Love What You Do

First things first:

The winner of our pouch giveaway is: AMY K!

And the winner of our “oily” giveaway is: NATASHIA PETZ!

Be on the lookout for an email from me this weekend, ladies!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

There’s this idea making the rounds of the blogosphere. It’s not a new one. In fact, it’s quite old. It’s just being re-packaged with Pinterest-worthy fonts and graphic design.

And the gist of it is this: YOU have been called to do something amazing! Incredible! YOU are a shining star! Only YOU can do XYZ. Be YOU!

I think it can be summed up most concisely in this popular t-shirt that is circulating the interwebs.

beyoutiful

The thing is, I really like this t-shirt. I want to buy it. I want to wear a constant reminder that I am unique. That I am beautiful. That I have something to offer this great wide world of ours.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this–at least at surface level.

But if I start to break it down–start to turn all of those YOU’S inward–I end up with a small mountain of ME’S.

Which is where I hit a snag or two.

Because if I think about me–who I really am at my core–3 words come to mind:

1. Christian

2. Wife

3. Mother

I am not a Christian because of me but because of what Jesus did when he died on the cross for my sins to reconcile me to God.

And my marriage is not about me but “us” because the moment Shaun and I said, “I do,” we became one.

And–as any mother anywhere knows–there is precious little room for me in mamahood. How can there be when a solitary trip to the bathroom becomes the holy grail of “alone time?”

Which is why, as much as I loved how it looked and what it said, I was a bit unsettled by this little print that I bought from Marshall’s.

dowhatyoulove

“Do what you love.”

It sounds so good. Just like Be-YOU-tiful. Catchy. Simple. Alluring in its invitation to embrace one’s fullest potential.

But I don’t have to ponder it for too long before I hit another snag. Because here are some things that I love:

  • Watching movies
  • Reading books
  • Making fancy meals
  • Long, soulful conversations with friends
  • Shopping
  • Writing
  • Creating things
  • Exercising
  • Traveling

On the flip side, I don’t particularly love hustling all of the children into the car and then listening to Nola wail for 30 consecutive minutes (that’s 1,800 seconds) because, well, she’s (almost) 3, and she can’t handle life. I’m not wild about finally getting to the gym to teach a BODYPUMP class that ends with my looking up during the cool down to discover the daycare worker with a chagrined expression on her face standing beside a pants-less Evy after my (supposedly) potty-trained other (almost) 3-year-old has had an accident while playing on the racquetball court. And I don’t just adore it when my baby blows out his diaper as I wipe up the soiled toddler and try to gather my brood from the four corners of the gym daycare.

pantsless

I don’t love going to Walmart with six children, one of whom has decided that she is petrified of sitting down in a grocery basket even though she’s done it without complaint or incident a thousand times before (hashtag toddler logic).

grocery basket

I’m also not in love with putting kids to bed by myself for the 17th night out of the last 23 because my husband is going on 5 consecutive weeks of work trips.

I don’t say any of those things as bids for pity. They don’t even begin to stack up to the harsh daily realities that many of you face. I know that. But they make up a good portion of my reality at the moment, and I’m not in love with any of them.

So, what?

Does that make me a fraud? Am I not being true to myself because I only rarely do most of the things on my list of loved activities? After all, won’t I be a better mom if I take care of me first? If I pursue desires that fulfill me first? Practically every single Instagram account that I follow tells me this is so–including many of the Christian ones.

While I understand the motivation behind that line of thought (we don’t do anybody any favors when we ignore our own health or grooming or sleep), I have to flatly say that there is zero Biblical precedent for “putting ourselves first to serve others better.”

How can there be when Jesus says, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first” and “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me?”

So, if you don’t like the print, why did you buy it, Abbie?

Short, silly answer? It was pretty. And cheap. And I was able, despite my misgivings, to take it in its simplest form to mean that I should focus on the things that I am uniquely gifted to do–what *I* love–rather than chasing after the interests of others and comparing my results with theirs.

But ultimately, I bought it because when I see it, I intentionally transpose the words “Love and “Do” so that, instead it says, “Love what you do.”

Philippians 4:13 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

It sounds so empowering–so transformative. And it is! Just maybe not for the reasons we think.

Because when you tack on the previous verse you get: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I have learned the secret of being content–HAPPY–in any and every situation.

So, when it says that I can do “all this” through Him who gives me strength, it’s not talking about “all of this amazing, inspirational, exciting, challenging-in-a-way-the-world-admires stuff.” It’s talking about “all of this good and bad and frustrating and mundane and everything in between” stuff.

To take a bit of paraphrasing liberty, it’s like saying, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether the baby sleeps or wakes up 5 times at night, whether the toddler keeps her stuff together or completely loses it on the filthiest floor of the most crowded aisle in Walmart, whether the teenager quietly does his homework or mouths back and stomps out of the room at dinner. I can do motherhood through Him who gives me strength.”

What I take away from that is that my goal is to learn the secret of loving what I do, not first and foremost because it is fun or fulfilling, but because it is the very moment that I am called to rather than a moment that may never materialize no matter how many motivational t-shirts I don.

Is motherhood (insert: your own situation in life) fun? Yes! Fulfilling? Absolutely!

And has God gifted us with unique interests, loves, and abilities that He desires us to utilize for His glory?

I know He has! We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

And yet. I beg you (and me) not to confuse His giftings with an excuse to despise your current circumstances.

Whatever they are, however ho-hum or downright demoralizing, God sees you doing them, and he sees your attitude in them. Through every bottom wiped, story told, boo-boo kissed, tantrum endured, nightmare soothed, and math problem solved.

You may not be able to do (exactly) what you love right now (or ever). I think Jesus spoke directly to the myth that we are most fulfilled when we do what makes us “come alive” when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Such a beautiful, challenging paradox. And yet I’ve seen it play out time and again in my life. When I CHOOSE to love the maddening moment that God has placed me in–not necessarily with my emotions (which can sometimes border on disgust or panic) but with my actions–I see growth and enormous fulfillment in my own life and blessing in that of others.

So, this is my challenge to you (and me) as we (in America) head into a long weekend that I genuinely hope will be one of relaxation and enjoyment:

Do what you love. By all means.

But first: love what you do.

Easy {Anything Goes!} Quiche

On Sunday, I posted this pic to IG and Facebook with the following caption:

zeroproductivity

There was an attempt made at crafting and cooking and cleaning this afternoon because, apparently, I was feeling very Martha Stewart.

Only one of these attempts was successful, and it was the one that is most likely to keep the natives from revolting.

In college, getting 1 out of 3 right would have meant a failing grade of 33%, and I would have been crushed.

But now, I’m all, “Yaaaay! We get to eat! Take that, Martha!” MOTHERHOOD: lowering expectations one constantly interrupted attempt at productivity at a time.
#somebodyputthatonacrosstitchplease #preferablysomeonewhoisnotamother #becausethenitwillgetfinished

But for real. Can any of y’all cross-stitch?

Thing is, I wasn’t too mad about my other failed attempts at productivity because this is what I got out of my one success. quiche7

If you’ve ever had any kind of misconception about quiche being fancy and finicky, dismiss it from your mind this very instant.

It may sound very ladies-who-lunch (or brunch, maybe?), but quiche is about as simple as it gets. And! Versatile. As in, you can throw just about anything in there, and it will still taste amazing.

Especially if you make it with my mom’s farm-fresh eggs. Oops. I guess that wasn’t exactly nice of me to say, since you can’t get your hands on any. But it’s true, and you know what they say: sometimes, the truth hurts.

ANYhoo, without further forays into mind-numbing chatter, I will share my oh-so-simple quiche recipe with you so that you too may feel successful even if you manage to completely avoid run out of time to do the laundry. Again.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • 7 eggs, the fresher the better (seriously, if a chicken has just pooped one into your hand, you’re golden)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (or cream if you just love extra calories as much as I do)
  • 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
  • Link sausage, microwaved/chopped
  • 1 cup assorted chopped/sauteed veggies
  • 1/2 cup (thawed) frozen spinach
  • Store-bought pie crust (or homemade, if you’re an over-achiever…in which case, I don’t want to hear about it)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place pie crust in the bottom of a pie plate.

Heat your fat (either oil or butter) in a skillet (preferably cast iron if you’ve got it), and then add your chopped veggies, sauteeing several minutes until they are softened but not mushy. You can use whatever you have on hand, which, in my case, was zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes. (I can also see this being great with carrots [grated], mushrooms, squash, kale, asparagus…seriously. Just about anything yummy you can imagine).

quiche

{If you’re wondering what all of the orange peels in the background have to do with anything…I was hungry}

While the veggies cook, crack all 7 eggs into a bowl and add milk and seasonings. Beat mixture until well combined.

quiche1

Once the veggies are cooked, you can microwave your sausage (I like the Eckridge brand) and then, once it’s cooled, chop it into small chunks.

Likewise, you’ll need to microwave your frozen spinach to get it to a stir-able temperature.

And then, once everything is cool enough to combine, toss all of the remaining ingredients–the veggies, the sausage, the spinach, and the cheese–into your egg mixture and give it a good stir.

quiche8

And now, believe it or not, you’re all ready to pour your quiche filling into the crust.

quiche5 Once you’ve done that, just pop that bad boy in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is no longer the least bit jiggly (if you’re not sure, make a small cut in the middle; if it’s at all watery, it needs a few more minutes).

And bam! Serve it to a crowd of hungry humans (we just so happen to have those on hand pretty much 24/7, so this part is suuuuuper-simple).

quiche3

{Just one of the hungry horde…who was not nearly as hungry after she finished that pile of cheese}

I like to make double pies (see note above about hungry humans) because any leftovers usually get gobbled up within a day, but these also freeze really nicely (and make great  one-dish dinners for new mamas or neighbors or…whoever).

So, there you have it: one of my favorite super-simple, super-fast, and super-cheap ways to trick my children into eating lots of good veggies. And protein. Whoop!

Are you quiche-eaters too?  I reeeeally didn’t like them growing up, but I’ve since broadened my tastebuds’ horizons, and now I’m a fan. In case you can’t tell.

 

Mama Life Hacks {#13}: Boiling Water to Remove Stains

Last week, when I posted about my little laundry epiphany (color-coded baskets…duh), a reader (hi, Kristin!) unleashed this bomb of a #mamalifehacks tip on me, and I don’t think my life will ever be the same.

But my couches will!

Huh?

Lemme ‘splain.

Or at least sum up. #namethatmovie

A couple of mornings ago, Simon sauntered into the kitchen from the living room with a handful of blueberries. At first, it didn’t quite register, but then I was all: “BLUEBERRIES? HOW did you get blueberries in the living room?”

And he was all: “Oh, Nola has them.”

Just like that. Super casual-like.

And *I* was all calm and collected and reasonable.

Wait, no I wasn’t.

What I really said sounded something like SIMON!!! AREYOUTRYINGTOTELLMETHATYOUSAWYOURTWOYEAROLDSISTERWITHBLUEBUERRIESINTHELIVINGROOMANDYOUDIDN’TTELLME????!!!!!

And then, I raced around the couch to discover that, sure enough, Nola had an entire leaking carton of blueberries on my couch. The couch in the main thoroughfare of our house  that I’ve been keeping covered at all times for just such a catastrophic event but which my 9-year-old had, only moments before the blueberrypocalypse of 2015, denuded of its constant cover when he dragged it onto the ground and cocooned himself in it because, “I’m cold.” (Side note: it’s a good thing we don’t live in Michigan or Canada or, I don’t know, Kansas. The child clearly wouldn’t survive the winter).

ANYhoo, as I surveyed the damage (which, admittedly, wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been but still warranted a fair bit of panic because blueberries), I mentally berated myself: “See? You knew this would happen. This is why you don’t buy light-colored linen couches, no matter how good of a deal they are.”

But then.

THEN…

I remembered Kristin’s #mamalifehacks bomb.

Are you ready? (No, Abbie, I’m not. Please drift off into yet another random tangent, why don’t you?)

AHEM.

Kristin imparted the wisdom of all wisdom that…

Boiling water will take any fruit stain (yes, even blueberries) out of anything.

And I thought, Oh Yeah? We’ll see.

I don’t have a tea kettle, so I grabbed a glass bowl, sloshed a little water inside, and then microwaved that sucker for 1 whole minute.

I could barely hold the bowl without burning my fingers when I pulled it out, so I figured it could definitely pass for boiling.

And then do you know what I did? I poured the scalding water directly onto my blueberry besmirched couch. (Side note: besmirched is a fun word)

I would show you a before and after, but I didn’t have the forethought for any such thing. I was too busy trying to perform my cleaning CPR.

But you know what?

It TOTALLY, COMPLETELY and UTTERLY…worked.

I dumped another bowl onto the (pretty much invisible) stain, just to be sure, then sopped up the water with a towel and let it air-dry. I came back an hour later when it was completely dry, just to make sure, and couldn’t find even a trace of blueberries.

SCORE!

Speaking of scores, I found this adorable romper for Della at Children’s Place for $3.

boiling water 4

But, of course, the first time she wore it, she wanted to eat strawberries (because the things that stain the most must always be eaten when the clothing is the newest, apparently), and it was time to  leave for the gym, which meant no time to offer her a non-staining snack like…sorry…my brain apparently lacks the ability to conjure even the concept of a non-staining snack for a 4-year-old who still rubs her hands aaaaallll the way down her front after every third bite of anything she eats. (Who needs napkins when clothes have already been invented? Save the planet, y’all. Wear a shirt).

So, OF COURSE, as we were getting out of the car to go in the gym, I noticed that she had a strawberry stain on her front. I was honestly impressed that there was only one, and it was relatively small, but still. It was a strawberry stain. And I didn’t have any boiling water handy. AND I think the 4-year-old encased in the stained garment might have objected just a little had I dumped said boiling water down her front.

Which meant that that stain was going to be left to dry and burrow its way deeeep into the fibers of her brand new romper.

I was kind of excited about this, honestly, because I wanted to test out Kristin’s trick on a rubbed in stain, and I was all prepared to take before pictures this time.

Here we have the romper besmirched (see? fun!) with hours old strawberry stains.

boiling water 1

And here we have it, three small bowls of boiling (microwaved) water later.

boiling water

I didn’t scrub. I didn’t use soap. I didn’t do anything but douse it in really hot water and try not to burn myself.

And it’s perfect!

boiling water 3

And we’re just a little excited about it.

boiling water 5

Okay, maybe more than a little.

I’m so jazzed about this development that I’m kind of looking forward to the next time one of the twins drops an orange slice on her shirt, catches it halfway down, and proceeds to draaaaaag it the length of her torso all the way back to her lips (an occurrence that usually makes me want to put my head through the wall).

So, did you already know about this magic? If so, whyyyy didn’t you tell me? I’m so glad Kristin had my back.

Any other #mamalifehacks to share? I’m all ears (and a few slightly burned fingers).

P.S. Have you entered our oily giveaway yet? You’ve got til midnight!

P.P.S. Have you entered our pouch giveaway yet? You’ve got–you guessed it–until midnight for that one too!

Part Kangaroo

So, I have this thing for pouches (hence the post title; get it?).

And not just any pouches. Cute ones. I use them to corral my makeup, my money, my snacks…

You name it, and if I’ve got a pouch it will fit in, then I’m probably going to toss it right in.

It definitely helps when I’m recovering from “Just got back from vacation, and I have one of everything on planet earth in my bag right now” syndrome (I was going to make an acronym out of that as a joke, but it was going to take me longer to figure out than writing this entire post, so I passed).

This one is an oldie but a goodie from LOFT, which usually houses receipts, lip gloss, money, and my phone when I don’t feel like lugging my entire bag inside a store.

clutch1

And this little lady, which was a Christmas gift from Mandy, is filled with gift cards/coupons.

clutch3

Neither of these are currently available, so I went on a hunt to find some share-worthy pouches for you guys.

Of course, maybe I’m not supposed to be using the word “pouch” to describe what I love? Because every time I typed the word “pouch” in a store’s search bar, it was like, “Whaaaa?”

Silly search bars.

ANYhoo, for the love of pouches (my alternate blog post title) and busy girls with lots of things they must carry everywhere, I did manage to round up a few fun options for you below. (Full disclosure: some of these contain affiliate links).

pouch collage

Left to right: 1/2/3/4/5/6/

For the record, I could happily own one of each of these, but I think my favorite–just by default of a (mostly) false sense of personalization–is the “A” one from Anthro.

The thing is, it’s not actually being sold at Anthro but, instead, is available through thredUP, which, as I’ve already declared here and here, I luuuuurve.

What I love even more about them is that, while usually their share codes are for $10, right now all new customers who use this link get TWENTY smackeroos of credit (so do I). That is so stinkin’ sweet that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share. If you browse the clearance section, you could find 3- 4 cute shirts and get them shipped to you for the cost of shipping alone.

Best share code I’ve seen maybe ever!

Oh! And speaking of good things, how’s about we do a little “just because I like you” giveaway?

clutch

This is my current makeup bag, and I have another (slightly smaller) one just like it that I will send out to ONE lucky girl!

I’m asking TWO things (I know, so demanding) for entry, but they’re EEEEEASY:

1) Leave me a comment telling me what you’d put in it
and
2) Subscribe via email (just enter your email in the handy-dandy little box on the top right of this blog page) for blog updates, and then tell me that you did (or already do…that works too!) in the comments.

I have some super-exciting things I’ll be announcing soon, and I pinky promise you don’t want to miss a thing! P.S. Be sure you *confirm* your subscription in your email once you get the little confirmation message, or you won’t actually be subscribed

And now I shall bid you adieu…since I wracked my brain for a groan-worthy, pouch-related pun as a send-off and didn’t even come up with one good enough for an eye-roll.

Oily…In a Good Way (a Young Living Essential Oils GIVEAWAY!)

If you’re a blogger, it’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that every single other blogger out there (I would never exaggerate) is using essential oils.

And yet, ignore it I did…until last summer when my twins’ immune systems needed a boost.

I’d already heard the essential oil buzz for a while but…see note above about tuning it out. But then, it occurred to me that I had a midwife appointment that day, and my midwife was a Young Living distributor as well as a registered nurse, so I figured she would be a great one to talk to about a) the twins and b) all of the essential oil hype.

Because Melena is anything but hype-y or salesperson-esque. She’s pretty much the chillest human being that I’ve ever met. And, sure enough, as soon as I told her that we needed an immune system boost, she hooked me up with YL essential oils to do just that.

Honestly, I remember feeling a bit skeptical.

Melena explained how to administer the oil in a safe way for my then not-quite-2-year-old twins, and I went home and dutifully followed her instructions at about 9 PM.

Y’ALL.

Let’s just say that I’m believer now.

 

Shaun was intrigued too but definitely skeptical.

But then, someone who shall remain unnamed, left toast in the toaster, and it got burnt beyond recognition. It was baaaaaad, y’all. The smell wasn’t just obnoxious. It assaulted your senses and permeated every room in the downstairs of our house.

And again Melena came to my rescue. She gave me YL’s purification oil and told me how to diffuse it in vinegar to take care of the potent smell.

And it totally did.

About that same time, I started talking to my friend, Shanna, from church, who is a Young Living distributor, and also one of the gentlest, funniest, kindest, LEAST pushy people in the entire world. And she told me about how she had attended a YL informational meeting once three  years ago, but she couldn’t seem to hear any of the actual information because her baby was crying and would. not. stop. But then, the presenter asked if she could rub a little lavender oil on the back of Shanna’s little boy’s neck, and Shanna said yes, and within 30 seconds, Elijah was out cold.

And Shanna was like, “Whoa.”

So, she did her research and started “doing Young Living” with the understanding that she would NEVER ever sell it. But people kept coming to her and asking questions, and she kept finding more uses for the oils in her own home, and as people joined her team to get the discount, she was excited to get more oils for free without ever actually having to “sell” anything.

Shanna still orders oils for others at her own cost, but so many people were joining her team to get their own discount so they could order the oils any time they wanted that she was actually starting to make a little bit of money without even trying. Suddenly, she had a business, whether she wanted it or not, and after a lot of prayer, she decided to pursue turning her YL passion into something that could support their family on her income alone while her husband plants a church.

I really feel like I should emphasize again what a humble, sweet-natured person Shanna is. As soon as I finished listening to her story, I was already sold–both by her words and manner and by the results I’d already experienced.

me and shanna

{Here we are, resplendent in all of our VBS volunteer t-shirted glory. Honestly, this was like take 4 for an attempt at a decent picture of the two of us (with 10 children between us, we were always either awkwardly holding one of them or getting our hair blown away by gusts of wind or…), so even though the lighting here makes it look like I have a black eye, we’re going with it}

I signed up to be a YL distributor (for the discount) and ordered a premium starter kit for me and one for my mom for Christmas. (In case you’re wondering, that’s YL’s “best bang for your bucks” option–basically $300 of product for 1/2 that price).

I had/have no interest in making it a business myself, but over the past 9 months or so, I can honestly say that I have used the oils for a huge variety of ailments and purposes.

I’ve used Lavender to calm/soothe/support skin health, Joy and Stress Away to help Della calm down at bedtime (she’s my anxious girl), Peppermint for digestive health, Melaleuca for skin issues, and on and on. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of an understanding of what everything is good for.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on Thieves for helping support healthy immune systems. I’m all out right now and have it on my reminder list to reorder before we head into the fall and winter seasons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used Thieves when our immune systems aren’t firing on all cylinders. I like to put it on my whole family–even the healthy ones–as a preventative measure!

thieves

{I stole this picture from Shanna. My nails are never that pretty!}

I wouldn’t say that I’ve earned my Oily Mama badge yet, since I’m not constantly diffusing oils in my home or consulting my essential oils pocket guide, but I’m kind of thinking I may get there one day because I’ve been really pleased with my results so far.

Of course, it probably doesn’t really “help” me that Shanna’s so nice because I’ve done a lotof texting things like: “These are our issues. Any ideas?”

And she always texts right back with with awesome oily options to help us out. Crutch, much? Yup. The nicest there ever was.

Of course, my favorite thing about Young Living is that they both grow all of the ingredients for the oils on their own farms and then create/bottle the oils themselves. You can read all about their Seed to Seal pledge, if you’re so inclined.

SO! What does all of this means for you?

Well, if you’ve been hearing tidbits about Young Living essential oils but have never taken the plunge (or even if you have and just want to get your hands on some free oils!), today is your (potentially) lucky day!

Shanna is kindly giving away 1 bottle of magic elixir Thieves oil to one happy winner.

All you have to do to win is comment, using one of the easy-entry options below. But if you don’t win or just want to get your hands on some oils on your own, you can use this link to do so. (Full disclosure: that links lets you order through me because you either have to order as a retail customer with a wholesale supplier or become a wholesale customer yourself, but I won’t be the least bit offended if you choose to order a different way).

OR if you just want to contact Shanna and ask her questions or find out more about Young Living, you can do so at: 903-three4zero-9two4five (just replace words with numbers) or email her at: sgarcia0624@gmail.com.

You can also read about her oily adventures/life on her blog!

To be entered to win, simply comment on this post, choosing either A, B, C, or D. (Heads up: if you comment A or B, you are giving Shanna permission to follow-up with you with more information. Did I mention she’s is all kinds of nice and not pushy??!)

A) I have heard of Young Living essential oils, but I would like more information
B) I have never heard of Young Living essential oils, but I would like more information
C) I have heard of Young Living essentials oils, but my interests stops with the giveaway
D) I have never heard of Young Living essential oils, but my interest stops with the giveaway

Giveaway entries close Monday, Aug. 24 at 11:59 PM. I’ll announce a winner the following day.

MAY THE OILIEST ENTRY WIN!

Or…something like that.

Happy Monday, friends! I’m off to rub a little Joy on my wrists! ;)

Hindquarters covering disclaimer: None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any illness and should not replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

Mama Life Hacks {#12}: Color-Coded Laundry Baskets

I’ve admitted here several times before that I’m not a naturally organized person. That is not to say that I am not organized. I have places for things in my house. And each year, I get a little better about figuring out what makes sense for the way my brain organizes. But it doesn’t come easily for me.

So, when I implement something super-simple and super-effective, I just have to share…even if only for those who are similarly organizationally challenged.

So, here’s the deal: our laundry situation really isn’t that bad, considering how many of us there are. I probably shouldn’t even admit this, but…I don’t feel like I do laundry all. the. time.

Yes, I do a lot (DUH…there are 8 humans in this here house, including at least 3 who have a tendency to soil their clothes on a thrice-daily basis with an abundance of various bodily fluids), but I (usually) do a couple of loads every other day or so, and the kids have gotten really rather good at knocking out the folding/putting away in 1/2 an hour of so.

BUT.

As much as I’m happy to report that we’ve found a system that works for us, I will say that our stacking/putting away process has left a bit to be desired.

Why? Because I only have 2 laundry baskets, and both of them are always tied up holding the dirty clothes in the laundry room.

After watching my kids make 14 trips up and down the stairs for the 136th time and dealing with the leaning towers of laundry piled on beds and chairs until they got put away (assuming that they didn’t get knocked over and completely muddled in some sort of spontaneous dance party, which is just as likely as not), I fiiiiiinally put “laundry baskets” on my shopping list.

laundry

It only took me 3 or so trips to various places that carry laundry baskets to actually remember to buy them, but it did finally happen on one trip to Target when my memory was jogged by the sight of a bright coral basket.

I honestly hadn’t thought through color options, but the second I spotted the coral one, something clicked in my brain, and I thought, “I should get a different color for each group of laundry.”

I’m almost sure I would have gotten all white if I hadn’t thought it through, but, instead, I grabbed one coral, one white, and one turquoise.

Not too surprisingly, the coral holds the girls’ clothes, the turquoise holds the boys’, and the white one goes to our room.

Obviously, there are towels and various other things that don’t go to just one location, but the color-coding + corralling of all of the clothes, at least, has made SUCH a difference in our laundry efficiency.

laundry1

We make fewer trips up and down the stairs, drop fewer clothes, mess up fewer piles, end up with fewer wrong clothes in wrong rooms, and have MUCH less confusion about which pile goes where (little boys/girls are not naturally organized either).

The results are really nothing short of magical for a single trip to the grocery store + $12 worth of supplies.

Again, I’m sure this is child’s play to most of you. But it’s been a game-changer for us.

And game-changers are always worth sharing, in my opinion.

What about you guys? Any laundry (or other) Mama life hacks to share? Don’t forget to hashtag any shares on social media with #mamalifehacks so I can feature them! :)

 

Lady Mondegreen

So, I posted this picture of Della and her…um…interesting rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to Instagram yesterday.

mondegreen

“Mary had a little lamb, its fleas were white as snow.” Della, age 4

And I had a comment that basically just said the word, “Mondegreen.” And I was all, huh? Probably about how you’re feeling as you check out Della’s fuzzy earmuffs in the midst of the August heat (what can I say? Girl loves her some earmuffs).

So, naturally, I looked it up. And here’s what I discovered.

In 1954, an American writer named Sylvia Wright coined the term “mondegreen” in her essay entitled “Lady Mondegreen,” which was, apparently, a common mishearing/pronunciation of the phrase: “laid him on the green” in the Scottish ballad “The Bonnie Earl O’Moray.”

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{Clearly, Della is shocked at her own linguistic faux pas}

Eventually, the word “mondegreen”–meaning the (mis)use of similar sounding words to substitute for the actual phrases in a song/lyric, thus changing the meaning of the song–was added to the dictionary. (Although my computer does not seem to have gotten that memo, since it insists on adding a squiggly red line to it each time I type it).

You may have found yourself drifting off a bit by now, but for me and my word-loving, grammar-geeky heart, this was a fascinating discovery.

If for no other reason than that I now know what I was doing when, as a child, I sang the words: “In Him we live and move and have our beans.” (Our being)

Or when my best friend, Ronda, sang: “God’s not dead. He is Elijah!” (He’s alive).

We were mondegreening. (Okay, so I don’t think it’s supposed to be used as a verb, but whatever. It’s a made up word ABOUT made up words. Who’s going to call me on it?)

I’m sure there are AAAAALLL kinds of other examples I could come up with if I tried really hard, but it’s late as I’m typing this, and I don’t have the brain-power to brush my teeth, much less wrack my brain for mondegreens from times gone by.

Which is where you come in. Did you Lady Mondegreen it up as a kid? Or maybe your own children have invented a few creative phrases of their own?

Be a dear, and share, won’t you?

P.S. Runners up from our FB page include: “Lead on, oh kinky turtle” (Oh King, Eternal) and “Gather around the thorny turtle” (throne eternal). Clearly, kids have pond creatures more than eternity on their minds.

P.P.S. Oh! I thought of a couple more “adult” ones. Ever heard the Taylor Swift song: “Blank Space?” Raise your hand if you thought the phrase: “Starbucks lovers,” is in it. (It’s not). Or how about an old throwback to Elton John and his “electric boobs” (electric boots) from Benny and the Jets??! Oooooh, I can already tell this is going to be fun(ny)!

Transforming Lampshades from Blah to Beautiful (AKA: How to Recover a Lampshade)

I feel like the title of this post belongs on the cover of some 1940′s Gibson Girls magazine right next to: “How to Achieve the Perfect Finger Wave.”

But regardless of any retro vibes, I dare any 1940′s woman to wield a glue gun with as much modern day panache as…someone besides me.

Me? I burn myself a lot.

ANYhoo, as a quick refresher, here’s what this corner of my living room looked like not too long ago (when I shared my tufted couch coup with you).

couches

Nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all. I see my dream couch, fun pillows, my favorite chalkboard that I refuse to erase because I do not think I will ever create a better one (not saying it’s that great…just good for my limited skills).

But, if you’ve been following along for any amount of time…you might be a little thrown off by one thing: there’s not much color.

I mean, yes. There’s lots of yellow in the pillows, but the couch, curtains, and lamps are all pretty monochromatic, which is quite unusual for me.

And which I was determined to remedy.

I’ve had those lamps for years now, and I still love them, but long periods of dust accumulation (in between their yearly dusting…ahem) plus some kidhandling (similar to “manhandling” but worse) had left the white shades a little worse for wear.

Plus, they were just a little…blah (hence my throwback post title).

So, what did I do? I dug into my trusty (read: likely to swallow you alive) fabric stash, selected a winner, got my craft on, and came up with this:

lamps6

I say that as if I cranked it out during one nap time session, while “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” blared in the background, but the honest-to-goodness truth is that I limped along with 15 minutes here or there until I finally managed to finish them off and grab some pictures last night while my kiddos watched the Aristocats for “family movie night” (Shaun’s traveling, so it was more like Kid’s Movie Night/Mom’s Craft Frenzy).

They were an easy project, but just in case you’ve never recovered lampshades yourself, I thought I’d share a blow-by-blow. Because I’m helpful like that.

First up, here’s what you’ll need.
  • Lampshades to recover (duh)
  • Fabric to recover them (double duh) lamps8
  • Scissors (I’d say duh again, but I’m guessing I’ve already worn that one out?)
  • Pencil
  • Large piece of tracing paper for making a pattern
  • Clothespins or some kind of clamps (maybe; I took a picture, but I didn’t actually end up using mine; theoretically, they’re for holding the fabric to the lampshade while the adhesive dries, but I didn’t find this necessary)
  • Spray adhesive lamps10
  • Hot glue gun/glue
::STEP 1::

Place your lampshade on its side on a large piece of white tracing paper. I happen to have a huge roll of this, but you might need to tape several printer sheets together if you don’t.

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Place your pencil on the bottom of the lampshade, right on the seam (so that you have a starting/stopping point), and roll the shade along the paper, following the edge of it with your pencil to trace its trajectory. When you’re done rolling it all the way back to the seam/starting point, you’ll have a long, gently curving line.

THEN, start back at the beginning pencil point (again on the seam), and do the same thing again, tracing fromTHE TOP of the shade this time.

Now, you’ll have TWO parallel, gently curving lines.

Confession: this part made me nervous. It all seemed so vague and inexact. Turns out, it doesn’t really matter. My traced shade ended up being much longer than it needed to be, but all I did was trim down the ends because the widths were good enough to work just fine.

::STEP 2::

Place your traced paper shade on top of your fabric of choice, and then cut out the shape, taking care to leave at least 1/2″ of extra (for folding under). I didn’t measure, just eyeballed. But if you’re a perfectionist, I say measure away!

lamps11

Okay, so this picture is deceptive. Because of my aforementioned dawdling through the first half of this whole shindig, I cut out my tracing paper and my first round of fabric, and then the tracing paper got ruined by a rather impressive water glass snag + dump maneuver on Theo’s part.

So! This picture is of my cutting around my original piece of already measured fabric (hence why I am NOT leaving a 1/2″ border for folding under).

Clear as mud? Feel free to leave exasperated comment/questions full of bared teeth emojis if this is not making sense.

::STEP 3::

Match your fabric shade cover to the shape of one of your lampshades and, spraying the back of six inch sections of fabric at a time, start to smooth it over the lampshade.

Honestly? I didn’t use very much spray adhesive. Both my shades and my fabric were grippy enough that I only needed it in sparing amounts to make everything stick.

THEE most important thing here is to take your time and carefully stretch and smooth the fabric as you (slowly) go to make sure there are no bubbles or wrinkles.

It takes some adjusting, but it can be done.

lamps12

See the 1/2″ border sticking up above the lampshade? That’s what you will fold over the edge to get a nice clean finish.

:: STEP 4::

Working as quickly as possible, run a bead of hot glue in the inside edge of the lampshade borders (top and bottom) in 6″ sections, and then fold down the excess fabric, smooshing/smoothing as you go and making every effort not to fricassee your fingers in the process (not that I would know anything about that).

lamps13

::STEP 5::

To get a nice clean edge where the two ends of your fabric meet at the back of the lampshade, glue down the first, and then fold under the second before gluing it down on top of the first.

Like so:

lamps14

::STEP 6::

Step back and admire your newly awesome lampshades!

lamps2

…Upside down pattern and all. Whomp, whomp. (Okay, honestly, it doesn’t bother me too much that the flowers are reaching down rather than up, but I would say that this is a pretty strong argument for why you shouldn’t craft while making lunch for 6).

lamps4

Also? Meet my new favorite print ever.

lamps1

I’ll tell you more about it…including how you can get your hands on it…soon.

Until then…

lampcollage

YIPPEE for pretty upside down lampshades!

I bought some Ray Bans…and then I lost them…

So remember when I shared this clever little #mamalifehacks post with you and mused about whether I would do better about keeping up with my sunglasses if ever I were to invest in a “nice” pair?

Well.

On the very same FB page where I’ve been selling all of my “excess” furniture, I found a pair of Ray Bans for $40. They weren’t exactly what I love, but for $40, I figured I could snag a pair of well-made shades that might (or might not) inspire me to take better care/attention without producing oodles of guilt should they meet an untimely demise (because, while, yes, $40 is a fair bit of money for sunglasses, it is NOT $200, which is what they cost retail).

shades

{Pardon my grumpy expression; I sent this snap as a purely utilitarian picture to a friend to get her honest opinion on whether the glasses made me look like a Trinity wannabe; she claimed no}

Somehow, I managed to be first in line to claim them (you have to comment on the “for sale” post, and then the seller goes down the line in order until a buyer commits), and I met the girl in a parking lot to exchange glasses/money (if anyone were to follow my activities over the past several weeks, they’d probably be convinced that I’ve taken up drug dealing; my kids are no longer the least bit surprised when we “have to meet a girl at a place for the thing” before we go to the gym).

That was 6 days ago. And for the first 5 days, I did great. I returned my glasses to their case religiously and took great care not to leave them anywhere near the twins.

But then, while my older kids were at piano practice, the twins, Theo, and I headed to TJ Maxx to do a return, and while we were at the checkout counter, I heard an oddly familiar yet still puzzling rumble.

I looked at the cashier and said: “Is that…thunder?”

Because, see, after a spring + early summer of nothing BUT rain, we haven’t had a drop in two straight months. Like not one.

And there had been nothing/zilch/nada in the forecast that morning to foretell such a sweet sound.

It was maaaaaaybe another 5 minutes before I completed the transaction, but by the time I wheeled the double stroller to the exit, it wasn’t just raining. The sky was pelting the ground with big fat water bombs. And the wind? Oh my word. It was whipping this way and that so that sometimes the rain fell in horizontal sheets.

As I stood there, blinking in disbelief, the store manager walked up, handed me a large umbrella, and said, “Here. Take this to your car when you go with your babies. You don’t have to bring it back.”

And then he said, “Actually, if you’re okay with it, I can just stand here at the entrance by your stroller, and you can pull the van up, so you don’t have to get your kids out in that. But no rush. You don’t have to go right now.”

But I did because it was time to go pick up the older kids from piano. So, I thanked him profusely, gripped the umbrella firmly, and charged into the madness.

Within 2 seconds, the wind had snapped my umbrella inside out, and before I could reach my car, I was soaked to the skin. I jumped in the van, shoving the useless umbrella in the back, water streaming in my eyes, and sat there in shock for a minute.

And then I drove to the entrance of the store and proceeded to load the kids and my bags at as frenzied of a pace as you can when you’re working with toddlers and car seat buckles (read: slower than a turtle on sleeping pills).

By the time I got done with THAT, I was pretty sure it was impossible that I be any wetter without having jumped in a lake.

And then, just as I got ready to pull away, my hand flew to my throat as I remembered with a jolt that I had wedged my new-to-me Ray Bans in the neckline of my shirt because I’d forgotten to bring their case inside the store, and I didn’t want them getting scratched in my purse.

Of course, they weren’t there anymore. Not that I was even surprised, given the spot-on impression of a chicken running around with its head cut off that I’d just done.

I was so bummed.

And since I had just managed to buckle three small children into their seats in the van, and it was still raining buckets, there was no way I was getting back out to look for them. I drove a slow circle in the parking lot, trying to see through the downpour, but turned up nothing.

Dang it.

I guess that answered my question of whether having nice shades would motivate me to keep up with them. The answer: it had, but that was no match for the thunderstorm out of the clear blue sky.

I picked up the kids from piano and headed to the gym, but before I started class, I decided to call TJ Maxx, on the off-chance that someone had found them and–yeah right–turned them in.

I waited while the lady checked their lost and found drawer, and she was back on the line almost immediately, which I took to be a bad sign, until she said, “Yep. We have them. Someone found them in the parking lot and turned them in.”

Whaaaaaat?

YES!

To say that I have been obsessively checking to make sure they’re still in their case ever since is a weeee bit of an understatement. But as of tomorrow, I will be able to officially say that I have protected my $40 investment for one whole week. And I’m not doing a thing to jeopardize that. No sirreee.

It was aaaaaalmost as good of a feeling as when I recaptured our missing hamster last night. But that’s another story for another day.

Happy Weekend, friends! May all of your lost things be found!

Helping Hands

Okay, so confession: I was sorely tempted to label this post, “I Heart Child Labor”…or something equally tacky. But, as much as I’m fine with people being mad at me over important stuff, I figured I’d better not waste my goodwill on a bad joke.

ANYhoo, about a year ago, I posted a picture to Instagram of Ezra and Simon folding clothes with a caption to the effect of: “I think the single most helpful household chore I’ve taught my boys to do is sorting, folding, and putting away all of the laundry. What do your kids do that is most helpful to you?”

Some people actually answered the question, but most listed ALL of the things that their kids do.   kidschores3

{If you’re impressed that I was brave enough to let boys clean my beloved lights, .02 seconds later, Simon was demoted to cabinet washing. He tried, but 7 1/2-year-olds really aren’t cut out for careful glass handling}

And I’m not going to lie: I found myself fighting the urge to be like, “Wait, I didn’t say that’s ALL my kids do. They do other things too! We’re not limited to laundry, darn it!”

But that was just my pride talking, and once it simmered down, I really enjoyed reading the lists of tasks that other people have trained their children to do. Most were similar to what we do at our house. But I definitely had a few, “Aha! Brilliant!” moments.

So, in the interest of sharing and answering one of the most commonly asked questions that I get, I thought I’d tell you what my kids actually do around our house.

Please, as always, understand that I’m not thinking that this should be any kind of “guide” for anyone’s life but my own or that your kids should do the same things or in the same way (just in case you, like me, struggle with prideful comparison sometimes).

I just know that I am always encouraged and challenged when I hear about new ways to teach my children responsibility, independence, and servant-heartedness, so if anything I share can help someone…well, yippee!

I’m going to share our actual chore process (along with a fun, free printable!) next week (hopefully), but for now, I’m just going to list the tasks for which my children are responsible.

kidschores1

{Clearly Nola has discovered the all important truth that silly faces make sweeping so much better}

Simon and Ezra (ages 7 and 9):

Clearing/rinsing the breakfast dishes and loading them in the dishwasher (daily)

Wiping down the breakfast table and sweeping the kitchen floor (daily)

Emptying the trash and installing a new bag (every other day)

Wiping down the fridge/freezer/dishwasher (once a week)

Wiping down kitchen cabinetry (once a week)

Mopping the kitchen floor (once a week)

Picking up and vacuuming the living room (daily)

Cleaning bathrooms: scrubbing bathtubs and toilets, sweeping, and wiping down all surfaces, and emptying trash (once a week).

Sorting, folding, and delivering all clean clothes to their appropriate place/room (approximately 3 times a week)

Putting away their own clothes

Picking up their room (daily)

Cleaning/vacuuming out the van (approximately once every two weeks)

Picking up/vacuuming the “big room” (once every two weeks or so, since we don’t use it for regular play, and they–theoretically–put away what they were playing with as they go)

Helping their younger siblings get dressed (daily)

Getting snacks for themselves and younger siblings when we leave the house (daily)

Helping younger siblings get buckled into the car

Helping with basket-pushing/grocery-shopping

*Occasional extras: helping me weed, wash the car, wash windows/mirrors, dusting, sweeping the porch/patio, etc.

kidschores2

{Yup, they even had to do laundry while we were on vacation; because clean clothes do not magically appear while you’re “on holiday” (I so wished we Yanks actually used this phrase)…more’s the pity}

Della (age 4):

Unloading the dishwasher

Wiping down the freezer/fridge/dishwasher

Picking up toys/clutter throughout the house

Helping fold laundry and deliver it to appropriate locations

Helping get snacks

Picking up her own room

Putting her own clothes away

Cleaning out the car

Wiping down kitchen cabinetry

Occasional vacuuming (it’s still a little heavy for her)

kidschores

{If you’re curious how quickly a bottle of cleaner can disappear…give it to a 2-year-old. The answer: real fast}

Evy and Nola (age 2…almost 3):

Emptying the dishwasher and putting silverware and plastic kids cups away

Throwing away Theo’s diapers/other trash

Picking up toys/clutter around the house

Carrying laundry to appropriate locations

Wiping down kitchen cabinetry

Theo (age 6 1/2 months):

Eating, pooping, sleeping, and smiling

Ha! Couldn’t resist!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

It’s possible that I’ve left something out (I honestly expect someone to comment with, “What? Your kids don’t _________??!” And me to slap my forehead and think, “Duh. Of course they do.”)

It’s also possible that I’ve made us sound more impressively organized and clean-obsessed than we really are.

We’re a work in progress. Some days, we hit every item on that day’s list with vigor. Some days, we get home late, go to bed with dishes in the sink, and get up and tackle it again the next day.

But, pretty consistently, the items on the above lists get done with an acceptable level of competence. And if they don’t, they get redone (unless I’m being too lazy to make sure they’re done right…which happens).

I’ve got all of kinds of ways I want to grow in the housekeeping department where my kids are concerned. Cooking classes. More yard upkeep (my nemesis). Better organizational practices (my other nemesis; my brain is organized when it comes to thoughts and tasks but not when it comes to where things should go).

But for now, this division of labor is what keeps us sane and keeps the house–if not visitor-perfect–generally decent at most times.

And now I have to know. What kinds of chores do your kids do? Do you have a system that you swear by? I’m all ears.