Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Birth I Didn't Want Until I Realized It Was A Miracle

  My son was going to be my birth redemption. Not only was he my Rainbow Baby (baby after miscarriage or still birth. In my case a m/c), but I was bound and determined to have a VBAC. I am a big believer in doing things as naturally as possible but at the time I was militant. You could have called me a VBACtivist. I was convinced that my previous two births had been disasters. Despite the fact that all of my children were miracles even beyond the normal scope of how

miraculous having children is, I was convinced by others and by myself that the doctors had failed me. That I had failed. They had ripped me of the true birth experience and that I was somehow incomplete because of this.

 As soon as that stick turned pink, I started planning. I researched birth plans. I told my husband what I wanted as far as pain medication and made him swear that he would stand by my side. I knew I couldn't use a mid-wife because of my high risk history, but by golly I was going to have the birth I wanted and I was willing to stomp my feet to get it. I told my doctor early in and got irritated when he told me he would allow me to try but we needed to prepare for the possibility that it likely would end up in a c-section again. My militant friends encouraged me to stand my ground.

Yes, yes I am drugged but look at that sweet big sister!
I think this is a good place to tell you a bit about me and my reproductive system. My husband and I had infertility issues. When we went through the process of being examined it was descovered that I have a unicornuate uterus. This is a fairly rare uterine abnormality. So much so that my doctor told me he had never seen anything like it and asked me if I would be ok with interns and residents working with him for learning purposes. On top of my physical issues my husband had count issues. Statistically speaking, we should not have children and we were told that by many doctors. My first pregnancy was a shock. The fact that I have had 3 others is undeniably God's grace.  Because of my smaller than normal uterus, I was very prone to pre-term labor and fought long and hard to hold my babies in. Again, but for the grace of God, my babies all made it to 34-36 weeks. We had bumps but over all my babies here on earth are healthy. My first daughter was born vaginally with an epidural, but my second was breech and because of the nature of my uterus there was no turning her, especially as I went into pre-term labor at 36 weeks. She was taken by c-section.

This brings us to the story above. My son, began to make his arrival at 34 weeks. After more terbutaline shots than I care to remember we resigned ourselves to delivery that day. At this point I was still determined to VBAC. At my first ultrasound the tech noticed that he was slight transverse. In a woman with a normal uterus, this isn't a huge deal. The statistic I looked up gave me about a 2% chance of rupture. A 98% success rate isn't bad so I would have risked it, but I wasn't normal. Because my condition means I have a weak uterine wall on the side that didn't develop and I had already had a cesarean which further weakened the wall, my son's head was putting enormous amounts of pressure and stretching my uterine wall insanely thin every time I had a contraction. My uterus was an "if" it was a "when" The decision was made. I would fail. I would have a c-section.

 I spent the next several months secretly hating myself for not following through. I looked for reasons why my doctor would want to trick me into a VBAC. I villianized him for not supporting me more. As time passed, I thought less and less about it, but it still nagged at me every time a friend posted an article about the horrors of hospital birth, or posted about how they were so thankful they didn't have to use a doctor and each time it stabbed that little part of my heart. And then one day I stopped, I looked at my son and I kicked myself. My birth experiences were not failures. I was not a failure. My doctors were not out to get me. They were placed there in my life by the same grace that led to my the conception of my miracles. My doctors were part of my miracle. Instead of looking at my experience as a failure I started looking at it as an amazing work of God. I could have been born in a different century without our modern technology and my oldest would have surely died. I could have insisted on the VBAC and both my son and I could have died, but we listened to the wisdom of God through our medical team and instead of a tragedy we experienced more grace. MY BIRTH EXPERIENCE INVOLVED A HOSPITAL, DOCTORS AND A C-SECTION AND WAS STILL A MIRACLE!

My c-section miracle
So mama whose birth wasn't perfect. YES IT WAS. It may not have been easy, it may not have been what you hoped for, but it wasn't the failure that the VBACtivist movement wants to make it out to be. It was the grace of God that allowed you to get pregnant, it was the grace of God that sustained that pregnancy and it was the grace of God who put those doctors in your path. Your experience is a miracle and if anyone tries to tell you it wasn't, then they are the ones that are wrong, not you.

Of course, there were some decisions I would have made differently had I been older, wiser, and more experienced, but I wasn't. I was a young mother, going through a difficult pregnancy and dealing with premature labor. I am also not a fan of elective c-sections and induction. God has provided us some wonderful ways to welcome our babies into the world. For some that will include a midwife, a big bathtub and a room full of supporters, for others it will be a hospital an epidural and a c-section, but make no mistake, God is both the author of natural medicine and modern medicine!

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Monday, November 3, 2014

To the Mom Who

There are a *lot* of "To the Mom Who" posts on blogs lately. To the Mom Who Works, To the Mom Who Stays at Home, To the Mom on her iPhone, To the Mom that Put Her Phone Away, To the Mom the had the Nervous Break Down and Pretended to Bake a Cake in the Middle of Walmart....  These posts are everywhere. People seem to love them. No longer do we have to worry that we are insufficient, over protective, too fat or thin, have too many kids or too few kids. We don't have to worry about what people will think or even what we will think of ourselves. There is a blog post out there to tell us it is okay that we left the kid in the car for a second or that we have never, ever, and will never ever let our kids out of our sight. Validation - it is everywhere.

I think its getting ridiculous.  Sometimes the validation of others comes in really, really handy. But we have cheapened it to the point that now every action is okay and excused. Feel free to feel great about yourself after you yell at little Johnny. After all, you were stressed and angry and we understand. We who are on the interwebs know nothing about you but we know you are a great mom. The internet mommy bloggers are here for you, to take away your guilt, your burdens, and your own self governance.

Why do we need validation? Is it to assuage our guilt for a mistake we have made? Is it permission to be lazy? Do we need the consent of others to make parenting choices that are right for our own family? Is it a way to circumvent getting the blessing of our spouses for a decision on which we may disagree?

The need for validation is a real thing. Feeling like we are making a difference in the life of a child and our family is important to keep us going. It is like a bit of extra fuel for our busy life. But, all the pats on the back in the world are not going to truly fill the void we feel when we are not meeting our own standards or when our spouses or our children fail to recognize us for our contributions or when we truly screw up.  Perhaps there is too much of a good thing here.

Too much validation can prevent us from making necessary changes. That guilt you feel after you make a parenting screw up? (Like when I snapped at my kid for asking me a math question when I was clearly busy writing this blog post...) It is there to tell you that you did the wrong thing. You have to rethink your behavior and make a change. That involved me apologizing to my kid. He was told to do his math. He had a question - it doesn't matter if I think it is a silly one. He needed my time and I snapped at him because he was encroaching on my time.  Do I need a mommy blogger to tell me that was okay? Nope. It was not okay. I only needed to pay attention to my own guilt for snapping at him.

Feel badly about how clean or unclean your house is? Instead of looking for someone to tell you it is okay, ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Why do you feel guilty? Is the Holy Spirit trying to tell you that you need to do better? Or is it an irrational expectation - which only you can change? Either way, validation is not what you need. You need to follow through on the emotions you are feeling and deal with them appropriately.  Maybe that is confession and repentance.

We feel like failures because we 1. failed or 2. have higher expectations than necessary. If you failed, deal with it and make things better if you can and apologize if you can't. But then move on. If your expectations are higher than God's - deal with it. That is pride. Maybe you just need a big cup of suck it up instead of validation.

Be wary of the need for validation, particularly when we are looking to excuse sin, poor behavior and bad choices in the name of "everyone else does it". Furthermore, Romans 8:1 already tells us that there is no condemnation to those which are in Christ. And really, that is the only validation we truly need.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What Downsizing and Moving to the Country has Taught Us

From as long as I can remember after the children were born, I had this dream; we would move out to the country, have land and animals. We would plant gardens and raise our own food. I would own chickens and collect fresh eggs every day. My kids would run wild in the pastures, free to get dirty, and free to yell and play. We would escape the wild hectic life of living in suburbia. We would escape the clutches of home ownership debt. We would free ourselves from the oversized house that by nature of it's size kept us so far apart from each other. We would live free. Free to make memories and spend time together, free to enroll our children in whatever pursuits they desired since we would no longer be house poor. Free from the anxiety of "what if" my husband lost his job, or we had a major medical expense or whatever. We have learned so much in this past two years. Some of it great, some of it not so great.

We have learned that we can live with less. Not only can we live with less, but we don't really miss what we no longer have. There might be a few things here and there, but cutting down from 3,200 sq ft to 1,700 will really make you take stock in what things are important. Not only did we have to get rid of some things we already owned, we had to stop buying so much. Christmases, and birthdays are now about a few really special high quality things and family experiences than about one million cheap things. I like it.

We have learned how to live in smaller spaces
. Let's be honest, in a house the size of ours you aren't ever going to be more than a few steps away from someone. On top of that, the girls are sharing a very small room. Having a large back yard has definitely been helpful, but there are things that have been harder to adjust to. I really miss having a dedicated school space. We have a room, but the size makes it difficult to keep it clean and organized and so many times we just end up in the dining room. My husband misses his office where he could keep all of his vintage computers displayed and his electronics in whatever order he pleased. I miss the kids being able to keep their toys in one room and their sleeping arrangements in another. I miss my living room having no TV because it is in the entertainment room.I miss my house looking clean even if there were a few things strewn about. There are also things I love. My small kitchen means that from anywhere in the room I can be one step way from the stove, the fridge, and the sink all at one time and even when my house it at its messiest, it rarely takes more than a few hours to clean from top to bottom!

We have learned that people are going to judge us.
Friends, family, strangers, we have gotten it from everywhere. There are those who don't understand why we sold our big beautiful house to move to this small one. There are those who judge the location. There are those who judge how we chose to go about getting out of debt. There are those who took our moving as a sign that we were in debt and had to sell. There are also those who have supported us and even those who have lived vicariously through us. There are others who are working towards doing the same things we are doing. We have just had to learn that no matter what life decisions we make, someone is always going to have their two cents.

I have learned that I need to be around people. I am extroverted. I gain my energy from being around people. Not necessarily with my house full of people but just near them. It makes me feel good to know that I can get up, walk a few feet in any direction and find a person. I know not everyone is like that, but I am. I miss being able to call up a friend and visit. I miss being able to "run down to the store". Everything is such a massive undertaking here. No one wants to visit us here and because of the children's activities I rarely have the energy to drive to them.

We have learned that living in the country is not as cheap as you would think.
Overall the move has been good for us financially, but it has not been as big as we had hoped. Price of propane are off the wall and the first winter we were here we didn't quite realize how fast we would go through it. Let's just say we learned to love our winter clothes and the fireplace after that little experience. Also, because everything is so far away we spend quite a bit on gas.

We have learned that we are not country people.
This is the hardest one to admit. This was my dream. Yeah, I romanticized it a bit. I was naive, but many many families do what we have done and love it. I had lived doors down for over 10 years before I got married. I knew what things were like and I didn't mind it growing up. We went into the decision informed and felt good about it. We hate that we dislike it, but we have come to terms with the fact that our lifestyle just doesn't suit it. We want our children to be able to participate in activities they enjoy, but where we are means that we are constantly traveling or sitting at those activities. I sit for 3 hours 3 days per week at the gym with my other two children while my younger daughter does gymnastics. Why? Because she loves it and the drive to and from our house is too far to allow me to go home during the practice. I know what you are thinking, but our children enjoy their activities enough that we have decided to prioritize them. Besides my own drives, my husband is driving 1.5 hours to and from work each day and it is exhausting him. We have learned that this time is going to be seasonal for us because of our busy lifestyle.

We have had to learn to be joyful even when we weren't necessarily happy. We are wildly aware of how blessed we are, truly. We have often reminded each other on our rough days that not only are we safe, in a good home, surrounded by family that is healthy, have a stable income and free to do many extra activities, but that we actually chose to be here. When we step back and really look we are able to at the very least experience joy even when we were not necessarily happy.

Here we sit two years in and while I sit in the sunshine watching my children do exactly what I described above and loving it, I can't help but contemplate whether this adventure turned out like we had hoped. If nothing else we have had to really take a step back and look at ourselves. We have found some amazing parts of us that we really enjoy, but in honesty there have been some parts that have not been as they should. The experience has been one of growth and even though this isn't looking like a forever home, I am not sure I would have changed if I could.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

But I Can't be with My Children All Day Long Every Day!

  I have heard it too many times, "I could never be with my children all day", "My child fights me while doing homework there is no way I could teach them all day", and every variation of the two you can imagine.

  At first the statement confused me. I have never been away from my children so I have no experience with what it is like to have several hours a day, several days a week without them. I wondered what made us and all of the other homeschoolers I know different. I wondered why suddenly at 5 parents no longer wanted to be around their children for long periods at a time when quite a few of them had just spent the last 4 years being there.

 Most homeschooling parents who pull their children out of the government school system or even a private school struggle with the idea of being together all the time and don't get me wrong, there is some major togetherness that happens with homeschool. Sometimes that togetherness causes conflict, but overwhelmingly it is a joyful experience for most homeschooling families. So what is going on here?

First, it is normal. This one won't go for all families, but my own, having homechooled since the beginning of my children's formal education, just doesn't know any different. My kids did not suddenly become a separate part of me at 5 and so when 6, 7, and rolled around, we just carried on as usual. This is normal for us.

For those that pull out of the system, there is usually an adjustment time and maybe even a bit of de-schooling, but in general, homeschooling is such a natural extension of parenting and life that it takes no time at all for it to become normal.

Second, I am the one teaching my children how to behave. When children are thrown in with other children we get to witness a real life "Lord of the Flies" with kids fighting for top spot in the pecking order. There will be children who reach the top, there will be children in the middle and there will be children trampled on by the school yard hierarchy. The kids will be teaching each other how to behave and that is never a good thing. My children are pleasant to be around because their main influences for proper behavior are adults. My kids don't bully, don't care about who has the coolest clothes, don't make fun of those different from themselves, aren't disrespectful to adults or mean to those not popular. Why? Not because they are perfect, but because I am able to constantly train them on appropriate behavior. Because they are not in the everyone for himself world of the classroom. Because they are interacting extensively with adults who have (for the most part) learned how to behave! The Bible tells us that the heart of a child is foolish so imagine sticking 25 of those foolish hearts into a room and expecting the result to be well behaved children. It just isn't going to happen.

Thirdly, they don't have to bring school work home after putting in a full day at the school. I mean seriously, who wants to spend all day long doing school work and then have to do more when they get home? Where is the time to play and relax? If you have to bring work home do you not complain? Does it not sometimes make you cranky? Comparing homework to homeschooling is like comparing a day at the beach to a day doing hard physical labor. They are just not the same. My kids get to do school when they are refreshed and then they get to be done. There is no working for 7 hours and then bringing home another 3-4 hours worth of homework. I would complain about that too!

Last, because they aren't constantly exhausted.
None of these parents seem to take into account the chronic sleep deprivation that kids suffer from these days. A quick Google search will bring up any number of articles on the taxing schedules that traditionally schooled children carry. If my kids were up at 5:30am to catch the bus, spending large amounts of the day sitting, then coming home with homework plus having sports practices until 9pm or later only to get up and do it all again tomorrow, they would be cranky too. Because my children are well rested and get plenty of time to break during the day, they generally stay in good moods and are much more pleasant to be around.

This is not to say my children are angels. They are not. We have had plenty of days when I would have almost considered putting their sassy hineys on that big yellow box on wheels, but I know that once I calmed down, I would be chasing it down and bringing them back home.
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

10 Day Real Food Challenge Day 2

   So I spend a good majority of my day busting on Jessica about her eating habits, then I tell her ask her every so sweetly to do challenges with me. The truth is skinny doesn't equal healthy and I have plenty of my own unhealthy habits I am wrestling with. My major one being Dr. Pepper and the truth is, I am highly unlikely to make it the entire challenge without one. I am hoping that I can start weening myself off of them and that at the very least, they can become the rare treat rather than my go to comfort food (or drink if you want be difficult).

  Unlike my dear friend, I knew straight up that I needed the easy way out or I just wouldn't follow through. We are out too often for me to be cooking up my own tortillas. One step at a time, right? So I hit up our local Kroger, which happens to be pretty spectacular and managed to find most of the items on the shopping list; including the whole grain sandwich bread, tortillas and pitas. They aren't the perfect solution, but they are a good start.

I did make up the breakfast foods from scratch and while we are following the recipes given, I told my kids they could pretty much pick from what I made for breakfasts. We ate the whole-wheat honey sweetened waffles yesterday and today we are having whole-wheat muffins, honeydew melon and raw milk yogurt. The yogurt isn't on the menu plan but I feel it is important to have and it is what I add our probiotics to. Plus, it is just yum. Also made up is some granola cereal. We will try that tomorrow. The kids can either pour it with milk like traditional cereal or they can mix it into their yogurt parfait style. Today's snacks will be finishing off the honeydew melon and dried apricots. While I love her menu plan, because I have very active children (and my gymnast requires about 3,000 calories per day) and we need a bit more food than what she has in the plan. Easy to adjust that though!

We followed up by having chicken enchiladas for lunch. The recipe called for a tomato based sauce but I knew from experience I would want a white sauce. Now, if I had been a good little whole foodie, I would have cooked my own chicken, but since I purchased the chicken already cooked I didn't have broth. Turns out white wine can be substituted for chicken broth in this case and I had that. Go figure. The sauce was a little...winey (?) so I would cut back on that next time, but over all it was delish and I had so much left over that I reheated it for dinner and still have some for lunch tomorrow. My husband whom I love dearly, but is the world's pickiest eater got some hand breaded cod which I flash fried in olive oil and then baked. He said it was the best dinner he has ever had. I think he might have been exaggerating, but when you have a picky eater you take the compliments where you can get them.

PS. I will be going back and adding recipe links in all of the Real Food Challenge Posts.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

10 Days of Real Food Days 3-5

The hardest part of this challenge has been how to work it into my "real" life.  The theory is awesome, make everything from scratch as much as you can and your family will be better for it.
I actually agree. :)

The problem is life has a way of throwing you curve balls and when you are expecting regular fast balls, it can really throw you for a loop.

Anna wrote a blog post about her day 2, which she may or may not get around to publishing - she wants it to have pictures and links and stuff that I rarely make time for. hehe...  Probably why her posts get read at a higher rate than mine. hmmm... So, I will just skip ahead and tell you about my 3rd and 4th days.

Day 3,  I had used homeschool curriculum sale to attend in the morning. We whole wheat muffins that morning and the kids LOVED them. I just made them with a bit of extra cinnamon and nutmeg and bit more honey since I did not feel like chopping an apple up for the them.  The plan for lunch was to have peanut butter and homemade jelly for lunch. I even had the loaves of bread baked.

While we were at the sale, we got a flood of rain. Literally. A flood.  If I had an ark, I could have made it home, but because of the amount of rain, I knew that the 2 ways to get to my house were all going to be flooded. This is not my first time with this amount of rain. So I was *forced* to go wait for the waters to recede at one of our local mexican restaurants.  It was like I was being held hostage or something. It was terrible to think about having to sit there with my chips and salsa and fajitas while that peanut butter and jelly was just waiting for me at home.  I am sure you can feel my pain there.  

Wednesday, my son came down with a fever.  It was 103.2 at its highest.  He was in bed all day and when he finally woke up hungry, he asked for a grilled cheese. I had one lone piece of processed american cheese in the fridge so I slapped that on two pieces of my home made wheat bread with butter and made him a grilled cheese.  He had 3 bites, but he was the only one to eat anything processed that day.  It was good!

Since I was at home all day, I took the time to finally beat the corn tortillas.  Youtube videos are your friend for that one.  But they really looked beautiful!  I was quite proud of them.  My arms and upper abs were sore the next day from the work out I got while pressing them!  It was a bonus!  Hopefully it counteracted some of the calories from the *fantastic* enchilada's we ate for dinner with them!

Thursday  we had a great breakfast. They had left over waffles with smoothies. My kids loved those smoothies, did not even know I snuck spinach in them!  We had the pb&j's for lunch and did fine until dinner. My brother cooks every Thursday and he did not want to cook what was on the plan and we had tacos (packaged taco seasoning - eek) with white flour tortillas (except me and dh, we ate the left over corn tortillas - they were great) and queso dip out of the jar that you get out of the chip aisle. I know. But, again, I had *no choice* - that is my story.

I have to say, we have liked everything we have eaten so far!

Have any one of you tried to go 10 days without eating out or having something that is processed?  If so, leave a comment telling us how it went!  If you have not, what do you think your biggest hold ups would be?
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Monday, August 18, 2014

10 Days of Real Food Challenge - Day 1

Anna, in all her skinny person wisdom, asked me to take the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge with her.  I am fairly certain I may be a bit of a project for her as she often suggests whole food this, organic food that, "Crash dieting is not good for you, Jessica!"....  It is really cute!  Since I am always up for a challenge and a bit of a follower she spoke so eloquently about it, I decided that I could do anything for 10 days.  We eat a mostly whole food diet (when I am not ordering pizza) so I thought it would not be too hard.

The 100 Days of Real Food Facebook page has 4 weeks worth of free menus. Anna asked which ones I wanted to do.  Since I did not respond right away, she messaged me (again and again) and eventually said how about week 2 and 4 and I think I said something like, "Fine, week 2 and 4." Truth be known, I was glad to not have to make the choice and have to take responsibility for any disasters and icky recipe choices (hehehe).

Because of the *insane* amount of completely from scratch cooking, we started cooking somethings in advance on Friday.  I made the granola. Anna, I think, made about half the menu and sent me messages on my facebook wall like, "Did you make your wafflles yet?!?!?!"  Why make waffles today if you can put them off until tomorrow?  I actually canned 24 jars of chili in the pressure cooker, which took stinking forever so I did not have time to precook anything but the granola.

I went shopping Saturday. To my surprise, it was not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be.  I did not try to convince my family of the venture. I cook, therefore they eat, right?

We started yesterday. Or shall I say, we tried to start yesterday.

We all had the whole grain, sweetened with honey waffles - AH-MAZE-ING - everyone agreed it was the best waffles ever.  My kids and my dh rejected my real maple syrup, which I actually only use because I love it - and dug out the now contraband artificial maple syrup from the pantry as soon as my back was turned, the traitors. I forgot to cut up and serve the cantaloupe (could not find the honey dew at the store) with the waffles since I tripled the recipe and was busy making 10 extra waffles. So that was the first fail of the day.

Then came lunch.

Anna forgot she had a church dinner and apparently, they don't serve real food there. I forgot my mother in law had a birthday dinner at a local restaurant and there is no telling what my salad and my mushroom swiss burger were *really* made of.

It was a good think too, since I completely forgot to put the stuff in the bread maker to make the bread for the sandwiches at lunch.  I brilliantly decided to make all our bread for the week instead of buying a loaf at the store - me - whose menu last week consisted of ordering take out 4 times....

Supper rolled around. Again, another brilliant decision made by me to not buy a premade item on the list but make it from scratch as well. Because, you know, if you are going to do something, you may as well give it 110%! The item is corn tortillas. I had Maseca because, hmmm I don't remember why I bought Maseca, but I had it and it needs to be used. I read a few blog posts and decided to give it a try, it did not look hard.

The dough refused to make itself into dough. it was a lot like crumbly mashed potatoes.  I added more water. And more water. Then it was too sticky. So I added more Maseca.  The dough and I danced for a bit until I finally had something that slightly resembled the pics in the blogs.  I don't have a tortilla press so I used a plate instead. Not a pie plate but a regular plate. Not the best move. The regular plate has a lip and doesn't sit flat and therefore doesn't press the tortilla as thin as you need it.  I unearthed the rolling pin and attempted to use that. It mostly worked and I got a couple of tortillas that I put in my cast iron skillet.  I cooked them. They were awful. I rolled it out thinner. I could not pick the stupid things up off of the parchement paper without them falling apart. When I finally got one off and into the pan, it was still awful. After an hour and a half of messing around with it and only 3 cooked but terrible tasting corn tortillas later, I called for pizza at 7 p.m..  We ate dinner at 8 p.m.

Thank you Marcos Pizza. Sorry 100 Days of Real Food.

Friday, August 15, 2014

No Parental Involvment Required

There are many beautiful things about homeschooling. One of those things is the independence that it fosters in our children as they learn to learn. But, I fear there is a movement within homeschooling that is making it too easy for parents to be lazy, the No Parental Involvement Required movement.

Ok, so there really is no official NPIR movement, but there is something going on within the homeschooling community that is alarming. When my family, and I believe most families, chose to keep their children out of the traditional school movement, a major part of that decision was the ability to be in control of what our children are learning. The increasing number of homeschoolers has given us access to numerous curriculum options. Having choices has meant that homeschooling parents are able to cater curriculum to their own families in a highly customizable way. But it has also bred a new type of curriculum, the no parental involvement required curriculum and I fear an increase in lazy hands-off homeschooling.

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As I have browsed the various social media sites that I am involved in, I have noticed a steady increase in the number of parents who are not only just looking for low involvement curriculum, but are also unafraid to admit that they simply do not wish to teach their children! No, there isn't anything inherently wrong with using some low parental involvement curricula. I quite enjoy the fact that I don't need to stand over my children through our entire school day, but I am afraid that there is an issue here that need to be addressed. If we are removing parents from the role of teachers are we really doing our kids justice? Where parents were once forced to be hands on with their children, they now have the option to step back completely. When a parent is not involved with their child's schooling it comes close to leaving them right back where they were before homeschooling. What benefit is it to our children when we remove ourselves from the roll of teacher?

I believe as die hard homeschooling families, we have a tendency to only show the happy part of homeschooling and as a result, give off the impression that homeschooling is easy. It isn't, at least not always. We have really great days where everything runs smoothly and the kids are having fun and learning, but most days are hard work, really hard work. We have created this illusion and curriculum companies have perpetuated the idea of a hands off education by producing NPIR curriculum. Sadly, there seems to be quite a market for these types of curricula as more and more become available each year.

There are some seasons in which a low parent involvement curriculum can be a great blessing. New babies, moves, extended illnesses all interfere in a way that make homeschooling all but impossible without them. Children get older and naturally need us less and less. However, these curricula should not be the norm. They should be the exception. Our children need us to be involved. The homeschooling movement needs parents to be involved. God requires us to be involved.

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Love the Journey Review and Give Away!!

I have a small handful of friends whom I consider true "Titus 2" women, and I hold them near and dear to my heart. While I have not met Marcia Somerville face to face (yet), I most certainly count her as one of these friends!!

Marcia has authored a new book entitled Love the Journey, where she writes in such a way that she'll become one of your 'friends' too!

There are three types of people who will benefit most from this book. Ready? They are...

1) Those considering Homeschooling
2) Those in the early stages of Homeschooling
3) Those who are seasoned Homeschoolers

I am in my eleventh year (wowza time flies) of home educating. {My son was 3 1/2 when he first said he wanted me to homeschool him. God knew He had to use my son to convince me, on my own I would not have looked seriously at the idea... Now that son is in high school in our home!!} I had some precious ladies who mentored me those first couple years. Before I purchased my first homeschool book, I sat down with a friend and poured out my heart on why I wanted to homeschool. I hoped that in my teaching, the boys would learn facts in order to know the Lord. Not just to know facts to puff themselves up. I went on to write out a mission statement that I could look at any time I started to question my sanity, consider sending them to public school, or feel pressure from outside well meaning sources. Much of what I did was like feeling my way through a new place, but with all the lights out. Like trying to travel to a destination that I had in my heart... with no road map. And by the grace of God, we press on! This book is a very helpful road map for the journey we are on as homeschoolers! Everything that I have learned along the way and wished to share with other homeschoolers is found in the pages of this book!!!

I love that Marcia uses Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to guide her writings. Here are the chapter headings to give you a taste of what's inside...

Section 1: Your Homeschool is YOUR Homeschool!

1. Why Do YOU Homeschool?
2. Do You Have a Guiding Star?
3. Clarifying the Ends We Have in Mind
4. Developing Your Pedagogy

Section 2: Mountaintop Views

5. You Share Who You Are
6. Keep Your Heart
7. Cross-Eyed Parenting
8. Training in Liberty
9. More Isn’t Always Better
10. Who Are Your Best Friends?

Section 3: When You Sit At Home

11. The Husband Suitable for You
12. Keeping a Quiet Home
13. Schedules and Structure
14. A Time to Plan
15. Looking Far (Why We Don’t Need Classrooms)
16. What to do with Preschoolers?
17. Face Time
18. Managing Chores
19. Questions, Categories, and Consequences

Section 4: As You Walk Along the Way

20. Gender Differences
21. Why Modalities Matter
22. Lesson Planning with Modalities in Mind
23. Tell Me the Story Again!
24. Useful Categories to Know When Considering Curricula
25. When Trudging is Called For
26. Choices, Choices
27. What About Memory Work?
28. Why Do Crafts?

Section 5: When You Lie Down & When You Rise Up

29. It’s About Commitment
30. Love is Patient
31. Love is Kind
32. Love Does Not Envy
33. Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

You know you are reading a fantastic book when your highlighter is going dry before you reach the end! Even after 10 years of teaching, I kept saying "AMEN!" or "OHHHH, good point!!" If you are just considering homeschooling, if you are already homeschooling, if you have one child or many children, if you use a formal curriculum or unschool or somewhere between, this book will have plenty of insights to help you press on!

Need a little more information? I recently found this link where you can download some samples to read!

This is a book that ought to be in every home educator's library! And I don't say that lightly. While I love books and think you can't own too many, I do live in a small space and have to choose my titles carefully. This book has secured a spot at the top of my 'must have' list!!

The Somervilles were kind and generous enough to provide me with a copy of Love the Journey in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Marcia, for the opportunity to read and share!!

The Somervilles were also kind and generous enough to offer to give away one free copy of this book to one blessed reader!!! Thank you, again, Marcia!!!

To receive 25% off Love the Journey hard copy or digital, use this coupon code MMH14LTJ. This code is good till August 25. Order here.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Place for Everything: Embracing My Inner Creative Genius

Ok. So maybe 'genius' is a bit too strong of a word. But I like the sound of it.

In A Place for Everything Part 1 I wrote about my dual personalities... I do have a Type A side that I not only enjoy, but I nurture in order to not be too distracted by my "SQUIRREL!" side. I explored the positives to developing an organized approach to life. But today I want to discuss my creative side for just a bit.

I know that God is not a God of chaos, but of order. So it's easy to jump on the 'organized' band wagon. But wait. God is also creative. Just look around! And in much the same way that I stifled my 'inner type A,' I also stifled my own creativity.

When I was in high school my favorite classes were art, choir, drama, and creative writing. I had so many emotions going around in my head, and I found art to be a terrific way to express them. Put a pencil in my hand and I could sketch a picture or write a poem and it was like emptying all the chaos in my mind.

I loved, LOVED, getting on a stage. Though standing to give a speech was worse than torture to me. (And isn't it funny how God uses that? I've since had to stand to give speeches numerous times in front of various sizes of audiences.) I found no pleasure in math or science labs. Instead, give me a script to live out on a stage, a poem to complete, or a blank sketch pad, and I was in my 'happy place.'

Somehow the seriousness of life put an end to that creative joy. Until one day. My hubby and I had not been married very long and I decided I needed to have that creativity in my life again. He supported me 100%! I auditioned for and got a part in a local musical. I had so much fun! Scary, but fun! However, we agreed that it took me out of our home for way too many hours. With the exception of the encore a few months later, I haven't done another production. I do miss it, though, just a little bit.

...Then scrapbooking became the rage, and I had every hole punch and fancy scissor they put on the market.

...Then there was trying my hand at acrylic painting. This was a whole new bag of goodies for me! I filled my desk at home with painting supplies.

...Then one day while driving with my family in the beautiful mountains I proclaimed, "I want to learn to oil paint." My husband was beginning to get used to hearing these comments from me. And that Christmas I received 'how-to' videos, paints, canvases, and brushes!

...Thankfully we have You-Tube now, and from that I reminded myself how to crochet (having learned from my mother when I was young).

...There was the time I watched my friend skillfully knit a square for a blanket. I had to learn that! Back to You-Tube. And while I can't make anything very complex, I can knit!

...Maybe it's the trial and error of planting flowers around my home. Or maybe it's the fun, new decorating tip I find on pinterest and want to duplicate in my own home. Or maybe it's learning to make a beautiful and tasty loaf of bread, or make super cute cake pops for birthday parties. Maybe it's painting flowers or stars and strips on my toe nails. Or sewing a cute apron. Maybe it's snapping a fun, candid shot of my children throwing snow balls.

And on and on (and on) the list goes! Like it or not, I can't walk away from a project that sparks my creativity!

I'm not a master at any of these endeavors. But I've loved gaining new skills in a variety of crafts. And that's a great lesson that I hope my sons are learning. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to try new things. I will never see my painting in an art museum. But I had fun creating it. I will never have my name in lights in a production, or on the cover of a music album, but that's ok. I don't need the recognition.

Here's a small example of nurturing creativity in my kiddos... This little flower arrangement was creatively put together by my youngest son one day! They both have a spark of creativity in them and it's fun to see it come out in different ways. This time it was a pretty gift for mama.

Recently I was delighted to start pulling out some of my old scrapbooking supplies in order to put together my homeschool planner and my daily bullet journal planner. I don't know why I never thought to combine cute, artsy, fun stuff with my organizers! It was like an epiphany! Now, I know that for some, a colorful, artsy planner would drive them nuts. But for me, it was marrying both sides of my personality into one beautiful, fun planner.

It's also why I didn't want plain bins to organize items, but instead had to put beautiful, colorful washi tape under my labels on the bins, or find fabulously colorful bins to store items. I want to see order, but in a pretty way! (To see more check out my A Place for Everything Part 5 blog.) It turns out that my right and left sides of my brain actually like each other and play nicely together.

So what's my next creative project? I'm starting a journal Bible. One that I can make colorful notes with my colorful markers, add washi tape and stickers to the margins, and jot important insights. I get to join my note taking Type A to my creative side while I am digging in to the Word of God. This sounds so fresh and fun that I honestly can't wait to get started.

What is it that brings you joy? Gives you enthusiasm? Is there a gift inside you that you've stifled for the 'stuff of life?' Maybe the Lord is trying to nudge you out of your comfort zone but into something so much better!

Here are a few more ideas to spark your creativity...
pressing flowers/leaves
baking beautiful treats for your family or to surprise friends and neighbors
mod podge projects
refinishing or spray painting furniture
making a pretty atmosphere in your yard
adding a splash of color to a room to add beauty
playing with playdough with your kids
creating items (even jewelry) from oven bake clay
arranging flowers (especially if they are flowers you planted in your yard)
make pretty storage boxes by covering ugly cardboard with contact paper
learn an instrument
set a beautiful table setting complete with a pretty table cloth (I find mine at the thrift stores or sew one!)
learn to sew, even something like a table cloth, a set of curtains, or an apron can be fun
visit with a creative friend and grab some ideas
Still not inspired? Take a stroll through some pinterest pages and you'll find thousands of ideas!

Beauty and creativity come in all shapes, sizes and packages. Be blessed in your creative expression and bless others at the same time!!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

Nope. I didn’t write that backwards. I have seen the “bad things to good people” approached so many different times that I couldn’t beat that horse any deader.

We have all heard or even said at some point that we didn’t understand why God allows something bad to happen to someone good. It seems extremely unfair when a pastor, a good friend, a great mother, a caring husband, someone who volunteers a lot, or goes on mission trips dies. We lament the loss of that good person and we question God’s wisdom. But what if we have it wrong? What if bad things don’t happen to good people? Ever. What if there is no such thing as a good person?

In general, even Christians know that there is a worldly definition of good. Caring parents=good, neglectful parents=bad. Of course, since the world has no standard of absolute morality, these definitions vary greatly from place to place, but you will generally know what is considered good in your culture. But Christians shouldn’t be taking their definitions from the world, and neither should we be putting God on the same moral ground as ourselves. So who does the Bible say is good?

Mark 10:18b No one is good except God alone.

That is right, NO ONE. There is no such thing as a good person! When we start to look at ourselves from a biblical perspective, it becomes much easier to look at circumstances from a biblical perspective. God has never allowed bad things to happen to good people because good people don’t exist. However, He does allow good things to happen to bad people. In His infinite wisdom, grace and mercy, God himself has allowed everyone what they don’t deserve. Merely our existence is a direct view of God’s grace. The fact that we are not all instantly struck down is evidence of His mercy.

Psalm 86:15 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

God is not without compassion for us through our suffering and while our fleshly state requires His perfect justice, He is also a loving God who does not leave us with no hope. We will never understand the mind of the all knowing God. We will always struggle with accepting that "the Lord gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!", but we can come out of our grief knowing that God will be glorified.

Psalms 46: 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

Hebrews 11:11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I Timothy 4:10
 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.


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Monday, July 21, 2014

A Place for Everything Part 5: Home Sweet Home

(WARNING: This is the longest post I've ever written. You'll want to grab your favorite cuppa and relax for a while. But I hope you'll enjoy!!)

We had been married for one year and searching for a good 'starter home.' We found this cute, vintage two bedroom and one bathroom home. It was a perfect fit for us and we planned to sell it in two to five years to purchase a larger home. We figured we'd have a family and need the space. No matter how often we looked at other homes, the Lord closed the door. So, seventeen years and two children later we were very excited when a fantastic opportunity landed in our laps. It looked like we were finally moving. We even collected boxes to start packing. But again, the Lord closed the door. He really likes for us to be in our small 'starter home.' At least for now. And I'm thankful for His provision!

A year has passed and this spring I did a little thinking. I decided a couple things. First, if we were really going to move, we needed to prepare by de-junking our eighteen years of 'stuff.' I didn't want to be in a mad rush trying to pack all that 'junk'. Let's face it, most of it really was just junk. Why do we let it take up valuable real estate in our homes if we don't really love it??

More on that later...

And the second decision... if we weren't moving, I had to make our home more liveable. We have four people sharing two beds and one bath. On a small lot in town (my heart is really in the country.) We need it to feel roomier than it is. When you walk into a home that is staged for sale, you want to move in on the spot. Why? It's clean, organized, simple, airy, open. Did I mention clean? It feels lovely! So I decided it was time...

We'd stage our home...

for ourselves!!


I mentioned in Part 1 that I have a split personality. I can be very high energy, a bit flighty, a little ADHD (SQUIRREL!) But I also have Type A side that I have to nurture so my ADHD side doesn't take over. Nothing gets done if I don't keep my Type A happy. But despite the high energy side, I also have Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid troubles. So I can be very tired and unable to keep up. When my system is depleted, the house has to run itself. Clutter causes me stress, which wears me out. But when I'm wiped out, I can't do much about messes. I need rest. But I can't rest when things are a disaster. Yikes, huh?

Clutter and chaos are 'noise' to me. They create wasted time, frustration, and they give me less time to enjoy life. I can't rest. Also, FlyLady calls it "CHAOS"... Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. She's so right, who wants to invite someone into their home when they can't find a place for their guests to sit?

Order, on the other hand, means I can rest. I can have visitors. My time is more productive and efficient, leaving me more free time to enjoy hobbies and play with my kids. On the days that my Adrenals don't cooperate, the house still runs far more smoothly because there is a system in place. Simplify, minimize, peace!

A few other perks? Thanks to my label maker and organized bins and boxes, my sons know where to put things. A place for everything and everything in its place! They can be more helpful around the home because they know where to find things and where to place things. And at first it seemed like a good idea. But when the boys had thanked me for the labels, it seemed like a great idea. And then as my youngest son, who has a sensory processing issue, started thanking me for the labels and how they made things so much easier for him, I realized it was a terrific idea! My sons are learning a lot about running an organized home and they are a larger part of keeping our home in order.

I love container shopping. Most girls love clothing and shoe stores. Not me. Give me a container or office supply store and I'm like a kid in a candy shop. My budget (and hubby) are so thankful that we don't have a Container Store or Staples in our town. But I have found very thrifty ways to organize my home, and you can too! In fact, this past Mother's Day my hubby asked what I wanted. I said "A trip to Dollar Tree!" We met at the register and he just laughed when he saw my basket full of bins and containers for organizing!

A few tools that might help... (Many of which I bought at the dollar store!)

* Bins, tubs, baskets, boxes with contact paper. Anything that helps corral like items.
* Labels. A label maker, stickers, markers, chalkboard labels, etc.
* Removable mounting putty
* Zip style plastic bags of all sizes, even big enough to put blankets in!
* Poly evnelopes
* Hooks, over the door hooks, command strip hooks, etc.

Many of the tools I use were things I had around the house. Bins came from the Dollar Tree. And you'll see an occasional item bought from Target or Costco. Anything I purchased was purchased over time. Not all in one shot. And all of it was very reasonable. We are on a single income, so I can't afford to spend money on all the organizing tools that I want. Frugal is fabulous!

Quick How-To 101

1) Pick a small (AKA not totally overwhelming) room or closet.
2) Empty all the contents.
3) Have 3 boxes, one for give away, one for throw away, and one for put away.
4) Sort all your items. Be brutal. Ask yourself, do you LOVE this object? Do you USE this object? If not, buh-bye. Let it go! Less stuff= easier to maintain.

There are so many articles, blogs, and pinterest posts about how to organize, I won't go any deeper on this topic. So grab your give/throw/put away boxes, some bins, and some labels and let's press on!

My home is still in progress. But I thought I'd share some photos of my progress so far in hopes that maybe it would motivate and inspire you!

Welcome to my home!

I am still putting the finishing touches on the homeschool book shelves. My living and dining are basically one large room. And the school room is located in the dining room. We do eat all our meals at the dining table. But we have 4 large book shelves in the dining room, plus my rolling cart for tea and an entertainment center that has been turned into a homeschool area and computer desk. It's a busy room! All the books look like clutter, but I love them and we need them. So what to do? I decided to use small brown fabric covered boxes from Shopko (2 for $4) to store our Field Guides, Geography, Biography, and Grammar resources.

Tapestry of Grace has several AMAZING books. So I cut cardboard boxes into 'magazine file boxes' and covered them in contact paper. Then I ran a strip of washi tape down the side, put a label sticker on the bottom (from Michael's) and typed up a label on my label maker. I like the clean look so much better!

I just finished the desk area. It was a matter of cutting some boxes in half and covering them with contact paper. I have nice, organized places for my files, my planners, my sons' school planners and papers, and my homeschool magazines. No more stacks of papers. That's been a serious eye sore for me! (The orange post-its are covering my sons' names... normally they are not on the boxes...)

I made this box to match the magazine boxes. It holds various CDs that I need to have handy. I have a poly envelope with our Tapestry of Grace CDs, I also have the Teaching Textbook CD-roms in this box.

On the shelf just above my shelf of planners, I have the All About Spelling cards in a cute wooden crate, and next to it I put the Phonetic Zoo spelling in a poly envelope, along with the CDs and headphones! You might also recognize my caddy with my markers and washi tape that I mentioned in an earlier post. Behind that caddy is my trusty label maker.

We do Tuesday Tea in our school, so the rolling cart is all set up with the tea goodies and books we are reading. We also do Word game Wednesday, so a handful of word games are on the cart, too. I'll explain the 'Stuff Box' in the next photo. There is also a microscope under the cart which I'll explain as well...

We are studying Biology this year. Oh dear, books, dvds, critters, dissection tools, what to do?! Poly envelopes to the rescue and a cute Stuff Box to hide it in! Envelopes are from Dollar Tree, Stuff Box is from TJMaxx.

I didn't care to look at the brown shipping box with the microscope inside. So, out comes the contact paper, washi tape, label sticker and the label maker!

Our playing card boxes are falling apart! So, I found these GREAT boxes! The smaller one that holds one set of cards came 2 for $1 at the Dollar Tree. They are the perfect size for card games. And they lock shut!! The larger one holds lots more cards! Phase 10 and Five Crowns use more cards than a normal deck. I found the larger boxes at Fred Meyer, they are from Sistema. They also lock shut and now all our cards are safe and sound!

While I'm talking games... I did our own episode of Hoarders in our basement. First I worked on the most civilized half of the basement. I got it all set up, homeschool book overflow shelves (not the ones I use most often) from Costco were all set up, board games were stacked on the built in shelf, nothing was on my basement floor. This is good, because we've had a couple floods down there! I felt pretty good about my week of effort. The day after I got everything put on the shelves, I walked into my dark basement and heard hissing. I flipped on the light and saw water spraying from a pipe, right over the board games and books! We've never had a flood from above! So while nothing was on the floor, it was in the wrong place for a flood from above! Well, everything went out on the yard to dry out. And now I had to do some thinking. So, I put the books back on the shelves, but I put all the Tapestry books into one tub. When we finish year 2 I'll put those into the tub also. And label it. This way no water will damage these most valuable books! I put a shelf liner on the top shelf where the plastic science stuff sits. This will at least help stop water from going down onto books.

And the board games. Here you can see them finishing their airing out process from the flood.

I had to toss all the boxes.

So I bought some clear poly envelopes and found MOST board games fit perfectly inside! I slid the game pieces inside, labeled the side of the envelope, and now I have plenty of room for all these board games. And they are water resistant! Perfect!

I'm still sorting papers and setting up goodies on the shelves. But so far I love having a place for everything in my basement!!

While we're in the basement, let me show you the couple of things I added to the laundry room. I dug out a couple glass containers I had and bought a drink dispenser. Now I love the way my detergent and borax and clothes pins are displayed. And it's easier for the kids to use the detergent rather than lifting a Costco sized jug of soap!

My husband built these shelves years ago. He rocks. I picked up the pretty, new laundry baskets at Costco. It was time. I had owned my old baskets for as long as we've owned the house. They were in bad shape! I put washi tape across the front of the shelf and a chalkboard label so that the kids can help me sort.

And he built these shelves right next to the laundry shelves. This has become my party headquarters! I love a good presentation at parties. So I have shelves just for my party goodies. Drink dispensers, mason jar mugs, you name it.

I have a tub on one of my party shelves that is full of zip style plastic bags from the dollar store. In here I put all the smaller items. Happy Birthday banners, table decorations, that sort of thing. Easy to find, no more stacks of stuff to sort through in hopes of finding that one party item.

I also love to have wrapping paper, bags, and tissue paper handy. I put 2 shoe shelves (which I've had for years) back to back to make a nice deep set of shelves. (Wish I could have gotten a better photo...) Now I have one shelf for variety wrap, and one for Christmas wrap. No more wrinkled wrap! I have variety gift bags on one side, Christmas gift bags on the other. And I have a tub full of tissue paper, tape, and scissors. I have a plastic shoe box that holds bubble wrap. Now I can keep these items looking fresh and pretty, and accessible! If you can't get to your stuff, then it no longer has value.

I can't show you the rest of the basement. But suffice it to say, it's under construction. It was our 'storage unit.' We emptied the entire 18 years of stuff onto our yard and spent the day sorting and tossing. Two dozen black lawn bags full of 'valuables' (they must be valuable, we saved them for years!!) went out to the garbage. Two Suburban loads went out in a yard sale. And all those cardboard boxes we had things stored in, flattened and bundled and GONE! You shouldn't use cardboard in a basement anyway. So anything that was staying went in a tub, was labeled, contents were written on a 3x5 card and put in an index card box. Now we know where everything is and if we move, we just toss tubs in a truck! Someday that small room in the basement will (I hope) become a small family room. One baby step at a time.

Welcome to my kitchen! I designed my kitchen years ago. But we left one area empty because we couldn't decide if we wanted an eating area or something else. Well, now we have a chest freezer and 2 store bought pantries. The pantries are something I've always hated. I didn't like trying to find things in them. I hated putting stuff away when I grocery shopped. But now I love them! And thanks to labels, the boys can even help put stuff away from the store! I put contact paper in a pretty color on the shelves. I love that! Then I used dollar store bins to put like items together, and I labeled them!

The top shelf is all about snacks. I have a snack bin for the kids.

The second shelf is for breakfast. I bought the big cereal boxes from Costco. We only buy 3 types of cereal, so this works very well for us. I used one for pancake mix, too. I made sure to use packaging tape to put the nutrition label on the front of the container.

What to do with all those little bags of things? I couldn't justify the cost of containers for each of them. So I bought ice cube bins for the freezer and used them to corral items! I also save my pasta sauce jars for nuts. They fit perfectly on this shelf.

I also used the cereal boxes for flour and one for my big Costco sized baking soda. I have half gallon mason jars for most other products, like almond flour, oats, etc.

I keep my onions and potatoes in dollar store bins on the bottom shelf.

My second pantry has our naughty treats in a bin (pre-packaged cookies, cakes, brownies, etc). All the boxed teas fit in one bin. Chocolate chips are in one bin. Sandwich stuff is together as are the pasta items. One shelf is dedicated to taco night!

Then there's canned goods. I go through a lot of white beans, so I covered a box with contact paper so I can slide it out and put new beans in the back of the box. I used more bins for dry beans, too.

Now I love my pantries!

I love them so much that I had to do the same thing to my fridge. I used the dollar store dish washing tubs to put condiments in, and another for dairy items like cottage cheese, sour cream, etc. I used small dollar store bins to put cream cheese and butter in. I even put one dollar store basket in the produce drawer to keep delicate items separated. Then I labeled. But labels were boring by themselves. So I backed them with pretty Washi tape. I liked it so much that I washi taped and labeled everything in the door, too!

I did the same in the freezer. More dollar store bins, more labels, and more washi tape! No more shuffling through stacks, now I know where things are and I know what I'm running out of when I prepare to grocery shop!

These simple changes have made it so simple to put things away, to find them when I want them, and to figure out what I need when I am preparing my grocery list!

Under the sink... Cleaners hang from a tension rod, other cleaning tools are in bins, and a shelf found at TJMaxx holds my cleaning cloths! I used a paper clip to hang my rubber gloves. I also put a small basket inside my door to be my mini-garbage. I have larger garbage cans by the back door, but when I need to toss small items near my sink, I use this! I empty it every couple of days. It is held on by command hooks. The small, white basket above the gloves is also held by command hooks.

Before we leave the kitchen there are a couple small goodies left to show.

My junk drawer is organized thanks to the dollar store bins!

And for fun I made a coffee station so that the mugs, cocoa, and pumpkin pie spice (love that in my coffee) are all handy. I have a cabinet that hides the filters, bean grinder, vanilla, and stevia. I used a salt and pepper shaker set from the Dollar Tree for the cocoa and pumpkin pie spice, used washi tape and the label maker to label them. The sugar is in my favorite Great Aunt's sugar bowl. The matching creamer has a crack in it, but it works well to hold the dry erase markers and chalk for my wall planners.

And for fancy tea, I have this tin which I adore!

Oh, you remember my week-at-a-glance from one of my earlier posts! It's above my coffee station.

I love to keep paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, and cups handy for parties and BBQs. But I hated shuffling through the piles of them. Thank you Dollar Tree! This cabinet is above my refrigerator. It perfectly fits these 4 bins.

The plastic utensils are also separated into zipper bags. Forks in one, spoons in another, and knives in another.

The bathroom is teensy. So I used more dollar store bins to organize my drawers and under the sink! And yes, washi tape and labels are my friends! I even found a small sugar packet container (white box in the corner of the drawer) at a thrift store. It holds my essential oils for the bath.

One tip I learned on the drawers... Use poster mounting putty under the bins to keep them from sliding around when you open and close your drawers! It works!!

I found the cute cotton ball/q-tip container at the dollar store. Yes, washi and labels again!

I decided to label the towel cabinet, too. And my sons thanked me! My husband and I found the cabinet on clearance and put it above the toilet several years ago. There is no linen closet or towel storage in this home, so this little cabinet is fantastic! And I can fit a lot into it! I like to fold the towels so the nice rounded side it facing out, and yes, I like the bath towels to be in a pattern of ivory, beige and ivory (since it just happened that I have 4 ivory towels and 2 beige...) I have a funny thing about towels being in a pretty pattern. (You might have noticed my kitchen cleaning cloths were blue and yellow alternately. hehe)

My bedroom. I cannot wait for it to be finished. I wanted it staged, so I wanted very little on my dresser. Normally I have photos and what-nots. But not now. (The horse drawing will be hanging on the wall soon, and I'm proud to say my Mama drew that!!) I have three LED candles that come on and go off automatically each night. I love it! I smile every time I walk in! {Obviously, the dog enjoys it as well!}

Remember the Hoarders episode in my basement and the yard sale I mentioned? I sold a bunch of stuff and bought a new quilt (on sale at Fred Meyer), I also bought fabric to cover my old decorator pillows. I always disliked my lamp. So I spray painted it and bought a new lamp shade! Now I love it!

Inside my nightstand drawer, you guessed it, more dollar store bins. I have only the necessary things like lip balm, allergy drops for my eyes, notepads, pens, nail clippers, etc. My phone charger hangs from a command hook in the back of my nightstand.

And my dresser drawers! I started folding my shirts and 'filing' them vertically so I could see them!

Under my bed I used the bottom drawer from our old broken down dishwasher. Now I have a 'drawer' for my workout clothes and sweat suits! (By the way, a few years ago my awesome husband found three credenzas on sale. He put them in a "U" shape and set our mattress on top. So we have all this wonderful storage in our small bedroom!)

I use old blanket bags and the zip-lock style bags to store my blankets under the bed.

In my closet, I saved up and bought new hangers from Costco. Only $10 for a box of 35 hangers! These hold the clothes well, but are super thin so your closet looks more spacious. And they are more durable than so many I looked at in other stores.

I found a shelf/shoe holder at TJMaxx that hangs from the closet rod. I needed a place for my Miche purses, and shoes, and hats.

This process is still going on regularly. Please know that I'm only photographing the organized places in my home! I haven't shown you the messes. Don't think for a minute that I have it all together! Ha! My home will never grace the cover of a magazine. There will always be messies. But I'm doing what I can to make my life feel more sane and my home more presentable. More open. More available. More simplified. More peaceful!

I'm making a favorite recipes book to help cut down on the cook book clutter. I'm updating my household notebook. As I chip away at areas that have driven me nuts, other areas pop up. "Ya know, I always disliked this!" And I tackle it and feel so great when it's done! You will too! I hope this gets your creative juices flowing. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. And please comment and share your great organizing ideas!!

To be continued...


Don't miss A Place for Everything Part 1
A Place for Everything Part 2
A Place for Everything Part 3
A Place for Everything Part 4