Friday, July 25, 2014

decluttering: phase 1

after i posted the other day about how we wanted to start getting rid of our "too much stuff" i became overly enthused by the prospect of not having so much. especially after i walked into the girls room and saw how much they had covering their floors. 

let me start by saying this: bella cleans her stuff and her room {almost}every day. she is very good at putting her dishes where they go and her trash where it goes. BUT messes still occur, and she doesn't clean that stuff unprompted. usually, right before bed time, we have a cleaning party and she and cora clean the living room, which has become their new favorite place to drag their toys to, despite my protests and threats.  

no, it is not easy. she whines annoyingly complains that "no one will help" her pick the stuff up, and i tell her that's because no one helped her make the mess. but she does it. right after i threaten to vacuum up anything still on the floor.

so when we decided we would be decluttering, i had visions of mess free afternoons dancing through my head. (currently popped by the coloring book and crayons all over the floor. but i can handle that.)

and so, one afternoon, i went to work. and this was my yield from my first go

that may not look like too much, but that is about half of the girls toys. i realized that, while they do have too much, their too much isn't too bad, really. on top of this, i got rid of a lot of baby clothes that i had been hanging onto that wouldn't sell. and there is still more i want to get rid of-puzzles and games and things that make big messes and i dread bringing out. but i will save that for a day that joel can take the girls to the park. 

i've decided to take the house in stages. 

phase 1: kids stuff

my first goal 
is to combine the girls closets into one, with all of their hang up clothes and shoes in one place, to make room for baby stuff. 

my second goal 
is to consolidate all of their toys into the two toy drawers under their play table, and clearing all of the toys out of the stand up closet in the girls room. 

my third goal 
is to find a better system for storing their clothes. right now, we have 2 closets and 2 dressers to split between 3 kids, and all of the clothes are stored between 2 rooms. so getting dressed is a little disjointed. but clearing the toys out of the stand up closet is a big key to doing that. 

i've learned that my biggest problem is organization. we have two very good, though small, closets at our disposal, and so far, they are not being utilized to their fullest. i want to get a second bar cut for one closet, which i have been meaning to do since we moved in two years ago, doubling up on the hanging space. since their clothes are still tiny, i can easily fit 2 rows of clothes in there. the stand up space is all shelves and currently, one closet stores toys and the other closet stores.....random stuff. mostly things that need to be sorted and stored properly and permanently, or sold. 

that all seems a little daunting, but maybe my "nesting" instinct will kick in, making it easier to tackle. especially if i can get a few hours of alone time to do it, without both girls insisting that everything is their favorite. 

i am going to continue to post the progress here to hold myself accountable! 

the start of something new

it is officially official! i have become a jamberry consultant. i'm not sure why it took me so long to bite the bullet, or why i have surprised myself by doing it, but i am excited! 

i am not usually good at selling things for the sake of selling them, but i have been wearing jamberry for a while now and i just love it so much. i really believe in the product and that it is the best of its kind. so here goes nothing! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

things are getting serious

we have had the conversation. the we have "too much stuff" conversation. 

i always bristle when joel brings it up, because i know we have too much stuff, because i am the one who picks up "too much stuff" on a daily basis. a lot of our "too much stuff" is present in the fact that we have boxes in the basement that haven't been opened since we lived in the states. and some of our "too much stuff" is a result of someone's need to fix things that are not broken. 

but the "too much stuff" we are getting serious about belongs to our small people. when bella was littler, i would buy every melissa & doug toy i could get my hands on. i filled her shelves with learning toys and puzzles and games designed to make her brilliant. 

and then she turned 2 and when we went to target she zipped down the little people aisle, and so we filled the drawers of her table with little people. which then spilled over into the closet and the shelves....

and then she turned 4 and got an opinion and she decided to fill her shelves with lalaloopsy and my little pony. 

yet we still have all that other stuff. because cora is old enough to play with it all. and there is another baby coming soon, and once cora outgrows it, he will be playing with it. 

and so "too much stuff" just kept growing and growing. 

but we've had enough. in the wise words of my husband, "they will be no less enriched if we take everything away." 

we aren't getting that drastic. but my kids don't really play with their toys. sure, they have a few sets of things that they love and play with all the time-cora, the kitchen, bella, her trains and her my little ponies. they play together with lalaoopsy and occasionally they build a small village of little people. but all the rest of that stuff is just stuff. and they play so well withOUT stuff. tonight for 45 minutes, they played "watch what i can do" on a giant body pillow. 

and so i am on a mission. tonight, i got rid of a huge basket worth of stuff and they didn't even notice. the challenge will be keeping it down when christmas and birthdays come around, but santa has a plan for that. 

i saw on pinterest an idea that i think the jolly fat man will be adopting this year....

something they want, 
something the need, 
something to wear
and something to read. 

and that's all, folks. no mountain of toys under the christmas tree this year. 4 simple gifts, per child. 

we've only made a small dent in the "too much stuff" and will continue to chip away slowly, until we aren't ruled by our stuff. and we are only just starting there. i want to extend it into our stuff. movies and kitchen gadgets and {deep breath} crafty things. 

maybe i will even take pictures......

Sunday, July 20, 2014

i can't take the heat.....

the heat is getting to me. 

as i write this, i am sitting on the lukewarm floor in front of a fan, sweat dripping off of my forehead. i just can't.......

i am not a summer in germany person. the summers here are relatively short, and therefor, no one believes in a/c. and while i love the beach and the pool and lakes and any body of water, really, if i can't escape the heat, i am not a nice person. 

i wake up hot, then have two little hot bodies who want to snuggle just as the interior temperature reaches "sauna", and a little hot potato just keeping my core temperature up. 

our fabulous px, which is notoriously never properly stocked has no pools, but an abundance of goggles and floats. like, the annoying floats that always go on sale at the end of the year for $2 because NO. ONE. BUYS. THEM. (side note: the person stocking our exchange needs a new job.) 

joel is TDY this week back to the states, where he he sleeps in an air conditioned room, then drives to an air conditioned building to sit in an air conditioned conference room, and finally to an air conditioned restaurant with ice in their drinks and service that is quick, where he eats by himself with no children, a meal he doesn't have to cook in a hot kitchen and then clean, while small hot people cling to his sticky legs begging to be held.....and my attitude about that has just been horrendous. 

in 9 years, i have not complained about a deployment or a tdy. but this time, i find myself very complain-y every day. 

i find it pertinent to share, because in this community of fellow military spouses, it can be very tempting to hear someone else complain about their situation and guffaw at their attitude. i've been there. especially when my husband is deployed and someone complains that their husbands weekend corporate work trip is really stressing them out. that's a bad attitude to have too. because everyone handles what they are dealt differently. this is the shortest TDY joel has been on, and mostly because of the heat, i have struggled with it more than any separation we have faced. 

so this week, i'm asking anyone who happens to read this to pray for me: 

for my attitude to not be dependent upon my room temperature. 

for patience with my children, who aren't being any more "child like" than usual, but with whom i am losing it, because the heat already has me irritated ("please don't touch me" has become a common phrase lately, and i don't like it.). 

for this heat to break (70's are perfectly fine. but 90 degree days are just not ok....). 

for my attitude when joel gets back, as it will still be upper 80's when he gets back. 

and for bella, who keeps turning the fans off because they are making her cold. bless. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

because i said so

"why? mommy why? but why? whywhywhywhywhyhwy?"

that question is about to out me in the loony bin.....

don't get me wrong, i love and encourage the curiosity of children. however, this is not curiosity. this is one 4 1/2 year old trying to drive me insane. 

today in the car, she screamed as i was merging onto the autobahn. naturally i very irrationally screamed  calmly and rationally responded, "DON'TEVERSCREAMWHENIAMGETTINGONTHEAUTOBAHNUNLESSYOUAREDYING!!!!!!"

because that is the only way to appropriately respond to that situation. swearsies. 

i feel like a rational person would realize at that moment that it is not a good idea to scream in the car. but 4 1/2 year olds are not rational people. so she yelled back, "WHYYYYYY?!!??!!?!?" 

"........because i said so. "

"but, why?"

"just don't do it."

"but WHY????"

you may be thinking, "well that's rational, why don't you just explain it to her???". that's a great question. and i have an even better answer. see, every time we are in the car, she picks the worst possible moment to just....scream. inexplicably. sometimes it's when i am merging lanes. sometimes it's when i am making a left turn across traffic. and occasionally it's when i am at a stop light. the only real explanation that i have is that she is a girl and little girls, for some strange reason have this impulse to scream at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. or she may suffer from tourettes. 

and for each time she has done this, i have explained to her that it scares me and i'm driving and if she does it while i am driving and can't see her, i think something is wrong and i may wreck and we could die. because all good explanations end with a fiery ball of flames. i can't tell you how many times i have given her this very slippery slope turn of events that will undoubtedly occur one day.

and then she does it again. and i tell her not to do it. and she asks why. every. time. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

rompers and ruffles

if you know me, you know that when i find something i like, i talk about it. a lot. because i definitely believe in the power of word of mouth. and when i find a small business (or a big one) that i love, i want it to succeed and so i "vote with my dollars", so to speak. 

several years ago, a friend of mine started a business making custom monogrammed and appliqued kids shirts. what started as a modest facebook page, and website, grew to have over 2,000 fans. 

each week, tabitha runs a sale, featuring a theme, with several different designs, and lately she has expanded to include monogrammed hats, purses, diaper bags, coolers and casserole dishes. she carries kids back packs, matching lunch bags, and does presales for things like squeaker shoes, mud pie and christmas items. 

speaking of christmas items, this friday, she will put on a special "christmas in july" sale, where she will have all kinds of christmas goodies up for grabs.

but this isn't a unique idea-many boutique style places have sales and preorders and "auctions" like this. but when you order from R&R, you aren't ordering from a store, or a large business trying to expand into social media. you are ordering from one mom. and that means you are getting very personalized service. 

i've been ordering shirts, shoes and pajamas from tabitha for a few years now, and i can't get enough. not just because they are adorable (though yes, that is a huge reason), but because i can message her and say, "i like this fabric with this font, but what do you think??? can you make this extra thing for me??" and she puts her creative brain to work, making just the right combination of colors and patterns work, perfectly. 

not only that, but she is so willing to go out of her way to make sure everything is right with your order. i got my mom a goblet (because what fancy grandma doesn't need a goblet with her monogram on it?!) for her birthday, and tabitha packaged it up, and delivered it to her at her work. you don't get that kind of service from a chain or even most stores. 

i've had so many personalized experiences, which you can only get from a small business. when we went to disney, in paris, i emailed tabitha and asked if she could hook me up with something. she spent a little bit figuring something out and sent me an image of the eiffel tower with minnie in front of it, that i absolutely loved. 

this one is another one i had made special-bella's fourth birthday. i sent tabitha a picture of bella's favorite lalaloopsy, and she made it happen. bella loved it.

i love stocking up on holiday and seasonal shirts each year. they are absolutely the cutest shirts around. and they make me feel super festive. 

when cora was born, this was her coming home outfit. and this next baby has his very own special shirt headed my way right now which we will use to announce his name! 

we got cover ups for the girls for the summer with their monogram on them. any old cover up would do, but i really love having personalized ones for each girl. and they like them too. 

each time i get new shirts in, the girls rip into the box like it's christmas. and cora, my little fashionista, lover of cute clothes, squeals like a little.....well.....girl. 

 this weekend is the special "christmas in july" sale, featuring pajamas, stockings, tree skirts and more. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

not so annoying kid music

we love music in this family. many days, you can find us with the record payer on having a crazy dance party around the living room (yes, we have a record player. and lots of records. some new and some that we have acquired from the flohmarkt downtown. it's all very cool. trust me.)

when we started having dreams of a family, i swore we would neverevereverever listen to annoying kid music. because, no. you know what i am talking about, those songs that you can't get out of your head and you just want to rip your hair out or punch a speaker. yes, children's songs that invoke violence. we don't play that game around here. 

when we had bella, we listened to a lot of jack johnson. because it makes me want to be sleeping in a hammock and so how can a baby NOT feel at peace to that. and that was awesome, and the girls still love jack, but it makes me homesick, if you can be homesick for a place you only lived for a few years. 

then bella turned to that age where they love the most annoying things ever (think caillou, barney and {dun dun dun} yo, gabba gabba!) and i just desperately needed to divert her attention. 

for the car, we got the jewel cd, "the merry goes 'round" and believe me when i say, we got to know that cd very well. especially the number one track, "sammy the spider". the songs appealed to the kids, but without the repetition that most kids songs have. having a legitimate artist singing the songs is much more pleasant to listen to, as well. 

another favorite was the soundtrack to curious george. we do love jack.

as bella got older, she started learning the words to the songs, and that was when the radio started to die, especially when we moved here, the land of the non-radio edit! joel went looking for some kids music for a road trip and he stumbled across laurie berkner band. specifically, the music video to the song "party day". he loaded several of her music videos on bella's nabi tablet and by the end of our trip, she had memorized all of the lyrics and sang them constantly. 

if you have small kids, and they love to dance and sing, and you have amazon, you mustmustmust get amazon streaming. laurie berkner has an episode that is free that is a bunch of music videos and the girls love to have a dance party to it. 

we like to have music for the car, because i would rather hear singing than screaming when we are all strapped in. our latest gold gem was a CD and book combo by sandra boynton, called "frog trouble". this one is definitely my new favorite, and the girls love it as well. which, you know, is kind of the point......

each track is sung by a hit recording country artist, from alison krauss, ben folds, dwight yokam and josh turner, and even hootie himself, darius rucker. the only thing "kid like" are the lyrics, but the sound is very much professional and some of the songs are actually pretty beautiful (hello, anything alison krauss does is just gorgeous, in my opinion). they even have videos for many of their songs, which are a hit in this house. 

sandra boynton books are a favorite around here, and this book/CD combo is no different. the lyrics are fun and entertaining, and the pictures in the book are down right cute! 

none of the links i provided are affiliate links, and i haven't been compensated in any way for my opinions. i just figured, if you have kids, you probably like listening to music that doesn't make you crazy. 

toddler talk

cora is in full on talky-talk mode. i had forgotten how much fun toddler talk is. especially since 4 year old talk is not really all that fun. there's lot's of sass and backtalk that my former pre-kids, know everything self swore would "not happen on my watch!". uh huh.....

give me a moment while i find some crow.

back to the cute toddler. 

she has the cutest short hand and the way she pronounces things is hysterical. she has all those basic "mommy", "daddy", "dog" words down pretty clearly, but there are other things she says that actually give me pause. 

while i was eating my bagel the other morning, she kept yelling, "mah goodburger!!! mah goodburger!! peese mommy! goodburger!!" 

i had a momentary flashback to the late 90's nickelodeon show, and then realized she was asking for a bagel. it beats me how "goodburger" is easier to say than bagel, but i like it. 

some of her favorite phrases are: 

"help me, mommy! peeese!" 

"here you go, mommy!" 

"more. MORE!"

"i want goberry!" (strawberries)

"follow me guys!" 

"go, sissy!" whenever bella is doing something

"where daddy go? daddy wok?" wok=work

"duke! bad boy!" 

"i broke" whenever she goes poop. i don't know......

and my favorite is at bathtime. i ask "who want's a bubble bath!?" and she says, "MEEE!!!" then runs down the hall yelling, "bubbabath!!! bubbabath!!!!!!" 

the notion that i am having conversations with her is just crazy, because i still think of her as a tiny baby. not an almost 20 month old toddler! this girl is full of spunk. notice all those exclamation points? that was not by mistake. cora screams everything. 

for a second, i thought maybe she was hard of hearing. so we ran a test. 

while she played, joel said, "cora.........cora!" nothing. so he whispered "cookie" and she shot up so quick, i thought maybe she had been bitten by something. so clearly, she can hear. she is just exuberant and selective with her hearing.....

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

kiwi crate saves the day!

summer has become quite the battle around here. cora (thankfully) takes a 2-3 hour nap every day. and while that sounds absolutely glorious (and for the most part, it is), it means that bella is stuck in the house with little to do.

today was particularly harsh, as i had a lot of cleaning and organizing to do in the morning and we didn't make it to the playground before cora's naptime. bella had a tough morning, too, and spent a lot of time in her room. so nap time came and that meant bella became bored. 

i'm not going to argue that "we need to let our kids be bored! boredom inspires creativity!" sure. sure. it does. it also inspires, "i'm hungry. i'm hungry. i'mhungryi'mhungryi'mhungryI'MHUNGRY!!!!!!". and with her room preoccupied by a sleeping cora leaving her no where else to go, i start getting a little blurry-visioned and crazy. 

about a week ago, our latest kiwi crate arrived and i hid it, for just this moment.  

haven't heard of kiwi crates? you should check them out. 

basically, they are boxes that contain everything you need for a fun craft or science experiment, including easy to follow, step by step instructions that even a non reader can follow. most boxes have two complete hands-on activities, along with a magazine called "explore!" that includes games and drawing pages and instructions for another activity. 

this time, our box was all about summer camping! the two activities were "my glowing campfire" and "my sunprint backpack". 

this box was special in that it came with an extra "travel journal" and a snack bag of dried fruits. not only did this crate satisfy the "i'm bored" but also the "i'm hungry!". 

each crate has a little instruction book and on the front of each book, they tell you how messy it will be, how much parental involvement is required and what skills you will explore. 

today, we did the "my glowing campfire" craft. it included everything we would need to make a glowing campfire, including a "tea light candle" that is battery operated, for safe indoor campfires!

 bella "read" the directions and was telling me what she was supposed to do, before i could even get through the first step. with each step, i would show her a little bit and then she would do the rest all by herself.

while she required a little help in some areas, for the most part, i had 20 minutes of free time. i did a craft that i had been trying to accomplish all nap time, right next to her. so we worked together on different things. that is what i call a win-win. 

bella loved this craft and when she was done, we talked all about campfires and roasting marshmallows. she "roasted" her marshmallows for another 20 minutes until she decided she wanted to eat her snack and write in her travel journal. 

crates are monthly subscriptions, and have 4 different options-monthly ($19.95), 3-months ($19.95/month, paid upfront), 6 month ($18.50/month, paid upfront) or 12 months ($16.95/month, paid upfront). we do the monthly so that we can cancel at any time, which is especially helpful with our lifestyle. we have been getting crates for about a year and haven't canceled yet, but when we move, we will be in a state of homelessness for a few weeks to a month, so that will come in handy. 

when i first heard of kiwi crate, my intial thought was, "for $20 a month, i could do this myself!" and yes, yes you can do this yourself. you can scour pinterest or rack your brain for a fun craft, you can buy the supplies that your craft hoarding hasn't supplied you with already and get it all together and then try to teach your kid how to make said craft. 

but these crates take all of the hard work out of it. you literally open the box and everything is there, and ready to go. the mess is controlled, because everything is organized and you have just the amount of things you need. there is little waste, because things are precut and preformed, specifically for your project. it's like an ikea craft! it is also great for a wide variety of age ranges, because of the simplicity of the craft but also the.....well...craftiness of it! 

there is also an option for a sibling add-on. for $9.95 extra, you get everything you need, plus the additional amount to make a duplicate craft, for siblings. cora isn't ready for this yet, but when she is, we will most certainly be doing this. 

i would say kiwi crates are perfect for about 3 and up, and while their website states ages 3-8 as being the ideal range, i think even older kids would enjoy many of the crafts and projects. 

i have a personal referral link and if you use it, you save $10 and so do i! 

you can also save 10% off of any order right now from their shop-individual crafts, individual boxes or party favors, by using the code FOURTH.