Thursday, November 19, 2009

MommySpirit - Light a Candle

This evening, take a few moments to pamper yourself and restore your spirit from the demands of the day.  After the kids have gone to bed, light a candle.  Turn off all artificial lights, sit back and put your feet up.  Relax and watch the flickering flame, enjoy the subtle soothing scent. Perhaps, treat yourself to a glass of wine, alone or with your husband. 
Don't save anything for "best".  Today is your best day. Enjoy today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inspirational Wednesday

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours...If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Image courtesy ONeal's Imports.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NeatnessCounts...The Remix!

I have always said that to see the state of my life, just look in my purse.

I have a thousand things going on in my life right  now.  This past Saturday, I finally had a moment to sit down and try to make sense of a few things, starting with my purse.  Some evidence of everything I am into was in there.  Information and receipts for my new home business, my kids, home bills, dates from my work calendar to be transferred to the home calendar, notes from my 9-5 job, blog ideas. 

As I sorted through it, I thought to myself, "How can I be the author of a home organizational blog, of all things when my purse looks like THIS!!!!"  That's when I realized that I had to do a remix on this blog. 

Many of my girlfriends and sister-friends in my life often say to me: "You're so organized.  You are always so well groomed.  Your house must look perfect every day."  While I am very flattered that anyone would think so highly of me, the truth is, I am FAR from perfect, FAR from perfectly disciplined.  The truth is, parts of my house (and sometimes even the whole house!) looks like someone tried to rob us.  Sometimes the systems I try don't work, and sometimes I look around this home I love so much and all I see is unfinished projects and I feel very overwhelmed.  But then I take a breath, break everything down into baby steps to be accomplished, and eventually I get it all done.   Nothing makes me feel better than making a mess into a success.  But it takes time, and nowadays I don't have much of it to do everything that needs to be done. 

We are having a party this weekend.  Tonight and tomorrow we will rush around straightening up for the cleaning lady on Wednesday, the house will be beautiful for the party, and then our family will dismantle the order we have created over the next two weeks, until it's time for the cleaning lady to come again.

So I hope that anyone who is reading this understands where I am coming from.  As this blog goes along, I will "show" you, literally and figuratively, parts of my life and home -  believe me, I could show you some before and afters that will make you shake your head in disbelief!  But it will all be done with the hope that someone who feels overwhelmed will get a little burst of inspiration.

Top image courtesy

Bottom image - purse, mid-cleanout, courtesy me!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Dizzy Duck

While trying (unsuccessfully!) last Saturday to persuade E. to lie down for an afternoon nap, I came across this old favorite in his stack of books - The Dizzy Duck by Chris Tougas.  It  seems to be out of print now (I think I picked up the worn copy we own from my mother in law's house!) but used copies are available at Amazon.  It's one duck's story of procrastination and overwhelm over the course of a day.  Though it's best when you can see the adorable illustrations, it's such an apropos teaching tool for kids, as well as being just a really cute story, that I had to bring it to the blog! 

The Dizzy Duck

The rooster crows good morning,
and the Dizzy Duck awakes.

He looks around his messy room. 
It's more than he can take.

He sits right down and plans out how
he'll put his toys away.

Which makes him feel so dizzy
that he runs outside to play.

He comes inside to try again
but cannot find his bed.

Which makes him feel so dizzy
that he takes a bath instead.

And once he's dry he plans to try
to stay up late and sweep.

Which makes him feel so dizzy...
Oops! He falls right back to sleep.

What a mess!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


As mothers, along with the need to manage our time and our space, comes the need to take time for our selves. I can only speak for myself, but as "une femme d'un certain age" (a lady of a certain age), it's quite important to me that I look as close to my best as I possibly can. So along with trying to design and implement strategies for my home, I am constantly working on my personal style, checking fashion and beauty trends, and looking for resources to help me get the best prices on the good stuff.

In the coming weeks, from time to time, I'll be bringing some of those resources to you. Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Inspirational Wednesday

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order--willed, faked, and so brought into being.

Anne Dillard (The Writing Life)


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crockpot Tuesday - "Dump" Chicken

Dump chicken is a cooking concept whereby you place chicken parts and ingredients into a plastic freezer bag, then freeze and defrost for the crock pot or baking pan when needed.  It's a convenient way to have a tasty, well seasoned chicken meal on short notice.

Here's a gold mine of Dump Chicken recipes, as well as a collection of Dump Chicken recipes geared toward those who practice batch or freezer cooking.

By the way, dear readers, you may have noticed that here at NeatnessCounts, we eat a lot of chicken! And you'd be right! Although I personally do not eat red meat or pork, we will be bringing some delicious non-chicken recipes your way soon!


Top image courtesy Recipe Goldmine.

Monday, November 9, 2009

OrganizeYour....Potty Training?????????

I have the unfortunate distinction of being the mother of an almost four year old who is not yet fully potty trained.

This situation is partially the result of a deliberate parenting decision.  With C., I was personally determined that he WOULD be fully potty trained by the age of three.  His daycare teacher at the time asked me if I would like to start potty training him in late June, when he was a little less than two years old.  I agreed, and everything was going along swimmingly for a couple of months, until that particular teacher left the school and a less experienced teacher took her place.  This teacher and I did not see eye to eye, so potty training was not consistent between home and school.  One Christmas trip to Disney later, the schedule was so kaput that potty training was too. 

While at a Memorial Day barbecue, C. noticed that the little girl of the house, who was quite a bit younger and not even really very verbal, was able to go poopy on the potty.  C. informed Hubby P. that he had to use the bathroom, went poopy, and was trained from that day on, at two years eight months old.

When E. came along, I decided not to even consider potty training him before he turned two years old, and in fact to sort of let him "train himself."  I joked that I wouldn't start to train him until he asked me, in an English accent, "Mummy, I think I would like to use the potty now."  In discussion with his teachers, we started training him around age three.  I thought by starting a bit older, he'd be fully trained in a matter of weeks.

Fast forward nine months.  E. understands what to do, but he just doesn't feel any compunction to do it consistently. But at least I am not totally alone - the child care center director's son is the same age, and is having the same issues.

So I write this post to pass along the benefit of my experience on how to plan, or "organize", your potty training experience.

Earlier vs. Later. As you may surmise from my stories above, it can be difficult to determine the right time to start potty training your child.  In general, I think it's best to wait until the child shows interest in the bathroom and seems to understand what goes on in there.  There are many books available which will try to convince you that you can potty train your child in as little as one day.  It certainly can't hurt to read these books, and they may even help you, but in my opinion, kids get trained when they are ready, and not a moment before.

Boys vs. Girls.  None of my mommy friends have ever expressed any difficulties in training their girls.  It seems to be as simple as telling the little girl: "Today you can wear Dora underwear (or Barbie, or pink flowered, or whatever she's into) but you have to keep it dry and clean.  Most of my friends who are parents of boys reported that it was relatively easy to train their boys to go "#1", but #2 took a longer time.  Boys tend to hide and give other cues when they have to go #2, and seem to be afraid of what will happen if they do "it" in the potty.  So this piece of the puzzle might take a while to fit, but it's usually one of the very last pieces.

Consistency is Key.  Whenever you decide to jump in, you need to be consistent from that point on.  As a first time parent, I was unaware of how convenient diapers were.  Once you start potty training, whenever you go out you have to carry change(s) of clothes and be aware of where every "potty" is in the vicinity.  And once you put your child in underwear, they should wear it full-time, with the possible exception of night time (night dryness comes last).  For this reason, I think it's best to start potty training in warmer weather if possible.  This makes it easier to change clothes with a minimum of inconvenience to you and less discomfort to your child.

Clothing. Potty training is also the point where you have to let go of those cute one-piece outfits and overalls for a while.  Clothes need to pull up and down easily, especially for boys.  Consider starting out with thicker training pants and wait until your child begins to understand the potty habit and can stay dry a little longer, before moving on to the cute superhero or frilly underwear in hopes of motivating him or her to complete training more quickly. Keep track of your child's progress using charts like the free ones available here.  Reward your child's efforts with hugs and stickers.  With C., we learned the hard way to minimize sugary rewards to one M & M for #2 success!

Dealing with Accidents. Bigger kids make bigger messes! I would keep several extra plastic bags and double or triple the amount of wipes I usually carry in my diaper bag for accidents outside the house. I have had several harrowing experiences with messier accidents, the most recent at a water park...don't worry, I figured out what was happening in time!   You might also consider investing in flushable wipes.  For at home accidents, well, sometimes you just gotta pop them in the tub.  

Oh, the Laundry!  Potty training is a laundry nightmare,  When we built our new house, I knew I was pregnant with E., (although I didn't yet know whether he was a boy or a girl) so I ordered the laundry sink.  Between potty training and all the other yuck my boys bring in the house, it's one of the best decisions I ever made.  Laundry sink or no, soak underwear in a bucket or basin with hot water and a splash of ammonia, rinse, then dump the gross water in the commode and launder the underwear as usual.  Even so, there will be times when you will just go ahead and chuck the undies.

E. is coming right along with the potty training, and in fact made great strides just this past weekend.  I console myself with the sure belief that he when we walks across the stage to accept his degree from Harvard University, he will probably not be wearing a Pull-Up!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This is the kid who....

completed the following assignment in October 2009, one full month into fifth grade:
(Assignment is reported exactly as written.)

Science Chapter 7 Lesson 3

1.  Write about a path through the rock cycle from the perspective of a rock.  Begin with the following types of rock: igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.  Be sure to include details about the forces and processes that change the rock you have chosen.

Hi!  I'm a igneous rock.  I was just cooled down and formed into rock.  Ow!  Water's being forced against me.  I'm being weathered and now I'm sediment.  Now I'm being pressurized and all of the sediment around me is being cemented together.  Now I'm a sedimentary rock.  I'm sandstone and I'm all gritty.  Whew!  Now is the room getting smaller?  Gawd, it's boiling in here!  Ah! All this pressure hurts!  Eggegeh, ahhhh! I'm glad that's over!  Bye-bye, sedimentary rock, hello, metamorphic rock! I'm igneiss and do I look good! I've got black stripes and a gray surface.  Whoah, I'm being sucked into a volcano.  Ew, I'm magma and now I'm all liquidy.  Whoah, this baby's gonna blow!  Wheee! Oof! Ahhh, now I'm back to being obsidian, a igneous rock.  Bye!

He received 100% on the quiz.  The teacher commented, "Great job!  You followed all of the directions!"...the only kid in class who did!

Image: Low Brown Karate Test, April 2008.  Image courtesy Hubby P.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What are you doing with the kids this weekend?

Have you ever seen that commercial with the three moms of infants on a "playdate"?  The moms are chatting away about how much the kids are enjoying playing together when the camera cuts to the three babies, blissfully sleeping in their infant carriers.  That "playdate" was for the moms!

Yakini commented on my post last week about my mother's group, saying she wished she had something like that to go to with her baby son Chase.  When I first had my son C., I remember wishing that I had a defined support group of fellow mommies to just "be" with from time to time.  Between everyone's child on a different schedule and each mom's differing parenting philosophies, I remember feeling a bit isolated.

The mother's group I belong to, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., (more on this in a future post) is for children aged two and up.  But I would encourage any mom of an infant to look to your own resources to make your own little support group.  Chat up other moms if you take your child to daycare, swimming or music classes.  I actually think it's easier to coordinate meetups when you each have one child - there are fewer scheduling and naptime conflicts.  Consider purchasing simple social cards such as those available at TinyPrints or VistaPrint (where you can order free cards from selected designs, just pay shipping) to simplify exchanging contact information.

Mommies of infants can meet for a morning coffee date at the bakery or the park.  A couple of hours of girlfriend chat between babies' naptimes will do wonders to recharge you.  For toddlers ages two to about four, consider meeting at a play place like Chuck E. Cheese - but be sure to go at 9 a.m. when they open.  Normally I personally consider places like Chuck E. Cheese a headache waiting to happen, but the kids love it!  There is usually have a small contained area with activities which are suitable for smaller children.  At opening time, it will be deserted enough that you can relax, and your child will be ready to go home before the birthday parties start and it gets chaotic!

So, why not reach out to that nice mom you keep seeing at morning drop off or Gymboree, and ask her if she'd like to get together with the kids this weekend? Maybe she's looking for a supportive mommy friend too.

Thanks for the support, Yakini!  Be sure to check out Yakini's blog, The Prissy Mommy Chronicles, at  It's about her experiences as a new mommy to Chase, with some girly stuff thrown in.  I think it's great and I bet you will too!

Image courtesy bestofbakingsoda.

Thursday, November 5, 2009



A workout is 25% perspiration and 75% determination. It is one part physical exertion and three parts self discipline. Doing it is easy once you start. A workout
makes you feel better today than you did yesterday. It strengthens the body, releases the mind and toughens the spirit. Workout regularly and your problems
diminish as your confidence grows. A workout is a personal triumph over laziness and procrastination. It is the badge of a winner and mark of an organized, goal oriented person who has taken charge of his/her destiny. A workout is a wise use of time and an investment in excellence. It is a way of proving to yourself that your have what it takes to do what is necessary. A workout is the key that helps unlock the door to opportunity and success. Hidden within each of us is an extraordinary force. Physical and mental fitness are triggers that release it. A workout is a form of rebirth. When you finish a good workout, you don't simply feel better, you feel better about



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Inspirational Wednesday

"Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time,effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing."

-Jim Rohn

Image courtesy Annia 316.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crockpot Tuesday - Overnight Oatmeal

We talked yesterday about some ways to streamline your morning routine. As the weather cools down, I want my kids to have a hot, healthy breakfast but it has to be convenient to prepare. I've heard a lot about crockpot oatmeal so I decided to check it out.

According to Stephanie Gallagher of,

"This Crockpot oatmeal recipe is a wonderful way to enjoy a hot breakfast with virtually no work in the morning. Just dump the ingredients in the slow cooker at night and wake up to a healthy, comforting breakfast in the morning. Be sure to use steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal or Scottish oats) for this recipe. If you use rolled oats, it will not hold up to the long cooking process."

The recipe is for Crockpot Oatmeal with Honey and Apples looks great - but the diced apples have to be added an hour before serving, so I might try it on the weekend or omit that ingredient on weekday mornings altogether.

Blogger Ann Roeker provides a picture tutorial on how she prepares her  Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oatmeal; she puts the oatmeal in a bowl inside the crock instead of directly into the crock itself - maybe that's the way to compensate for a larger crockpot like I have.

Over at the Food Network website, I found Alton's Brown's recipe for Overnight Oatmeal with Dried Cranberries and Figs.

It's always important to look at the reviews on recipe websites like Food Network and For example, Meghan comments on Alton Brown's recipe:

"We have been making this recipe for years now and love it! You must use steel cut oats and an average size slow cooker (3qt) for this to turn out great without modifications. If you are like me and have one of the large 6qt slow cookers, cut the time in half. Fresh fruit does not do well (which is why Alton specifically adds dried). The dried fruit absorbs the water and plumps for fantastic flavor. We change up the fruit selection and sometimes even add nuts instead. Our favorite combo's are dried apples and walnuts, dried cherries and blueberries, and raisins and craisins." 

...while Marcy adds:

"We made it for years as a half recipe in a smaller crockpot, washing it every day. Now, our four year old insists on her own big bowl, so we're making a triple batch in a six quart crock pot so it lasts for several days. I make it with 3 cups of steel cut oats, 9 3/4 cups of water and 2 cups of half and half. I give the pan a little spray of cooking spray before I put everything in. I cook it for 8 hours on low. No burning, and it's easy to clean. We heat it up with a little milk after the first day. (We omitted the fruit after the first time, and we dress it up to our liking with brown sugar and various dry fruits.)"

So as I noted in my first crockpot post, your mileage may vary based upon your crockpot and your preferences!  But give it a try! I'm sure going to! Let me know if you try it!

Top image courtesy of nursdurkin.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Morning Scramble

Hubby P. is in law enforcement and normally has a very regular daily work schedule.  Bless his heart, he usually gets the kids up and dressed in the morning and drops them both off on his way to work.  This permits me the daily luxury of getting ready for work at my leisure in peace and quiet.  However, his work schedule just changed so that he has to leave the house by shortly after 6:00 A.M., so that I need to get to the my morning workout at the gym, get myself dressed for work, get C. to the school bus by 7:00 A.M., take E. to preschool, and drive 45 minutes to my office. 

For someone like me who thrives on order and routine, this schedule change has caused an uproar.  I have to get myself showered, dressed, made up and coiffed within 30 minutes!!!  But dig we must! So we're adjusting.  I still get my workout in, although it's a bit abbreviated, and so far I have been able to scramble all three of us out of the door within the time allotted.  It takes 3 weeks to form a good habit so I am hoping that this will all seem like second nature soon.

This is a great time to talk about just how to get out of the house in the morning.

Your success will largely be determined by what you get done the night before.

  • Lay out everyone's clothes.  For a working mom, I recommend laying out your entire outfit from hose to jewelry.  Make sure everything is ironed and ready to wear.

  • Pre-assemble any lunches and snacks.

  • Check all homework and paperwork.  Do you have to send in any permission forms or checks?  Is tomorrow school picture day?

  • Place fully packed (except for perishable lunches) backpacks, musical instruments, purses, etc. by the door.  FlyLady calls this spot the "launch pad". Don't forget to put a note somewhere where you can see it (like on your exit door!) to remind you to place the perishable items in the lunch bags before you leave the house!

  • Especially if you have little kids, make sure that their shoes, coats and hats are located the night before, because for some reason they always disappear in the morning, even if you think you put them where they belonged the night before!

  • Plan the kids' breakfast. Cereal can be prepoured into covered bowls and milk can be pre-measured into covered plastic cups.  For a hot breakfast, regular or steel cut oatmeal can be prepared overnight in the crockpot (more on this tomorrow).  My kids are picky - some days they want oatmeal, some days they don't - so I do keep instant packets available.  Cut the sugar by combining a plain packet with a flavored variety.
In the morning:  Start by getting yourself ready first.  If Hubby P. isn't at home, I shower myself and do my makeup before waking the kids up. I get them dressed and settled for breakfast, then I dress myself.  If Hubby P. is at home, I leave the house for my workout, then come back to say goodbye to him and shower while the kids have breakfast.  Now I had become accustomed to a long leisurely shower, but now I have to keep a tight schedule.  I set a timer to keep me on my morning tasks.  5 minutes to shower, 5 minutes to brush and Waterpik/floss (I have braces), and 5-6 minutes to do the world's quickest makeup. 

Through this all I still have to remember to keep the kids on task.  Are they actually eating the breakfast on the table?  Are they fighting?  I usually give them a five minute warning to put their coats and shoes on when we have fifteen minutes to go before we have to leave the house.

Why fifteen minutes?  Because a. they don't hear me and b.  if they hear me they don't listen until I say it several times.  And even then I don't hear them start to move.  Ah, the joys of motherhood.  Once they start moving, this is when I typically start to hear how a shoe lace is too knotted to be untied or they just can't get their coat zipped. By this time I am downstairs and can assist.

Once I get downstairs, we pretty much have to go straight out of the door.  Yes, I know that I have not allotted any breakfast time for myself in here.  I usually prepare myself coffee and a protein shake to go (more on that in another post), which I will drink in the car, or have yogurt and cereal at my desk.

And do it all over again tomorrow!

Image courtesy Annie Mole.


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