New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This School Year

August 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


The most important thing you can do to prevent sickness is to wash your hands, and teach your children proper handwashing technique.

Back to School Time Brings Germs

It’s back to school season, which unfortunately (lots of times) means It’s Back To Being Sick season.

And that stinks.

I did some work with Lysol over the summer, and had the opportunity to sit down with a representative from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) a few weeks ago during the BlogHer conference.

And guess what?

Preventing sickness — the common cold, pink eye, hand-foot-mouth, the flu, and respiratory illness — is really easy to do.

You just need to WASH YOUR HANDS and regularly disinfect surfaces!

That’s it!

 

A TRILLION Germs live in One Gram of Poop. Gross. Free Printable for your bathroom, playroom, etc.

 

In case you weren’t sure of what number has that many zeros, it’s TRILLION.

There are A TRILLION GERMS IN ONE GRAM OF POOP.

Ew.

It’s a big deal. And I tell my kids that when they pick their nose, it’s “their nose’s poop.” Gross, yes, but it gets the point across. As far as I’m concerned you can’t ever really wash your hands too much.

Another thing that I learned from the CDC representative is that hand sanitizer is not a substitute for hand washing. It will do the job in a pinch, but the best thing is to always use running water and soap.

 

Free Printable Hand Washing Signs from the CDC

 

If you’d like some hand-washing signs to print out to hang in your home, your classroom, or at church, etc., this link has the PDFs.

They are in other languages, too!

 

War on Germs

As I said in my previous post for Lysol, I do try to keep our own home as germ-free as I can, and I do purposely wipe down the door knobs, light switches, remotes, and hand-held screens pretty often with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes.

I’m going to continue to do this, but I’m going to also really try to round up the kids as often as I can to wash their hands. I’m also going to make a very concerted effort to wash hands before we eat anything — this can be tricky on a busy Saturday afternoon when we are grabbing food on the run, or are hanging out at the mall.

But I’m convinced.

Hand washing is easy, and it’s cheap.

What about you? Do you have a plan of attack to keep the germs from invading your home this Back to School season?

 

I Love Lysol and I Can Not Lie

July 21, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

// ]]>Lysol-products

I like things clean. I feel calm and collected when the house is tidy and everything is in its place. I used to think this was a personality flaw, but now I realize I am who I am, and I like who I am.

I, Stephanie O’Dea, happen to be a sort-­of-­Type-­A Clean Freak.

I also love the Smell of Clean. I’m not a “vinegar and baking soda” kind of person ­­­ I am fine if other people clean with these products ­­­­ but they just aren’t the cleaning powerhouse I need them to be.

1, I don’t want the house to smell like Easter Eggs all the time and 2, I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that the germs are dead.

Because that’s what really matters to me. DEAD GERMS.

One of the side effects of my Love Affair with Lysol® is that we don’t get sick very often [KNOCK WOOD].

Sure, we get the sniffles now and then, but colds and flus don’t wipe through our house. I mostly credit this to Proper Hand Washing [side note: evidently I wash my hands so much that my fingerprints are hard to read now? I learned this after the school district fingerprinted me for volunteer work], but I do also use a lot of Lysol® Disinfectant Spray and Disinfecting Wipes.

I still let my kids get dirty ­­ we spend a lot of time outside, and I am not worried about outdoor germs or bugs, or licking a bit of worm slime. That kind of stuff is absolutely fine with me.

vintage lysol
One of my earliest memories is going to family church camp and watching my grandmother go over the entire room with a can of Lysol® Disinfectant Spray. She sprayed down the light switches, TV (it didn’t have a remote, so she sprayed down the controls on the front of it which I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to do with electronics), the doorknob, and the entire bathroom.

She also laid down newspapers so we never stepped directly onto the carpet… huh. I’m beginning to see where I get my tendencies…

ANYWAY.

This Is What I Do To Help Keep Us Healthy

To keep us as healthy as we can be, I do ask my kids and all kids that come into my home to wash hands. It’s become such a habit for my kids (and for me) that I don’t even really need to say anything anymore. Everyone plops their shoes/backpacks/etc. by the front door and immediately washes their hands.

We do entertain a lot of other kids after school or on playdates, and I ask them to do the same. Every once in a while I get a kid who doesn’t want to wash hands “but I just washed them after lunch” or “my mom says I don’t have to” ­­­ but I stick to my guns. This is a big deal for me, and I will take kids into the bathroom if need­be and help them wash their hands properly.

I also try my hardest to keep little kids in one area of the home, and provide easy-to-­wash toys. I like Duplo Legos, Little People ­­­ —hard plastic toys­­­— these toys can easily be run through the dishwasher if necessary, or I take the bin outside later and spray the toys down with Lysol® or rub them clean with a Disinfectant Wipe.

This is what I did when I ran preschool centers, too. It keeps the toys shiny and dust­free, but most importantly it keeps boogers and saliva germs away. I also at least once a month (and more often during cold and flu season) spray down the doorknobs, light switches, and TV remotes with Lysol® or use the Disinfectant Wipes. I’ve written about this in the Totally Together: Shortcuts to an Organized Life book.

This truly is one of the best ways to make sure to Kill Germs Dead before they spread throughout the family and cause illness.

Lysol® and BlogHer

Lysol Healthy Habits bus

I’m doing some work with Lysol® and BlogHer and am happy to share with you a new project that Lysol is working on– ­ the Healthy Habits Program, to bring a healthy awareness about germs to kids.

Lysol has put together its Healthy Habits Bus which is a “Science Museum on Wheels” that is able to go to schools across the country to show kids how germs work (good germs vs. bad germs) and how to practice proper hand washing procedure/sneeze etiquette.

The interactive games onboard the bus include a cool Hand Scanner where kids can put their hands under the scanner and see their hands projected on a screen in front of them – with animated “germs” wriggling all over them.

Lysol Healthy Habits Bus Hand Wash Station

Kids can then watch a video about germs and watch an  “Anatomy of a Sneeze” film before being able to practice proper hand washing right there on the bus. I love interactive school projects like this. I remember getting all excited when I was little when the Brush Mobile would come to school (do they even have those anymore?) or when the Library Lady would come and help us renew all of our library cards so we could check out books at the Book Mobile.

Lysol® is going to have a booth at BlogHer this year and I look forward to checking out the videos they have and learning more about their Healthy Habits Tour Bus.

Host the Lysol® Healthy Habits Bus at Your Child’s School

I’m excited to share this part with you!

Lysol’s Healthy Habits Program wants to offer your child’s school an opportunity to win a $15,000 educational grant, a one year supply of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol No­Touch Hand Soap, and to have the Lysol® Healthy Habits Bus come to YOUR school.

To enter your school, please visit Lysol’s webpage and enter the pertinent information.

This contest ends July 31, 2014. I think this is a great way to help raise awareness about healthy habits and hand washing.

My fingers are crossed for you and your school!

Final Thoughts (Does Not Reflect Lysol’s Opinion)

Before I go, I want to bring up Super Germs and the idea that use of disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and over­zealous handwashing with antibacterial soap are making us (the human race) resistant to germs and are actually making germs stronger and badder.

I am not a scientist. All I know is that as a mom, my job is to do everything I possibly can to keep my kids happy, safe, healthy, and strong.

My gut, my pediatrician, and my grandma’s teaching tell me that hand washing and germ­killing is good.

If I’m wrong, and the germs are in fact getting stronger and badder because of what I’m doing to help keep my kids happy, safe, healthy, and strong, then I’m okay with it. I trust that science will continue to adapt and develop to Kill Germs Dead.

If germs can adapt, so can the scientists. I am not comfortable using my kids as guinea pigs to test out whether or not theories such as Super Germs exist.

All in all, at the end of the day, we are all doing our absolute best to raise our kids the best we can.

And mine?

You’ll find them over there, in a cloud of Lysol. ;­)

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!!

Golden Rules for the Family — printable

May 12, 2014 by · 8 Comments 

The Family Golden Rules

click the link for a printable PDF version of the golden rules for your use –steph

The Family’s Golden Rules

Summer is coming, and I plan on having the kids home with me. I don’t like having the kids at camps and try not to have a lot of structured activities planned during the summer months. It’s a little old-school, I know, but I just really like having them home with me and I like the uninterrupted free time and play that occurs when we don’t have something we HAVE to do.

And I’m kind of lazy.

And I’m terribly cheap.

That said, I do have things that I need to accomplish this summer, and in order for me to get my work done, the kids need to find a way to fend for themselves and not run completely feral.

We have chore charts, and we do follow The Daily 7 as much as we can to keep the house in somewhat decent order. I try to let them work out their own squabbles (my kids are currently 12, 9, and 4) and choose to not intervene unless truly necessary.

(see above. I’m kind of lazy…)

AND? I am not going to always be here. I need these kids to grow up to be responsible members of society, and in order for that to happen, I can’t swoop in and fix every last thing. They’ve got to figure it out on their own.

I’ve gotten a few emails about chores, and responsibility charts, and decided to use those emails as a springboard to make up a list of Golden Rules for the house. These are certainly not the *only* rules in our house, but these are the ones that I expect to be drummed into their heads before embarking out into the Wild Wild World.

Feel free to print these out and hang them up in the play room or family room.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!!

related:

age-appropriate listing of household chores, Wipe On/Wipe Off chore charts, “closet” homeschooling for the summer 

Backyard Container Composting

March 5, 2014 by · 10 Comments 

Make a backyard composter out of 3 stacked wooden crates -- can be found at Michael's or garden supply store. No tools needed!

You’ve heard of container gardening, but how about container composting?

I’m on a writing deadline, which naturally means that I am procrastinating by spending way too much time looking up gardening stuff on Pinterest. (that makes sense, right?)

wait. Don’t answer that.

We have a bit of a blank slate with the backyard in this new house, and I’ve been pinning up a storm on my small garden ideas board, and came across a pin for a container composter made from 3 stacked plastic milk cartons– the thick plastic cubes that the dairy provides to ship the milk to the store.

I was instantly intrigued. I’ve wanted to compost (I can use that as a verb, right?) for a few years but only wanted to do it without involving my husband. I liked the idea of the compost bins made from pallets but knew that even if I could find a pallet (and pinterest makes it seem like there are pallets lying around all over town, but even if they were, wouldn’t they belong to somebody?) I’d need Adam to use the saw and make it for me, which defeats my purpose of wanting to do EVERYTHING all by MYSELF.

(I’m sort of like a preschooler that way….)

Anyway — back to the milk cartons. I liked how they were stacked three high, and I liked how no sawing or nails or anything mathematical was involved. But I couldn’t get past the whole stealing them from the back alley behind the grocery store thing—-  so I went to Office Depot to buy some crates.

The only types they had were made out of terribly flimsy plastic and the bottom was solid, which wouldn’t work for what I wanted. I wanted the bottom to be open so worms could get in and for airflow between the stacked bins. Bummer.

plastic milk crate

In a pinch, I figured those could work, but I’d need holes drilled into the bottom, and my worry was that the plastic would begin to wear out pretty quickly in the sun.

I went across the parking lot to Orchard Supply Hardware and looked at their plastic crates. They had some pretty durable ones, plus they had some really cool cubes made of plastic-coated wire that would have worked. The cubes were $14 each, which are a bit pricy, but they would have worked.

And then I saw the bulb display by the door leading to the outdoor garden. In these beautiful wooden crates there were daffodil, garlic, and tulip bulbs for purchase. I didn’t want the bulbs, though, I wanted the display crates. I found three empty ones under the table and brought them to the front of the store. The lady at the counter wasn’t sure what to tell me, and didn’t know if she could sell them as “miscellaneous merchandise.” I was asked to wait about 20 minutes until Sam came back from lunch.

So I did.

The kids and I used the potty and daydreamed about patio furniture. We also picked out a few new paint chips (I limit the kids to 3 chips each — I think it’s wrong to take every color for an art project, but I see that kind of stuff online all the time…  but that’s just me. I got hit pretty hard with the ethics stick.)

When Sam tracked us down, he said that I wasn’t the only person to inquire about the crates and that I could just have them. He said his manager told him yesterday that they had no use for the crates in the store.

wooden crates from Orchard

SCORE!

The funny thing is, that I totally would have paid for them. I had already decided while I was waiting that if they wouldn’t let me buy them I’d go get wooden crates from Michael’s.

I got the crates home and the kids and I got to work rather quickly getting the crates ready to go outside. I wanted the bottom slats to be uncovered, but used garden fabric that we had leftover from our old house to line the 4 sides. This keeps dirt from falling out of the cracks, protects the wood a bit, and keeps the compost ingredients insulated and warm to get them to “cook” faster.

IMG_0776_1

IMG_0779_1

I cleared a space in the backyard against the fence and stacked the three bins. Since the dirt wasn’t perfectly level, I ended up propping up the front of the bottom bin up with two bricks. Not only did this make my stack pretty darn level, it also provides a bit more air flow to the bottom bin. Compost breaks down faster when it gets more air.

I’ve been reading an awful lot about composting and this stack method seems to work well when you don’t have a bunch of square footage available in your yard. To use, simply place your yard trimmings and kitchen scraps in the top bin, and once it’s full, move it to the bottom. Continue rotating the bins until all three have been filled, and hopefully by the time you are ready to use the first one again, the yardwaste and scraps have broken down enough to get incorporated into your garden. Your compost is fully “cooked” when it’s super dark and looks like a moist crumbled chocolate cake.

make a compost pile out of three wooden crates

make a backyard compost stack out of three wooden crates

I ended up putting a small piece of plywood that I had lying around in the shed for a top, and put a heavy terracotta pot on top. This is to discourage the cats or raccoons from digging through the compost and to keep rain out of the bins. You can help break down your kitchen scraps and yard clippings by adding worms to the pile. If the worms don’t find you on their own, you can purchase worms from a fishing supply or garden store, or simply go on a puddle walk with the kids after a rain!

I’m excited about this project — it was something that I really wanted to do for quite a while, but kept getting bogged down with the details. This method is simple, and if I run out of room, I can easily make another one on the other side of the yard.

I go through so many produce scraps when I’m cooking and since we no longer have guinea pigs (they lived a good long life, and were terribly well-loved!) I am happy to be able to put the scraps to good use.

DIY 3-part container composter in the backyard. No tools needed; crates can be found at Michael's or a garden supply store

 

 

 

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