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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What we should have kept

I love to purge. Going through a closet and tossing out old, useless, out-of-date stuff just gives me a sense of satisfaction.

Last winter, during a bout of particularly bad cabin fever, I purged my house like it was my job. It felt so liberating. I love the idea of a minimalist lifestyle but never can seem to maintain it. I dream of one day having perfectly clean countertops and closets which are organized into neatly labeled stacks, baskets, shelves, and piles. Maybe that will be possible one day when we actually have closet space. Meh. Plus, we thought last year could be the year we'd have the energy to list our house for sale. (ha! Didn't happen. This year, perhaps?)

So last winter I got down to business. Along with boxes and boxes of old college papers, computer wires (do they reproduce in the desk drawers?), magazines I'll never care to read again, clothes that no longer fit, etc, etc. I gave away anything and everything baby related. My big boy Zeke was 3 and 1/2 so we don't need that bouncy seat, that booster chair, that infant bathtub, those burp cloths, bibs, teethers, tiny socks, that adorable snow bunting, the lovely wooden crib, and my favorite thing ever; the Jump-A-Roo.

If there were ever a necessary baby item it's the Jump-A-Roo. My boys LOVED it. I swear they must have spent 100 hours each in that thing between the ages of 5-12 months old. Bouncing as high as they could go and giggling those sweet baby belly laughs. When Zeke was finished with it I passed it along to my cousin Angela's little guy to enjoy. I wonder if he loves it as much as my guys did.

Anyway, it feels so good to purge. I got on a roll. The second Zeke outgrew a piece of clothing, I gave it away. Toys that no long interest them, gave them away. Toddler racecar bed, out of the house. We had to make room for their new awesome bunk beds!  Poor Zeke had gotten so tall that only half his body would be on the bed and the other half would be on the floor in the morning. Bless his heart. I did put that one off as long as I could because he so loved his race car bed.

Then 2 months ago I felt sad. I missed all those baby items. I wished I weren't in the season of life which requires no burp cloths, pacifiers, bouncy seats, and Jump-A-Roos.

And sadder still, was the change that came along with his new big boy bunk bed status.  My sweet cuddly Zeke, who up until 2 months ago, wouldn't sleep without being rocked (mostly by Manny), no longer wanted to be rocked before bed. Just like that. He wanted to be tucked in just like Elijah. Just a kiss and a hug and a blanket tucked around the tummy with his birds and his dolphin in the crook of each elbow. No songs and snuggles from Mommy necessary. I'm not ready for this part yet. I wanted to hang onto this for a while longer.

Some nights I beg him, and if he's sleepy enough and feeling needy enough, he will indulge me for a song or two in the rocking chair. And boy do I soak in those moments the way I wish I would have always soaked them in. Why didn't I enjoy that more when he was smaller?

So, that's how it happened. I caught baby fever again.

And you know what else?

I should have kept that Jump-A-Roo.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Planner Love

I have started to write this blog post several times but always stop myself because I think, who in the world would ever care about my planner, how I made it, or how I use it? But on the off chance that anyone is actually interested, here it is. My wonderful planner!

It may not look all that spectacular, but honestly, after using this for the past 8 months, I am in love with it. I would cry if I lost it! I always know where it is and I'm pretty sure its in the top 5 items I'd grab if my house were on fire. So, allow me to tell you about the best tool I own for staying organized amid the chaos that is my life. Since I work a "real job", homeschool my 2 boys, run my photography business, and have other responsibilities at church and home, I would lose my mind if I didn't have a place to keep everything.

 I decided, after looking at hundreds of options and doing tons of research, to invest in the ARC discbound system (sold by Staples, or on Amazon). I LOVE this system because pages can be added and removed any time you want. Each year, you just put in the new calendar pages, printables, etc, and you're ready to go! You only need to buy the cover, discs, and other accessories once.

Here's what I purchased for this project... 

1) Leather Notebook  - I went with the 9.5 x 11.5 size so it holds regular 8.5 x 11 sized paper
I actually bought a poly cover at first, but it's kind of light-weight and didn't stand up to all the abuse I gave it. I adore this cover. It's very sturdy, pretty, has a pen holder loop in the back cover and a pocket in front w/a place for credit cards or business cards (I store my business cards there and an old CC with extra washi tape there). If you're serious about your investment, I'd recommend to go ahead and get the leather cover and not bother with the poly one. This is the ARC brand, but Martha Stewart brand also makes a pretty blue one.  The cover came with 60 sheets of ruled paper too, which I took out.

2) Set of 1 - 1/2 inch discs (the notebook comes with 1/2 inch discs but they weren't nearly large enough for my needs. Purchased from Amazon.

3) 2 zip pouches  - these are great for me when I need a place to safely store checks & cash from clients, extra stamps, extra thank you cards, receipts, etc. Purchased from Amazon. They come in a 2-pack.

4) 2 sets of these divider tabs - I picked these up on clearance from Staples for 50% off. They are re-writable tabs, but I cover them with pretty washi tape to write on. I use these to divide out each month in my calendar. I like the pretty multi colored Martha Stewart ones better than the black ARC ones.

5) Set of pocket dividers - I needed something to divide the major sections of my planner: Business, Calendar, Meal Planning, Homeschooling. I had to punch special holes in them to make them fit into the notebook, but I'll get to that in a minute. I liked these because they have pockets to hold loose papers. I got them from Walmart during back-to-school sales so they were cheap. The only complaints I have about them is that they're thinner plastic and the tabs have bent a bit, and they are wider than my notebook, so they stick out over the edge, making them easier to get torn up. But they function ok and they were only a few dollars. If I ever need to replace them, I'll look for something that actually goes with the ARC system so its the correct size so it wears better. 
(You can see in the photo below how the purple divider sticks out past the edge of the notebook.)

6) This Disc Hole Punch  - Here's the one kicker of using the discbound system. All your inserts and pages have to have the correct holes to fit. So you have to purchase this special hole punch. I got the Levenger brand, but ARC also makes one. When I happened to buy it, the ARC was about $10 more expensive on Amazon. They are both nearly the same so all the accessories are compatible. This was the most costly part of this project, but I plan on using it for years and years.

7) Paper - I got the heaviest stock paper Wal-Mart sold because I wanted my pages to be sturdy and for the ink not to bleed through. I think it was 28lb. When printing my planner, I only used about a third of the ream.

8) Ink Cartridges - my printer was almost out of ink so I bought enough to last through printing the many pages I knew I would need.

9) Pens - I love these Papermate Multi-Colored Flairs because they don't bleed through and I'm all about color coding my stuff. Plus, what girl doesn't love a pretty pen? 

10) Assorted washi tape. I've got dozens of them and am a little obsessed. You can find it pretty much anywhere: Dollar tree, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Office Depot, Amazon. I will say that I got one from Wal-Mart on a roll like scotch tape that I HATE. It was Duck brand and looks shiny. Avoid that one because it's impossible to write on and very difficult to tear off. Go with the matte kind that's a texture like masking tape. Also, if possible, get the removable kind.

11) Assorted sticky notes & sticky flags. I picked up a few packs of the tiny ones at back-to-school time because the little ones fit better on my calendar squares. They make it nice when I'm not sure of a particular date or event and might need to remove them later. I just removed the wax backing and stuck them to the inside of my front cover so they're handy.

12) Printable Planner Pages - your possibilities on this one are literally endless and totally customizable. Try typing "printable planner" into pinterest or etsy and you'll find hundreds of options. It's crazy! After searching for weeks, I finally settled on this free set that I really like from The Handmade Home. There are dozens of others that I would have loved too, but ultimately I liked the free option best. It's pretty and suits my needs just fine. I did two-sided printing, which takes quite a bit of trial and error to figure out how your printer works (for me, at least).

I made my own cute cover page using a free template I found somewhere online. And I put one of my address stickers on it so it could be returned to me if I misplace it. (I doubt that would happen!)

Lastly, I downloaded and used TONS of other free printables from all over the Internet. You can find links to most of them on my Pinterest board here. A few favorites are: year-at-a-glance, important dates at a glance, master to-do lists, monthly menu planners, weekly menu planners with grocery lists attached, cleaning checklists, chore charts, summer and fall bucket lists, books to read bucket list, Christmas shopping/card/gift checklists, account registers (for my business), and client spreadsheets (also for my business). My plan is to eventually make my way to the Teacher's Aid store to have the monthly and weekly menu, master to-do list, and chore charts laminated so I can just use dry-erase pencils on them each week.

So far I love this system! It has served me very well and I think it can grow with my needs since it is so versatile and easy to customize and update.

I use the monthly spread to keep a general overview of upcoming events, birthdays, appointments, photo sessions, etc.

Then I use the weekly spread every day to keep track of my to-do items for home, work, school, and photography, meal planning, as well as our weekly Scripture memory and daily Bible reading plan. I normally color code my to-do items according to the category (photography, work/appointments, social/fun events, birthdays/holiday/anniversary, & meal plan) but in the page shown above, I did my planning at my mom's house so I didn't have my pretty pens handy. I place a square next to each item, and have a system developed to keep track of my progress. X means I cancelled the item. Solid square means complete. Half filled square means item has been started but not finished. Arrow in the square means I moved it to another date. This way I don't cross things off my list, because I normally need to look back on when I did things. This becomes especially important for business when I submit print orders for clients and need to keep tracking info and notes on when I mailed them off, etc.

I use the notes section at the bottom of the weekly spread and at the end of each month for all kinds of random things. Sometimes I jot down shopping lists, or write down cute things the boys said or did, or maybe a project I'm brainstorming, other times I use it as a journal for my thoughts, someone's phone #, a website to check out, a blog someone recommended, just whatever comes to mind when I need a place to jot something down. I like having the extra space as needed.

There is much more to say on the subject, but you get the idea. I hope all this info is helpful to someone. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


My baby Zeke is 4 years old and he still loves to be rocked before bed. I am so glad for this. Mostly he only lets his Daddy rock him. Or, "wock" him, as he says. But some evenings I am lucky enough to have a few quiet moments rocking him, holding him in my lap, snuggling my face against his and soaking in the last bit of little boy sweetness. I sing to him too. Golden Slumbers, Sleep Baby Sleep, Jesus Loves Me. And he sings along with me usually. It is a treasure to my heart to spend these moments with him.

A few nights ago as he was getting settled in for me to rock him, he remarked, "Mom, I wike when you wock me better than Daddy."  "Oh really?", I asked, doubtful. (because normally he's all Daddy all the time.) "Yes", he replied as he snuggled into my chest, rested a cheek and looked up at me, "because you have these big muscles and Daddy doesn't."

So, yep. I think he's going to be a boob man.

A rant about stuff

Something is not quite right with me. I've had an "off" feeling for going on 5 months now. I want to sleep all the time. I'm run-down and weary. But on top of it, I'm dizzy a lot. I've had days of extreme vertigo when I can't walk down the stairs or even get out of bed, and days when it's just an underlying annoyance. I have a strange pressure near my right temple - above my jaw, around to behind my right eye, and up around the side of my head behind my ear. I feel like my temple, eye socket, and cheek are swollen. I have a constant awareness of my face -- which is not normal. I've been to my family doc about this 3 times now and we've treated for inner ear swelling, ear infection, sinus infection, and allergies, with absolutely no improvement. He also ran bloodwork (metabolic) and ruled out anything abnormal. I've had my eyes checked (with the exception of maybe needing readers when I'm on the computer for long stretches) my eyes are perfectly fine. The eye doc even took a photo of my optic nerve to rule out any swelling or things that could be issues. I'm at a loss and I'm frustrated beyond words. My family doc wants to keep treating me with meds. Today's trip resulted in an official "diagnosis" of chronic migraines with prescriptions for Topamax, Imitrex, and Phenegren. I told him, like 5 times, that I'm not interested in taking meds. I want to find out what's really wrong with me! I DO NOT have chronic migraines, contrary to what he keeps telling me. I've experienced pain (HELLO, I had a natural childbirth!) and this is not pain. This is pressure. This is a strange feeling of having part of my head being squeezed in a vice, but rarely does it reach what I would describe as actual pain. I've had my share of headaches in my adult life and I'm familiar with how they feel too. But the headache is the symptom, not the cause. There are times when the pressure on the right side of my head becomes intense and does, in fact, turn into a full-blown, all-over headache. And I'm not denying that I do have migraines occasionally, but THIS is not a migraine problem. Something else is going on. And my doctor won't listen to me. He looked at me like I'm a child who is being unreasonable when I attempted to contradict him. I'm at my wits end and don't know what to do. I need to start by finding a doctor who will listen to me in stead of trying to medicate my symptoms. Gosh! Sometimes I really can't stand the way people think prescription drugs are the answer to every problem. I really need wisdom on how to deal with this situation. I am so stinking frustrated and tired of feeling like this!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Boys on a Campout

There is this fabulous tradition for the men at our church. Each spring they have a father-son campout on the church property. Yesterday afternoon, lots of the dads (mostly with young sons) set up tents in the empty (large) lot, build a big ol' fire, haul in heavy machinery for fun, and prepare for a night of excitement! This year was Zeke's first year getting to go!!! I think I was just as happy for the guys as they were that they got to spend a whole night with their Daddy doing guy stuff. They cooked out on the fire, ate lots of junk food, played music, drank soda and lots of sugar-filled juice drinks, shot automatic weapons (thanks to Jacob Talor and his SWAT awesomeness!), dug with a REAL life excavator (thanks to Josh Beer and the company he works for), played ball with the other boys, rode in tractors, messed around with their flashlights, slept in sleeping bags on the ground, woke up filthy and smelling like smoke. Basically, it was little boy paradise! They were so completely exausted and over-stimulated that when I brought them home in the morning (Manny had to leave early for work so my Dad stepped in for the breakfast part of the shindig) they went straight into a hot bath which left the tub a dingy brown and into BED again! They both slept for nearly 3 hours! This campout really is one of the highlights of their year and I'm so very happy that Manny was able to take them. We weren't sure due to his work schedule, but the Lord provided the way. I love that he's making these kind of memories with them. They will treasure them. Before they left, after the car was all packed with camping provisions, I took a few photos of the guys ready to head out. Elijah asked me so sweetly if he can have a copy of the photos with their Daddy so he can always remember this awesome campout! Of course! Those pics are going in the "special things box" for sure!

Here are some pictures I took of them before they left. Manny did take some w/his phone too, but I don't have those.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas 2013! Tis the year for Superman EVERYTHING.
And bicicles.
And matching red plaid PJs.
What more could a 3 and 6 year-old ask for?
They had a wonderful day, and so did I.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Dinos

For a few years I've been thinking about doing this Elf on a Shelf for the boys. But the more I look at it, the creepier he seems to me. But this year there was a thing floating around the interwebs of a family who had "Dinovember", in which the kids' plastic dinos did pretty much the same thing the Elf does at Christmas time. You know, getting into stuff, making messes, and causing mischief while the kids sleep. So I ventured to do the same for my boys this year. I picked up plastic dinosaurs at Wal-mart for a buck a piece on black Friday. Then started collecting ideas for what these guys would be doing during their stay at our house.

We made their introduction on St. Nick's day with the gifting of the boys' stockings. In them, they each received a new pair of gloves (just in time because it snowed that morning), a pack of orange bubble gum, and a surprise from their new friends, the Christmas Dinos. The Dinos had left a letter for the boys explaining how they would be up to mischief each night while they sleep and they would find them in the mornings. They also made a Christmas countdown chain for the boys to put together and hang. I LOVED the excitement on their faces when they discovered these surprises! They were so genuinely thrilled at such a small gesture!

So here's a recap (in photos) of some of the shenanigans the Dinos were up to as we counted down to Christmas 2013.
Busted sneaking candy from the dish!
Riding the Christmas Train around Grandma's tree!
Making a huge mess with the boys' cereal! And helping themselves to some!
Defacing our family photos! (Elijah COULD NOT STAND to see this! He cried. Then he insisted that we clean the picture frames immediately!)

Constructed a Trio Block City on the kitchen table!
Colored Christmas pictures in the boys' new coloring books!
Played Chutes & Ladders
Worked Puzzles!
Stole candy canes off the tree and ate them!
Rode Zeke's tricicle outside. It was freezing so they wore their scarves which Grandma Debby made them!
Helped Mom make coffee in the morning!
Made a mess helping wrap Christmas gifts!
Watched a Movie and ate popcorn.
Played in the snow, went sledding, had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows!
This was one of the most fun Christmas traditions we've done yet. I loved planning it and sneaking downstairs while the boys were sleeping to get it all ready. And I loved seeing their happy faces each morning when they discovered the Dinos!  We'll definately be repeating the Dino tradition next year!