Saturday, February 28, 2015

40 Bags in 40 Days: Progress Update

It turns out, I am a hoarder. A literal closet hoarder. I take pride in keeping downstairs clean and the playroom organized. Everything in the kids' rooms are labeled with pictures and words. I want them to be organized. 

But take a peek in any closet in my house and you'll see the chaos that I've created. I could be featured on a Hoarders episode on A&E. Since beginning the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge ten days ago, we have tackled the bedroom closet, master bathroom closet, and office closet. 

The bedroom closet was no small task. I'm guilty of letting the kids play in there, which means half of my wardrobe ends up off the hangers and on the floor. Jesse's greatest pet peeve about me is that I never hang the clothes back up. I end up sifting through clothes all over the floor to find something to wear. The floor of our closet was littered with clothes (not just mine!), toys, broken vacuum cleaner hoses, and more. It was pretty ridiculous. Trying on clothes was just a rude reminder of how much weight I've gained and how few clothes actually fit. Since becoming a stay at home mom nearly two years ago, I've lived in long skirts/dresses, and yoga pants. I probably shouldn't admit this, but my favorite shirts and yoga pants all have growing holes in them. I finally threw them away. I kept some work clothes, but still managed to drop off two black trash bags full of clothes and shoes at Goodwill.

When creating the list, I anticipated the two most difficult tasks to do be the office closet and the attic. I allotted two days to complete the office closet, but it took me a full week! Here's what it looked like ten days ago.

The first step was to take every single item out of the closet. I made three signs (keep, trash, donate) on different corners of the room. As I took each item out, I tried to make an impulse decision and put each thing in a pile.

The closet originally only had two very high shelves. Jesse purchased and installed shelving for me.

The process was very tedious and emotionally draining. Some of the closet's contents were easy to sort, such as scrapbook supplies, paint, games, and office supplies. I quickly organized those items and placed most of them in clear storage drawers.

Other items were more difficult. There were binders full of old classwork (kindergarten-grad school), my baby books, my mother's journal to me, hundreds of postcards, etc. I tried to trim down as much as possible, which meant I had to go through everything to determine what had enough sentimental value to hold onto.

As I pulled items out from the mountainous pile, I kept finding loose photographs. There were easily a thousand pictures. My mother was both a hoarder and a lover of pictures, so I had hundreds of random pictures from my childhood. I sorted the photos by years (early childhood, middle school, high school, college, wedding, etc) and put them in labeled ziploc bags. I threw away duplicates and blurry photos. I placed the bags in chronological order inside the bin. I already have photo albums from each of these time periods, so I don't know what I'll do with these photographs in the future. For now, they're at least organized and I know where they are.

We donated the filing cabinet, dresser, and dozens of other smaller items, including my VHS copy of Drop Dead Fred and my favorite cassettes and CDs. I was also able to fill two black garbage bags with recycling and trash. We now have several empty shelves, though I doubt they will remain empty after we go through the attic. 

I am surprised at how taxing the past ten days have been. I feel like I'm letting go of a lot of baggage that I didn't know I still carried. Progress is slow, and there were several days where I felt discouraged. After finishing my first large project, I'm beginning to feel a bit lighter.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow To-Do List

Each time I checked the weather forecast yesterday, it called for a greater accumulation. I even ran out to buy a cheap sled since I assumed we'd be snowed in the rest of the week. By 7 pm, it was calling for 7-10 inches of snow in our area. Jesse and the kids were asleep by 9 pm, but I stayed awake and kept vigil by the window, taking occasional dance breaks.

I was a bit disappointed to walk on the deck this morning and see the dismal 2-3 inches. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful.

Jackson and I made a snow to-do list during breakfast, then bundled everyone up. 

The trio will not keep their mittens on. I wanted them to spend a decent amount of time playing in the snow this morning, so I used knee high socks as mittens. I pulled them up to their shoulders, then put their jackets over top so they couldn't pull them off. 

The greatest obstacle in successfully completing our snow agenda was getting Amelia to actually go outside. She spent the morning standing by the back door or being held.

We accomplished all five items on our itinerary. They included:

Go Sledding

Make Snow Angels

Make and Throw Snowballs

Build a Snowman

Make and Eat Snow Cream

Now that we've crossed everything off our list, it's time to move on to spring!

Predictable Personalities

Considering school was cancelled on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as all of last week, it was a small miracle that Jackson was able to attend preschool as usual on Monday and Wednesday. After dropping Jackson off at preschool yesterday I took the trio to the bank (slowly but steadily crossing things of my 40 Bags in 40 Days list). Then we headed to Ikea for a $2 breakfast and to play.

James, Amelia, and Maddie have developed very distinct personalities. Their actions and behaviors have become consistent and predictable.

Exhibit A: Maddie's favorite hobby is eating. She takes her time, hoarding food, and savoring each bite. She almost always ends up stealing her siblings' food.

Exhibit B: Amelia likes to quietly work on something. She's sweet and nurturing and especially fond of all things baby-related.

Exhibit C: James is everywhere. Always on the move, typically climbing, breaking things, and unintentionally causing a ruckus.

Meanwhile, Maddie keeps eating.

Amelia continues to find dolls to care for.

And James keeps purposefully knocking things over, saying "uh oh", and rearranging furniture.

These three couldn't be any more different.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Snow Day (For Real This Time)

We were awoken at 5 a.m. by an unexpected phone call from the superintendent issuing a two hour delay for schools. Two hours later, Jackson came running in our room, saying, "It's snowing!" An hour later, school had been cancelled and we were all bundling up to go play outside.

The triplets do not share the same love of snow as their mama. Oy. We lasted all of four minutes before all three were crying and ready to go inside.
I didn't get any pictures of Jackson, who was playing with his ninja turtle figurines he had brought outside. I had hoped to play with Jackson once his siblings were inside, considering he was the only one who tolerated the snow. He opted to go to work with Jesse for a few hours. Back inside everybody went.
The big boys are at work, while James, Amelia, and Maddie watch the snow (and the stray cat) from the comfort of the living room.

Fingers crossed that there's school tomorrow!

Monday, February 23, 2015

MyPublisher For the Win

A few months ago I made my very first digital family yearbook using MyPublisher software. My experience was extremely frustrating since I was using an older computer that kept crashing and could not handle the program. Despite a challenging time creating the book, I was so happy with the actual product that I purchased a voucher for an 80 page book with super gloss and lay-flat pages for $40.

I am thrilled to report that I had a much faster and smoother experience creating my most recent yearbook. I used my HP Stream Notebook. I did not have any problems with MyPublisher using this laptop. The photo book arrived today, exactly one week after I ordered it.

I won't show as many pages since I already picked my favorite pictures from 2012 in a recent post. Here's the basic overview of the book. The voucher included a photo finish cover.

There are headings for each month. Some pages have captions, others are just collages or full page photo.

The super gloss printing really is amazing. The colors pop so much more and there's just an overall shine to everything.

Like last time, I included screenshot images of Facebook posts and blog posts to provide more storytelling than just photographs. 

The only other added feature was lay-flat pages. I did not select this feature last time since it is a bit pricey, but it was included in the voucher.  

Here's a comparison picture of lay-flat pages in the 2012 yearbook vs. regular pages in the 2013 yearbook.

Once again, I am so pleased with the product. It looks better than any photo books I've created with Shutterfly, Snapfish, or Mixbook. (Now I just need to figure out how to get MyPublisher as a sponsor. Ha!)

My favorite part about the book is how excited Jackson is about looking at the pictures. Nearly all of the photos in this particular book include Jackson as a toddler. He has looked through the book several times today, asking questions and making up stories for each page.

Now that I know my computer can handle the software, I'm eager to get caught up with creating our digital family yearbooks!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Growing in Faith

You know you have an awesome youth group when you're willing to lay down in the mud to take a picture. 

Today was an exciting church milestone for both Jackson and I. For the first time in many months, our entire family attended church together.

This morning was the first time Jackson stayed with us for "grown up church" rather than going to the nursery. Jackson did a great job in the pews during the first third of the service. Jesse took him up to the front of the church for the children's sermon. Jackson did not participate, but he did join the circle during the children's prayer. We had hoped Jackson would go to children's chapel afterwards, but he chose to go to the nursery because he wanted to play with his siblings. Baby steps...

My milestone was getting installed and ordained as en elder. Elders in the Presbyterian Church serve as the governing body of the congregation. They are the behind-the-scenes people who delegate tasks, lead committees, and ensure that things run smoothly. This leadership position is one that I do not take lightly. Beyond the day-to-day tasks, elders also represent the church body. Just in the past week the elders have had an opportunity to vote on gay marriage in our Presbytery, as well as lead an anointing service for a terminally ill member (upon his request).

The ordination and installation was especially meaningful to me because it's one of the only times in our church that we conduct a laying of the hands. There's something very moving to kneel before God and know that dozens of people have my back (literally and figuratively). It is outside of my comfort zone, which is practically a guarantee that I will learn and grow throughout my term on session. In the training sessions thus far, God has already challenged me to examine what kind of Christian example I am setting as a mother.

I am in awe at how God is working though our family!

Why I Miss Dad More Today

Today marks the 17th anniversary of my father's death. Some years are easier than others, but I have missed him more today than I did in the weeks and months immediately after his death. At eleven years old, I mourned the loss of my dad and a stable family. At 28 years old, I mourn the lost opportunity to know him as a person and for my kids to have known their grandfather.

Today seems to hit harder for a lot of reasons:

  • Today was a dreary Sunday, just like on the day he died. I found myself looking at the clock throughout the day, thinking about what I was doing at the same time 17 years ago.
  • I've been deep cleaning our office closet the past week. I'm slowly uncovering baby books, my mother's journal, and hundreds of loose photos. All of these objects from my childhood help me piece together what my father was like as a person, but there are many pieces still missing.
  • Last night Jesse and I attempted to discuss our opposing religious beliefs and how they will shape our kids' beliefs. I want nothing more than to ask my father about his religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and get his opinion on raising children in the church. I have so many questions.
  • James is named after Dad. After James' recent ER visit to get a staple in his head, multiple people have commented about how James resembles Dad, with his looks and rough-and-tumble behavior. This is so bittersweet for me.
  • The kids are so lucky to have a great PaPa, but I can't help but think about how much they would be loved by their grandfather. The kids are at such a fun, interactive age. I just wish my dad could know me as a mom and wife and be able to play with his grandkids.