Wildflowers, Wild Turkeys, and Barn Owls. Oh My! (A.K.A. What I’ve Been Up To Lately)

You may or may not have seen my Facebook update. We moved! We bought our first house out here in La Grange, California. I keep saying “Home, home on La Grange”. Also this theme song keeps coming to mind…

Needless to say, we’ve been super busy the last month and a half, packing, unpacking, decorating and setting up our home. I actually had a very hard time the first couple of weeks and I had to go to the doctor because my anxiety was getting out of control. Luckily my mom and dad came to stay with us for a week and that was such a blessing. For those of you who have similar struggles with anxiety, I want to share with you what my dad told me which really empowered me. I was worried that if I tried to do my normal duties I would get worse. But he told me that the fight to normal is a battle. That I couldn’t crawl into a shell. That I had to do the things I normally do. From that moment I started to feel a lot better. I found comfort in the normal.

What I’ve Been Doing in the Kitchen

I found an awesome book at the library about prepping breakfasts and lunches and I’m thinking of buying it. I hate making lunch and I never know what to make. Up until now I only plan dinner and breakfast and lunch always end up being whatever we have on hand. But this book is inspiring me to take it up a notch.

I’ve made baked oatmeal, cauliflower fried race, muffins, cajun ranch chicken salad, salmon with berries and raspberry vinaigrette, and rhubarb crisp. I have also rediscovered my Dr. Weil cookbook and I made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie. We celebrated my mother in law’s birthday , and one of our friend’s daughters birthdays so I made a bundt cake for each occasion. Note to self: don’t add too much milk to the glaze! (Otherwise it will drip everywhere including your dress. Oops!) I also made some pierogis…so delicious! Maggieothevalley inspired me.

Cauliflower fried rice.
Birthday cake with a glaze that dripped everywhere. But it still tasted good!

Mise en place for the vegetarian shepherd’s pie.

Lots of veggies.
Lining the dish with zucchini.
Filling for the shepherd’s pie.
Onion and potato pierogi.

Homemaking Progress

I have been enjoying setting spaces and hanging up artwork in our home. Take a look!

Kid’s playroom.
Living room
Corner in the kitchen
Playroom decor
Dining room. This display is my favorite.
Closeup of this cute greeting cards that I decided to hang up.
Got a piece of mudroom furniture

New Adventures

We have been enjoying exploring the area near our house. We often see wild turkeys and occasionally deer done the road. There are many wildflowers in bloom now, especially by the river, where we picked some. Besides La Grange, we have been exploring Coulterville, Waterford, and Sonora. And I felt like I was initiated into this country lifestyle when an owl met it’s end on my windshield, poor thing. I also had a Mother’s Sabbath where I enjoyed coffee with Maggieothevalley and shopped in downtown Turlock.

Sonora’s amazing library. It’s like Barnes and Noble!
Story time circle at the Sonora library.
Beautiful mural in the Sonora library.
The kids got haircuts!
From Ash Wednesday!
At an awesome park in Waterford.
Beans coffee in Waterford…love how they have a few toys and puzzles for kids. A real lifesaver!
Someone found mommy’s lipstick…! Ha ha
Tire swing at the park here in La Grange.
Wildflowers found near the river.
Cute stuff found on my day off
Window shopping downtown Turlock
Love this
Beautiful lavender latte from Cafe La Mo.

So yeah I’ve been busy…

Even though it’s been especially stressful the last two months with moving, and the kids being sick twice, and just trying to adjust to living further away, there is still much beauty to be found and writing a post like this helps me to see that. Praise God!

How to Konmari Kid Stuff

So, have you guys started watching Marie Kondo’s new show on Netlix? Well, I have. I may or may not have already watched the entire thing…so, what?

once upon a time shrug GIF

Before we begin

First of all, if this is your first time konmari-ing, you may have thoughts during the process like:

  • How did I ever let my home get like this?
  • Why did I waste all of this money?
  • I can’t get rid of these things, because I spent good money on them.
  • But so-and-so got me this thing, they would be upset if I got rid of it.
Sound familiar? It’s okay. Take a deep breath and proceed anyway.

There is hope

Also, I want you to know my house is quite tidy. It gets messy all the time, but things have a home and it’s easy to reset. But I wasn’t born that way! Oh no, just ask my sister, whom I shared a room with for 18 years.

Left, my sister and I am right next to her. This was my birthday party with some friends circa 1998. Good times!

I have always been a hoarder and a creative-type who loved posters and drawings all over my wall growing up, and the top drawer of my dresser was full of who knows what and it barely closed. I never got rid of a single stuffed animal. But,I was always interested in organizing, I just didn’t know that you had to de-clutter first. I am learning and practicing on a regular basis, and you can too.

I am learning and practicing on a regular basis, and you can too.

A few pictures of my previous konmari adventures.

Now for the kid stuff…

Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate going through all the kid stuff! Also, one great thing about the konmari method is you will find you probably have all the space and storage products you need, because you will end up having so much less stuff. Let’s go!

  1. Do it as a family on a weekend day you are all home.
  2. Have someone to hold you accountable (I am weird with toys)
  3. Remove the toys you know are their favorites.
  4. Don’t ask your kids what they want to keep, because they will say everything , instead find two items that are similar and ask them to pick between them. Ask, “which one do you want more?” This truly worked so well with my kids, ages 2 &3. I thought there would be resistance on their part, but when I approached it this way, it all worked out.
  5. Explain you are sharing your things with others who may need it.
  6. Immediately put it in the car. Otherwise the clutter will re-enter circulation.
  7. Do kids clothes on your own.
  8. Store seasonal items elsewhere (contrary to konmari advice )
  9. If you are saving the clothes your kids grew out of, in the hopes you will use them for future children, think about going giving some away to someone in need, who could be using them now.
  10. Try to store toys in their closet, or some other closet in smaller containers, by type and only get a few out at a time. You will see you actually can walk across the room again safely, and it will make cleanup much simpler and playtime more fun.

Instead, find two items that are similar and ask, “which one do you want more?”

Take a look at that pile! And this is when I only had one baby!
The containers you see here are from Dollar Tree.
This is a hamper that I already had the was no longer being used.

So tell me, do you have any tips and tricks for de-cluttering your children’s items?

Advent: Why We Took Our Christmas Decorations Down

My family and I are starting some new advent traditions this year. As you may know, we are a Catholic family, and traditionally Catholics actually don’t start the Christmas season until Christmas, unlike the rest of the United States who start celebrating right after Thanksgiving. I grew up celebrating like the rest of our culture in the U.S., but recently a friend brought up this book to me:

Why change?

I have already been thinking of doing the season of Advent differently, partly because of being inspired by Kendra Tierney and other Catholic bloggers. So, even though my husband and I already spent a few hours decorating for Christmas the day before Thanksgiving, we decided to take it all down and focus on Advent.

Wait, what?

Yes, yes we did. And yes, maybe we are a little bit crazy. But that’s okay. Crazy and I go way back.

Fortunately, we don’t have a TON of Christmas decorations, so when we bring them back out on Christmas Eve it won’t be too difficult. But I’m telling you, I can’t wait to see the look of joy on my children’s faces.

For the home

I also plan to buy a kid-friendly nativity scene, like this one:

A friend gave me the idea of having Mary and Joseph travel around the house, on their way to Bethlehem, and then on Christmas Eve they will have made it to the manger and baby Jesus will be born. We made an Advent wreath using a Dollar Tree wreath frame and Dollar Tree greenery. One of my dearest friends bought me some Advent candles. We will be saying an Advent prayer at least once a week as we light the candles.

For the heart

My husband and I plan to go to confession during this time. We also are using this time to reflect on our vocations as spouses and parents and getting very honest with ourselves.

Unexpected Blessing

I’ve been wanting to live more liturgically in our home, and this one change we made with waiting to celebrate Christmas has had a trans-formative effect. This past week when I meal planned I check the calendar and I noticed two feast days – Saint Francis Xavier and Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I decided to celebrate! I planned for us to have takeout for Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we are going to have Fettuccine Alfredo since it is white, which represents purity.

Christmastide

On Christmas Eve we will go through our local Christmas tree lane and then put out all of the presents and Christmas decorations while our children are asleep. We will talk about the birth of Jesus and read some Christmas stories. We will attend mass either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. We will keep our decorations up for the next 12 days (or more). We will turn up the Christmas music and sing Christmas carols. We will have a feast with family and friends. The twelve days of Christmas we will have special treats, and watch our favorite movies (Prancer, It’s A Wonderful Life). Maybe we will even have a little Twelth Night Party.

So basically, we are going to do the things we always do, cook, bake, and read stories but tailor it to whatever part of Advent we are celebrating. We won’t be declining invitations to Christmas parties during Advent or anything like that. We will just control what we do in our home.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Advent: How We Try to Celebrate Things in Their Proper Season Without Feeling Like Total Jerks

Radical Hospitality

8 Ways to Be an Everyday Saint

What are some special traditions you have during Advent? Please let me know in the comments below!

On Being a Stay-At-Home Mom: Is It Worth It?

mom and son in sun

Recently, a friend of mine asked me:

“Do you like being a stay-at-home mom?”

What a poignant question, and I thought later on…that would make a great blog post!

I love being  stay-at-home mom, but it does come with it’s challenges. I am committed to thrive, however, despite the challenges!

Disclaimer: In this post when I say “stay-at-mom” I am referring to women who do not go to a job outside the home. All moms work, paycheck or not.

Inadequacy, Superiority , and Holiness

But let me get this out of the way. If you have feelings of inadequacy because you aren’t a stay-at-home mom or because you are, that ain’t nothin’ but the devil (as Kalen Allen would say.)

And something else that ain’t nothin’ but the devil? Feeling superior to other women because you are a stay-at-home mom.

We all have different circumstances and we must discern what is best for our family and our situation. The beauty of the modern world is all the options women now have, we are free to be stay-at-home moms (or dads) if our finances allow, work from home, work outside the home,  whatever. And holiness can be achieved no matter where you do your work, God will provide based on your circumstances, so if you have discerned working outside the home is best for you and your family, Amen sister, more power to you! I think work-outside-the-home moms are heroic to spin so many plates. And if you wish you were a stay-at-home mom, and think you can’t be, please take some time and re-evaluate your financial situation. With some sacrifices, you may be able to find a way! (The book Miserly Moms is a great resource for this.)

My Family’s Current Circumstance

I desired to be a stay-at-home mom before we got married and my husband and I both agreed we’d want one of us to be a stay-at-home parent once children came, before we got married. Since we knew we’d want several children, he wanted to be the main provider for our family, and I was happy to stay-at-home, it just works for us. We have to make a lot of sacrifices to make it happen, however. I watch our food budget very closely and I normally cook 6 days out of the week, and I practice other frugal habits. And now that I have a blog, I have transitioned to being a work-at-home mom, and I do my work when my kids are asleep and as my family’s needs allow.

Here’s a list of the pros and cons:

The Pros

  • Seeing all of the milestones.
  • Being highly involved in my children’s discipline and development.
  • Getting to be the primary influence over my children.
  • More capacity for quality time.
  • Flexibility with household duties and ample time for them – it’s easier to be the kind of homemaker I want be,
  • Opportunities for flexible, creative work like blogging.
  • Not having to call out from work when my kids are sick.
  • Not having to worry about the quality of their childcare providers.
  • Not having to pay for childcare.

The Cons

  • No paycheck.
  • Less social interaction.
  • Must be very disciplined.
  • Feeling like I wasted time and money on my college education.
  • Wondering if I am a weirdo because of the choice I’ve made.
  • Being under scrutiny by people who have no idea what I do all day.
  • More pressure to limit screen time because I am the main care provider.

Make the Most of Your Situation

I view the cons of being a stay-at-home mom as opportunities, not unchangeable circumstances :

  • No paycheck. Get creative and find ways to save money.
  • Less social interaction. Join a local moms group, make friends with moms at the park, nurture relationships with your single friends.
  • Must be very disciplined. Grow in self-discipline. Design a schedule that suits your and your family’s unique needs.
  • Feeling like I wasted time and money on my college education. Your education could never be a waste. All you’ve learned you can share with your children. Also, read this.
  • Wondering if I am a weirdo because of the choice I’ve made. Make friends with like-minded women. Read blogs of like-minded women. But do not exclude women of different circumstances. We need friends of all kinds, not just those who share the exact same life situation.
  • Being under scrutiny by people who have no idea what I do all day. Pray for and bless these people. They don’t understand and that’s okay. 
  • More pressure to limit screen time. Give yourself grace about this. You are likely the only one in charge of your kids all day, to keep your sanity you may have to have the T.V. on more than you’d like. Just do your best to try to increase healthier activities and the screen time will decrease as a result.
just a mom
A design I made that outlines the many hats a mom may wear.

What if IClear‘ve done all the above and I’m still not happy?

If you’ve tried everything and you’re not happy, maybe God has called you to work outside the home, or find some other setup that works better for you. If you or your spouse has been trying to make everything work for some time and it’s just not working, then it’s probably not God’s will for your family but that’s good! Exciting things happen when you seek God’s will.

Additional Resources

Books:

A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
Delightful book about how to craft your schedule as a stay-at-home mom.
Image result for miserly moms
This mom learned how to live on one income in San Francisco, California by implementing frugal habits.
Image result for one beautiful dream
This mom learned what “having it all” can look like in the chaos of having 6 kids in 8 years.

Stay-at-home/work-from-home mom blogs:

Image result for kendra tierney
Catholic All Year is the first Catholic mom blog I ever read. Kendra Tierney talks about everything from discipline, to being an introvert, to liturgical living and she even has a few books and some printable prayers.
Image result for jennifer fulwiler
On Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog you will find hilarious tales of her family life which may include scorpions and a fiesty Texan mother-in-law. You’ll also receive some great insight and relief that you aren’t alone.
On Haley Stewart’s blog, you can find inspiration for juggling family life in an unconventional way, as well as have some bookish fun.

And let’s not forget the great and holy moms of different circumstances:

St. Gianna and the working Catholic mom

Great post about what holiness might look like for a work-outside-the-home mom.

For single moms in the Church 

Although this post fails to mention women who have never been married that are single moms, it still gives great insight into what it is like to be a single mom in the Church. My favorite part was this idea: Instead of placing judgement on others, why don’t we offer help?

All this talk about accepting differences reminded me of a song! Just check out that awesome 90’s style and great lyrics.

So, is it worth it?

Even though being a stay-at-home mom, and doing it well, is a daunting task, if it’s your heart’s desire you can find ways to overcome the challenges. And for me, it is worth it. But only you can decide what is best for you and your family.

Make Your Schedule as a Mom and Grace for when Life Happens

two nuns looking up praying

What you’ll find

In this post, I am going to tell you all about how to make your schedule as a mom. It will be completely tailored to your life- something for moms who work outside and inside the home. (Mine is from the perspective of a work-from-home mom) . You’ll also learn how to approach your schedule when life happens – you know the drill – your kids get sick, the dog throws up on every blanket you  own, you have unexpected company, etc. You will take stock of all of your responsibilities but also take into account time for prayer and time to do things you enjoy.

Take a look at your life

What does your daily life look like right now? Do you dread waking up in the morning because the demands of the day just seem insurmountable? Find yourself yelling at your kids most of the time and snapping at your husband? Feel like you are working SO hard but you never get anywhere? Well, my friends, it doesn’t have to stay that way!

The solution

What you need is to make your schedule as a mom. This will help you keep track of all of your responsibilities and get the important things done and at the same time keep your sanity.

A fabulous book

My life changed dramatically when I read this book , “A Mother’s Rule of Life“. It’s about a stay-at-home , homeschooling mom, who is tired of feeling overwhelmed and stressed out all of the time. She went searching for peace. She was inspired by the simple schedule of religious orders, like the Missionaries of Charity, and how they led productive lives but spent great amounts of time in prayer. When the bell rang for the next block on the schedule, they didn’t hurry trying to finish everything up , they practiced obedience – “okay God, I guess that’s all you wanted me to do today.” (Man, could I use some of that kind of acceptance in my life!) Their goal wasn’t efficiency, it was to serve and to do it peacefully. Because, the old saying, you can’t give what you don’t have, right?

Let’s get started, make your schedule as a mom

  1. Buy a Mother’s Rule of Life. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
  2. Decide on a wake up time and bed time.
  3. Count how many hours you have in a day.
  4. Decide how much time to spend in prayer.
  5. Write down how much time you need for grooming and bathing.
  6. Include time needed for activities you enjoy like reading, drawing, writing.
  7. Include a few break times, 15 minutes each.
  8. Don’t forget time with your husband or social time with those you care about.
  9. Include time with your kids.
  10. Include time for chores
  11. Input meal times (cooking and cleanup) and bed time routines. Overestimate how much time you think you need. This allows margin.
  12. Include time for working. This may be before your kids wake up or you may go to work inside the home.

Now is the time you see if you have any time left over. You probably don’t! This is good though! This is validation that you have so much to take care of and you aren’t just lazy! If you have any leftover time, decide where it should go and if you don’t, decide where you have to cut. If we want to lead a peaceful life, we have to be very discerning about how we use our time.

My mother’s rule

5:30 – 7 :00 AM – Pray, get dressed, drink coffee, work on blog, put makeup on

7:00 – 8:30 AM – Breakfast , say grace, & cleanup & morning chores

8:30-9:00 AM – Kids dressed

9:00 – 9:10 AM- 10 minute break for me

9:10 – 9:40 AM – Put laundry in the dryer and walk the dog

9:40 -9:50 AM – Ab workout

9:50 – 11:50 AM – Outing/errand

11:50 – 12:00 PM – 10 minute break for me

12:00- 1:30 PM – Lunch, say grace, cleanup, laundry put away, story time

1:30 – 2:30 PM – Quiet time me and my son while my daughter naps. I read, blog, draw, or watch You Tube.

2:30 – 3:30 PM – I call this Admin time. It’s for meal planning, week planning, budget planning, etc. If I don’t need to do these things its more quiet time.

3:30-4:30 PM – Kids outside play while I do my afternoon tidy and cleanup routine.

4:30 – 6:00 PM – Make dinner, say grace, cleanup, night cleaning routine

6:00 – 8:00 PM – I shower,  then my kids take a bath, and we have family time, story time and then the kids go to bed.

8:00-9:00 PM – Time to chill with my husband and watch a show or talk or have some other quality time.

9:00 – 9:30 PM – I wind down for bed.

How I Occupy My Kids

My goal is to occupy my kids without screens. To have them play quietly when I need dedicated time.

But life happens. And sometimes life happens A LOT (pregnancy, illness, emergencies, sleep deprivation, newborns, mothering multiple young children, or some other hard or serious circumstance) .

What I’m trying to say is, the TV is a tool in a mom’s toolkit guys. As long as it’s not being used to excess, the content is appropriate, and isn’t there as a substitute of other important activities, I think it’s okay. With that said, my kids watch quite a bit of TV, probably more than the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says they should – but AAP doesn’t know me. They don’t know about what my needs are and our family’s unique circumstances. They don’t know that my kids also help me around the house, play with toys, play with me, bake with me, play with the dog, make messes, play in the dirt, go to the park, go on play dates, read books, roughhouse with my husband, visit family, etc. Sometimes I need to have things a little quieter for my sanity.

Only you know the needs of your family, and you shouldn’t feel guilty when your kids watch more TV than you like if you have a serious reason to do so.

When you are off track

You are going to get off track. And trust me, it’s going to be most of the time.  (It is for me.) So, when it happens, just get back on track as soon as the next block starts. Sometimes this may mean there are dishes left in the sink. Remember, the goal is peace not efficiency. But if this keeps happening over and over again, for months on end, it’s time to adjust and re-evaluate your rule.

Maintenance

Plan to evaluate your schedule once every three months or as needed. Three months seems like a good plan to me, though, because by then with my two little ones, my life tends to look quite a bit different.

Conclusion

If your life is spiraling out of control, take heart! No matter what season you are in, you can take control and get the important things done. So go make your schedule as a mom! If you already have one, please let me know in the comments below!

 

Make Laundry Easier, Faster, and Less Overwhelming

How to make laundry easier

Laundry is a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be.

I am going to show you a way to make laundry easier, faster and more possible. Because when it starts to pile up,  I don’t know about you, but it seems impossible! But first let me explain what a volcano has to do with this blog post.

I once worked with an endearing older lady in my coffee shop days. She was frustrated with her son because he wasn’t doing chores. Because English was her second language, she didn’t know the word for volcano. So she told him “If you don’t do your laundry, I will throw all your clothes in a pile and make a fire mountain!” Needless to say, we both had a good laugh!

There are five of us. Myself, my husband, my two toddlers and our dog. So that means laundry. And lots of it.

All.the.time.

And there are accidents. Vomit, poop, mud, urine, food messes, liquid spills, you name it, it’s happened. It’s not pretty. Sometimes accidents equal four more loads of laundry that I wasn’t counting on. Ouch!

And even when there are no accidents, I still have to put it away if I want a tidy, comfortable house. So, after years of clean laundry waiting to be put away, dirty clothes waiting to be washed, folded laundry never making it into the drawer, clothes not getting properly dry because the load was too big, I’ve discovered some hacks that work for me and my family.

My best laundry hacks:

  1. A hamper for each family member and one for the house. The hampers are great for keeping everyone’s laundry sorted so I don’t have to do that step when it all comes out of the dryer. If you can’t afford Pinterest-worthy hampers right now, just  do what we did and use these from Dollar Tree:
  2. For our family 2 loads a day keeps the laundry at bay. But you probably need to add an extra load for each additional family member. 2 a day also keep me from having to do laundry on Sundays.
  3. Don’t take the laundry out of the dryer until you are ready to put it away. No procrastinating! This is so important if you don’t want a monster pile of laundry on your bed or in the corner. And when the loads are small the laundry takes less than 10 minutes to put away. I know it’s not fun. Just do it. Use the five second rule. Put on a YouTube video for fun if you have to.  I can proudly say since putting it away immediately I no longer have piles of laundry anywhere. It’s truly a miracle.
  4. I fold my laundry the Konmari way. But not perfectly, I do it quickly so the laundry can stand vertically in the drawer and the clothes are easier to find that way and I can fit more clothes in a single drawer. If you haven’t read the LifeChanging Magic of Tidying Up, do so now! It truly is life changing!

  5. I give myself grace when the laundry piles up because life happens. And I just start where I am. I think, do we all have something clean to wear, clean underwear, and clean socks? Then we are okay.
  6. Get creative with where you keep dressers. Seriously. A huge reason why my kids’ clothes wouldn’t get put away is because when I finally had time to put them away, the kids were asleep in their room for a nap or down for the night. In our home, we have a built in set of drawers where I keep most of my kids’ clothing.

Although it is such a bore, there are things you can do to make laundry easier and you might even enjoy it. Just a little.

What are your best laundry hacks? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to find out!

And for more inspiring productivity tips, click here!