Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here are two unusual, but useful links for the home keeper:

The Soap and Detergent Association -- articles about cleaning products, hygiene, cleaning to prevent certain illnesses such as swine flu, environmental concerns, health and safety, etc. This organization represents manufacturers of household, industrial, and institutional cleaning products.

Accessible Threads -- supplier of threads for people with special needs and handicaps.

Do you have hard water? If so, this will affect just about every cleaning process in your home, from laundry to personal care to dish washing.

There are specific classifications of hard water used in the water industry, and these categories range from soft water to very hard water. The hardness of the water depends on concentrations of certain minerals in the water.

If you would like to know just how hard your water is, you can ask your local water supplier or even your health department. Another way to find out is to have it tested by a home treatment company, but do be aware that this company, naturally, would like to sell you their service. A way to make an educated guess is by agitating water or toothpaste in water. These substances lather easily in soft water but not in hard water.

What might you notice if your water is hard?

A ring might develop around your bathtub or around your bathtub drain.
You will have trouble getting soaps and detergents to lather well.
Your hair might have a residue on it and might look dull even after washing.
You might find it hard to completely rinse shower doors so that all of the soap scum is gone and they look shiny and clean.
Your laundry might come out feeling stiff instead of nice and soft.
Your fabrics might look dull and gray.
Sediment could build up in your hot water heater.

On the other hand, it is a good thing to have some minerals in your water. The minerals that make water hard can actually be good for your health, especially for your heart. Minerals in the water can also be beneficial to plants. For that reason, it's not wise to drink only distilled water or use only distilled water or even softened water on your lawn or garden. Also, if you change water sources, you might notice that your body has to make some adjustments to new concentrations of minerals.

Certain methods of softening water raise the sodium content. This can be a problem for those who must restrict sodium because of high blood pressure, kidney problems, or other health issues.

The question is "How hard is too hard in order for you to keep a clean home?" Surprisingly, you might want to consult your physician when considering various methods of softening water, particularly if you do already have some difficulties with your heart or circulation. It is possible to use methods of water softening that bypass your kitchen faucets, so that your drinking water does not become overly saturated with sodium.

As mentioned above, distilled water is not the best for drinking. However, it is great for using in your iron. This will keep mineral residue from building up in your iron.

More about water in the next post.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hot weather home keeping -- Part II

Cannot people realize how large an income is thrift? ~Cicero

This is a great time for me to be thinking about hot weather home making, as our heat indexes say it feels to the body like we're up in the 100's right now. If you live in a more temperate clime or are in the Southern hemisphere (with winter now), file this information away in case you need it later:

1) Did you realize that a clogged dryer vent or hose will blow hot air back into your home, raising the overall temperature? That is something I learned today and had never thought about.
2) Also, did you realize that if you plant a shade tree near an outside air conditioning unit, it will work more efficiently? I hadn't thought about that one, either. I learned these two hints -- appropriately on Father's Day -- from a site called Frugal Dad.
3) In the nineteenth century, changing rugs, bedding, and curtains at the turn of cold weather to warm or warm weather to cold was an important part of housekeeping. People changed from fabrics that were warm and richly colored to lighter weight, summer colored fabrics. Also, some applied light colored slip colors to furniture in hot weather and took them off in winter or threw down grass-cloth mats over their floors during prolonged periods of rain or dust. Since the advent of central heat and air conditioning and three-season type fabrics, that custom has largely fallen by the wayside. Of course, people still generally throw an extra blanket on the bed during winter and pull it off in the summer. And, people use picnic cloths for outdoor eating in warm weather. Other than that, however, changing from heavier curtains to lighter ones or pulling up heavier rugs for lighter ones is not as much of a tradition as it once was. For the modern home, it can be a boon not to have to keep up with different sets of bedding, curtains, etc., for each room. However, if you would like to give your home a cool and comfortable feel in the summer and a warm and cozy feel in the winter, this is something you might try. Also, throwing slipcovers on couches during the active summer months can not only protect your furniture, it can be a way to change a richer fall color to a fresh summery color for the season. It all depends on what your family needs and likes. Do be sure, though, to attend to the comforts of the beds. Your family will sleep more comfortably in summer if the bed linens are breathable and light.
4) Every child should be creating wonderful summer memories to look back on. In order to help summer be fun for children, it's helpful to establish summer routines and rules upfront, rather than to tussle about them as you go along. For example, will your children have a different chore routine during the summer, when there is less homework to do inside and more work to do outside in the garden? Do you need to establish a place by the door where children can place outdoor shoes, toys, and sports gear, as well as a time in the evening to put it all back in its true home? Do children need to remember to put sunscreen on at prescribed times? Do you need to help children learn how to play outside without running in and out every second? Do you need to encourage them to play creatively, rather than spending too much time with a WII? What supplies do you need to have on hand to make summer fun for children? What safety guidelines and boundaries do your children need to keep in mind while playing outside? What are expectations for a child's personal devotions and family devotions? You and your children will have expectations for the summer months. It's best to discuss these so that everyone will arrive at a common understanding for the warm weather months. While it's important to talk such things out at the beginning of the summer, it's best not to go to the other extreme and over-schedule or over-manage your children. Children do need some structure for the summer. However, they also need plenty of time for wholesome play. If you provide the right environment and loving supervision, your children's creativity and joy will flourish.
5) Update your home medical kit to take care of skinned knees, bug bites, poison ivy etc. Also, consider what foods you need to keep in the pantry and fridge to accommodate family and guests during the summer.

Happy home keeping!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back to the books...

Thrift is not an affair of the pocket, but an affair of character. ~S.W. Straus

Well, after taking a long break from blogging, I'm back!

In the meantime, I've had lots of medical tests for little ailments, company in the home, summer fun and summer chores. How's everyone doing in taking your home skills higher?

Here's a no fail marinade sauce formula: about a third to a half of fat (butter, olive oil, etc.), a third to a half of some type of acid (vinegar, lemon juice, pineapple juice, etc.), and some salty liquid and/or seasonings -- such as soy sauce, mustard, garlic, etc. You can make this over and over again, using different ingredients for variety.

Check list:

When was the last time you washed brushes, combs, makeup brushes and sponges, etc.?
When was the last time you cleaned out your purse and any carryalls you might use?
When was the last time you eliminated outdated files from your computer and deleted any emails and email folders that are no longer applicable?
When was the last time you wrote notes or letters and mailed them?

Hot weather Home Keeping part I:

Hot weather brings its own home keeping joys and challenges. On the plus side, your house or apartment is probably at its loveliest. Likely, you are enjoying beautiful sunshine streaming in through windows, happy times in your yard and/or garden, and more fun time with neighbors and family. Perhaps, your family will even travel or have special guests. If your climate is mild enough, you may be enjoying open windows, with wonderful breezes floating in.

On the negative side, if you live in a damp and humid climate, you may be locked in a continual battle with such pests as silver fish, wood roaches or cockroaches, Mediterranean centipedes, fruit flies, or ants. Perhaps, you are experiencing more mildew of clothing, textiles, or showers. Or, if you live in a hot, dry climate, your challenges might be dust, dust, and more dust, as well as insects such as scorpions. Wherever you live, you might need to care for a few more skinned knees and bumps and bruises, as children will be happily playing outside. If you do not have adequate air conditioning, you and your children may be feeling tireder or be tempted to be irritable.

With a little care, summer problems can be cared for so that you can focus on summer joys.

Here are a few tips to get started:

1) Sugary drinks -- such as lemonade, iced tea, or fresh fruit juice -- can be delightful on summer days, and your family will appreciate it if you serve them a refreshing glass or two of these items. However, be aware that these do not meet all of your body's needs for liquid during the summer, and, if consumed to excess, they can actually work against your ability to stay hydrated. Be sure to offer your family fresh water along with these drinks.
2) Staying on the theme of adequate hydration, you may need to keep a watchful eye to make sure that you and your family drink enough water. Thirst is usually a good indicator of how much water you need. However, on busy summer days, it's easy for you and your family members to ignore the initial and subtle signs of thirst. There are lots of ways to counter this. Take a cue from traditional table setting, and provide your family with a water glass in addition to a glass for whatever other beverage you might be serving with the meal. Set out a pitcher of iced water in the morning to remind yourself to drink water and to offer water to your family members. Take along water with you when you go on picnics, to activities, or when traveling. Remember that air travel is especially drying, so be sure to drink enough water when taking plane trips.
3) Don't fall into the trap of thinking that exposing lots of skin is the way to stay cool yourself or to keep family members cool. Breathable fabrics -- such as cotton or linen -- with a bit of room for air to circulate will keep you quite comfortable, even in humid and hot climates.
4) Don't let damp items sit for long periods of time. Hang up damp towels in a way that lets the air dry them. Make sure children put damp, sweaty play clothes in a properly ventilated hamper and hang up wet bathing suits. Face the fact that you simply may have to do more laundry in the summer to make sure that damp items are properly cleaned and dried quickly. Whatever you do, don't let damp clothing sit in the washer for too long. In the winter, I often get away with putting a load of wash in right before bed and drying it the next day. In the summer, the clothes will sour more quickly.
5) Throw borax or baking soda in the wash to prevent mildew and sour smells. This is especially helpful for keeping towels fresh.

More tips in the next post...

Happy home keeping!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Child Development:: Fostering Respect for Marriage and Opposite Sex

The home is a training ground for a child's adult life. In most cases, marriage and raising children of his or her own will be a part of that child's adult life. In other cases, a child may remain single. Either way, lessons learned in the home will either benefit or hinder a child in establishing a successful adult life. Learning how to inter-relate with members of the opposite sex and also to have a high view of marriage and rearing a family is an important piece of that equation.

Of course, we begin with the assumptions that the child is being taught to know, revere, love, and obey the Lord, as well as to depend on the Lord's grace and wisdom in all things. Next to that, we assume that parents are teaching their children to respect and obey them, a commandment with a very specific promise of long life attached to it.

Here are some other things that can help:

1) Let the child see that your life is properly oriented toward God's priorities. Your relationship with the Lord should come first in all things.
2)Speak with respect to and about your husband. If you have a disagreement with your husband, handle it in a godly way. Pray for a heart filled with love for your spouse, and put to death bitterness, unforgiveness, disrespect, the habit of always knowing better, and a negative outlooks. Your child will model what he or she sees in you.
3) Teach children how to handle conflicts between siblings in godly ways. The depth of these lessons will change over the years as children mature. Young toddlers may need very simple instructions in how to share.
4) Strive for an atmosphere of good nature, clean fun, and pure joy in the home. If home is not a fun place to be or if children feel that you are more burdened by your worship of the Lord than filled with joy, they will develop negative attitudes about both God and family life.
5) While you strive to make your home a fun place to be, do not allow coarse joking, derrogative comments, or bickering. Children will have issues that need to be dealt with. Not all of their feelings will be immediately godly. (Are ours?) However, help them work through these things i a way that builds their faith and that builds others up.
6) Speak well of marriage, having children, and the joys of being a woman. (I'm assuming in these articles that most of the people who read my blog are women, of course.)
7) Enlist your husband's help in creating an atmosphere of respect. A husband's gentle word goes a long way toward helping a teen overcome a disrespectful way of thinking and communicating, especially if that should be directed toward the mother.
8) Listen to your children. Respect them as individuals created in the image of the Lord. It is your responsibility to be the parent and not just the buddy. However, that does not mean that you should not treat them in a way that builds them up.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Children -- The Growing Up Years -- Sons

Helping Sons Grow Into Manhood...

Just as our daughters transition from girlhood to womanhood, our sons naturally grow from boyhood to manhood. Many of the challenges of growing up are exactly the same for boys as for girls. However, there are obvious differences, as well. Because we, as home managers, have experienced life from a woman's point of view, we may be more in tune with how to help our daughters than we are with how to help our sons.

It is important for a boy to have a man of good character in his life to help him through issues surrounding puberty and his developing sexuality, as well budding manly character and growing physical strength. Of course, in a two parent family, the father is the one who guides the boy into manhood. Single moms may need to enlist the aid of a trusted male role model, such as a grandfather or uncle, to help her son with certain issues.

Though a boy does need a man's guidance, a mother also plays an essential role in the son's transition, however. Here are some areas in which the mother can be very helpful to the son's development:

1) In our culture, many women enter marriage and motherhood either with negative attitudes about men or with a naive lack of understanding and appreciation of men. If they fail to overcome these things, they will inadvertently manifest a negative attitude toward their husbands and even toward their sons. A friend of mine once walked her children to the school bus stop in her suburban neighborhood. Many other mothers were there with their children. They were women who, on the surface of things, had happy marriages and families. Yet, my friend was surprised and dismayed at how much of the conversation consisted of complaining about husbands. This was in the hearing of all of the children. Mothers who want to raise secure children, especially sons, must be careful about how they speak of others -- especially of their own spouses -- in front of their children. Mothers do well to model a high view of marriage. If a mother is always putting her husband down, she is, in essence, also putting the son down, as well. If she favors her son over her husband or one son over another son, she is doing her boy no favor, either. A boy intuitively thrives when he sees his father being tender and thoughtful toward his mother and his mother being respectful toward his father.
If we allow our sons to be unduly influenced by our culture, he may pick up on our culture's mixed-up signals about things such as what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, what it means to have a marriage, and what it means to be a family. One of the best things we can do for a son in this day and age is to model respect for our husbands, as well as to have a positive and encourage attitude about the fact that our son is growing up to be a man. A single mom can model a positive attitude, as well.
A mother can model what it means to be a woman with noble character. Of course, none of us have reached perfection in this area! We may be conscious of our many faults and sins and of our need for grace. However, our sons will pick up on the values by which we live our lives, even if we do goof from time to time. If we do not grow weary in well-doing, our sons will see that. A mother with a high view of God and of His purposes for her life can have a profound impact on her son's character, sometimes without her even realizing it in the moment. At the very least, such an example encourages a son to treat women with respect, rather than to judge solely by superficial standards.
3) A son needs affection and words of affirmation from his mother. For some boys, it's true that they may go through a time of being finicky about hugs from mom, especially in front of friends. As moms, we need to understand and respect that. However, we must also know that, deep down, our son does appreciate little gestures of affection and encouraging comments. My son is grown and happily married, and he still greets me with great big bear hugs whenever we see each other.
Actually, a son needs affection and affirmation from both his father and his mother. A single mother or the wife of an undemonstrative man can bridge the gap, with the Lord's help. However, boys do thrive if they know that they are loved and valued by both of their parents.
Girls, also, need affection from both parents, as well as encouragement. A girl especially thrives if she feels loved and valued by her father.
Just the right amount of of proper parental affection and encouraging comments strengthens our children. If they do know how deeply loved they are, they will be less vulnerable to negative peer pressure. They will also be less vulnerable to sexual temptation before marriage. They will be better prepared to establish a healthy marriage when it is time for them to start a family of their own.
4) A mother can recognize and encourage the milestones in her son's life as he takes steps toward manhood. It may bring a pang to her heart to realize that her little boy is no longer so little. However, it is healthy for him if she allows him to mature into manhood at the pace he needs to. Since we mothers can be overprotective of sons, we may need the help of our husbands to help us know when we are holding on too tightly and when we truly do need to be protective. Single moms can consult some trusted man, such as a father or brother for advice in this area.
Often, our fear makes us want to overprotect our sons; this is where trusting the Lord is so important.
5) A mother can help a son's physical development by providing nutritious meals, as well as plenty of fresh air and wholesome exercise, sports, and activity. This is important for both girls and boys, but boys have an extra need for healthy physical activity in order to grow into healthy manhood. The glory of young men is their strength. Proverbs 20:29. Also, healthy play and healthy work help a boy manage his natural abundance of strength, energy, and drive. I believe that some boys who seem to be hyper-active simply may not be getting enough physical activity.
6) Boys sometimes do not realize the power of their physical strength, especially if they experience sudden growth spurts. They may feel and act clumsy, and they may inadvertently be too rough and tumble at times. They may not know the line between friendly roughhousing with Dad and the boys and how to treat mothers and sisters. A mother's gentle instructions can help a boy learn how to be gentle with women. Of course, a father's instruction and example is important, as well. A mother can also be patient with a boy's clumsiness and teach his sisters to be so, as well. This can help him through any awkward stage he may experience.
7) Mothers can point out a father's hard work and other things she appreciates about her husband. This can inspire a boy to follow suit. She doesn't need to do this in a way that makes her young son feel that he is being compared to his more mature father, but she should simply be appreciative of the things in her husband that a son would do well to imitate. This is something we, as wives, should be doing anyway, but a son benefits when he sees that we do appreciate these things.
8) A mother should encourage her son to fulfill whatever responsibilities have been assigned to him. In this way, she will help him grow into responsible, unselfish manhood.
9) A mother may despair of her young son ever taking an interest in keeping himself well groomed. There will be a point when this suddenly becomes important to him. Perhaps, though not necessarily so, this will be at a much later age than a girl usually manifests interest in her appearance. Until then, she may need to help him take care of his health and appearance.
10) It's a good ideas for computers and video games to be used in public areas. This helps protect a boy's purity.

Happy Homemaking!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Addendum to Children -- The Growing up years -- Growing into Womanhood

Topaztook added a comment that I wanted to emphasize. If a girl or even an older woman has several difficult periods in a row, it's wise to get the thyroid checked. I know I've mentioned this for adult women several times, but I hadn't thought to stress that a mother might want to ask her daughter's physician if the daughter is experiencing menstral difficulties. Many girls have unusual cycles in the first few years of menstruation, and this is not usually due to thyroid problems. However, it can be. Thyroid conditions are more common in mid-life and beyond; however, younger girls and women can develop thyroid issues, and it's always wise to have that checked.

During a general check-up, a doctor often feels the thyroid gland to check for problems with enlargement. However, for some reason, blood tests for thyroid problems are not generally done as a routine screening, and a thyroid problem usually shows up in the blood long before a hardening or enlargement of the gland is felt. Therefore, if you suspect that you or a child have a thyroid problem, you may specifically need to ask for a test.

The reason this is so important to me is that I struggle with (probably autoimmune) hypothyroid issues, and I know that an under or over active thyroid can affect the body in many ways. My mother and aunt both had thyroid problems, as well, so I am familiar with the symptoms it can cause.

I recently assumed that some issues I was experiencing were simply mid-life issues. However, I am glad I mentioned some of my symptoms to my physician. It seems that a worsening thyroid problem may be a factor, as well.

If you feel unwell for a time, and you don't know why, it's wise to have your thyroid checked. If you have a family history of thyroid problems, this is doubly important. If you are in perimenopause, it's also a good idea to be checked. Don't assume that you do have a thyroid problem simply because you suffer from a few symptoms; many people who think they have thyroid issues turn out to be just fine in that department. If you don't have a genuine thyroid problem, taking thyroid medication can be harmful. On the other hand, if you are feeling symptoms of hypothyroidism, don't ignore them. Let a physician help you sort it all out.

In the past, many women suffered from sub-clinical thyroid issues and many thyroid conditions went undiagnosed and untreated. For example, my mother's thyroid condition had deteriorated quite a bit before she was diagnosed. To be fair, her case was a hard case to diagnose, as the thyroid was failing due to another health problem. However, many women in the past who were experiencing minor hypothyroidism went through life feeling sick and fatigued, but did not receive the treatment they needed. In many cases, physical problems resulting from thyroid conditions were chalked up to laziness, hypochondria, or emotional problems.

Now, the standards for what constitutes hypothyroidism have been reviewed and revised. Many internists and endocrinologists and gynecologists are quicker to recognize borderline thyroid issues in women. They are more likely to start treatment for a slightly failing thyroid before secondary health problems develop.

Under-active thyroid can either cause or be associated with

chronic, deep fatigue, sometimes to the point of being debilitating
skipped periods
heavy or prolonged periods
hormone imbalances
fertility problems
heart disease
thinning hair
a change in facial expression and/or puffiness of the face
cholesterol and blood pressure problems/problems with triglycerides
problems with blood sugar/higher risk for diabetes
weight gain/weight hard to lose despite exercise and diet
sensations of being cold (Though you don't find this in many lists, it's my non-professional opinion that hot flashes can be an issue, as well)
problems with memory and concentration; feeling and actually being mentally sluggish, brain feels "fuzzy", as if you are trying to think in a fog
loss or thinning of outer eyebrows and eyelashes
bowel problems
an enlarged and/or hardened thyroid
nodules on thyroid --usually when not treated in time
other autoimmune diseases
consistently low body temperature
cold feet
(If a person's thyroid continued to fail and the condition went untreated, coma and death could result. This is highly unlikely to happen today, because most people who are headed for such severe thyroid problems receive medical attention long, long, long the before the condition reaches this point.)

Not everyone who has a hypothyroid problems will experience all of the above symptoms. And, it's my non-professional opininon that you can experience some atypical symtoms with thyroid disease. However, if you are hypothyroid, you simply won't feel well or function at your best.

Additionally, an untreated under-active thyroid can produce thyroid hormone in spurts, which means that a person generally has symptoms of too low thyroid hormone punctuated with bouts of hyper-thyroid symptoms. During the hyper-thyroid spells, the person experiences symptoms such as increased energy, anxiety, panic attacks, "the shakes", heart palpitations, a racing heart, and restlessness. This is especially true in the case of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the most common auto-immune disease of the thyroid. If the spurt of thyroid hormone simply brings you to within the normal range, I suppose you might simply feel a sense of temporarily increased energy and well-being.

Sometimes, only a very small dose of thyroid replacement hormone can make a huge difference in how well your body functions.

I can't say it too much, but it's best not to try to diagnose or to treat yourself for a thyroid condition. Every symptom that is associated with thyroid disease can be caused by something other than the thyroid. For example, you may have a consistently low temperature, but that could be normal for you. Or, you might be seriously fatigued, but that could be due to anemia or some other condition.

If you do suspect you have a problem, ask your doctor to do simple blood tests to determine how well your thyroid is working. If you do have hypo-thyroid problems, it's important to work with your physician, as finding the right dosage for you is a delicate balance. Also, you will need to be evaluated from time to time to make sure that your current dosage is still right for you.

It's also important, if you are told that you do, in fact, have thyroid issues, that you do follow through with your treatment. Ignoring the problem only makes things worse. There are a few situations in which certain specific types of thyroid conditions can resolve themselves, such as a virally induced thyroiditis or a post-pregnancy induced thyroid problem. However, in the majority of cases, once you develop a thyroid issue, you will have it for life. If a temporary case of thyroditis does reverse itself, be happy and enjoy your better health :) -- but also know that you do have a risk factor for developing a more permanent thyroid condition and might need to have it checked again in a few years just to see if things are still in the normal range.

It's tempting if you have mild hypothyroidism to ignore the problem, especially if you have periods of time when you are feeling better. Sometimes, patients who are on very small doses of thyroid hormones wonder if such a small amount really makes a difference. As you can see from the list of problems above, refusing to take thyroid replacement hormone when you need it can be dangerous. There is a famous celebrity who has done just that, claming to have solved her auto-immune thyroid problem with retreat dedicated to rest, stress reduction, and diet -- including lots of soy. (Soy, ironically, is known to inhibit absorption of thyroid replacement hormone.) Amost anyone -- ailing or well -- will feel at least somewhat better after retreating away for a course of rest and healthy living, but that does not mean that an underlying medical condition can be completely cured by these things. In fact, advocates for patients with thyroid disease doubt that this celebrity has permanently reversed her thyroid condition. If she has, she is a rare, rare case. Advocates fear that women who need medical attention will follow the celebritity's example and try to treat themselves.

There's a common belief in the U.S. that if you have a thyroid problem, you need more iodine. It's true that in the third world, there are people who do lack iodine and who do suffer thyroid problems as a result. If you live in an area where iodine deficient goiters are seen, you might want to have that checked. However, in the U.S. and Europe, it's very difficult to develop a true iodine deficiency today, especially since most of our table salt is processed with iodine. You can actually cause or worsen thyroid problems by supplementing with too much iodine, as it is possible to take in more than your body can safely use. Most thyroid problems in the U.S. and Europe are due to autoimmune disorders or some other type of disruption in the endocrine system, rather than to an iodine deficiency.

Thyroid medication is inexpensive; it is well-studied; it solves major problems for those who truly need it; the medical profession's understanding and management of thyroid disease is improving all of the time. Likewise, the tests to deterine if you have a thyroid problem are simple. So, if you suspect a problem, why not have it tested? And, if it turns out that you do have a problem, why not pursue the treatment your body needs?

Happy home keeping!