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Archive for March, 2010

What is it about getting older that has completely changed how I view what I wanted for my birthday?  Years ago a friend of mine told her husband and children that all she wanted for Mother’s Day was to have them change all the burned out light bulbs in the house.

I totally get what she was talking about now.

This year I decided that for my birthday I wanted Jason to clean out his closet in our bedroom and I also wanted him to take care of all those “merchandise boxes” that accumulate in the basement – waiting in case something doesn’t work a week later and you want to take it back.  That’s it.  That’s all I wanted.  In fact, it would make me incredibly happy to get those two things for my birthday.

He did it.  We’ve been together for a long time and he now knows, when I ask for things like this, that I truly mean that it’s what I want.  I helped him with his closet – not too hard since we do it about once a year.  But he has to decide the clothes that stay and the ones that go to charity – I want to toss many more than he does and Jason, over the years you have gotten SO MUCH BETTER at not being a packrat!  After 17 years of marriage, hoarding is getting squeezed out of you by your overly-anxious-to-toss-it-out wife.

Seriously though, thank you.  No longer is it a battle over whether or not you will keep the sweatshirt you loved in high school that doesn’t fit and is falling apart.  You have learned to see reason, learned to compromise…or maybe you have just learned to see it my way and that’s what makes me so happy.  We have a little box of all your treasured sports jerseys safely tucked away in the basement instead of having them hang in the closet.  I would have sent them to charity.  See…compromise.

Next, the box pile in the basement took about 40 minutes to go through, break down the boxes and stuff the trash in the garbage can.  He has to hire a neighbor kid to come help him with projects like this – to be his hands.  Maybe that’s why I love this kind of gift so much – someone else gets to be his hands besides me.  And they even cleaned out and organized all those cables and cords that you have to save in case you need them for some ambiguous AV situation in the future.  A dream come true since I have no clue which ones are important and which ones aren’t.

One year I told him that all I wanted was for him to clean off his desk from the piles of papers that always accumulate around his space.  Another year I wanted him to put all of our financial investment info on the computer, with explanations of what each one was, so that I would know what we had out there and why.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like “stuff” just as much as the next girl, but I have a feeling, that someday in our future, I will be telling him that all I want for Mother’s Day is to have all the burned out light bulbs changed in the house.

Thanks for making my birthday wish come true, Jas.  I’m sure you can’t wait to see what I ask for next year.  XOXO

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last summer's activities

I doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this summer will be a lot different than last summer when it comes to little Cole.  Add running, discovering, and driving to the list of activities this year.  We did our spring clean-up on the yard yesterday – me pulling weeds and cutting back grasses while Cole walked around with his popper toy, jabbering about one thing or another.  Oh so different from parking him in the stroller and handing him his toy every time he dropped it.

One thing that won’t change though, is the size of those cheeks of his and how much his Mom and Dad love every minute of him no matter what time of year it is.  It’s all a new discovery for us so we have many chances for delight with Cole in the picture.  XOXO little one.

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Did I not tell you that we had a lot of info to give out having to do with our Organization Fair?  It’s taken five days to pass it all along to you!  Well, last but not least, I’ve saved the monthly quote for Download Day.  It is a quote by Lin Yutang and added to by Dieter Uchtdorf.  It certainly sums up the overall idea that we were trying to teach both with our “Planning With a Purpose” time management lesson as well as the organization ideas in the displays.

Whether it’s what we’re doing or what we’re thinking or what we have or what we want….it’s all about eliminating the non-essentials.

Enjoy!

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What did we want to have happen?

  • have a treat during our Organization Fair that allowed people to be able to wander around and see all of the displays as well as eat

How did we make that happen?

  • Great Harvest bread cut in double-thick slices then the slices cut in half
  • Raspberry Butter and Honey Butter spreads

The idea came from an event that my friend had Jason speak for.  Thanks, Jess!.

Here’s the recipe – Enjoy!

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OK, Dani.  I know you are not going to like this photo of yourself – but I do.  You are my right-hand man in our Relief Society activity planning, my half-marathon partner and our cleaning expert.  When it comes to cleaning things, you know how to do it yourself and you know how to teach your children to do it.  You are a hard worker and have high expectations that have taught me a lot about taking care of the things around me.  You are also really fun to be around and I love you to death!

So, I decided to put the picture in anyway because you are the one who created our “Cleaning Tips” handout and, come on, this photo is the epitome of you + cleaning.  Happily sweeping away.

What I loved about these handouts was that you used tips and ideas from the women in our neighborhood (who turned back in their questionnaires…hint, hint…Amber…).  What better way to learn about something than from each other?  There were some fabulous ideas from these women and I was so grateful to learn from them.

But you also did something else.  You added information about what kinds of cleaning tasks are good for children at different ages.  I love that!  It is so helpful to have an idea of what kinds of things our children can and should be doing.  Sometimes we don’t give our kids enough credit and we think that they aren’t old enough to participate.  Other times we give them tasks that are too advanced for them (like when your mother told you that a 4-year-old can’t clean a toilet up to standard….dang!  Good try, though).  Dani’s done some research since then regarding appropriate chores for different aged children and found a lot of info on the internet regarding that idea – try this one for starters, everyone.

More often than not I hear mothers complaining about having to do all of these things for their children instead of teaching their children how to do it.  They often say, “It’s just easier if I do it.”  They’re right.  It takes more work to teach a child how to do something than to just do it ourselves.  It takes more time.  It takes more effort.  It takes more patience.  But that is what parenting is all about.  Teaching our children to be independent.  Teaching them how to work.  Teaching them how to take pride in accomplishing something.  Teaching them that there are consequences when they don’t follow through.

My mom was good at this.  She raised us to be independent and to work hard and to enjoy life at the same time.  Dani, I think you are good at this as well.  Keep it up, cleaning lady!  I love working with you and love even more that you are willing to get in there and get your hands dirty to make something happen.

Cleaning Tips – Neighbors

Enjoy the download, courtesy of our cleaning expert, Dani.  Again, it can be cut in half and inserted into your notebooks if you choose.  It is the final handout at our “Organization Fair” event (wow!  We did a lot that night!)  Feel free to share your thoughts, insights and ideas here.  Everyone has their own style and way of making it happen so I love to hear what you have to say.

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I know, I know….you parents out there have probably done enough Science Fair projects to cure you from ever thinking that they could be fun.  But our Organization Fair (that looked suspiciously like a Science Fair for grown-ups) was exactly that – FUN!  Click here for a run-down on this “Every Needful Thing” activity.

10 displays and 13 of our neighborhood women’s help later, it was decided that the second half to our activity was a hit!  For the first 45 minutes we did our Time Management lesson where we learned how to incorporate “Planning With a Purpose” as a tool for managing our lives.  It was a tremendous experience that we had together (just look at the last two posts for that lesson).  The second 45 minutes was spent milling around, looking at the fabulous organization displays that had been created, intently reading the advice and ideas shared, chatting with one another and asking our “experts” how to make it all happen in our own lives.

There was way too much info offered that night for me to give it all to you here in this blog post, but if you click here, you will find the websites that were used to get started.  They are a huge help on their own and I would highly recommend you printing them off and adding the information to your notebooks.  I will also give you some of the tips that each teacher shared in their displays.

I was humbled and amazed by the effort that went into these displays.  Each contributor had their own style and their own approach to the assignment.  We were filled with so much information and friendship during this activity that we could not have asked for more when we planned it.

Kym’s display was elegant – just like everything she does (how did I not end up with her beautiful handout about how to organize the bedroom????).

Susan and Kelli’s display was creative – including the one-of-a-kind toilet paper tablecloth that they wove just for the occasion.

3-minute Bathroom Clean-up Ideas (see if you can do one a day while the tub is filling or when you finish getting ready for bed)

  • toss towels in the laundry
  • clean toilet
  • wipe over counter tops
  • straighten linen closet
  • organize space under the vanity
  • throw away old or expired make-up
  • wipe over floors with a rag

LeeAnne’s and Diane’s was funny – although their children thought they were weird for having to take “role-playing” photos of their moms cleaning out the fridge.

Kitchen Organization Tips:

  • store items where you use them
  • discard mismatched containers
  • square containers take up less space than round
  • keep an ongoing grocery list – add to it right when you realize you need something or use the last of something
  • keep cookbooks to a minimum
  • store mix packets, Jell-O boxes and other small items in containers or baskets
  • pick a day of the week to clean out your fridge – maybe grocery shopping day when you can make room for new groceries or garbage day so anything smelly goes straight to the garbage truck
  • run your dishwasher at night when less hot water is being used and empty it in the morning

Carilee’s formula was simple and easy to follow.

Organizing Children’s Homework Papers

If you save everything your child brings home, by the time they are in college you will have a two-car garage full and overflowing with just their paperwork! – Carilee

  • each child needs a folder and a spot for their folder
  • have your child unpack the folder every day so you can look in it
  • process the papers that need to be taken care of – tossing, saving, sending back to school

Monica’s, Becky’s, Tera’s, Nancy’s and Melissa’s were a wealth of information and inspiration.

Meal Planning and Cooking Ideas

  • try one new dish a week and vote to keep it or not
  • try crock potting once a week
  • teach your children how to cool and assign them one day a week to choose and prepare the meal
  • cook double-portions and freeze one for later
  • make a menu and grocery list at the same time
  • plan meals a week at a time as a family
  • everyone who eats helps prepare or clean up
  • come up with about 20 summer and 20 winter “go-to” recipes

Pantry Organization Tips

  • pull everything out and wipe down shelves
  • label shelves and containers
  • arrange food like grocery store shelves (similar things together)
  • have a shelf kids can reach with healthy snacks
  • don’t forget the back of the door – there are shelves made just for those not-so-big pantrys
  • if containers are not in your budget, try glass quart canning jars for storage

We could have spent hours together – learning from each other this way.  But what I loved best, besides the fact that so many people were involved and sharing themselves and becoming “experts” in their individual assignments, I loved how they all learned something in the process.

As I mentioned previously (click here), LeeAnne organized all of her recipes for this event.  Pam, who was partnered with Kristy to teach us about pantry and freezer organization, decided that she needed some hands-on experience and tackled her pantry in the process.  It took her 4 hours.  I heard many comments from people who said they had just found a certain website or that they had just thought of how a certain idea applied to their lives – all because they were in charge of “teaching” us through these displays.  I loved that being involved in the event created a chance for individual application – for us and for the teachers.

I loved it all.  Thank you to all of these amazing women for taking the time to teach us.  Thank you for creating beautiful, fun, informative and meaningful displays.  And thank you for the best Science Fair…I mean Organization Fair…ever!

I {heart} all of you!

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Now that you have your values established (click here for Part I of this lesson), let’s talk about where we go from here.  After our values are determined, we don’t really have to keep creating new ones for every situation in your life.  Most often, the values that are important to you will cross over into your whole life and can be applied to everything you do.  You might have to tweak them or perhaps add a value here and there but for the most part, they will sort of remain the same over a period of time.

When should you rethink your values list?  Here’s what I do – when my life changes (such as when I changed jobs or became a mother) then I create a fresh set of values that reflect what is important to me in my current situation.  When I learn new things that make me want to rethink what I am spending my energy on – I revisit my values.  Think about your values as something that grow and change along with you as you go through life.

Now let’s look at Steps 1-3 on your worksheet (again, click here for Part I of this lesson and to get the worksheet).

#1 – Ask: What Do I Want to Have Happen?

This is the golden question when it comes to “Planning With a Purpose” and managing our time wisely.  Instead of thinking about what do I want to do or where do I want to go, we ask, “What do I want to have happen?”

Think about something that you would like to change or improve or do better at.  It can be something in your personal life or maybe something you want to change in your family.  The example that we used during our activity was: “I want my children to do their chores better.”  OK, that is an issue that many parents face and there are a million ways to go about it.  Another one was, “I want to spend less time on the computer when I could be doing more productive things.”  We also heard, “I want to play with my kids more.”  Or how about, “I want to clean out my laundry room,” “I want to not nag my husband so much,” “I want to work smarter not harder,” “I want to be more patient with my mom as she grows older” or “I want to be better at making healthy dinners.”

the "Meal Planning" display during our "Organization Fair"

What do you want to have happen? Write down something on your worksheet that you want to change or improve about your life.  Let’s just take one thing at a time – there is no reason to try and tackle everything at once because we can get discouraged or overwhelmed.  And remember, what you want to have happen might be completely different than what someone else wants to have happen in their lives.  That’s OK.  I highly recommend you not to compare yourself to others but just focus on what feels right for you and your family.

Now that you have identified something that you want to have happen (and this thing can be big or small, affect just you or other people, or be in any area of your life), let’s look at #2 on our “Planning With a Purpose” worksheet.

#2 – Ask: What is the Best Way to Make That Happen?

This is where we get down to the nuts and bolts of “Planning With a Purpose.”  It is the how-tos that get us from where we are and where we want to be.  We are all unique.  Everyone has a different style, a different way of going about things.  So that means that the best way to make something happen might be different for you than for someone else.

Do you see how when you ask yourself what you want to have happen and think about what you value, that the way you want to spend your time starts to change?  If you want your children to learn to do their chores better then that might mean you need to spend more time teaching them to do it with you.  If you want to spend less time on the computer then maybe you need to track how many clicks you are making with the mouse or how many minutes you are browsing the web and give yourself a limit.

the "Family Calendaring" display at our "Organization Fair"

Or if you value family time and you haven’t taken a family vacation in two years, perhaps it’s time to plan something to do together.  Or you could even designate one night a week to the family where you don’t schedule anything else – it takes sacrifice and dedication but if it’s what you value and it’s what you want to have happen….it seems like it would be important enough to sacrifice a little bit for.

One fabulous woman in our group brought up the point that sometimes what you think will work doesn’t so you have to try something else.  How true that is!  Making what we want to have happen a reality often takes time, creativity and the ability to tweak and change our approach along the way until it morphs into something that actually works for us.  Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work with your first idea!  Try something else if you need to and just take the good of what you are already doing with you.

#3 – Think About What Feels Right for You and Your Family

I’m going to say it again….everyone is different.  My sister may have a fabulous way of taking care of her yard but it seems too complicated for me.  So I need to not feel like I have to do it her way.  Maybe I keep asking around for other ideas, maybe I look online, or maybe I just adjust or simplify what my sister is doing to fit my needs.

I have started using allrecipes.com.  They send you a recipe in your email box each day.  Sometimes I want to print them out and try them (more on that another day).  This has caused me to realize that I need a new way to file my recipes.  So, in”Planning With a Purpose,” this is my Step 1: Organize my recipes so that I can use allrecipes.com better.

For me, I thought that a 3-ring binder would work great so here is my Step 2: Get a 3-ring binder and have each recipe in a sheet protector.  Figure out how to use half-sheet sheet protectors as well so I don’t have to retype all of my recipes that are on cards.

I’m still working on that.

All along I have thought about Step 3 – how to make this work for me and my family.  I will show you my finished product later but for right now, it is sitting on my desk, waiting to be finished as I figure out the best way to go about it.  The interesting thing is that during our Organization Fair, my friend LeeAnne addressed this same problem.  Her area that she created a display for was “Organizing the Kitchen.”  One aspect was recipes.  She had a pile of recipes (just like mine) and a binder next to it.


She had gone through and typed up every recipe that their family used and put them in her binder.  I was so surprised that she had done this because it was almost exactly what I was in the middle of doing as well!  But here’s the difference.  She had typed them all up.  I don’t want to have to do that so I am trying to figure out a way to either create my own divided sheet protectors or find the right ones online to purchase so that I can just drop my recipe cards into the half-sizes or use the full sheets if I print something out from online.  Options.  That’s what I need.

The point is to do what is right for you.  We both had the same idea but we are going about it in two slightly different ways according to what works for each of us.  Maybe your neighbor has one child in dance group that meets 3 times a week for 3 hours at a time and costs $400 to participate.  Maybe someone else works 16 hours a day.  Whatever someone else is doing doesn’t mean you have to do it, too.  And even in your own families – if one child is involved in something and you realize that it is taking too much time away from the rest of your family, it’s ok to pull back, reevaluate and say no to the next “opportunity.”

Once you have your values in place and you ask the golden question, “What do we want to have happen?” then it becomes much easier to make decisions of how we are spending our time.  That, my friends, is the ultimate skill in time management.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.  If you have any questions then please feel free to email me or leave a comment.  I look forward to hearing how it works for you!


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