Saturday, January 31, 2015

Beautiful January Days

We have enjoyed some lovely sunny days around here, so we've been getting out and about a bit to take advantage of it!  We spent two afternoons at the park, one right on the beach, which was a wonderful way to spend a winter afternoon!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Christmas Present

Seth surprised me with an awesome handmade Christmas present this year: a new sewing table!
I had long known that my sewing set up wasn't working very well for me - I was using a cute but small table, and it just didn't have the room I needed to spread out when I was working on a project.  Also, I really needed a new ironing board.  Mine was an old used one I had picked up a couple of years ago, and it was broken and would often fall down.

But Seth thoughtfully took care of both of those needs for me, with other perks, too!  =)

My sewing station before:

A couple of months ago I had switched up the plastic bins, so that instead of them being stacked, I had them side by side, which did provide me with a bit of extra surface area to place things, which is one way I knew a bigger table would be a huge help!

And now I have this:

It's a big table, so I have plenty of room to work.  There's lots of storage space on the shelves, and it's even the perfect size to hold my cutting mat, so I can do some of my cutting here as well, instead of at the kitchen table!  But one of my favorite things is this:

Seth added an ironing board that tucks away into the table when I'm not using it!  It's awesome!  I love that it's completely out of the way and out of sight when I don't need it, but when I do, it's kind of like an extension of the table!  I can even sit down and iron (which I know sounds really lazy, but that has been nice lately!).

He really put a lot of thought and effort into this and I'm so thankful!  I absolutely love it and it has definitely been making my sewing time easier and more fun!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Our Days

I love reading about other people's daily lives, and I know someday I'll forget all this day-to-day stuff, and I'll love to remember what life was like when our kids were little.  So here's a peek into what a normal day looks like around here:

3:05 - The alarm goes off for the first time.  We set it a little early so we can doze for a couple more minutes before getting up.
3:15 - The alarm goes off again, so we get up.  We do a quick 10-minute exercise routine first thing.  (We have a subscription here.  I know there are plenty of workout dvds or online videos out there, but this site focuses on diastasis, which I have, so this works well for me - and Seth likes it, too!)  After that, Seth gets ready for work while I make him breakfast and gather his snacks together.  I usually put away some clean dishes and start washing the ones in the sink as well (our dishwasher has been out of commission for the last 6 months or so, but I've discovered I don't really mind hand washing anymore.  I just wash enough to load up my drying rack, which only takes 5-10 minutes, then I come back later and do more as needed.)  I sit and eat with him for a few minutes before he leaves.  We are so thankful he only has a 5 minute drive to work!
4:00 - After he leaves, I finish up washing dishes.  Occasionally (maybe once a week), if I'm really tired, I'll go back to bed, but I've found that I often don't sleep well and my whole day seems off if I do, so I usually stay up.  If it's a shower day (I usually take one every other day) I do that now and get dressed.  If not, I try to get dressed sometime before the kids get up, but that's not quite as crucial as the shower.  If I have sewing to do, this is when I do it.  I stop sewing at 6, since after that time it can wake the kids up.  If I don't have sewing to do, I'll often use this time to fold laundry or do other quiet projects.  I love listening to podcasts or watching a movie while I fold laundry.  My current favorite is to find old '90s true-life movies on YouTube to watch.  =)  This early morning time is also my computer time.  I try not to use the computer much when the kids are up, so this is when I read blogs and check email, etc.  If I'm really on top of it, I try to get breakfast going before the kids get up.  I keep breakfast simple - oatmeal, yogurt and granola, toast, or scrambled eggs are the usual options I choose from.  On Wednesday and Thursday, when Seth is home, I make something fun like coffee cake, waffles, or cinnamon rolls.
7:00 - The kids get up.  We have a Tot Clock, so even if the kids wake up earlier, they have to stay in bed until 7 (except to go potty of course!).  Usually a few minutes before 7 I start to hear kids fidgeting and whispering, then as soon as the clock changes I hear shouts of "Yellow!", then they all come thundering out.  It's really kind of funny to hear them all scrambling to get out of their bedroom.  Toby is stuck in his bed, and he waits, staring out the door for me.  I love his smiles and happy squeaks when I go to get him.  =)  The older kids usually rush out and start playing with Legos, but Toby wants breakfast right away, so if I don't have it ready I give him milk and a snack while I finish it up.  Once breakfast is ready, I set it out for everyone.  Breakfast is the only meal that I don't require everyone to come sit down at the same time. Usually the boys are busy with their building and not quite ready for breakfast, so I let them play for a bit before I tell them to come eat.  I usually sit down with the kids and eat breakfast, then while they're finishing I'll start whatever baking I'm doing that day.  Most days I make something, whether it's bread, granola bars, tortillas, or something for snack later.  I've been making more than usual lately in an effort to build up my freezer stash!  When Toby is done with breakfast I'll change and dress him.  Then I'll wash a rack of dishes and try to get the rest of the kitchen cleaned up.  At this point, if there are kids who still haven't eaten, I'll tell them to eat before I take breakfast away.  After breakfast the kids are supposed to take care of their morning jobs, which include clearing their dishes, getting dressed, taking care of any dirty or clean laundry, brushing teeth, and fixing their bed as best they can.  Usually this requires a number of reminders.  =)  If I didn't get dressed earlier, I do so, then work on the rest of my morning jobs, such as picking up laundry off the floor, starting a load of laundry in the washer, opening curtains, breaking up arguments, feeding the chickens, reminding children who still aren't dressed to do so, helping someone take Legos apart, etc.  I try to get most of this stuff done by the time Seth comes home for his lunch break.

9:00 - One of the perks of being close to work means that Seth gets to come home for his lunch break!  It's so nice to see him during the day! Of course, it's still morning, so lunch food doesn't really sound good, so I usually make him a second breakfast!  =)  He always calls and lets me know he's on his way home, since his lunch time can vary; usually it's 9 or 9:30, but some days it can be as late as 10.  I make him something quick so it's ready when he gets home, since he really only has time to eat and then go back.  This is usually when the kids have their morning snack, as well.  Our usual fare is granola bars, although sometimes I switch it up and give them something else instead.
9:30/10:00 - After Seth goes back to work and everyone has had snack, the kids return to their play.  Occasionally they'll watch a movie, especially if we've just been to the library and have some new ones, but in general I try to wait on this until afternoon.  I try to get the rest of my morning work done.  I like to get most of my housework done in the morning so the afternoon is free for fun things.  I'll continue working on any baking/cooking projects I have going on, take dry laundry off the rack and hang up another load, break up more arguments, help Toby with whatever he brings me (usually it's Legos he wants put together, or a hat put on his head), wash more dishes, and do whatever else needs to be done.  I'm usually able to get most of this stuff done, though, of course, some days are better than others.  =)

11:15 - Clean up time!  This is nobody's favorite part of the day.  But we trudge through it anyway, usually with lots of whining and complaining and arguing, and sometimes some discipline, too.  On a good day, I get lunch started so it's ready for us when we finish morning time.  On not so good days I'm helping clean up, too.
11:30 - Morning time...we usually do our calendar, read stories, sing songs, and read a poem.  Sometimes we'll work on something we're memorizing (like our address).
12:00 - Lunch!  The kids wash their hands and head to the table and I finish up making lunch - usually simple sandwiches and a fruit and veggie.  I usually put it on the table so they can help themselves and I'm not having to refill plates every few minutes.  While the kids eat, I read a chapter of whatever book we're currently reading.  When the kids have finished eating, they clear their dishes, get washed up, go potty, and gather whatever they want for rest time.  The three older kids just have a quiet time, each in different places.  Ezra is in the dining room, so he just plays Legos at the table.  Joanna is in our bedroom, so she brings a few toys and books with her in there.  Benjamin is in the living room, and he'll bring a puzzle or Legos to play with, or he'll look at books.  I wash up Toby, change his diaper, and put him down for his nap.

12:30 - Rest time.  The kids are required to stay in their spot and play quietly.  I make myself some lunch and will usually read some blogs while I eat it.  I try to not do work during rest time, but sometimes I do work on dishes or laundry.  Usually I try to do something more fun and restful, like work on sewing/craft projects, read, or even occasionally take a nap.  Seth gets home around 1:15 most days (at which point all the kids come out from their spots to say hi to Dad!), so I hang out with him for a bit usually, as well.  I also spend about 10 minutes during rest time working on reading with Benjamin.  This works really well for us because I can have focused time with him, and he has a hard time being quiet at rest time, so it gives him an excuse to talk!  =)  Sometimes if I have an errand to run, I'll go during rest time, after Seth gets home.
2:00 - Rest time is over for the big kids.  They clean up their things while I try to keep them quiet so Toby can keep sleeping, but that usually doesn't work, so he's usually up now, too.  He wakes up grumpy, so he gets a bottle and I cuddle with him for a few minutes until he's ready to go.  We have snack and then we may or may not head outside for a few minutes.  The afternoons are fairly relaxed.  Most of my work is done, so I'm a bit more free to read, work on a bit of sewing, or play a game with the kids.  The kids either play or watch a movie.  Once a week or so we like to do something fun with the kids, like go to the children's museum or have what they call a "Lego party", where we dump out all the Legos in the living room (we normally only keep out a small amount on a tray on the table).
4:00/4:30 - Start dinner.  My goal is to have dinner at 5, which means I need to start it around 4, but that doesn't always happen.  The kids continue to play or watch a movie, and Seth is usually trying to do some writing.  I make dinner and wash dishes.
5:00 - Clean up time!  Most days we start cleaning up around 5, and end up eating at 5:30 or so.  Seth usually helps me oversee clean up while I finish up dinner.
5:30 - Dinner time!  Towards the end of dinner, while the kids are finishing up their food, I read a story from a children's Bible, and we'll talk about it for a few minutes.  We also work on our Scripture  Memory.  When we're done, everyone clears dishes and washes up.
6:00 - Sometimes the kids just play for a bit after dinner (they're not allowed to make much mess), so I'll wash a load of dishes, wipe counters, and sweep the floor.  Other times, we'll watch a movie as a family, in which case I'll just put dishes in the sink and call it good.  Right now we're introducing the kids to some classics - we just watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and now we're working on Pollyanna.  Sometimes we can finish a movie in one evening; other times we'll spread it out a bit.
7:00 - Time to get ready for bed!  Another not especially favorite time of the day.  The kids get jammies on and gather a stuffed animal to sleep with and a book to read.  Seth brushes teeth while I get Toby ready for bed.  Then everyone gathers on our bed to read stories.  Usually everyone picks a books so we read three books.  Occasionally, if we're running late, I'll just choose one book to read, or, on a night we stayed up late to do something fun, we'll skip the books.  After stories, everyone goes potty and gets into bed.  We tuck everyone in and pray together before turning out the lights.
7:30 - Once we get the kids to bed, Seth and I are exhausted, so we don't usually do much in the evening.  One of us will head out to close up the chickens, and sometimes I'll wash up a few dishes, but usually I just leave them for the morning.  We'll spend an hour or so reading, watching a show, or talking for a bit before getting ready for bed around 8:30 or 9.  By 9 or 9:30 we collapse (literally!!) into bed.

This is what happens most days around here.  Seth is off Wednesday and Thursday, but those days generally look the same, except breakfast is later (since I make something more special) and I don't usually do quite as much work in the morning.  We also skip morning time those days.  Sunday mornings we have church, so Seth is off work at 9, and I have the kids ready to go when he gets home.  Every other Friday we have MOPS, so pretty much after breakfast we start getting ready to go, and then we're gone all morning and don't get home until lunch time.  But most days are pretty much the same - simple but full and lovely!  =)

Monday, January 19, 2015


I absolutely love the start of a new year.  I love thinking about change and goals and what I want to accomplish in the next year.  This year, in thinking about making goals and changes, I realized I don't have many major things I want to accomplish.  Rather, I want to focus on some of the smaller, everyday things.  Habits I want to develop, things I want to incorporate into our daily routine, ways I can make our day run more smoothly.  I've realized that for me, success with doing something on a regular basis requires me finding a time during the day that really works for us - a way to fit it into our lives almost seamlessly, so that it doesn't really take a lot of extra effort.  Thankfully, we've already made some minor changes that really seem to be working for us.  Such as:

1. A way for the kids to get a drink of water themselves.  I realized that I was being asked all the time for a drink of water.  Of course, I'm happy to help the kids with things they need, but the frequency of this request (and the fact that it usually came right after I'd sat down) was making me a bit grumpy.  It seemed like something they could take care of themselves if I had the right set up.  I finally decided to try a drink dispenser.  We've had it for about a couple of weeks now, and it's working like a charm.  I add water when I notice it's a bit low, and each morning I put out a few cups, and they help themselves throughout the day, and they'll even refill their cups at meals.  They, of course, think it's fun, which is great, too.  Total win!

2. Scripture memorization.  I've been wanting to incorporate this into our routine for a long time, but it was something I was always forgetting about.  I thought about doing it at our morning time, but Seth wanted to be involved, too.  So I decided to try adding it at dinnertime.  That's when we read a Bible story to the kids, anyway, so it seemed to fit.  It's going great so far; the three older kids pretty much have Psalm 1 down pat, so tonight we're going to move on to Psalm 23.  I started out just reading the portion out loud a couple of times.  After a couple of days, I started having them fill in words, and then more and more until we could recite the whole thing.

3. Exercise.  This is something I always want to incorporate in my daily routine, but I just never seem to get around to it, or I don't feel like doing it when I do think of it.  Seth and I have started getting up 10 minutes earlier each morning and doing a quick exercise routine first thing in the morning.  Usually when we try to stick to an exercise routine like this we can't miss a single day or we get out of our groove and don't get back to it, but we've had several times now when we've missed a day (weekends or when we had a stomach bug last week), and we've gotten right back to it with no problems. I think it's working for us because we're just tacking it on to something we're already doing (getting up for Seth to go to work), rather than making it a special time during the day.

4. Morning Time.  When we started our homeschool year last fall, I was doing morning time right after snack time, in the middle of the morning.  But it always felt like an interruption to our morning, and I was struggling to remember to do it.  Then I decided to switch it to right before lunch - I was done with my morning work, the kids were done playing, and everything was cleaned up.  That's been working much better, and I don't have to force myself to do it.

5. Keeping the counter clean.  Every home we've lived in has had a "dumping counter"; somewhere in the kitchen that we tend to pile stuff that needs to be taken care of.  The counter is perpetually messy, and it not only looks bad on its own, but it makes the whole kitchen seem messy.  That counter drives me crazy, so I finally decided to see how long I could keep it clean.  It really is true that clutter begets clutter; if I put one thing on that counter, it's a lot easier to put something else on it, too.  So I'm trying to keep myself from putting anything on it - instead I'm taking the extra 5 seconds to actually put the item where it belongs.  Now that I've gotten in the groove of doing that, it's not as hard as it seemed at first.  The counter is clean and every time I look at it it makes me smile!

Those few changes are little things, really, but our days feel a bit calmer and smoother and that is really a big deal!

I'm still working on some other things that I'm hoping will become habits this year:

1. Menu Planning.  I don't like making meal plans - it seems like too many decisions to make at one time.  But once I've done it, I love having a meal plan made, and you would think that would be enough motivation for me to do it, but somehow it hasn't been.  But I've realized how much time and energy I spend each day trying to figure out "what's for dinner", and I know it makes my day go much more smoothly when I have a plan in place.  So I'm going to give making this a habit another go.  I know it would help so much if I can be successful at this!  Right now I'm trying to figure out the best time/day to do this on a regular basis.

2. Getting outside every day.  This was easy in the summer, but we fell out of this habit once the weather turned cold and rainy.  It was hard to get outside with Toby, since he would be crawling around on the wet ground (though he loved it), and to be honest I don't always feel like going outside in the cold and wet.  But I know we all need fresh air, the kids need to be able to run around, and Toby's walking now, so I'm trying to make this a priority again - even if it's just for 10 minutes.  As I had already figured out, the afternoon is the best time for us to do this, so it's really just a matter of me doing it.

I'm sure more things will come up over the course of the year, but this is what we're doing right now.  It's nice to have some of these routines in place already as we look forward to our new little person arriving in a couple of weeks, which I know will bring plenty of other schedule changes as well!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas 2014

We had a lovely Christmas.  We have three celebrations, really; one with Seth's family on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning at home, then a third on Christmas afternoon with my family.  It makes for two very fun and full days, which of course led to this on the way home both nights:

There is something really sweet and special about driving home in the dark with a car full of sleeping kids.  I absolutely love it!

I didn't make too many gifts this year - pajamas for each of the kids, cloth napkins for their stockings, and a couple of other gifts.  Ever since telling myself a couple of years ago that just because I can make gifts doesn't mean I have to, Christmas has seemed a bit simpler.  I love making gifts, but putting that expectation on myself had become a bit of a burden, so it's more freeing to feel like I have a choice!  =)

Besides their stockings, the kids each got one present from us, something they really wanted or that we thought they would really like.  I think we chose well!

Poor Toby didn't get a lightsaber like the big boys (he got a boring blanket), but apparently he should have - he loves them, too!