5/17/17

10 Awesome Things

Hello there! I did not mean to be away for so long. But LIFE. We have had so many extra things with the end of school. I'm thrilled to finally see the light of summer around the bend. Whoo hoo!


Today, I thought I would share 10 awesome things that I heavily endorse. Don't you love a good recommendation?!

1. Caveman Bars - these are are mostly nuts and some chocolate. I have been looking for a somewhat healthful and delicious bar to eat for breakfasts on busy mornings or for an afternoon treat.
Larabars - no.
Cliff bars - heck no.
Caveman bars - thumbs up.

2. For some reason I am just now catching on to Costco's premade dinners. Our family has recently enjoyed the stuffed bell peppers twice. They are fantastic. It's basically a homemade meal that I didn't make. And the price is so reasonable considering you get a night off from cooking.

3. LAKE pajamas. Since I'm a 34 year old woman I thought it was about time to buy a decent pair of pajamas. These pj's are heaven. 100% cotton which is a must.

4. I picked up the Aztec Secret face mask at Whole Foods. I love it. It burns in the best kind of way - you feel like it's doing something - ha!

5. And to follow the face mask...St. Ives Face Moisturizer. It is much cheaper at drug stores than on Amazon.

The mask and the moisturizer are great products for their price.

6. My 8 year old received this amazing swing for his birthday from grandparents. It has become the new hearth of our home. We spend so much time gathered around this swing. We even read the children's bedtime story by the swing one night over the weekend.

7. A reader introduced me to Primary Clothing a while ago and I have yet to buy anything. I do plan to because I think the idea for plain, brightly colored children's clothes is genius. I am all about their swim collection and will totally be buying some rashguards before the swim season begins.

8. I have heard the author (Andy Crouch) of this book interviewed on two different podcasts. Everything he said was so thought provoking and good. I'm adding the book to my TBR list.

The Tech Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology In It's Proper Place

9. This is a lovely blog post about losing weight and staying slim. Such sound advice.

10. I have been all about knotting my tees lately. I find it goes great with skirts or when you want a neater look but do not feel up to tucking in your shirt.

What is awesome and what do you recommend?

4/25/17

More Streamlining

May is less than one week away. 

Never before have I needed things to run smoothly and efficiently than in the month of May.

May is the busiest, not necessarily signing up for extras but fulfilling prior commitments. School has its end of the year projects and celebrations. Dance is finished off with a recital. There is prep required for summer activities, camps, and VBS. And then there is the beautiful weather which has us staying out longer in the afternoons. Oh, and the usual stuff like laundry, meals, carpool, 4 year old tantrums, 1 year old tantrums etc.

So I'm streamlining like crazy. Today, I want to share 3 more things I've added to my list of ways to make life a bit more manageable and that are now part of my streamlining repertoire.

1. The 3 oldest kids got a pair of Natives. My friends have raved about these shoes. You can get them wet. There are not shoestrings involved. They are durable. These shoes are a one shoe wonder in that they cover all our shoe needs.

These are my kids ONE pair of spring/summer shoes. Sure, we have back ups, but these are the shoes. I chose these because my children can easily put them on themselves. And that makes my life so much easier.

 '
This one, easy shoe philosophy could totally be done with shoes you already have. I'm not recommending everyone has to go out and buy a pair of Natives (though they are great). But, it's worth considering with your next shoe purchase how involved you have to be as the parent in helping with kids' shoes.

2. I've gone hard core (again) with our color coded cups. Each of my children (and one neighbor friend) has an assigned color. George and Caroline each have a sippy cup. When someone asks for a drink, I say -"where's your cup?" - and they have to find it.

It is my hill to die on.

This has cut way back on dishes.


The one pair of shoes and the one cup thing are teaching us all to be more disciplined about keeping up with our stuff.

It is truly so much simpler, a paradigm shift creating real habit change!

Last but not least...

3. I'm taking full advantage of Walmart grocery pickup, averaging about once a week. Because it's  usually required that you reserve a time slot 24 hours in advance, it's forcing me to be more organized. This service is saving me so much energy because what is more exhausting than taking little kids to the grocery store?!


If you have not tried it, you have not really lived.

The comments were so great on the last streamlining post. Share if you have more ideas!

4/18/17

Spring Around Our House












Loving Spring over here! It's my fave. We can't get enough outside time. The weather has been perfection.

I'm looking for a new audio book to listen to. Suggestions? Finished Lincoln in the Bardo....I liked it, but don't openly recommend it. It's not for everybody.

Failing at tea. I'm drinking coffee as I type.

Also, as I type, my kids are having "room time."  This is a new thing for us - 30 minutes to 1 hour of quiet in their rooms in the afternoon. I'm loving it and they are learning to love it.

Laurie's kindergarten class is celebrating the wedding of Q and U tomorrow and I'm making this cake.

Stephen is turning 8 on Thursday. He is getting this Statue of Liberty 3D puzzle. He's already done the Titanic and an aircraft carrier.

Jennifer's 10 Item Spring Wardrobe - love it. I look forward to her videos every Monday and Thursday!

Got to go...room time is almost up!

4/11/17

Helping Kids Push Past Boredom

The other day it was hot and my kids got bored, a glimpse of summer :) They were begging to watch YouTube and play on the the iPad (uggh!).

This got me thinking...about summer and the endless hours of free time at home while the baby will be (hopefully) napping.
 
On one hand, I'm all for kids being bored. But I do think it's too much to ask them to "figure it out" for hours on end. Setting a little inspiration before them can go a long, long way. This is sort of a recent revelation for me.

As my kids get older, they have more of their own agendas and expectations. I'm learning that those agendas need to be carefully managed. I need to lead them, guide them, provide ideas for them - "run" their life so they don't run mine.

Serve them strawberries so they don't raid the freezer for ice cream, literally and metaphorically. 

This takes energy and planning on the part of the parent. It's hard.


When they were full of complaints on this particular Sunday afternoon, I pulled out a new pack of beads and some Legos. I held firm. No YouTube. No iPad.


They got lost in their creations.


 


As I prepare for the summer, I'm filing away ideas of things to do. Simple things. But I have a feeling that my attitude is my biggest challenge.



Thoughts?
Can y'all relate? 
What supplies/materials do you provide for your kids to keep them busy? 

4/6/17

Clothing Budget + Enjoying the Burn

The beginning of 2017, I set a strict clothing budget for myself. I even opened a separate checking account to keep all clothing transactions organized and separated from our main checking.

I was seeking strict accountability for what I buy and how much I spend on my clothing. Clothes are my weakness. If I'm tempted to impulse buy, it's going to be on my clothes.


Oddly, even thought I showed weakened restraint when it came to clothes and I had plenty of clothes, I wasn't buying the right clothes. There was still holes in my wardrobe and things that were not really my style...just not quite right. Worse, I kept buying similar items. Hello I do not need anymore button down shirts!

Setting a strict budget was my attempt to rein it all in.

I'm also keeping a list of each item I purchase throughout the year. The list allows me to really reflect on what I buy - How much did I wear it? Was this or that a good purchase?

I guess you could say I've made a hobby out of creating a wardrobe that I love. It's a creative outlet and it keeps me from dressing frumpy (as is so tempting for moms at home). It is a hobby that overlaps with the necessity that I get dressed everyday.

I'm almost 4 months in, and I'm really feeling the benefits of this strict budget.

- There is freedom in the budget. The money is allotted for me to spend on clothes, and I don't feel guilt about spending the hard earned family dollars impulsively.

(A word about my impulsive purchasing - what I mean is....impulsive for me, a person who is not very impulsive about purchases. It's relative. In general, I'm an under buyer.)

- I've become a more cautious and confident buyer. The budget provides clarity because if I'm going to spend my precious clothing allowance, I want to buy something I LOVE.

- It's made me patient. My allowance is enough to enjoy and buy beautiful, quality clothes. But it's not enough to run out and buy a full season's worth of clothes and accessories. It's a slow and enjoyable process.

Jennifer Scott describes in one of her videos (though I can't find the exact one) about enjoying the burn, the slow process of building a great wardrobe, buying the best quality you can afford. I love this concept - enjoying the burn. It's an exercise - to budget, to have self-discipline, to refine my style.

Do you have a clothing budget?
Are you satisfied with your wardrobe?
How much do you care about your clothes? A lot, a little?

P.S. You would be so underwhelmed if you saw how I dressed. I'm no fashionista. I enjoy timeless, simple clothing. Though I am trying to dress a little more elegantly by slowly acquiring more dresses.

4/4/17

Plating and 6:30 Dinner

Whenever my parents are cooking for a group, they will often plate everybody's meal and serve it like a restaurant does. Everyone gets a serving of each part of the meal, beautifully arranged on their plate. This does not mean you have to eat it, but it makes it easier on the server and it is a lovely presentation. 

An important part of the success of our 6:30 family dinner is plating all the plates at the same time. This is not a new invention, but new to me.

I used to prepare the children's plates, let them start eating, and then I would fix my plate. By the time I sat down, they were done and asking for more food or wanting to get up.


Last night we had our typical 6:30 dinner - minus my husband who was working later. We set the table, and then I plated the food (including my plate). I snapped a picture realizing how vital plating is to getting everyone to sit down at the same time, especially when my husband is not present. I really enjoy the formality of it and it enables me to sit with everyone while we eat.


I can see how eating family style or buffet style might work when the kids are a bit older. And maybe we'll tackle dress code one day, too. Laurie could not resist wearing her bathing suit to dinner last night. Whatever!

.....

I'm also thinking I need to do lunch this way in the summer when we are all home.

Do you plate everyone's food?

Family style? Buffet style? 

I've never given much thought to this, but it can really make a big difference for the cook and server in the enjoyment of meals.

.....

P.S. I loved every comment on Streamlining. Y'all gave me so many more ideas to think about. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your wisdom!

3/30/17

Streamlining

When we had our 4th child, things got real. Not that they weren't real before, but adding another person + the combination of my oldest starting first grade made for a very demanding life. I now had "big" kids and little kids and a baby!

I had to get to 2 different schools during the day (preschool and big kid school). I had to wake up in the night with a newborn and set my alarm clock early to get everybody up for school. And don't even get me started on feeding all these people. The demands seemed merciless, especially those early newborn days. And honestly, it is still pretty challenging as we enter the toddler phase and the increasing homework load!
 

One day I took a step back and said what (WHAT on earth???!) can I do lighten my situation? I likened it to a business meeting, the kind where you would call your team in and discuss ways to make the company run smoother. What can we cut? What can we do better? How can we be more efficient? What can I streamline?

The list below is what I came up with...not in one sitting, but over the course of 6 months or so. This is the list I would give my younger, totally overwhelmed self. This is a similar list I gave to a friend and fellow mom of 4 not too long ago when she said "Help! Do you have any ideas? I'm drowning."

1 - hire some help

If you can afford to hire any sort of help - do it. We found a wonderful cleaning lady to come every other week. My husband said, "Let's view this expense like a utility." Re-framing it like that really helped me get over the expense. It's necessary for making our home run more smoothly.

Hired help could also be in the form of babysitting or yard work or even allowing yourself to get take out a couple nights a week without guilt.

2 - paper plates

Paper plates = less dishes to wash. I mostly use paper plates for dinner if the dishwasher is already full.

3 - auto draft your bills

If you are the family bookkeeper, you can save yourself so much time by putting your bills on auto draft. Most all utility companies and mortgage companies provide this option.This is a precious hour or two I can use for other purposes each month.

4 - Amazon subscribe and save

Dog food and diapers. Toilet paper. The things that you do not want to ever be without...sign up for a  subscription through Amazon. You will never be desperate, loading all your kids up at 5pm to go buy diapers. What a nightmare!

I especially like this for lager items because they take up so much room in the grocery cart.

5 - shoe station

Corral all your kids' shoes and put them in one spot. This way, the shoes are easy to find and it's easy for your kids to put them away.



6 - uniform basket (or church clothes or swim stuff basket)

Similar to the shoe station, keeping school uniforms or church clothes in one basket makes it so much easier to get everyone dressed! This will save you from running to all 4 corners of the house frantically searching for your son's brown belt and your daughter's navy blue leggings. It's all in one spot.

In the summer, I keep all our swim suits in one basket together, not in individual drawers and rooms.

7 - prepackaged snacks

A granola bar never hurt anyone. Embrace prepackaged snacks, especially if you have to pack school lunches - a few prepackaged items can give you so much peace. We also found that letting our kids raid the snack cabinet on the occasional Saturday morning gives the adults a little extra time to sleep. 

8 - if you have a baby, teach them to love their pack n' play

Teach your baby to spend a little time in the pack n' play each day. This is so helpful. Sometimes you need to unload the dishwasher quickly and efficiently without your 1 year old getting involved.

Just this morning, I put Caroline in her pack n' play with a puzzle while I did my make up and put some laundry away. She's 19 months old, a very active, never sitting still 19 months!

9 - quit something

There's a saying that I love "Why do today what you can throw out altogether?" Is there something you can quit, at least for a season while you're stressed, while you have 4 babies under the age of 6?

If there is something in particular that you dread and it totally frazzles you and it doesn't seem worth it - quit!

4 year old t-ball
Wednesday night church
school volunteering

It's not mandatory!

You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. 

One thing I quit doing was taking meals to new mom friends. Sorry new mom friends. I love you. Right now, it about kills me to take a meal to somebody. So I quit and I can take this up again when I don't have a toddler literally under my feet 24/7.

10 - Rest

Two nights ago, Stephen and I stayed up until midnight thoroughly enjoying ourselves, watching our new show.  The next day - unproductive and monster - are the two words that best described myself. I felt terrible. I had a headache. I over ate. I yelled. I was horrible, all because I did not get enough sleep.

Sleep is vital. Everything is better when you are rested. Aggressively developing good sleep habits is worth the effort! And sure, the occasional late night indulgence of TV happens. But it's not the norm.

Good sleep = better performance in parenting, in adulting, in everything!

 

How do you streamline?

I'm always looking for new ideas?
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