Our Kitchen is Gross

So we bought our house this fall. We love the location, we love the homey feel of the house, and we love the neighbors. What we don’t love is the look of the house itself. It’s a ranch house that was built in the 60s. The exterior is actually pretty okay. But the interior… yikes. There is wood paneling, rust-colored laminate flooring, and lots and lots of oak.

Apparently wood trim (baseboards, doors, railings, etc.) is a thing here in Wisconsin. Most of the houses we looked at when we were buying, both online and in person, were chock-full of wood. Wood everywhere. It feels so dark and grim to me. I like bright, white, clean, and crisp. Wood can be pretty sometimes, but wow, it’s overwhelming to me.

So my kitchen. Let me tell you about my kitchen.

  • Cabinets: Oak with tiny round white knobs, very flimsy-feeling, and noisy as heck
  • Flooring: Rust-colored laminate made to look like terra-cotta tiles with super dark grayish brown “grout” in between
  • Appliances: Older than me– literally, mismatched
  • Countertops: Gray
  • Wall color: Formula-fed-baby poop
  • Layout: Terrible, closed-in, dark

Here are a few pictures to help you visualize the madness. Comments below each picture.

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This is the pantry/coat closet that greets you as you walk in from the garage. Here you can see a good representation of the floor and wall color.

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I have been doing dishes all morning. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes. The counters are full of clean dishes, too. The dishwasher has a towel stuffed underneath it because somehow the opening for the dishwasher is open to the freezing cold Wisconsin air. I’m totally keeping it real here, everyone. Oh, and that phantom light fixture is hovering there because we have a ghost in the kitchen and/or my phone case reflects light in weird ways.

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Here’s a really nice close look at the cabinets and their hardware. Geeee-rossssss.

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Haha, look at that tiny tiny microwave. And the oldest stove known to man, which is currently taken apart so I can wash the under-burner crumb/spill catcher bowl thingies. (I am certain they have a much more proper name than that.) Also, I swept the floor this morning. And then the kids ate breakfast. Oy, this is the life.

Ok, so here are my thoughts.

First, I would love to rip everything out, tear down some walls, and start over. Gotta save the dollaz for that. So, we will be doing some small stuff and some not-so-small stuff in the interim. I think we’ll go in a couple of phases.

Phase 1 (2017)

  • Paint all the wood stuff white and replace the hardware
  • Replace the shelf and drawer liners with something that’s not fifty years old
  • Paint the baby poop walls a light, warm greyish taupe
  • Replace the crazy faux-brick backsplash with something pretty and shiny to reflect a bit more light
  • Figure out why the dishwasher opening leaks frigid air and fix that problem
  • Replace the ceiling fan that is in the eat-in area of the kitchen

Phase 2 (2018-2020)

  • Cut out that low-hanging header from which the cabinets are suspended– it serves absolutely no purpose except to make the cabinets lower and closer to the countertops, so the work space is super cramped
  • Replace the sink and fixtures so I have more than 12 inches between the faucet and the bottom of the sink (the current setup makes washing large bowls and pots very difficult– it’s like Sink Tetris, y’all)
  • Replace the appliances

Phase 3 (sometime around 2025?)

  • Reconfigure the layout
  • Replace flooring, cabinets, etc.
  • Basically rip it out and start over (WOO!)

I plan to start washing all the wood stuff with TSP this week. Gotta start somewhere. Clean surfaces really help. 🙂

I’ll keep you updated every now and then.

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Antsy

Every now and then, I get a little bit antsy. I get into a rhythm, it gets to be too easy, and I start to think of the next great project. I find if I don’t have a particular thing to look forward to, my mind wanders and my hands start to create. This could be an amazing gift if only I had some sort of direction for my periodic spurts of energy.

I often fill these times with crafting. In the past year, I’ve done sewing, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and Christmas ornament making. Sometimes I get a bit more physically involved when I feel bored, and I tackle a new exercise routine or clean out my closet. Occasionally I just need something to engage my mind and so I read several books in a short period of time. And rarely I will experiment with cooking and baking a bunch of new recipes all in one week or so.

The key characteristic of these phases for me is the need for planning and executing something and bringing something new to fruition. Being a stay-at-home-mom is wonderful in many ways, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tedious at times. Waking up and doing the same routine and sorting out the same squabbles over and over, day after day, gets a bit tiresome. My mind begins to wander and I begin to consider what my contribution to our family, and to our society, will be.

I have a bunch of ideas running through my head all the time. I guess you could say I have a bucket list. But mine isn’t fancy– I don’t feel the need to go skydiving or fluttering around the world in scary scary airplanes (seriously, I’m terrified of flying). And yet I struggle with trying to balance my big ideas, like writing a book or opening a Christmas tree farm, with this scripture from 1 Thessalonians 4 that the Lord has laid on my heart over and over again over the past year:

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.10 …Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life… I have no trouble with this usually. I’m very introverted, I enjoy staying home, I can go for days without speaking a single word to anyone and feel very much okay. I’m not interested in gossip and I do everything I can to stay out of it when people try to involve me where I’m not needed. I’m constantly working with my hands, whether it be cooking or cleaning or laundry or crafts or gardening or mommy-ing. In fact I am sure Jonathan and I do a lot more work with our hands, in order to save money, than many people in the world. We try desperately not to be in debt or to ask favors from anyone.

With all that said, I still feel the urge to dream and plan and set goals. I have my sights set on some particular achievements I’d like to see come to fruition, and yet I’m not certain how to get there. God has also been working in my heart and seems to be leading me to consider doing some work I never thought I’d consider. It’s all very murky and unclear, and I feel like I’m wearing glasses that I can’t seem to wipe clean. Every time I sit and consider where God might be leading me, I have more new ideas and come up with even better plans for the old ones. Each new idea is just another speck of dirt on my life lenses, and God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to make my path forward clear.

And so I’m making it my task right now to lead a quiet life. I’ll go through the steps, day by day. I’ll be the mom, I’ll clean the house, I’ll teach the day’s lessons, I’ll cook the meals. But I’m also digging in quite a bit deeper and doing a bit more self-care, which for me involves exercise and spending time alone with a notebook, a Bible, and a blanket. Jonathan and I are going to sit and come up with a schedule for both of us to go to the gym and for me to have an hour or two alone throughout the week in a quiet comfortable place.

To keep my mind engaged, I’m reading a bunch of books right now, ranging in topics from photography to parenting. I discovered I prefer nonfiction, and I checked out about 20 books from our library last weekend. I do have a couple of books that are on my list of what I’d like to read, but they’re not available in our library system, and so I will have to save my money and purchase copies later on.

I’m also working on another year-long project that will be more on the fun, creative side. It’s helping me learn photography, and I’m really excited about it.

And now to plan.

What are you working on right now? What head space are you in? What’s inspiring you? Where is God leading you? How can I support you as you tackle your next project? Friends and family, connect with me!

Settling in: Rhythms and Resolutions

So we’re here. We’re home. We bought our house in October and moved from our temporary house in November. We still have boxes upon boxes to unpack and organize, but we will get there. No rush now. That’s a nice, but really strange, feeling. I tend to rush.

We pulled Hula Girl from public school at Thanksgiving break. School was a good experience for us overall. Hula Girl had a wonderful teacher who made her students’ lives at school fun. Even when the academics were way too easy for Hula Girl, she still wanted to go because she loved her teacher and she enjoyed her friends. My main comfort when deciding to put her in school to begin with was that I knew she wanted to socialize. She needed some practice speaking up for herself and being assertive. It took a couple months, but she got there. It was fun to see her develop confidence in situations where she needed to speak to other children and unfamiliar adults.

It was never our intention to use public schools for long. So when we moved to our permanent home, we gave it a few weeks and then kept Hula Girl home. We took the time between Thanksgiving and New Year to really focus on Christmas and all that season brings- TONS of activites, songs, crafts, reading together, and family time. We went light on the baking this year, mainly because our dishwasher broke in the beginning of December and doing all the regular dishes PLUS the baking dishes seemed like just a bit too much for me. Gotta know my limits.

For those of you who are wondering, Hula Girl is happy to be home. She really needed more challenging academics and she enjoys having ample time to read. She can knock out 50+ books in two weeks. She loves going to the library and impressing the librarians with her stacks of books. (I know some people who limit the number of books their children are allowed to check out. I limit my kids, too, to the number of books they can carry. Hula Girl has three library bags and she carries them all. Well, at least until we get to the door. Then I take pity on her and grab one and take it to the car for her. I’m a book softie.)

The socialization issue is really a non-issue for us. I feel like I need to address it, though, since many people somewhat close to me have questioned it. I think I’ve probably written about it before, and our views have not changed. As many homeschool families have already said, we would rather have our kids interacting with people of all ages in real-life situations than be stuck in rooms with twenty other people their age. Who will teach my kids better manners: the elderly neighbor who teaches Monkey Man how to paint and do papier mache; or a bunch of four-year-olds? Who will demonstrate careful attention to detail better: Hula Girl’s dance instructor; or her peers, who think that it’s an achievement to color mostly in the lines? And who will teach them to love Jesus best: her family, made up of two parents who put Jesus first and demonstrate the power of God’s grace and two siblings who give them ample opportunity to put that grace into practice; or the public school system, where Common Core determines all learning and all character education falls upon the shoulders of the school’s one guidance counselor, who presents boxed vague information about “getting along” and “bullying”?

Don’t worry. We’re not just keeping ourselves hidden away in our little hermitage here in the woods of Wisconsin. Hula Girl has many opportunities to interact with kids her own age. She has dance and Sunday School. We have neighbors right across the street with a little girl who is six also. The two of them get together and play and it’s like they’ve grown up together. They just have so much fun. Every afternoon, Hula Girl waits for C’s bus to drop her off, and then they go for walks or jump on the trampoline or go to C’s house and guzzle hot chocolate (C’s mom is much more liberal with the sweets than me!). We also have several other kiddos of roughly the same age in the neighborhood who will likely form a gang together this summer, with Hula Girl as their leader. And there are even kiddos Monkey Man’s age who will be junior members of the Summer Club. Winning!

So, for now, we have been working this week to establish our new homeschool/life routine. It looks like this most days, but some days the order of things gets thrown out of whack and we just adjust and go with it:

  • Sugar Plum gets up and nurses (yep, still going strong!)
  • Big Kids get up and we all have breakfast- Scripture memory, poetry, hymns, and folksongs happen during breakfast
  • Chore time- big kids do morning chores, I clean the kitchen, and Sugar Plum crawls around causing mischief (watch the cat food or she will eat half of it… ask me how I know)
  • Sugar Plum starts her nap and big kids start school
  • Monkey Man gets individual time with me while Hula Girl does independent school work
  • Switch
  • Free Play when independent work is completed
  • Sugar Plum wakes from nap, I nurse her, and all the kids have independent play time in their rooms or in the basement playroom while I make lunch
  • Lunch- I read chapter books to the kids while they eat (Chronicles of Narnia is our current series)
  • Free Play- the part of the day during which the three kids go nuts and look so darn cute while they do; the big kids engage with Sugar Plum and make her the Princess of the castle, take her on rocking horse rides through the “meadow,” and defend her from imagined dragons
  • Nap/Rest time- each kid goes to his/her room to sleep or rest; I only have one napper these days, but the other two are very good about resting quietly while they read or play with their toys
  • Snack- I usually have fresh-baked bread or cookies ready for this time of day, and we eat them with tea; snack time is wonderful
  • Varies- sometimes we have dance class, sometimes the kids play with neighbors, sometimes they do a table activity like play-dough, and so on
  • The Finish Line- Daddy walks in the door and is greeted with buoyant smiles and enthusiastically leaping monkeys

And my New Year’s Resolutions (which, by the way, I have actually kept this far! I think it’s a record for me.)

  • Whole foods, plant-based diet (except honey)
  • Drink 60+ oz of water per day- I hate water
  • Read the Bible every day
  • Pray specifically for each child and Jonathan every day
  • Exercise (That one is a bit vague on purpose. I don’t do anything specific to exercise while pregnant or breastfeeding. Never have. Probably should. Meh.)

And that’s the haps. I’ve completely disconnected from Facebook. I don’t miss it. I do miss some of you, though. Email me or text me and let me know how you’re doing.

I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

Hula Girl Sponsors a Sister

Hula Girl is so excited tonight because she got to choose her “Sponsor Sister” today.

We talked a lot about children in other areas of the world who don’t necessarily have the love of a mommy and a daddy; who have to do a lot of really hard work at home by themselves because their parents are struggling to make ends meet; who have to skip meals on a daily basis because there just isn’t enough for the family. I assured her that we can help those children. I told her that one of the ways we can do that is to teach them about Jesus and to provide money to take care of their physical needs.

Jonathan and I sponsor several children through Compassion International  and we’d already decided that our kids would each get their very own special “sponsor sibling” when they were old enough. Compassion doesn’t introduce kids to the program until they’re three; so three is the age our kids need to be in order to have a close-in-age-to-grow-up-with child. I have been meaning to choose a sponsor child for Hula Girl, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. I am so glad Hula Girl was able to help me choose her child.

Her specifications were: “I want a sponsor SISTER, Mommy. Not a sponsor BROTHER.”

My specifications were: close in age to Hula Girl, lives somewhere we’d be excited to visit in the future, preferably in the same country as one of our other sponsored children

We opened up Compassion’s website and then opened Google Maps so I could show Hula Girl where her sisters live. There were two girls in the final round- one from the Philippines and one from Peru. She chose the little girl who is just shy of a month older than her, who lives in Peru. (We already have a little boy in Peru, too, so YAY!) She chose Yuleysi because she has pigtails and because Peru is closer to where we live than the Philippines is!

After we added Yuleysi to our sponsored children, Hula Girl said, “Now what do we do with my Sponsor Sister, Mommy?” I told her we needed to remember to pray for Yuleysi every day and that Compassion would send us a picture of her along with some more information about her and her family. When we receive the picture, we will put it up on Hula Girl’s wall with the other pictures of her family members. I told her she can draw pictures and we can write letters (and-she was THRILLED about this- emails) to Yuleysi, and that Yuleysi will write back!

Then Hula Girl said, “Mommy, will you draw her picture on this card so I can keep it in my room now? I want to pray for her now.” So I drew the world’s worst sketch of a little girl with pigtails and wrote, “Pray for Yuleysi” and it’s sitting up on Hula Girl’s dresser, right where the light from her Gro-Clock illuminates it. Hula Girl is thrilled.

I really hope the two of them communicate often, and more independently as they get older. Our family will sponsor Yuleysi as long as we possibly can, and we hope Hula Girl (and all of us) will get the chance to meet Yuleysi in person one day.

But really, my main goal in all of this is for both girls to get a little bit of Jesus. Giving and receiving love. That’s what it’s all about, right, folks?

Still Here!

We’re recovering from a month of pretty intense changes and exciting adventures so I just wanted to say hi.

In the past month, we’ve hosted my sister-in-law for a week, moved, changed dance studio locations (doesn’t sound big… but it is when you’re three), taken a vacation to California, and tried to get settled in our new house. The kids are pretty worn out but overall they did VERY well. I was particularly worried about Gelato as he’s never really slept anywhere but his crib before… ever. I was concerned about the room change, the pack n play sleep during vacation, and the car seat sleep during travel to and from California. I’m not going to say it was perfect, but he did really really well.

I can’t wait to start blogging for real again. Now that things are settling down and I have been able to locate about 75% of the things I need on a daily basis (darn boxes don’t unpack themselves!), I am trying to turn my focus back to the things I want to do, not just focusing on survival mode.

I will be back tonight and tomorrow with some good ol’ summaries just to get the ball rolling and then I plan to dive back into a once-a-day-except-for-weekends posting rhythm. Yay! I hope some of my old friends are still around waiting to read what I have to say. (Actually, I really hope that I can make more bloggy friends. I think I’d like to build up my blog a bit. It’s… more basic than any other blog I read, to put it kindly to myself. lol)

Here’s a general list of things runnin’ through the ol’ noggin:

  • DIY stuff around the house, including but not limited to: decor, landscaping (Jonathan’s arena- have you guys ever seen me try to shovel dirt? Ha!), functional spaces, and more decor. Jonathan and I plan to share before and after pix, along with several how-to and tutorial posts. And actually, that last sentence is all because Jonathan wants to. Really.
  • Homeschool stuff: ordering final books, planning out our daily learning times, coming up with a scope and sequence for actual curriculum stuff, and writing it all down in a sensible manner. I will share our progress and ask millions of questions, for sure.
  • Exercise: started P90X again yesterday. First time I’ve exercised in over two years. Not even kidding. Oy. Vey. I probably won’t be logging my progress here. I don’t even keep a personal log, even though you’re supposed to. Forget about it. Who cares how many reps I did in week 1? NOT ME.
  • “Naturalizing” our home: We’re 100% organic eaters, and now I’m working on getting us to 100% organic/natural products- shampoo, deodorant, etc.; cleaning products; anything we use. We have invested in lots of essential oils, coconut oil, and vinegar. I probably won’t mention this too much either. Y’all can google just as well as me, and I won’t be coming up with any new twists on the recipes for homemade products. I might slip in a couple “these worked well for me” links… but that’s about it.
  • Cooking: I am getting there. Some days I turn out a surprisingly stellar supper. Other days it’s like I never even learned to cook (wait, I didn’t). I find if I follow recipes perfectly, the food isn’t great. If I make one up, the food is either GREAT or AWFUL. If I improvise on a few things here and there, it is generally the best tasting food of the week. Let me also mention that I am GREAT at baking. I have mentioned this before. But it’s true. I can bake. Sweet. I can guarantee I won’t be sharing any huge cooking triumphs, though. 😉

Schedules, Goals, Organization, and Such

I am so disappointed I missed out on blogging last week- it was a big week for our family.  Alas, I will have to catch up in list format for now and then go back and do some more detailed posts later on.  ‘Cuz I want to include a lot of other information in this post, and I want to do last week’s events justice.

Last week,

  1. Gelato turned one.
  2. I learned I have a textbook aorta.
  3. I decided to use a Montessori style for homeschooling my kids and started doing a ton of research and got really excited about all the materials I’m asking my dad to make!
  4. Jonathan and I drew out several ideas for play spaces for our kids.
  5. My inner teacher mode kicked into high gear and I wrote out several goals and organizational ideas for September.

I will be writing detailed posts about all the above, as detailed above. 😉 For now, we will focus on #5.

I go through vaguely repeating patterns of contentment and discontentment, mixed in with planning and executing. I’m sure everyone does. I’ll be happily trucking along, doing the stuff, cooking the food, wiping the bottoms, cleaning the grime, watching the Dance Moms. Then discouragement will start to creep in and our bedroom will start to show signs of neglect: a sock without a match that sits on the top of the dresser for a week; a nightstand that could really use a dusting; a bed that remains unmade for a week at a time. Once the bedroom is lost, the upstairs hallway disappears under baskets full of clean but unfolded laundry.  Then the laundry room/kids bathroom is buried under dirty laundry (how do they make so much laundry?!), bottles of shampoo, and various hair accessories. Once the upstairs is sacrificed, debris begins to collect on the staircase. Need to move it upstairs but don’t want to go all the way up right now? Leave it on the third step. Third step full? Move it to the second. And so on. Eventually my kitchen, my last bastion of order, surrenders to clutter and crumbs.

At this point, I cry to Jonathan and whine, “Why do I have to do everything around here by myself?!?!” I don’t really have to do anything by myself. I have a 3-year-old helper for all my chores during the day, and Jonathan pitches in without even asking what needs to be done every night. I’m just a whiner.

So then Jonathan will work really hard and get one area clean, and that usually gives me the boost I need in order to finish the job. Usually. After I get everything cleaned, I switch into organization mode. I set up lists and schedules and I tend to go about it from a whole-day point of view. I make sure my kids’ sleep schedules get tweaked and fine-tuned, I adjust roomtime and learning time and outside play time, and I even write down all my chores and decide on which days I will (idealistically) complete them.

This time, however, I haven’t gotten everything cleaned. Every effort of Jonathan’s is very much appreciated but I just can’t bring myself to do it! We’re moving soon, and I have a hard time motivating myself to keep anything clean because I know it’s all going to be packed and then deep-cleaned anyway. So this weekend I went straight from depths-of-filth-depression-mode into post-squalor-purge-mode and made myself a brand spankin’ new, shiny, upgraded, fully-loaded, heckuva organizational plan…to be implemented in two weeks. I am giving us two weeks of “when did that milk cup get stuffed behind that couch cushion???” and “what’s that gunk on the baseboard over there?” while we pack and organize.

Please note that my kitchen will stay clean. I do not serve food out of a dirty kitchen.   

 So without further ado, here’s an overview of my household chores and organization methods in our fast-approaching life-to-be:

1. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Chores (for all three of the contributing members of the family)

2. Monthly Budget Meeting (parents, doy)

3. Monthly Freezer Meal Cooking Extravaganza (probably just me)

4. Bi-Weekly Toy Rotation (Daddy’s on it)

5. Weekly Receipt Entering and Paper Filing Festival (me- note the two that have exciting sounding descriptions are just me. I like to try and keep myself motivated.)

And I made a list of goals in four areas of my life: Relationships, Personal, Household (yes, I need to make a goal to follow my organizational system- step off), and Teaching. And guess what else?! I planned out a sticker chart for myself. Juvenile? Hardly. Who doesn’t like having physical evidence, no matter how small, to prove to oneself that the job is accomplished?! Of course, if we could afford it, you know I’d be trading in my gold stars for lattes.

As far as schedules are concerned, well…

Hula Girl is at a point where I am almost unsure what to do about her schedule. I am trying to keep her on an age-appropriate nap time and bedtime, but it seems whatever I’m trying to do is just slightly off somehow. And Gelato is actually getting really consistent. Go figure. They gang up on me, I tell ya. “You be off this week and I’ll be off next week! Then the week after that let’s BOTH be off. That’ll really do her in.” But I’m thinking we’re leaning toward something like this:

7:00 G up, nurse, get dressed

7:15 H up, milk, get dressed, storytime

7:30 breakfast

8:00 walk/outside play

8:30 reading/SSR

9:00 G nap; H chores

9:30 H learning time

10:15 H free play

10:45 G up from nap, nurse, roomtime; H roomtime

11:30 lunchtime

12:00 outside play

12:45 H individual reading; G free play

1:15 H nap; G learning time

1:30 G individual reading

1:45 G nap

3:15 up from naps, milk/nurse, snack

3:45 outside play

4:30 H table activity; G kitchen assistant

4:45 G table activity; H kitchen assistant

5:00 supervised sibling inside play

5:30 dinner

6:00 family activities

6:30 bath; G bedtime routine

6:45 G nurse; H dry hair, get in jammies

7:00 G bedtimeH read, massage, talk about her day

7:45 H bedtime

Obviously we will be tweaking and shifting as kids get older and need different things in their lives, but as far as I can predict, this will be our life when we move. Add in some time reading the Bible, exercising, blogging, and cooking, and you’ve got my whole day right in front of your eyes!

I sure can’t wait to get going on our new system!!!

 

Self-Sufficient

Our little Hula Girl is growing up some more. Her 3-year birthday is looming, and suddenly she can do so much. All the things she does are part of her daily routine- things we’ve been doing since she was weaned and walking (and even some things we’ve been doing since she was born). It’s just amazing to see how the locus of control in her life is slowly shifting to her rather than being all on Jonathan’s and my shoulders. Note the slowly part of that sentence. Obviously, our eventual goal is to raise children who are 100% self-sufficient (aside from the grace of God!), but it’s just a bit bittersweet to see it actually happening in tangible ways.

Now that Hula Girl can dress herself, she does it. For the most part, I choose what she wears. I pick out an outfit, hand it to her, and she does the rest. She can put on her own shoes and her own hat and her own jacket. So she does. It’s very helpful when we’re heading out for a walk and I’m getting Gelato and myself ready to go. I can just tell her, “Put on a jacket! Now put on shoes! Don’t forget a hat!” Still supervising, but not for long.

Along with that, she can reliably undress herself, except for her shirt, for baths, or for changing into jammies at naptime (are we the only family that does this? I think most kids nap in their day clothes). This is a nice skill when we’re coming back home from a walk. As you know from yesterday’s post, we remove our shoes before entering the main part of the house. We have shoe bins (one for each of us) and coat  hooks (again, one for each of us) in the tiled front entryway. I no longer have to remind Hula Girl to remove jacket or shoes. She walks in, sits down, takes off her shoes, unzips her jacket, and puts her shoes away. Even though the coat hooks are low enough that she can reach hers, she still has trouble getting the jacket to stick sometimes. That’s cool. If that’s all I have to do to help, works for me!

When it’s time to put on her jammies and pull-up for nap or night (we’re getting rid of the pull-ups when we move her to a big girl bed!), she doesn’t even want us to look like we might offer help. She can do it, she wants to do it, and I think that’s great. Less bending over for me. We just have to allow enough time so we don’t feel rushed when she’s got her foot in the wrong hole for the eighteenth time and she finally asks us to straighten them out so she can try again. Persistent little one.

She’s old enough to do some real chores now, and she takes them very seriously.

  • Each morning, she must tidy up her crib (drape a blanket over the edge, put her sheep in a corner, straighten her pillows, etc.). This is in preparation for when she has a big girl bed and will need to make her bed every morning. Then she has to get dressed, put her jammies away in their drawer, and carry her pull-up downstairs to throw it away.
  • When she gets downstairs, she must check to see that Riley has food and water. If he is out of them, she must ask us to help her get some for him. She can open the food container and scoop out the right amount (not hard, since he’s free-fed), but the food container is in the garage. So we have to open the door for her. We also have to open the door to the bathroom and turn on the sink for his water.
  • After breakfast, she needs to carry her dishes to the sink, and stop to dispose of any food left on her plate on her way. She actually asks to save her leftovers (and she’ll eat them) most days. She doesn’t like to waste food. After she does this, she must open the dishwasher (if it’s clean) and put away her dishes and Mommy and Daddy’s silverware. My silverware drawer is a mess, but I don’t mind.
  • Her last task of the day is to vacuum with my little hand-held dustbuster. She adores this task. She literally vacuums until the battery runs out, then I charge it again overnight each night. She knows how to take it apart to empty it, and she hands me the filter to wash it when she’s done.

Hula Girl has also taken to helping me with baking and cooking. We have always invited her to assist in the kitchen, but her contribution has always been minimal to distracting. But now that she can read numbers and she is learning to read words, she can help me read recipes. Yesterday we baked some bread. She read “whole wheat flour,” “yeast,” and “water” all by herself (we have made this recipe before- she probably remembered at least some of the things she was reading from a previous encounter with the recipe). She told me that we needed “four k-uh-p-s–CUPS!” of flour, and “one-one-two t-s-p” of yeast. Pretty good for almost-three, right?! We also made a lasagna yesterday. She looooooved being in charge of spreading the filling in between the layers of pasta. She did a very good job of keeping things even. She even put the noodles in the pan pretty straight!

I have enjoyed her so very much since she turned six months old (newborn Hula Girl was less enjoyable, what with the reflux and the severely chronic 45-minute naps, and the insane-first-time-Mommy-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-but-determined-to-do-it-right-ness), but I think I enjoy this particular phase almost the best so far. “Little Helper-hood” is awesome!

Garden: 2013- Front Yard Transformation

 

We are pleased to announce that we are almost ready to plant some seeds and get underway!

Jonathan spent the majority of last weekend hauling rocks. (Why is it that our gardening ventures ALWAYS involve clearing huge amounts of 1″ granite?) We now have double the garden space we had last year, and the front of the house looks somewhat finished. I’ll address the front in this post and get to the garden deets in another one soon.

We live in a rented house. (We are debt-free and intend to stay that way. We will be living here- in this city- for about 3 more years, but after that we aren’t sure we want to stay here. So we rent. No need to buy a house only to have to turn around and try to sell it again.) The street we live in bends right after our house, and the lot across from ours and right next to ours (the “elbow pit” and the “funny bone” part of the road) are vacant. Since we live in deserty-prairie-wilderness, there are a lot of tumbleweeds, prairie grasses, cacti, and dirt all around. Nothing pretty. And that was our entire front yard, except for the little split-rail fence that surrounds part of the area, along with a spruce tree and two bushes that are pretty darn ugly (and dying). We have a brick patio with a rose bush and a cement walkway with a little planter next to the house. The planter has a miniature rose bush and two baby holly bushes surrounded by brown mulch. Beyond that, the front yard was horrifyingly ugly.

And the pokies! Since, like, nothing normal or lovely grows out there, we were overjoyed to find some pretty yellow flowers sprouting last summer. Let me tell you, the flowers are deceptive as all get-out. We let them proliferate because we thought they were mild and pretty and we were excited to have something other than brown foot-high grass to look at while we pushed Hula Girl on the swing. Big mistake. Have you ever seen those burrs called goat heads? Check these things out. Make sure you scroll down to see what they look like when they get all dry and stick into your shoes. We always remove our shoes when we come inside, but not all our guests do. And that is what sticks our toddler’s heels on a regular basis. Nice, huh?

All that to say, Jonathan moved a lot of rocks. He took the rocks out of the back yard and covered all that deserty-prairie-wilderness area that is designated by the shoddy old split-rail almost-fence. He put underlayment in a few areas, but we’re mostly going to just have to get out there and pull all the weeds every other day or so. That’s fine. I plan to spend my entire life outside this summer. No joke.

So our front yard looks really nice. Jonathan edged the mini granite chunks with large white sandstone-type rocks that are just laying all around in the field next to our house. He also made a giant obstacle out of some old driftwood in the area that the neighborhood boys like to run through (it’s SO annoying when they run down our walkway and under our patio area during Hula Girl’s nap and wake her up because they’re squirting their water guns at each other right under her crib- like, seriously, kids? Didn’t your moms ever teach you to stay out of your neighbors’ yards and front entryways?!!?). We actually kept one large rectangle open and surrounded that area with tulip and daffodil bulbs, which are now pushing up. We plan to grow mint there; we’re also going to throw down some wildflower mix. It will be pretty- wild crazy mint and wildflowers. Yeah!

The front yard care this summer will include:

  • pulling weeds in the rock area
  • watering the mint/wildflower area
  • re-mulching and adding compost to the rose and holly bushes
  • watering the aforementioned bushes
  • trimming and/or replacing the terribly ugly evergreen bushes that are half-dead
  • watering aforementioned bushes
  • cleaning all the trash out from under the spruce tree (we live in the windiest part of the world, and ALL the neighborhood trash cans empty themselves into our yard every trash day)
  • trimming the tree
  • watering the tree
  • tending the garden box that lives out front- preparing the soil, planting, mulching, watering, weeding, etc.

We are going to have SO much fun. 🙂 (And I’m not joking!)

To My Hula Girl: The Past Seven Months

Dear Hula Girl,

Your baby brother is seven months old today, and you are starting your day the exact same way you did on the day of his birth. Grampy is here and he is reading to you on the couch after the two of you enjoyed a special breakfast of oatmeal with honey and chocolate chips. I remember that morning seven months ago very clearly. We had called Grammy and Grampy the night before and asked them to come down to our house because we were pretty sure it was going to be time for us to go to the hospital. I went for a long walk early in the morning and then sat down on the couch watching you and Grampy read. I took several pictures of the two of you snuggling together under the quilt that your great aunt Anne made for you. Then I went upstairs to rest for a while… and then it was time to go to the hospital! We said goodbye to you and gave you lots of hugs and kisses. You had no idea what was about to happen; you were just excited to spend the day with Grampy.

Back then, you still seemed so very much like a toddler. You were two days away from being 26 months old- still a very young two-year-old. You were unable to dress yourself at all, you were unable to reach things on the countertops, you were unable to brush your teeth, you were unable to reach the sink without a step stool. What a difference seven months can make! In the past seven months, you have grown physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Daddy and I (and all of our friends and family) are constantly amazed at the new things you can do and the incredible things your mind dreams up.

Now you can get dressed completely by yourself. You do need help getting oriented sometimes (those arm holes are tricky- they like to hide behind your back!), and it’s not uncommon to see your waistband rolled over on itself. But you can do it!

You can reach everything on the countertops. Everything. And if you can’t reach it, you’re learning that you can get creative to make a way. This is scary for me. Your daddy was a climber, and you seem to be following in his footsteps! In fact, the other day I found you in the bathroom sink, squeezing toothpaste onto your toothbrush. Well, at least you hadn’t eaten all the toothpaste (another current favorite pastime of yours).

Speaking of toothpaste, you got a new toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste when you visited the dentist in January. Since you had just received a new toothbrush for Christmas, I told you you could use your new one in March. On March 1 you were clamoring for your new toothbrush and toothpaste even before you got out of your crib in the morning! You are still so very excited about your new toothbrush, and you love to brush your teeth. I make sure to brush your teeth first, just so I can get all the germs out, but you love to “practice” for very extended periods of time afterward. I think you’d probably watch yourself brushing your teeth for an hour or more if I let you. It is good that you have taken my advice seriously and learned not to swallow your toothpaste. Now that you have “real” toothpaste (it actually contains fluoride), I have had to watch you very carefully. You do like to eat toothpaste. What kid wouldn’t? Toothpaste nowadays tastes like candy.

So many other things have changed, too. You have grown three inches taller. You have lost a lot of your baby padding. You have learned to speak so very well. Your mind is full of creativity and your imagination is just exploding. You are getting less wary of others. You are learning to play with other children rather than just watching from the edges. You express your feelings and you work so very hard to make sure we understand you.

At night when Daddy and I tuck you in, we have a very specific routine. We read you a story, I carry you to bed, we turn off the light, you put “Mr. Sun” to sleep, Daddy prays, I pile your Daisy bear and your blankies on you, I say goodnight, Daddy says goodnight, and then we leave. When I carry you to bed, you tell me what you are that night: a big big big jingle bell, a big big big pumpkin ball, a big big big flower, or a big big big pearl. If you’re a jingle bell, we sing “Jingle Bells” of course! We always stand and hold each other in a family circle while Daddy prays. When I say goodnight to you, we blow a kiss, sign “I love you,” say, “I love you,” and then when I say, “Goodnight, Little One,” you respond, “Goodnight, Little Mommy!” So funny and so sweet. And of course, you always remind me and Daddy that you want to have your pink vitamin and some milk in the morning. Just in case we forget to give you your milk that you’ve had first thing every day for the last 33 months straight.

The very best part of seeing you at this age is observing the way your heart is opening up to the wonders of God’s creation, and to the glory of God as healer, maker, friend, helper, and Lord. It gives me joy beyond measure to hear you pray when you’re nestled in your cozy crib at night and Mommy and Daddy have left the room. Your sweet voice speaking your almost-three-year-old concerns to God in the darkness melts my heart and makes me certain that God’s got some big things in store for you. I wish I could tell you to trust in Him the way you do now for the rest of your life. That will be your decision to make, but nothing would make my heart gladder than to know that your relationship with Him is one of utter dependence and peacefulness that comes from casting all your cares on Him.

Oh, my girl. I am so proud of you and the big lessons you’re learning. You are sweet, funny, nurturing, exuberant, inquisitive, and joyful. You are never quiet for long. You have energy enough to power New York City for fifteen years. You throw your heart behind every little thing you do- whether it’s dragging Grampy’s suitcase to the front door (while calling, “Doooooon’t fooooooooooorget yoooooooour waaaaaater boooooottle!!!!”), having a breakdown because I moved your Candy Land piece a half-inch, or squirming around to find that ever-elusive armhole. You’re passionate, lovely, honest, and beautiful. I am so blessed to call you my daughter and so very thankful that God chose me to be your mommy.

Love,

Mommy (a.k.a. Daddy/Ms. Clavel- what can we say? Your imagination dictates that I am several different people all day long, depending on whatever game you’re playing at the moment!)

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