In Which I Play Ma Ingalls

Like just about every person out there that does laundry, I hate how much I spend on laundry detergent.  I hated it more when we bought a high efficiency washer and had to pay more for the special detergent.  Even buying in bulk at Costco (with coupons!) was still expensive.  Considering how much laundry I do, I was annoyed at this.

People, I do a lot of laundry.

Two or three months ago I ran across a recipe for making your own detergent and all reports were that it worked well and left your laundry smelling clean and fresh.  I was hooked, I had to try it.  Unfortunately, I had a vat of Tide to get through before I could try it.

I finally got to do so this week.  So, first, the recipe.  Here’s what you need:

1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, finely grated (the whole bar)
1 cup Super Washing Soda (this is not baking soda)
1 cup Borax

Thoroughly mix together all ingredients in a container.  Use 1 tablespoon for a regular size load, 2 tablespoons for a large/heavily soiled load.

It’s safe for high efficiency washers because it doesn’t produce a lot of suds.  One batch of detergent will last for months because of how little you use per load.  When you consider that I spent around $10 for all the ingredients and that the box of borax and the box of washing soda were fairly large and will last me through several more rounds of soap making, this beats Tide hands down.  Also, I switched to dryer sheets instead of liquid fabric softener and the combination of cheap homemade soap and cheap dryer sheets has cut my laundry budget down by two-thirds.

Even better, I did my first load of laundry with it and I couldn’t be happier – the clothes are clean and smell lovely and fresh.

Give it a try – see what you think!

UPDATE: (11/29/10) I’ve been using the soap for about a month now.  I’m just about to run out of the first batch I made – I think I ran out faster that most folks because, no lie, I do 7 loads of laundry a week on average.  So, I got something around 30 loads of laundry out of the batch of soap and I was using the larger measurement on several occasions.  Anyway, it’s working pretty well and I’m going to stick with it.  I have found that I do have to be more careful about pre-treating the kids clothes for any stains they have than I have done in the past (I used to be religious about it and then I got to a point where I just threw things in the washer with no pretreatment).  But a little bit of extra work is worth the money I’m saving.

My Little Helper

Jamie loves to help us feed the dog.  Whenever he hears me get out the dog food, this is what happens – notice that he has to take a taste just to double check that it’s dog food and not human food.

Telling It Like It Is

I am lucky.  I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my children and for us to have a very nice life on just Scot’s salary.  The budget could be looser, certainly, but everyone has those problems.  I made the choice to stay home because we could afford it and because I wanted to be there for my kids when they were infants.  Infancy with Liam turned into 6 years at home full time.

I don’t regret this.  I think it was the right choice for our family.  I also don’t look down on families in which both parents work – whether by choice or necessity.  I firmly believe that what is right for my family is only right for my family.  I also understand that there are lots of women out there who work full time that would love nothing more than to be in my shoes.

But, dude, it is HARD.

I love my kids like crazy.  Like every other parent around, I would do anything for them.  But just because I love them does not mean that I like them 100% of the time.  I am tired of people saying that stay at home parenting isn’t work or that it’s the most fabulous, wonderful, incredible, fulfilling thing in the world.  How could I possibly not love spending every waking moment with my kids? 

I don’t love that I never get a day off.  No sick time.  No vacation.  No mental health days.  I envy parents who get to go to work and be adults for 8 hours out of the day without a million interruptions.  They have the luxury of peeing in private!  *gasp*  I have fantasies about leaving my family behind for a weekend and just going away by myself.

I don’t love that I almost never get a moment’s peace.  There is always someone who needs something from me.  I can’t even really relax when the kids are in bed because if they wake up, I’m back on duty.  I live and die by the noises on the baby monitor. 

Related to that, I don’t love that I can never leave work at work.  My home is my work and it’s always staring me in the face.  There’s always another room that needs to be cleaned.  There’s always another chore that needs to be done.  There’s always more leaves that need to be raked or more bills that need to be paid or more laundry that needs to be folded.  I can never escape it.  What’s worse is that if I do manage to finish it all, the kids immediately undo what I’ve done and I have to start over.

I don’t love how little patience I have.  I want to be more patient with my children but when Jamie is squealing like a deranged dolphin and Liam is informing me of some obscure Star Wars fact for the eleventy billionth time all while I’m trying to make a meal I just want to scream at them.  Sadly, I often do.

I don’t love how little time I have to devote to anything for me.  I don’t scrapbook anymore.  I don’t do card making anymore.  I can’t find the time for doctor’s appointments for myself or getting new glasses or getting back to Weight Watchers (hello, 40 pounds that won’t go away).  There is no money and especially no time for me to do these things.  I can’t even keep up with my grooming habits – my eyebrows are OUT OF CONTROL.

Yesterday, for the first time in well over a week, I had everyone out of the house at the same time and a two and a half hour window in which to do something.  I managed to scrub my kitchen clean and dismantle the toy tornado in the family room before I had to go pick up Liam at the bus stop.  It took me a mere 90 minutes to accomplish something that would have taken me at least 3 hours with the children around.

I don’t love that.

There are great things about being home, too.  I got to see all the firsts – first rolling over, first smile, first crawl, first steps, first words – all of that.  I’m sure Scot was disappointed to miss some of those things.  I wouldn’t trade those moments at all, but that doesn’t mean they always make up for all the crap I deal with.

What bothers me most is that so many women refuse to acknowledge that it can be like this.  Everyone wants me to say “oh it’s just so wonderful to be with them and know them this way!” and yes, that is a good thing, but to never admit to a bad day is ludicrous.  Everybody still buys into the perfect 50’s era homemaker with her perfect outfits and perfect house and perfect pearls and if you admit that you fall down on the job when it comes to those kinds of expectations, you kind of get the stink eye.

I wish I could be more like my neighbors.  They have consistently clean houses and nicely manicured lawns and yards.  I have neither of those things.  I don’t know how they do it.  I wish I could.  Outwardly I blame it on the fact that their children are older than mine by a good bit but inwardly I call myself lazy.

I know there are women that manage to do it all – have a clean house, cook meals on a regular basis, work full time, and make time for their husbands.  I wish I knew their secrets.  I wish I could live up to their example.  In the same breath I wish I could let myself off that hook.  I wish all women would give themselves a break from the crazy high expectations we have for ourselves.  I wish we wouldn’t assume that we have to be responsible for everything.  Unfortunately, many of us do and I am, sadly, among them.

Those of you out there that work full time and possibly envy those of us who stay home – just know that from the other side, your life looks just as appealing to me as mine does to you.

I Think This Could Be Soccer’s Death Knell

“Mom, I don’t want to go play.”

We were sitting at the side of the soccer field and I was trying to coax him into getting on the field to warm up and get started on drills.  He wasn’t very enthusiastic about it.

This is the first week he’s been difficult about it and of course he picks the week that I was Snack Mom so we had to stay the whole time.  Eventually, I got him out on the field and he started working on his drills.  When those were done we moved on to the game.  During water breaks he would ask me “How much longer, Mom?”

The kid did not want to be there.  Frankly, I understood because I didn’t want to be there either.

Soccer was an experiment.  He asked to play so we signed him up.  I figured U-6 was a good way to get introduced since it was really low pressure on the kids – at least as far as the coaches are concerned.  The parents are another story.   However, it’s fairly obvious to me that it’s not sticking the way that Tae-Kwon Do is.

When he goes to TKD, he’s excited, he loves it, he always asks me when the next class is.  He can barely stand still while I’m tying his dobak and belt.  Watching him in class is a joy because he tries so hard and gives it his all.  The grin that splits that kid’s face when he’s sparring is really amazing.

The same cannot be said for soccer.  He runs around at the back of the pack, rarely putting in the effort required to keep up.  It’s not because he’s tired – soccer is at 10 am on Saturday.  When he does get the ball, it’s only if he’s at the front not surrounded by other kids.  Once they catch up to him, he backs off the ball and lets anyone who wants it, have it.  It’s like he just doesn’t care enough about it to translate the aggressiveness he uses during sparring into the aggressiveness required on the soccer field.

And that’s OK with me.

The whole point here was to try it out.  We did that and he didn’t really like it.  It’s clear that he’s much more interested in Tae-Kwon Do and much more willing to put up with whatever he has to put up with in order to go.  Given this, I doubt we’ll even be going to the last two weeks of soccer.  You may think that makes him (and by extension, Scot and I) a quitter but I don’t see it that way.  He’s unhappy going.  We’re unhappy going.  What’s the point of making the whole family unhappy by continuing?  We’re teaching him the importance of living up to your commitments with Tae-Kwon Do.  We’ve told him we signed a contract for a year and that he has to complete that year.  We’ve told him that we will have to pay the money whether or not he goes and that he agreed to do it for a whole year before he can decide to quit, if that’s what he wants.  To me, this is the real place to teach this because the time and money commitments are so much greater.  Soccer?  Not so much.  Maybe it’s the laid back, non-formalized nature of it that makes me feel that way.  I’m not sure.  I just know that it doesn’t seem worth all the hassle if he’s not that into it.

When soccer rolls around next week, I’ll ask him what he wants to do.  If he wants to go, I’ll take him.  If he doesn’t, we’ll stay home.