Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I subscribe to a blog called Keeper of the Home, a Christian-living based blog which offers articles and advice on home organization, healthy living and eating, and general home-keeping topics. Yesterday I got an email from the site announcing a one-week e-book sale: 97 e-books for $29.97, regular price is over $640. I read through the list of titles and determined that this was a very good investment for me; ice cream recipe book, a book of crockpot meals, a book with a list of 52 'projects' to help simplify your life, even stuff to help me plan Sunday School... awesome. So I went ahead and bought the bundle (you can do the same here, until May 4th) and spent a chunk of time today and last night looking over some of my purchases. I was inspired by so much of what I read, but by 11:00 I realized that I had yet to actually 'do' anything with my day, or even set out a list of things I hoped to accomplish. Now, granted, today was basically the first day in about a week that I've been able to sit upright for the whole morning, so I actually forgot outright that I normally plan what I want to tackle, or that I even try to tackle stuff during my day, but still - I felt pretty lazy at that point. It had started to bug me as I read through some of the organizational tips that some of the e-books held, and I realized that while they made some very good points, I doubted implementing a new organizational system sat very high on my list of priorities when I still hadn't done dishes from the night before. So I paid bills online, shut off the computer and set about cleaning some of my everyday things. I will take this time to say that I am very pleased to announce that my tolerance for mess has decreased considerably since I implemented my daily cleaning routine. The first day I was able to leave bed for longer than 5 minutes after my two week battle with illness, I made a point of doing the dishes up; Matt had maintained them reasonably well during my time out, but they had yet to be done to absolute completion, so I spent those first 10 minutes out of bed scrubbing the dishes, and making sure my kitchen counters were clear. All that really meant was that when I did my cleaning today, I didn't have to 'catch up' too much. So by the time my middle boy went down for a nap at 12:30, I had a load of laundry to fold, and then I felt at my leisure to do other things again. But this time, as I read, I felt justified in tackling some of the organizational 'nudges' that I came across in these books. And as I read, I did.

Pinterest, magazines and home organizational blogs are wonderful tools! ... if you actually attempt the things that inspire you in them. What's the point in having a "Favorite recipes" board that you pinned 80 recipes to today if you wasted so much time that you decided to order in pizza? And how much help is it to have a whole board devoted to front entry solutions if you never do any of them and throw your coat on the couch for months on end? Sometimes we get so blinded by trying to find the 'perfect' solution, be it for organization, cleaning schedules or meal ideas, that we forget to try anything at all. One of my relatives regularly sends me tips, articles and books on the next brainwave on how to clean your house better - and yet her house is perpetually messy, to the point of being unable to enter some rooms! And the real trick is, she needs to just start doing. Period. Instead of scheming how to keep her papers organized in a nifty little filing system, first she just needs to clean up her papers and get rid of everything that she doesn't need anymore. And instead of making lists of ways to clean, sometimes she just needs to pick up a glass when she's done with it and put it in the dishwasher. Granted, there is a time to re-evaluate a system, and make changes to help you stick to things better, but there's a point where just doing something - anything - is really what you need to be doing. And then when it comes time to re-evaluate our current system, we need to ensure we don't become paralyzed by the sheer number of options before us. If we have 20 different ideas for how to organize our kids' toys better than their current toy box, but never pick one and go with it, the toy box is going to be around for a long time.

Now, with that little public service announcement out of the way, I do want to take some time to dwell on, and extol, the virtues of those wonderful resources for organization and housekeeping tips. When you do get to that point of re-evaluation - maybe your best efforts just don't seem to be enough for keeping up with household clutter, or your makeup stash is overflowing and you can't seem to keep it contained or organized, or maybe you are about to put in a new pantry and want to get it right the first time (all personal experiences) - by all means check out Pinterest! I say Pinterest as a very general rule because that's how I stumbled across some of the awesome blogs I regularly head to for tips, like Keeper of the Home, but don't limit yourself. Magazines, blogs, newspaper articles, e-books... there are endless sources of wisdom out there on such topics! My cleaning schedules that I printed off from MarthaStewart.com have helped me enormously, although I did have to makeup my own "Bedtime Checklist" (Martha doesn't have 3 little ones at home), my makeup is now stored in little galvanized pails that hang on the wall (IKEA utensil holders actually) and is sorted by eye makeup, general face + creams, and brushes + lips, and my pantry is going to be incredible when it's finished! Thank you Pinterest!

But again, you have to actually try doing these things, or it's all pretty pointless.

So what did I come across today that inspired me enough to actually try it? First off, there were some great points in a couple of the e-books I read today about getting paper out of your house, and dealing with what you do need to have in it. When I came across these tips, I did the first step, which was to deal with the mess I already had on that front. I've got a mail organizer on a barnwood accent table which I'm supposed to go through every Friday and clear out or file away everything. I have to confess, that's one of the weekly chores on my cleaning schedule that I haven't kept up with very well. Just this morning my poor husband asked if there was some way he could help me keep that area more organized, which, to my pride-filled head sounds like, "You need to do a better job of this; you're letting your husband down by having mail pile up", so the prompting to deal with it was very timely. 10 minutes later, all the mail that had piled up since I last purged the little barnwood table (maybe a month and a half ago?) was sorted and ready to be filed. Then I was able to move on to the re-evaluation stage and identify what was, and was not, working. The e-books talked first and foremost about just not letting paper into the house. They suggested throwing flyers in the recycling bin outside before you even bring them in and look at them but I rely a little too much on my flyer habits for that idea to be anything short of traumatic. Their other suggestion I could fully embrace however: switch to electronic bills. Why have I not done this sooner? Basically because I have always felt like hardcopy is the only legitimate form of record for tax purposes. And if I ever get audited, that may be true, but the reality is, should I ever get audited, I can pull up my past years' statements from my online bill file and print out a hardcopy. Nifty, is it not? So I resolved to make the switch. I get so much mail to my current email account however, that I'm going to set up one simply for bills. That way it will be much easier to keep everything organized, especially since we have different service providers for nearly everything since it's always been cheaper. The next thing mention in handling paper was to dispose of what you don't need, as soon as possible. Turns out I have 2 years worth of monthly financial statements that are tucked away in my filing cabinet because we don't have a paper shredder and there's too much information on those bad boys for me to feel confident with simply tearing-and-tossing. So for the past couple of years I've just been keeping them instead of turning to the obvious solution - buy a flipping paper shredder!! For the amount of grief this silly overflowing barnwood table costs us, you'd think I'd have broken down sooner, but for some reason or other, I never have. But now I can say with certainty that both hubby and I would easily pay $30 to have our pretty accent table back, and de-cluttered. Granted, I will opt to have most of those statements as e-bills now, but that's not an option for all our accounts, so the paper shredder will still be well worth it.

The next biggest thing that struck me in my reading today was mentioned in the e-book One Bite at a Time:52 Projects for Making Life Simpler - it talked about having time with your spouse where you regroup, look at the upcoming week, and basically having a management meeting. I had heard this idea talked about before in Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll but never really thought that it was needed in our household; our kids weren't in school, we had no evening activities to drive them to and things were pretty straightforward. Well now our 4-year old is starting soccer next week, and when that's over we're taking him to swim lessons (birthday presents from the grandparents - great idea, no?), hubby has deacon meetings every other Tuesday, though I can never remember which one, I have meetings for church commitments and am trying to step up my play dates and times where we have people over for dinner or dessert, and there's something every weekend from now until July. I think the time has come where we need to make sure we're on the same page. I really recommend getting One Bite at a Time, so buy it, if not the whole e-book bundle, and see what the author has to say about these weekly meetings, but to set aside time once a week where you go over scheduling, finances, concerns for the family, and where you can indicate what your needs for the week will be seems like a fantastic idea. But I found a hitch in this idea. If I want to schedule date night with my husband every week, and we have meetings or life group nearly every evening, and then when our schedule is open we're so busy dealing with the demands of the household that we would feel hectic trying to set aside time for this meeting, how is this actually going to work? Well, One Bite at a Time actually inspired the solution to that hitch, too. Another 'project' the author mentioned was starting family traditions, and she proceeded to paint a picture of her and her husband cracking open a bottle of wine every Friday, and working side-by-side to make pizza from scratch as a way to help their family kick-start the weekend. It sounded like a beautiful idea and I could picture it clearly with swing music accompanying the choreographed cooking. I wanted that. And the perfect time popped into my head too! Since our church relocated to another church's building, we've switched to evening services, which means that in order to be at church by 6 (and often earlier if I'm leading worship or teaching Sunday School), very often we only eat a light meal and then hubby and I are hungry when we get home (the kids get snacks at church, lucky dogs), so we usually get the kids ready and into bed, and then have a couple hours of downtime before bed where we usually make up nachos or Kraft Dinner and unwind. But often we unwind separately. But not anymore. I am claiming that time! Starting this Sunday, after church each week hubby and I will come home, get the kids in bed, make dinner together, eat, then sit down with a nice dessert and a pot of tea, and have our weekly management meeting. It might seem like cheating to combine the management meeting with the new family tradition, but when you're pressed for time, that's what happens - and to be honest, I think we'll enjoy the time so much that we won't mind at all. The end of the weekend makes perfect sense for us, too: after having help all weekend with the house and the kids, my Sunday evenings aren't as hectic, and hubby hasn't been working all day, so he's not so tired that he can't focus on our conversation (totally happens sometimes). I'll take the initiative to make sure we have something quick to whip up for dinner after church, and something nice to have for dessert afterwards (even if it's just fresh fruit) and we'll get in some reconnecting time before the week comes to tear us asunder.

There were smaller things that I was spurred on to do today, like making a list of items that would help our household (a Dust Buster and a bigger food bin for dog food storage), and trying to start meal planning again (chili, BBQ ribs, and Chicken Souvlaki Crepes over the next three days!), and while I'm very excited about some of the changes that will hopefully help our household down the road, had I not tackled my regular duties, and gone to bed tonight with laundry done, the kitchen cleaned, and all the toys put away, I wouldn't feel like I had accomplished nearly as much with my day. In fact, I might have felt downright lazy.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Monday, April 29, 2013

The 4th Birthday UN-Party

Well, I got a little sick the last few weeks. And by a little sick I mean I made a trip into emerg in the middle of the night last Saturday and got screened for sepsis (not something you want to have). I've been cleared of any and all infections, and after 5 days my fever finally broke... and then I got such a bad sinus cold I'm surprised my face isn't puffy from all the junk inside. I'm so congested, I can't even open my jaw fully. Awesome.
Anyway, I got home from the hospital at 4:40 Sunday morning last week and thought, "I'm supposed to throw a birthday party for my kid in 6 days????" What's more, we had invited about a dozen kids, between the ages of 2 and 5. Scary. So I did the wise thing, and I cancelled the party. I felt bad for my little boy, but planned on still doing something that would make it feel like his birthday.
So what does a planning Momma do when she hasn't got the energy to even sit upright? She enlists help. And my Mother and my sister more than rose to the occasion by offering up houses, running errands, giving opinions and even doing labour for me. We had Gabe's 2 cousins come for his UN-party, which was held at my parents' house on Saturday. There were a couple things I had arranged before I cancelled the original party: I had made tunics for my two younger boys to wear, and matching flags for decoration. I had also planned a bunch of games. We decorated the inside of the house with bunting made from two plastic dollar store tablecloths, which we cut into long strands of triangles. There were enough from the two tablecloths to decorate both inside and outside. I reused the quidditch hoop I'd made for my sister's Harry Potter party to be a jousting target. I'd also collected boxes for a month to make a life-sized Angry 'Dragons' game, where the kids threw foam balls that my sister had drawn snarling dragons on. My dad printed out a giant dragon which we stuck to cardboard and used for Pin the Flames on the Dragon, and then had the kids throw water balloons at it to 'put the fire out'. My dad also took the initiative to cut out cardboard shields and wrap them in duct tape so the kids could decorate and then play with them.
We even turned on a short movie: The Reluctant Dragon (an oldie, but a goodie)
For snack the kids had cotton candy served in sugar cones, and then a cake which I had ordered from the grocery store that we stuck a knight figurine on.

If my boy were turning 7, would he have thought that the party was lame? Maybe. But fortunately, he was turning 4, so he thought it was the most fantastic party ever. And I didn't even have to have a whole load of cleverly-thematic food, or goodie bags, or anything like that. We dressed up, we had sword fights with pool noodles, and we had cake.
Not bad for an UN-Party.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Play Catch-Up

It's been a while, I know. I'm not going to go on and on in this post about how I'll try to post more frequently, because I'm sure you're getting tired of that same old song. But how about I catch you up on what's been happening?

I had, again, a series of early labour fake-outs. My doctor could not believe how crazy my body was acting.

I went into the hospital on my due date... for non-stress testing.

2 days later I could have swore I would have the baby before my husband got home to take me to the hospital. The sensation was gone after 10 minutes. Still no idea what that was.

3 days after that, I woke up at 8:30, felt a hard contraction by 9, went to the hospital by 10:15 and had the baby by 11:19. The doctor didn't even make it to the hospital, and two support nurses barely made it into the room on time.

Baby Bennett was born on March 30! He's beautiful and dark and so incredibly precious!!

We were discharged Easter Sunday. My mom made sure my boys still got to celebrate Easter by taking them to church and stocking our house with Hot Cross Buns in advance. We never got around to decorating eggs, but at least we had something of a celebration!

I lead worship at my church when Bennett was 8 days old.

In the past 2 weeks we've been adjusting to life with three little boys, and so far things have been pretty smooth.

...Up until this morning when all 3 of my boys, and I, woke up with cold symptoms ranging from dripping noses to sinus pain and fevers. Awesome.

That basically covers the last few weeks. Now that you're all caught up, here's some thoughts looking forward:

I want another tattoo. Badly. I'm thinking a silhouette of a sparrow sitting on a reed done in white ink on my forearm. I'll have to wait a while though!

I can't wait until our family vacation in the mountains. I love going out to Canmore and I'm so excited for lots of fishing!

I also want to plan a trip to BC, for two reasons: 1) I'm missing Fairmont. We went there on our honeymoon and had the world's most incredible gelati at Invermere (Gerry's Gelati peeps - check it out), and, well, I want more. 2) I just found out that the composer and pianist who did one of my favorite instrumental cds - Orca Suite - lives out on Vancouver Island and plays weekly at the Fairmont Empress during their tea time. I want to go meet him and hear him play live.

I have 15 days until my oldest boys' fourth birthday. It's supposed to be a knight party, but besides some musings I may have written on here previously, I haven't really given it much thought. That's an issue. I need to plan a party, people!

I also need to help plan a birthday party for my Grandma. She turns 85 this year so we're having a "Come and Go" tea for her, and I'm helping to cater. ...With a one month old strapped to my chest by that time.

And then I'm helping with my sister-in-law's tea party bridal shower. I'm running it as a Steeped Tea Party, which means that we're going to have lots of yummy teas there. That also means I need to do a bit of planning...

AND THEN I'm doing a fundraiser show at a Women's Retreat which I'm helping to set up an Afternoon Tea for. That one will be pretty fun I think.

Three weeks ago I had nothing in my calendar for the next few months. Now I only have one weekend a month that is not already booked up, from now until July. Yikes!

I think along with another tattoo, I also want to get the upper cartiledge in my ears repierced. This time with a needle instead of a gun (what an awful crunching noise!)

I finally finished my baby quilts using the material I bought for Gabe and one of his little friends when he was 3 months old... and now nearly 4 years later they ended up being gifts for the two younger boys. Which means Gabe gets to pick his own blanket pattern and I need to make at least one more quilt in my life. Sigh.

I'm going to go eat a Peanut Butter and Pickle sandwich now. I got depressed thinking about quilting.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)