Friday, December 30, 2011

This Moment

(From the SouleMama blog.)

 {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



Do you have your own moment to share?  Let me know in the comments so I can come visit!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday is my way of pausing each week to consider all of the things I'm grateful for.  Sometimes they're small, sometimes they're large, but I think it's always important to keep my blessings in mind.

This week I'm thankful for:

...a slower, quieter time of year.  Post holidays, I need a breather, a time to reflect on the year that's passed and time to process my plans and goals for the New Year ahead.

...after-Christmas sales.  Stocking up on next year's gift wrapping paraphernalia at 70% off is a blessing, indeed!

...sunshine.  Even though some snow would be lovely, anything is better than the dreary, damp rain we've had for weeks on end.

...a marriage that, though never perfect, is the strongest it has ever been.

Feel free to join in the comments, or link back to your own blog!  What are you thankful for this week?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Facebook Fast: My Progress So Far

Today is the beginning of my fourth day of saying "No Way" to my favorite social media site, Facebook.  How's it going?

Honestly? Much better than I expected it to go!

Typically, in the mornings, my "morning coffee" is sitting down at the computer for 20 to 30 minutes and checking Facebook, my e-mail accounts, and blogs I read.  Sometimes, I'll pop over to Pinterest.  It's a routine that helps get me going for the day, much like sitting down at the breakfast table and reading the newspaper.  So, I figured taking an entire step out of that routine might throw a wrench in my day and make it difficult to get anything done.  You know, kind of like when you lose your favorite piece of jewelry, the one you wear every day - you just don't feel right without it, like you're walking around with two left feet and can't keep your balance. 

And really, there's no problem with that.  My problem with Facebook is that I tend to be a grazer.  I'll sit down every other half hour or so just to check my news feed.  And sometimes that turns into checking out other sites and blogs, or getting lost in someone's photo album of their kids' Halloween costumes, and before I know it I've been on my tush in front of the screen for an hour or more.  Doing absolutely nothing worthwhile. 

Since FB has become such a daily habit, I figured I would have more of a struggle when it came to staying away.  I won't lie - the first day was difficult!  The kids did several adorable things, and my first thought was, "Oh, I need to post that!  So and so would get such a kick out of it."  But then I remembered I couldn't, and I moved on with my day.  A few times, I actually clicked on the Facebook shortcut on my toolbar, out of habit, before I caught myself.  Thankfully, my husband also uses Facebook and had his account logged in, because surely I would have gotten sucked in quickly if I'd caught a glimpse of something interesting or funny at the top of my newsfeed. 

The second and third days weren't so bad at all.  I still checked my e-mail and surfed Pinterest, but I noticed that I spent considerably less time parked in front of the computer screen, and more time interacting with kids or catching up with stuff I've been behind on for ages.  Or, writing in this blog, which I've sorely neglected these past few months. 

Bottom line?  I don't miss Facebook.  Let me say that again, because it just feel so good:

I don't miss Facebook!

I don't miss it so much that I'm considering making my 7 day fast a 30 day sabbatical and breaking the social media habit once and for all.  I can't stay away permanently, because I am trying to grow a business and social media is an important free marketing tool, but I think a 30 day break will be good for me, especially as I get into this busy month of holiday preparation and celebration.

I'll make my decision before my week is up, but for now, I'm enjoying this 7 days without Facebook. 

How about you?  Do you think you could go a week without Facebook?  How about a month?  What would you do with your extra time?

Friday, December 2, 2011

This Moment

(From the SouleMama blog.)

 {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


picnikfile_KlwKGi


Do you have your own moment to share?  Let me know in the comments so I can come visit!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Taking a Break from Social Media

This week, I'm embarking on a (somewhat daunting) self-experiment.

I'm signing off of Facebook for seven days.

Facebook Screenshot
PhotoCredit: codemastersnake on flickr


 
Why?  Well, quite frankly, I think I've become a little too dependent, a little too attached, and I need to take a step back.  I want to see what life looks like when I'm not refreshing my news feed every thirty minutes.  I want to see who I miss, and who misses me.  I want to see if, ultimately, the time I devote to staying "connected" is worth it.

Another blogger challenged her readers to do a 7 day Facebook fast, and I jumped on that wagon pretty quick.  I've felt for a long time that the world's favorite social media site is far too high on my list of priorities, when it really should be far closer to the bottom.

In the interest of full disclosure, I won't be changing any of my other surfing habits, just abstaining from logging into Facebook until the morning of December 8th. 

How will it go?  I'm not sure, but I'm looking to finding out!

What about you?  Have you ever given up something that was superficially important to you?  How did it go?  Were you happy with the results?

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm thankful for...

...warm evening sunlight that chases the November chill away.

...my husband, who has taken the dinner chore off my hands this evening.

...Netflix Instant Watch and Dora the Explorer.  If you have preschoolers, I'm sure you understand why.

...the tiny tooth that has (finally!) worked it's way out of sore and worried gums.  I sense better sleeping nights ahead for all of us.

...a nice, quiet evening at home with my family. 


What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm of the opinion that it pays positive dividends to always keep in mind the many blessings I have in life.  Like everyone, though, I can sometimes dwell on the negative and concentrate too much on things I don't have. To help myself keep a "glass half full" kind of perspective, I'd like to take some time every week to count my blessings.  I hope you'll join me and share in the comments what you're thankful for this week!

This week I am thankful for...
  
.....Cool, autumn weather.  Such a refreshing change from the 95 degree highs of a week ago.

.....Children who love to learn.  They make homeschooling a joy and a pleasure. 

.....Quiet time in the car on the way too work after a noisy, busy morning.

.....An almost four month old who finally smiles in the bath instead of crying.

.....Getting a little late-night time to myself after everyone is in bed.


What are you thankful for?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homeschool Deals at Target

I love Target.

Actually, I LOVE Target!

I popped in my local store the other day for some necessities and was super excited to find TONS of great schooling supplies in the One Spot. We approach homeschooling through a very frugal lens and don't think it's appropriate for our family to spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on school curriculum. Little finds and discoveries like the One Spot at Target are what help us keep our homeschooling goals affordable!

We don't really need a ton of items this year, curriculum wise, but I still picked up a few fun things that the kids will enjoy, and a few things for Teacher!Mom as well.

This teacher's planning book and the teacher's grade book will come in handy for keeping track of our activities. I'll probably find an "off-label" use for them rather than using them to keep strict track of attendance (ha!) or to plan out lessons. Both books were $1.00, and were comparable to other plan and grading books that I've seen on sale for $15.

DSC_0432

I picked up this division book ($1.00) for my stepson. And this cute Crayola first reader ($1.00) is for my 4 year old, who is just learning to read.

DSC_0433

I also found these cute Bingo games the kids will enjoy ($1.00 each), and these foam blocks that we can use for math lessons, or just for distracting the younger kids while I'm working on a lesson with my oldest.

DSC_0435

A great haul for just $8.00!!

I'm still working on putting together our homeschool binder for the year, but as soon as I've got it assembled, I'll be sharing it as well!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homeschooling: It's almost that time again!

It's been a crazy week here in the Crafting Sanity household. Maternity leave is officially over, and this mama is both sad and excited to be back to work. Being back to work means a new routine for our family, new "duty" sharing for Mom and Dad, and the knowledge that some things are going to fade into the background while we acclimate to our life in this new phase.

We're also coming up on the beginning of the school year. Chloe (4.5) is starting Kindergarten this year! As a mom, I'm very excited and proud. As a homeschooling AND working-out-of-the-home mom, I'll admit - I'm terrified! It's such an awesome responsibility to teach my children. I do believe that there is no teacher in the world more qualified to teach them, but I do struggle with the thought that I may not be able to do the task justice while I'm also working out of the home.

Thank goodness we're still in the earliest years of school where learning is mostly play. This makes my job miles easier. But, there is still some work to be done. Here's how we're going to do it:

Three Words: PLANNING, PLANNING, PLANNING

Starting this week, I'll be beginning to plan out our school year. We do year-round schooling: school in the months of September-October-November, January-February-March, and May-June-July with the remaining months of December, April and August for free time, family time, vacations and holidays. So, this month I'll concentrate on outlining our goals for the year. Once I know what we have in mind for our year, I'll plan for our fall quarter.

Because I do work out of the home, it's important for us to have a flexible schedule. My work schedule and days off are never the same from week to week, so our school week can't look the same either. I rarely plan our week's assignments out to the day. Instead, I just list the assignments and activities that we need to get to for a given week, and then we just chip away at that list, doing a little bit everyday. Some weeks we won't get to everything, other weeks we'll finish up early, and most weeks will fit right in the middle. The important thing is to have a plan that's neither too flexible or too rigid in order for us to feel like we have the freedom to have fun while we learn.

I'm just getting started with this year's planning, but as the month progresses, I'm hoping to share what our plans look like.

Next week: Our Homeschool Notebook, and what we put in it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pinterest: Like I Needed Another Internet Time Suck

So, I've just recently discovered the wonderful, bottomless world of Pinterest.  For those who haven't heard of it, Pinterest is an online community where you can "pin" your favorite images from around the web onto different "pinboards" of your choosing.  You can create any kind of pinboard you like.  For example, a few of mine are "Homeschooling," for great homeschool ideas I find, and "Tulips," for beautiful, inspiring photos of my favorite flower.  I've also got "Sewing" for future projects I'd like to try, "The Simple Life", "Books Worth Reading", and more.

Really, the concept of the site is so simple, and maybe that's why I can't get enough.  Anything organizational really gets me going, and Pinterest is so visually stimulating that it's a double whammy.  I can easily lose hours a day to wandering aimlessly around the interewebs searching for beautiful photos to pin.

For example, my pinboard of homeschool ideas features fun ideas like these:




Easy math manipulatives I could make in ten minutes.
Source: etsy.com via Heather on Pinterest


I can also use my pins to keep track of plans I'd like to make for Christmas and Yule this year: gift ideas, decorations, food, etc. Like these:


Perfect for hanging holiday cards!


In short, I absolutely {heart} Pinterest, and I wanted to share my excitement with you all.

Are you a Pinterest member? If so, I'd love to follow you! Leave me a blog comment or look me up on Pinterest.com. My user name is Heather Harris. See you there!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Simple Foods: Healthy Mexican Skillet

Wow, how fast a week goes by!  Summer activities have been keeping our family busy, and the days have slipped away from me.

Last week I wanted to share with you a great new recipe I stumbled over.  Better late than never, right?  I'm always on the hunt for recipes to feed my family that are frugal, easy to prepare, and match our uncomplicated tastes.  We like simple, tasteful, quick to fix foods around here.  And when I found this recipe for Healthy Mexican Skillet, I knew right away that it would be a good match for our dinner table.  Here's how to make it:

Healthy Mexican Skillet


Ingredients:

1lb lean ground turkey
15oz. jar mild or medium salsa
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water (sometimes I use 2 cups)
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese





Preparation Instructions:

Brown turkey over medium heat until no longer pink.  Drain and return to pan.

Add salsa, tomato sauce and water; bring to a boil. 

Reduce heat, add macaroni and corn, and let simmer for 12 to 14 minutes, or until macaroni is tender.

Remove from heat, top with shredded cheese, and enjoy!




    One of the best things about this recipe is that its so versatile!  We change it up by serving it with sour cream, refried beans or even tortilla shells.  And its so darn quick!  As long as I keep the ingredients on hand, I'm always ready to whip dinner together on a busy evening.

    The best part?  The kids LOVE it and always ask for seconds.  That's a recipe slam dunk in my book!

    Yum!

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Why I Love Wednesdays

    Tim Tam Slam ice cream
    Come to Mama!  (Photo Credit: joyosity on Flickr)
    I love Wednesday nights.

    My husband's work schedule requires him to rise and shine on Thursdays at the ungodly hour of three a.m.  On Wednesday nights, if all is going to plan he's in bed and snoring away by seven.  Then it's up to me to pack the kids into bed with a minimum of fuss and noise, so Wednesday nights are normally spent in front of the TV as a reward if the kids keep quiet.  Then they're off to bed by eight, and I'm alone.

    Alone. A-L-O-N-E.

    Oh, the bliss!  Peace!  Quiet!


    On Wednesday nights, I can do things like...

    ...watch grown up TV shows!  No more Dora or Dragontails.  (Or even worse, Power Rangers...)

    ...eat ice cream without having to share!

    ...stretch out on the couch without worrying about a three year old flying off the arm of the couch onto my head.

    ...string two thoughts together that make sense!  It's hard doing any critical thinking while the kids are running circles around me all day. 

    But most of all, Wednesday nights are a chance for me to "unplug" and recharge my Mommy batteries, to get rid of all the stress I've been carrying around for the week so I can wake up with a smile on my face and kind words on my tongue.  A few hours to myself make a better Mama for the rest of the week, and I'm sure my kids appreciate that.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Post Holiday Hangover

    No, no...not that kind of hangover.  This nursing mama rarely gets to enjoy a nice cocktail, though I did indulge in a (small!) pina colada this weekend.  I'm a sucker for anything tropical.

    Relaxing...
    What I want to be doing today. (photo credit: liquene on Flickr)

    I'll be truthful.  I'm a homebody, and holidays and family gatherings sometimes take it out of me.  I do love my family.  I adore them, most of the time.  And it really is fun when we get together to hangout, eat good food, and play a game of corn hole or badminton.  But there is something about an entire day of socializing, the kids being out of their element and out of routine, and every part of the day being off schedule that is just so...exhausting.

    So this morning, I was glad to wake up and have nowhere to go.  No one to visit and nothing to do.  Other than rescue my house from a long weekend of no housework, that is.

    I would love to spend the evening curled up with my Kobo and the cat, reading and relaxing to my heart's content, but for now I'm just reveling in the comfort of my daily routine.

    Wash.  Wipe down.  Pickup.  Tidy.  Straighten.  Repeat.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    All Those Books, Part 2: What Now?

    A few days ago, I wrote about how being gifted with an eReader has changed my life in a small, but pretty significant way, by allowing me to "let go" of all the books on my bookshelves.

    But now that I've purged my bookshelves, what am I supposed to do with the books that used to live on them?

    What to do with all these books?

    I figure I have a few choices.  I could toss them, but for a book lover like me, throwing a book in the trash can is nearly akin to tossing a defenseless kitten into a raging river - unthinkable!  Not to mention incredibly wasteful.  So, tossing them is out.

    I could donate them.  The local library always needs books, after all.

    I could sell them in the tag sale we have coming up in a week or so.  But, then I'd have to sort them, price them, and try to sell them.  And if I'm lucky, I might get a quarter each out of them.

    I was really leaning toward the donate option when a poster on a Thrifty forum I frequent let me know about Amazon's trade in program.

    What?  What's that, you say?

    You mean Amazon will buy back old books that I no longer want?  AND I don't have to pay for shipping??

    Really, this sounded too good to be true.  But, I thought I'd check it out before I toted five and a half boxes of (very heavy!) books to the library on the other side of the county. 

    Here's how the program works:
    1. First you visit Amazon's Trade In page.  
    2. Type the ISBN, Title, or Author's name of the book you want to sell into the search bar.
    3. If the correct edition of your book is available to sell back, add it to your list.  Continue adding as many books as you'd like (up to $750 worth).
    4. Submit your titles to Amazon, and print out the prepaid shipping label.  
    5. Have the books in the mail to Amazon within seven days and receive store credit once they are received.  
    Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?  But I wondered if it was really worth it.  I mean, with kids running around the house, do I really have time to sit at the computer and enter in dozens of ISBN numbers on the off chance that I might only be paid $0.50 for a book?  I chose five books from the "get rid of" pile and set about to see what Amazon thought they were worth.  To my surprise, Amazon wanted to pay me $15.60 for these five titles!  That's nearly $4.00 per title, and well worth the effort in my opinion. 

    Naturally, all of the books I've chosen to get rid of won't qualify for the trade in program, but if I can sell back a small fraction of them, I'll be happy.  And, I'll have money (in the form of store credit) that I can use to buy holiday gifts this year!  The books that don't qualify will end up at the library, if I don't have a tag sale first. 

    I've yet to finish my trade-in transaction, but I'm looking forward to sending off my first box of books this week.  I'll let you know how it goes!

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Decluttering: All Those Books

    For my 27th birthday, my Dear Husband was generous enough to gift me with an eReader, a Kobo.  I'm an avid reader, but never in a million years did I think I would ever be in favor of getting my daily fiction fix from a 7 inch electronic screen.  What about the paper*  What about flipping the pages?  What about the smell and feel of a well worn and well loved novel in your hands?  What about the romance, the timelessness of reading, dangit?

    Kindle
    Photo Credit: jblyburg on Flickr

    But despite all my best efforts to NOT like it, my eReader has quickly become one of my most treasured possessions.  It's light, it stores thousands of books, and it stays charged for at least a week at a time.  I can "turn" the pages with one hand, leaving my other hand free to, say, hold a nursing baby.  My eReader is one of those gadgets that I can't imagine living without.

    Then I discovered a bonus benefit to owning an eReader: the possibility of finally getting to declutter my books and free up some much needed space on my bookshelves!  We have four full-sized bookshelves in our home, previously filled to the brim with dozens, if not hundreds, of books.  Paperbacks, hardcovers, children's books, cookbooks, fiction, biographies - we had a little bit of everything!  I never wanted to part with a book.  What if I wanted to read it again?

    And that's the beauty of my eReader!  I can download digital copies of all of my books and store them in one place!  No more crowded bookshelves, no books scattered on the floor when the kids get into them, no more misplacing my favorites.  Once I came to this realization, I started purging.  And it felt good.

    Over the course of an evening, I culled almost two hundred books from the shelves.  I didn't toss everything, though.  I kept the nice classics, the Shakespeare and the Homer.  I kept the books that didn't seem to be likely candidates for ebook download.  I kept the great children's books that my husband and I love and want to share with our children.  Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, Shel Silverstein, among others.  Everything else was packed neatly into boxes.

    I had made it through the difficult task of reducing our library from a few hundred books to just a few dozen, but then I suddenly had another dilemma - what do I do with all these books that I no longer want?

    That, my readers, is a question I'll address in tomorrow's post.  But until then, how about sharing with me the titles of your favorite books?  Do you find it difficult to let go of a much loved read?

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Beautiful Things



    No matter how wilted or worn, a flower picked by one of my children always has the power to make a bad day more beautiful.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Had a Bad Day Again

    Some days are magical.  I wake up - refreshed! - and everything just seems to mesh from the very first moment.  The baby is easygoing, the older kids wake up at a decent hour (NOT six o'clock), and there's no bickering before breakfast.  The dishes get done, a load of laundry makes it through the entire life cycle of wash - dry - fold - put away, and no one spills juice on the computer keyboard.  Sometimes things are so perfect I even get a little time to (gasp!) sew.  Or knit!

    And then, well....then there are the other days.  Days when I don't have it together at all, and nothing seems to go the right way.  Food gets burned, laundry gets forgotten to sour in the washer, the baby runs out of diapers because I've forgotten to put them in the wash, and if those are the only catastrophes we have that day I count myself lucky.

    I'd like to say I'm a domestic wizard. (Wizardess? Sorceress?) Clearly, I'm not.

    I might aspire to have all my ducks in a row every single day of the week, and I might wish I was so overloaded with organization (and well behaved children!) that I had time to sew an entire wardrobe from scratch, but then I get over it.  Because life?  Well, it's not perfect, and I can't always have what I want.

    But even, or maybe especially, on the bad days, there are lessons to be learned.  Like patience, humility, dealing with disappointment, and appreciating what's right in front of you.  And that's something (no matter how small) to hold onto when it seems like the world is falling apart at the seams.  On these days, when my temper seems tethered by an impossibly short leash and I'm dangerously close to bursting into tears I just remember that it's the difficult times that make me a better person, a better wife, a better mom. 

    And when that doesn't help?  Well, I just remember that tomorrow is another day, another chance to do better. 

    Then I toss the kids at their daddy and lock myself in the bathroom for a long, hot shower. 

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Digital Scrapbooking - Logan's First Year Album

    About a year ago, I started scrapbooking photos of my oldest two children, compiling all the memories from each of their first years into scrapbook albums.  As of this writing, both of those albums remain largely unfinished, though my daughter's is closer to the finish line than my older son's. 

    Scrapbooking can be a time and space consuming hobby.  There are papers and punches and embellishments and stickers and ribbons...not to mention the actual photos that end up spread around while you try to find the "perfect" shot for a layout!  With little kids in the house, I don't get to scrap very often, so I'm always chronically behind on all of my scrapping projects. 

    In order to avoid getting even more behind on everything I'd like to scrap, I decided that Logan's first year scrapbook is going to be 75% digital.  At first, it was difficult to get used to working with Photoshop files instead of paper and stickers, but what I've discovered is that scrapping digitally allows me to work on a layout in the spare minutes of the day when I can sit down at the laptop and there are no supplies left out and about for the kids to mess with.  I can get a lot more accomplished this way!  In fact, Logan's scrapbook is coming along so quickly, it looks like I'll be able to keep up with it through the year, and it will probably be finished before Chloe's and Ben's 100% traditional albums.

    Logan's First Year Album - Title Page
    There are definitely some adjustments when switching from traditional to digital scrapping.  I definitely miss the tactile aspect of traditional scrapping - I love the feel of different papers and the three dimensional embellishments.  But, digital scrapping has given me a way to feel creative, and to create something for our family's legacy, without feeling like I've taken up half the day with dragging out and putting away supplies. 

    Digital scrapping is also much, much cheaper than traditional scrapping.  Digital layouts are created with digital Photoshop files, which are reusable.  You can purchase design files and kits in all sorts of themes from thousands of designers for an average of five to seven dollars per kit, or you can find and download thousands of FREE files. (Two of my favorite download sites: www.OScraps.com and www.TheShabbyShoppe.com)  The best part is, once these files are downloaded, you can use them as many times as you'd like!  Once your layouts are complete, the only other cost involved is having your layouts printed, at an average of $4.00 each.  Often times I'll spend twice that amount on embellishments for a single traditional layout!


    I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Logan's album progresses with the year, and to see if I'm able to keep up with it!  I'll be sure to share more layouts as I get them finished. 

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    A Dream for the Future

    I'm dreaming of

    fresh country air ::  swinging on the porch  ::  lemonade  ::  sewing my own clothing  ::  a modest, clean farmhouse  ::  rows of organic vegetables  ::  clean clothes drying in the breeze  ::  old fashioned values  ::  apple trees and blackberry brambles  ::  knitting  :: comfortable quilts  ::  kids running barefoot in the grass  ::  homeschooling under a shade tree  ::  soap making  ::  herbs in the windowsill  ::  fresh baked bread  ::  chickens running free in the yard  ::  self-sufficiency  ::  family time  ::  dinner at the table  ::  handmade holidays  ::  a night sky full of stars  ::  no neighbors for miles and miles


    One day....

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    This Too Shall Pass

    Every tiny new member added to our family has brought with him or her each a different adjustment period, a new "normal" that we have to adapt to as a family unit.  With our first born, we struggled with all the things brand new parents find so challenging: diaper changes and midnight feedings and hours of colicky crying in the late evenings.  When our first son came along, things went much more smoothly; he was an easy, almost effortless fit into our family and life quickly settled back onto an even keel after his arrival.

    This time, however, it's Mama who is having all the adjustment trouble.  Or rather, Mama's sleeping habits.  Postpartum insomnia isn't something I ever really considered when I thought of all of the possible "after effects" of labor, birth, and settling in with a new baby, but for the past two weeks I've struggled to get more than four hours of interrupted sleep a night.  Most nights I'm awake by two a.m.  If I'm lucky, I get to "sleep in" until around four if I can hold my bedtime off until eleven.  All this while baby is snoozing peacefully beside me in the bed.

    It is definitely a struggle getting through the days with a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn when I've had so little sleep!  But on those days when the kids seem that much more rambunctious and determined to disobey and my patience is worn paper thin because I don't have a restful reserve of sleep to back up my day, I just have to remember:

    This too shall pass.

    I won't be struggling to sleep forever (hopefully!).  The kids won't be trying my patience forever.  My natural optimism will return with good rest.  It's only a matter of time.

    Until then, I'm doing my part to encourage my body back into a healthy sleep rhythm: taking valerian at night before bed, taking my placenta capsules three times a day to keep my moods from swinging, cutting out caffeine as much as possible, and eating healthier whole foods.  Slowly but surely, my body will get back to normal and before I know it I'll be enjoying seven to eight hours of restful sleep.  (Or, as much restful sleep as one busy mama can expect with a nursing newborn!)  

    And until then, I just have to keep in mind that this rough patch will not last forever.  Just like the good things, all bad things must also come to an end.  So instead of whining and feeling sorry for myself because I'd love another couple of hours of sleep, I'm choosing to look at the bright side.  To do what I can with the energy I have instead of being miserable about what I'm not getting done.  To spend the sleepy days cuddling with my kids (when they let me), and treasuring all of these quiet midnight times with the new little one.  To remember, as always, that This Too Shall Pass, and it will pass before I know it.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Our Home Birth in Photographs


    Crowning, still in the caul.



    Punching his little fist through the water bag.



    Checking to make sure he was really a boy.  :)

    So tiring, but SO worth it!




    My Sweet Boy

    Five days old, and I sometimes still find myself surprised that he's here!  Life with a newborn is always so different, so full of transition, but at the same time so seemingly effortless.  Like this little man was always meant to be part of our family.  



    I'm working on writing up his amazing birth story, and I can't wait to share it with the world!

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Quiet Moments

    For two days in a row, I have been awake to witness the sunrise in the wee hours of the morning.  Beside me in the bed, our newest bundle of joy is making all of those adorable noises that newborns make while the dawn creeps quietly over the foggy lawn.

    Since the birth of Logan, a mere three and a half days ago, I've been plagued with incessant insomnia.  It makes for difficult days, even when there's nothing more pressing on the agenda than nursing and cuddling with the wee one.  But I can't deny - this quiet time, just me and my very youngest, is so precious.  

    There will be time for naps as the day wears on....for now I'm content to enjoy this quiet stillness and curl up next to my sweet-smelling baby while his eyelids quiver from precious baby dreams.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    A Clutter-Free Home, One Room at a Time

    Yesterday, my mom and my grandmother were kind enough to descend upon my house armed with energy and goodwill, determined to help me whip my full-of-C.H.A.O.S. home into shape.  You see, this baby I'm lugging around is due practically any day now, and it's difficult for me to do a lot of housework, especially heavy-duty housework, for any length of time.  I was starting to panic that nothing was going to get done in time, so I am immensely thankful they stepped in to lend a hand.  

    And oh boy did they help!  By tackling the two most cluttered rooms in the house, the kids' rooms, they single-handedly knocked out two of my biggest sources of stress.  Before yesterday, I couldn't see my kids' floors.  Toys, trash and laundry littered every surface, and the kids could barely walk to their beds without falling over and tripping over the clutter.  Embarrassing? Absolutely. It's always bothered me that my kids' spaces were in such deplorable condition, when they should have had nice, clean, peaceful places to play. But, there never seemed to be enough time, or motivation, or help for me to tackle what I'd started to see as an insurmountable problem. 

    I wish I had taken "Before" photos, even though I'm not sure I would have had the guts to post them.   

    In the end, we removed seven (SEVEN!!) bags of trash and old toys from the two rooms, and the difference in space was unbelievable!  It was hard work for my mom and grandma, and all of their hard work definitely showed at the end of the day.  Now, my kids' toys actually fit in their toyboxes - the first time this has ever happened in our family!  And the kids were so happy and proud of their "new" rooms; they've been picking up their toys frequently (and voluntarily!) to keep their new spaces looking nice.  

    I did learn something valuable about decluttering a child's room: it is definitely easiest to do when the child in question isn't home.  Then, there's no whining over which toys are going in the "toss" pile, and which are going in the trash. Plus, when the child returns home, the "missing" items are never really missed and instead they are forgotten about almost immediately.  What might have been a four day job had my children been home interfering with the purging process only took about six hours.  And what a difference six hours has made!


    I'm looking forward to continuing the purging and decluttering process through the rest of the house, and keeping the kids' room clean and clutter-free.  We've instituted mandatory Toy Pick Up Time three times during the day: before lunch, before dinner, and before bed.  So far the kids are eager and willing to keep to the new rules.  I'm sure that'll change a bit as the newness wears off, but I'm confident we can keep control of the clutter now.  


    Have you had a major success cleaning out a child's room or toys?  Do you have any tips or tricks to help others along?  I'd love to hear about them!

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Finally some craftiness!

    Of course, it would be work-related craftiness, but a girl has to make do with what she's got, right?  

    Last week I had to tie-dye a pair of tee shirts for a display at work.  The tie-dye kit provided enough dye for up to eight regular shirt, so I had a TON leftover.  What's a crafty girl to do with all that leftover dye?  I could have poured it down the drain, but where's the fun in that?  

    Instead, I grabbed four new, white newborn baby bodysuits and proceeded to tie-dye the heck out of them.  

    They came out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.  


    Now I just can't wait to have a squishy little baby to put in them! 

    Simple Foods: Tuna Helper? I think not!

    I ran across another great recipe last week that is a perfect substitute for yet another convenience food pitfall.  You know the one I'm talking about....it comes in the box.  With all the salt.  And the preservatives.  And the sauce powder.  

    I'm the first to admit that I frequently grab for boxed convenience foods on evenings when I've had to work all day, or when the kitchen is cluttered, or when I'm just feeling plain lazy and don't feel like cooking.  Bad, bad, I know, but hey, nobody's perfect!  

    Imagine my surprise to find a recipe that fits all the same criteria as that certain boxed dinner:  it's quick, it's tasty, the kids gobble it up, but it's healthier!  It's made from real ingredients, not freeze dried vegetables and seventeen other things I can't pronounce.  

    Like most of my recipes, I found this one on AllRecipes.com.  The actual recipe is here, accompanied by photos and reader comments, but I'll give you the quick and dirty version below:

    BEST TUNA CASSEROLE

    Ingredients
    • 1 (12 ounce) package egg noodles
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
    • 1 cup frozen green peas
    • 2 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained
    • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
    • 1/2 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms
    • 1 cup crushed potato chips

    • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain. 
    • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C)
    • In a large bowl, thoroughly mix noodles, onion, 1 cup cheese, peas, tuna, soup and mushrooms. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish, and top with potato chip crumbs and remaining 1 cup cheese. 
    • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is bubbly. 


    The only changes I made were to omit the mushrooms (we're not fans), and to use cream of chicken soup instead of cream of mushroom, because it's what I had on hand.  The result?  A cheesy, flavorful casserole that the entire family enjoyed!  I will definitely make this casserole again, and I'm excited to have found a good standby recipe that works even better than boxed convenience food when I'm pressed for time or feeling like a lazy cook!  



    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Crafting Sanity: How I Make Time

    There hasn't been a whole lot of crafting going on in the Crafting Sanity household lately, what with the impending baby arrival (in 7 weeks!!).  Most of my time lately is spent trying to whip the house into shape, getting birth supplies together, and getting myself in the right head space to deliver a baby.  All these things are time consuming and leave little downtime leftover for craftiness, and I'm feeling the lack of creativity very much.  

    But, even though I don't have the time to sit down and spread out a project on the kitchen table doesn't mean I'm not doing something crafty every day.  Even if I'm just picking up the knitting needles for ten minutes here or there during a cleaning break, I'm still making progress toward finishing a project.  My goal every day is to have at least 30 minutes of "Crafty Time" to work on one of the many projects I have in progress.  I've learned over time, that if I go too many days without making something, I tend to get a little grumpy.  So, for the peace of the family, I craft.  When Mama gets to craft, Mama's happy.  And when Mama's happy....well, you know how that one goes. 

    Why does being crafty matter so much to me?  I guess because, in the end, home made matters.  I treasure things that are created out of love, and with a skill learned from family members, and passed on to loved ones.  Creating something from a pile of raw materials is slowly becoming a lost art in our consumerist, import everything culture, but I don't want to lose the magic and treasure of handmade items in my own life.  I want my kids to grow up with an appreciation of this type of skill, no matter the finished project, and to realize they don't have to buy something at the local mall for it to be worth something.  A handmade gift, however imperfect, is more precious than anything that can be bought in a store. 

    Crafting keeps me sane.  It's as simple as that.  So it's important that I make time to work with my hands, to create something beautiful (or not so beautiful!) to feel healthy spiritually and mentally. 

    Craft as therapy....how about that?

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Simple Foods: Homemade Chocolate Syrup

    For a very long time, I've wanted to adapt my families mostly processed and commercially produced diet to one that concentrated more on simple, whole, healthful foods.  

    I've discovered that the trick to making the switch is not to overhaul the entire kitchen at once - that's definitely a recipe for failure!  Instead, I'm concentrating on slowly replacing convenience or processed foods that we eat very frequently with simpler, healthier, homemade alternatives.  

    Case in point: chocolate syrup. 

    I love chocolate milk, and I drink it an average of three times per week, sometimes more now that I'm pregnant.  If I'm craving something sweet and chocolaty, I'll mix up some Hershey's syrup into a tall glass of cold milk, and my craving will be satisfied.  But, I don't kid myself that chocolate syrup is healthy for me in any way, shape, or form.  I mean, with ingredients like these:

    High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, waster, cocoa, sugar, potassium sorbate, salt, mono- and di-glycerides, xanthan gum, polysorbate 60, vanillin, and artificial flavor.   (Taken directly from the Hershey Syrup bottle.)
    you really can't say there's any nutritive value in there at all!  

    Yesterday, I stumbled across this recipe that someone on a healthy living forum shared.  You can find the original recipe, with photos and feedback here, but I've provided the ingredients and basic instructions below.

    Homemade Chocolate Syrup

    Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup cocoa powder

  2. 1 1/2 cups sugar

  3. 1 dash salt

  4. 1 1/2 cups water

  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  6. Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil for 3-5 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken.  Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. 


    How simple is that?  Five easy (and easily pronounceable!) ingredients, and five minutes on the stove and you have your own chocolate syrup!  No guessing what's in it, no plastic bottle to throw away, no high fructose corn syrup going into your body!  

    Now obviously, even the homemade chocolate syrup isn't terribly healthy, but at least it is made with natural ingredients that weren't cooked up in a chemistry lab, yes?  So now I think I can feel much better about giving my kids the occasional mug of chocolate milk, or drinking one myself, now that I know I can make a much healtheir, more wholesome version of a much-relied on chocolate treat!  

    Have you tried out this recipe, or have another great homemade recipe that replaces a store bought, processed convenience food?  I'd love to hear about it!  Just drop me a note!




    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    gardening: starting simple

    I have a confession:

    I love to garden, but I'm kind of bad at it.  

    Last year, I planted scads of peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, beans, etc, and none of them were harvested or eaten, because I quite simply forgot about them.  My excuse at the time was that I was busy with two kids, busier with work, and the garden was around the back corner of the house, so it was out of sight and out of mind.  

    I'd like to do a little better this year, starting with scale.  

    Instead of planting a dozen each of a dozen different types of plants, I'm going to stick with just a few plants each of a couple different varieties.  Just a few of our most-enjoyed vegetables, one or two herbs, and possibly a fruit like strawberries.  The idea here is that if there is less garden to mind, I will be able to make the time to care for it properly.  

    With that in mind, I'm thinking of growing a cucumber vine, a runner bean or pea bush, the strawberries, and a few types of mint for tea.  That isn't many plants at all, and should be perfectly manageable, even with a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn to watch out for.

    Secondly, the garden location needs to change.  

    Last summer, the only glimpse I got of our poor, neglected plants was when I chased one of the kids back into the fenced in part of our yard, where 99% of our time is spent.  

    This year, I'd like to incorporate our garden plants into our living landscape.  Cucumber vines and bean bushes should grow well against our yard fence, spearmint and peppermint will do well in containers on the porch where there's a bit of shade, and I'm thinking of trying the strawberries as a border plant around the porch and down the side of the house, and possibly in a hanging basket or two.  

    If the plants are worked into our landscape, they become much easier to care for.  For instance, I don't have to leave the children inside the fence to go out and water, weed, or tend plants.  Also, the plants will always be in view and I'll be able to tell at a glance while walking from the car to the house if anything needs attention.  The only drawback I expect to see is the death of a few plants by my well meaning but not-so-gentle-at-times little ones.  We'll try to combat their over-loving the plants by giving them their own growing space and their own seeds to plant.  They love to play in the dirt, and hopefully they'll learn a bit about being gentle with fragile plants in the process.

    Now it's just a matter of waiting on the darn cold weather to pass so we can get out there and plant, plant, plant!


    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Power Outage = Blessing in Disguise?


    I’m sitting here on my couch, legs stretched out in front of me, enjoying the type of silence that comes along very rarely.  There is an utter stillness in the air, and only the shrill chirping of crickets for background music.  

    We’ve had storms for most of the day in our neck of the woods, the kind of pop-up thunderstorms that can be so unpredictable, but still so beautiful, in the spring.  Even though the storms have blown over, the power has just gone out, plunging the entire house into a comforting darkness.  The only light is the light of the computer screen that I’m using to type this blog entry.  Thank goodness for laptop batteries!

    I have to confess that I do love a good thunderstorm and subsequent power outage, so long as that outage isn’t long enough to spoil the food in the fridge.  There’s just something otherworldly about sitting in the dark, cut off from most of the trappings of current civilization that makes the day (or night) take on a whole new meaning.  

    When all of our little gadgets and gizmos are unavailable to us, what do we do?  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more than a little attached to the Internet.  But, I also believe that it’s healthy to take a break from the fast pace of the electronic world we live in, to slow down and appreciate the simpler, more basic things life has to offer.  And sometimes, like now, when I don’t have enough sense to unplug the TV myself, or the willpower to stay away from Facebook, I’m glad that Mother Nature has the chance to intervene and force my hand.  A night without surfing various blogs or compulsively refreshing Huffington Post will be good for me.  

    So now, with no lights to turn on, no TV to stare at, no radio to listen to, I’m going to take advantage of this gift, this sudden stillness that begs me to put away the keyboard, and I’m going to crawl in bed with a sleepy toddler.  He’ll snuggle up to me in that trusting, warm way that he does, and he’ll say “Hi, Mommy, time for ‘seep’.”  

    Yeah, buddy, it’s time for sleep.

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Hello and Welcome!

    Welcome to Crafting Sanity, my catch-all blog about living frugally, decluttering, homeschooling, simplicity and more!

    Why Crafting Sanity?  As a mom of two kids under five, with another due in late May, my life sometimes gets a little crazy.  Add in working outside the home and trying to run a part-time photography business and it gets downright insane!  I have to find my little pieces of sanity wherever I can, and most of the time, I do it by crafting: sewing, scrapbooking, painting, etc.  Arts and crafts are therapy in this house!  


    At the same time, I'm always looking for ways to make our everyday lives simpler.  A simpler life equals less opportunity for the crazy to move in and take over!  In that regard, I'm recently on a mission to declutter our home, declutter our financial life, and make every day about the things that are most important: each other.  


    As the blog grows, I look forward to posting about our progress, as well as sharing craft projects and tutorials and information on how everyone can simplify their lifestyle and home.  Pictures and stories about my kids are a given!  


    I'm looking forward to sharing our journey with you, and I hope you enjoy following along!