Thursday, March 27, 2014

A "Type A" Housewife's Thoughts on Cleaning

Confession: at the moment, my home does not [gasp] qualify as clean… there is a fine layer of dust on the furniture, crumbs and paw prints on the floor, smudges and spit from barking dogs and curious children on the windows, and our bathroom fixtures are far from shiny.

Yep, this confession straight front the mouth of the woman who once posted, on this very blog, an elaborate cleaning schedule…

A post that curiously went missing about a month ago…

For good reason…

There exists a very fine line between taking care of what God has given you, and "worshipping" what God has given you with windex and furniture polish…

I realized I was taking my home too seriously, and that I was spending more time cleaning up after my family than I was spending with them. I was suffering from the delusion that in order to be proud of my home, it had to be perfect. Then I realized "perfect" does not exist. Shocking, I know.

The great thing about realizations like these is that, while they are humbling, they also motivate change… good change.

A Type A Housewife's thoughts on cleaning (believe it or not)

A clean home is…
1. Tidy, but not fussy
2. cared for, but not obsessed over

Because you should never…
1. take better care of your home than you do yourself (or your relationships)
2. spend more time on your knees scrubbing floors than you do praying on them
3. invest more time in picking up toys than you do playing with your children

When in doubt, just remember…
A little dirt never killed anyone… something that I have to remind myself of from time to time ;)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

5 Simple Fixes for Kitchen Clutter

1. Designate a drop spot near the entry you use most so that your mail, keys, purse and wallet don't end up on the kitchen counter or table.

2. Mount hooks for your keys.

3. Your gadgets are likely to end up wherever the chargers are so avoid charging your electronics using kitchen outlets. I have found that one cell phone charging on the counter is HIGLY likely to attract other what-nots like keys and lip balm. We keep our chargers near the computer.

4. Avoid decorative objects on your counters and center pieces on your table. Clutter attracts clutter. If you start with a clean surface, misplaced items are more likely to be noticed and, consequently, put away. Same goes for canisters - try moving them to a cupboard or pantry instead.

And last, but CERTAINLY not least…

5. Resist the urge to create a junk drawer. If you already have one, purge it and find homes (outside the kitchen) for all that "junk."

There you have it - 5 simple fixes for kitchen clutter. Easy peasy, stinky cheesy. ;)

Why Money Can't Buy Happiness

We live in a society driven by consumerism… Work, buy, sleep, repeat. It's an easy trap to fall into. Especially, with the volume of "look at my new ______" posts inundating our news feeds.

I am guilty of it. I covet what others possess, make lists of what I want, and take inventory of what I have because, somewhere along the way, I became convinced there was direct correlation between my worth and my "stuff." Sound familiar?

However, something "clicked" when I hit 31… I don't have anything to prove, and I'm done buying into the lies pedaled by media, malls, and big box stores…

The Lies
1. Cars reflect your status in this life
2. clothes, hair, and make-up make you beautiful
3. Money buys happiness

It may have taken me 31 years to get my head on straight, but now that it is, I want to share what I have learned (mostly the hard way).

The Truth
1. Cars aren't even necessary; they are just a means to an end: Point A to point B. No one cares what you drive… and if they do, the problem lies with them.

2. Trends do not make you beautiful. They makes you someone else's version of beautiful. Truly, the most attractive thing you can wear is a smile.

3. Money cannot buy you happiness. Happiness isn't a thing - it's a perspective.

When I realized the days were slipping by and I was only half-heartedly present in them, I realized the problem was mostly in my own head, and therefore change was within reach…

1. I stopped comparing myself to others. The competition existed only in my mind, and abruptly ceased to exist once I stopped participating.

2. I stopped taking my home too seriously. I take care of what I have, but I don't take better care of my house than I take care of myself or my relationships.

3. When I feel good, I think I look good; So, I dress to feel good.

We live in a society that applauds consumption and pedals products, but even so, we don't have to "buy in." I, for one, am opting out. You?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Small Shoulders

It's hard to believe that Rex's third birthday is fast approaching. I swear, I blinked and he transformed from a tiny (well, not really tiny… 8# 15 ounce) newborn into a walking, talking, opinionated, silly, loving little kid. I am in awe of that little kid.

While I am completely grateful for the great privilege that is watching him grow, learn and become who he is supposed to be, I am simultaneously humbled and overwhelmed by the great responsibility that comes with being his parent. After all, It is my job to nurture his mind, body and spirit so that he CAN become who he is supposed to be.

What I already know is that I cannot protect him from everything and he will not always abide by my rules or heed my warnings.

Those three things are guaranteed. But, out of respect for him, I can…

1) give him a sense of responsibility and
2) instill in him a sense of pride

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders. ~Abigail Van Buren

To that end…

We hung coat hooks at his level and placed a basket below for other outdoor essentials. It is his responsibility to hang up his coat and put away his gear because they are his. It would be a disservice to do something for him that he can do for himself.

And I have started allowing him to slice his own apples (with supervision). I cut the apple in slices, and he then cores them with the slicer. The pride that shines through his toothy grin while enjoying a self-prepared snack makes my heart sing.

After all…

"The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them." Frank A. Clark

Monday, March 24, 2014

Accidentally on Purpose

It's 5:15 AM... The littlest little is sleeping, albeit fitfully, next to me. Her leg is pressed up next to mine. As per the norm, she is making certain that a minimum of one part of her body is touching mine AT.ALL.TIMES. Seriously, I am quite certain that if she could crawl back into my uterus, she would. Most nights she rolls into my chest, tucks her little head under my chin and rests a hand on my face. It's really very sweet. That said, I never thought I would fall into the co-sleeping camp. Why? I don't know. It just wasn't what I pictured in my head. So much of parenting is like that for me. I imagine things one way, and it ends up entirely different.

I make an effort to not make "I will always" and "I will never" statements, but I'm not above admitting that they roll around in my brain from time to time. When Rex was a baby, I attributed his mostly great sleep patterns to my awesome parenting. Then Sydney was born and I realized my successes in the child/sleep department had really very little to do with me and waaaaay more to do with my children. (Sydney's little leg is now draped across my arm as I am typing this on my iPad. She seriously can't get close enough.)

What I have realized in my parenting journey thus far is this: I am whatever kind of parent my child needs me to be. My choices are rarely "first choices," and I oftentimes feel myself compelled to justify or validate them because, let's face it, that's the nature of our overly competitive, there's-a-right-way-to-do-everything society.

Here is a list of my most recent "not first" choices...just to name a few...

1. Co-sleeping
2. Too much screen time
3. Less than stellar food choices
4. Breast feeding beyond the first year

Trust me, I've heard it all. "You've got to get that baby out of your bed!" "You let them eat that? Tsk tsk." "You still breastfeed? Gross."

But this is where I'm at...

Sleep deprivation isn't good for anyone so we became a co-sleeping family. We sleep. That's all that matters.

Coffee is better hot so Rex plays on the iPad for a little bit a lot in the morning. Coffee makes me a decent person. Hot coffee makes me a better person.

Sydeny doesn't have a tremendous appetite and at one point actually met the criteria for failure to thrive. At times we are desperate to get her to eat something anything, and at those times she gets fruit snacks alongside her breakfast. She'll turn out fine.

We were blessed with a fussy baby who refused to take a bottle (ever) and can only be nursed to sleep. 15 months later and, yes, I'm still nursing. Not what I imagined my life would look like more than a year after her birth, but there are worse things.

It wasn't my intention to be "that parent" who allows a sometimes ridiculous amount of screen time or to become a co-sleeping, nursing mother to an almost 15 month old, but that's where I'm at... life requires flexibility, and (even more importantly) adaptability. I am who I am because I make choices given the options placed before me...accidentally on purpose...which [gasp] makes my choices intentional. Sometimes that's a hard pill to swallow.

My point is this: be intentional, and don't apologize for it. There will, inevitably, be people who disagree with you. But be whoever you need to be at THIS moment anyway. Be authentic. It may sound cliche, but it's the simple truth: If you are doing your best, that's all that matters.

We co-sleep. So what. ;)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pom-Pom Trifecta

I have been carefully selecting toys and activities for our newly created play space (read more about our playroom here), and this one was a MAJOR hit. I chose it because it is 1) sensory, 2) educational, and 3) builds fine-motor control.

I call it… drum roll please… "Pom/Tong sorting"

I just took a wooden box with four compartments (any divided tray would work) and gave Rex pom-poms in four colors. His job was to use the tongs to sort the pom-poms by color (I modeled first, of course).

He was immediately hooked! He sat there for the longest time sorting pom-poms. His favorite "game" was to place a pom incorrectly and see if I would notice ;). Too cute!

At one point he decided to hide his sister's paci in the pom-poms and another activity was born: "Guess What's in the Bag!" We filled a small bag with pom-poms, placed a small object inside and one of us would reach in and (without peeking), guess what the object was.

Educational, sensorial, easy, and fun :).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Montessori-ish Play Space

I am simplifying our play spaces. They weren’t functioning the way I wanted them to so I started voraciously reading about Montessori principles.

I was immediately captivated by the clean, uncluttered spaces that promoted early literacy, math, self-help, fine motor and rest.

After extensive reading, I discovered that I didn’t “buy into” to the Montessori philosophy in its entirety, but that there were definitely aspects that I wanted reflected in our play space.

My Must-Haves
1. Good Design
The space should be uncluttered and everything should be easily accessible to little ones.

2. Promote exploring and learning

In our previous play space, every toy was accounted for - talk about sensory overload!


Confession: Our previous space made me itch a little. That probably explains why we spent very little time there…

Kids are kind of like puppies… give them too few toys, they get bored (and destructive); Give them too many toys, they get bored (and destructive). I decided to pare down and start a toy rotation.
Here is a little tour…

We included a comfy chair with low arms so that the three of us can sit together to read a book or two (or five).

The six cubby unit keeps the area clutter free, organized and the activities are easily accessible. (It will also be easy to rotate new toys in when the kids get bored with these.)

The tent is an all time favorite for my kids. Sometimes they play peek-a-boo from behind the curtain door, and other times they like to sneak away for some quiet time. My favorite is when they go in together and I can’t see them, but can hear them giggling. My least favorite is when they go in together and someone ends up in tears.

The child-sized table is a perfect spot to do something creative like draw or play with play-dough.

The kitchen is a perfect place to “play grown-up,” and a basket of instruments gives them an opportunity to give me a headache make a little music.

As a recap, the must-haves for our Montessori-ish playroom are…

1. Good Design
The space should be uncluttered and easily accessible to little ones.

2. Promote exploring and learning

I hope you enjoyed the tour of our Montessori-ish play space ☺

Sydney likes it!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Less is more

De cluttering can seem overwhelming. A few questions that immediately gave me pause when I started simplifying were: what defines clutter? What if it was a gift? What if I need it again? What if it holds sentimental value? What now?

Well, I have discovered that each one of those questions is (fairly) easily answered.

1. What is clutter? Anything that gets in the way of completing a specific task is clutter, and anything you don't use or (really) love is clutter. (e.g. a centerpiece that has to be moved every time you sit down to dinner).

2. What if it was a gift? So what. Rest assured, the gift giver did not intend to give you something that would collect dust or that you would keep FOREVER. See answer to question 1.

3. What if I need it again? You likely won't, but if you are worried put it in a box and let some time pass before getting rid of it. Also, really think about the word "need" as it is often confused with the word "want."

4. What if it holds sentimental value? Objects don't hold memories. You do.

5. What now? Donate it to benefit someone else or sell it to pay down debt.

When you are done, you won't just have less stuff. You will have more time, more money, and more energy to focus on what really matters to you. Less is more.

In the kitchen of a Type A Housewife

I don't decorate my kitchen per se, but I do like it to look like some thought was put into it. For that reason, I make it a rule that anything "decorating" our kitchen has to be functional. Since pictures are more fun and where inspiration is usually drawn from anyway, I snapped a few pics of my kitchen and how I add "personality" to it.

A stoneware crock holds utensils, and my copper tea kettle adds some visual interest.

A basket holding cookbooks adds texture (and easy organization), a chalk board serves as my measurement cheat sheet, and my dutch oven adds a pop of color.

Pretty simple, but I find these little elements charming as well as functional, and it doesn't add unnecessary clutter.

We had an issue with our flooring and when the installer came out to fix it, it was necessary to pull the fridge out. Tyler took everything off the top of the fridge, and my "decor" got edited. No need for the chalkboard cheat sheet. I wrote my "cheats" on the inside cover of my most used cook book instead. We now have a chalkboard for sale ;).

It looks a little bare, but the chalkboard made it hard to clean the top of the refrigerator so it was unnecessary "clutter" and got the boot ;).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's a season

Have you heard that expression before? It's a season. It is often used to describe a phase in your life. One that, like all seasons, will come to an end.

Well, I am in a season. It's called "having little kids," and like fall and spring, it's quickly becoming my favorite.

Sure, there are innumerable complaints to be made. For example, I haven't slept through the night in (at least) 30 months. I rarely shower, bathe, or go to the bathroom by myself, and there are CONSTANTLY little hands touching me. Sometimes I scream into my pillow, and sometimes I don't answer when "they" call. But it's a season that's becoming my favorite because…

- When "they" call, they call for momma, and only momma will do.
- When I enter the room un-showered and unkempt, "they" smile at me and fawn over me as if I am some sort of mommy-fied princess. It makes me feel pretty.
- When I go to the grocery store with my littles, kind, genteel people give me "knowing" smiles and remark about my oh-so-cute kids. They are cute, and so very sweet.
- When I am "awoken" in the morning, I get to watch them greet a new day with great hope and great enthusiasm, and I get to share in that with them…

It is a really great season, but it is beyond hard. There's no denying that, and I often times lose sight of its beauty. If I really think about it, it's actually less like spring and fall than it is like summer and winter. Much like summer and winter, you get the "extremes." Sleepless nights. Extreme heat. Loooooong days. Extreme cold. But you get also get perfect blankets of white snow and sunshine so bright you have to squint. Yep. Having little kids is a season - namely, summer and winter. It is easy to find complaint with the heat and cold after a little while, but you still love it and long for it. It's what you live for. Swimsuits and snowmen. Hot dogs and hot cocoa. Fourth of July and Christmas.

I don't always "wear" it well (much like tank tops and snow boots), but I really do love it them.

As proof - I turned my dining room into a SECOND playroom :). Happy kids = happier mom.



It's a season. Someday I will have my dining room back (spring with it's mildness will return). And much like thoughts of "summer" had in February in the midwest, I will have only fond memories of the heat. I will forget the tantrums and "scary" diapers and recall only laughter and kisses ;).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Well planned hoarding

For the last few weeks, I have been reading essay upon essay, blog post upon blog post about minimalism. I have been inspired and encouraged more times than I can count and feel more motivated and peaceful than I have in a very long time.

What I have discovered during these early stages of simplification is that the desire has ALWAYS been there. Even looking back to when I first started blogging, my intent was to focus on making life easier so that I could focus on what was important. So my plan was to organize the crap out of my house. My "aha" moment was when I read a blog post that described organizing as well planned hoarding. I thought, "Ha! Yeah it is!!" Another blogger said something to the affect of "if you purge what you don't need/use/love, you will discover that you don't need all of those organization solutions." Touché!

The times in my life that I have felt the "lightest" (figuratively speaking) have been when I focused on the essentials and when I didn't waste time and energy hyper-focusing on my appearance, money, or "stuff." Those times included daily devotions, time with friends and family, prayer, meals, and spending time outdoors. Those things have always been and remain important, but "stuff" was always getting in the way. I was spending more time caring for my "stuff" than I was spending with my family, on myself, or in prayer combined. I needed to simplify in a BIG way. The first thing I did was unsubscribe to home blogs that reinforced/encouraged (me) to acquire more "stuff" or find discontent in what I have or don't have.

I have parted with (and designated "for sale") a lot of stuff. I mean A LOT! It is simultaneously invigorating and depressing. I so wish I had come to this realization sooner. I could have spared myself so much heartache, time, and money. But, I am moving on! I will not dwell in the past. I will move forward with renewed purpose and focus.

I snapped a few pictures to illustrate my journey towards "doing more of what I love with less."

I used this "thing" (I don't even know what to call it), as a centerpiece. I filled the jars with some coffee beans and then put votives in each jar. It appeals (or did) to my design aesthetic because it is "primitive" looking and I like candles. However, when I really took some time to think about it, it (and the runner underneath) just got in the way of meals with my family and collected dust. Buh-bye! :)

I also cleared the counters of anything without a purpose. Already, the kitchen has started "taking care of itself."

After a good purge, the only function my nightstand serves now is a home for a bedside lamp, my bible, and some paper.

It feels good to clutter-bust, and as an added bonus, my brain feels clutter-free too :).