Friday, May 29, 2015

Ten Things for Friday from April

1. I bought this cute sampler to display in the family room, partly in the hope that it would remind me to exhibit these virtues more fully and frequently in my daily life. I can't say that it's been very successful but I still like having it there.

2. I've had this paper "Donna's" cup since just before I started college in the summer of 1998.

I got it on a trip to Baltimore's Inner Harbor with a pre-freshman group from Penn. In the mall there was a coffee place called Donna's, and I got an empty cup because, you know, that's my name. Well, this went on to be my pen and pencil cup all through college and all through the rest of my life after that up until last month, when I finally retired it after almost 17 years of service! (17 years!?!) I'm amazed that this paper cup survived so well for so long and through many moves (back and forth between Massachusetts and Philadelphia numerous times during college, and then four interstate moves after that!). I get attached to things like this, but it was time to move on (to a cute little metal owl bucket that would hold everything easily and sturdily). 

The Donna cup is here to stay, though, because it's a special relic of my life. It has earned a place of honor and retirement on the desk in my Project Room.

3. I was excessively pleased with myself for cleaning this row of glass vases on top of the kitchen cabinets for the first time since we moved here. I tend to forget about the stuff up there, but in doing my spring-cleaning I got up close to the vases and saw how dusty they'd gotten. They went through a cycle in the dishwasher and came out sparkling. Spring-cleaning success!

4. I love the morning light and how it comes shining in on the table in the mornings. It's a nice way to start the day.

5. Ten-year-olds aren't too old for piggyback rides, right? 

6. My little shopping buddy Sam helped me find this cute little light-up Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle at Barnes & Noble. When you press the top spire it lights up and plays the theme song. It also comes with a little book of quotes from the show. It makes me happy! 

7. Sam being silly at dinner at HuHot. He's a funny dinner date!

8. Cute baby cows were born at the neighborhood farm in April. The only thing cuter to me than a baby is a baby animal! These little calves were shy--they ran away when I tried to take their picture, the little stinkers.

 9. I was reading through Cape Cod magazine and saw one of my friends from high-school and her husband in one of the pictures. They're in #4 below. I let her know about it on Facebook, which was a good thing because she had no idea!

Carrie-Lee and Matt own and run The Cape Cod Cookie Company. They used to have a little shop on Main Street in Hyannis and last summer they had a place in the food court at Cape Cod Mall. Very cool! (And tasty!)

10. I don't have any more pictures from April to share but I couldn't make this post end at number nine; it had to be an even ten. Let's jump over to May, shall we? It's been a busy past few weeks. My dad was visiting, we went to a monster trucks show, Sam graduated from preschool {sob}, we went to a theater production of Mary Poppins, we vacationed at a lakeside resort and went jet-skiing for the first time, and this weekend I'm going to Massachusetts for a special women's conference. It's been a busy, good month! Pictures to come...probably sometime in September--for real. Ha ha!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Felicity Found

There's a quote from one of my favorite movies that I think of frequently. The movie is Sense and Sensibility and in it Marianne Dashwood exclaims, "Is there any felicity in the world superior to this?" when she's taking a walk and it begins to rain. I think of this often when the big and small wonderful experiences of life happen. One of those pleasures is laying in warm sunlight. Another one is watching your cute cat do that, and stroking his silky-soft sun-warmed fur and coming in for a snuggle as he does his best to ignore you and get on with his felicitous experience.

I'm sure Brody was thinking to himself in his own way "Is there any felicity in the world superior to this?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Organizing the Kids' Keepsakes

As part of of my Project Room clean-out project this year, I finally got caught up on properly storing the kids' keepsakes and mementos. This was quite an achievement, I have to say! Ever since we moved here almost five years ago, their special keepsakes had been sitting in boxes that continued to pile up in the closet. It was very disorganized and guilt-inducing. The perfectionist in me puts off important projects like these for way too long. But I finally managed to set aside that unproductive mentality and give these special keepsakes the care and attention they deserved. Now instead of opening the closet and being greeted by the chaos of my children's lives, I'm greeted by the best of my children's lives.

In the last several months, I figured out how to tackle big, overwhelming projects like this effectively (thanks in large part to Mind Organization for Moms--the link is to their free webinar about making huge projects feel easy--and thanks also to the book The Power of Less by Leo Babauta.). Just a half-hour a day until it's done makes almost anything pretty easily do-able. I got a few good ideas from Pinterest and then got started. I did John's things in February and Sam's in April. For simplicity's sake, I've decided not to do cute scrapbooks or anything too fancy or time-consuming. Binders, folders, storage boxes, and basic scrapbooks are all that I'm planning to use from now on. In addition to being less time-consuming, it will be much easier to maintain this system in the years to come.

John had a lot more things than Sam because he's over four years older and has almost five years of elementary school and other activities under his belt. His things were such a sad, sad mess!

First I took everything out and sorted it into piles and groups.

Sweet baby keepsakes that were in need of being stored properly.

I had at least gotten a special box for John's newborn keepsakes and put them in there when he was still actually a baby. After he was born, I had first-time mom enthusiasm, energy, and time, so he got the special newborn box, the filled-out baby book, a beautiful Creative Memories scrapbook, and many, many photo albums in which I photo-journaled and added specially themed stickers. (Sam didn't get ANY of that!)

 More piles that now included all of the school things...

Each school year gets its own binder. This is about the only thing I was good at doing over the years because it's easy to start a binder at the beginning of the school year and add to it during the year. By the end of the year, it's pretty much done!
This is John's Kindergarten binder:

Here is the picture of success!
This is the completed system of storage bins, binders, scrapbooks, and a file box (which I'll talk more about in a minute).

Schoolwork bins:

It all fits neatly into the closet (at least for a few more years!).

I know that some people do no more than four or five storage boxes per child for their whole childhood up through high-school, but I am not one of those people. I like to save more things to hold onto than throw out. I can't bear to keep only "the best of the best." Perhaps if I had more kids I would feel differently out of necessity and space/time restraints, but I don't and so many of their papers and projects and things are personally dear to me. I do get rid of things--I consider myself a pretty good editor of "things"--but I'm definitely not a minimalist when it comes to things like this. I think this system is perfect if you're looking for a more sentimental but still easy and simple way of keeping and storing your kids' special things.

I felt especially bad about Sam's things. Like I said before, I never filled out his baby book, made him any kind of scrapbook, never did special baby photo albums, never even properly stored his special little newborn keepsakes and ultrasound pictures. (Partly because we ended up moving halfway across the country when he was a baby!)

It all looked like this to start, crammed into two diaper boxes. It was less overwhelming than all of John's things, but still intimidating because there was stuff in there dating all the way back to my pregnancy with Sam. I really hadn't done anything (with the exception of keeping preschool binders for him).

First I organized things into piles by year.

(I have a thing for saving little kid shoes.)

I organized papers into binders and put everything else into categorized, labeled storage bins: a bin for newborn keepsakes, a bin for baby/toddler keepsakes, and a bin for the preschool years. I put his binders of preschool work into the preschool storage bin.

This is a great idea that I got from Pinterest: a file box with a file for each year of his life to hold mementos that didn't fit the storage bin or binder or scrapbook theme. (Things like birthday and holiday cards, a journal I kept about him, and other random things that aren't quite scrapbook-worthy or that don't fit into a 3-ring binder easily.)

Binders for non-school related papers are so nice and easy. They hold things like artwork and papers from extracurricular activities and doctor appointments.
Note my no-frills cover sheet, created in about three minutes on Microsoft Word!

Each year gets its own section in the binder.
(Target has really cute divider tabs.)

I bought some simple scrapbooks at Barnes & Noble.

And I simply glued scrapbook-worthy things in and labeled them with the pen I had on hand. No stickers or artistic endeavors, just plain, simple, and effective storage keeping,

Finally, a proper resting place for the ultrasound pictures!

That's all of it. Chaos no more!

Sam's things fit nicely into the closet right next to John's.

I put a little basket on top of their respective piles to collect memorabilia during the year. I also have a file folder for each of them on my desk, as well as the aforementioned school binders that I add to during the school year. My plan is to "memento-ize" their things semi-annually in order to keep it all up-to-date without too much accumulating. This is a system that I think should be pretty simple to keep up with.

I still need to do a few things like fill out Sam's baby book and put together some cute photo albums of him, but this particular behemoth of a project is DONE and I've crossed it off my list!
It feels so great to finally have their things cleaned out and organized and to have a system in place for managing it effectively from now on.
It was totally worth the time and effort!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Around the House with Sam in April

Sam is a creative, fun kid. 
He is the little sweetheart of my life!
These are some of the cute things he did around the house last month.

He made use of our under-used craft supplies and bedazzled his Lego train with beads, pom-poms, and pipe cleaners.

He gets this pleased expression on his face when he's done something he's proud of. 
It's really cute and I'm glad I got it on camera! 

 I don't think I'd define this next project as "cute," but it was a creative "science project" that he did after lunch later that same day.

Who's ready to eat?

{Snake in the bathtub!}
Sam and I were shopping at Michael's and he saw a grow-your-own-snake kit that he wanted to try out (he's been really into snakes lately). You're supposed to put the snake in bath water for about five days and it gets bigger and bigger each day. He was excited to watch it grow.

It started out like this.

Patiently waiting and watching.

A few days later it had grown longer...

 We put it back in the tub to see if it would get any longer.
The package said it would get really long, like as-long-as-me long. I was pretty skeptical about that but Sam wanted to try.
Back in you go! 
I was right. The snake didn't grow much bigger, so it was kind of a rip-off, but it was fun for Sam so it was worth it.

 Checking out the status of his rewards/chore chart at breakfast.
"How many more stars 'til I earn my reward Mom?" 

This was a little race car that he made. 
He drew and colored in the car, cut it out, and then glued on Cheerios wheels, all on his own. 
It's a change for me to have a child who can do these things easily and who enjoys doing them. John struggled with his fine motor skills at this age and he had to get occupational therapy to help with it. I'm thankful that Sam doesn't face the same problems with drawing, writing, coloring, cutting, and gluing.

I wonder where Sam could be hiding?

"No pictures please!"


Sam made a giant spiderweb around the whole house with a spool of yarn. It went up and down stairs and all through the rooms on the ground floor. It was pretty impressive.

He decided to pack his things for our trip back East this summer. He put them in the spot in the hall where we put our luggage before taking it out to the car. Too bad it was two months early!

A picnic lunch in the family room.
(Note the snake who joined in as Sam's special guest.)

We sure do love this sweet and fun five-year-old boy of ours!