Thursday, January 26, 2012

When In Doubt...

The picture below illustrates my  two favorite easy steps to getting dressed.  Can you guess what they are?

When in doubt, wear layers and accessorize!

I love layers.  Layering is a great way to add interest and dimension to an outfit. It also allows for many looks out of just a few clothing items.  Say I wore a green long-sleeve shirt yesterday. Adding a black cardigan over the shirt I wore yesterday makes a whole new look for today. Or maybe I could try my green shirt under a patterned T-shirt. I try to mix colors and see what catches my eye.

Sometimes an outfit can seem dull.  Even when I wear a copy-cat look, I'm missing a bit of pizazz that makes the look complete.  That's where accessories come in!  Scarves are easy (and warm) for going out, but they tend to get in the way when I'm at home.  (Leaning over the toilet to lift my three-year-old onto the seat is dangerous for my scarf...and leaning over to slide dinner into the hot oven is dangerous for my scarf and for me.)  My go-to accessory when I'm at home is earrings.  I try to wear earrings every day, even if I plan to stay home.  In fact, I wore earrings the day after my wisdom tooth surgery when I was stuck on the couch!   I have a collection of hoops (maybe ten pairs) in multiple sizes and multiple colors.  I also a pair of pearl studs, a pair of (fake) diamond studs, and one or two pairs of dressy earrings. 

When I do need to go out, if I'm not wearing a scarf, I usually add a necklace.  Again, I keep it basic.  I love beads.  I have one black bead necklace, a long string of multi-colored beads, and a wooden bead necklace (that I made myself for about $4). 

What about you?  Do you wear layers?  Do you have a favorite accessory? 

Here are a few more fun posts on layering and accessorizing:

Happy dressing can be easy! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gently Weeding Your Wardrobe

Once I determined that my dressing habits needed an overhaul, I needed a plan.  I knew that I didn't want to spend a lot of money since I had plenty of clothes hanging in my closet.  Still I realized that there were items taking up room that I would never wear again and distracting me from finding the things I could wear.  Whether they didn't fit my post-pregnancy shape or they were hand-me-downs that didn't fit my style, those items needed to go.  I decided that I'd rather have only a handful of items I loved than a closet full of items just taking up space. 

It seems ironic that by removing items from my closet I suddenly felt like I had more to wear, but it is the truth.  Removing the closet clutter helped  the closet treasures shine. 

After the  ruthless weeding, I took it a step further.  I turned all of my hangers backwards in the closet. 

After wearing an item, I hang it back in the closet the right way.  Visually, it helps me realize what I've worn... and what is being neglected. 

At the beginning of the summer season, I can determine what items were not worn at all during the cold weather months, and I can confidently weed them out of closet, knowing I didn't need them or like them enough to choose them.

Maybe it is too overwhelming for you to go viciously pulling items out of your closet.  Maybe you are afraid that the moment you get rid of your pink striped T-shirt, you'll want to wear it again.  This hanger method takes the brainwork and the sentimentality out of weeding your closet and lets the closet speak for itself.

{tomorrow: going shopping in my closet}

Monday, January 23, 2012

Easy Steps To Happy Dressing

After having kids, I sort of fell into a style rut.  Between the spit up in my hair (true story) and the hectic craziness of an average day, my main criteria for getting dressed in the morning was, "Is it comfortable?" When I needed to go out, I would scrounge together something that looked a little more put together, but it seemed that when I went to my closet, I was never happy with my choices.   When a special event came up-- a wedding or a birthday party or whatever-- I really panicked because my arsenal of jeans and comfy sweaters didn't fit the bill. 

The problem with wearing my grungy clothes most of the time was that:
  1. If someone came to the door or we had unexpected visitors, I was embarrassed at how unkempt I appeared.
  2. When I needed to look more put together, I was out of practice and couldn't find anything to wear.  
I decided that there must be a solution that didn't involve spending a lot of money. 

I knew that a lack of clothes in my closet was not the problem.  My hangers were not hanging empty.  I simply didn't know how to pull from my closet to create a look that was both comfortable and cute at the same time.  I'm not big on the whole idea of self-esteem, but when I look good, I feel good...and when I feel good, I get more accomplished.  That means that even when I'm at home, it helps to wear clothes that I like and wouldn't be ashamed to be seen in. 

I also knew that I felt most confident in my own style which did not necessarily include the latest styles or accessories. For example, I've only owned one pair of heels in my life and I only wore them once.  Heels are not my thing, no matter how trendy they become.  My sister, on the other hand, doesn't like short-sleeved sweaters so it makes no sense for her to wear one simply because they are in style.  The same goes for you.  If scarves are confining or you think black shirts are boring, don't wear them!  If striped shirts make you feel fat or the thought of skinny jeans makes you ill, don't wear them ! If you feel awkward in something-- even if it is trendy-- chances are you will look awkward, too. 

Confidence in your own style is your first step to happy dressing! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bible Winner...and a special giveaway announcement!

The winner of My Mommy and Me Story Bible is ryanac32

Disappointed you didn't win? 
Join me (and AllysonChristy) in February for Tri-Moms Giveaway Week! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Those Pesky Wisdom Teeth

{A Mom's Practical Guide For Before and After Oral Surgery}

When I was preparing to have my wisdom teeth removed two weeks ago, I searched for practical advice, and while I found plenty of medical information, the practical information was bare bones.  I know this could be because everyone  and every situation varies, but I wanted to hear real stories and glean ideas for how I could make this process easier for me and for my family.  

I did an informal poll on Facebook, asking my friends what it was like during recovery since that was what I was most concerned about. I heard everything from, "I was out cutting working in the yard later that same day," to, "I was in agony for a week."  Then my sister-in-law had two of her wisdom teeth pulled a few weeks before my surgery.  The same day, her husband (my brother) left on business, while she cared for their three kids, and that weekend, she felt well enough to take a family trip.  I prayed that I would be one of the good cases, but I decided my best strategy was to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

  • Tip #1: Do your own research.

    I had been having tooth pain on one side of my mouth since July.  (Actually, I had been having intermittent pain for probably two years, but July was when it came on strong and I knew something needed to be done.)  By the time I was referred to several different dentists, wrangled with the insurance company about coverage, and eventually set up a surgery date, I had many months to research the surgery process and read up on  the effects of dental surgery on a nursing baby (or toddler).  Even though I liked and trusted my surgeon, having my own knowledge gave me confidence. 
  • Tip #2: Work ahead.

    My surgery was on a Thursday so I spent Monday and Tuesday getting the house ready for me to be off-duty.  I grocery shopped, cleaned the bathrooms, and vacuumed.   On Wednesday, I made a big pot of chicken and brown rice soup, 2 pans of soft rolls, and a batch of applesauce.  These were all foods that would feed my family and be easy enough for me to eat after surgery. It was reassuring to have work done ahead so that I didn't put any extra burden on my caretakers.
  • Tip #3: Arrange for adequate help with the children.

    Brian needed to accompany me to the surgery since I was not able to drive after being sedated.  I was awake and remember much of the surgery (though not all of it), and much to my relief, I was not groggy afterwards...but there was still medication in my system, making me unfit to drive.  My sister came over to stay with my kids.  She fed them lunch and kept them happy while we were away.  When we got home, she hung out most of the afternoon, playing games and reading to them.  I felt fine that first day, but my mouth was numb until about six hours post-op so it was a life-saver to have her there to keep the kids content and happy.

    If I had it to do over again, I would have lined up childcare for the day after, too.  The day following my surgery, I was sore, swollen, and run-down.  Brian was trying to wait on me and run the house.  The kids (especially the littlest ones) were bothered by me sitting on the couch, unable to be and do my norm, and I felt bad that I couldn't get up and help! I think if the kids could have spent some time away from home, even for a few hours, there would have been less stress on us all. 

My recovery was in stages. 

On Day 1, I was numb for hours.  The biggest issue was the bleeding.  Since the gauze in my mouth tasted funny, I bit down on a tea bag instead.  The tannin in tea is said to reduce bleeding naturally, too.

I did not like the idea of taking the prescription narcotic for pain so, even though I filled the prescription "just in case," I decided to treat the soreness with ibuprofen and ice.  In the middle of the night, when I needed ice (but didn't want to wake the house with the clattering of ice cube trays), I used a bag of frozen lima beans instead.  I also took a middle-of-the-night dose of ibuprofen, too, on that first night, to stave off the soreness. 

By Day 2, the swelling was noticeable, but the lack of pain was a surprise.  While I was very sore and my jaw was stiff, I would not describe it as pain, more of a discomfort.  Ibuprofen and ice were my friends round the clock. I was able to eat soup, Jello, mashed potatoes, and bread, but when I tried to eat a helping of peas, chewing was too uncomfortable. 

Day 3 was more of the same.

By Day 4, I had nasty bruises on the underside of my jaw, but the swelling had gone down enough that I went to my parents' house for the afternoon for lunch and visiting.  I still wasn't ready to be seen by the general public, but family was okay.

On Day 5, the soreness was noticeably better, the stiffness had mostly disappeared, and I jumped back into my household duties with gusto!  I was able to begin adding "chewy" foods back into my diet. 

On Day 6, I started getting a nagging pain that radiated into my ear, and on Day 7, I was diagnosed with a dry socket, a common condition, where the blood clot that was protecting the socket, dissolves or comes loose, causing pain.  The pain from this was worse than the initial surgery recovery pain-- far worse!  Ibuprofen managed to dull the pain but not alleviate it.  The surgeon was able to pack the site bringing quick relief, but after he removed the pack (on Day 8), I had tear-inducing pain again.  Clove oil to the rescue!  A few drops of this essential oil applied to the socket with  a Q-tip did wonders for my pain. (Clove oil can be found at most drug stores, behind the pharmacy counter.)  Initially, I still needed ibuprofen for break-through pain, but by Day 11, I was using only clove oil and on Day 12, the pain disappeared. 

On Day 14 (yesterday), I visited oral surgeon for my follow-up appointment and was released from his care! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tri Moms: The Winter Blahs

Do you get the winter stuck-in-the-house blues?  I'm a homebody and love to be at home...except when I have to be at home.  When we are snowed in or the kids are sick or the car is in the shop, those are the days when I long to be able to go somewhere.  Sometimes I need a burst of inspiration to make staying home an adventure.  Here is a collection of ideas from around the web to turn your blahs into smiles:

Be inspired!

As always...
take a moment to visit my fellow Tri-Moms,
Allyson @ A Heart For Home
and Christy @ A Living Homeschool.

Upcoming February Topics:
February 7: Frugal Date Ideas
February 21: Romancing Your Husband

Monday, January 16, 2012

Toddler Bible...and a Giveaway!

My Mommy And Me Story Bible

by Tracy L. Harrast
illustrated by Gloria Oostema

The cover was so inviting that I wrapped it up for Alaine (16 months) for Christmas even though the book was thick and had far more words on a page than I knew she would allow me to read.  Like my other children, Alaine loves to be read to, but  five or ten words is her limit before she turns the page, ready to move on.  Still, I reasoned that she would grow with this book, maybe look at the animals and the pictures of people, and gradually grow to love the stories.  

I remember reading this book to my littlest sister a time or two when she was younger (she's almost 11 now), and I think I even borrowed it once or twice when Gavin was a toddler, yet somehow I had forgotten how engaging it is to even the smallest listeners.

While we were still gathered around the tree on Christmas morning, Alaine brought the book to me and I casually flipped open the pages.  Each double-page spread is an independent story so reading in order is not necessary.  We  first turned to the story of Daniel in the lion's den.  I read a few words and  she didn't turn or budge.  Then we got to the part where we had to growl like lions and she smiled wide and growled with great toddler gusto! 

You see, the key to this book for toddlers is that it doesn't simply feed them words and expect them to engage and remember.  Instead, it involves them in the story!  Once Benjamin (3) realized how fun this book was, he joined us over the next few days and weeks as we read a page or two at a time.  We told Adam and Eve, "No, no," when they wanted to eat the fruit from the tree.  Then we waved "bye-bye" when they were forced to leave the garden.  We imitated Noah's rain, picked wheat with Ruth, counted the loaves and fish, and stirred dinner with Martha.  

Picking and eating the grapes from the Promised Land

Maddie told me that one morning Alaine brought the book to her while she was still in bed.  "Mama, she wanted me to read it to her, but it was too hard."  We talked about how all  Bible stories are new to Alaine and that no matter whether we get all the words right or not, we have the privilege of sharing these things with her for the first time.  We are helping Alaine to hide these things in her heart


On a trip to the Goodwill last week, I spotted another copy of My Mommy and Me Story Bible and I couldn't let this gem sit on the shelf so I brought it home to offer to one of you!

There are 3 ways to enter to win:

1) Leave a comment, telling me why you'd like to win this book or who you want to read it to.
2) Blog this giveaway (and leave me a separate comment telling me you did).
3) Tweet this giveaway or share with your friends on Facebook (and don't forget to let me know!). 

Giveaway runs now through  Sunday, January 22 at 9 pm ET. 


{Why not take a minute, too,  to visit Elise, originator of Children's Book Monday?}  

Friday, January 13, 2012

What Are You Reading? Winter Edition

{The post in which I bog you down with too many titles.}

With Brian's seasonal work schedule-- ten months on, two months off-- we get a bit of a vacation in the months after Christmas.  While there are those who refer to the lazy days of summer, we have our own lazy days of January.  I guess they are not lazy days really, but the schedule is certainly more open and more relaxed.  One constant in our days is reading time. 

Let me take you back to my summer reading list.  At the time, I was reading voraciously to the kids, but having a harder time motivating myself to read anything more than the occasional magazine.  We had just moved to our new town (with a new-to-us library) and I had plans to jump back into reading with an eclectic list of options.  As it turned out, that was what I needed to get back into the habit again, and once I started, I haven't been without a book or two or three.  One of the best books I read during the summer was surprisingly Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About God, Dreams, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer-- surprising because of how well-articulated it was and how moving the message. 

During the summer, we read aloud the entire 8-book Ramona series by Beverly Cleary.  Owen was reluctant to join us for a long chapter book, but he was hooked by the first chapter!  He and Maddie still play Ramona and Beezus or Ramona and Daisy or Ramona and Howie.  Sometimes they rope Alaine into playing Baby Roberta, too.  (Since we enjoyed the Ramona series so incredibly much, we plan to work our way through the 6-book Henry and Ribsy series in the spring)

Once we began our fall term of school, I expected my reading to slack off again, but I'm not sure it did.  On a recent Sunday afternoon dinner at my parents' house, we all discussed the best books we had read during 2011.  Among others, I mentioned Lynn Austin's latest Wonderland Creek, but hands-down the best book I read all year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I was a little daunted when I saw its thickness, but I read it cover to cover in four days. 

Anyway, so back to the present.  Reading time is part of every winter day.  I am currently reading the Samantha (American Girl) series to Maddie, but I have several little boys that seem to always be listening, too.   At the end of December, we started a short, but very detailed, book about Thomas Edison that Gavin received for Christmas.  When I realized that both fictional Samantha and real-life Edison lived in the early 1900s and that we were planning to begin the 1900s when we started back to school in February, I decided to get a head start and sneak a few books into our for-fun stack that double up as school books, too.    Over the next few weeks, we will read biographies of  Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, and George Washington Carver

While Brian is home this winter, he is back to reading aloud to the family.  Currently, we are enjoying The Adventures of Prickly Porky by Thornton Burgess.  (He did decided to wait a little while before beginning The Chronicle of Narnia series since we have a child who scares easily.)

I find that if I wait until the kids are in bed to do any of my own heavy reading, I am having to prop my eyelids open, so I try to read in snatches throughout the day-- a little in the morning, a little at naptime, a little while I'm nursing Alaine before bed.  I'm always intimidated to join any of the online book clubs I see popping up, but without pressure, I do average about four books a month.  I just finished an excellent book by Christa Parrish (a new-to-me author) called  Watch Over Me.  I'm excited to see she has another older book and a new book coming out in April.  Currently resting on my nightstand is Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler, but I have plans to read everything from Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James to Onstage, Offstage by Michael Buble to the final two books of the Shopaholic series

I want to slip in a little Sherlock Holmes somewhere, too.  After watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in the theatre on a date-day right before Christmas, re-watching Sherlock Holmes (the 2009 movie) on Christmas Eve, and planning to watch Sherlock, Season 1 (the BBC series) which we are picking up from the library today, I want to read the original which I haven't touched since middle or high school. 

So, if made it this far...what are you reading?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Winter Dress

Okay.  So after my informal poll, I decided to continue re-creating Alaine's All-Purpose Dress.  Afterall, if you can make one simple, cotton Target dress last from June to who-knows-when, why not do it, right?!   The main issue was how to embellish the dress after I removed the red felt Christmas-y flower.  Babychaser suggested something in a winter white...Kathi mentioned a snowflake...but I liked Allyson's idea best of all.  She said to use an aqua-blue yarn pom-pom so I grabbed the closest color I could find in my yarn bag which was an icy blue.  I stayed up until 1 am learning to make a yarn pom-pom.  First it was too big, then it was too sparse...then it was just right.

I love the new look!  Definitely wintery and cozy.  Of course, I mentioned that a girl must change up her look somehow if she is going to wear the same shirt over and over again.  Since Alaine has gone through a bit of a growth spurt and the ruffly feminine jeans that she wore when this was a Christmas shirt now rest above her ankle and are therefore being retired, we are pairing the winter version of this shirt with a pair of soft tan corduroys. 

Now the new question is, can she wear this in February, too?  I'm thinking yes.  And what should be the next embellishment ?   

: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :

Linking to...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sick-Day Books

I mentioned that we have a small collection of sick-day books.  Sounds depressing, doesn't it?  Oh, but let me assure that it is anything but!  These stories are cheery and comforting to little ones who are a bit under the weather, and they are fun to read even if everyone is well.

Bear Feels Sick
by Karma Wilson

Do you have a favorite cozy, sick-day book? 

{Why not take a minute to visit Elise, originator of Children's Book Monday?} 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Losing My Wisdom

Yesterday was the day I had been anticipating (not necessarily in a good way) since November, well actually since I began having tooth pain in July.  It was the day I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed.  My friend, Joanie, asked how this was going to affect my wisdom.  She asked if perhaps I would find a way to funnel it here to my blog! 

I had no idea what to expect, and since I'm a planner to the core, it was hard for me to go into surgery not knowing how I would feel when it was over.  As it turns out, I don't feel too bad.  I'm sore, swollen, and my mouth is extremely stiff, but the pain is minimal.  I am tired, and have been instructed not do anything strenuous for several days.  Since I'm used to managing a household of seven, doing nothing feels odd. Brian has been the ultimate Mr. Mom, though, tackling everything from laundry to meal prep to diaper changes. 

This is also the first time I've been the patient with older children in the house.  While I still have a couple of needy ones who don't understand why they can't jump into Mommy's lap, the older kids have gone out of their way to make this time pleasant and smooth for everyone.      

fancy glass of water from Maddie and Owen

Heart garland, colored and hung on the closet with love
Table decoration, designed by our resident Lego fanatic, Gavin

When I'm feeling a little more chipper, I plan to share a few tips for other moms that might be contemplating dental surgery.  When I was doing research in the days leading up to it, I found virtually no practical advice on how to prepare.   Until then...happy weekend to all! 


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sick Day Necessaries

This time of year lends itself to sickness. Though I'd say we are a healthy, hearty family, it seems in the fall and winter, a cold is always around the corner for someone. And with a family of seven, if one person gets sick, it makes its rounds through the household.

We escaped the dreaded stomach bug last year, but the year before I was in the throws of morning sickness when four of us (myself included) caught a nasty stomach virus. (Owen and Benjamin, ages 3 and 1 at the time, never came down with it.) Tell me I'm not alone in thinking that a stomach virus is the worst (non-serious) illness to come through a family. I'm not squeamish at all, but the thought of that wretched stuff going through our family members one.  by one. by one.  is just too much. 

Anna inspired me to think about stocking my house for the inevitable sick days.  I took inventory of my medicine cabinet and pantry and gathered those necessaries  (and a few just-because comfort items). 
  • cough drops
  • adult ibuprofen
  • children's pain reliever
  • tissues and hankies
  • Jello: a few 4-serving boxes, plus a few ready-made containers for when I forget to make it ahead of time
  • applesauce: for weak tummies
  • light-colored 100% juice: apple and white-grape-peach
  • hot tea
  • canned soup and the ingredients to make homemade soup
  • a big stack of extra blankets: a couple of fleecy ones, a down comforter, a over-sized cotton comforter-- anything to warm a chill
  • small heating pads: we made ours from old, clean socks filled with rice-- warm in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and we're good to go
  • a selection of sick-themed books

What would you include in your sick day pantry?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tri-Moms: Time Management For Busy Moms

The new year is the time when everyone seems to make resolutions-- resolutions to eat less or read more or start exercising or learn a new skill.  Three years ago, I decided to read a chapter of the New Testament every day, starting with Matthew and ending with Revelations.  Brian joined me and we kept each other accountable so that it was the easiest resolution I've ever made.  When we finished Revelations, we flipped back to the beginning of the Bible and started on the Old Testament one chapter at a time.  It has been slow-going, but we are set to finish the last chapter of the Bible in a few months. 

This year I've set a few small goals-- resolutions of sorts-- that are more secular in nature.

  • Make a pastry pie crust from scratch
  • Make a graham cracker pie crust from scratch
  • Read the Samantha (American Girl) series aloud with Maddie
  • Read the Henry and Ribsy series aloud with all the kids
  • Write monthly letters to our Compassion child
  • Learn to make a yarn pom-pom
  • Work with the kids on better stewardship with their money
  • Move our books from boxes to shelves

Goals and projects can be overwhelming, though, if they are not kept in perspective.  At this season of life with five young children, I've chosen to limit outside activities.  Simply put, we stay home a lot.  That doesn't mean we are social misfits.  We still invite people into our home for dinner.  The kids go to Homeschool Field Day and the occasional field trip or performance.  We love our small Charlotte Mason-style co-op that meets once a month in rotating homes.  Yet, more often than not, you can find us at home. 

I've been asked before how I do it all or if I ever stop. The answer is, I don't do it all.  The only way I can keep up with the laundry (we average 2 loads a day, every day), cook (mostly) from scratch, keep the house relatively clean and picked up, and teach school to three little people is that I do little else.  We don't play team sports and I'm not on any committees.  It's just the way it is right now.  (We are thinking about getting a dog, though.  Are we crazy?!)

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."   I've accepted that, for now, home is my ministry and my time is best used right here.

As always...
take a moment to visit my fellow Tri-Moms,
Allyson @ A Heart For Home
and Christy @ A Living Homeschool.

Upcoming Topics:
January 17: The Winter Blahs
February 7: Frugal Date Ideas
February 21: Romancing Your Husband

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