Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Around the house


bookshelves

Is summer the universal time to work on house projects? We've been more productive since the weather has turned warmer. Douglas recently finished up building two handsome wooden bookcases for our living room. When we were first married, we bought some cheap shelves from Target, but they basically fell apart after five years of use and three moves. I'm so happy to have space for all our books now! With these bookcases, plus the built-in bookcases in our mantel, there's room for everything, and it helps give the living room a library-ish atmosphere.

When I visit other people's houses, I like to (not-so-surreptitiously) check out their books, if they're in a public area, that is. :) It's fun to see if we've read any of the same books or share the same loves. Anyone else do that?

Douglas and I spent the afternoon of my birthday prepping our bedroom to move into later that night. We've been working on fixing up that room -- priming, painting, pulling up carpet, new cellular blinds, installing quarter round. It's looking SO much better, although it still needs some decorative touches before it really becomes our sanctuary.

Now the girls will eventually end up in the bedroom that Douglas and I just evacuated. It has a built-in wooden vanity with lots of drawers and two cupboards, which works well for their small wardrobes. The first thing I did to beautify their room was to line their drawers with Crabtree & Evelyn drawer liners left over from my unmarried days... a rose print for Rosamund's drawers and a lavender print for Lavinia's drawers. Perfectly serendipitous! I'm still working on sorting through clothes, organizing and purging, and the girls' room has been my base of operations for all this. It's been a huge job, but oh, how I'm looking forward to having that off my mind!

drawer liners

drawer liners

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th!


Fourth of July 2014

Last night, the big boys had tank wars.

Fourth of July 2014

This morning, the kids rode in a parade at the park.

Fourth of July 2014

Then back to Grandma's for a picnic lunch.

Fourth of July 2014

I think Lavinia's meal consisted solely of a corn dog and strawberries.

Fourth of July 2014

Grandma has made this flag cake just about every Fourth of July since she was given the recipe, sometime in the '80s.

Fourth of July 2014

Happy Fourth of July from all of us (including Douglas, not pictured)!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blue summer sundress


blue sundress

Well, I knew as soon as I publicly stated that I wasn't doing any sewing at this time, I'd get a chance to drag out my machine. :) I have done a few simple projects in the past few weeks. This little dress for Lavinia started as a new-with-tags maternity top at the thrift store. It was one of those things that I looked at and thought, "I could easily repurpose this by taking in the side seam and shortening the straps!" Of course, when I got home and examined it, it turned out a little more complex than that. I had to straighten the hem (not realizing that, as a maternity top, the front was longer than the back), take in the sides, cut off some of the elastic shirring at the top, and shorten the straps. The straps were already attached with buttons on one side, to allow for lengthening or shortening as needed, so I decided to keep that feature in the back. I'm not sure if we'll ever need to lengthen the straps, but if Lavinia mostly grows in height rather than width, she could probably wear it as a summer top for a few years yet.

blue sundress

This disheveled little lady spent a day enjoying the pleasures of summer -- playing with her brother, napping, and popsicle treats all took a toll on her pigtails, clean face, and ironed dress. But it's proof positive that she's enjoying summer to the max, and that's OK in my book! :)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cleaning the bathroom with little helpers

Here comes a confession. A few Fridays ago, before he left for work, my husband kindly asked me if I would make it a priority to clean the bathrooms that day. Now if Douglas was asking, you'll correctly surmise they weren't in a pretty state. I had neglected them for a long time, due to a lot of factors (hello, new baby). But it really was getting gross. So, I determined that I needed to stop procrastinating and get a system going that would make it easy for me to get the bathrooms clean on a regular basis.

Here's my problem: I want to train my kids to help around the house, to work hard and to appreciate cleanliness. However, it is slow, frustrating, patience-shattering work to train them, so I tend to put it off. Edmund is four and he can be genuinely helpful with certain tasks. Lavinia, who just turned two, not so much -- but I don't want to let her play elsewhere while Edmund works. We're all in this together. I gave it some thought and here's what I came up with to help me in my task.

Cleaning with little helpers

Before you start, ask God to give you His patience and cheerfulness. If at any time during the process you feel yourself losing it, stop and take a break for a minute. Pray, regain your good attitude, apologize to your kids if needed, and start again. Another good idea is to start the cleaning right after breakfast or after a mid-morning snack, so everyone's tummies are satisfied and there's no hunger-induced crankiness to add tension to the atmosphere. If you like, put on some calming music.

Write down, in minute detail, all the jobs needed to clean your bathroom(s). On my own, I am perfectly capable of cleaning a bathroom in logical order, knowing what to do next and keeping on pace. When I am overseeing two little helpers, my brain flies out the window. It is very helpful to me to have a list to consult so that I don't have to think about what task to do next. You could either put it in a homemaking binder, or laminate it and keep it with your bathroom-cleaning supplies. Mine looks like this:
  • put away toys, dirty clothes, throw towels/rugs down chute
  • dust surfaces (shelf, cupboard, window)
  • wipe down medicine cabinet shelves
  • organize drawers/shelves (if needed)
  • clean mirror
  • spray and wipe down sink, toilet, tub
  • clean inside of toilet
  • clean soap dish, replace soap if needed
  • empty trash
  • replace handtowels with clean ones
  • restock toilet paper, if needed
  • sweep and mop floor
  • wash floor rug, towels, and replace when clean
(That is my intensive cleaning list for our main floor bathroom. I also wrote an abridged one for maintenance.)

Gather all your cleaning supplies in one place. I put all the bathroom supplies in one bucket so that I can easily grab it and not have to spend time hunting up various cleaners or utensils from the far reaches of the house. Whatever your stance is on using "green" cleaning supplies, with little kids it is good to use some mild cleaners because I guarantee you will be hearing things like, "I just sprayed my eye!" I have a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar water that I let the kids go to town with. I also have a shaker full of 50/50 salt/baking soda which is a good abrasive for scrubbing soap scum from sinks and tubs. Cleaning wipes are very handy and if you don't want your kids handling store-bought ones, make your own.

Demonstrate and delegate. As far as the actual cleaning, there are two approaches you can use and they both have their places. The first is to do the work very slowly, alongside your kids, explaining and demonstrating what you are doing with each task as you go. This is good for the first couple of times you are training or for a deep clean. However, if it takes me 3+ hours every Friday morning to get the bathrooms clean, that is a serious bite into our time and I am more likely to not do it. So the other way is to delegate small tasks to your kids, and while they are occupied with that, do as much thorough cleaning as you can, as quickly as you can. In the time it takes Edmund and Lavinia to spray and wipe the bathtub, I could have the mirror, sink, and toilet clean, etc. This is good for maintenance.

Maintain. Fridays are our bathroom-cleaning days. However, the most heavily-trafficked bathroom (our main floor bathroom, which is also the kids' bathroom) can get messy and dirty in a hurry and start looking dreadful before another Friday rolls around (or you may have to skip a Friday from time to time, when other things come up). One good idea I gleaned from the book Large Family Logistics is to superficially clean and straighten up the bathroom while your little ones are playing in the bathtub during bath time. I will often take a used washcloth or a handtowel that's headed for the laundry basket, wet it with water, and just wipe down surfaces that have accumulated dirt or dust. Put away toothbrushes, toys, dirty clothes; pick up trash off the floor; straighten towels; even grab the broom if needed (our kids tend to track in sand from the sandbox).

Since implementing this system, I am a lot more dedicated to keeping the bathrooms clean and it is an easier job (and my husband is happier!). If you have any more suggestions or great ideas, please leave them in the comments!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring in the Blue House

Life is flying by. I can't believe it's May already. My sweet Rosamund is now 3 months old, and we'll be celebrating Lavinia's second birthday next week!

People often ask me how I'm adjusting to life with three children. It's hard to know how to answer -- it's not like things were easy, and now they're hard. Having a baby has certainly added a different element to life, but it's no more or less demanding than it was before. I'm still caring for all the needs of my children and household, with some different needs thrown in now.

Baby Rosie - 3 months

Rosamund is actually a pretty "easy" baby in most ways, so she is fitting right in to the rhythm of our lives. She started sleeping all night long much sooner than my other two children, which is a great boon to me because if I ever needed good sleep, it's now! I didn't do anything special to try to encourage her to sleep through the night, she just started on her own. She just recently "discovered" her fingers and loves to suck on her middle two fingers, in a sort of inverse Vulcan hand salute. I like to think it's genetic because my dad says that's how he sucked on his fingers, too. At any rate, it's made her even more contented and happy.

Baby Rosie - 3 months

I have been working a very part-time editing job from home since a few weeks prior to Rosie's birth. I do my work in the early mornings, before the rest of the household is up, so I get Rosie up for a morning feeding, then she keeps me company while I work (falling back asleep somewhere in there). She is so happy and smiley in the mornings -- it's sweet to have that special time with my baby. The older kids wake up right around the time I finish and then we hit the ground running.

Baby Rosie - 3 months

If I'm completely honest, I feel pretty overwhelmed by it all. It is so easy for me to feel like a failure each day because I never accomplish everything I'd like to do. There are so many balls in the air -- cleaning the house, cooking meals, doing laundry, errands, bills, household projects, spending time with my children, spending time with my husband, nursing the baby, getting myself (and three other little people) dressed and presentable, exercising, reading, working, church activities, investing in friendships -- and I haven't even thrown homeschooling into the mix yet (eeeek!). It seems like I can do one or two of those things well, on any given day, but never ALL of them! I know that I'm deep in the trenches of motherhood right now and that things will change and perhaps not get easier, but they will be different, so I persevere as well as I can. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by encouraging voices from family and church family. And I'm always looking for ways to "double up" on those tasks, to get more done, which I may share about on the blog from time to time.

I have not felt like doing any sewing at all. Someday my enjoyment of it will return, I'm sure, but right now it just feels like one more thing on the "to do" list. So I'm giving myself permission to take a break for a while. Instead of sewing, I ordered matching dresses from Boden for my two girls to wear on Easter, and funnily enough, I got asked so many times, "Did you make them?" So why sew when you can fake it?! ;-)

Well, here I sit when there's breakfast to be made, children to be dressed, and a day to start -- until next time, friends!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My grandmothers

I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful, godly mothers in my life -- not just my own mom, but my two grandmas and my mother-in-law as well! My grandmas both raised their families of four children in the 1950s -- Grandma Ackerman (mom's mom) started her family while serving as a missionary in Honduras, and Grandma Marilyn (dad's mom) while living with her Navy husband on the island of Guam. My parents are both the second-born children (just like me).

Grandma Ackerman is probably the most cheerful, most joyful lady I know. Her life is not without trials -- especially losing her beloved husband six years ago -- but I have seen her choosing joy in difficult circumstances. She is full of energy in showing kindness to others. A reputation that's developed over the years is one for good food and hospitality. Serving in the kitchen is one of her ways of showing love and I have many delicious recipes shared by her. Grandma Ackerman is friendly, kind-hearted, and generous.

Grandma
[Glamorous Grandma A. in 1942]

Grandma
[Grandma A. with her first two children]

Grandma Marilyn passed on to me her love of books and libraries. She has a taste for beautiful touches -- when she first met my mom, it was on a fancy family picnic complete with glass goblets! She is an artful decorator and flower arranger. She is adventurous, always mastering new technologies as they come (she had an iPhone before I did!). Grandma Marilyn was raised by a single mother who struggled with depression, but has not given in to complaining or bitterness about life's difficulties. She has a beautiful voice and I love to hear her singing.

Grandma
[Grandma Marilyn with her firstborn son]

Grandma
[Grandma Marilyn with my dad as a toddler]

I'm so thankful for these beautiful ladies who love God and faithfully proclaimed the Gospel to their children, so that I too could someday know my savior, Jesus Christ! Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations... Deuteronomy 7:9

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Saturday tea party


Tea party

Last Saturday, Edmund was "inspired" by a Tasha Tudor book I read aloud to the children and requested tea and cookies. I told him he could help me make some cookies while Lavinia was napping, and they could have a tea party after she woke up. I have been slowly converting my pantry to be Trim Healthy Mama-friendly (this is my post-partum weight loss strategy -- so far, so good!), which means no sugar in the house! I had coconut sugar and honey but I wanted to make some cookies that I could eat too. :) I did a quick Google search and we tweaked a recipe I found in the THM forums. Not all of the THM recipes I've tried have been "keepers" but these were so rich and yummy I would definitely make them again! I believe these would be considered an "S" dessert, despite the oatmeal, because the amount is so small (unless you eat them all in one sitting, tee hee).
  • 1/4 c. Truvia + sprinkles of NuNaturals Pure Stevia Extract to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup unsweetened, dried coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
In a heavy saucepan, bring to boil the sweetener, cocoa, butter and almond milk. Let boil for 1 minute then remove from heat and add peanut butter, vanilla, coconut flakes, and oatmeal. On a plate lined with waxed paper, drop mixture by teaspoonfuls, then stick in the fridge until cooled and hardened. Makes 1-1/2 dozen.