Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Decluttering Journey

In Mommyland, I spend a lot of time picking up after (and with!) everyone in my family and cleaning. I would much rather spend my time hanging out with my family or working on my business projects than cleaning, but if my house is a mess, my brain feels cluttered.

It's a tiring, endless job.

I've tried Flylady's program to help my house out.

I've done the 40 bags in 40 days challenge. Twice. Last year I got rid of over 200 bags (no, we're not hoarders), and this year my goal was to get rid of 2015 items, and that has long been passed.

Nothing I've done has helped me keep my house feeling picked up or less cluttered for the long term.

And then my dear friend introduced me to a new and popular method of decluttering called the KonMari method. I'd heard about it from a couple Facebook groups I'm part of, but never looked into it. My friend and her husband started the process of going through their things based on this method, and although they just did a major downsize a couple years ago, they were finding so many things to get rid of. I had to know more (I'm an organizing nerd), and began researching it.

I won't get into all of the details about this particular method, but it was started by a woman named Marie Kondo, a professional organizer living in Japan. Her method is drastically different from any other method I've heard of or tried. Many of the other methods say to declutter an item or an area (like a drawer or closet) a day, flip your hangers around in your closet so you know what you wear, or just declutter 15 minutes a day until it's all done. Kondo's method is much bigger and all at once. She has you do all of your clothes at once, then do all of your books at once, then go on to papers, etc. By doing this, you'll snowball your decluttering, gaining momentum along the way, and will have a fully decluttered and tidy house in about 6 months.

Crazy, right?

But her trick is this: if it sparks joy, keep it. If not, out it goes.

The trick makes sense, and seems simple enough.

My disclaimer: I do not agree with everything Kondo says or all of her beliefs. She wants you to "talk" to your belongings, like saying goodbye or thank you to them when putting them away or throwing them out. Now, I do talk to some inanimate objects, but for me, this was over the top different. I'm not saying she's wrong, but it was hard for me to get through the book at times.

So far in our family's KonMari journey my husband and I have both done our clothes and most of our books. I've also done some other areas, like the plastics cupboard in the kitchen or the kid's cubby for art supplies and school work in the dining room. I'll probably show some befores and afters in their own blog posts as I don't want to stretch this post on forever. I think our total is up to 5 bags of garbage, 7 1/2 bags of donations, and a recycling box full of papers....and we had just gone through these areas not that long ago!

But my question is: Is it working? Is this finally going to help my home stay cleaner?

And so far, my answer is YES.

How do I know?

This week has been very busy for us, with volunteering at church doing some painting, meetings for both my husband and I, a day off from school for everyone for Veteran's Day, and me being sick today.

But if you were to come over now, you'd think it was my cleaning day. The coffee table is clear, the floor is toy free, the kitchen counters are clear, and no papers or art supplies are scattered all over my dining room floor. And if things do look messy, it's a fraction of the time to clean it up.

We're all happier. We can find things easier, and it's easier to put things away now.

My husband and I now say "KonMari all the things!!!!" when we've found an area that's messy or needs some work:

A fun meme I found online

We're a long way from being done, but are really enjoying the progress so far. I can't wait to show you the progress we've made, and even the kids are getting excited about it. But we'll see how long that lasts ;)

What is your favorite decluttering tip? Do you have a method or system that you like to follow? 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Fun

Halloween is always a fairly low key event in our house.

This year felt more involved for me as I got to go in and volunteer in Ryan's class room on Friday. It was a lot of shoe tying, costume velcro closing, and mask putting on, but I really had fun.

I dressed up as an artist
for helping at school

There was a luncheon and concert for senior citizens, so Ryan got to sing for them and Paige got to play a few songs with the middle school band. The students also went on a parade around for all the seniors to see them, and as kindergarten was the first class in, Ryan and I got to lead the parade.

Waiting to go in for the concert

Kindergarten and first grade singing while
the middle school band waits to play

Ryan was in charge of snack that day for the party, so we had fun creating themed food that was easy to eat (ideas courtesy of Pinterest, of course!).

Jack o lantern mandarin orange cups

Bat pudding cups

Saturday was Halloween, and the kids had spent the night at their grandparent's house. We picked them up, then had to run to an art gallery in Dansville and pick up some of my art from an exhibit. The kids hadn't seen it hanging yet, and Paige was really excited to see it up!

We don't go trick or treating any more. For the past few years, we've given the kids the option of trick or treating in town or just going next door to our pastor's house, getting a bag of whatever candy they want from the store, and having a movie night. We started offering this choice the first year our friends in town moved away (we'd trick or treat with them) and it was supposed to rain. Every year, the kids choose movie night!

Nate was Aragorn from
Lord of the Rings
Paige was Radagast the Brown
Wizard from The Hobbit

This year the kids brought home a ton of candy from school, and as they knew our pastor and his wife always give them a ton of candy, they decided they didn't need an entire bag from the store each. They ended up requesting individual candy bars from the check out line at the store (Kit Kat for Ry, Snickers for Nate, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for Paige).

It barely fit him, so he's asking me
to make a new one that fits better!
Ryan was Toothless again
for the second year in a row!

The kids were very thankful we chose movie night rather than trick or treating as when we went next door, it was raining. Bowls of home made soup while watching Hotel Transylvania was much more enjoyable than being out in the rain!

What did you do to celebrate Halloween? Does your family have any traditions?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Endings, Beginnings, and Struggles

This year has brought about a lot of changes for me.

In February, after almost 7 years of babysitting out of my home, I handed in my resignation to all of the families I worked for, effective the end of the school year. It was a really difficult decision, full of emotions and stress. But my health was failing, I had so many demands that only I could meet, and with three kids in school the upcoming year, I was going to be needed more.

When I'm asked if I miss the babysitting, it's hard to find the right answer. I don't miss a lot of it, but I miss the kids so much. I miss the snuggles, the laughter, them growing. My house is so quiet now as it's just me and our pets during the day. But I'm able to focus more on my business during the day and be more available for the kids when they get home from school.

But it really is a struggle for me to get used to the new schedule.

A lot of people have been asking me how things are going, and I love the support I'm getting.

But there are some people who do a double take, who expect me to go out and get "a real job" now that I'm done babysitting and all three kids are in school. I then get the dreaded question:

"So, what do you do all day then?"

I never know how to answer. I'm sure they picture me sitting on my couch, watching tv and eating chocolate all day.

I usually stumble through a quick line about some project I'm working on, but what I really want to say is this:

I've been a mom for 10 1/2 years now, and a wife for almost 9. In all that time, I have not been a priority. Kids always need to be fed, diapers changed, protected, entertained. Husbands need to be fed, his clothes ready for work.

Please don't get me wrong, I love being a wife and mother.

But somewhere in all that time I lost myself.

If I didn't get a shower every day, or sometimes even every other day, that became the norm.

If I needed new clothes, I probably wouldn't get them because kids needed diapers or school supplies. And that became okay.

My life became sweatpants, frumpy hair, doing chores and errands for everyone else. Because their needs felt greater than my own.

I don't know how to take care of me without feeling guilty about it.

I have so many obligations for my business right now. Christmas is coming, so I need to get stock built up and in my Etsy store, promote my Christmas products, and work on commissions that will be gifts. I'm promoting the first book in the children's book series that I illustrated as well as starting work on book 2.

I'm volunteering for an hour every other week in Ryan's classroom by helping out with math. I just went with the kindergartners on my very first field trip this past week. My oldest two kids are in 4th and 5th grades, and I hadn't been on a field trip yet.

Mommy and Ry at the pumpkin patch!

I'm busy, so busy...doing important, wonderful things.

And when the house work doesn't get done, I'm the only one who seems bothered by it. I feel like I'm not serving my family the way they need, which is crazy. And yes, my husband and kids help out so much around here, so please don't think otherwise.

Last night, I gave myself a pep talk. I told myself that I was doing fine, I just had to get into my rhythm and adapt to the new schedule. I went to sleep, doubting that I'd be able to stay pumped up for today, figuring it would be another depressing day of not getting much done and feeling like I needed to scramble just to survive the day.

But this morning I woke up, ready to face the day.

My kids got on the bus at 7:30, and for an hour and a half I cleaned.

I didn't get everything done, but that was okay. The house looked so much better that it had been, and I could focus on work. I then sent out emails, I photographed products and listed them on Etsy. I wrote a blog post for my business blog, I took a long hot shower, and got caught up on laundry (6 loads were washed, folded, AND put away today! It's a miracle!).

Today wasn't perfect. My work stuff is still all over the coffee table, there are still crumbs on the counters, and the toilets weren't scrubbed.

But it was a better day. And tomorrow might not be a good day, but it's going to take time to build this habit of finding balance and finding me in this new stage of life.

Answering the "what do you do all day" question still isn't going to be easy, and that's okay. But it's not going to be a quick, shy answer anymore. I don't know what I'll say yet, but every day that passes, that answer will be more confident than the day before.

How are you guys doing? How do you balance everything in your life?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Anyone who knows me knows that I love babies. I am a baby person. They're cute, squishy, and the best snugglers, and I don't share babies very well once I get my hands on them!

We get asked frequently if we're going to have any more kids, and at least biologically, we're done. The possibility of adoption is there, but we've decided that if we go that route, we'll adopt a child who's a little older, probably around the toddler stage.

This seems to confuse people, knowing how much I love little ones.

My main reason for choosing an older child?

The teething stage is mostly over by this age.

I hate teething. I hate seeing little ones in pain with them not knowing what's going on or why they hurt. They don't feel well because they get sniffles, maybe even ear infections, and it's hard for me to watch. It breaks my heart.

Now that my kiddos are 10 1/2, 8 and 5 1/2, it's been nice having that stage over...

...or so we thought.

A few months ago we had the kiddos at the dentist for their routine 6 month visit. Apparently Paigey had two of her 12 year molars coming in (almost two years early!), and Ryan had two of his 6 year molars coming in. They didn't seem bothered by the teeth, and we quickly forgot about it.

Then this past weekend came. Ryan was whining and crying about everything, no matter how small the situation was. I noticed he seemed to be chewing on markers while he was coloring, and then shoving his fingers into the side of his mouth. I asked him what was going on, and he said his mouth really hurt. I'm recovering from a bad head and chest cold, so I was worried he may be catching it or getting strep throat already.

I looked in his mouth, but didn't see any red throat. He said it wasn't his throat, but the side of his mouth. He let me put a finger in to check, and wouldn't you know it, he has the other two molars coming in on his right side!

A teething 5 year old is not as bad as a teething infant, by far. He's sleeping through the night, but not sleeping well. He's fussy during the day, but as long as he's taking Tylenol, he's able to manage himself.

But it's still hard seeing him uncomfortable.

Today he put on his Toothless hoodie that I made him for his Halloween costume last year:

"I wish I was toothless, teeth really hurt."

But then he makes this face and it makes us both feel better!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September Thankfulness

Hello, blog! How I've missed you.

It's been almost TWO YEARS since my last post, and so much has changed in our lives. I wasn't sure where to start posting, so I'll just start with 30 things I was thankful for in September, in no particular order.

  • Pete getting into the Master Teacher's program! It was a long process, and we are thrilled with the outcome.
  • New bus route. The kids started on a bus that came between 6:55 and 7 every morning. It was really full, so we have been put on another bus, and it now comes at 7:30. Those extra 30 minutes make mornings so much smoother!
  • Nate has started trombone lessons! He loves it, even though he thinks he sounds like a dying duck right now ;)
  • Lunch thermoses. We got the kids thermoses, and they love having hot lunches almost every day.
  • Teachers who push my kids to excel. Two of my kids are already being challenged in reading, either by getting put into an advanced reading group or having an independent study created for them. I'm so thankful for teachers who won't just let my kids be, but expect greatness from them. I love our school!
  • Cooler weather. It never got ridiculously hot this summer, but it was always hot on days I had to can food. I'm glad it's cooler so we don't bake in the house when I'm over the stove all day!
  • Free festival spots. I had the opportunity to set up my art booth at a friend's house for a local festival this past weekend and had a great experience!
  • Patience from my author and editor. I'm illustrating a series of children's books, and the author and editor I'm working with have been extremely patient with me as I work around having a family and other obligations.
  • Book #1 in the children's book series finally uploading! So many hoops to jump through and having to switch publishers wasn't the easiest, but we finally got it uploaded and ready to be proofed!
  • Book #1 proofs on their way! RV (the author I'm working with) and Jennie (his wife, who is the editor) got their proof yesterday, and I'm still anxiously waiting for mine!
  • Visiting with Nicky! My best friend was in town for a few days, and I got to spend a couple hours catching up with her at a coffee shop. 
  • Airborne. I came down with a cold, and this really helped me get over it quickly.
  • Homemade bone broth. The best for coughs and colds!
  • Freedom in my schedule. It's wonderful being able to run errands when needed now that I'm done with daycare, not when I can fit them into my babysitting schedule.
  • New windows! We had new windows put into our living room and bedroom, and they're amazing. We'll be looking into replacing the rest of the windows next year.
  • Book fairs. There is always a book fair during the kid's school open house, and we got some great Christmas gifts for them.
  • Crock pots. Hot and healthy dinners ready when we need them on busy days? Yes please!
  • Paychecks that show up a week earlier than expected. Love it.
  • Hurt toes that heal, even though they probably needed stitches. Yay for great clotting and healing!
  • Play dates for my kiddos. They have some great friends!
  • Texts for the bus. On the old bus route, the mom at the stop before us would always text us when her son got on the bus so we would have a 2 minute warning. It was great on days we were rushing!
  • Walks with my dog. We've been able to take some great walks, even up to 3 miles long because I have the time to do so now. 
  • Runs with my boy. Nate and I are starting to run together, just half a mile. It's helping him out in gym and great bonding for us!
  • Garden harvest. We had an awesome tomato crop this year!
  • Homemade roasted tomato spaghetti sauce. So delicious.
  • My office. It's nice being able to have a space to keep all my projects out and ready for the next time without worrying about having space for meals or kiddos touching my things. Plus it helps me focus!
  • Time for Bible study in the mornings. I've been doing some great studies through She Reads Truth either before the kiddos wake up or after they get on the bus.
  • Date night! It's great to have one night a month to just connect with my husband over dinner or a movie...or setting up my booth for a two day festival ;)
  • Air purifiers and....
  • Eucalyptus oil. Some oil in our air purifier in the mornings helps get the cold out of the head and chest and clears up the air. 

What were you thankful for in September?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thankfulness 2013, Day 2: Nicky

Twenty years ago this school year, I met my best friend.

Man, I feel old saying that.

It was early in fourth grade, and our class had just moved from the elementary building over to the intermediate school building. I didn't know many kids in my class very well, so I was super nervous about this school year.

But then I saw it.

A Lisa Frank binder, just like mine.

I think this is what mine had looked like

It was a different picture, but still, whoever had a Lisa Frank binder must be super cool and have great taste, ya know?

We became fast friends, and her family became a second family to me.

Nicky and I have been thought of as sisters or even twins on occasion, have been known to spend six hours shopping for prom shoes (but go back and buy the first pairs we looked at), and have gotten lost in the city for an hour and a half just because we turned left out of a parking lot instead of right.

Out to lunch and a shopping trip on one
of her last visits to NY

We've gone long periods of time without speaking, either because we were hurt and upset about something or because we've just been so busy (mostly the latter, thankfully).

She was by my side the day I got married, and she has become a beloved aunt to my kids.

The girls (with a little Ry in my belly!)

We live far apart now (why must Florida be so far from New York?!?), but I know no matter what, if I need her, she's just a phone call away. She knows me better than a lot of people, and has seen me at my best and worst.

Okay, now I'm all teary and miss my girlfriend. Anyone have a teleportation device they'd be willing to let me borrow so I can get to Florida quickly?

Love you, Nicky!!! Thank you for being there for me :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankfulness 2013, Day 1: My Phone

*dust dust dust*

*sweep vacuum sweep*

*cough cough*

Excuse all the dust as I brush off the blog and attempt to bring it back to life!

Welcome to November! Last year I tried to post everyday about something I was thankful for in preparation for Thanksgiving. It was hit or miss, but I think that I ended up having something to be thankful for, even if I didn't post every day. I'm attempting to meet that goal again this year, and hopefully I'll get back into the habit of posting more often.

To start off the month, I am thankful for my smartphone.

Okay, it tends to be more stupid than smart, but seriously, I can see why people love having one!

We've had the phones (Samsung Galaxy SIII minis) for just under two months, and they're wonderful. Pete's cell phone screen had broken a few months ago, leaving him unable to text for awhile. He then started using my ancient cell phone which worked, but was very slow. My phone had just started to die (the microphone wouldn't work, leaving me unable to make phone calls), so it was time. Thankfully our contract was up for renewing, and we were able to get great deals on the phones (hello 99 cent phones!).

The downside is that our bill is triple what it had been, but I think although it's affecting our budget a little, it's worth it.

My favorite apps so far (random thought: it's weird seeing our last name everywhere!):

Mint: Mint can be used on a computer or mobile device (including our tablet), and it's a free budgeting system. It links up with all your bank/credit card/mortgage/investment/utility accounts, so you can see what bills are coming due, how much money you have left in a certain budget category, or how much money you have in your checking account at a glance. We use it on the laptop to set up the monthly budget, but have it on our phones so when we're shopping, we can see how much money we have left to spend on food, gas, etc. that month while we're out and about. No more guessing about what's left, we have no excuse anymore. We've only been using the app about three weeks, and I really think that it helped our spending, and we had more money left over at the month than we were expecting (we were $100 over budget when we planned the month, but ended up about $150 under budget. Not bad!) Even if you don't have a smartphone, I highly recommend this for anyone to use on their computer!

Google Keep: Pete put this on my phone, and at first I was all confused by it. I didn't know what it was or what to do with it, but now I don't know what I'd do without it! It's basically a place for me to keep lists and reminders, and I know I don't use all of it's features, but I still love it. I have a note for all the individual stores we go to (Aldi, Wegmans, JoAnn fabrics, etc) , so when I notice we're running low on something (Cheerios or thread), I add it to that specific note. If I'm afraid I'm going to forget to get something off my list, it will pick up on my GPS and remind me (kinda freaks me out how that works, but it's come in handy more times than I'd like to admit....). I can also send lists to Pete, so if I know he's going to get gas after work, he can swing over to Aldi or Wegmans which is just down the road and pick up our items. Pretty snazzy!

Google Calendar: So this one isn't something super new to us, but I'm actually using it routinely for the first time ever. Pete's always using it to keep track of his work schedule, meetings and when he's teaching what unit or giving a test, but I never got into it as I would never think to check it. However, I'm also not very good at checking his calendar for his schedule or the wall calendar in our dining room or my planner that I'm supposed to be taking with me everywhere, or even syncing them up. Having this calendar on my phone, which is always with me, and having it synced with Pete's calendar has been amazing. All of a sudden we know who's doing what when and where, and there's no more arguments about lack of communication regarding scheduling. It also can be used on a computer if you have a Google account, but if you don't think to check it often, it's not super handy.

Minion Rush: Hey, everyone needs a super fun game to play once in awhile...or be addicted to. You get to be a Minion from Despicable Me and run through various locations, like Gru's neighborhood, his lab, El Macho's Lair, and Minion Beach. And you get to ride a Fluffy Unicorn. It doesn't get much better than that! We downloaded it onto our tablet awhile ago, and it was one of the first things I added to my phone. My kids love playing it, and it was a great way to distract them at the doctor's when they were getting shots.

Okay, I need to go make up November's budget on Mint while kids are napping! Happy November, everyone!

What are you thankful for today?