Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten good things...

On this blustery Monday, there are so many things to be thankful for:

1. Playoff basketball.  I love my Blazers, and love that they are working so hard to play a great series against Dallas.

2. The little one just looked outside and said, "It looks like the wind is doing exercise with it's arms!"

3. Days at the park are back!  We had our first picnic of the year on Saturday, and are already planning the next one.

4. The fashion choices of my little one - cowboy hat and swim shorts for the park, undershirt and necktie for riding his scooter. He likes to be inspired when dressing, and very much considers the dress up box to be part of his closet.

5. Baking bread.  It is a skill I covet - but one that will take a lot more practice.

6. A good book trumps all in our home.  Case in point: the little one stopped to read an old favorite right in the middle of hunting for Easter eggs.

7. Our oldest is not shy.  When he's got something to say, he'll say it.  And if a microphone can be involved, it's all the better. While I can't identify, I'm happy he feels so comfortable.

8. Reusable water bottles.  Keeping them around everywhere helps us all to drink a lot more water, and there's no waste.

9. Music.  Everywhere.  Constantly.

10. A mother-son wrestling match in the puddles of sunlight on the carpet.  Lots of laughing.  And I'm all for taking them to the mat while I still can.

inspired by Amanda...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter eggs

I keep coming to the holiday-preparation party late this year.  I dream of making them all magical, but then realize that I am sorely out of time for magic.  Easter this year has been no exception. I wanted to try a variety of food-based dyes again -and planned this whole big science-experiment type of family fun. But a week of meetings and open houses and practices, life was in the way.  So we did the best we could - some turmeric, beet, and red cabbage water and a bunch of crayons.

The food-based dyes are fun - we did them last year.  But the time that it takes for the dye to set is beyond the patience of my boys right now.  Instead of having them focus on the dying, they used crayons to design their own eggs.  And boy, did that show us a lot about each of them and their understanding of the Easter holiday.  The oldest one?  He drew a family outside a church. The little one? Some sort of Star Wars battle (which he has never seen).  Yeah. But they had a great time using crayons on both cold and hot eggs (which gave us a beautiful, melted wax affect).

Once they were done coloring, we placed the eggs in the dye, and put them back in the fridge while we headed off for a soccer game.  When we came home, they were done.  And I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in how they turned out.  We had much better luck last year. But once again, the kids didn't care.  They were so proud of their eggs and how they turned out.  They were happy to be part of the process, and didn't care that we didn't make charts or try a million combinations. For them it was Easter.

 I'm so thankful for the easy delight of my boys. 
They are my Easter joy, my Easter miracle.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Much needed...

I've mentioned them before, but I have a fantastic group of friends.  We met at a "New Moms" group when our oldest babies were born.  At the time, the only thing we had in common was not knowing what we were doing.    But now, five and a half years later, these ladies are some of my best friends and closest confidants. I trust them with my children and my heart.

Last year we escaped for a little beach retreat.  A whole weekend without children on the beautiful Oregon coast.  And it was heaven.  Naturally, that meant we needed to make it happen again.  So months ago we began planning for a repeat.  Busy lives, living in two states, and sick husbands couldn't keep us from being there.

It was a much needed break from the world of mothering, and we filled it to the brim with laughing and crying and talking. Late nights were filled with sharing of our worlds before they collided, and the days were filled with reminiscing about our children and solving the problems of the world. We've all got our own things going on, and we don't get to meet once a week like we did in those early days, but the time apart melts away.

These women are some of the most genuine people I know.  The shared willingness to be vulnerable and honest in the good and bad of life amazes me. After all, I didn't grow up with a lot of longterm girlfriends. But these ladies?  I hope they are in my world forever.  I'm a better mama and person because of them. And I love the way they can make me laugh until I cry.

Thank you, ladies, for this much-needed escape.  Same time next year?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hot Spot #5

This was the last week of Project:Simplify.  Instead of a set hot spot to clean out and organize, this week was "free choice". And all week I dithered about which area I should focus on - because, even after 4 weeks, there are still plenty of areas that need some focused attention.  It came down to our closet of disorganized office supplies and photography equipment in the guest room or my bathroom drawers. And with the advice of some wise women, the bathroom drawers were chosen.  After all, I see them every day, their organization can directly impact the quality of my mornings, and focusing a little on myself isn't a bad thing every once in a while.

SO, here's the embarrassing before pictures:
Top Drawer Before

Middle Drawer

Hair "Supplies" Drawer

Under the Sink

Extra Supply Drawer
And here are the afters:
Top Drawer - and yes, I have far more containers of dental floss or chapstick than anyone needs.

Extra Supplies drawer - all samples nice and contained.
Hair supplies drawer

Middle Drawer - nail polish and vitamins/medications

Under the Sink
It's better.  It's a lot better.  There's a kitchen garbage bag full of old bottles of nail polish, product that didn't quite work, and about 20 scrunchies.  And yes, there's still too much there.  But it's a start.

The funny thing?  I figured I would do this "hot spot" tackling once a week for five weeks, and be done. And this week I was sad that it was all going to be over.  I know I'm a little slow, but it wasn't until last night that I realized I didn't have to stop just because the 5 weeks were up.  There really is no reason why I can't keep tackling those hot spots around the house.  Maybe next week will be the guestroom closet. Or the garage.  Or the bookshelves. The list goes on.  But that's ok.  Because right now, I don't have to organize my closet, the boys' room, the craft closet, the file cabinets, or my bathroom drawers. They're already done.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bad Idea...

Ok, I had that cheeseburger (and fries).  Bad idea.  Bad.  I just feel gross. Now, the few bites of grilled chicken at lunch didn't make me feel that way at all.  Hmmm.  Maybe I'm finally learning to listen to what my body has to tell me about food.

Yup.  That 30 days was worth it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's over...

Today was the last day of the 30 Day Vegan cleanse that I have been doing.  Heather, from Beauty that Moves, led an amazing workshop and experience, providing much more than just some good recipes.  Now, don't get me wrong - the food was fabulous.  She got me to eat things I never thought I would try, and I often found myself amazed by how much I enjoyed it all. I never thought I could feel so satisfied and content without meat, eggs, dairy, and honey.  And she never stooped to recommending all the processed soy-foods out there (besides  tempeh and tofu).  Just vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and some yummy sauces (peanut and tahini being my favorites).  Good stuff, all of it.

Now the question I get the most: how do I feel? To be honest, not a ton different.  Sure, there are some little things - softer skin, less 3:00 pm energy slump, and many fewer cravings among them.  But overall, I didn't notice the feeling of "lightness" that so many describe. I've been warned that some people notice when things are taken out of the diet, and others notice as foods are added back in.  Which is where I am now.  What to add back?  There are just so many philosophies and  theories about nutrition, and many varied ideas have excellent research to support them.  As I said when I set out, I didn't do this to become vegan.  I saw it as a great experiment in altering my diet to try new and interesting things.  But yes, I will add meat in.  Probably not as often as before. And in eating less meat, I will be able to focus on choosing higher quality (not factory farmed). Dairy is another story - that is one area I have felt better.  I have found that I really enjoy almond milk as a substitute, and will splurge on the occasional good cheese, but my body feels better without it. (And I found a great coconut milk ice cream for those special treats!) Eggs?  They just don't sound as appealing, but I won't be avoiding them so fastidiously. I am looking forward to adding honey back in - it is a good, natural, less-processed sweetener that works for me. 

So that's where I am.  Today I had an apple and peanut butter  for breakfast, chickpea, avocado, and tomato salad for lunch, and veggie stir fry with brown rice for dinner.  Snacks were veggies with hummus and a green smoothie (strawberries, banana, and kale today).  I didn't feel deprived or like I was missing out.  I am maintaining a focus of crowding out the processed, sugary foods with yummy, healthy plants. And i didn't mind at all.  In truth, I'm a little sad it's all ending.

I really can't recommend this workshop enough, and I hope Heather offers it again.  As I said in the beginning of this post, it was about far more than food.  There were brilliant reminders to slow down and take care of ourselves.  Inspiring quotes were supported by inspiring people along the journey. Taking thirty days to listen to my body and my heart, and try and fill those needs a little better was beyond worth it.  I learned things I will carry into the rest of my life.

Just give me one cheeseburger, and I'd be ready to do it all again!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Butterflies

Although it doesn't happen as much as we like, we still try and fit a little crafting in in the afternoons.  Our recent play used some of our favorite elements - coffee filters (Dan bought the wrong size years ago, and we've been using that pack for art ever since), liquid watercolors, and pipe cleaners.

There are a few things that make painting at our house a little easier - an old party tablecloth, mini-muffin tins, and serving trays from IKEA. Really, I used to dread pulling out the paints - we have cream-colored carpets, and the mess was just too much at the end of a long day. But now it's easy: the plastic tablecloth makes it quick to mop up spills, the mini-muffin tins hold just the right amount of paint for my boys' attention span, and the serving trays give one extra layer of protection.  And the right tools make all the difference in this case.

This project was a no-brainer.  We each watercolored several coffee filters.  And yes, I mean "we".  When I set up a project and leave the boys to work on their own, the process lasts about 5 minutes.  If I put on some music and sit down to work with them, we're good for at least 30 minutes. My favorite part is watching the boys play with different techniques.  The little one is a big fan of lots of paint in lots of colors all over.  The big one prefers a careful application of each color one at a time. I was playing with running one color into another.  There are a lot of tongues out of the mouth, eyes narrowed in concentration.

Once the coffee filters are painted and dry, then it's time to bring in the pipe cleaners.  Some were pinched in the middle to become flowers, and others were folded to become butterflies.  Here the little one faded out, off to play cars. The big one was hard at work though, crafting away.

The whole time I'd envisioned the sliding glass doors covered with a pretty garden scene.  The big kiddo had other ideas.  In his world, spring should be everywhere.  He grabbed his roll of scotch tape and began taping butterflies and flowers everywhere - one per window, all over the downstairs.  And you know what?  I love it.

Spring everywhere. Not a bad idea, right?

Hot Spot # 4

I confess.  I was going to skip this week's hot spot in Project:Simplify.  Not because it didn't need to be done, but because it needed to be done so badly, and I wasn't sure when I was going to fit it in. This week we were supposed to tackle the fridge and pantry. And both really needed it.

But when I got home after this morning's early weekly shopping trip, I just couldn't see adding to the mess.  I knew that if I just dug in and dealt with it, the benefit would outweigh the time that it would take.  So, the groceries stayed in bags, and the counters began to fill.  The best part was that Dan and the big kid jumped right in to help. We started with the fridge.  Everything came out.  Everything.  All the shelves and drawers were emptied, washed, dried, and replaced.  We even went so far as to pull the vent cover off the front and pull the whole thing out from the wall  to wash underneath.  And then things were returned to the shelves - minus expired and old foods which were disposed of and containers recycled. It's amazing how much better it is in there!


Then the pantry.  Once again, I pulled everything off the shelves and sorted piles around the kitchen. All the boxes of half-finished cookies were put into a bag to go to work with Dan, and the bags of microwave popcorn will go to my classroom.  But then we hit the stalemate.  You see, our pantry has these triangle shelves that use the space very inefficiently.  Since we moved in, I have wanted to re-do these shelves.  As I looked at the empty  shelves, now seemed like the perfect time to tackle the project.  But it wasn't.  We didn't have a plan and didn't have the time. But just putting things back on the shelf seemed so pointless.

That's when I came back to what Tsh said in her instructions at the beginning of the week. We aren't working to make this our perfect kitchen.  We are working to make the best use of the kitchen we have.  Dithering about the shelves wasn't going to get the job done - and using today to build new shelves wasn't practical.   It was a distraction.  Instead, I needed to just gut it out and get it done. (I know, I know - much ado about nothing and all that...)

So, I went through every box, container, and bag.  The old things were tossed and much of the bagged grains and beans that I have gathered during this 30 Day Vegan cleanse we placed in recycled jars (they stand and sack so much better that way. We ended up with a mountain of recycling, and a list of meals we need to make to use up our surplus.  I found that I bought some of a few things too often (angel hair pasta and nut butter) because I couldn't see where they were, so I moved the baking goods lower and the canned goods and pasta into the easier-to-see  shelves.And overall, things are much better.
I still want new shelves for the pantry, but at least now things are clean, organized, and usable. I can see what we have, and will know what to add to the grocery list. Just cleaning out the junk food feels much better all by itself! Our pantry better reflects the way we want to eat, and seeing all the lovely, healthy options laid out in both the fridge and pantry makes cooking much more pleasant.

Heck, now I just might bake a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies!

Friday, April 1, 2011


So, ostensibly, this whole blog is dedicated to our family's search for balance in the busy world we all live in. We are trying to make sure that our time, money, and energy are focused on those things we find most important.  And it isn't always easy.  The give and take of our daily lives is challenging to manage, and sometimes we are doing all we can to make sure that it doesn't become a run-away train.

One major way our life has been out of whack this year is in our work-home balance.  Or, more specifically, my work-home balance.  I love teaching, but it is time consuming and energy sucking even on the best days. And the boys have long days at school - they are usually the first ones there in the morning, and on Mondays they are just about the last to get picked up. In fact, Max's only complaint about school is that he feels his days are too long.  And I agree.

So it is time for a change. I have officially been approved to move to teaching half-time next year.  I will probably be working every morning until noon, and then have the afternoons for picking up children from school, running errands, supporting homework, and encouraging play. Instead of getting home at 4:30 and having 65 papers to grade, I'll be home at 1:00 with 30.

I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity this reduced schedule will provide for our family.  Will there be sacrifices?  Sure.  Will my retirement be as well-funded?  Nope.  Daily luxuries will be cut out (I've already cut out the expensive hot chocolate habit with this vegan cleanse, so at least that will be easier).  But what will we gain? Time.  Time to bake bread.  Time to make birthday gifts for those we care about that show our love and creativity.  Time to read more than one story at bedtime. Time to feed our minds and hearts with more of the things that we value. I can't wait.

(But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a little bit scared, too...)