Macie & Scout: Our First Babies

LJ tends to steal the show around here, but today I thought I’d share a little bit about the two fur babies that complete our little family. Today is all about Macie & Scout!

Justin and I always knew that we wanted to have a dog at some point. While we didn’t expect to get one at the start of our marriage, when two of Justin’s good friends bred their two labs together and offered us one of the puppies as a wedding gift, we joyfully accepted. In July 2013, on our one-month anniversary we became parents to eight-week-old Macie.

Macie is a pure lab mix. Her dad was a huge yellow lab and her mom was a small, field bred black lab. She was a spunky whirl of energy from the beginning!

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Puppy Macie with her dad, a 90 lb yellow lab!

Macie is very smart and she picked up on her training really quickly. Honestly, she made puppy parenthood a breeze. She crate-trained easily, she learned new tricks, and while she kept her high-level puppy energy for a full two years, she was usually very obedient. We loved taking her with us everywhere and to this day her enthusiasm for everything (snow, swimming, fetch, hiking, etc) makes her such a fun dog to have around!

After about six months with Macie, we started to feel a little bad for her. She had SO much energy and we were both so busy (me with my full-time job 40 minutes away and Justin with his full-time schooling) that we started talking about getting a second dog at some point so she would have a little buddy and not be bored. Macie is so sweet and fun but she can be a little bit clingy – ha!

While a second dog was in the back of our minds as a “someday” possibility, we weren’t seriously looking into it. But in January 2014, my friend found two small puppies outside her home. She lives in a wooded area and it was clear that the two puppies had been dumped into the woods by their previous owners. Did you catch that it was January? These poor puppies had been dumped in the snow and left to fend for themselves.  My friend already had two dogs and couldn’t keep the puppies; another friend of hers had claimed one of them but the other was still in need of a safe, loving home. We drove out to Ohio “just to see” if this puppy would be the right fit for us but I think Justin and I both knew we were going to take this puppy in. One look at his sweet little brown eyes and we were all in!  Enter Scout.MS6.jpgAfter verifying that no one had called in to the shelter reporting missing puppies and that he didn’t have any collar, tracker, or identification, we took him home and he instantly became the missing piece to our little family.

Macie took to her little brother right away. I think it helped that she had only been with us for six months so she wasn’t too set in her only-dog ways. She and Scout also naturally fit the alpha and beta dog dynamics and fell into a brother-sister groove quickly. It made us so happy to see them bond from the start!

It was pretty apparent from the beginning that Scout had experienced trauma in his early life. The vet determined he was likely about 12 weeks old but it was difficult to tell exactly because he was malnourished. He had two types of worms in his belly and had frostbite on his belly and the tip of his tail. He was super skittish and fearful of new things. He resisted his crate and howled and cried when we tried to put him in it. It was heartbreaking! His training was completely different than Macie’s and our goal first and foremost was for him to be healthy and feel safe and loved.  Scout was never comfortable with crate-training and we decided not to force it for our own reasons. We eventually got to the point where both dogs could hold their bladders all day and not destroy things – since then we have let them roam the house when we’re not there. It was worked really well with very few mishaps.

Today, Scout is still skittish about loud noises (he always hides during thunderstorms) and he likes to perch on our staircase landing where he can see everything going on around him. For the most part though, he has really come out of his shell! He is a happy, lovable dog. He’s content to just snuggle and loves to have his belly rubbed. He warms up to people quickly and has the sweetest personality.

Our dogs were always our babies and we loved doing things with them. We took them on vacation, we went for long walks, we’d go swimming in a nearby river, we’d play frisbee in a park, we’d snuggle on the couch – whatever we could include them in, we did!

When I became pregnant, I worried about how the dynamic would change. Macie and Scout always did great with small children and we knew that they would be good siblings to a human baby, but I wondered if they would mind a baby that was now in their space all the time. I also worried because Scout is still naturally very skittish around new things so I worried he would be afraid of the new baby gear everywhere, the toys, the noise, the stroller, etc. We spent a lot of time letting them hang out in the nursery and sniffing LJ’s things so that when we finally brought him home, they weren’t stressed out by the new arrival.

I needn’t have worried. Macie and Scout LOVE LJ and have totally adjusted to his presence in our house. Scout was pretty quick to learn not to fear any of the baby gear and we’re able to go on family walks without him being afraid of the stroller. It has been so fun to see the three of them learn to love one another. LJ loves to watch the dogs and giggles when they do tricks. They tolerate his baby pats, they lay next to him on the floor, they love hanging out in his nursery. They always want to be near him! They are honestly just the sweetest with each other and it never fails to melt my mama heart!

If I had to pick one thing that really sealed Macie and Scout’s love for their little bro, I think it would be the high chair. Meal times are now their favorite time of day and if LJ is in his high chair they are never far away. They’re always ready to catch dropped scraps. Haha!

It has actually become a liiiiiiiittle bit of a problem because LJ loves to feed them and will often intentionally throw food down to Macie or hold food out to Scout. We’re going to have to work on that one!

While things are a little different now that we have a human baby, our dogs have always been our babies. We love them so much and are so happy as a family of five. ❤

 

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The simplified cleaning routine that keeps me sane

Last Friday, I hosted a Favorite Things party for some girlfriends at my house. The party was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm and around 3:00, Justin walked in to the kitchen as I was catching up on a few things on my laptop. The kitchen table had papers, books, and other random things all over it. I was still unshowered and in sweatpants. I had spent exactly zero minutes of my day up to that point preparing our house for the party. Justin took in the scene and his exact words were “I can’t believe you’re not freaking out right now.”

Let’s back up quick. For the first few years of our marriage, I became a bit of a monster whenever people were coming to our house. Have you seen that video that periodically circulates with the guy pretending to be a crazy mom preparing for company in full-on panic mode: yelling at everyone and running around in a clean-up rage? Yeah, that was me. I would get snappy, I would rush around, I would be in a frenzied state of cleaning/straightening/putting away/perfecting every single room of our house (what if people ask for a tour!?) and I was honestly not a fun person to be around. It got to the point where Justin dreaded us hosting something because I became such a crazy person beforehand. Around two years ago, he finally said “why are we even doing this? This isn’t fun anymore.”

And you know what? He was right. It wasn’t fun.

At its core, I love hosting. I love having people over and want our home to be a cozy, comfortable space where people can gather together and have good fun, great conversations, and fulfilling fellowship. It is important to me to have meaningful relationships and be able to open up our home to others.

But the preparations were killing me.

It’s not fun to panic. It’s not fun to rush around. It’s not fun to yell at your husband to pleasedothisRIGHTNOWbecausepeoplearecomingoversoon! It’s not fun to spend the four hours before a party as a stressed-out hot mess who is frantically cleaning every surface of her house. Something had to give.

When I took a good look at each situation and where the primary stress was coming from, I realized I was mostly stressed about getting our house in order. Our home isn’t even very large but it seemed to take so much time to pick up and clean before guests come over. So about 18 months ago, I came up with a system to reduce stress in this area.

My system is simple: every day I have one cleaning task.

Y’all, I’ve seen all the Pinterest checklists and charts for cleaning and staying on top of your house. To be honest, even those can overwhelm me. Working full-time as a teacher left me with a limited amount of time to keep up with our house. Even now that I stay at home, I still don’t have a ton of time during the day to devote to cleaning. I needed to create a system where I could spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes each weekday cleaning. So I assigned ONE manageable task to each day and try my best to accomplish it. This system might not work for everyone, but it has worked absolute wonders for my sanity so I thought I would take you through what I do on an average day. I even timed how long it takes me to do each task so you can see exactly how much time I need to devote to maintaining a general sense of order (spoiler alert: it’s not much time!)

My Simplified Cleaning Routine

Monday: Dust every surface.

Let’s be honest. Who likes dusting? I’m guessing no one. I could probably get away with dusting less, but with two dogs in our house, I like knowing dog hair and other dust isn’t collecting on surfaces so I start my week off with this task. It also keeps me from cluttering up my shelves because I don’t want to have to dust a lot of knick-knacks. 🙂 I use this dusting mitt to quickly wipe down all surfaces. I live in a two-story house and it took me 7 minutes and 3 seconds to dust every surface downstairs and 4 minutes and 3 seconds to dust every surface upstairs (including the guest room, which took 45 seconds on it’s own but is often a room I can skip if it hasn’t been used). Total time: 11 minutes and 6 seconds

Tuesday: Clean the bathrooms.

Bathrooms are honestly my least favorite thing to clean so I choose products that make the task as simple and enjoyable as possible. I use this window cloth and a spray bottle with water to clean all mirrors. I’m a huge fan of the Better Life cleaning brand so I use their all-purpose cleaner and kitchen and bath scrubber for various surfaces. I keep all my bathroom cleaning essentials in a large bucket so I can carry it to whichever bathroom I’m cleaning and have exactly what I need:

Bathroom Cleaning Supplies

Simple as that! We have 2.5 bathrooms but I often don’t have to clean the guest bathroom because it’s only used if we have guests. It takes me 3 minutes and 4 seconds to clean the half bath,  8 minutes and 14 seconds to clean our master bath, and 4 minutes and 48 seconds to clean our guest bath. Total (minus guest bath): 11 minutes and 18 seconds. Total (all three): 16 minutes and 6 seconds.

Wednesday: Clean the kitchen area.

When I say I’m cleaning the kitchen, I don’t mean I’m scrubbing out the oven or wiping out the refrigerator. This is most definitely not a deep clean, but a surface level cleaning just to maintain order. I wipe down all counters (again with the cleaner I love) and the stovetop and spray down and clean out the sink and microwave. The total time varies based on the state of the kitchen to begin with, because we have a combined kitchen/dinig room. The table is often a dump zone for mail and other random papers and items. So I timed how long it took me to just clean every surface of the kitchen and also how long it took if I put the extra time into clearing off the table. It took 4 minutes and 9 seconds to clean the kitchen and another 4 minutes and 47 seconds to clear off the table. Total time: 8 minutes and 57 seconds.

Oh and just for the record, I did time how long it took me if I went next-level and wiped down the front of the fridge/dishwasher/stove and it took an average of 30 seconds per appliance. I use a special stainless steel spray for those and maybe wipe them down once a month or whenever they look extra gross. Definitely not every week!

Thursday: Floors.

This task varies the most from week to week because it depends how much time I have and how the floors look. We have two dogs so you can imagine the state of our floors if we don’t regularly keep up. Honestly, once we had a baby crawling around, our standards for how clean the floors should be got much higher. For my 30th birthday, all I asked for was money towards a Roomba (if that’s not a sign of adulthood, I don’t know what is) and we were able to get a good deal on one. It has been a game changer with keeping up with dog hair throughout the week!

Even with the Roomba, I still spend time each week on the floors. Sometimes I will take our Bona across the first floor but I often don’t have time for that extra step so I will just vacuum all the floors. It takes me 14 minutes and 8 seconds to vacuum the first floor and 8 minutes and 43 seconds to vacuum the stairs and second floor. Total time: 22 minutes and 51 seconds.

Friday: Flex day to catch up on a missed day.

Guys. Life happens. One day LJ might be feeling sick or we might have a lot going on outside the home. Maybe I only had time to clean one bathroom earlier in the week or only vacuumed one floor. Each week is different but by building in this flex day, I keep from feeling guilty or overextending myself earlier in the week by knowing I can catch up on Friday. If all the cleaning got done earlier in the week, Friday becomes a day to throw in a load of laundry or clean a little deeper or just relax!

Maybe it sounds overly simplified, but honestly, this system has changed SO much in my life. By spending a tiny amount of time maintaining each day, I don’t freak out when guests come over. I wasn’t panicking last Friday before my party because I had done a little bit each day and my house was mostly clean and just was going to need a small bit of tidying. Justin and I both agree it has made a huge difference with our stress levels!

Beyond making life easier for hosting, this system has other benefits. Even if I only spent 3 minutes cleaning the half bath, I feel like I’ve accomplished something each day. If someone pops by without warning, maybe my kitchen is a mess but the bathrooms are clean! My house rarely feels like a complete disaster because at least one portion of it was addressed that day. I want my home to be a haven for our family and that doesn’t happen if it looks like a tornado came through so a little each day goes a long way towards keeping it clean and calm.

I know this post is already super long, but I have a few other small things to add:

Stay flexibleSome days I can’t get to my task. Other days I have extra time and can double up on tasks. Sometimes I can clean during LJ’s naptime. Other times he’s in his high chair eating a snack while I wipe down the kitchen.  I honestly don’t stress out about an exact system. I just do what I can and I know things will eventually get done.

Tidy up before bed. I clean up LJ’s toys every night. I know he’ll just get them out again the next day but it helps me to start fresh each day. Plus, if you read my toy post, you know it only takes about 90 seconds to clean up the playroom.

Time yourself! It wasn’t until I thought about doing this post that I timed how long it took me to do each task but honestly I was shocked by how little time each task took. I dislike cleaning bathrooms but if I know it’s only going to take 3 minutes to get the half bath done, the work seems so much easier. Now it’s even a little bit of a nerdy game for me where I try to see how fast I can get the task done (I did time a few tasks again just to see the results: dusting took 11 minutes and 26 seconds total, half+master bath took 10 minutes and 57 seconds, vacuuming upstairs took 8 minutes and 29 seconds). I even started timing other random tasks (only 2 minutes and 33 seconds to unload the dishwasher!) – it just seems so much more manageable to know I can get so much accomplished in less than 15 minutes.

Stick to one task. Unless I truly have a lot of time on a particular day, I do not stress about more than the one task. There are days when my bathrooms are sparkling but my table is still covered in random stuff. If I can get to more than one thing in one day, great! But if I can’t, I refuse to feel bad about it. We live in this house. It looks lived in, like it’s supposed to. I know I am doing what I can and I’ll get to the rest another day.

What works best for you when keeping your house clean? Do you prefer doing a little each day or having one big cleaning day each week?

November 2018 Book Reviews

Hi friends!

My original plan was to get this blog post up yesterday but life happened and you know what, you just gotta roll with it sometimes.

Over the last few months I’ve been reading a lot of books and for the month of November I slowed down a bit and read three books. I enjoyed them all immensely and am excited to share my reviews with you so let’s get going!

November Book Review.jpgThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootHenrietta Lacks.jpgI don’t remember how this book landed on my list but I’d been waiting for it at the library for a quite a while and was excited when it finally was my turn to check it out! While the book is a work of nonfiction, it reads very much like a novel and I really enjoyed it. Henrietta was a poor black woman with cancer in the 1950s; a scraping of cancer cells from her cervix was used in scientific research without her knowledge or consent. Even after she passed away, her cells became “immortal” and are still living today. They have been instrumental in developing various vaccines, medications, and other medical discoveries. The book researches both Henrietta’s life and the life of her family, who didn’t know about her cells being used for decades. The author details not only what happened throughout her own journey to research Henrietta but also lots of information about Henrietta’s life, what was happening in the field of science at various times, what life has been like for Henrietta’s family, etc. This story could have easily become a dense, scientific read but the author did an amazing job of bringing each character to life on the page. The books brings up some thought-provoking questions about ethics in scientific research and was truly an interesting read that I wholeheartedly recommend.

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book ThiefThis book has been on my “to be read” list for a really long time and I finally got around to reading it. It was well worth the wait! It is categorized as a Young Adult novel but I honestly think it appeals just as much to older adults as well. The plot is unique: it set in Nazi Germany during World War II and is narrated by Death. Death is recalling a story of a young girl who has been sent away to a small town in Germany and his encounters with her life. I don’t want to give away too much so I’ll just say this book was fantastic. It was long but the short chapters make it seem like a quicker read and it kept my attention the whole time – I kept thinking “okay just one more chapter and then I’ll go get other work done” but just kept going! I have read a ton of WWII historical fiction but this may be the first book I’ve read about what life may have been like for small-town Germans, particularly those who didn’t whole-heartedly agree with Hitler. It was a fascinating read and I highly recommend it!

 

 

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

The Girl Before.jpg

If you know me in real life, you are probably surprised that I have been reading so many psychological thrillers lately because I’m a natural scaredy-cat. I don’t know why I’m on such a kick right now but my interest in them is showing no signs of slowing down and I’m okay with that. The Girl Before is set in an ultra-modern, techy, and minimalistic house with an eccentric owner and unusual lease agreement. Chapters alternate between Emma, a previous tenant, and Jane, the current tenant and their eerily similar experiences. This book had an interesting premise and was just creepy enough without being overly terrifying (it didn’t make me need to sleep with the lights on but it made my heartbeat rise at several points). There were several times where I thought I had figured out what had happened and then a new revelation made me question everything. Every character had a surprise or two up his or her sleeve, whether good or bad, and it kept me intrigued the whole way through! I really enjoyed this book!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?