Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Exactly what is clutter?

Yesterday I was on Pinterest and I clicked on a pin about organizing your socks and underwear (yes, I know my life is so exciting and you're so jealous).  It took me to this site - The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking - and I love it!  I only looked around a little bit, but she's got lots of tips for cleaning, organizing, DIY, recipes, and more.  Plus, all her posts have lots of beautiful pictures.  She even did a series called "31 days to an organized home", which fits quite well with my current goal of giving up clutter for Lent.  I haven't had a chance to look through all 31 days, but day 8 caught my attention - defining clutter.  I love the way she defines clutter:
"Clutter is the stuff that is keeping our homes from being what we need them to be. Clutter is too much and too many. Too many toys. Too many clothes. Too many things to do on a Saturday morning. Clutter complicates life without adding anything to it.  Clutter is the meaningless getting in the way of the meaningful."
 - Kelly Oribine, The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking
She also says "when we clear out the things that don't matter, we make room for the things that do" (day 1).  I like that a lot.  My goal in giving up clutter is not to do a major purge so we're living with next-to-nothing, nor is it to have a picture-perfect show home.  I don't want to become a neat freak who makes her kids eat cookies over the sink, so there are no crummies (Andrea, I know you caught that reference, anyone else??).  :)  I just want to create a place for us that is relaxing at the end of the day, inviting to share with others, and welcoming of play and exploration.  A place where the meaningless stuff isn't getting in the way.

So here's the dilemma I've encountered while decluttering - what do you do with the things that you don't want lying around, but can't quite throw out or give away?  Like extra copies of our old photo Christmas cards, or birth announcements?  We've given them out to friends and family already, and I've put copies in our photo albums and the kids' baby books, but now what to do with the rest?  Or the giant King James Version family Bible (engraved with our names and wedding date) that we received from my Grandma (who has since passed away)?  It's big and impractical, and I don't really have any sentimental attachment towards it as a keepsake (I have an old Tupperware container that my Grandma used to keep cookies in that is much more meaningful to me).  Or those toys that the kids never play with, but they were a gift from "so-and-so"?  It may be time to get a bit ruthless, but it's difficult for me, since I'm a combination of sentimental hoarder and pack rat (some things I keep for their meaning, and other things I keep because they might come in useful one day - like my large collection of empty boxes).  But maybe it's time for that to change...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent update: week 1

I meant to write and post this yesterday, but we had a very busy day and by the time the kids were in bed, I just wanted to crash as well.

This was the first week of Lent (well, technically not a full week, since Lent started on Wednesday, but I'm counting it as week 1).  For those of you who may have missed this post, I'm giving up clutter for Lent.  So far it's going pretty well.  I've gone through a few different drawers and cupboards and thrown away a bunch of stuff, and more importantly, put stuff back in its proper place.  I think that's probably the source of most of my clutter - I don't take the time to put things where they should go, so they just get shoved in a drawer or left on a counter.  I've also been doing well at keeping new clutter from accumulating - I've dealt with the mail each day, rather than letting it sit on the counter.  On Saturday I did 5 loads of laundry and, other than the stuff that I hung to dry, I folded, hung up and put away all of it right away, instead of letting it sit around for a few days (which is what usually happens).  Carey helped me with getting things organized by putting up this new shelf in the laundry room - doesn't it look great?

All the stuff up there used to be on top of the dryer and around the sink.  I love how much neater it looks now, and I don't need to worry about the kids reaching anything.  This past week I also made a list of all the areas in the house I'd like to tackle.  I'm not sure if it will all get done, but I like having a list to cross things off.  Here's my list:
  • Recipe binder (it's a disaster!  I'd like to get it all organized and come up with a system for meal planning)
  • Office
    • Kids' craft stuff
    • Drawers
    • Filing cabinet
    • Bookshelf
  • Laundry room (this one is almost finished)
  • Email inbox
  • Annika's closet
  • Emmett's closet
  • Our closet
  • Our bathroom
  • Kids' bathroom
  • Front closet
  • Back closet
  • Upstairs closet
  • Kitchen cabinets/drawers
  • Pantry
  • Fridge
  • PVR (need to delete some old shows)
It looks like a lot to do, but I'm not going to stress about getting it all done by Easter.  My goal in giving up clutter for Lent is that it would not just be a 40-day purge, but it would help me in forming habits (or getting rid of old habits) that would be long-lasting.  So even if I don't get through the whole list, as long as I do something each day (even if it's just dealing with the mail), I'll be happy.

My other success from the past week is that I finally did my 20 minutes of cleaning each day for the whole week.  It took some effort (some days it was more than 20 minutes, but probably never more than 30 minutes), but I was really glad I did it.  We decided at the last minute to invite some friends over for supper yesterday, and I wasn't stressed about cleaning up the house at the last minute (other than tidying up the toys), because I knew that I had kept on top of it all week.  That felt good.

Now to keep up the momentum for the next week, and the weeks to come...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Emmett walked!!

I don't have any pictures or video proof (yet), but I just had to share this!  It was just a few wobbly steps yesterday, but he did it all on his own (with lots of encouragement).

He'll be 15 months next week, so it's probably considered late for hitting this milestone, but considering how late Annika was with walking, it's practically early!  She was 16 months when she took her first steps, but kept crawling until she was 17.5 months.  She wore out the knees in all her 12-18m pants!  I guess now we'll wait and see how long Emmett takes to make the switch full-time.  I anticipate it will be quicker than Annika (since he now has Annika to try to keep up with), but I also thought he would start walking sooner than this, so who knows.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What I'm giving up for Lent

The season of Lent (40 days preparing for Easter) began yesterday, and I've decided to give up clutter for Lent.  I hadn't really planned on giving anything up, but I just decided to do it yesterday.  Years and years ago (before kids), I used to regularly give something up for Lent - I've done chocolate, all sweets, salty snacks and daytime television (at the time I was addicted to a terrible soap opera).  However, in recent years (since having kids), I haven't kept up with the practice.  I guess I felt that I was making so many sacrifices on a daily basis for the kids that I didn't have the energy to give something else up for God.  I know, it's terribly selfish, but it's the truth.  So I wasn't really planning to give something up this year, but the idea just sort of fell into my lap, and it seemed to be a good one for me.

"Clutter" may seem like a strange thing to give up, so how did I come up with it?  Well, I first saw an idea on a friend's blog about getting rid of "40 bags in 40 days" - making a list of areas in your house that need attention, and getting rid of a bag of "junk" each day.  I liked the idea, but those kind of structured schedules tend to not agree with me.  I have a hard time sticking to them, and then when I fall behind I get discouraged and just give up on the whole thing.  So, I decided that wasn't for me.  Then I saw it mentioned on a friend's Facebook page, about just giving up "clutter" for Lent.  I liked that it was a bit more general and flexible and open to interpretation.  Somedays I might go through drawers and closets and get rid of unwanted or unneeded stuff, or somedays it might just be dealing with the incoming clutter (mail, preschool crafts, etc) on that day, rather than letting it sit around and get out of control.  I'll probably make a list of areas I'd like to tackle, just because I do enjoy lists and the satisfaction of crossing things off a list (yes, I know I'm a geek). 

Yesterday I started with going through one of the junk drawers in the kitchen (yes, we actually have more than one junk drawer), and a "junk" cupboard.  I didn't get rid of a lot of stuff (mostly it was just putting stuff back into it's proper place), but it sure felt good when I finished.  It also felt good to make good use of the time when Annika was at preschool and Emmett was napping.  I'll be honest, I don't usually get a lot done during those 2 hours, and I'd like to change that.  I think it's okay to sit down and relax for part of the time, but I definitely don't need to spend the whole time on the couch.  Even if I spend half the time getting stuff done, that still leaves plenty of time for just "me time."

Together with giving up clutter, I also want to be more purposeful in getting my 15-20 minutes of actual cleaning done each day.  I'll be honest (which seems to be the underlying theme of this post!) - since I wrote about that back in December, I haven't actually done it every day for a full week yet.  Usually I'll manage maybe 2 or 3 days in a week, and then end up doing a big catch-up on Saturday.  However, so far this week I've done my task everyday, so I just need to keep it up for today and tomorrow.  I don't know why it's so hard for me to keep our house neat and clean, but I hope I can change that.  I think we have been so blessed with the house we live in, and taking proper care of it should be how we give thanks.

So that's my goal for Lent.  How about you?  Is anyone else giving something up (or adding something in) for Lent?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chili and biscuits

I never used to be a fan of chili.  In fact, I pretty much hated it - the beans made me gag.  However, somewhere along the way, I changed my mind.  I think it was around my first year in bible school when I ate the stuff because the other option was eating nothing (or having to buy my own food, which seemed like a waste considering this food was already paid for).  So I tolerated it back then, and over the years, I've come to really enjoy it.  Yesterday it snowed all day, and it seemed like the perfect day for a nice steaming bowl of chili.  And what's chili without biscuits?  (although, I'll admit, sometimes I cheat and get a little help from Mr. Pilsbury).  Here are my recipes.  They were handed down to me from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when I married Carey.  Enjoy!


700-800g ground beef
1 onion, chopped (I only use half - still not a big fan of onions)
1 can pork and beans
1-2 cans kidney beans (I use only 1)
1 can tomato soup
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp chili powder (I use 1, so it's not very spicy)

Brown and drain ground beef and onion.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then simmer at least 20 minutes.  Serve with shredded or cubed cheese and biscuits.

Cheese Biscuits

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (I usually do more, since I don't bother to measure)
1/3 cup margarine
2/3 cup milk, approx.

Sift flour with baking powder and salt.  Toss with cheese and cut in margarine with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Make a well in centre; pour in 2/3 cup milk all at once.  Stir quickly with a fork; if dry, add a little more milk to form a ball.  Knead 10 times on a floured surface.  Roll out to 3/4 inch thickness and cut into 2 1/2 inch biscuits (or skip rolling out and just drop by large spoonfuls onto baking sheet).  Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450 F for 12-15 minutes.

For garlic cheese biscuits: mix together 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/2 tsp garlic powder.  Brush biscuits with garlic butter immediately after taking out of the oven.  Tastes a lot like Red Lobster biscuits!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ummm... I think it was about God, right?

That's what I would say if you asked me what yesterday's sermon at church was about.  Actually that's probably what I would say the past almost 4 years of sermons have been about.  I don't get to spend a lot of time just listening in church.

Is it just me, or does it seem that church (as in the Sunday morning church service, not the global concept of "church") and kids just don't mesh?  Seems kind of ironic, considering that Jesus said, "let the little children come to me."  In my experience, church is not designed for kids.  It disrupts nap schedules, feeding schedules, it requires long periods of sitting still and being quiet - it's hard for kids (and let's face it, some adults too).  I pack for a Sunday morning service very much like I pack for an airplane ride...  I've got an abundance of snacks, drinks, small toys, crayons, drawing pads, stickers, card games - you name it, I've probably got it in my bag.  And still, it seems like that hour and 15 minutes (or sometimes 20 or 25) is an eternity.  We usually sit at the back of the church - there's a pew right against the back wall that's set back a bit from the rest of the pews, so the kids aren't quite as confined and they've got a little space to move around without being too much of a disturbance (I hope!).  But still, my attention is far too divided to be able to follow a sermon, especially when Carey is in the sound booth and I'm on my own with the kids.  Usually I try to catch a phrase here or there, not even trying to get the general gist of the message, but maybe just one little morsel to take home with me.

In terms of keeping the kids involved/distracted, our church has made efforts toward that, but often it's just not enough.  There is often a feature story for the kids, or they get to go up to the front and play percussion instruments with the worship band, and usually there is "children's church" for the young kids during the sermon (which Annika has refused, literally kicking and screaming, to go to since Christmas).  For the littler ones, there is a nursery, full of toys, but I usually try to avoid going in there if possible.  Sometimes it's necessary, but I just feel like it's a complete waste of going to church if I go in there.  Nothing against the people who take their kids into the nursery - I know sometimes it's unavoidable.  However, once you're in there, you're probably not going to get anything more out of church (at least that's my experience, others may feel differently).  There is a speaker in there to hear what's going on in the sanctuary, and a big window to see, but often the kids make so much noise that no one even tries to listen or pay attention.  So the moms talk.  I can't blame them for talking (what else are they going to do?), and maybe there have been some very good conversations happening in there, but I just feel like it defeats the purpose of going to church for me.  I know, it's not like I'm getting so much out of church otherwise, but still.  Plus, it gets really hot (and sometimes quite stinky) in the nursery.

So what's the purpose of this rant?  I'm not sure.  I don't have any ideas as to how to change things, and I'm not even saying that changes need to be made (especially since I'm not going to volunteer to run programs or make changes or anything like that right now).  Maybe it's a rant, just for the sake of ranting.  Just to express my frustrations about the stage of life that we're in right now.  But maybe right now going to church isn't about me - maybe it's about teaching our kids the importance of going to church, and making it a priority (even when it isn't convenient).  Maybe just building that foundation is more important than what I'm getting out of the sermon each week.  And I know this stage won't last forever.  It won't be long and the kids will be grown up and sitting with their friends, whispering and passing notes and probably still not paying attention, and I'll be able to listen to a sermon again. 

I guess until then, pass the Cheerios and goldfish crackers, amen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Florida trip part 4: Feb 8- Feb 10 (last one!)

Wednesday, February 8
We drove a little over an hour to go to The Butterfly Estates in Fort Myers.  Before we had left for Florida, I had bought a Groupon for an annual family membership to The Butterfly Estates (it was a great deal, even though we would only be able to use it once), and Annika was really excited about going to see butterflies (especially since we had a Fancy Nancy book from the library where she goes to a butterfly garden).  It was a neat place, although I think I was expecting more.  But Annika had fun, although she was a bit disappointed that she couldn't get a butterfly to land on her (she wore her flowery shirt so that the butterflies would think she was a flower).  The kids both slept on the ride home (it's the only way Annika will nap anymore - in the car).  Swimming again in the afternoon.

So close!

Emmett was not overly interested in the butterflies

Just watching

Thursday, February 9
One more lazy day to enjoy the Florida weather before heading back to the cold. 

Trying so hard!!

The hot tub took a long time to heat up, so it was nice to bring the kids in to play before it got really hot

Emmett loved playing with this little purple ball and the broken jet from the hot tub

This started after supper with my dad stretching his shoulder...

Friday, February 10
Home day!  Annika was not looking forward to going back home.  She took a while to warm up (no pun intended!) to the idea of being in Florida, but then she didn't want to leave.  Our flight didn't leave Fort Myers until 3:30pm, so we had some time in the morning.  We gave Annika the option of going swimming once more or going to the park once more.  She chose park (with a little encouragement from us, since it was pretty cool in the morning).  However, by the time we got back from the park it had really warmed up, and I think we were all wishing we could go for one more dip.  So we stuck our toes in the pool before having lunch.  After lunch we drove to Fort Myers and were on our way back home.  The flight from Fort Myers to Minneapolis was 3 hours and 17 minutes, and it felt like forever.  Emmett had slept on the drive to Fort Myers, so he didn't nap at all on the plane (other than when we landed).  Annika was pretty good, but I think we were all quite glad to get off the plane.  In Minneapolis, they announced that our plane to Winnipeg had been overbooked, and they were looking for volunteers to be "bumped" (with the reward of a travel voucher).  I think Carey and I were both pretty tempted to volunteer (this time I was ready for an extra night!), but we decided it would be best to just get home already.  The flight was only an hour, and both the kids fell asleep.  Ahhh.

Emmett loved the slide...

...going down and going back up

Annika found the courage to go down the big slide by herself

The house where we stayed

Sorry about the bad lighting (the sun was setting on the other side of the plane). 
Trying to "entertain" (or perhaps just contain) Emmett on the plane.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Florida trip part 3: Feb 6 - Feb 7

Monday, February 6
We drove an hour up to Bradenton to visit the Mixon Fruit Farm (this wasn't something we had really planned on doing, but we saw a brochure for the place and thought it sounded sort of fun).  Turns out it was actually pretty neat, and a good outing for the kids.  We took a tour of the citrus groves (did you know that you can grow 3 different fruits on one tree?  They call it a "fruit salad" tree - it produces oranges, lemons and grapefruit), saw the animals in the wildlife reserve, had lots of free samples of fruit and juice and kettle corn, wandered through the garden maze, fed the fish in the koi pond and had orange swirl ice cream.  Both the kids fell asleep on the ride home, and we went swimming (of course) when we got home.

It seems to be next-to-impossible to get a good family pic this year!

I touched this snake too, but not long enough for a picture to be taken

Annika liked watching the big turtles (which unfortunately I didn't get in this picture!)

Doesn't the grass look nice?  It was fake. :P
Feeding the koi fish

Sleepy boy

Tuesday, February 7
Another "lazy" day.  We went to the local park in the morning.  Carey and I played tennis while my mom played with Annika at the playground, and my dad took Emmett for a walk in the stroller.  We went swimming when we got back (it was quite hot!).  For supper, my parents stayed home with the kids and Carey and I went to a local restaurant called "Waterside Bar and Grill."  They had really good food, and live entertainment - a bluegrass band!  I'm not a huge fan of bluegrass, but it was still fun.  Definitely something different than what we'd do at home.

My dad looks pretty comfortable with that stroller! ;)

We're not very good (at least I'm not), but we had fun.

Annika also wanted to give it a try.


Swimming again

My dinner - grouper fingers, fries, cornbread and really good green beans.  We sat along the railing of the outside deck, overlooking the water.
The bluegrass band

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Florida trip part 2: Feb 4 - Feb 5

Saturday, February 4
Another warm day (we had great weather, +25 to +30 C almost every day!), so we went swimming and to the local ice cream shop for a treat.

Mmmm, sprinkles

Sleepy girl - she fell asleep on Carey's shoulder on the couch after supper

Sunday, February 5
We went to the local beach to collect seashells and play on the playground.  After lunch we went swimming (we went every day), and then ordered in pizza and watched the Super Bowl (well, Carey and my dad did - I watched some of the commercials).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Florida trip part 1: Jan 31-Feb 3

Since I have so much to share and so many pictures to go through, I thought I'd do a few posts about our vacation, otherwise it'll take me forever to get a post done (and it would be very, very long).  So here's the first few days of our vacation.  Since we stayed with my parents in Florida, there are actually pictures of me on vacation!  If it was just our family, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be in any pictures, since I'm always the one behind the camera.  So these are some of my pictures, as well as pictures taken by my parents.

Tuesday, January 31
We were supposed to leave Winnipeg around noon and get to Fort Myers, FL by 7:30pm (with one stop in Minneapolis), but due to an unexpected change in plans, we ended up leaving around 2:30pm and then went to Minneapolis, Atlanta, and then finally got into Fort Myers around 11:30pm.  It was a long day, especially since we then had to drive an hour and 15 minutes to get to the house my parents had rented in Rotonda, FL.  However, like I said in my previous post, I think the kids actually did better with the 3 flights, since none of them were too long.  And by the last flight, they both fell asleep before take off!  I think Annika stayed awake on the drive to the house, but I'm not sure because I fell asleep then.

Winnipeg airport

Fort Myers airport
Wednesday, February 1
Nothing planned for this day - just being lazy and getting settled in.  We went shopping at Walmart in the morning and swimming in the afternoon.

Thursday, February 2
We went to Denny's for breakfast (Emmett flirted with all the old ladies), and then did a little shopping.  Swimming in the afternoon, and by 3:00pm Carey, my dad and I left for Tampa, to go see the Winnipeg Jets play the Tampa Bay Lightning (my mom stayed home with the kids).  It was a fun game to be at, because even though we were the away team, there were so many people there cheering for the Jets (all the snowbirds!).  This was my first Jets game, and they even won.  We got back home around midnight.


Pool time

I bought this shirt just for going to the game

Lots of Jets fans with signs during the warm up skate

Friday, February 3
Another lazy day.  Since our vacation was a week and a half, we had the luxury of alternating between lazy, "at-home" days and busier, "outing" days.  I like to have a balance of the two, and I think it's also good for the kids (so they don't get overwhelmed with too much activity, or bored with too little activity).  We went to the local park in the morning, and swimming in the afternoon.  For supper we went to the Cracker Barrel restaurant (a tradition of ours).  However, Annika wasn't feeling great after supper, so we didn't take too much time afterwards to look around in the gift shop.

Being brave and trying something new :)

The Cracker Barrel brain-teaser game - always lots of fun!