Tuesday, February 24

Mid Chaos Coffee Breaks-- Every Momma Needs Them!


      One morning last week (read: smack dab in the middle of the kid's winter break! A break in which we were all forced to stay indoors due to dangerously cold temperatures, making everyone a wee bit stir crazy!) I hired a babysitter for three hours, packed up my stuff, and planned to drive to the nearest Starbucks to carve out some time to read and write.

     It was a good idea. In theory.

     I tend to be a nicer person if I can quietly sit for a short period of time in a given week and write down a few thoughts or read a book on writing. It's one of the things that fills me up, reminds me that I still have a brain, and helps to recenter me as a mom.

     You should know that "in theory" I was going to have the kids completely fed and cleaned up for the babysitter. I would be dressed and ready to go when she walked in the door at 9:30 (thus making the most of the time I had). Their lunches would be made to make things easier on her. She's a younger sitter and I know that managing all three of the girls can be a handful at times, it is for me and I'm almost 37!

     What actually happened is this...

     I did pack lunches for the girls. We packed them in their school lunch boxes, which was kind of fun, because they were not being used for the week-- bread and butter, turkey and cheese slices, juice boxes, pre-made rice krispie treats, goldfish crackers and fruit, all tucked away and ready to go.

     I also managed to pack my own bags and have them ready by the back door (for a quick exit, of course!).

     And just about the time that I sent the girls upstairs to get dressed (after finishing their breakfast), and I was going to run up and get dressed myself (so as not to scare the sitter  with my completely crazy hair and not so chic, shabby "pajamas"), Aubrey decided that her sister's leftover yogurt parfait, which was sitting on the counter, looked very, very good.

     A yogurt parfait that Scott had artistically crafted with perfectly structured granola and fruit layers in a see through drinking glass earlier that morning. 

    A glass glass.

    Uh huh.

     In a very short period of time, as I turned my back on her in the kitchen to put something away in the fridge, Aubrey crawled up the barstool to the counter and started to eat that leftover parfait.

    At first I thought, Ok. She likes the yogurt, it's keeping her quiet, I'll finish up what I'm doing. 

    She's crawled up the barstools before so that wasn't alarming in the least. Though, I will confess, I feel like a bit of an idiot for not considering the glass from which she was eating.

     Wouldn't you know, in a split second, she pushed the entire thing off the counter and onto the floor, where it shattered into a gooey pink mess of glass, fruit and yogurt.

     "Aubrey!!!" I screamed (a very normal occurrence in our house, which is probably why she hardly flinched), as I scooped her off the stool before she could get down and step in the dangerous mess.

     After locking her behind the child gate on our stairs, where she continued to stare at me dumbfounded by my reaction, I stood in the kitchen all crazy haired with a wild look on my face wondering where I could find a clean up committee to make the mess disappear while I hid myself in a closet until the babysitter showed up.

    Oh right, I am the clean up committee...

    Coming to terms with the fact that hiding was not an option when there was a pile of glass and yogurt on my floor, I grabbed a roll of paper towels and a plastic bag and got to work trying to find all of the small bits and pieces of shattered glass that flung themselves across the kitchen floor, all the while thinking something along these lines...

    It's no wonder I feel like I've lost my mind...grunt.grunt.grunt...I have lost my mind...grr.grr.grr...It's no wonder I finally get to a coffee shop with high hopes of writing a beautiful poem or fabulously crafted essay and find myself staring at the wall and up at the ceiling admiring the light fixtures and wondering what my name is.

    It's Linda, right?

    Oh, sorry, I mean, Loise. 

     Eventually, the yogurt mess was cleaned up, I got dressed and turned the t.v. on for the sitter (our television situation is a complex network of boxes and buttons that requires a training course for its users!) so the girls could watch a show.  I also put a pile of crafts, coloring books, and games on the table to assure the kids and the sitter had no shortage of things to do (knowing how nutty things can get with Aubrey). 

     I finally walked out the door feeling like all was taken care of, and took a deep breath as I looked forward to the quiet time I would have for the next couple of hours. 

     Ten minutes later, as I pulled into the Starbucks parking lot I got a phone call from the sitter's phone.

     Uh-oh, I thought, she doesn't usually call.

     It was Ella. Sobbing.

     My first thought was that someone was hurt. Very, seriously, hurt. And needed to go to the ER.

     "Au-b-rey...sniffle, sniffle...br-o-k-e my ma-g-net. She s-ma-sh-e-d it...snort, snort...on the fridge...and...sniff, sniff...now I don't have ANYTHING to PAINT!" Ella managed to get out in sniffled sobs with a crescendoed wail of frustration at the end.

     Good grief, I thought, picturing the small plaster magnets I had left behind for the big girls to paint.

     I finally talked Ella down off of the precipice of a full fledged meltdown. I assured her I had another magnet that I could give her later and apologized for Aubrey's poor behavior, reminding Ella that she is, after all, not even 2.

     After a ten minute phone call she resolved to accept my offer to receive another magnet later (which she, of course, completely forgot about!) and decided to go paint on paper instead.

     Almost 40 minutes later than originally expected I finally sat down at a table in Starbucks and stared blankly out the window with a warm cappuccino in hand...wondering what my name was (; 

     I listened to a podcast on home management. Somehow it seemed like the most appropriate thing to do at the moment.

     I then attempted to write two blog posts, both of which were inevitably deleted. One on the dreary weather and another on how I was done blogging for a while because...


     But the weather is the weather and every time I think I'm going to stop blogging for a while I realize that it's part self-therapy and so I must go on. It has also served as a "memory book" of sorts for this crazy parenting journey that can leave you so breathless sometimes that it is hard to remember what you did in a given day, week, or month. I'm not a big scrapbooker, but we do take oodles of photos (that I will organize someday!) and I write-- in journals, on scraps of paper and in this little blog space

     Some days I wish my writing efforts and this space were something more...more consistent, more impactful, reaching more of an audience, but I'm practicing being content this year, and being content often means being ok with less. Or, simply, with what you have right in front of you. 

     What I have in front of me is an incredibly loving and supportive husband, three healthy and super busy children, one house that has loads of quirks, but is ours and keeps us warm, lots of chaos and mess during the day that I am learning to become more and more at peace with (it's that whole sanctification thing that God is working out in my life), and really lots of other blessings that are far too numerous to count. 

     I have this blog. And this little bit of time. And these words. And sometimes a really yummy cappuccino in my hand that I didn't have to make (: 

     I'm often reminded of the Lord's prayer, the part that says, "Give us this day our daily bread."  

     God does provide rest, resources, and extra amounts of resiliency to tired mommas-- it often comes in small, daily bread kind of moments-- two hours at Starbucks, an encouraging text from a friend, a husband who comes home on his lunch break and helps clean up the kitchen because you are at your wits end. 

    Sometimes I can tend to overlook those things, the bits of bread in the middle of the chaos, but today, as I continue to practice contentment, I am thankful for them all. Those little moments are sometimes all you  need to persevere, to keep running, to keep on keeping on. 

    The little moments, that help you to take a big breath, plant your feet and manage the next round of crazy, sacred, chaos. 

Tuesday, February 10

Clutter Free: Book Review and Giveaway

"Clutter builds a barrier between you and the rest of the world. But when the clutter is cleared, you have more space for everything--activities you love, people you love." (Kathi Lipp)

So you all know I've been reading this book Clutter Free, Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space since just after Christmas (has it really been that long already?!).

And while my foyer and entryway will probably never look like the one above (they must not have kids! wink. wink.), I do want my home to say "welcome" and not "watch out" when people, my family included, come through the door.

Reading this book has brought me steps closer to that goal. I've shown some photos, offered a few words and promised a more formal book review, so here it is.

If clutter has in any way made your life more complicated, challenging and hard to live to it's fullest then you will benefit from this encouraging book. Clutter Free will help you to re-think what you are keeping and throw away (or get rid of) what you are not. It will not happen overnight, but by reading this book you will be encouraged, motivated and offered the tools you need to tackle issues that may have become so big (literally) that you have began to feel that perhaps there is no help at all. This book will help you to overcome what can be overwhelming and in the process help to re-establish peace into some of the chaotic areas of your life. 

Alright, I know that sounds a little infomercially, but I happen to really think it is all true when it comes to this book (I'm not one to write reviews about things that I don't passionately believe in!).

While my house still looks messy a lot of the time (there ARE five people living there after all-- three of whom who are still learning what it means to pick up after themselves and one of the three who much prefers to dump buckets of things all over the house than actually pick anything up, but I suppose we'll give her some time), I've adopted a whole new attitude and perspective on it all, which is HUGE in my world.

So, while there is SO much more I could say, I really think that if any of this resonates with life at your house you just need to read the book. It's the best $10 you'll spend all year! (You'll  end up saving you at least that much once you realize that your buying habits might be adding to the problem!).

Lipp challenges us to get rid of 2,000 items when we take this de-cluttering task on. While I thought that sounded absurd at first I now realize it is a completely attainable goal (If you're a mom you can probably rid yourself of 30 things right now by rifling through your kids toy bins and pulling out all of the old junky Happy Meal  or broken Dollar Store toys hiding in there!).

I've been tallying my purges though haven't yet added them up (they're on little post-it notes around the house!). If I were to guess I'd say we're at 500-600 items so far.

So, here are 4 things I've learned and several favorite quotes. After that you simply must just go buy the book.

4 things I've learned: 

1. The cluttered areas in my life can be attacked, little by little in 10-30 minutes a day. Seriously. One small area a day...every day. I used to think I needed to send my kids to camp for three weeks so that I could get the house back in shape before allowing everyone back in. While that might be the easiest way to get things done, I really would miss everyone after the first week, and have realized that progress can be made in small spurts. It's the turtle and the hare mentality...slow and steady wins the race (;

So,  instead of zoning out on Facebook or watching another episode of House Hunters (my way of vicariously living in someone else's house because mine is driving me nuts!), I'm trying to pick an area and tackle it. Sometimes I even jot the area down the night before so that I'm intentional about it the next day.

2. There is a spiritual side to clutter. When our space is perpetually disorganized and overstuffed we don't feel the freedom to engage in other projects, ministries, or volunteer work that God may have for us. Sometimes we don't even feel free to fully engage with the people right in front of us (our families!).  Less stuff = more time and freedom for other things.

3. I have a more realistic framework for assessing what I should keep and what I might consider throwing way or giving away...Over and over again Lipp encourages us to ask these three questions:

1.) Do I currently use it?
2.) Do I really love it?
3.) Would I buy it again?

These are great questions to start the process and have helped me to get rid of things I don't use, love or wouldn't buy again.

4. There is a difference between "mess" and "clutter". I've realized that even as I've been working on this de-cluttering process that the house still...lo and behold...gets messy.


Here's the difference...in the past I used to interpret the "mess" from a few busy days, or kid-projects etc. to mean that I was failing in my efforts and goals to create a more orderly and less cluttered house. I would get discouraged and start to mentally throw in the towel on the whole thing. The fact of the matter is that a lot of that mess was clutter because we, as a family, were hanging on to a LOT of things we didn't need.

Now we're just hanging on to some things we don't need (;

It's a process.

We're accepting the mess sometimes, attacking it at others, and always trying to de-clutter in-between.  Its an ebb and flow I'm learning to live and groove with.

Some of my Favorite Quotes: 
"When all your 'put away places' are bursting at the seems, you will stop putting things away."  
"When you save everything, you can find nothing."  
"You don't know where something goes, so instead of forcing yourself into a decision, you put off deciding. This leads to piles of decisions that need to be made. And when is a good time to deal with that? Never."  
"Being a good steward of your resources means, much of the time, giving those resources away."  
"Stuff is a short-term fix to a long-term longing-- to have enough. The problem is what we're longing for can't be satisfied by our stuff."  
When we actively practice an abundance mentality, we set our hands to share the very things we held on to so tightly in the past; money, things, time, and recognition. " 
"We only have a finite amount of space, time, energy, and money. We can't keep collecting things and lying to ourselves about our capacity to care for them."

Wow! Good stuff, isn't it!

So good that I have one copy of the book to offer to one of you...

Clutter Free Giveaway!! 

As I mentioned in my previous post I found this book to be so beneficial that I purchased an extra copy to give away! If you'd like to be entered to be the lucky beneficiary simply leave a comment below, or on my Little Writer Momma Facebook page beneath the link to this post  (I know commenting here is complicated for some!).  You can comment any time between now and Friday at 9 p.m. I will randomly pick one name and will post the winner on my Little Writer Momma Facebook page on Saturday morning (you'll need to have "liked" my Facebook page in order to see who won)!

Good luck and three cheers for de-cluttering progress! 

Tuesday, February 3

Snow Days...The REAL Deal!

It seemed like a good time to float this post out there.

The one about snow days that I started two months ago.

Back in November, called "Snow-vember" in these parts, when we were bestowed the gift of a very large amount of snow in a very short period of time. The result was us using up all of our given snow days before we even gobbled down our Thanksgiving turkey.

We got four feet of snow at our house, while some families in the same school district received upwards of six feet!

This was a local photo from one neighborhood that circled Facebook, and the local news channels...

There has been a lot of snow falling on the East Coast and while we haven't had any more snow days (despite my girls sleeping with their pajamas on inside out and frozen spoons under their pillows on Sunday night!), many of my friends in Massachusetts and other parts of the country have.

As any momma knows it's not always as much about what is going outside that counts on a snow day, as what is going on inside the house. 

If we're honest a lot of us have a love-hate relationship with such days. 

I want to say I LOVE snow days. And I am usually excited...for the girls. But the reality of the situation doesn't always match my mommy idealism.

Thoughts of sugarplums, nicely played games, and warm cookies dance in my head.

While bickering children, scattered toys, spilled juice, and copious amount of wet snow gear dance around me in real life.

This is what I recall from our last week of consecutive snow days...

 ~Refereeing the older girls who are in a fight-bicker-fight-bicker-tease-instigate stage with each other. While refereeing the big girls I tried to keep Aubrey from finding one of the 172 markers left around the house, which she used to write on the couch (true story), our brand new window seat (true story...with black permanent marker!), the chest in the living room, and of course, herself.

~Trying to keep Aubrey away from the girls (she's taken to tapping Ella on the head with a baton when she's not paying attention to her and disassembles an in-progress puzzle in 1.7 seconds flat).

~Lots of food preparation and clean up.

~Lots of snow pant dressing and undressing and the wet gloves, hats, boots and coats that follow.

~A very tired momma at the end of the day hoping to hear the sound of a school bus come down the street the next morning (;

Ok, I do (secretly!) like to have the girls home with me even though they can drive me bonkers.

I'm sure I will look back, someday, and say,  Ok. That was fun. And sweet. Let's have a snow day again.  

But in the the middle of it?!

Oh the middle.

This is what part of my  house looked like in the middle.

In the middle of it all Facebook was so sweet to perpetually update me with the goings on at other friend's houses...

Events that seemed way calmer, and more cuddly than what was taking place at our house! True or not, doesn't Facebook have a way of doing that?!

I saw pictures of lovely cookie baking, snow fort building, peaceful game play, craftiness and all sorts of other lovely, memorable snow day moments.

Like this sweet photo that Laurie Henderson shared...

I was so ready to head over to her house and join their nice, calm, peaceful dinner party!

Our dinners felt like a party too...but a party of a different kind!

Like a frat party without the beer.

You know, people standing on their chairs, hollering over each other, not eating their food, falling onto the floor, distributing crumbs and spills all over the floor.

Since things felt so less calm at my own house I began to feel like either a) I was doing something very wrong, b) needed a perspective shift, or c) was missing part of the picture from my friend's houses and desperately wanted some affirmation that I was not alone.

I decided to float a question out there to my mom friends asking them to share the "real deal" about their snow days... the real, messy, kids driving each other crazy, wet snow ,clothes everywhere version.

Not because I'm a masochist, just because I'm a realist!

When life feels a little crazy I need a) my coffee, b) some extra prayer, and c) to know that I'm not in this alone!

Those three things are usually enough to keep me going (:

Imagine my surprise (and relief) when Laurie Henderson sent me these pictures in response to my "Real Deal" Facebook request... This is what was going on in the other rooms before and after that nice dinner photo.

She sent me this note as well...

‪Laurie Gworek Henderson Ok, Day 3 is REALLY getting to us!! I hear tons of yelling coming from upstairs!! "Get off me!" "Get out of my room!!" "I SAID STOP!!" I am now sending them outside , I just can't listen to it anymore lol!‬

 I am starting to feel like my house is in a "state of emergency."hahaha!!!  We have played, baked, done crafts, gone outside, watched movies, and cuddled.  All of this has led to the disaster that is our home, and today the brother/sister fighting has set in! And now that it is the end of the 3rd day both kids 6 & 8 are in their underwear, pretending they are babies, singing about their diapers!! Cabin fever is here!!

Our ham dinner brought a little sanity to the craziness, the kids set the table and worked together.  It was something to center us.  Plus it fed us 2 additional meals! So while the kitchen was constantly being used, this lightened the cooking load a little .

You would have been more than welcome to pop in!!!

...(Thanks for sharing Laurie!!! Next time I just might pop in (; 

Without further adieu, here are the rest of the tales, in no particular order shared by my mom friends about their snow day experiences...the "real deal"!

‪Yvonne CalabroSnow clothes!!! Consumes my day!! Getting them bundled & unbundled! Drying everything and then repeating it 2-3 more times!!! Feedings in between the snow play sums up my day!‬

‪Rebekah Cummings Weissert I don't have pictures but my boys argued so much that I lost my temper and sent them to their rooms while I cooled off. Now I am in my room and I don't plan on going downstairs any time soon ‬

‪Dorothy Greco‪ Snow days are great provided that you get enough sleep and are able to let go of any and all agendas! (sometimes this includes feeding them.) Wine helps. 

‪Jessica Moran Maliszewski I've been known to refuse to let my kids back inside if they try to come back in after only 10 min of playing in the snow....don't they know your supposed to play outside for hours like we did when we were kids?!?!‬

‪Katie Sivic‪ Going outside was just a comedy of errors in our house. Emma's boots kept falling off/being taken off. Her gloves were just a little too big, so she couldn't get her arms in her coat, and after what seemed like forever getting the kids ready, I almost had to say no to going outside because I couldn't get my own boots on because I couldn't reach my feet with my pregnant belly. luckily Jacob was able to help me through that and we made it out. the rest of the day mostly consisted of Emma driving Jacob nuts and him saying "no Emma" "get off of me Emma" or "stop Emma"‬

The best thing I did was make cookies. At least after the arguing about who is dumping what, when I let them lick the batter it at least gave me five minutes of silence!

Stephanie Koch, It's been pretty wild here too. Abby watches Cinderella at least twice a day in between art projects, making "food" (play dough) for her "friends" (stuffed animals & dolls) and dressing up like a princess. Ethan has taken to doing laps around our first floor while carrying random toys or vacuum attachments along with him. Both activities start out as individual tasks or means of entertainment but they normally end up with Ethan attacking Abby on one of his rounds, Abby taking the bait and yelling or pushing him over. So we're just managing chaos here most of the time

‪Amanda Schrock Chimera‪ My snow days have been an adventure w/ 2 very busy boys but I must say I have been blessed this time around. Joe, my hubby, being home has been amazing w/ keeping boys occupied outside. I am not one for the cold but my boys sure are so I am thankful for a hubby that's loves the snow. He has taken them snowmobiling in our 5, yes 5 feet, of snow and let them be boys outside while I get peace and warmth in the house. I am a SAHM and having Joe home is awesome‬!

My highlight funny moment today was: Eli came in and had to pee. So, instead of taking all his snow gear off I grabbed a Solo cup and had him pee in that. He thought it was hilarious and I said we are true Rednecks now Eli!! Gotta love it! 

‪Amelia Rhodes‪ We've had our fair share of bickering. Today I gave them a list of chores for which I would pay them for. They proceeded to grumble about the low pay. So we had a "come to Jesus" meeting about the importance of gratitude (perfect for November!) and working with cheerful hearts. Thankfully, they adjusted their attitudes and became cheerful workers. Hang in there. I remember the days when they were much smaller. All the bundling, un-bundling, and un-doing of all my work. I never believed older moms when they said it gets easier. But they are right. Oh, we still have plenty of attitude and bickering. It's just a different level of exhaustion.‬

‪Martie Sharp Bradley Endless bickering and teasing. Epic fail on a home maintenance project = two broken nails and countless dropped screws. Ventured out for groceries and witnessed a careening school bus that ended its skid by clipping a pickup truck. Not our best day.‬

‪Danielle Macaulay‪ You know what - it has actually been mostly peaceful, but I just admitted on FB we have barely changed our clothes since Monday, so you can have that. Lol! #greasy

...And last, but certainly never least, several hilarious anecdotes from the Adema family...

 (P.S. This family rocks and cracks me up, read on and you'll see why!! Anytime I feel like things have gotten zoo-ey at my house, I can almost guarantee that there is some sort of similar shenanigans going on over at theirs, though with 4 kids to my 3 they might have slightly more of an excuse...just slightly (; 

Jennifer Adema  Our snow days:  the first one was fun, sweet, idyllic.  Josie has asked for 2 years to make a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin.  So we dug one out from our front step, steamed it, pureed it and got to pie making.  It was stressful, but like you I stayed calm and made sure the girls each had equal assignments but still whining and fighting went on.  

We baked the pie, smelled delicious. I sent the girls over to the neighbors house to deliver a piece of pie and to get them out of the house while the younger kids were sleeping.  You saw how that went... Josie and I went to taste the pie and gagged.  I realized immediately that in the ridiculousness of pie baking with a 7, 5, 3 and 1 year old I forgot to add the sugar! 

I immediately called the neighbor and explained my guffaw.  We drowned the pie in maple syrup and ate it anyway. 

Daddy came home from work (yes he barreled down our unplowed street and went to work all day) and turned on the news.  The snow storm had been fun up to this point until the anchors mentioned deaths and trapped people etc etc.  Cue Amelia's anxiety.  Had to deal with calming her sensitive heart the rest of the night.  

Today - I decided to make molasses cookies.  Emmett decided to claw at me, scream, shriek yell pull all while again I'm trying to manage 3 girls making molasses cookies.  I begged someone to get off the counter and play with Emmett.  Amelia finally did, only to have me throw my hands up and yell forget it!  I need a cookie break!  I can't do this anymore!  

I pretended like the dough needed to be refrigerated which indeed, it did not.  But I needed everyone out of my kitchen and off my counter.  

Playing outside lasts 16 minutes when you're 3 and in rain boots since I don't have any snow boots for Vera.  Five minutes when you're 5 and Josie because you can't stand the seem on your sock in your boot and you're getting hair in your mouth.  An hour or more when you're 7 because you're name means "industrious" and you're going to live by that name and build and play till you can't feel your fingers anymore.  

Turns out the swing set is tons of fun on a snow day cuz you can jump off the top of it with no real risk of getting hurt.  We played uno, some weird game called pounce which is a plastic cat that catches mice on a string - hilarious, highly recommend it.  And we only watched 30 minutes of Netflix over 2 days!  Tomorrow, however....  I wish there were a miniseries for kids!!!!!!!!!!!

Outdoor fun...while it lasted!

A photo that reminds me that winter truly is beautiful. 

A successful snow day "craft" that did come out of our house!