I was talking about.

One of these days I’m going to teach him to stop trusting me and those two friends. SOOooooooo… long story short, I have 144 square feet of tile to return shamefaced to that discount store to save at least $50 – $100. TA-DA!!!! *Facepalm*

I’m keeping that bathroom vinyl though. An extra few cents is worth a serendipitous color match.  I’m just saying…

OMGBARBIE!

GUYS!

Guysguysguys… Listen. I have to tell you about something that I found. It’s hilarious. I can’t even believe it. OH, the joy this has brought me…

Ok, sorry, I need to back it up a bit. You see, one day last week, one of the girls was watching TV on Netflix. When it’s on the kids section, she can choose what she wants to watch during naptime (she’s too old to need a nap). I heard some wackiness going on, and popped my head in to see what she found.  And what she found… Was this.

BarbieLITDThese are short cartoons, whose animation style looks like they lifted Barbie straight from Toy Story, and gave her the dreamhouse. It’s as though Barbie, the dreamhouse, her friends, pets, and her accessories simply came to life. It takes itself about as seriously as Barbie is supposed to be taken; as a fun child-like creature who can go to the moon and be a vet all in the same day, while hosting a supercool block party afterwards. But more than that – I swear it has to be written by folks in their mid-twenty to forties, who grew up either playing with barbies or suffering through playing with their sisters’ barbies, and now have daughters who want to watch a Barbie cartoon. They want to make a good one for them, but they just can’t help but inject their own brand of humor into it.

It’s VERY watchable. After hearing a bit of what the kids were watching, I told Mike that we had to check this out. I just wanted to see if that one joke I heard was a fluke, and ohmygoodness it was NOT. I’m so glad we watched it. MIKE was cracking up. We watched the whole of what was on Netflix, and in that 20-40 minute span, they cracked jokes straight from Star Trek, Star Wars, AND Indiana Jones. I was dying. And I swear the computerized ‘closet’ of Barbie’s is a GladOS reference (Portal, anyone?) not to mention the fact that he acts like the parent or big brother who gets to play with Barbie – he just wants to keep her closet organized, and can’t help but turn “evil” every once in a while “Why does he even HAVE that switch?”

Seriously, who else does this remind you of?
Seriously, who else does this remind you of?

I think the reason this brings me such joy is that I didn’t have these things when I was a kid. Or, at least, they weren’t as awesome.  I’m not sure if it’s a thing, but I’m a bit of a Barbie geek, and I can’t wait to share it with my someday daughters. I LOVED it growing up, but now that I’m an ‘adult’ with ‘a kid of my own’ … Well, I still love the Barbie brand, and IT KEEPS GETTING BETTER. Think about it – what kind of Barbie things do they have now?  There’s a WHOLE fairyland line! Where were you when I was going through my fantasy stage!?!

I can't even. SHE HAS WINGS GUYS!!!
I can’t even. SHE HAS WINGS GUYS!!!

You know what I had when I was a kid? I had the Barbie Mail Room. Apparently Barbie had to do some real work in the post office between her doctorates and her stint at NASA. Thrilling.  That’s the Barbie that I got. Don’t get me wrong, I totally had the convertible, and a couple of good houses (although they seemed to have disappeared over time, MOM), so things were looking up for Barbie by then at least. But we were not yet at “Mariposa” stage. Kids these days.

Laaaaaaaaame. And I had this set. I would know. At least it had pretend food 'n stuff.
Laaaaaaaaame. And I had this set. I would know. At least it had pretend food ‘n stuff.

My sister and I also had just about every Disney princess barbie that existed, which is what we played with primarily because imagination, guys. But the Disney princesses they have out now? SO PRETTY.

GA! Sparkly! She's so elegant! Prettyprettypretty.
GA! Sparkly! She’s so elegant! Prettyprettypretty.

Ahem. Anyways… Going back to the ‘Dreamhouse’ series. Check it out HERE. Or watch them on Netflix. The videos are just 3-5 minutes long, and YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!

Have YOU seen these? What did you think? Am I off my rocker and just fangirling, or are these as hilarious as I promised?

Classroom Management & Household Management: A Positive Environment

In this series, I hope to describe ways that the classroom is not unlike the home, and how treating it similarly has helped me not lose my mind completely.  But I wouldn’t mind your help! If you have a question on how to run your “home room” with more structure, suggestions on how you do the same, or just an observation, feel free to leave a note for me in the comments!

Children cannot thrive in fear or uncertainty, and they definitely can’t productively learn in a classroom that does not provide a safe, positive environment. Of course, the same goes for the home environment, and the caretaker’s environment. As a nanny, my goal for the children is not primarily educational (although that comes with it), but rather it is that they have a balanced, relaxed, and fulfilling day. For wee ones, that involves safe playtime, sleep, food, love, and plenty of each.  They know that I will be fair with them, and if I make a rule (or, let’s be honest, proclamation), or dole out a punishment that doesn’t seem fair, they all know that I will talk with them about it after that time-out is over. They will get to say their piece if they need to. I’ve had to apologize for unfair time outs before, after all the tears and shouting were over.   

I make sure I tell them I love them, or at least show it, on a daily basis, even if they were hellions. I believe there is no such thing as a bad child, just bad behavior or days, and I think the kids can feel that.  (Ok, a child can be really ‘bad’ if they have a poor upbringing – this is how we get juvenile delinquents and criminals. Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with that! Anymore, that is…) They know what I expect out of them, and if I find them straying from that expectation, they’ll know about it soon enough, usually through a verbal warning before anything else.

My expectations of them also have to be age appropriate.  I feel like people forget the abilities of children at different ages; not that they expect too much of them, but that they expect too little (and don’t even get me started on the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality). Within reason, if you hold children to high standards, and are fair and rational about it, they will usually meet those expectations in a home-like setting. In the classroom, you have other factors influencing that child more than the expectations of the teacher; classmates, parents, internal conflict trying to reconcile all these standards, etc.

Let me give you an example. At lunchtime, we all sit down to eat at the same time. The children are not allowed to get up from their seats until they are dismissed.  The two year old is old enough to sit down without being strapped down. Nearly every lunchtime he has to be reminded of that, but for the most part, he sits until he’s finished eating– he’s supposed to wait till I wipe him down. But my point is, he’s able to sit without needing strapped in. Throughout the day I find myself saying things like, “You’re sister is too little to understand what sharing is yet. Can you show her by waiting your turn with the toy and letting her have it first?” and “You’re the big sister, I expect you to not get so upset when your little brother calls you made up names. He’s just trying to irritate you because he missed you all day.” But in doing so, I hope to direct the children’s attention to why others are behaving the way they are, and to respond appropriately. I, myself, try to model that behavior of understanding as well. Ok, let’s be honest, I try to say and do those things. Sometimes it comes out not so nicely, or I’ve said it several times that day and I’m DONE.

My sincerest hope is that the children find my home warm and inviting, and that they don’t dread coming here. I could have all the toys and cookies in the world, but if my home wasn’t loving and positive, they would not want to be here. And when the baby leaps into my arms in the morning when she shows up, I think, “Mission Accomplished.”

The Living Room, Part 3

When we last spoke of the horrors that were the living room renovation, I told you about all the magical wallpaper we were finding, not to mention all the holes we were uncovering. Today I’ll update you on where we stand on those walls (which is really hard to do, defying gravity and all), and tell you about a bonus room redo!

After taking a break from the scraping, the hubby (Mike) and I (but mostly Michael every night after work) found that things went much smoother, due to a better wall beneath, and more determination. We decided to take down ALL the wallpaper, and just start fresh. It was a good decision, and now he’s working on patching all the holes and cracks in the plaster. It just feels good to have it all down and to have a fresh wall to start over with.  So, lets take a visual tour, shall we?

Here’s the living room (think of it as a panorama… I guess)

Going...
Going…

 

Going...
Going…

 

Still Going...
Still Going…

 

GONE!
GONE!

 And yes, I know those are all different shots of the room, so you’re seeing different walls… I’m still trying to figure out how to take pictures for this thing. I’m not a photographer. I just don’t even think to take pictures, so you’re lucky you’ve got anything here.

Ahem. Anyways…  After getting all of the wallpaper down, Mike went around and circled all of the areas that needed a bit of patching before we did anything with paint.

HiddenMickey
Find the hidden Mickey!

 And then he did some playing around with patching and filling in places with concrete (instead of trying to mess with replacing lath, or whatever it’s called).

Concretefix

And then we realized it was late and stopped for dinner and bedtime.

 

MEANWHILE… In the spirit of all this fixer-upper nonsense, allow me to direct your attention to our dining room. You see, two years ago, our then-puppy was feeling lonely on a day when we weren’t home, and wanted to play tug-o-war with something, he chose the wallpaper in our dining room. This irritated me greatly because I didn’t ever want to have to mess with the wallpaper in the dining room (or anywhere else in the house to begin with, but obviously THAT desire was unfulfilled). Fast forward to what we’re doing now, and I realize that, while we are peeling wallpaper and paining anyways, we might as well get the mess that is the dining room fixed.

However, the wallpaper that was ruined covered only HALF of the wall, separated by a trim, so that’s the only paper that we had to fix. Yay! During snacktime one day this week, I started to pick at the paper that remained, to find that it came off like a breeze (which makes the dog’s massive destruction a little more understandable now). “Kids!” I shouted, “Wanna help me peel wallpaper?!?” They were more than happy to oblige; they felt like they were helping. And they really did! It was that easy to take off! Here’s what was underneath.

Diningbefore2 Diningbefore1

(The initial excitement at the easy-peeling paper is why you don’t have a real ‘before’ pic. Sorry. Again with the not being a picture taker kinda person, thing)

Now, because I liked the colors to begin with, and didn’t want to have to mess with changing the top wallpaper, (I wanted this done and overwith in a weekend, people) I just found the color that matched the trim, and, after putting down a layer of primer (and a small patch job), we re-painted the trim and the whole lower part of the wall the same color. Eucalyptus Leaf by Valspar, if you must know. It’s nice. Then, because just a flat paint really showed off all of the flaws in the wall, and simply looked unfinished, we got a glaze just a shade lighter and used a dragging technique to make it look a bit like wallpaper. Here’s how it turned out.

Diningpaint2 DiningPaint1

Obviously, it’s not finished finished yet, but the paint is still wet as I write this. That’s why it’s still a bit shiny. After we get the tape off, and all the furniture back where it belongs, I’ll be sure to show you… NEXT TIME! HA!

In the meantime, I’ll be researching what to do with the living room paint colors. I know we are going to use a venetian plaster finish, but beyond that… um… HELP! Anyone have any ideas? I have a taupe couch, a set of richly stained cherry furniture, and everything else is black and white. I like greens, but I’m open for suggestions! Let me know in the comments what you think!

How I deal with sick little ones…

Every year when school starts up, the sickies roll around. It starts with one of them having a runny nose and a bit of a cough, and the next thing I know my house looks like Slimer from Ghostbusters paid a visit. Snot everydangwhere. Their noses become faucets, and I spend half the day chasing the wee little ones around, trying to keep the drip in check.

I get a good workout at least.

But when those sickies stick around (like they have been for the past, like, month now), there are a few things I like to do to help the kids feel more comfortable, and get on the way to wellness.

Invest in a Few Good Essential Oils

In my attempt to try and be as independent from medicines and chemical cleaners as possible, I’ve learned how to use some essential oils, and I LOVE it. When the kids are sick, I whip out the Lavender oil, Eucalyptus oil, and Tea Tree oil. I’ll explain why in a bit, but I would highly recommend doing some research and learning how to use some on your own. There’s many ways to use a single oil by itself, and put in conjunction with others, they can be pretty powerful, not to mention safer than some other things in stores. I’ll probably have another post later on how I use my essential oils, but, as I say, another post for another time…

Tissues

When the kids’ noses have turned into leaky faucets, I do my best to keep tissues in my pocket for the one year old and my baby. As for the two year old, I’ve had to teach him how to at least wipe his nose, and to USE ONLY ONE! Good grief I can’t tell you how many times THIS MONTH I’ve gone into the bathroom to find nearly a whole box of nearly unused tissues in the trash. And what do you do? Take them back out? (heh, I did. They were the boy’s special tissues to learn how to properly blow his nose. Waste not, want not). Also, have you seen those silly canisters of ‘Boogie Wipes’ on the market? They’re amazing! They’re gentler than tissues and wet washcloths, and somehow more effective than both at getting off the dried on sticky snot. I recommend them.

Don’t Be Afraid of Extra Screen Time

Whether in front of the TV or with the iPad, I let the kids relax in front of the screen for a little longer than usual. I mean, come on, what do YOU do when you feel like crud? I try to gauge it on how they’re acting, because I don’t want them lounging around so long that they can’t get in a good nap later. Staring at a TV for hours is no replacement for quality sleep for one. Hour that is.

Put a Pot of Water on to Boil

Or invest in a steam vaporizer (And none of that ‘cool mist’ nonsense. Cold and wet? Can you say yucky? Just be smart about it, like you would with ANY hot water. Common sense people). Here’s where those essential oils come in.  I put in a few drops of eucalyptus and tea tree oils in a large pot of water, and put it on to boil. The eucalyptus has camphoraceous properties (think Vick’s Vapo-rub), and the tea tree oil helps to cut down on bacteria and mold in the air (I use it in my cleaning solutions too). At night, I include a few drops of lavender oil in the mix in the vaporizer as well. A couple of drops in the baby’s bath don’t hurt either. Just a couple of drops work. Essential oils last FOREVER.

Also I turn the heat up in the house a few degrees. Kiddies aren’t very good at staying covered up in blankets, and don’t/can’t tell me when they feel chilled.

No Heavy Foods

I try to give the kids a lunch and snack that is as clean, fresh, and healthy as possible. Brothy soup, sandwiches, fruits and veggies, etc. Not only is this just healthier and more nutritious, which is what sick kids need more than ever, but also… well…

Snotty kids have AMAZING gag reflexes, and I’ve learned my lesson when I’ve given them heavy ‘comfort food,’ only to have it come back up again after a good coughing fit. Ew.

Also, don’t be surprised if their appetites aren’t what they usually are, and a heavy meal won’t help that.

Teatime

For myself, I have a couple cups of tea a day, no matter what. It’s how I self-soothe. The kids caught on, and now love to drink chamomile, white, and peppermint tea. All of these are good for kids with colds. If they’re old enough to drink from a mug, I let them do that. Steamy tea is very nice. If they’re too little for that, and can’t be patient with hot tea, I either give it to them icy cold or still quite warm (gulping temperature, you know what I mean) in a sippy cup.

What About Fevers?

Fevers are tricky. I feel like these kids get fevers at the drop of a hat (did that happen often when people wore hats all the time? Hats falling?), and I’ve learned not to worry about them too much. The body needs to heat up in order to kill the bugs causing the sickness. Only if the child/baby is acting really pathetic or in pain (crying, whining, rubbing head, rolling around more on the floor, not eating, etc.) do I give him pain medicine to bring the fever down. (Ibuprofen. Tylenol is not the best here, though it works in a pinch).

Extra Snuggles

Because who doesn’t want to be held and have a back rub when she’s feeling icky?

Those are some of the things I try to do when we’ve got a virus tromping through the house. What do YOU do when the sickies come to visit? 

Classroom Management & Household Management

No one, to the best of my knowledge, goes to school to become a mom. Although, if there is a school where one can major in home economics, let me know… I would like to get my doctorate, with a double minor in philosophy and homesteading. What the heck, I’ll even take a basket-weaving class, underwater or not!  Sign me up! Then hire me as a professor after I graduate!

No, my friends, I did not go to school for Motherhood, but I did get my Bachelor’s degree in the next closest thing; Teaching. And yeah I went there- I do feel that teachers step into the role of parent from time to time, but that’s another post for another time.

Actually, what I want to talk about today is classroom management, and how it relates to my own household management. You see, with a house full of five children, I feel like I’m running a mini school (and I haven’t even started homeschooling yet!). Of course, that may be because I took quite a bit away from my classroom management classes and now apply them to wrangling the kids on a daily basis, but I find links between the two pretty easily.  Really, I should call it ‘Child Management,” but then it just sounds like I’m training babies to be CEOs.

Maybe I should clarify, for those not in the educational field. Classroom management is just that – making sure a classroom has a plan for running smoothly, and a goal for each day.  It lays out rules, expectations, needs, procedures, etc.  In school, I had to write out a whole fancy plan for how I expected my classroom to run. It really was magnificent.  When I applied it to my teaching career, well, let’s just say that my classroom was ship shape (as ship shape as a large herd of young middle-schoolers can be).We did quite a bit of fun activities. On most days my house is fairly ship shape too, considering the kids are all of different ages, and two of them are just babies.  

In this series, I hope to describe ways that the classroom is not unlike the home, and how treating it similarly has helped me not lose my mind completely.  But I wouldn’t mind your help! If you have a question on how to run your “home room” with more structure, suggestions on how you do the same, or just an observation, feel free to leave a note for me in the comments!

See you Friday!

Blogs I Read (and Why You Should Too) – The Pioneer Woman

If you’re reading my blog, I’m assuming I’m not the only blog you’re visiting. I’m also assuming that you haven’t searched the blogosphere very long (or are one of my relatives, ha!) because there are many more, far better blogs out there you could be reading.

 This is one of those blogs…

"My name is Ree...I'm a desperate housewife. I live in the country. I channel Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh, and Ethel Merman. Welcome to my frontier!"
“My name is Ree…I’m a desperate housewife.
I live in the country. I channel Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh, and Ethel Merman. Welcome to my frontier!”

*Sigh* The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond. A brilliant woman, an awesome blog. I’ve followed this blog for about five years now, and it just keeps getting better and more beautiful. This lady is, like, the epitome of blogging; she has guest bloggers (who are all quite professional themselves), organized subjects, in depth articles on all those subjects, recipes, tutorials, quizzes, prizes, the works. I don’t know if she has a manager for her blog or not, but she could –it’s quite the business. If my blog ever becomes half the blog she’s got, I’ll consider my writing a success.

I started following her because she is an excellent writer and storyteller. She’s honest and funny, no matter what she is telling you about. Usually her subjects deal with her life on the ranch, with her husband, homeschooled children, and several dogs, all of which get hungry. To that end, she’s an excellent cook, and her recipes kept me coming back to her blog again and again. In fact, she’s even published a couple of cookbooks in the past five years, and when I use her recipes, the hubby approves with vigor. Her recipes are husband keepers.

So I would recommend visiting her website if you’re feeling like a witty anecdote, a hotel review (She gets to travel quite a bit with her book tours), or a delicious recipe. Or help with homeschooling your kid. Or a quiz on her favorite 80’s movies. The possibilities are endless with the Pioneer Woman. 

As you can see below… I’m not the only one who agrees!

(And yes, I know she has a TV show on Food Network now  -There’s nothing this woman can’t do- but I don’t get cable, so I can only assume that it’s awesome…)

What do you think of these blog reviews? Want to hear more? Got a blog to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments! 

The Living Room, Part 2

A weekend or so ago we started deconstructing the living room, getting ready to remove wallpaper so we can smooth out the walls and give it a fresh coat of paint. Easy peasy, right? I even started picking out paint samples!

Pretty colors!
Pretty colors!

 At first we grabbed any and all paint sample cards that looked moderately decent to us. I like green, it’s my favorite color, and I like the tone that the original wallpaper gives off. To that end, I wanted to find something in green that was calm and soothing, but was neither too bright nor dark for the room in the house that gets the most light. Here are the paint chips at night, with our corner light on…

Not as many pretty colors!
Not as many pretty colors!

See how different those colors looks? And some of them turn invisible!

JUST kidding! I took down the ones we DEFINITELY didn’t want  to go for. Eventually I narrowed it down to two colors, and thought about doing a dark grey or even charcoal for the trim. You may catch the samples I splashed on the walls (and a tiny bit on the floor – sorry carpet!) in the next few pictures.

Taking down wallpaper is quite simple in theory; you wet it down thoroughly, loosen it from the wall to release the glue, and pull it all off! This is going to be easy, especially since the wallpaper is already coming down. The rest of it just needs a little encouragement, and down it will come!

My dear husband and I were young and naïve.

Almost as soon as we started scraping, we realized that the paper was a bit more tenacious than we had hoped. Still, we scraped on, pulling up bits at a time. It acted like a bad sticker stuck to something. You know, how you can pull up a sticker, and the top comes off but the sticky back stays stuck? That was our whole wall. The places we managed to get all of the wallpaper off revealed quite an interesting history of this wall.

Ew. Just ew.
Ew. Just ew.

We expected to see an extra layer of wallpaper underneath, no biggie. What we didn’t expect was it to also be painted here and there, and for that paint to come up with the wallpaper, whatever layer we ended up pulling up. We didn’t expect to see concrete patching the wall in places. We didn’t expect to see large holes in the wall appear as we pulled up paper. We didn’t expect a THIRD layer of wallpaper. We didn’t expect plaster patches that went OVER TOP of that first (last? Whatever. Third. You know what I mean.) layer of paper.

Still, we scraped on and on, and things seemed to get worse and worse.  Let me show you what I mean…

AwfulWall3Text

See? The wallpaper that we’ve dealt with all these years is quite nice. It’s a pretty blue, a bit iridescent in places, floral. Nice. Except when it falls down. The white stuff you see is the plaster, but it’s got specks of stuff in it, from being patched and heaven knows what else. The brown circle with the arrow pointing to it is encircling the middle layer of wallpaper. It was a strange brown color with tiny flowers. Bleh. Now the stuff between the plaster and brick SHOULD include wooden boards. Instead it’s this plaster mixed with some sort of material, like hair, grass, lint or something. Its stuck to the walls in order to provide a bit of insulation and gives the nice layer of plaster something to hold on to. Unfortunately when it’s old and uncovered, it becomes very crumbly and really worthless. This stuff was revealed not when we pulled down wallpaper, but previously when the roof leaked and the plaster became wet.

Finally we had to stop. It was late and the weekend was ending. With so much of the wall left to scrape, we felt quite defeated. It was time to throw in the towel, and ask the father-in-law what he thought our next step should be.

His answer I’ll tell you all about next time.

Thanks for reading!

The Living Room

We live in an old house.

A very, very, VERY old house.

So old it has wood paneling everywhere… So old it has carpeting everywhere… so old the electric wiring is special, to say the least… So old the ceilings are very high… So old the brick outside has to be painted… so old it has a dirt cellar… so old it’s been renovated several times, and the last one was sometime in the 60’s (I think).

You get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice house, it just needs a little TLC. Unfortunately, it hadn’t gotten that for quite some time, since the Hubby and I moved in about four years ago. A house needs to be lived in, in order to remain livable, and this house was starting to fall down when we moved in; it was being taken care of, but no one had actually lived in it for over six years prior. So as we sweep out the corners, and shake out the dust, we keep finding cracks. But for the longest time I thought the living room was, well, livable, despite the bits of water damage here and there from a previously fixed leaky roof.

See? Livable! Lovely, even!
See? Livable! Lovely, even!

And for awhile it was, but recently the exterior paint job had finally reached it’s breaking point, you know, after 30 years. Cracks in between the bricks under the dried and chipping paint led to cracks in the wall, which led to wet plaster, which led to crumbly plaster, mold, and wallpaper saying “I’m DONE!” and just falling off the walls. The plaster quickly started following suit.

See there? Under the window? "Abandon Ship!" - Wallpaper. Ignore the adorable babies playing. This isn't about them.
See there? Under the window? “Abandon Ship!” – Wallpaper. Ignore the adorable babies playing. This isn’t about them.

So the hubby and his dad spent a solid week (or two) caulking, sealing, and painting the outside of the house to seal it all up again. The rest of the family (myself included) gave a couple solid days of painting too (I didn’t forget you guys!), and the difference is amazing. I never realized how unsealed this house was until now. Seriously. Wow. Other doors in the house are actually affected if you open or close an outside door or window. As it should be.

But now it’s time to address the issue of the living room walls, and I got all excited, picking out paint colors, deciding on what to do with the trim, and wondering if I should do something special to the faux fireplace to make it look nicer. Because, honestly, how hard is it going to be to take down wallpaper that’s already falling down? We should have this done in a week, two tops, right?

AwfulWall6 Right???

AwfulWall2Oh dear. It seems we have quite a bit of work ahead of us…

Stay tuned for more updates on this fiasco… next time I’ll tell you what we discovered under all that wall paper…