Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Will My House Ever Be Clean?!

With little ones running around, we long for some sense of order and cleanliness - but that seems to be a rarity!  We often are saying, "Where is the cell phone?  Have you seen my wallet? Which tupperware container should I use since there are no clean cups or bowls?!  Which of these piles of laundry are clean and which are dirty?!" I often feel like I can never keep up with housework, and somedays I just don't feel like even doing it.  Other times I would just love to have 1 hour to myself to try to catch up ... well I would need like 30 hours!  I think about putting down my little crawling girl on the floor while I clean up the milk spills and oatmeal on the floor, but I can't because the family room needs to be vacuumed and cleaned before she can roam around!   I'm positive that as we welcome more and more children into our home, the chaos will continue and perhaps greatly intensify  :)

I believe that there's always a balance to discover, because WE NEED a house of order and cleanliness but at the same time these little ones won't always be little.  

Alice Fulton-Osborne gave a great workshop on organizing our homes!  I got her permission to share this post just fyi.  I'm still in the middle of implementing her ideas, but I feel there's a real power to this system!  Her book is great.  Here are some of my notes from her helpful class on "streamlining" our homes:

We don't just need to clean up, we need to CLEAR OUT!  We must move from "shuffling" our things to "shoveling."  We have to eliminate lots of our "clutter" in order to more easily maintain it.  She defined clutter as anything that you don't:
like, want, need, use, have room for 

Step 1: Prepare.  Plan some time for when you can do this (several nights in a row or 1-2 full days)
Step 2: Collect Containers.  As you streamline a room, Alice recommended having boxes for:
"trash", "charity", "to be filed", and "someplace else"(meaning doesn't belong in this room)
I also love her idea for gathering small containers like shoeboxes or sour cream tubs which you can use in drawers to help you keep items where they should be. 
Step 3: Work in a Clockwise Pattern.  Find a good starting point and work your way around the perimeter of each room.  Start with your master bedroom and do the kitchen last.  
Step 4: Evaluate and Assign.  Begin to throw stuff into your 4 different boxes and mentally start evaluating where things should go. "Think about where things are used and how often, as well as when you use them.... Answers to these questions determine appropriate resting places for everything."  
Step 5: Ask the Right Questions.  "Be ruthlessly realistic when deciding what to toss and what to keep, and think quality over quantity."  Do I like it? what it? need it? use it? have room for it?
Step 6: Group and Store Like Items Together.  For example in your bedroom, begin to create different piles like out-of-season clothes and extra bedding linens.  
Step 7: Use Treasure Boxes.  I LOVE the idea of having a place for each member to throw in their most important keepsakes.  Maybe you could even have a large envelope and white notebook with page protectors so you could throw in an important report card, drawling, or certain school papers.  Hmmm.. for now I'll just use empty diaper boxes - it'll do.
Step 8: Enjoy the Empty Space.  More empty spaces in your home can actually be "peaceful, calming, even beautiful."  She also shares that "empty spaces visually tidy rooms up."

I was getting so tired of our family room/ toy room looking like a volcano erupted following a hurricane disaster!  Of course our children need tons of time to play and explore!  Play is actually their "work."  Somedays, I scan the mess and think, "This is proof that my children are learning!!" But other times it drives me crazy.
I figured there just had to be a better alternative....
  • So, I boxed up half of our toys into 2 different storage boxes
  • And, I plan to rotate the toys when needed
  • Now, less toys means less clutter and easier management
  • My son can better put away toys too
  • Plus, toys become more exciting when they have a break from them
  • And, I put all the art & school supplies in a container and stored it up high.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's time for MUSIC!!

It's finally time for Christmas!!  My favorite time of the whole year!  You can CLICK HERE to play free Christmas music on Pandora.  You can pick which Christmas station you want.  Or you can just type "Christmas" next to "New Station" in the upper left.  We also like the "Josh Groban Holiday" station.  CLICK HERE for other "family stations" like for "lullabye," "Tween," or "Toddler."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fun INDOOR Activities for Kids!

My nieces and nephews have been staying at our house for the past week, and we have done some really fun things at home! ... since it's pretty cold outside. This list is NOT meant to overwhelm you - whew, it is pretty long!  But it's just a list I compiled in case we are bored inside one day and need one new idea to try.  So, maybe pick one and have fun!

Get huge boxes to explore and create! This is every little kid’s dream. I went to Lowe’s and a furniture/appliance store for our boxes. We cut in half large refrigerator boxes that they were going to recycle anyways! The kids decided where they wanted me to cut the doors and windows and we even painted them. We also had a long rectangular box that we turned into a boat.

CLICK HERE for a Peanut Butter Play Dough recipe or CLICK HERE for a regular play dough recipe!  Make sure you cook the regular recipe enough so it's not sticky but just right.

CLICK HERE to try a Homemade Finger Paint recipe 

CLICK HERE for a really fun and easy Puffy Paint recipe.  The kids especially LOVE the puffy paint which is really easy to make and you just pop their creations into the microwave for 30 seconds and it puffs up!  The nine and five year old were at it for at least an hour. 
Puffy Paint

Write a letter or draw a picture for a friend. Teach them about envelopes and how to put on the stamps.

We had a blast creating a puppet show (maybe make the "stage" out of a big box) and design everyone’s “tickets”

Have a dance party! CLICK HERE to listen to Pandora’s “Toddler Time” station.  We love listening to this while cleaning or just for dancing or while playing!

Put up a small tent and play inside! We even draped Christmas lights around it. 

Make marshmallow sculptures (out of mini marshmallows and toothpicks) or butter sculptures (out of a stick of butter and plastic knife)

Have a Hawaiian luau – wear sunglasses, make homemade leis, turn up the beach music, do hula dancing, learn about Hawaiian foods, ocean life, and culture. 

Build a fort and play or read books inside with a flashlight. You could let your children use all the sheets you are about to wash. Brayden loves rearranging the cushions on the couch to make a "hideout."

Act out a book you are reading – for example do some of the actions as you read the “If you give a mouse a cookie” book. 

Invite a child’s friend over (maybe even the child’s mom too!)

Play “Restaurant” with homemade menus and a set table!

Follow a recipe together! Have your child wear an apron and “help” you with every step.  My sister-in-law Sharalee even has aprons and chef hats for her kids to wear!  

A Plate of Bubbles – put a few drops of dish washing liquid onto a paper plate. Add some water, and blow slowly with a plastic straw to create big bubbles!

Pirate Scavenger Hunt. “Bury” hidden treasure like gold coins, jewelry, or treats and give them a “treasure map” with clues to where treasures are.

Paper Bag Puppets

Flashlight Fun – take turns putting red, yellow, and blue uninflated ballons on flashlights. In a dark room, see the colorful lights and try overlaying two colors to show how to make new colors.

Have an indoor picnic or enjoy hot chocolate with marshmallows  

Create an obstacle course.  

Put your child in the bathtub without water and let him “paint” with chocolate pudding or shaving cream.

CLICK HERE for 20 Ways to Use Magnetic Letters at Home!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fun Thanksgiving Traditions!

 Here are some of my dreams and also some ideas I've researched for Thanksgiving Traditions:

Thanksgiving Tablecloth.  I really want to get a washable tablecloth that I can pull out only for Thanksgiving Day each year!  I want to buy some permanent Sharpies (Rub-a-Dub kind won't wear off in the wash) and let my family year after year draw or write some things they are grateful for.  Each Thanksgiving we can laugh and enjoy looking back at what everyone wrote!

Gratitude Rolls.  Have everybody write on a small pieces of paper things they are grateful for.  Wrap these papers inside homemade roll dough or store-bought crescent rolls and bake them!  Your children will have so much fun unrolling the surprises. ... You could also do this on their birthdays by having others write something they love about the birthday person! 

Tree of Thanks.  I know many families who do this throughout the month of November.  Family members can write things they are grateful for and glue these papers (which are in the shape of their handprint or leaves) onto a tree.  Some people do a big paper turkey and write things on the paper feathers. 

Christmas Celebration!  On the day after Thanksgiving, I loved as a little girl putting up all the Christmas decorations while pumping out the Christmas music!!

Learn about the Pilgrim Story as a family.  
 CLICK HERE for an awesome website that explains the First Thanksgiving.  Under "Voyage on the Mayflower" you can "Take the Journey" or "Tour the Ship."  Under the "Daily Life" tab, you can learn about the Pilgrims and Wampanoag's housing, clothes, food, chores, school, and games!  Under "The Thanksgiving Feast" tab, you can view the "slideshow" to learn about what they really ate or how this time of thanksgiving was a week long!

Thankful List on Cash Register Tape.  On the awesome website, I read Saren Eyre Loosli's (daughter of Richard & Linda Eyre - who founded Joy School) article about how each Thanksgiving morning her dad would pull out a roll of cash register tape.  "He'd write down everything that he and anyone else who walked into the room was thankful for.  He'd number each item and by the time dinner was ready, we'd have hundreds and hundreds of 'thankful things' on that list.  Dad would drape the list like crepe paper around the dining room and it helped us ponder our blessings as we enjoyed our feast."

Thank You Notes.  Pull out Thank You cards (or even create your own) and have each family member write some notes to send off to others.

Plan some service projects - maybe racking leaves for a widow or baking some pies for a new neighbor or give some of your old toys to a child who needs them.  Nothing teaches us more about our gratitude than serving others!!

Playing Sports Together.  Often the men go out and go manly things together like playing football.  But wouldn't it be fun to also go to the church gym and play sports together as a family?!  Once my family rented out an indoor soccer place for an hour so we all could play soccer (the grownups, kids, even toddlers had a blast passing the ball and running around together).

Gratitude Prayers.  Every year you could have the tradition of expressing only a prayer of gratitude for your family prayer Thanksgiving night.  Encourage each family member to also do the same that night in the their personal prayers.

The Birdie of Gratitude. says: "Have someone toss the birdie of gratitude to someone else; as each person catches it, he names something he's thankful for, then tosses it to another player."  I've seen this idea done in lots of different ways - have some pieces of dry rice under each plate for the amount of thankful things each person has to say.... or candy corn or corn kernels.

Culinary Cornucopia Night.  Every member of the family gets to choose their favorite food and they buy it and prepare it.  One day in November, you enjoy this conglomeration of all the foods you are most grateful for!

For a True/False about the First Thanksgiving CLICK HERE
Thanksgiving coloring pages to print out CLICK HERE
Teach your kids how to talk like a Pilgrim! CLICK HERE or HERE
Some fun CRAFTS:
Turkey Handprint

Turkey out of fall leaves
Fun treats:
CLICK HERE for Pilgrim Pies recipe

CLICK HERE for Pilgrim Hats recipe

Understand Your Child's Development: Ages 0-3

Understanding your child's development is SO empowering!  You can click on "Ideas for Mom" tab and go under "Child Development" and "Brain Development" to learn about how your child is growing at a particular age (from birth to 3 years) and then what you can do to support it!  These sources are from which is endorsed by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).

For examples CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

7 Principles for Making Marriage WORK!

#1 Enhance Your "Love Map"
Dr. John Gottman describes how couples need a "richly detailed love map" which means continually seeking to understand your spouses current needs, stresses, worries, friends, thoughts, hopes, dreams ...  

Try to better understand how you and your spouse perceive love.

CLICK HERE to take a quick, free online QUIZ to assess your TOP LOVE LANGUAGES (words, physical touch, service, quality time, gifts) 

#2 Nurture Your Fondness & Admiration

Write a list of 10 things you really LOVE about your spouse!  I surprised Steve with this list taped onto our door.  Brayden had to draw a picture for Daddy on the back :)  I'm definitely pasting this into our "love journal"!

#3 Turn Towards Each Other Instead of Away
I joke with Steve that marriage is one continual blabbing session - where you hopefully do want to hear what the other person has to say!  It's the day to day connections, even seemingly mundane shared moments, that form a deep, solid friendship. As soon as the kids are asleep or even as soon as Steve gets home, I feel the window of freedom and wonder of all the many things I could actually finally do... and I find it tempting to go do my own thing.  Which, can be find and dandy at times.

But I've also discovered the beauty of turning towards my husband and giving him my undivided attention, laughing with him, connecting with him even about our most random or profound ideas.

We need to remember that WE (both spouses) are on the same team, we fight for each other, we support and encourage one another, we believe in each other.  When you start to notice an emotion that would propel you to turn away - remind yourself - that your husband is your very best friend who does in fact love you.  When a dispute comes up... test yourself.  Try to be willing in that very moment to put away your pride and selfishness and apparent hurt AND TURN TOWARD YOUR HUSBAND in humility and kindness.

#4 Let Your Partner Influence You 
At the heart of many marital issues is self-centeredness which can show its face in a myriad of ways: feeling victimized, blaming others, clinging to pride, acting defensive, seeing only self needs, unwilling to change...

One uncomfortable aspect in marriage is we are completely vulnerable with all our strengths and also our greatest weaknesses exposed - we are known as we are.  But when there's an atmosphere of love and kindness and respect, we can have the greatest amount of growth in such a relationship.  As we begin to identify in the moment when we are contributing to negative interaction, then we can see our need for change and for Christ.  I love how the Bible Dictionary defines "repentance" as a "change of mind" and a "turning of the heart and will to God"!  The more we accept Christ into our lives, the more we can be open and let our partner and our relationship influence us for the better!  

BEST chapter I’ve ever read on MARRIAGE:  #5 Solve Your Solvable Problems

Every marriage has conflicts – even extremely happily married couples.  But, we all handle conflicts differently.  Some people get silently angry while others have screaming matches.  Some conflicts result in feeling closer to each other through working through it together while other conflicts leave us feeling distanced from our spouses.  Some people try to avoid confrontation while others bring it on.    

Marriage therapists typically teach couples to resolve conflicts by: trying to see the others’ point of view, listening intently, and communicating empathetically.  This is a good method; however, Dr. Gottman interestingly found that “many couples can’t – including many very happily married couples… But they were still able to resolve their conflicts.”  From the plethora of couples he did observe through his “love lab” research center, he discovered what these happily married couples DID DO:

Gottman’s research shows that “discussions invariably end on the same note they begin. … If you start an argument harshly – meaning you attack your spouse verbally – you’ll end up with at least as much tension as you began.  But if you use a softened startup – meaning you complain but don’t criticize or otherwise attack your spouse – the discussion is likely to be productive.  And if most of your arguments start softly, your marriage is likely to be stable and happy.”     
  • Avoid criticism & contempt (which is in anger, globally attacking or blaming your spouse's character or personality rather just the issue at hand)
  • Think before you speak: “If you are angry with your spouse, it’s worth taking a deep breath and thinking through how to broach the subject before leaping in.  It will be easier to do this if you constantly remind yourself that by being gentle, you are more likely to resolve the conflict.”  You may need to wait to discuss until you have calmed yourself down and are ready to discuss kindly and without attack. 
  • Be appreciative: “If your partner has, at some point, handled this situation better, then couch your request WITHIN an appreciation of what your partner did right in the past.”
  • Shared humor in the midst of conflict deescalates tension and helps couples feel “positive about themselves and their marriage.”  
  • Don’t store things up.  “It’s hard to be gentle when you’re ready to burst… so don’t wait too long before bringing up an issue – otherwise it will just escalate in your mind.”

When learning to drive, the first thing you learn is how to stop the car.  In our marriage, we also need to learn how to “put on the breaks” when a discussion starts on the wrong foot and we find ourselves in escalated negativity.   CLICK HERE to learn about essential “repair attempts.”  

3.  COMPROMISE:    “Negotiation is possible ONLY after you’ve followed the steps above…. These prime you for compromise by getting you into a POSITIVE [and open] mode.” 

4.  BE ACCEPTING OF EACH OTHER’S FAULTS: “Too often, a marriage gets bogged down in ‘if onlies’…. 
Until you accept your partner’s flaws and foibles [and yes we ALL have them], you will not be able to compromise successfully. … Conflict resolution is not about one person changing, it’s about negotiating, finding common ground and ways that you can accommodate each other.”

REMEMBER: It’s not so much what you say exactly that matters.  People really respond to the emotion and intent behind your words and actions.  That’s why working on your overt communication skills is not enough – you have to go deeper and look at the condition of your heart towards your spouse in a particular incidence.  And the BEST self-help book about this is "Leadership & Self-Deception" by the Arbinger Institute.  It will totally change you and your marriage!

I AM SO GRATEFUL to have found my very BEST FRIEND!!!  I feel like the luckiest girl in the ENTIRE world to have him as my husband!  And, I hope you feel that way too about your spouse :)

#6 Overcome Gridlock
Both the government :) and marriages deal with "gridlock" issues.  Dr. Gottman explains that every couple has certain issues that seem unsolvable because of differences.  He says, "The goal in ending gridlock is not to solve the problem, but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue.  The gridlocked conflict will probably always be a perpetual issue in your marriage, but one day you will be able to talk about it without hurting each other [meaning emotional pain or offense].  You will learn to live with the [issue]."

"Acknowledging and respecting each other's deepest, most personal hopes and dreams is the key to saving and enriching your marriage."

  1. For a certain issue, explain each of your desires and dreams
  2. What are the few things that are your "non-negotiable" items
  3. Define your areas of flexibility
  4. Devise a temporary compromise that honors both of your needs/desires  

#7: Create Shared Meaning
After a stretch of stressful and busy weeks, at times it can seem that you and your spouse live parallel lives. With tending the children, doing the dishes, working long hard hours at school or work, folding the laundry, fulfilling your callings... at times we all feel the need to better re-connect with our spouses!

As a couple, ASK YOURSELVES: 

Here we are at a BYU service activity back in the day :)
  1. What are the values that mean the most to us?  How can we better set goals to make those things happen? (For example, Steve and I really enjoying doing various service projects together when we were dating.  After being married for a while, we felt that void because it had been a while since we had intentionally thought of someone we could help.  We grow so close together as we serve together.  Or for another example, it's really important to us that we stay physically fit, but we have a hard time making it happen!  So, just tonight, we were brainstorming how we can better support each other in exercising.)
  2. What family rituals do we already have that create shared meaning, and how can we implement more?  Examples: eating dinner together, reading scriptures/praying together, going to church together, Christmas/Thanksgiving traditions, date nights, early to bed/early to rise, surprising each other, taking care of each other when sick, weekend rituals, vacations, temple attendance...
  3. Think, what did we LOVE to do when we were dating, and how can we do some of those things now?
CLICK HERE to read about ideas to enrich the important exits and entrances in your marriage!  
CLICK HERE to get ideas for your next date night!

THE BOOK: Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Isn't it interesting how the people we love the most and are closest to get our very best and also our very worst?   Typically it's within family life that people experience the greatest amounts of joy and also pain.  I think it’s partly because all the physical and emotional demands of motherhood often leave our “patience tank” on empty.  The other part of the issue is we all face real challenges in life that add to all the stress.  Even us mothers who find incredible joy in our mothering still have daily moments where we are hoping mad or impatient - and even days where we are at our wit’s end. … Well if I’m the only one that experiences this then I’m in trouble! 
Unlike other temporary, sometimes superficial friendships, marriage stretches and tests us to our very core.  I believe one reason God gave us marriage is to inspire us to see our need for Him.  And it's only as we accept Christ's love and atonement that we can become more like him - patient, loving, gentle, kind, forgiving...

It’s far too easy for us wives, amongst all our cute and needy children (and/or full time jobs), to have little time and energy to devote to our marriages, as well as ourselves :).  But, our relationship with our hubbies, hopefully our best friends in the whole world, so need our love and attention!  So it is my vow to dedicate the next week– admist all the “Mommy!” shills and milk spills – to being intentional with my marriage relationship!

I'll be explaining each of his 7 principles and then suggest how we can apply it!  

As an introduction, John Gottman explains that a "Happy Couple's Secret Weapon" is "rediscovering or reinvigorating friendship.  He also proclaims that this friendship "doesn't prevent couples from arguing."  It's HOW they argue that makes all the difference.  He gives an example of Olivia and Nathaniel who disagree heavily on whether to get a minivan or a Jeep.  "The more they talk about it, the higher the decibel level gets.... Then all of the sudden, Olivia puts her hands on her hips and, in perfect imitation of their four-year-old son, sticks out her tongue.  Since Nathaniel knows that she's about to do this, he sticks out his tongue first.  Then they both start laughing.  As always, this silly contest defused the tension between them."

This is called a repair attempt, which is "any statement or action - silly or otherwise - that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.... The success or failure of a couple's repair attempts is one of the primary factors in whether their marriage flourishes or flounders. And again, what determines the success of their repair attempts is the strength of their marital friendship."

So we're going to have moments where we get frustrated or have disagreements , so these are some ideas we can try to do in those moments:

  • In a moment of agitation, try using HUMOR!
  • In a moment where you feel misunderstood, SEEK TO UNDERSTAND your spouse - your very best friend.
  • In a moment of frustration, think of being be WITTY or FLIRTY
  • In a moment where you could choose to be offended, TRY NOT TO REFLECT your spouses comments on yourself, instead try to understand him and love more.
  • In a moment of argument or sadness when tired, JUST GO TO BED, and you'll wake up in the morning with a renewed perspective! :)