Loving Where I Am Now

I’ve been having a lot of house envy lately. Owning your own home is kind of a double-edged sword. My space and my decisions, but also my repairs and my maintenance. I feel like this sways more towards the bad side at times when the house is old and therefore the repairs are generally more frequent and more epic. So for a few months there, I spent a lot of time looking at other houses on the internet pining after one. Quite frankly, all it did was make me feel depressed about where we’re at now, which is at least a few years off from buying a new home.

So I decided that I was done with it. I decided that I needed to stop wishing for the future and live in the present. I also decided that if I can plan pretty creative things for birthday parties, I can do something for my house too. And worst case scenario I can always paint over it if it’s a wreck.

We have this awkward raised spot in our hallway that I’m guessing covers the mechanism for the doorbell or something of that nature. When we moved in I immediately decided that something cool needed to go there. Rather than it being an eyesore that sticks out, it could be a piece of art. So I painted it dark blue (the same color as the trim) to emphasize it rather than hide it, but that’s as far as I got. I was convinced for a long time that I would find something I could put there, but that never panned out because it was such an awkward size (something like 2 feet by 4.5 inches). Then I thought I would pay my brilliant artist friend to do calligraphy magic on it, but I never worked it into the budget. Finally, I decided why can’t I do it? Sure, I’m not an artist, but I’m getting better. And to me, it just made sense to do it myself with my own two hands.

“I want to do it properly… Not by magic.” – Harry Potter

So I set about doing it. Really, I’m not a naturally artistic person, as far as I consider things. I’m a copier, and I’m okay with that. I can alter things just enough to make them my own, but largely I need someone else’s idea to get started. So first I found a quote that I love that could also fit in a relatively small space. Next, I found someone else’s work online that I liked for how to draw it. I cut a piece of paper that was the correct size and started going about drawing out the quote as close to the original as I could, making it work in the space I had. Then I cut out the outline of my lettering with a craft knife and used the figure to trace it onto the wall. A friend suggested that I use Sharpie paint markers, which I did, and it turned out great. Here’s my end result. And here’s to loving where I am today instead of dwelling on where I’ll be tomorrow.

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My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.

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And for another addition of My New House Mondays, except not a Monday (hello Carnival readers!) and really not such a new-to-us house anymore. We’ve been in this house over four years! And we did our flooring on the main level two years ago! Two years. It’s amazing how time flies. Anyway, it’s been on our list of to-do’s ever since to do the hallway upstairs and hopefully our stairs (one set going up and one going down, as our house is a split level), depending on the amount of laminate flooring we had left once the hallway was done.

Last fall I got ambitious and tore out the ugly carpet in the hallway and on the top set of stairs (bottom set of stairs lost it’s carpet when we did the other flooring). That left us with white wood stairs. Not something that I would even dislike if it weren’t for the condition of them. Biggest issue being that two of the stairs on the bottom set were cracked all the way through the middle. I tried different methods of holding the crack together so I could paint over it, but it just broken right apart again. The next step was to go put a piece of 2×4 underneath them to brace the crack, but we never got that far. My husband finished the hallway laminate early this summer and came up with a plan to completely cover our stairs in the laminate, even the risers! So finishing our stairs went onto the before-baby to-do list.

Our biggest issue came from the noses. They were incredibly thick and rounded, so even if we put the noses that match the laminate on top of them, white would have shown through the bottom. This is where my husband’s brilliant plan came in–we cut them off! I thought it was kind of crazy at first, but it worked out really well.

Top set of stairs minus their noses.

It took some very precise measuring (which, as you can see, still wasn’t perfect) and cutting with a circular saw braced up against a piece of wood. It was kind of terrifying, but also awesome. Since it didn’t reach all the way to the sides, we used a jigsaw and dremmel to cut off the rest.

Lower set of stairs post-circular saw and pre-dremmel. (Please forgive the blurry husband foot)

Lower stairs minus noses.

Then once the noses were off, it was mostly a bunch of measuring. We cut eat piece of laminate to the precise width of the stair (checking to make sure it fit and trimming again if necessary), then did another the same way for the riser. The riser was cut so it was level with the top of the background riser and the tread so it was the correct size that the nose would fit over the top of it without a gap in the overhang (or underhang?). It sounds more complicated than it was, really. We just had to piece it together like a puzzle and do lots of cutting and measuring. The hardest part was using the locking mechanism of laminate to lock the two pieces together at a 90 degree angle. Once we had that in place, we used liquid nails on the back along with a nail gun to secure them.

Upper stairs in the process of being put together.

Our final step is to do the very top riser. If you look closely at this last picture, you can see that the bottom of the hardwood flooring shows past the nose a bit. Since this is the case, we need to make sure that we have a perfectly straight and nice looking line on the top riser. So my husband is going to take the last two pieces to his co-worker’s house and cut them on his table saw to get the nice clean cut. That part we didn’t accomplish before Banana arrived, but I still consider these stairs complete (since my part of the work is over). Yay new stairs!

“Completed” lower stairs.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Being Barlow Home Tour — Follow along as Jessica at Being Barlow gives you the tour of her family’s home.
  • A Tour Of My Hybrid Rasta Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes you on a tour of her kitchen complete with a Kombucha Corner, a large turtle, her tea stash, and of course, all her must-have kitchen gadgets. Check out Hybrid Rasta Mama’s most favorite space!
  • Dreaming of a Sisters Room — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, dreams, schemes and pins ideas for when her younger daughter is ready to move out of the family bed and share a room with her older sister.
  • Building a life — Constructing a dream — Survivor at Surviving Mexico-Adventures and Disasters shows you a glimpse inside the home her family built and talks about adaptions they made in constructing their lives in Mexico.
  • Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook welcomed a new baby but didn’t have a spare bedroom. She explains how her family rearranged the house to create Lydia’s nursing nest and changing room in spaces they already had.
  • The Gratitude Tour — Inspired by Momastry’s recent “home tour,” That Mama Gretchen is highlighting imperfect snapshots of things she’s thankful for around her home. Don’t plan to pin anything!
  • Our Home in the Forest — Tara from Up the Dempster gives you a peek into life lived off-grid in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
  • natural bedding for kids — Emma at Your Fonder Heart shows you how her family of 3 (soon to be 4) manages to keep their two cotton & wool beds clean and dry (plus a little on the end of cosleeping — for now).
  • I love our home — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings explains how lucky she feels to have the home she does, and why she strives so hard to keep it tidy.
  • Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Sunshine and Rainbows Edition — Dionna at Code Name: Mama was tired of her dark, outdated house, so she brightened it up and added some color.
  • Our little outdoor space — Tat at Mum in search invites you to visit her balcony, where her children make friends with wildlife.
  • Our Funky, Bright, Eclectic, Montessori Home — Rachel at Bread and Roses shows you her family’s newly renovated home and how it’s set up with Montessori principles in mind for her 15-month-old to have independence.
  • Beach cottage in progress — Ever tried to turn a 1980s condo into a 1920s beach bungalow? Lauren at Hobo Mama is giving it a try!
  • Conjuring home: intention in renovation — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama explains why she and her husband took on a huge renovation with two little kids and shares the downsides and the ups, too.
  • Learning At Home — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling helps us to re-imagine the ordinary spaces of our homes to ignite natural learning.
  • My Dining Room Table — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves her dining room table — and everything surrounding it!
  • Sight words and life lessons — The room that seemed to fit the least in Laura from Pug in the Kitchen‘s life is now host to her family’s homeschool adventures and a room they couldn’t imagine life without!
  • A Tour of Our Church — Garry at Postilius invites you virtually visit him in the 19th-century, one-room church where he lives with his spouse and two kids.
  • Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the Montessori baby-toddler space she’s created in the main living area of her home along with a variety of resources for creating a Montessori-friendly home.
  • The Old Bailey House — Come peek through the window of The Old Bailey House where Erica at ChildOrganics resides with her little ones.
  • My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shows you her new laminate stairs in her not-so-new-anymore house.
  • To Minimalist and Back Again — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went to the extreme as a minimalist and bounced right back. Read how she finds it difficult to maintain the minimalist lifestyle when upsizing living space.
  • Our Life As Modern-Day Nomads — This family of five lives in 194 square feet of space — with the whole of North America as a back yard. Paige of Our Road Less Traveled guest posts at Natural Parents Network.

Moving to a Playroom

Sleeping in their new big bed with daddy.

A few weeks ago, my in-laws offered us a bigger bed since they were upgrading one of the queens in their house to a king. Since my husband often ends up in the bed with both girls (trying to get Twig to stick to the transition we’ve made to her sleeping with Peanut), the full size we bought earlier this year was a little crowded. We decided to take them up on the offer, but in the process realized that the extra few inches each direction would make their bedroom mighty cramped. So we decided to move all their toys into our “Magic Room” (which actually has no Magic: The Gathering cards in it anymore as my husband has moved them all downstairs, so it’s more of a craft/storage room) and make that into a half craft/storage room and half playroom.

Newton stealing their new reading nook in their bedroom for a nap.

I thought long and hard about whether or not to move the toys. It seems like such a simple decision, but of course I had to overthink it. Will this make their amount of toys get out of hand? Will it always stay dirty because it’s more out-of-sight? Will they even use it since it’s further away from people than their bedroom is? I decided it would be worth it to at least give it a try. And thus far I’m really happy we made the switch.

Enjoying their new freedom of unlimited access to the supplies on their new craft table.

Even with their low amount of toys (I try really hard not to increase their toy amount by doing things like “one toy in, one toy out” at holidays and then regularly cleaning out things that are broken/junk/no longer used), it was a pretty large endeavor to get everything shifted around. In the process the only thing we added was a bigger table for crafts (happily donated by my mom) since Peanut was really not satisfied with coloring on the little Ikea Lack table that was in their room previously (she would take her coloring down to the kitchen table every time she wanted to color, which is every day). Thus far we’re loving the new setup and the girls are pretty good about cleaning up their playroom. Bonus is that at least when it’s not clean, we’re not stepping on toys as we try to get them into bed. If you’re contemplating moving the toys out of your child’s room, for space or otherwise, I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Their bedroom sans toys.

Their half of the Magic Room.

My half of the Magic Room.

Our Montessori Closet

We converted to this montessori style closet about a year ago after having most of everything else in the room along the montessori lines (which from what I understand is mostly that all things need to be at the child’s level). It was super easy to set up and it’s easy to maintain. The child-level bar for hanging clothes is a shower curtain bar (which has fallen down a few times because it’s just held up by pressure) and Peanut loves hanging their clothes on it for me. Dresses, shirts, shorts, pants, and skirts go here. Then in the back they each have a sock/underwear box and a PJs box. They’re both really good at putting away these clothes once I have them in piles from the laundry. The system is simple and we keep a relatively low amount of clothes on hand (enough for a 1.5 weeks, more if a child is potty training like Twig is) so it’s really easy to keep up with. If you’re looking for a closet solution, I definitely recommend giving this a try.

Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

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You know you want to make these. No, they’re not healthy for you. Actually, they’re probably incredibly unhealthy for you. Especially since, if you’re anything like me, you’ll eat about 6 before you’re done getting all of them out of the oven (okay, I have a bit of a sweet tooth). But you know what, an occasional unhealthy treat is still healthy. Everything in moderation, right?

I also know that this isn’t a cooking blog, but I’ve been reading a lot of The Pioneer Woman Cooks and watching a lot of Good Eats lately and it’s giving me an urge to share on the blog. Also, I’m attempting to make Wednesdays (in a trying to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as a general schedule, though other days may be added at times) my off-topic days. It makes me feel less guilty about talking about things that have nothing to do with lactation and parenting. Though I suppose that I could make an argument that eating cookies helps me make milk (maybe a bit of a stretch). Probably extra sweet milk.

I wish I could tell you where I found this recipe. If someone recognizes it, let me know so I can give some credit. I know it was on a box or bag of something from the store about 6 years ago. I’ve been making them since and, have I mentioned yet that they’re delicious? Man, I really want some more. I knew I shouldn’t have shared them! Speaking of sharing them, they’re a hit at any sort of get together.

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First off, you start with your lovely ingredients. Yes, that’s a box of chocolate pudding in there. Pumpkin, banana, coffee maker, and 3 year old wearing a babydoll on her back (or the baby on your own back, for that matter) not required.

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Take the wet ingredients (butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla) and cream them.

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Attempt not to eat the delicious buttery egg sugar cream. Mmm…

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Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, chocolate pudding mix). Make sure to sift that flour so you don’t end up with stiff cookies.

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Mix it around with a spoon until it’s thoroughly mixed. If you have crazy people in your family *cough*my husband*cough* who don’t like white chocolate, now is a good time to spoon off a sheet of chip-free cookies and stick them in the oven.

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Add white chocolate chips and mix them around faster than the 3 year old can take them out. I use 1/2 bag because of taking some dough out for the white chocolate hater, as well as my dislike for too many chips.

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Give the 3 year old the wooden spoon to keep her occupied so she stops trying to steal cookie dough. Yeah, I’m that mom. I’m okay with it.

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Spoon them onto an ungreased cookie sheet (or in my case, grease it because it’s in need of replacement and likes to steal chips out of cookies) about the size of a small spoon and cook them at 350 for 8-10 minutes. I start checking them at the lower time (or even lower, if your oven runs high) and if they still look wet on top, go for another minute and then check again. You want to get them out before they really start browning on the edges (there might be a very slight amount, but significant browning will end up with a not-so-perfect cookie). They should be crunchy on the outside and cakey on the inside. Mmm…

Here’s the recipe without pictures:

1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 box chocolate pudding mix
1 bag white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream butter and wet ingredients. Mix in dry ingredients. Add chips. Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Now go make some cookies! And enjoy them without guilt! I think I’ll go make some more too. Mmm…

How a Few Balls Can Save You a Lot of Dough

I’m talking wool dryer balls.

Have you heard of them? They’re great! As I mentioned in this previous post, prefolds take a lot of time to dry. I read about wool dryer balls from Hobo Mama on That Mama Gretchen’s Wool Week, but everywhere I found them wanted to charge what seemed like a lot of money for a few balls. So when Anktangle wrote this tutorial on how to make wool dryer balls, I decided to try it out! It’s a great way to use scrap yarn from wool diaper covers.

And I’m here today to tell you they are fantastic!

I can’t testify as to how they soften clothes (many people use them as an alternative to fabric softener) because we don’t use fabric softener. I wasn’t horribly attached to it and it makes my husband’s eczema flare up. As for drying though, they work miracles! Or at least decrease drying time, thereby saving time and money. That counts as a miracle, right?

So here is my testimony with evidence, albiet pretty non-scientific evidence.

Here is my very plain dryer’s dial. I pretty much only use the “auto dry regular fabrics” side, so that’s what I’m focusing on today. As you can see, the dial goes from “more dry” to “less dry” and has lines between. For prefolds, I used to have to dry them twice on more dry for them to be dry and occasionally they were slightly damp. By adding the 3 small wool balls pictured above, I only need to dry them once on more dry and they’re fully dry every time. It halved the time to get them dry!

With the regular laundry (which includes all of our laundry except shirts and pants, which we hang dry), I used to dry them once on more dry. I’m not sure if I was over-drying them or not though. Now that I’m using the wool dryer balls, they’re dry on the line above less dry (pictured above).

There are a few minor downsides.

  1. They can unravel. I’ve had one unravel completely and one that’s just starting to. This can be solved by knitting or crocheting a cover around them, but I’ve been too lazy to do this. Eventually I’ll get around to it.
  2. You have to search for them through your clothes when you take them out of the dryer. As I said, it’s a minor downside. I just go through the clothes and throw the balls back in the dryer (where they hang out until the next load) as I find them. This can be more annoying when they get stuck in fitted sheets, but still not that big of a deal.

Even with these small problems, wool dryer balls are still very much worth it. Try them out and you’ll see the difference.

Simplifying For Fall: Schedules and Routines

Twig in our Music Class.

This is the last day of the Simplify For Fall challenge. Technically Mandi added another day because she forgot living rooms when she first wrote it out, but luckily my living rooms are in great shape. We don’t keep a whole lot in those areas because they’re company areas. Just furniture and a few toys for the girls. Here’s the first daysecond daythird dayfourth day, and fifth day of the challenge.

Today’s task is schedules and routines. We’re pretty lucky in that our schedules are purposely kept as empty as possible. I’ve always over-scheduled myself, but I’m making an effort to counteract that. My biggest thing I try to do is to keep to one big event a day and as few days a week as possible (though it ends up that we have something scheduled more days than not). As an example, here’s what last week was like for us:

  • Sunday Lunch at my in-laws’ at 1PM, which happens every week. We tend to spend Sundays just hanging out over there or, if my parents are off work, then we go there for dinner. We are so luckily to have grandparents who want to see our children and are willing to watch them while I do homework and go take tests, which is also something I try to accomplish a lot of on Sundays.
  • Monday This is a big due date for my homework. This is the last day that I can take my weekly physiology quiz, chemistry quiz, and turn in my chemistry lab. It’s pretty difficult to get homework done with the girls, so I try to get as much as I can of this done during the night after they go to bed and on the weekends when we’re over at the grandparents. I need to get better about this though. Last Monday I also donated plasma, which I plan on doing on a regular basis now. I did chemistry reading while I was donating. We also went to lunch with my mom.
  • Tuesday We have Peanut’s dance class. We’re trying out a new one and have to stick with it for at least 2 months, via the contract. I’m not 100% happy with it, but I’ve given up on being happy with anything besides their music classes. Pretty much any class we’ve tried out for Peanut bribes and expects things that I don’t think are 3 year-old appropriate (like sit on this circle or you can’t participate). I have a blog on that I should review and post. Anyway, I try to avoid doing much besides the dance class. This Tuesday, I also had to take a chemistry exam, during which my mom watched the girls while I finished studying and then my in-laws watched the girls while I went in and took it. 93%!
  • Wednesday We try to go to story time at the library by our house on Wednesdays, but this Wednesday we had a play date scheduled, so we skipped it. Our play date ended up being cancelled because her little sister was sick, but we did get a bike trailer from a friend for free (yay bike riding!) and then we went grocery shopping. We also went into the Humane Society and played with the kitties, which Peanut loved. Hopefully I’ll be starting to donate plasma on Wednesday mornings. Yay money!
  • Thursday Thursdays have been stressful days in the past, but luckily that should be over! My husband has been working on a big project at work and for the past four months, Thursdays have been his late nights. Meaning he doesn’t get home from work until the girls are in bed. And that’s on top of his working 10 hours a day! Ugh! Hopefully, unless there’s a ton of bugs with the program or something, the long hours should be over. This past Thursday we went to the park with friends and then lunch with daddy before he went back to work. We also went shopping for stuff for our Halloween costumes.
  • Friday Fridays don’t have much planned, but it’s the first day I can take my physiology quiz and I have my physiology lab due the next day, so I try to do as much homework as possible. We sometimes have friends over in the evening to play board games.
  • Saturday Saturdays are pretty stressful at times, but fun! We try to do the fun things that are available near our house, since there’s generally a lot going on. We also have the girls’ Music Together class, which is in Salt Lake City, about a 45 minute drive. My husband comes with us (which is why we have it scheduled for Saturday) and then we usually go to lunch somewhere in the city afterwards. Somehow we always end up getting home later than I anticipate. Then my husband’s friends come over to play Magic: The Gathering until the wee hours of the night. I try to accomplish as much homework as possible during this time too.

So, as you can see, we don’t really have a lot of mandatory attendance things throughout our week, but we do end up doing a lot in a week. My goal continues to be the same one in that I want to avoid putting too much on our plates. We have a great time with play dates so I’ve been trying to get in more of those. The girls are just so much more happy (as am I) when we’ve been around people we enjoy.

My second goal is to accomplish more homework during the week. I tend to do a bunch on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, then not do any at all for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. If I could keep it spread out throughout the week, it wouldn’t be so much at once.

Lastly, my third goal is to be more present when I’m playing with the girls. Especially when school is in, I feel so hard pressed for time that I feel the need to always been multitasking. Either I’m folding laundry while we’re playing on their floor or I’m writing a blog post in my head while I color or I’m messing on my phone while I’m pushing Peanut on the swing. The reason that we decided that I should stay at home with the girls is that we wanted a parent present in their day-to-day lives. It’s not fair to them if I’m only half there. And if I’m more present the majority of the time, it’ll be easier for them to give me some space when I really need it.

Thanks for joining me as I went through the Simplifying for Fall Challenge. It’s been nice to get things in order as fall is starting. Have any of you followed the challenge or simplified on your own?