Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Caleb: 21 Months

What an absolutely amazing month this has been. Our budding toddler has officially blossomed!

Watching Caleb's language develop has been like watching a pot come to a boil. You can see the bubbles forming below the surface of the water and hear the hum before anything actually makes it to the surface. All last month we saw those bubbles forming. His comprehension sky rocketed. He seemed to understand almost everything we asked him to do.

The first week of this month, the first bubbles of language exploded onto the surface. Suddenly, Caleb was calling us "Mama" and "Dada" most of the time, instead of only occasionally. He began saying "yeah", "Hi", and "Bye" with authority and meaning. As the month went on he added, "Bye-Buh" (Bible), "Mo-wah" (more), "dur-dle" (turdle), and "Again" to his list of words. He's also got a list of words only David and I can understand, like "Me-yah" for "milk" and "Tay-do" for "thank you". It's been incredible to watch. I've found myself tearing up with the same emotions I felt watching him take his first steps. So so proud...and a little sad about how fast this is all happening.

Telling me the lion sculpture in the neighbors yard says "Roar!"

Caleb's special gift has always been shapes. He loves puzzles, shape sorters, nesting cups, snapping himself in the highchair, etc. Needless to say, we are big on outlet covers around here... This month, he took it a step further. He can now point to a circle, triangle, square, heart, star and oval when asked and sometimes recognizes other shapes like rectangle, half circle, diamond, etc.

Caleb's stuffed animal friends are playing a really big role in his life right now. He loves to nurture them by feeding them, putting them to sleep, etc. They tag along in the carseat, stroller, and shopping cart. They even help him with his chores around the house. Puppy especially likes to hand laundry to mommy.



Bear needs a bib.

Feeding giraffe.

Our compromise for messy food.

Puppy plays ball!

This month also brought that dreaded milestone...the first public tantrum. We'd had a good morning and just arrived at the grocery store. I let Caleb walk in the parking lot and he did a great job holding my hand. I typically let him ride in the child-friendly grocery carts shaped like cars. Today, being no exception, he ran right over to them. I told him to hop in, and he pointed to the identical cart, further back, wedged between a pillar and the cart I wanted him to get into.

"This cart Caleb." I encouraged.
More pointing, starting to fuss.
"Caleb, mommy said this cart." I pick him up and start to put him in (I'm never sure if he is fully understanding me just yet).
He understood alright. Back arching, screaming, limbs flailing.
"Caleb, you have a choice. This cart (pointing) or a normal grocery cart (pointing).
"UH-UH!" "UH-UH!"
"Ok, you made your choice. Normal grocery cart."

At this point he actually chilled out quite a bit. I was ready to shrug it off, but as I started to place him in the cart...

Screaming, flailing, kicking, pointing back to the car carts. We are really attracting attention now.
"No Caleb, you chose this cart." I offered him his milk and stuffed him in during the 2 seconds he took to process my question.
Realizing he was strapped in, he let out one more dramatic scream for good measure and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the trip like nothing had happened. I was quite rattled and couldn't believe he settled down so quickly after all that fire!

He had two more tantrums that day, and one each day for several days afterwards, but they seem to be settling down again. I'm sure he'll continue to test his boundaries, that's part of what this age is about after all. I'm quickly realizing that there is no handbook for motherhood and that just as I get the hang of one thing, something else will come along to make me realize I have no idea what I'm doing.

Despite the difficulties that come with toddler territory, Caleb is still a really fun little guy to be around. At play date this weekend, his buddy Braydon was about to grab a toy Caleb had placed near him, but wasn't playing with at the moment. Caleb's first instinct was to snatch it out of Braydon's reach, but when David encouraged him to share, he gave it to his friend who said, "Thank you." in his sweet toddler voice. Braydon then played with it a few seconds and handed it back to Caleb who said, "Tay-do" also. Precious!!!

He was even willing to share daddy's lap! A big step for our little guy : )

And of course, there are some just-plain silly moments...Last week, while folding laundry, I held up a sock and asked Caleb to find the match. To my surprise, he dug through the very full laundry basket and handed it to me! While I stood there, motherly pride welling up inside of me, my baby einstein promptly put a pair of my underwear on his head. Toddlers! : )

Very proud of himself...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Project Simplify: Master Bedroom

If my life was a movie and clutter was the villain, the master bedroom would be my arch nemesis (we won't discuss his henchmen, the guest room and basement in this post). I feel a sense of foreboding anytime I think about trying to tackle it. Like a magpie, my "nest" is where I tend to stuff all the little odds and ends that have meaning to me, but no designated spot in my home.

Lest anyone still be worrying I spend too much time cleaning and not enough enjoying motherhood, let these "before" photos put your mind at ease ; )

Check out those dressers. See that big stack of cards on the right? One is from our CPA, circa Christmas 2010. That's when you know it's time to get. a. grip.

Ah the bookshelf. The third shelf down is almost completely filled with magazines I will never ever open again, but that might have something desperately important in them. *Sigh*

Ironing board. Not just a place to heap clothes that need to be de-wrinkled, but also to hold very important sermon notes I convince myself I will read again, but never do. Please don't refer me to Hoarders.

Getting started was the hardest part (it always is). Not only was I in some additional pain from my physical therapy appointment on Monday, but it never ceases to amaze me how much debt and clutter relate to one another. Both make you feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin. It seems like avoiding the mess all together would be easier, but deep down, you know the mess is what's draining your energy.

I decided to get my "clutter-debt" snow ball rolling by cleaning off the top of the lingerie dresser. I tossed the calendar that hadn't been turned since October into the goodwill box, removed every item, dusted, and replaced only 2 things. As expected, doing one small project and seeing quick success gave me the motivation I needed to tack "just one more" area.

With the help of David, we "just one more" thinged our way to these after photos:

It involved a lot of asking myself these questions:

"Is this beautiful?" Then how will I display it?

"Is this useful?" Then how will I make it easily accessible?

"Is this worth the space it's taking up in my home and the time it costs to care for it?" If not, read it one last time or take a photo and then let. it. go.

Obviously, I still have a pretty big stack of papers and knick-knacks I still have to sort through, but I feel great about the progress we made on the flat-surface areas of this room. The dressers are clear, the cedar chest is accessible again and the ironing board is put away. I plan to tackle the closet and drawers during this upcoming weeks "choose your own adventure" in Project Simplify.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Project Simplify: Kitchen Edition

During our house hunting days, our Realtor would send us batches of a dozen or so listings, I'd peruse the photos, check out the neighborhoods and weed out the non-contenders before submitting the potentials to David.

Certain photos would get a listing kicked out immediately. Wet basement. Busy street. No Yard. Only one house got nixed because of the ugliest kitchen I'd ever seen. Ours. Yup, I discarded the listing for the home we currently live in because the kitchen cabinets were painted a hideous crayola green, the counter-tops and back-splashes were dated, and the oven was undersized. Kitchen renovations start at around 20K and are a huge hassle. It just wasn't something I wanted to get into.

Fortunately, David re-combed through the listings and questioned why I'd dismissed this house. After I explained my reasons, he agreed it could be a deal breaker, but sometimes the colors in photos lie. Everything else about the house seemed good and the price was right. I did a drive by and fell in love with the neighborhood. The mountains, the hills, the charm of the giant trees and streams lacing the area. I really really hoped the reality was better than the photo.

It was the first home we looked at. The cabinets were a rather dark and unflattering shade of green, but not as bad as the photo I'd seen. The counter tops and back-splash weren't my cup of tea, but they were in great condition. The rest of the house seemed perfect. After seeing the other homes the area offered in our price range, it became clear that dismissing an entire home because of the color of the kitchen cabinets was more than a bit rash.

Obviously, we decided to make an offer on the house. I've never regretted our choice. We have the best neighbors anyone could ask for, an affordable mortgage and a house that meets 95% of our wants and 100% of our needs. Really, what are ugly cabinets and slightly too-small bathrooms compared to that?

And that, my friends, is the somewhat interesting history of our kitchen. Now, onto the cleaning!

I usually plan our days so that we have an activity in the morning OR in the afternoon. This "before" photo is the result of two back-to-back days of being in and out of the house all day. In short, we spent enough time at home to eat meals and make a mess, but not enough time to clean it up.


After pondering the mess for a few minutes, I decide my goal is to deep clean the counter tops and island (we're talking toothbrushes and appliance moving). I also want to wash the front of the cupboards, something that basically never happens, aside from an occasional spot clean. Obviously, to do these things, I'm going to need to wash a lot of dishes and make some choices about what does and does not deserve to live on the counter to begin with.

Close up of the crusty cabinet.

Two loads of dishes and some hand-washing later, I'm ready to begin clearing the counter tops. I start with the island. I wash the vegetable bowl, put kitchen items away, move other items to their homes in other rooms and take everything off while I give the counter a soak in some non-toxic homemade cleaner. My little helper already has his hands squishing around in it, delighted that mommy is spraying water. After a few minutes, Caleb and I scrub the counter top and I carefully consider each item I place back onto the island.

Island soaking

After. David surprised me with this beautiful bouquet when he came home from work today. The florist also sent him home with a helium balloon for Caleb. He is enchanted.

After cleaning the island, I decided the kitchen counter and cabinet deep clean will have to wait. Sometimes my chronic pain issues mean I can't do quite as much as I think I can and I'm learning to be ok with that.

At least the counters are much less cluttered!

Next up: The Master Bedroom. I've been chipping away at the clutter in our room for several months now in the typical "2 steps forward, 1.75 steps back" dance that comes with having a toddler in the house. I'm looking forward to seeing our entire room clean all at once for a change!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Project Simplify: Kid's Stuff

After spending Caleb's nap today writing a really moving post about why I decided not to do this week's project (something about having the flu, being kind to myself, blah blah blah) I got a burst of inspiration and energy and decided to tackle his closet.

We started our move towards simple living shortly before Caleb was born, so there wasn't much other work to be done in the kid department.

Caleb's Room. Not exactly going to be featured on Pinterest anytime soon, but we like it : )

His closet however, was a dumping ground for odds and ends before it became part of the nursery and never really recovered.


A few of my more interesting finds:

An old shower curtain.

Unused stool and urine sample bags (extras from illnesses in his first year of life)

A dead stinkbug. Of course.

I removed all his outgrown clothes, cloth diapers, baby bibs and receiving blankets to be packed away. I also ruthlessly weeded out some "must have" baby items we never used. A pack of un-opened paci's (he was a thumb baby), waterproof mattress cover (crib mattresses are waterproof), and a few other odds and ends.


Caleb loves to help with these projects. Look at all that space!

On the floor we have blankets (lots and lots of blankets...maybe he'll learn to sleep under them one day), extra diapers (we use disposables at night and for travel), and a gift bag full of stroller accessories.

On the bottom shelf are toys he'll grow into in the next year, extra childproofing materials (child proofing is never finished), extra diapers and wipes and items we still need to hang on his walls. On the top shelf are my baby keepsakes and clothes he'll grow into soon.

I dusted the window and the closet shelves. I also vacuumed the floor of the closet. I even used two different handy-dandy attachments! I've never cleaned a closet so thoroughly before. I guess that's what spring cleaning is all about though. Tackling those spaces that get neglected in the week to week cleaning routine.

All in all, it took about an hour and a half and I couldn't have done it without David's willingness to chase Caleb around the house during that time. I still need to actually box up his clothes and sort through some keepsakes I found stashed in a basket, but that's for later tonight!

Coming this week: Kitchen and Pantry!

Monday, March 5, 2012

When Mornings Matter

One of my goals in Welcoming 2012 was to make our marriage a high priority. Last week, as I read this encouraging article about sticking with a bed time, God convicted me about how important my presence in the morning is to David.

I know he cherishes the time we spend chatting over coffee, planning out our day and even just reading the comics together. It makes him feel loved when I make his lunch, even though it's usually just something boring like left overs or a sandwich. Not everyone feels this way, in fact some people prefer to be left alone in the morning, but knowing how precious that time is to him (and me), it was something I wanted to reclaim.

One of the few times in our marriage I was awake before David. Definitely photo worthy : )

During our push in February to get the main rooms of our house under control, I found myself exhausted. David graciously encouraged me to sleep in and get the rest I needed. For a while, the extra hour of sleep was a necessity, but soon staying in bed lapsed into a habit.

After praying about it, I told David my intention to begin waking up with him this week. I hate making commitments like that because

A. They require effort.
B. I feel terrible if I fail to live up to them.

I wasn't sure how hard getting up at 5:30 again was going to be, but I certainly imagined the worst.

Last night before bed, I prayed God would enable me to keep my commitment. David is fantastic about putting aside his wants to serve the greater good of our family. In fact, he's so good at it, I often take it totally forgranted that it doesn't just flow naturally from him because he has such a kind and willing heart about his tasks. Me...not so much. I tend to be a grudging giver.

To my joy, I woke up 9 minutes before David's alarm went off this morning feeling...refreshed. Really? After 6.5 hours of sleep? I knew who to give the praise to. How wonderful to be reminded that God cares about the little things and that his strength is sufficient for my weakness. What a great way to start the week. Tonight, though, I think we'll try for 8 hours of sleep : )

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Clothing Purge

Ever since Caleb was born I've felt like I had a ton of clothes and not much to wear. It's a pretty common post-baby problem. I didn't even begin to resemble my pre-pregnancy weight until 9 months after Caleb was born and only in the past 4-5 months have I been at my college weight. I'd love to say it's because I took great care of myself, ate well and exercised, but I can thank 3 back-to-back stomach flus for shedding those last few pounds. It's not a weight loss program I recommend.

That said, I still feel like I have nothing to wear. Being a mom is hard on your clothes. Even though I'm back to my pre-baby weight, my body has totally changed. I've gained 2 cup sizes, so most of my shirts are too tight, the skin on my lower stomach still has a slight sag from carrying my precious babe (this took me a looong time to come to peace with, but I'm finally there!), and I lost numerous shirts to baby spit-up stains. Apparently, stomach acid works a bit like bleach.

Combine all that with the fact that, frankly, I haven't done much clothes shopping since before I started grad-school so most of my clothes are at least 5 years old. They are starting to fade, shrink, pill, and get weird squiggles and sags around the necklines. Since I'm not a fan of shopping, it's hard for me to motivate myself to go looking for new cloths until my wardrobe is in this sad state.

My overstuffed closet, filled with clothes that no longer fit and/or make me look like I'm in high school again, and not in a flattering way.

A few weekends ago, David and I decided to use our once-a-month date time to get some shopping done. I figured going through my closet and determining what I had, what I needed and what mistakes NOT to repeat would count as my warm up for Project Simplify.

Here are my lessons learned:

1. If it needs to be ironed, I am never going to wear it.
2. If I don't absolutely love the fit and color in the store, it doesn't matter how great a deal it is, I won't buy it.
3. If it shows my bra strap, cleavage, or is sheer I am not going to feel comfortable wearing it anywhere, ever.
4. The item must flatter my new mom body and not make me look 15 or 85.
5. I don't work outside the home anymore. Professional button down shirts are out, but some sassy looking jeans and pretty shirts are in. Patterns that hide stains well are a bonus.

Clothes to be donated are in the back pile. Clothes to be tried on are in the front pile.

Even with all this gone, I was left with a pretty full closet, which Caleb is making even fuller in this photo : ) A number of the clothes that are left are showing signs of wear, but are still passable for now.

Mistakes not-to-be-repeated fresh on my mind, it was time to make my shopping list. My wardrobe is another area of my life I'm trying to simplify. I have a dresser and a closet for clothing storage. I could probably fit all the items I actually wear into one or the other. The rest is just wasting space and adding to the things I need to clean and maintain.

That said, to make a small wardrobe really functional, each peice should be able to mix and match with several others and should reflect the stage of life I'm in (ie: no ironing, dry cleaning or handwashing required).

Here was my personal shopping list for our day out:

- 3-4 Basic long sleeve shirts. Mine need to be replaced badly.

-Nice looking fleece pullover. I have one fleece, but in a color that isn't the best for my skin tone, not to mention shows every smear of baby food and piece of lint. It kills me to spend money to get something I already have, but this is such a staple of my wardrobe (as a layer in the winter and my go-to jacket in the fall and spring) that I think it's worth it to have one that really works for me.

-Ivory peep toe shoes.I'm a bridesmaid again!

-Non-sneaker everyday shoes. I'm thinking knock off Tom's.

-New slippers. Mine are falling apart.

-1 pair of jeans that fit perfectly. I currently have 3 pairs of pants (1 khaki, 1 corduroy, 1 pair of jeans) that fit me well and I find myself typically needing 1 more before laundry day.

-Cute yoga pants. Confession: I'm a huge fan of the elastic waist band. David is ok with that, as long as I still look cute in them. Meaning sweatpants are out, which is fine by me because they make me feel frumpy anyway!

I knew shopping at the mall (even an outlet mall) was going to be a challenge for me. I tend to be a bit of a tid-wad very frugal when it comes to clothing. Going through my closet, I had to own up that my frugality has actually contributed to the clutter. How many shirts were in my donate pile that I bought just because they were a good deal and looked "ok"? If I hardly ever wore that item, it wasn't a good deal.

In an ideal world, I would buy everything from thrift stores. Not only do they save money, but I like the fact that I become one more step removed from a clothing industry that tends to pay it's CEO's well and it's factory workers less than a living wage. However, since moving to a small town, I've had difficulty find clothing in thrift stores that isn't already looking pretty worn out. Baby clothes are the exception, although even those racks require quite a bit of picking through.

As it turned out, our outlet mall was having an awesome President's Day sale and I was able to find 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 short sleeve shirt, cute yoga pants, and the perfect pair of jeans for about 50% of their usual outlet price. We also found 2 pairs of much needed shoes for David and Caleb's last set of onesies ever *sniffle sniffle* (they don't make them in sizes larger than 24 months. I guess I'm supposed to start potty training or something by then ; )

Here are two articles that inspired me to have a "less is more" clothing philosophy and to be willing to pay a little bit more for clothing that is quality and really works with my body type and lifestyle:

How to Choose a Shirt

Creating a Wardrobe that Works for You

In case you're wondering if I have such severe "mess blindness" that I missed the clutter filling the rest of the closet, I'm happy to say my condition is not so severe. I'm looking forward to tackling that on week 3 of project simplify. I'm so excited to be making progress, one bite at a time!