6/22/18

Five Favorites

My kids and I are visiting my parents this week. I've had time to walk, read, sleep, and now...blog!

I thought I would jump on here and share five recent favorites. I love when other bloggers do posts like these. Because isn't word of mouth is the best way to get more goodness in your life?! I think so.

ONE

bugs in ice

My mom froze some toy bugs in a big block of ice for George (5) to excavate. He has had a blast digging his way through the ice with a butter knife to collect the bugs. We have frozen and re-frozen them several times. This is a great activity to burn up a little time during the summer.


TWO

Old Navy golden bronze flip flops


What a fabulous, casual, and affordable shoe! I have been wearing the O.N. golden bronze flip flops for years now. Though I mostly only wear them around my house, it feels a little more sophisticated than the other colors.

THREE

short hair

I have an upcoming hair appointment. I'm totally feeling a blunt bob. I'm planning to use this picture to show my hair stylist. I have genuinely tried to grow my hair out past my shoulders, but after a while I just can't stand it. Plus, it always ends up in a ponytail.

found image on Pinterest


FOUR

If you need an epic summer read (or listen) I highly recommend America's First Daughter and/or My Dear Hamilton.




Both are written by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
I have gotten completely caught up in these stories. Riveting! Five Stars!

FIVE

open face sandwiches

for breakfast...for lunch...I'm all about an open face sandwich! Toast a good piece of bread and then top with...

cream cheese and cucumbers
pimento cheese and tomato
avocado and fried egg or a tomato (or both)

 
What are your favorite things these days?!

5/29/18

Notes on Summer

Summer...I love it. But I also understand the complex nature of my kids being home all the time! Yikes, it can be so so much togetherness.

 

This post, I'm basically sharing my personal notes and thoughts I wrote down about summer. It's a very loose, tentative guide. By no means do I know exactly what I'm doing, but it helps me to frame up a plan to keep things from going to heck in a hand basket.

Let's start by lowering expectations. Life is hard and unpredictable. Tropical storms come and keep you up all night (this was last night for us). I (you, we) are not going to live up to all we want summer to be. There may be some days when your TV is on all day and you OD on pimento cheese. It's okay.


Now that I've said that...let's talk about a kid schedule. There are certainly weeks where we have plans - VBS, trips to see family, camps, swim days, etc. But there are also a lot of days at home.  The schedule is a guideline to benefit me (the mom) and the children so we can get into a rhythm and people can know what to expect around here.

Here's our very loose, flexible, ever evolving "schedule"

wake up
eat breakfast
listen to music
clean up rooms
free time/ run errands if needed

11:00 lunch
summer work book/ memory work
read aloud to little kids (George and Caroline)
free time

2:00 Caroline - nap
TV/screen time for big kids
3:00 snack
free time

6:30 dinner
read aloud to big kids
bed
.....

So, that's how I'm directing my kids' time.

 

Now let's talk about ME. This is how I'm dividing up my time and activities.

Calling it MY SUMMER MANIFESTO

morning things
read Bible, pray, drink coffee
ABCD's of housework 
e-mail
nursing continuing ed
read to George and Caroline

afternoon things 
yoga/Pilates for 12 minutes
read and rest
dinner prep
listen to something good (audiobook or podcast)

Nights are for free time and fun, and I hope to get some reading in with the older 2 kids.

TUESDAY- Walmart grocery pick up day
Friday night meal - spaghetti or fish + vegetables, taking a break from our usual homemade pizza

signature drink - Michelob Ultra


big goals for me-
get away one time per week for several hours by myself
finish RN continuing education for my nursing license renewal
update family photo albums
go on at least 4 summer date nights
_______________________

Some other little side tips....

Each child has a simple wardrobe and everything fits in ONE drawer - clothes, socks, underwear...everything.

I keep all the swimwear in a laundry basket in my closet. Swim bag stays packed with towels and sunscreen.We can be ready for a swim and out the door in about 10 minutes.

"Say yes as much as possible" is sort of my parenting mantra, especially for my oldest who could use more autonomy.

The food plan is it's own thing and it deserves it's own post. All you need to know is I'm on it. I am the boss of food.

..........

Over this past weekend, like a good millennial, I had an episode of anxiety. Y'all, in all my days I have never experienced this. I was short of breath and I just felt so frazzled. In my mind I was FINE, but my body was not.

Honestly, I think it was a delayed anxiety from surviving the school year and more specifically, the month of May. My brain was overloaded and my body was beat. Also, the constant stimuli of kids...it adds up. Summer will cure what ails me. I can already feel it!


Cheers to corn dogs, chillaxin', and keeping things simple!
What are your summer "manifestos" ? 

5/2/18

Our Grocery Spending 2017

I can hardly believe it myself because I'm no good at record keeping, but for the entire year of 2017 I tracked our grocery spending every single month.

We are a family of six, 2 adults and 4 kids ages 2, 4, 6, and 8. We eat almost exclusively at home. These numbers include toiletries and household goods. It also includes going out to eat for convenience, but not for planned, special meals at nice restaurants. It includes alcohol. It does not include dog food, cat food or diapers and wipes.


Here are the results.

January $741.10

February $774.43

March $667.60

April $954.67

May $1,160.83

June $919.83

July $615.00

August $1067.00

September $629.73

October $995.20

November $509.29

December $ 689.24

The average comes to $810.26/month.

It was enlightening to take a year and observe and study our food spending habits and how much we actually spend on groceries.  Mostly, I'm happy with the amount we spent. I worked really hard to watch our spending. My only basis for wanting to cut down on the budget is how much food we wasted and gave to the dogs in 2017.

About half way through the year, I got really interested in the topic of food waste. Have you heard the shocking statistics about how much food Americans waste?! Google it and you will quickly find that the average American family wastes about $2,000 worth of food per year. It totally believe it.

With the realization that our family wastes a little more food than I care to admit, I've tried to focus on many of my habits in the kitchen in order to decrease our food waste. Because food is money!

One thing I implemented was a regular grocery shopping day. I now keep it like I would a dentist appointment, and I buy no more than one week's worth of groceries. This helped me get a better understanding of how much food we actually needed to get through one week.

Another thing I've done, though I've kept it to myself, is declare 2018 "the year of the humble meal."

scrambled eggs + toast
grilled cheese + an apple
a bowl of oatmeal

Simple, humble meals are good and good for you. They require little energy to put together and they are low cost. Also, they are made from grocery staples.

I don't believe in making big announcements about changes in your kitchen like "we are eating less meat" or "I'm going to stop buying chips." Just do it and see how it goes. If you say it out loud you will definitely get push back.
...

Questions, thoughts? Are you happy with your grocery spending?
Do you feel like you waste food?  If so, why do you think that is?

4/26/18

Managing Kids' Clothes is Serious Business

If you have multiple kids and distinct seasons where you live, you know the enormity of the task of switching out kids wardrobes each season.

They are growing.
The weather changes.
You want to save hand-me-downs for younger or future, unborn children.
Maybe they need new clothes, and you have to decided what they need, how much of it, and how much to spend.

It's a lot.

I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I have refined my system to the point that I don't feel completely overwhelmed. FYI, in case you are new around here I have 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls.


These are my best tips and guidelines for managing, buying, organizing, and dealing with your kids' wardrobes.

1. Realize that your kids don't need excessive amounts of clothing. There is no set number, but you probably need less than you think. Yes, you need enough that if the laundry backs up for a couple of days, they will have plenty to wear. But you don't need much beyond that.

Less is probably enough. The benefit is that it's less to manage and you will save so much money if you have the mentality that your kids don't need closets bursting with clothes.

Maybe you need to do a big purge. That leads to my next point.

2. Shop your own stuff. Decide what you definitely want to keep. For every seasonal switch out, I like to get all (yes, all) my kids' clothes out and put them in a huge pile. This way I can evaluate and get a really good inventory of what we have. Then I pretend I'm at a consignment sale and I "shop" our own clothes. From the oldest to the youngest, I put together a little wardrobe for each child for the new season. This is actually really fun for me. As I do this, I make a list of what we need to buy.

3. Set a budget. Children's clothing is a major budget buster for many of us mamas. They will only be little once and we want them to look adorable during these glorious and precious days. And so we make emotional purchases. Maybe we feel pressured because of how our friends (or strangers on Instagram) dress their kids.

I get it. MiniBoden is my love language.

A budget will give you freedom to spend and have fun with the allotted money, but it also gives you a limit. This limit will help you discern what clothes you love the most and want to buy, and it will also keep you from being a hoarder and buying too many clothes.

4. Now that you have a budget, buy only what you love! If you want to buy 2 more expensive outfits vs. 4 cheaper ones - go for it! Enjoy dressing your children in clothes you love. Of course keeping in mind that kids are hard on their clothes.

5. Limit your storage for sentimental items and hand-me-downs. We are all constantly are talking about how our homes don't have enough closet space. No, y'all! We have too much stuff.

This is very personal, I know. Maybe you want to have more babies. Maybe you can't part with all the baby clothes. Maybe you feel guilty because you spent a lot of money on these clothes and you might sell them.

I'm not telling you how or that you have to do it, I'm just putting the idea in your head. Limit your storage. Don't keep more than you can comfortably store.

For example, I have ONE medium sized box for sentimental baby clothes. I could have saved triple that. But why do I need 3 boxes of baby clothes to keep forever? I don't.

Keep your favorites. The same goes for clothing you are storing for your kids to grow into. Keep your favorites.

In summary...

Less is plenty.
Shop your own stuff.
Set a budget.
Buy what you love!
Limit your storage.

That's it!

Okay, hit me up with your questions and tips!


Would you look at those angels?!
3 of them are wearing hand-me-downs

4/16/18

Do you have a command center?

Lately I have been taking a hard look at the "problem" areas and systems in our home -

the major laundry back up that happens on weekends
the sock problem (need I explain?)
the breakfast crisis I face regularly because one of my kids loathes oatmeal

At the top of this list was the depressing level of paper clutter that lived on my kitchen counter. For a while, I embraced it. I declared that the counter-corner would be my command center and all school papers, bills, invitations, etc. could live there in a tidy pile. Why fight it?

But stuff attracts more stuff, so the pile would grow with kids' art, lists, pens, iPhone earbuds, cash, receipts, toys. Every day I would make a plan to tame the pile, but I could never completely eradicate it because the business side of household life is ongoing. I realize this now.

 

So after a year of living in madness, I came up with a solution. I moved it. I moved my command center. So simple. I found an unused corner in our home and set up an old, bedside table to serve as a desk. I bought a $9 bulletin board. Boom. Problem solved.

Last night at dinner I noticed how much lovelier the kitchen was because my "office" wasn't staring me in the face reminding me of the appointments I haven't made and the school projects we are behind on.

As much as moving the command center out of the kitchen has helped me, so has the bulletin board. Getting my important things vertical where I can SEE them has been a game changer. I feel less stressed and I'm taking action sooner rather than letting things sit there undone in a pile.

Do you have a command center?
Do you have any nagging problem areas in your home that need to be addressed?

Sometimes the solutions (or partial solutions) are simpler than we think!


3/29/18

Easter Basket Tips

My sister did the smartest thing with her kids' Easter baskets last year. They did them on Saturday instead of Easter Sunday. I thought this was brilliant because chocolate candy and your Easter best do not go together.

So we are totally doing the Saturday thing this year.



A couple of other thoughts and ideas....

I don't go crazy with candy. One or two special treats is more than plenty. Each of my children will be receiving one chocolate bunny. This was a revelation to me after a few years of everybody getting their own big bag of candy.

I also like to think summer when doing Easter baskets. Traditionally I give bathing suits. This year is an exception because we are good in the swimwear department. Sunglasses, sidewalk chalk, beach towels, goggles, pool rings (as pictured above) make for fun, useful gifts.

My friend, James, said he always got little packets Zinnia seeds tucked his basket. I think this is the most charming idea since after Easter is the appropriate time to plant Zinnias.

Debt Free Dana shared the idea of recycling and rounding up all your stuffed animal bunnies (and there are many in our house!) and putting them out with the Easter baskets. It makes of a great presentation and you are using something you already have. My kids would love this.

Debt Kickin Mom shared in her Insta-stories recently that she is putting a hand-me-down bathing suit in her younger daughter's basket. I totally stole this idea and I'm putting some cool hand-me-downs in George's basket this year.

Everything does not have to be new! I love this idea. We can save money and really squeeze the value out of things we already have with a little re-packaging.

So what tips do you have about Easter baskets? Please share!

.....

Also, this post. They were so little.

3/26/18

Ain't No Party Like a Laundry Party

This past Sunday afternoon I found myself in a catatonic state on the sofa...just done with it all! I was rejecting my young. I couldn't imagine what we were going to have for dinner. And I was feeling extra depressed about the heaps of dirty laundry that contained all the school uniforms needed for Monday morning.

I don't find myself here too often, but yesterday was dark, one of those times in which you can't even think of a good idea to pull yourself out of your breakdown.



When my husband decisively volunteered to make eggs for the kids for dinner, I felt the beginnings of the signs that I was going to live again. Things were turning...

His alleviating one small burden gave me back the ability to think.

And I declared a laundry party for later that evening. The whole family would pitch in and do our ginormous laundry together.

These "parties" are always met with griping and complaining, but the hardest part is starting. Once the first dish towel gets folded, the momentum gets going, and the laundry is done and put away before we know it. Even Caroline can walk her clothes to her bedroom! And she delights to do so.



These pictures are from a few weeks ago before our family went on a little beach vacation. We had a laundry party and then everyone packed their own bag for our trip (except for the 2 y.o.).

Sometimes delegating and dividing up the housework can be one more thing to manage and oversee. But sometimes it brings a great deal of relief. It's all trial and error. Laundry parties are working right now and I only see more in our future.

What about you? How do you divide the labor in your home?
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