Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Organizing Challenge - Turning the Corner

Time for a progress update on the Frightening Bedroom of Doom.

If you are new to this series, you can see the beginning here.  You can follow my progress by using the "Weekly Challenge" label...even though this isn't really a "weekly" challenge anymore. 

This week I took this:

And turned it into this:

I also cleaned under the desk.  This might not sound like much, but when I was about half done and remembered to snap a picture, it looked like this:

The finished product:

I also threw out another bag of trash, and took another huge box to Savers, from stuff over by the closet.  (I LOVE getting rid of stuff.  It's so much better than putting stuff away.  If you put it away, it will be gotten back out.  If you get rid of it, it will never need put away again.)

And, I am somewhat surprised to be able to report, the parts of the room I already cleaned are mostly staying that way.  The room is beginning to look generally clean with a few scary places, rather than universally horrifying. This seems like a significant turning point!

But, for all that, I found today's decluttering efforts discouraging.  The above projects took a long time for such a small space (the pile was very deep).  I knew when I started that this would take me a long time, and I am enjoying the spaces that I have cleared...but, just being real - I'm kind of tired of cleaning this mess up.  How did it get this way?  And how can I prevent it from happening again?  I am trying to brainstorm ways to keep this mess from ever coming back.  I am a natural born piler, and I have trouble knowing where to put things that don't an obvious home.  I am hoping that if I get rid of enough stuff, places to put the things I have left will become more obvious.  Maybe??  Let's hope!

The best part of the cleaning today?  This:

An earring that I lost months ago - way down behind the desk.  It's one of my favorite pairs, and I was thrilled to find it again!

Linked up at:  A Slob Comes Clean

Thursday, January 26, 2012

DIY - Baby Cereal

One little project that actually has made it off my lists and into real life is homemade baby cereal.  For some reason, I thought this would be hard - I have always used the instant kind.

But, it's really not.  This is a very quick, simple, and gratifying project if you have a baby eating baby food.

The first kind I tried was brown rice.  I put the dry rice in a coffee grinder (you should probably make sure that all the coffee is out of it, though.  I never use ours for coffee, so that's easy for me.  If you need to clean it first, just run some salt through it).  You could probably use a food processor too. I ground it into powder:

Then, I cooked 1/4 cup of the powder with 1 1/4 cup water.  I live at high altitude; you may need less water if you live closer to sea level.  Put the rice powder in the cold water, whisk well, and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and cook about 10 minutes, whisking and/or stirring occasionally.  It gets pretty thick; you will need to thin it out.  I use water, or you could use pumped breast milk if you have it.

This size batch lasts us about two days.  I keep the unthinned leftovers in the fridge, and just plop some in a bowl, add some water, and microwave it briefly.  It will be lumpy; whisk it again with a small fork. (Alternately, you can heat water on the stove and use that to thin the chilled cereal.  That works very well.)

That's it!  The best part is that it actually tastes like rice - unlike the instant kind.  Takes a few minutes once a week or so to grind the rice, then every couple of days 10 or 15 minutes to cook up a new batch.  I cook it while I am in the kitchen doing other things, so it really only adds a minute or two to my day.  Abby loves it - and so does her 2 year old brother.  As long as he gets to use a baby spoon!

A satisfied customer. :)

Linked up at:   The Homestead Barn HopNo Ordinary Blog Hop, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways
Our Simple Farm

Monday, January 23, 2012

A year toward sustainability

I'm not a resolution-maker.

In fact, I don't think I have ever made a New Year's resolution.

I'm rebellious like that, sometimes.  But really, what is the one thing that always comes up when people talk about resolutions?

Breaking them, of course.

I really hate to fail.  I mean, I do it all the time, like everyone else...but why set myself up?  It almost seems like a tradition of failure.  No thanks; I'll pass on that one.

So.  My new "year toward sustainability" project is NOT a New Year's Resolution.

Now that we've cleared that up, here's the deal.

My husband and I want to live in a hobbit hole.  Non-Tolkien-nerds might refer to it as an earth-sheltered home (with a round door).  You can get the idea here and here.  We'd love to have some land, with a big garden, an orchard, some chickens, a mini cow.  Maybe some alpacas and some solar panels, too - something like this.

I have a lot of wild and doubtless unpopular ideas about how the Industrial Revolution was a bad idea; how feminism and the Industrial Revolution fed off each other, and how many ills both have produced in our society.  Industrialization has wreaked havoc on families, health, and all of creation.

I live in a suburb of a major city.  I like my city - a lot.  It's beautiful, there's a lot to do, good neighbors.  But as I sit in traffic, watching hundreds of other cars burning fuel, watching all the city lights burning fuel, thinking of all the computers and refrigerators and furnaces and air conditioners...it's mind boggling, how much power just one city consumes. How long can it be sustained?

Then I go home, and I get most of my food out of boxes or plastic wrappers.  I don't really even buy much convenience food - I'm not militant or anything but I like to keep it pretty basic.  We recycle - which is probably a good thing, since we fill up two big recycling cans every two weeks.  That's a lot of boxes, cans, and wrappers - for just one family.

I don't like it.  I always mean to do something about it.

I figure that if we want to have our hobbit hole and be a bit more on the self-sufficient side someday, there are some skills and habits I may as well acquire now.  There are things I could do now that would reduce my dependency on this whole system.  There are so many things I could do that I freeze up, and don't really change much of anything.

This year, I want to make little changes, learn new skills, one at a time.  Maybe I will actually start using my yogurt maker instead of buying endless little containers of Yoplait.  Maybe I will get off my duff and go back to cloth diapers (maybe).  Maybe I'll learn about square foot gardening, or buy a canner as I've threatened to do for years, or learn to make cheese.

Whatever I decide to do, I'll write it up here.  Here's to new adventures!

Linked up at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

This post is linked to No Ordinary Blog Hop.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


For those of you confused by my reference to pregnancy in this post...no, I am not currently expecting.  I've just been fighting brain fog that reminds one of being pregnant, which probably explains why I didn't notice that it looked like I was dropping a hint!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Organizing Challenge - Declawing the FBD continued

All right...now that I've been on vacation and back long enough to be feeling almost normal...and now that I've written a post about how I can't seem to get anything done...today was a lovely, super-productive type day.  I cherish those.  There is something about Tuesdays, they almost always go well.

This is one of a series of posts following the decluttering of my VERY messy master bedroom.

So here I found a home decorating book buried in a pile of dusty junk. Yeah.  It's almost poetic.

This was the main area I worked on today.  Here is the "before" picture.

And the "after" picture!  I hung up clothes, threw away trash (almost a whole trash bag worth.  I was shocked), and filled up a donate box.  Just from one overgrown pile.  I could have not even had a pile if I had thrown away my trash and donated my unwanted stuff in the first place.

The new view from the door.  This picture is deceptively tidy.  There is a lot of mess it doesn't show -
like this whole corner.  The pile in front of the dresser has actually grown - eek.  And the top has started piling up again too.  That's the problem with piles - they grow.  If there is already a pile of junk, why not toss one more thing on top?  My ultimate goal here is to clear out enough space so that I will actually have places to put everything, and won't have to pile it.

And of course there is the closet.  It's pretty grim in there.  I tried several times over the past 6 months or so to get in there and organize it first, so when I did my room I'd have a cleaned-out closet to put stuff in.  All I ever really managed to do was make a bigger mess.  I am hoping that when the rest of the room is clean, that battle will turn to my favor.

I need to clean off the book shelves, too.  They are too stuffed to even use.

Hooray for progress!  Next I plan to hit this little corner.  It doesn't look like much, but it's at least two feet deep.  And it's a lot less overwhelming than the closet.  Not that I'm afraid of my closet, of course.

DIY - laundry soap

I have been making my own laundry soap for several years now.  I find that it works very well, the savings are significant, and it's not a lot of work.  It's quite convenient, actually, since I make a very large batch that lasts me for months - and I do about 4 - 7 loads a week.  I use the recipe found here, except I double the amount of Fels Naptha.  I have found this to be necessary; otherwise our clothes do not smell clean.  Also, I find that it gels up more pleasingly that way. 

Follow the link for the directions; I follow them exactly aside from the extra Fels Naptha.  I have a big bucket that used to hold commercial laundry detergent.  I would say that to make a batch of this takes about half an hour.  Most of that is grating the soap, which is a pain.  Don't be tempted to leave bigger chunks to save time, though.  They will take forrrreeeevvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrr to melt.  Trust me.

This post is linked to No Ordinary Blog Hop , to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, and to Raising Olives

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dealing when you're off-kilter

Whew.  I believe I have lost track of how many evenings I have sat down to blog, maybe tapped out a few lines, stared blankly for a while, and then called it quits.  My mind just felt like mush, every time.

Not sure of all the factors, here.  Probably in large part it's the teething baby, who has been doing better the last couple of days, but before that was keeping me hopping almost 24/7.  (Ok, I exaggerate.  A little.)  I had a slight cold, which added to being overtired.  Then there is vacation recovery, which always takes longer than it ought to.  I just keep having those "brain sludge" kind of days, when the schedule doesn't feel right, the littles are being crazy (probably because I'm distracted), and no matter how much I do, nothing seems to get done. The to-do list seems to grow exponentially.

Anyone else have days...weeks...like that?  Even when you're not pregnant? ;-) (Clarification - no, I am not pregnant. :-D)

I am betting you do.  How do you deal with it?  I'll tell you how I do.

Pray.  Those off-kilter seasons leave us feeling inadequate.  That's fine; we are inadequate.  Homekeeping, mothering, wife-ing - they are big jobs.  Feeling overwhelmed is a good time to remember that we are utterly inadequate on our own to fulfill our calling.  Pray!

Do something.  As goes the famous quote, "Do the next thing."  If I have five hundred important items on my to do list and five minutes in which to do them - I can be frozen by panic, indecision, or hopelessness, and do nothing.  Or I can just pick something, and do it. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

Prioritize.  Some things don't wait till you can think straight again.  Most power companies, for example, don't really care if you are off schedule.  Bellies get hungry if you are ready for them are not.  Prioritize your day to cover the necessities first.  Also - everyone has tasks that, when done, make you happy.  (Flylady shines her sink.  I like the floor swept.)  Take a minute for that, too!

Step back.  If the craziness won't let up on its own, it might be time for a ketchup day.  I wish I could remember where I got that idea; it wasn't mine, I read it somewhere.  Call off school and catch up on whatever needs done!  Serve something easy (involving ketchup, of course) for dinner, and just take the day to get yourself back in order.

Make changes.  If catching up doesn't fix things - look at your schedule.  Is there a problem that can be fixed?  Would getting up earlier make things run more smoothly?  Do you need to plan better for school, meals, or errands?  Maybe your children have moved to a new stage and need some schedule tweaking to cope with it.  Are there discipline issues not being addressed?  Sometimes small changes in the routine can have BIG payoff - as we have experienced recently.  (More on that soon!)  One of my favorite resources for this sort of thing is Large Family Logistics.

Relax!  Really.  I know I say this all the time, but that's because I think it's so important.  ENJOY your family.  You are BLESSED to have them, to be home with them, to homeschool them.  You won't do it perfectly.  You are still the best person for the job!

Linked up at:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Birth Story #6 - Abigail Rose

Miss Abby's birth was so normal.  After some of my other oddball labors, the only thing I was sure of, looking forward to her birth, was that I had no idea what to expect.  We were on the alert for a fast labor again, and I was hoping, this time, labor would at least make itself clear in time to do something about it.  I was also offering many heartfelt prayers that baby would NOT be posterior again.

One Sunday night, I felt pretty lousy.  We went to our evening service; if I remember right, I think I complained the whole way home.  (Mark is very patient with this sort of thing...)  The last thing I said as I carefully maneuvered myself into bed was something to the effect of, "If I feel anything like this tomorrow, I'm not going grocery shopping.  I might not do anything at all."

At 3:30 am, I woke up thinking I had an awful stomach ache.  When I sat up, though, I immediately knew it was labor.  I was happy, but nervous, knowing that sometimes, by the time I'm that sure it's labor, it is very close to the end.  I woke Mark - it was so TV sitcom - "Wake up!  It's time!  We have to go!"

In half an hour, we were on our way.  I was clearly in labor but not showing any sign of pushing.  We had an uneventful drive up the canyon, Mark munching dry Cheerios and an apple on the way.   We called the midwife to let her know we were coming; when we arrived, the after-hours entrance at the ER was ready to whisk me straight upstairs. They told me, "Danielle said you go fast, we'll do the paperwork later."

I gave the guy who pushed my wheelchair a hard time, I think - while in the elevator, I chatted about the time I hadn't made it and had the baby in the elevator.  He looked a little nervous. ;-)

Well, there isn't much more to say about it.  I paced and bathed and paced and bounced on the birth ball for several hours.  Labor picked up, and Abby was born at 8:30 am.  I don't know why she had so much bruising on her face (you can see in the picture).  As far as I know, her positioning was fine.

My favorite memory of Abby's birth day?  The amazing rainbow that welcomed her to the world:

You can't tell in the picture, but we could see the entirety of both rainbows, end to end, from our window.   It was absolutely breathtaking.

So, that's it - so far! - for my birth stories.  Will there be more?  I'm wondering that too...

All the birth stories...
Birth Story #6 - Abigail
Birth Story #5 - Alex
Birth Story #4 - Jonathan
Birth Story #3 - Rebecca
Birth Story #2 - Anna
Birth Story #1: Erin

Friday, January 6, 2012

To Seize or Not to Seize

Yesterday I read an rather interesting post called Don't Carpe Diem.  It was linked to by my sister in law, who is also my dear sister in Christ, a good friend, and an awesome mama. 

First time I read through the article, I wasn't sure I liked it.  Not that it wasn't well written, it was.  But I work really hard to LOVE my calling as a wife and mother.  I work really, really hard to find joy in all of my tasks.  And, I want my children to know that I love being around them - because, I do.  I don't want them to ever feel like they are a nuisance to me, because I can imagine what that would feel like.

I don't want to be eyeballing the clock as though raising my children were some random 9-5 job I'm working at.  As though I can't wait to shuttle them off to bed so I can do what I REALLY want.  And, I strive to remain cheerful even when I'm really not loving whatever job comes my way.  Keeping a positive attitude toward my life and family is so important to me.  So, I decided I wasn't a huge fan of the post.

But then, I woke up feeling vaguely unwell after baby got up four times last night, instead of her usual once.

I realized that baby is teething.  I realized this because my usually bubbly, sunshiney baby spent almost the whole day crying. 

My charming two-year-old decided that today, he'd be more two than charming.  He skipped his nap and spent the day wreaking havok.

So, I thought I'd take them all out for a walk to enjoy the bizarrely warm weather.  I rounded up shoes, coats, changed two diapers, changed two shirts that got soaked when the villains dear children decided to fill up the kitchen sink and splash in it while I changed the baby, wiped up the water, dug the stroller out of the garage, strapped the still-wailing, teething baby into the Ergo, and off we went.  After we went back in to get my jacket.  Poor baby wailed throughout the entire half hour walk.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

It was ironic that this day happened while I was still trying to decide if I liked that article or not.  Guess what?  As it turns out, I do.  Kind of.  Here's one I do like a little better: For Tired Young Mothers of Many.  And one more:  Do Toddlers and Well-Ordered Days Mix?

Two truths:
  1. Mothering is hard.  It's not always fun.  It's frequently not fun.  No one should be made to feel like they ought to be floating through life two inches above the ground, blissfully making crafts and sipping strawberry tea all day.  We all grit our teeth.  We all try to hide in the bathroom, but forget to lock the door.  (Or is that just me?)  It's ok.
  2. We are not babysitters.  We are not punching a clock.  We are raising people, who will be partly made of the home and memories we surround them with, and the lessons we teach them by word, deed, and attitude.  We are investing our lives in them.  Heaven forbid, when we blink and they are gone, that we are left with memories of wishing those days away.  I would find that a bitter reward for my labors.
Looking over my pictures, I tried to find one of a wailing baby to put at the top of this.  I thought it'd be fitting.  But - I couldn't find any.  I found pictures like these:

These pictures washed away my rough day and put it all in perspective.   Attitude.  Memories.  Taking a deep breath and the long view.  Prayer, and lots of it.   Sometimes to really seize the day, you have to let it go.  And if we don't love every minute, we need to love our kids through every minute.  That's the important thing.

Be blessed-


Linked up at:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back in Town

Pardon my extended absence.  Over Christmas we drove nearly 4000 miles, round trip, to visit family in Pennsylvania and Missouri.  I told myself I'd blog during the trip - see, I'm realistic like that.

Well, we're back, and my brain is still slipping gears a bit.  We had a lovely time - it was wonderful to make it back to PA for the first time in a long time - and to see my brother and his wife for the first time in 13 years.  I loved getting to share more of my history and family with the kids.  And we always love visiting with Grandma Betty in Missouri!  But to make it all happen we spent 6 days (about 70 hours, including stops for a nursing baby) in the car. There were good moments and bad ones, but we are all pretty traveled out.  The level of organization needed to manage that large of a trip, with multiple stops, with many young children, makes my brain hurt. 

So, all that to say, I'm still here, and regular blogging will return.  As soon as I can think again...*yawn*