To each her own

Above my kitchen sink are long open shelves made of wood that Dan robbed from the barn when we were remodeling the Woodlawn kitchen. Smack in the middle of those shelves, right above the sink sits four rows of drinking of glasses. We've got all kinds--a few leftover from my wedding registry, colored ball jars, IKEA "we need more glasses" cheap ones, and all the Preakness glasses Dan gets for the girls each year at Christmas. 

We've amassed quite a collection, so you'd think when a person goes to the sink at lunch to grab herself a glass of water, she'd have a whole plethora of glasses to choose from. 

Think again.

My kids have drinking glass issues.

Need some orange juice for breakfast? Grab a glass off the shelf. Come back fifteen minutes later for 3 tablespoons of water to wash down your vitamin? Heaven forbid you use the same defiled glass! Grab another! They're all right there! Easy access! Just prop open the sink cupboard. Stand tippy-toed on the bottom shelf and pull one more glass down from the shelf. There are so many to choose from! Need a morning snack and a glass of milk? Well those glasses from breakfast are disgusting by now. No civilized child would drink from such nonsense. The only polite thing to do would be to get another clean glass from the shelf. 

Maybe, if they rinsed out their glasses and put them in the dish rack right below the shelf, it wouldn't be such a big deal. Or maybe if they opened up the dishwasher right beside the sink and put them in the top rack, it wouldn't be such a big deal. Or maybe it would. Because at the end of every day I'm staring at a rack full or sink full of kind of but not really dirty glasses.

Then, this simple picture from SmallThings popped into my head and I thought, I HAVE FOUND MY SOLUTION.

A few moments on Amazon, a quick trip through the Target "hook" aisle (which is particularly extensive this time of year) and now we have the solution to the using-fifty-bajillion-glasses-in-a-day-problems. 

On the kitchen island, directly behind the sink I hung four "command strip" hooks (so I wouldn't damage the paint on my island in case I decided this wasn't where I wanted them.) On each hook now hangs a coleman camp mug* for each child, with their initial blazoned across the front in gold. If it has a "B" on it, Birdy assumes it's hers. (Note: This applies to all things. Not just mugs.) Big E for Emma. Little e for Elizabeth. M for Mary. The mugs are right at their level. And they fit practically perfectly under the lip of the butcher block counter. 

Need a drink? Grab YOUR cup. Rinse it out! Stick it back on your hook! Need a drink again? Grab YOUR cup. Rinse it out! Stick it back on your hook! Drink until you can drink no more. Just grab your cup!

People. This is working. I am getting to the end of the day and my dishwasher isn't just full of glasses. Even better they are doing it without my even having to ask which means I have reached success level.  

My work here is done.

"Being Unstoppable" : 11 good things I did this year

I wrote this post as part of my participation in a blog tour for The Motherhood on behalf of the makers of Children's MOTRINĀ® and received compensation to thank me for taking the time to participate. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

I've really enjoyed being part of this "Unstoppable Moms" campaign with The Motherhood. Though I honestly can't say I would use the word "unstoppable" to describe myself, the monthly writing prompts have pushed me to think about people in my life who have shaped the mother I have become. 

This final post I admit I was dreading--turning the lens on myself and deciding what makes me "unstoppable." This past week, I've been feeling less than unstoppable. But being forced to look back at my year has been good for me. Good things have happened. I've made some really good moves that I'm proud of. I've still got work to do, and I'm still working on all these things, all the time. But isn't that what being unstoppable is? It's keeping on going. And that's what I plan to do. 

After forced reflection (ha.) here are 11 good things I did this year. 

1. Exercising + eating better. This is the biggie. This is the on-going fight. But I made great progress this year. And I WILL CONTINUE to make good progress in 2015. So much of my attitude, stress levels, even tenderness as a parent is driven by this category. Caring for myself trickles over into how I care for others.

2. Keeping a better calendar. I think I may have found my system. I need the practicality of a digital calendar--for the reminders and for the fact that I can add and check it when I'm away from the house. But I also need a paper and pencil calendar because things don't feel recorded properly until they are recorded on paper. I've found my perfect combo in Sunrise + Moment. More on both of those in the future. 

3. Doing morning chores. Now that Emma is leaving for school early, morning chores have fallen on my shoulders. Though we're not quite in the throes of frozen waterers and hauling buckets from the upstairs bathroom, right now, I enjoy getting everything settled and taken care of each morning in the barn. There's something so satisfying about walking back into a warm house, knowing that all the animals are fed, watered, and tucked in for the day. It starts the day off on the right foot.

4. Using organic coconut palm in my coffee. I admit, my coffee is more like dessert than drink. (I'm working on it!) but the discovery of organic coconut palm has changed my coffee life. No fat. Low glycemic. And doesn't taste like fakey-fake sugar. I'm all over it, in moderation, of course.

 For the record, this is Birdy enjoying my bath. I generally don't bring horses and plastic whales.

For the record, this is Birdy enjoying my bath. I generally don't bring horses and plastic whales.

5. Drinking more water. You never know how much you need it until you start. Then you can't stop.

6. Letting people help me. I really struggle with seeing people do things for me that are on my list of "things I should be taking care of myself." Things like the laundry. The dinner dishes. Tidying kids' bedrooms. But as I've taken on more work, I've had to let go of some of the tasks on my list and not feel guilt every time I see someone else helping me out. This my friends, takes baby steps. I'm still working on this one. 

7. Reading + thinking. As Dan and I are going through RCIA, I've really enjoyed getting in touch with my thinking self again. A little more studying and learning has been good for my brain. Also, I would give anything to go back to college and sit in on some classes. We had no idea how good we had it back then, did we? So much to learn right at our fingertips.

8. Playing music again. Over this past year I've been breaking out my clarinet a little more often with my family. Playing the mandolin and piano just to relax. Singing. I need more of this in my life. 

9. Getting a mammogram. Well, truth be told. I thought I had a lump. I was scared to face it and pretty much planned out the end of my life. Then it was nothing. But facing the scary stuff is good. 

10. Taking baths. When me moved into Woodlawn I had no idea how I was going to survive with only one bathroom with a shower head the spurted tiny streams of water around everywhere but directly onto your face or body. A person could stand in the spray of the shower and barely get wet. (One even sprayed out and over the shower curtain.) Turns out I'm really into baths. Even when they're forced. Being forced to soak in the tub? Not a bad thing. 

11. Praying for my kids. Man, they need it. (Kidding sweet girls who are reading this. I mean you do need it, but praying for you is changing me as much as it is changing you...)

The makers of Children's MOTRIN are inspired by all the things moms do. Moms may not always realize it, but they are amazing in so many ways. Moms are on call day and night have have so much unique knowledge that can really help other moms. That's why the makers of Children's MOTRIN are asking moms to share this knowledge in the form of tips and tricks that help keep them going. They are asking moms to post their tips to the MOTRIN facebook page and for every post, Children's MOTRIN will donate $1 to Safe Kids Worldwide, a global nonprofit that provides moms with the tips they need to keep their children safe.

New beginnings and a fresh Advent season

The Advent season began this past Sunday.

In year's past, I've rushed home from Thanksgiving travel and realized it was suddenly time to start thinking about Christmas and felt the immediate panic of already being behind. But this year feels remarkably different. The biggest marker in our lives being that Dan and I are going through RCIA classes, as we begin the process of joining the Catholic church. It's a big decision for our family. A personal one. But also one that feels like I'm coming into a fullness of my faith that I haven't experienced before.

It's exciting. And fulfilling. And whole.

And part of that process and learning has been for me to put thought into the Advent season, how we celebrate it and how we anticipate the coming of Christmas. I've often felt like I've walked into Christmas Eve church services trying to frantically re-focus myself and my children on what really matters in the season. 

But this year feels different.

We're already starting the anticipation of what's to come. Like the birth of a new baby, we are preparing. We are waiting. We are getting excited.

Though there is so much I could add to my list of Advent traditions, I've decided that the best thing for me is to add one or two small things each year. 

This year, it is the lighting of the Advent wreath and meditations and reading over coffee and dessert every night after dinner. The girls take turns reading, and we sit together. And things slow down. And we light the candles. And we remember to anticipate what's coming.

As I chose the things I wanted to add to our traditions this year, I hoped to add this Advent spiral to our celebrating, but missed my chance to order. Instead, I found a way to make the Nova Natural birthday rings work as we count down each day until Christmas. (I'll share more ideas and specifics soon.) And an Advent wreath we made in class that I added holly and boxwood to when I came home.

Christmas books have been gathered together, only to be scattered again around the house. Birdy picks this one night after night at bedtime. 

With all that's swirling around me, I'm so glad to have this season and these moments in our day to be a little more mindful of what's ahead and what's important.

The waiting.

The joy.

It's just what this heart needs.

#GivingTuesday : Barnraiser--Kickstarter for farmers

#GivingTuesday may almost be over, but it seems like the perfect day to share one of the things that has been bookmarked on my computer for weeks, because I knew I wanted to share it with all of you. Projects like this are always near and dear to my heart, and this is one that needs more eyes, voices and support behind it. 

An email from Barnraiser showed up in my inbox a few weeks ago and I was immediately intrigued. The best way for me to sum up Barnraiser is that it is like Kickstarter for farmers, artisans, educators and community projects that are aimed at helping to reshape our food system. It's for anyone wanting to make a difference in the way we farm and the way we eat. 

Just a quick perusal of the site and you'll find projects like heirloom fruit orchards and classroom gardens, a bakery's wood-burning oven, a farm's micro-creamery, sustainable bees and responsible chicken farms, looking for financial support to get their projects and ideas up and running. 

Secretly, I've always had lofty dreams of ways I'd love to dig my hands into agricultural and community-based ideas. But one of the things always holding me back was "where would I ever come up with the money.

It's projects like Barnraiser that are opening the doors for these ideas that are making a difference and making changes in our local resources, small farming communities and the food that ends up on our tables. 

Take a moment on this #GivingTuesday (or Wednesday or Thursday or any day!) to check out this Barnraiser. Trust me, you'll be inspired by these people.

**Also note: Anytime you make a pledge on Barnraiser you can elect to gift your reward to someone else...what a cool way to give this holiday season.**

Power Balls : A healthier after-school snack

After tiring of seeing my kids subsist on nutella and toast as their go-to "wander into the kitchen looking for something easy to make" after school (and in our case between school) snack, I decided to revisit an old favorite recipe I haven't made in quite awhile. 

This recipe for power balls was actually the first thing I had in-print with the beloved and sadly long-gone Wondertime magazine. The original name for this treat, and what my family calls them--is"fiber balls", but I think we can all agree that name is mildly unappealing. Of course the fancy photographers at Wondertime were able to seriously cute-ify this handful of yumminess, but I think from the ingredient list, you'll get the idea. 

What I love about this recipe is that it's packed with good things, has tons of flexibility and is yummy enough that my kids will gobble them up. They are the perfect thing to toss in lunch boxes, have in the fridge for a quick after-school snack, or help everyone make it from lunch until dinner. 

And, they have replaced the nutella-binge going on this house. 

Though I forgot to count when I made them yesterday, you'll get a good 3-dozen from this recipe, I believe. Wrapped tightly, they freeze well if you want to store some away for another time. I like to use my small cookie dough scooper to get even-sized balls and then roll them by hand. 

So freshen up the snack list or the lunchbox staples and add these to the list!