Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School!

I seriously wanted to shoot a video of them getting onto the school bus, and then, when it started to pull away from the curb, have the "Hallelujah Chorus" start playing.  Man, were we ever ready for summer vacation to be over this time!  The kids have been chomping at the bit for school to start, and yesterday their school had their Open Houses, so they all got to meet their new teachers, and it was an exercise in impossibility to keep them calm afterwards.  Excited kids!

(Please excuse the quality of the photos...my camera is really having a hard time lately!)

Mr. Monkeyboy is going into the first grade this year, and he is so ready for it.  He was pretty miffed last year that Kindergarten lasted only half a day, and so this summer really wore on him while he waited for "all day long" school to finally start.

His teacher seems very nice, and last night he told me, "I really like my teacher.  I think she's going to be good."  Alright then!

She sent him home with a little bag that said to open it before he went to bed last night, and when we did open it, it was filled with confetti and a cute little poem about sprinkling the confetti under his pillow so it could magically help him sleep well and be ready for his first day of school.

I checked under his pillow as I was tucking him in, and he had sprinkled his confetti.  Oh my goodness, the cuteness of it all.  This morning when I woke him up for breakfast I asked if the confetti helped him sleep, and he stretched and groaned and said, "I think it helped me sleep TOO well.  It's hard to get up."  Hee hee.

Miss Junebug is not that excited about returning to school, but she was pretty happy about wearing her new clothes.  AND her classroom is decorated with Pete the Cat, Bad Kitty, If You Give a Dog a Doughnut, and all sorts of cute little animals.  She's very excited about all that.

Miss Penguin is happy to go to school again.  Her teacher seems like a sunshine-y ball of energy, so I think Penguin will enjoy her school year.

Her teacher is on the short side, just barely taller than her fifth grade students, and last night as Monkeyboy was talking about school he randomly exclaimed, "And Penguin's teacher is just so cute I can hardly stand it!"  Oh, how I laughed.

And little Miss Bluebird starts JUNIOR HIGH this year, which means she heads out to catch the bus fifty minutes before the rest of the Brookelets.

Today is actually her second day of school, as yesterday was "Seventh Grade Day," where all the incoming seventh graders come in for half a day in order to learn how to work their lockers and get a feel for changing classrooms without all the extra commotion of having the eighth and ninth graders in the hallways.

I think she's going to have a good year, just as long as she stays on top of her homework.  In addition to getting into Honors Science ("It's almost ALL BOYS in there!"), she also was placed in Honors Math.  Proud of my girl.


They're getting so big, so fast!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Homemaking Highlights: August 13-19, 2016

Oh boy.  I started off this week just a-killin' it in the cleaning and organization spheres, and then the next day I felt really tired, which made sense, but then the next day I felt even more tired, which did not make sense, and a few hours later the mystery tiredness shifted into a stomach virus that has kicked my butt almost this entire week.  Plus the joy of sagebrush allergies.  Sigh.  Needless to say, my high-flying goals stayed up in the sky for the most part.

Goals for Last Week:
  • Autumn Meal Plan:  I've got a rough outline written up, but I'll have to go back and tweak it a little to be more affordable.
  • Harvest herbs from garden:  Nope.
  • Do whatever it is that I decide to do to preserve said herbs:  Nope.
Goals for This Week:
  • Finish Autumn Meal Plan
  • Harvest herbs from garden
  • Preserve herbs
Goals for Last Week:
  • Hem Penguin's new pants:  Nope
  • Back-to-school clothing inventory/switch-out:  A little bit--you know, just one garbage bag and four grocery bags' worth of outgrown clothing...ha ha ha.
  • Move dressers, etc., to match up with new bedroom assignments:  One dresser was moved, and we started cleaning out the area that will become the "closet" for the girls before I was smited.
  • Start checking around for winter outerwear, boots, etc.:  Nope
Goals for This Week:
  • Hem Penguin's pants
  • Finish clothing inventory/switch-out:  Might actually be easier with the kids at school during the day!
  • Move dressers, etc.
  • Schedule winter outerwear purchases:  Because it's not going to happen now.
  • Drop off outgrown clothes at donation site.
Goals for Last Week:
  • Ummm, actually do it?:  Got the kitchen cleaned up pretty good, Bluebird did one of the bathrooms really well, and there was a lot of surface disinfecting when I had enough energy to do so--cleaning kills sick germs, so if I can be vertical while sick, I clean surfaces that get touched a lot.
  • Organize the kids' rooms, and hopefully declutter the heck out of them:  Oh my goodness, Monkeyboy's room...five bags of trash and broken/outgrown toys.  It looks so fabulous now.  I don't think I've done a thorough declutter since before we left for Australia (two years ago!).  Man, it feels good!  Monkeyboy LOVES his clean room, and he's been doing a really good job of tidying up each day since we cleaned it up.
  • Got some mold growing in the master bathroom, so cleaning that and fixing the fan, which is obviously not doing its job:  Nope.
Goals for This Week:
  • Basic cleaning
  • Keep organizing the kids' rooms
  • Kill the mold!
  • Do a declutter walk through of the entire house
  • Get the last basket of stuff in the office put away
  • Took Bluebird in for her sports physical
  • Got all three girls in for haircuts (I LOVE Penguin's new bangs!)
Goals for Last Week:
  • Get the kids' cubbies cleaned out and organized:  Nope
  • Pre-pay the kids' school lunch accounts:  I'll do it today
Goals for This Week:
Self Care:
  • Start easing back into exercise routine
  • Hit step goal at least five days
  • Hit water goal every day (I mean, really, it's DRINKING WATER!  Surely I can handle the commitment.)
  • Eat healthy; do not go over calorie allowance
Caring for Others:
  • Clean cubbies
  • Draw up school year schedule poster and post
  • Back-to-school stuff
  • Order Penguin's softball uniform, turf shoes?
  • Took Penguin to her first flute lesson
Goals for Last Week:
  • Finish the lunch bags for the kids:  Ha ha, nope.  Might have to scratch this completely, or at least for the time being.
  • Put in my order for bulbs:  Nope.
  • Find out what I need to do for the backyard grass and get it written on the calendar:  Nope.
Goals for This Week:
  • Order bulbs
  • Grass stuff
  • Mole repellent
  • Beehive swap block and signature block
  • Midnight Clear #2 sewing
  • #100blocks100days sewing
  • Figure out if I'm going to participate in my quilt guild's #wordart challenge that's due next month.  If I am, I need to order needed supplies.
Goals for Last Week:
  • Write up Penguin's birthday blog post.
  • Remind Penguin to write her thank-you cards.
  • Back-to-school:  All the previously-mentioned stuff, and write-up the school year's devotional and FHE schedules:  Nope
  • Bear Cub's birthday:  Keep working the list I've made up:  Nope
  • Family birthday prep:  Nope
  • Halloween:  Keep helping Penguin decide on her costume:  She still doesn't know what she wants to be.
  • Thanksgiving:  Save money for soup bowls:  Going to reschedule this for later; back-to-school is eating all my money
Goals for This Week:
  • Write up First Day of School blog post
  • Write up Rudolph Club blog post
Goals for Last Week:
  • Attend all three hours of church:  Nope
  • Figure out what we're doing for this week's Activity Days meeting ASAP, and schedule reminder email and reminder text to parents: Technically, I did this, but only to tell everyone that it was cancelled--had a feeling I should cancel it, and three hours after sending out the announcement, I was in the throes of my lovely stomach virus.  Good call.
  • Get the AD spreadsheet filled in, and remind AD leaders to sign up.  It's not all the way filled in, but it's getting there.
  • Schedule quarterly AD Leader Meeting.
  • Schedule visiting teaching: Trying.
  • Check on girls' Personal Progress and Faith in God checklists:  Nope
Goals for This Week:
  • Schedule visiting teaching
Highlights of the Week:
  • Cleaned up Monkeyboy's room.  Goodness, does it feel good to see all that organized space.
  • My back was feeling out-of-sorts after cleaning Monkeyboy's room, so I did some intense back care, and it was feeling fine by the time I went to bed.  That so rarely happens!
  • Made some Lavender Lemonade for the first time, and the kids hated it when they first tasted it, but by the end of the next day they were asking me when I was going to make some more.
  • Feeling like Activity Days is somewhat organized yet again.
Lowlights of the Week:
  • Stomach virus, obviously.
  • The realities of this year's school budget.  Oi.  Piano lessons were much more affordable, AND I didn't have to rent an instrument for them.  Sigh.  It's OK, though, I have just enough to cover our needs and lessons.
Whew!  Alright, next week, let's do this...hopefully without any more illness.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Introducing "The Rudolph Club"

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a Christmas junkie, so I've decided to just go all-in and broadcast my Christmas preparations throughout the year.  People have asked how I get so much done, and it's simply because I'm working on Christmas prep a lot throughout the year.  So, I'm just going to document it now.  If anything, it will help me stay on target, and you might get some amusement out of it all.

The original idea comes from Organized Christmas.com, a website that is so amazing, and I'm just playing it out here on my blog as well now.  It's going to be fun!  See you on the 25th!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's Double Digits for Penguin!

I love you so much, my sweet girl.  I love how diligent and consistent you are in getting stuff done, how gentle you can be with your younger siblings, and how thoughtful you are towards me on my bad back days.  You're going to go far in this world with that amazing combination of determination and consideration.  I tell people that "I don't have to worry about you," because I know you'll do the things you've been asked to do, simply because you've been asked to do them.  (I say this, but don't worry--I am very much aware of you and I keep track of you just in case you do need a helping hand.)

Your tenth year was a pretty mellow year.  You showed up to the things you were supposed to show up to, you did the work, and then you'd go home.  You advanced in your piano lessons, you sang in the Opening Ceremony Choir for your new elementary school, you were invited to join Mathletes, you earned straight A's all school year, and you learned how to bake cupcakes (which we've all really enjoyed!).

You signed up to help with the school play, helping with the sets and sound effects.  You were really bummed out afterwards, and you told me that it just wasn't as fun as you thought it was going to be.  Perhaps theater isn't in the cards for you?  We'll see.

You came back for your second year of softball, and the season started kind of slow for you because you kept getting hit by pitches.  Over and over, every game--we had to ice a few of them, too.  It became the team joke--when you'd walk up to the plate, all us parents would glance around at each other in apprehension, and then sigh when you'd inevitably get beaned yet again.

BUT...you kept showing up, the pitchers improved their aim as the season went on, and you stopped getting hit by the ball.  It took another couple of weeks for you to stop protecting yourself and get back into the mindset of believing you'd hit the ball, and then you did pretty well!  Your team was completely undefeated, and you made an amazing play at third base during the State Championship game.

It's been a good year for you!

So what's next, my dear girl?

You've decided to switch instruments this year, and you're excited for your first flute lesson!  I love the look in your eyes when you open up your flute case and just gaze at that shiny silver instrument.  You are rather smitten--I hope the breathing technique comes easily to you!  You're on the fence about joining the school's orchestra, but I'm doing my best to gently nudge you towards participation because, hey, extra practice and extra performances will do nothing but good things for you.

You tried out and earned a spot on an accelerated softball team, and I'm absolutely thrilled for you!  Of course, I have no idea what this is going to ask of us, schedule-wise, but we'll make it work for you.  We're so proud of you.

I hope fifth grade is enjoyable for you, and I hope you get that fifth grade growth spurt that you're looking forward to...you overheard me talking about the phenomenon and latched onto the idea of showing up Bluebird in the height category this year.  We'll see...

My sweet girl, keep doing what you're doing, because you're doing a fabulous job!  Your dad and I love you so much, and we're so thankful that Heavenly Father sent you to us.  You are one of our greatest blessings.  Happy, happy birthday, my big ten year old!

May all your wishes come true...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Homemaking Highlights: August 6-12, 2016

It has been a hard week.  I am massively allergic to sagebrush pollen, and it started to bloom around here this week.  My allergy meds aren't keeping up very well, plus they make me tired, so I've been very tired and still very symptomatic.  Sigh.  But, I did try to keep going, which is the best anyone can do, right?

We ate out twice this week, which is pretty good, given how awful I was feeling.

Goals for Next Week:

  • Autumn Meal Plan
  • Harvest herbs from garden
  • Do whatever it is that I decide to do to preserve said herbs (I'd like to give pesto a try!)

I'm almost done with back-to-school clothing shopping, and I'm pretty caught up on laundry.

Goals for Next Week:
  • Hem Penguin's new pants.  (Oh, please, let her have a massive fifth grade growth spurt this year...she really needs it.)
  • Back-to-school clothing inventory/switch-out.
  • Move dressers, etc., to match up with new bedroom assignments.
  • Start checking around for winter outerwear, boots, etc.

I've fallen short here.

Goals for Next Week:
  • Ummm, actually do it?
  • Organize the kids' rooms, and hopefully declutter the heck out of them.
  • Got some mold growing in the master bathroom, so cleaning that and fixing the fan, which is obviously not doing its job.

  • Kids are completely registered for school, and all their fees are paid.
  • I've got Bluebird's and Penguin's music lessons lined up, most of the instruments rented, and I've scheduled a trip up to Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks for the last one because that's the closest shop that actually rents harps.
  • Eye exams are complete, and glasses have been ordered and picked up.  Bluebird and Junebug both needed glasses, so five out of six of us now wear glasses, and the optometrist said that Monkeyboy will probably need them in a year or two.  Awesome.  We're a ginormous family of nerds.
  • Back-to-school hair appointments made for the girls.
  • Started moving the kids' bedtimes and wake-up times, and started easing into our school schedule.  Junebug had a very hard time with this, which was exhausting to deal with.  She's a sensitive soul.  BUT, the kids loved the reinstatement of "Family Read Aloud Time":
Michael took the picture and emailed it me. Cute girls!

Goals for Next Week:

  • Get the kids' cubbies cleaned out and organized.
  • Pre-pay the kids' school lunch accounts.

  • I've decided, at the last minute, to sew up new lunch bags for the kids.  Because I'm insane.  Most creative efforts have been to move along on this project.
  • Randomly found fabric matching one of Bluebird's WIPs at my local quilt shop.  I've been searching for it online to no avail, so I was extremely pleased that I was able to purchase enough of TWO different colorways for borders.
Goals for Next Week:
  • Finish the lunch bags for the kids.  Oi.  Why do I do this to myself?
  • Gardening counts as a hobby, yes?  I need to put in my order for bulbs this week.  All my old bulbs died because my Vicodin-addled brain forgot to re-plant them after Michael sifted the garden last year...whoops.
  • Find out what I need to do for the backyard grass and get it written on the calendar.

  • It was Penguin's birthday this last week!  She had a lovely day.
  • Killing the back-to-school checklist.
  • Bought one of Bear Cub's birthday presents.  (Bear Cub is my nephew, courtesy of my brother and his awesome wife.)
  • I have the pattern for Bluebird's Halloween costume, courtesy of my bestie, Denise, who had it in her pattern stash and lovingly lent it to me.
  • I purchased Junebug's and Monkeyboy's Halloween costumes, and an 80 pack of non-candy treats to hand out.  I've learned the hard way to just buy Halloween stuff the moment it hits the shelves because it sells out quickly.  I don't buy candy ahead of time, though, because I always eat it before Halloween arrives.
Goals for Next Week:
  • Write up Penguin's birthday blog post.  Ha ha.
  • Remind Penguin to write her thank-you cards.
  • Back-to-school:  All the previously-mentioned stuff, and write-up the school year's devotional and FHE schedules.
  • Bear Cub's birthday:  Keep working the list I've made up.  (Birthday to-do lists have to be vague on the blog!)
  • Should probably get back on the horse in regards to all the family birthdays.  It all fell apart during the spring...need to figure out a way to keep it going even when the winter doldrums start taking their toll.
  • Halloween:  Keep helping Penguin decide on her costume.
  • Thanksgiving:  Save money for soup bowls.
  • Christmas:  Nothing this week, but holy cow, the House & Holidays plan starts on August 28th!

I had to leave church after Sacrament Meeting because my allergies hit full-force about halfway through the meeting, and I was too sick to attend Activity Days this week.

Goals for Next Week:
  • Attend all three hours of church, if I can.
  • Figure out what we're doing for this week's Activity Days meeting ASAP, and schedule reminder email and reminder text to parents.  
  • Get the AD spreadsheet filled in, and remind AD leaders to sign up.
  • Schedule quarterly AD Leader Meeting.
  • Schedule visiting teaching
  • Check on girls' Personal Progress and Faith in God checklists.

Whew!  We mamas do A LOT in a week, even when we're sick!  I hope your weeks were productive, and I wish you the best of luck in tackling your to-do list for this upcoming week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Seven "C's" of Homemaking

While I was in Australia and figuring out how to structure my days after sending the kids to school, I came up with what I like to call "The Seven 'C's' of Homemaking."  What can I say?  I like having a schedule, and I like having days designated for specific types of things.  It works for me.  With the beginning of my "Homemaking Highlights" posts starting this week, I figured that I should explain my categories, as I'll be using them in my HH posts.

#1: Cooking, or feeding everyone.  When I sat down to figure out what my highest priorities each day should be, I ended up deciding that food was number one.  There's not a whole lot you can do if you haven't eaten, because eventually you'll die of starvation.  Also, kids are freakin' MONSTERS if they're not eating healthy and balanced meals, so scheduling out adequate time for preparing good food is crucial to a happy home life.

You wouldn't go to all the work of painting and cleaning your vehicle, only to not fill the gas tank, would you?  Same principle for our bodies.  We need fuel to function.  Period.

#2: Clothing.  Once you've got food in your belly, you don't want to run around naked.  Laundry, mending, ironing, wardrobe planning--if these things are done efficiently, you can look pretty darn good for not that much money.

#3: Cleaning.  It's number three because you can answer the door and check the mail if your floors aren't mopped, but you really shouldn't do those things if you're naked.  Cleaning is so important!  I despise that cleaning is so important, but it's at the front of the line in maintaining your family's health.  Germs cause sickness.  Sickness costs money, time, and energy, all of which I'd rather put to use elsewhere.  Cleaning kills germs.  Plus, it makes your house look and smell nice.  'Nuf said.

#4: Caring.  This is kind of a catch-all category, combining office work, planning, and relationships--you know, those "little details" that make others' lives nice.  Keeping us organized and putting a little extra effort into relationships make a world of difference in the "feeling" of our home.  (One of my kids loves it when I make their bed up all fresh and clean for them.  It's a simple thing, but it means a lot to them.  I try to find things like that to do for each member of my family.)  This category also serves as a "service" category--if all's well in our family, then I cast my eye around for a friend, neighbor, or extended family member to show a little extra TLC.

#5: Creating/Hobbies.  I've tried to bump this down the list, I really have, but through trial and error I have had to concede that my personal make-up demands regular creative time or I get seriously depressed.  So, #5.  We all need a little play once our work is done.

#6: Celebrations/Special Events.  Whatever's up next on the calendar, it usually means some sort of advanced preparation.  If I'm always including time in my week for ahead-of-time preparations, all those stressful celebrations lose a lot of their stressfulness.  When I realized that most of my kids' memories revolved around celebrations, I decided to make sure that I was prepared for said celebrations.  Some years I've been too overwhelmed, or too under-prepared, and I'm trying to avoid that from now on.

#7:  Church (or "Community" if religion isn't your thing).  I struggled with placing this last, but it's a good fit for us.  I believe that I shouldn't be extending myself to the Church if I first don't have my home under control.  Emergencies pop up in the ward or neighborhood that cancel out my "home first" list, but they're rare.  (Part of the definition of "emergency," isn't it?)  And I don't want to be that mom who never has time for her family because she's too busy with her calling or volunteer work.  So, #7.

Now, of course, this list comes into play after I've put my own oxygen mask on each day.  One thing that my back injury has taught me is the importance of self-care, and that you pay for your health in basically one of two ways:  #1:  Time, money and effort to be healthy (ie. working out, gym memberships, sweating, going to the dentist and doctor for regular check-ups, eating right, etc.); or #2:  Time, money and effort to be UNhealthy (ie. being sick and/or injured, medical bills, feeling tired, emergency repair work and their associated fees, paying through the nose for take-out because you're too sick or injured to cook, etc.).  Option #1 gives you a lot of control, and Option #2 is a relentless slavedriver that takes over your life without your permission.  Take your pick.

So, my own personal physical, emotional, and spiritual health comes first each day.  And that's not selfish at all--how good of a wife and mom can I be if I'm sick, injured, upset, or ungrounded?  Not that great.  In fact, my UNhealthiness takes over my family's days when they have to do my work, and drive me to appointments.  Their day kind of sucks when I'm moody or irritable, and their faith suffers when I don't do my part to help feed it with helping them get to church or doing our regular scripture studies and Family Home Evenings.  My family is leaps and bounds healthier when I am healthier.  End of story.

I have to do my health stuff first thing in the day or I get too busy to do it later.  I'm also a morning person, and I do my best work in the morning.  By late afternoon I'm pretty much useless, and exercising is totally not happening by that point.  Just nope!

Sooooo, that's my mental list of how to order my days.  I also like to assign each category to one day a week, and use that day to really accomplish everything I can in that category.  Like, on "Clothing" day, despite doing a few loads of laundry every day, I try really hard to get every piece of dirty clothing washed and put away, and also get through the ironing and mending as best I can.  I also try to assign each day to a different family member for "caring" for them--a day to really think about them and find little things to do for them, from making up their bed nice, to maybe doing one of their chores that they really don't like, or making a treat or meal (or just a side dish to go with our scheduled meal) that they especially like.  Even if I can't get to doing something tangible for them, at least I was thinking about them all day, and I feel like the love I have for them grows, which is a good thing for us both.

Aaaand, if I manage to get through the entire list in a day, I then start over, but with my extended family, friends, neighbors, and/or community in mind.  The list is literally endless.  If we just took care of each other, we'd have no poor among us.  Do my siblings' families have enough food?  Do my children's friends have clothing in well repair?  Does my pregnant neighbor need a hand with some housework?  Would a friend appreciate a handwritten letter?  Could I do a crafty de-stash and take it to the senior center?  Do I know of a fellow parent with a kid getting baptized or married soon that I could volunteer to bring a platter of food, or fold programs, or run errands for them?  Does my ward, stake, or area need some of my extra time?  I want to be that person.

But, for now, I'm busy with the highest priority of raising my own children, so...I don't get to look outside my home too terribly often during this chapter of my life.  But when my children are grown up and have flown the nest, it will have been good to practice growing a service-oriented mindset as best as I could during these years.  It's the best I can do for right now, and I feel good about it.

So, there it is!  Just another woman's way of keeping her homelife in check.  It works well for us.  :)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Introducing "Homemaking Highlights"

Remember when, during the homeschool years, I would write up a weekly report documenting what we were up to all the previous week?  Man, I loved writing up those things, and I still enjoy going back and reading them.

In the years since my kids entered the public school system, I've been at a loss regarding what to do with this blog, and also what to do with myself as well.  I gave the craft blogging thing a go for a bit, but it detracts way too much from keeping up my home, and I just don't want that.  But, I do need to feel like my waking hours consist of more than dishes and laundry; I need to "see" the passing of the seasons and the little things I do that change over the course of the year.

So I'm going to start writing up "weekly reports" on what I've done over the past week.  I think it will help me accomplish more in our home, motivate me to take more pictures, and it will serve as a journal of all the various things I always wish I had written down to access the next year.  We women do a lot throughout the course of a week, and I'm always wishing I'd kept a better record of it all.

So, starting next week, I'm going to do my best to document my work yet again, and to set goals and report on my progress.  Because I'm the kind of person who needs to do that.  See you then!