Thursday, January 31, 2013

To the moon and back...

I used to think the only redeeming quality of February was that it was a short month. I don't live in a cold climate anymore and I've grown rather fond of the month of love. In fact it's one of the best weather months of the year in Arizona. Always a reason to celebrate!

Our family is going to share the love on Monday. We've had several people in the neighborhood lose their spouse over the past year and I've decided our family night will be dedicated to them. I drew a sign for the kids to color on Sunday - which will be dropped off on their doorstep Monday with...a moonpie. No, I've never tried one and yes they look absolutely disgusting, but the name is so fitting, I couldn't help myself! Hallie watched me draw it out and waited patiently looking over my shoulder, waiting for me to finish. She wanted to color one right then and I was not working fast enough for her. She decided to go outside and play; she drew her own version in chalk on the patio.

DOWNLOAD COLORING SHEET HERE

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Family Pictures...

Family pictures is one of those events that every mom stresses to get the outfits just right for, and the dad is annoyed that he has to show up. You figure if you're paying good money to have them done (heaven knows it's been years since you last had a nice photo, and this picture better last a long time as well) everything should be perfect. It never is. And as your criticizing your kids choice of playing outside just moments before leaving for pictures and getting grass stains, you debate canceling the whole thing. But you're this far, so giving up is not an option. So you show up to your photos mad as can be at one another and expect the photographer to somehow pose you to look like a happy family. Not that this has ever happened to us...but as a photographer you see it all the time.

There is a reason why I don't often hire someone to take our family pictures, it's not worth the stress to me. But every 3 to 4 years I feel the urge and it's been a while - so we scheduled a photo. We lucked out this year with a friend (http://www.lindseybennettphotography.com) offering some holiday mini-shoots which was just what we needed. (It's how I convinced Steve to even show up - "It's not a real shoot, she's just going to shoot a few pictures and we're done, it will be painless")

It really was painless. And I got a couple of photos with the kids which never happens when you're always behind the camera. These should last us another three years!! Lucky for me - I just opened my costco coupons and found a $10 off a canvas - just in time for me to order my family photo.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

From green to clean...

I'm convinced my staph infection came from my recent pool cleaning experience, and although I wore gloves the majority of the time, I did catch myself a few times with my hands in this disgusting water, I present exhibit A: Disgusting, I know. How does a pool get so gross you ask? That's simple - Stop spending hours every week and hundreds of dollars in chemicals a month. Easy as that.

You see, since the day we moved into this house the pool has been consuming. Sure, we swam in it all summer last year but what it took to keep it clean was out of control. We knew we had to drain it and start over (and have someone else take care of the chemical portion entirely), but that is not something you can do in the middle of the summer, it will ruin your pool. We instead had to wait until the weather cooled significantly. But we were done dumping chemicals in - so we stopped. And that's how we ended up with exhibit A.

We had a small pump to remove all the water. This took far longer than I ever anticipated and after a long week, we were only this far, exhibit b: At this stage in the game I realized a huge error on my part; I wasn't using the right hosing on the pump. The hose we were using kept collapsing which made the process much longer than it should've been. I hate when I read the instructions and still mess up!

But I'm good at correcting and within no time I had it emptied.

With 16 gallons of liquid chlorine, I gave the whole thing a nice scrub. Twice. I was going to make sure the algae was gone for good. Steve was in town for the second scrub and it's amazing how fast the process goes when there are two people working on it. The kids thought it was so cool to be in the pool without any water. Bennett was my partner in crime for the majority of the process and aside from bleaching one of his brand new shirts, (what mother puts her son in a brand new shirt on pool cleaning day??) I'm happy to report no injuries! The day I started filling the pool I was patting myself on the back. It took a little longer than scheduled (most of my projects do) but watching the water fill to the top and still being able to see the bottom was a miracle. In all reality we should've replastered the whole thing. There's so many spots that have bubbled and cracked off over the years, but we just couldn't do it right now. Our resources are being directed at several things right now and it's just not good timing. We're adding it to the constantly growing, "When we don't have to pay tuition anymore" list. It's full and it's ready. And even better - it's now a salt pool. There's a local company that will install a system for free at your residence as long as you carry a chemical service with them. It's their equipment and their problem and it's less expensive than the chemical service we originally looked into: less green hair, and I won't break out in rash when I enter it. We're pretty happy in these parts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Up and running...

There are few times in my life when I've longed for days gone by. But this week I had one of those thoughts that crept in. I got a call from Hallie's school on Friday saying she had a fever and needed to be picked up. I rushed off to rescue her and got her settled in her quarantined bedroom. Life was still good.

However, somewhere along the way "life is good" turned into a weekend (plus Monday) of this: That night while picking up pizza I felt it coming on and within two hours it had consumed me. The thought crossed my mind: What I wouldn't give for our earlier days, when we had no kids in school or preschool to bring home ailments. Seriously for the first four years of parenthood, our kids were healthy as can be. I remember the first time Hallie even had the flu and threw up - she was four years old in preschool. So the fact that we've all had strep, flu, colds, pink eye...etc, it makes me remember the good ol' days!

After 48 hours, I still only had a fever and aches (which was enough to keep me in bed for two days). Hallie's was a full blown stuffy nose, and deep chest cold but mine never progressed into anything more. On Sunday morning I awoke to a numb/swollen/discolored index finger with a series of blisters on it and a high fever. I quickly realized, the cut that I had on my finger for some time and which hurt for quite a while was indeed quite infected. I started antibiotics immediately and received a priesthood blessing from Steve - within 24 hours the fever was gone, my finger started to return to it's normal shape and color, and I was feeling a little better. Of course while my immune system was down, I caught a minor head cold which seems trivial compared to the way I felt over the weekend but it's still inconvenient.

I am indebted to a husband who catered to me and the kids the whole weekend as I slept away the majority of it. By Sunday night, he was asking me what he should fix for dinner because he had extended his cooking abilities over the weekend: oatmeal, nachos, quesadillas, ramen noodles, pancakes - lucky for him we had one unused meal he could whip up: mac and cheese. I've made a mental note to teach him a few more easy meals!

To say that Steve is excited to go back to work tomorrow (after working from home today) is a complete understatement. It wasn't quite the rejuvenating weekend we had all hoped for.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Resolve to be organized...

I love January for the clean slate that it is. Once Christmas is tucked away in boxes, I go to town on my to-do/project list. I am probably more productive in January and February than all the rest of the months combined.

At the start of every year I make so many lists it gets confusing. I make lists for how I want to improve in myself personally and the relationships I have, what I hope to accomplish in training my young children, what furniture I want to build, what house projects I want to complete, what needs to be organized, and many many more.

Each list is overflowing with different ideas that come to me. From all my crazy lists I'm able to formulate several areas I want to focus on and make those my year-long resolutions. Many are personal enough that I choose not to share and I'm sure the rest of the list I share with a large percentage of people making resolutions.

Through the process of making these resolutions I realized there was one thing that stayed with me: organize. I'm an average organizer. There are some things in my life that are perfectly organized, there are other things that are not. I feel like organization plays such a large roll in my life and I lose patience and get frustrated when there is chaos.

I want dinner time/grocery shopping more organized. I used to make a new recipe every week - which seems oddly out of reach right now. Every time I walk through the grocery store I ask myself why have I not created a master list in the order in which I walk by items at the grocery store. (My sister-in-law at one time had such a list and it was brilliant) Dinner time is so busy, I've got to be better at prepping earlier in the day. My recipe was once updated but years have come and gone and I feel like I'm always rushing off to my pinterest account to find that recipe that I've made 10 times and never printed it off. I need to better organized.

I already mentioned earlier this month that I was purging digital files, this was due to my organization kick. But digital files are but a small dent. I have filing cabinets full of who knows what. I feel like that paper that hangs around the house keeps multiplying and I've got to regain control. There's so much on the internet now, I think I can do away with most the paper.

Home projects in general I need a better handle on. I have so many projects going on and some sit for a while for one reason or another by the time I come back to them I'm missing materials or have to run to home depot for the fourth time in the same week. Meanwhile I have piles and piles of things that were purchased that we didn't need that need to make their way back to the store. I've got to figure out a better system.

Keeping my kids organized is a full-time job. Put that here, don't leave that there, where in the world is that shoe. I'm shoveling while it's still snowing and the only way I can keep up is if I train them well enough that they can handle some responsibility.

I think the most important area I'm looking to organize is my mind and thoughts. Steve gives me a hard time, but my brain doesn't stop. Ever. If I recounted all the things that ran through my head in a three minute period it would be staggering. Because there's so many thoughts/ideas swirling around, I find it hard to keep it all organized. (Hence, I'm a list maker) Sometimes a thought will come to my head and I become fixated on it and I can't focus on other things until I take care of it. Most of the time it is absolutely trivial. And because I had to take care of it in the middle of folding the laundry- I will realize hours later that I never finished the laundry. This happens all the time! I've got to figure out my mental filing system and keep it organized.

The list of things I want to organize is extensive. I don't even think it's possible to complete it all in a year. And even if I did, I'm sure I would feel the need to reorganize a year later and refine my processes. I know that it's never ending and it will always evolve. But today, I'm working on the things I believe will bring more peace and harmony to our home. Even if part of that harmony is a four-year-old yelling at me that I can't make him hang up his clothes. I suppose harmony comes in many shapes and sizes!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Expressive writing...

Steve's family is great at sharing information through email. If someone comes across something (an article, story, video, etc...) they find interesting they take the time to share it.

Last week my brother-in-law sent me an email with the subject: Mental Health Benefits of your blog.

He came across a quote in the book, "Myths of Happiness" written by one of the advisory board members of his company Hapacus, Sonja Lyubomirsky. In relationship to the stress of parenting, he shared this quote: "Emotionally expressive writing has clear hedonic, physical, and cognitive benefits--benefits that are likely to mitigate the unrelenting stress of parenting, the anguish of family traumas, and of balancing our own needs and obligations with those of our partners, children, and career."

I've always enjoyed writing - but I wasn't aware of the benefits it may bring to me personally, such as a relieving stress. So if this is the case - there may be more expressive writing in my future. Like now.

I know I'm not alone in this - but toddlers that can't communicate drive me crazy. They scream for milk. They do the same for their blanket. There's no difference when their brother has taken their toy. A high pitched scream, as if their fingers are lodged in the door. This is the story of our life right now. This guy is giving us all a run for our money. (Prepping for a scream) The funny thing is, he knows how to say words. But no matter how many times we repeat the word and he repeats the word, when push comes to shove, he never uses the word, he screams. I will be in the other room and hear it. My first assumption is that Hunter has pinned him to the floor. When I enter the room and see Hunter outside I realize Bennett is screaming uncontrollably for a vitamin. Seriously...that much noise for a vitamin. My skin crawls hearing that sound.

I'm doing my best to ignore him and not give in, but I'm becoming soft in my years of experience as a parent because I have been caught saying, "Just give him whatever he wants to make him stop screaming." Yes, I realize that is a really bad approach. And I'm now back peddling quickly. But sometimes at 4:30 in the afternoon when I'm trying my hardest to maintain my inner peace as I make dinner I will do anything to make the annoying sound go away.

I'm doing better with it. He's learned the directions, "Go to your room" which is where he ends up when the screaming doesn't let up. I've been thinking for months now that we've got to be close to the end of this stage and then someone offered a horrifying reality. "Even when he learns to talk, he still might be a screamer, some kids are." Just the thought of that increases my anxiety. We're thinking positively around here. It's just a stage. A stage that he might spend a good amount of time screaming in his room; which is far enough away from the kitchen that I can't hear it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When I'm 100 years old...

Hallie celebrated her 100th day at school today. She came home with this writing prompt and shared it with me. I laughed out loud. I loved that the first thing she thought of was her great grandchildren, and lots of them. She's confident that her 1st grade best friend will still be around and even more confident that I will be around...but I will be painfully old. I'm not sure why she feels as though old people are fat, but that's how she sees herself. A very honest view.

I decided I would contemplate the same prompt.

I think that when I'm a hundred years old...I will have put all my power tools away for good. I will rely on my children and even grandchildren to chauffer me around and take me out for frozen yogurt. I will sit and talk about the good ol' days to anyone that will listen and reminisce the days of gasoline powered cars and cell phones that you carried in your pocket. I will cook a baked potato for dinner every night and eat raisin bran for breakfast every morning. I will snuggle on the couch covered in a blanket with my husband and watch all the old movies that he always told me I should watch. I will live a simple life and be old enough to truly enjoy it. Life will be sweet and wonderful. That's how it will go down when I'm a hundred years old.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Late night skate...

Over the years I've served in a variety of volunteer positions within our church. I've worked in the nursery, taught primary, worked with the young women, taught Sunday School, taught early morning seminary, worked with the women's organization and planned activities for the ward. I've loved each position, although some were far more challenging than others.

To this day, seminary was by far my favorite. We (Steve and I shared the responsibility) would get up and teach a scripture based class in our home at 6am Monday-Friday. It was a small group, but they were devoted and we got to know them so well and loved them dearly. I think they were fond of us as well: Although the time commitment was intense for our young family at the time, we got out of it so much more than we expected and we both agreed it had changed us.

Our days of teaching seminary are long gone and the opportunity will probably never present itself to us again, seeing as though they have full-time teachers in this area. But the next best thing to teaching seminary is working with the youth. From teaching Sunday lessons to weekly activities, I know these kids and they are great. We had a late night skate at the beginning of the month and it reminded me just how fun it is to be around them. There is never a dull moment and I love their energy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday Service...

My nephew Smith did his eagle project this weekend which meant all the family and even friends pitched in to help out. The project entailed stripping the citrus trees in one particular neighborhood and donating all the fruit to a local food bank. We had adults and teenagers climbing ladders to get the high fruit while kids as young as Hunter scoured the ground for fruit and divided out the spoiled fruit from the good stuff. There was a job for everyone. There is so much fruit that goes to waste in this area. We alone have 12 orange trees and we will only touch 10% of it, so donating it is such a great idea. I love that our kids get to help out in projects like these. There are very few situations where young kids like ours can be of use in a service project. But this was perfect.

It took some good effort up front to corral them and train them, but once they understood what to do they were useful. At home they get paid 2 cents for every orange they pick up off the ground. So at first Hunter started counting every orange he put in the bucket. I had to explain that this was indeed a service project and he would not get paid. Bummer deal for a four-year-old. Luckily we convinced him to push through the disappointment and quickly pointed out he could pick up all the oranges he wanted at home for pay. We got a decent 1/2 hour of work out of both him and Hallie. For their short attention spans we were more than impressed.

Even more impressive: The four barrels over flowing with fruit. It was a good morning.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DIY Herringbone wall...

What started out as a wall in our entry ended up with a hole in it one day when I needed a project. (here)

Then we decided the mauve carpet had to go and it became this:

And for the longest time the room sat empty as I decided what I ultimately wanted to do. I finally decided on a color and determined I wanted a big bold pattern. Herringbone ended up being the pattern of choice. I originally thought I would use a stencil to complete the pattern but I wasn't sure if a stencil would give me the crisp lines I needed to make it look good. So I decided to do it the hard way!

I drew the wall to scale on the computer and drew the pattern to scale. This gave me a good idea as to what it would look like and I was able to change it until I was happy with it.

Using my handy dandy laser level I taped off every other vertical section of my soon to be pattern. (10 inches apart) I then measured six inch increments on both sides of the section and taped a diagonal line from one mark to the other.

As I do with all taping projects, I painted the original wall color over the tape to seal it. This ensures that when it bleeds (because it always does) it's not noticeable. Then I went over with the accent color and because the tape was sealed it leaves a nice crisp line. I painted the wall and was feeling pretty good about myself. The next morning I pulled off two diagonal sections only to realize the color I painted wasn't enough contrast to the wall and wasn't very noticeable. I went back and bought more paint and repainted the wall. I removed the tape and was left with this:

I taped off the opposite vertical sections and once again marked six inch increments and taped more diagonal lines, but these diagonals went the opposite direction than the first set. Pulling off the last section of tape was heavenly. I could hardly contain my excitement. I've moved my desks back in and once my computer finishes this painfully long cloud back-up (here) then I'll get it all situated. I originally had big plans for filling the wall. Two 10 foot photo ledges filled with loving pictures and cameras. But now that the wall is done, I might have a hard time covering it up. I'll live with this for a while and see what crazy idea I come up with! Life with Fingerprints: DIY Painted Herringbone wall

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hapacus...

I'm taking a happiness course (www.hapacus.com) with several family members based on this book written by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law: We went over the two chapters we were assigned to read and discussed our thoughts, impressions and personal experiences. Although I was wrestling two small children who ran in and out of the room, I did manage to have several takeaways.

One thing that struck me in particular was the idea that negative events stand out in our minds. "One of the challenges associated with our negativity bias (our inclination to favor negative information over positive information) is that our brains don't just notice negative events; they assign more weight to the negative than the positive."

Oh how true this is. I will have a relatively good day. I have a great productive morning. Hunter enjoys his preschool. We have a great lunch. Nap time is longer than expected and I get a lot done. And then 3:30 rolls around. By this time, Hallie is walking in the door and Bennett has just woken up from his nap, more whiney than usual. For the next two hours I listen to kids fight as I prepare dinner with a toddler wrapped around my leg. Before long, Steve walks in the door from work and asks how my day went. The events from the last two hours, ALWAYS carry more weight than the positive seven hours we shared before that. And inevitably I describe a day that is far worse than I truly experienced.

I read this in the book and related to it so well. The same goes for our Sunday morning routine getting ready for church. We attended an early afternoon service which meant we had a great deal of time to get ready and enjoy our morning. We made breakfast. The kids played. We relaxed. But never failing, just minutes before we were to walk out the door we would experience a "crisis" and suddenly we were in the car driving to church irritated and annoyed with one another. The perfect way to start a church service!

I could name 10 more examples at the drop of a hat. Negativity weighs too much! The book goes on to explain that we need to retrain our brains and relabel these negative events with less toxic labels. Instead of letting our brain go into crisis mode for spilled milk - we would relabel the event as being unexpected and clearly not the end of the world. I made it my goal this week to relabel and it's not as easy as I originally thought it would be.

I am constantly finding myself in situations in which I have to relabel. Today was a perfect example. My four-year-old, who has been potty trained for a long time, was busy trying to tell me something this afternoon. I was having a hard time listening to him because I could see he needed to go the bathroom. After I told him several times to go to the the bathroom the look of disbelief covered his face and he looked down to see it running down his leg. This does not make for a happy mom. Emergency mind kicked in immediately and I panicked to get him to the bathroom before it hit the floor and I was frustrated. It took me a good two minutes before I realized I quickly needed to relabel. Although completely frustrating it wasn't the crisis I had made it out to be. Steve was going to be home in just 2.5 hours and I was determined to tell him it was a good day when he got home, I wasn't going to allow this event to change that.

I'm just a couple days into my two week goal of relabeling, but so far, so good. Here's to hoping my toddler doesn't have another accident tomorrow, it might be hard to relabel the same event several days in a row!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tub fun...

The tub in our master bath never gets used; instead, the kids fill it with treasures! (here) The kids got bubble bath for Christmas that they were dying to try out, so we cleaned out the tub and filled it with suds and let the jets do their thing. Because the tub is never used the kids thought this was the coolest thing. They hopped in their swimsuits and went to town creating bubble beards and bubble hair and bubble swimsuits. Steve can't see a party and not join - within minutes he was in his swimsuit as well creating bubble beards. Clearly there wasn't room for five in the tub so I had photo duty! We're hoping we can get Bennet loving the water by the time swim lesson season starts in just a couple months. We might have a couple more tub dates just to be sure!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Homemade Christmas Part 2...

Steve openly despises the commercialism of Christmas. He is a basket case the entire month of December and he mopes around complaining how much he hates this time of year. It feels like I am dealing with a teenager and it's annoying.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing your husband openly admit he hates buying gifts for you and that gift buying ruins the Christmas season. After too many years of hearing the same sob story we had a heart-to-heart. After last Christmas we determined we could ease his hatred for gifts if we eliminated all expectations. We opted to exchange homemade gifts only this year. We had a year to prepare and think and work and come up with something heartfelt and meaningful. This was the first year we did this and Christmas changed for both of us. Steve was a completely different person throughout the holidays. He never felt as though he had to rush to the store to pick-up something that I would ultimately return. There wasn't the panic three days before that it wasn't enough.

It was simple and meaningful and definitely something we will implement in the future. More than anything I felt Steve's love in the time he took. He felt as though he was at a disadvantage because I am slightly more creative but he came up with some great gifts.

Steve's homemade gifts for me: He knows my love for a nice hot bath and he made bath salts for me. How awesome is that. I've tried them out and love them!

Steve was resourceful - He utilized his sister's jewelry making skills. (http://betweenyouandmedesigns.com/) Although he didn't personally make them, he claims that his family can aid in his homemade gifts. I loved all the pieces and couldn't disagree. I especially love the bracelet with my blog name.

This was a big one - Steve converted all of our home videos to digital files on the computer. He's working now to edit them and burn them to DVD. Home videos are the best; its amazing how quickly life changes. Hallie can't get enough of watching herself when she was a baby.

My homemade gifts for Steve:
It was the year of blurb books for me. I made the one for Steve's sister (here) and I made a couple for Steve as well. These are books that I work on all year long. It's so hard for me to keep them a secret when they ship to me in June and September!

I designed our 2008 blog book. (Designed with the blog header we had 5 years ago!) Yes, I'm several years behind but I'm consistently 4 years behind. I keep telling myself this is the year that I'm going to catch up, perhaps this year it will be true.

This is strictly a photo book. Only some of the pictures make the blog and are cataloged in our blog book each year. The other photos sit on my hard drive never to be looked at. So I created a photo book (once again several years behind). I'm not sure if I can really catch up a blog and photo albums in the same year. We'll see how it goes!

This project was a labor of love more than anything. Years ago when I was pregnant with our first child, I started typing the journal Steve kept while he served a two year mission for our church in Peru. Then the birth of our child came and my walls came crumbling down. A project that I knew without a doubt I would have complete by Christmas time was pushed aside as life with a newborn settled in on us. Sadly I gave Steve an incomplete rough draft of his journal which he loved dearly. I was finally in a position to finish that journal this year. I secretly typed away at night as he slept and carefully put the journal back int he same place every night so he wouldn't suspect anything. (I created the cover by searching through boxes to find his original nametag and then using a hanger to hang the suit and tie on. I might like the cover more than the journal itself!)

A project that he thought was long forgotten was finally finished and It's amazing if I do say so myself.

I also took his favorite quote and designed it for a canvas so he can hang it in his office at work. (Although I have access to photo labs to print canvas - I printed this at Costco and it's a fraction of the cost I can get at wholesale from the lab) I also printed off new photos to update his framed photos at work.

That wraps up 2012 homemade Christmas gifts. Time to start thinking of next year!
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