Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our Christmas Ornament This Year

Every Christmas the boys and I try to come up with a new ornament to give to all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, great aunts and uncles.  We have made a tradition of getting our family picture taken at Christmas time so I generally like to include a picture of the boys.  I am very sentimental and like to show off how my cuties are growing.

We decided this year to embrace recycling.  It appears we go through a number of Trader Joe’s Yogurts around here.  My boys aren't big milk drinkers but do enjoy yogurt with their cereal on the mornings when Daddy is in charge of breakfast.  I generally toss all of the old cups into the recycling bin but this year we decided to turn them into Christmas Bell ornaments.

As you can see the actual painting was a task that both boys took to immediately.

This project required the following items:
  • Yogurt Cups
  • Arcyllic paint in Christmas colors
  • Red yarn
  • Modge Podge
  • Little bells
  • Thumb nail prints of a Christmas portrait of the two boys together.   (We printed from our inkjet printer).
  • Scissors, paintbrushes, paint pallets and paint friendly work surface.

The boys loved sitting down to paint the yogurt cups.  If they wanted to use a light color, who knew that yellow was a Christmas color, we tried to paint the entire cup with a white base or primer layer.  I did my best to keep track of who painted which cup and then wrote their name and date on the inside of the cup for posterity.

We stretched this out over a couple of days because we made so many for both sides of our very large families.  It was also a project my four and a half year really got into.  Yes, we even worked on it before we got dressed in the morning it seems.

To finish off the bells I just added some yarn, a bell and modge podged the picture of the two boys on to the bell.  The only purchase we made for this project was the little bells, everything else we had on hand.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Label It

 A friend recently asked for help organizing her kids' toys.  She had already purchased Closetmaid cubes and shelving units and was looking for good suggestions for labeling the cube bins.  My boys go to a Montessorri based preschool and I love that they really work hard to teach children to put away their own toys.  They do an awesome job of using photo labels to help kids remember where things go on each shelf.
    I borrowed from that idea.  I stitched Avery conference ID badges on to the bins so that I could switch out the photo inserts when we change our toy stash.  (Someone also suggested using industrial Velcro that you can purchase at the hardware store or Home Depot.  I thought this was a great suggestion as long as your kids don't realize they can pull the labels off!)

    I just did Google searches to find pictures of the items that we would be storing and then wrote down what the item was using a sharpie. If I had been willing to I could have typed out the words to make them look extra splashy but most of my projects are completed with little people's assistance or at least interruption, so writing it out worked just fine for us.
I like the idea of having both the words and the pictures on the labels so that the boys have some letter and word recognition practice.  It has also come in handy because I store their clothes in the same closet and set of drawers under their trundle bed.  Each boy has his name on his drawer or bin to help him keep track of his own clothes.  (I'll do just about anything to get help putting folded clothes away.  For some reason that is one of my least favorite jobs.)  Some bins hold communal items like pajamas, socks and undershirts because I just couldn't keep track of who wore which.  This is another benefit of a 19 month age difference!

  I am sure that there are fancier and prettier labels out there but these seem to get the job done and are even Daddy proof for the most part.

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The Background or Backbone to Organizing My Shoebox and the Lives in It

To some extent I think I am hard wired to be organized.  When I was only a tween I would organize the books on my shelf in rainbow order.  I loved arranging and rearranging my room whenever I cleaned it.   That’s the thing though, I was born and raised in a rather disorganized household.  Both of my parents are sort of magpies, they hate to throw things away, have no interest in keeping the house clutter or dust free and honestly just aren't that neat.  I’m not saying they are dirty just scattered and cluttered.  It drove me crazy growing up.  I vowed that I would have a tidy house.  I just didn't know how to maintain it with out seeking outside help. I knew how to clean like crazy but how could I create an environment that felt peaceful and stress free?  It isn't a perfect system (I don't live alone!) but there are some basic tenants I'd like to share.  
My challenge now is that I have two preschool children, a baby on the way,  and a busy husband and we live in a house that is less than 1000 square feet with no garage, or basement and no storage space in our attic.  Luckily I am a SAHM so I do have some time to devote to organizing our little shoebox but it requires systems.
Follow a Routine- I am ever so thankful that I found the flylady.nety.  The Flylady has created a wonderful system that ensures that everything gets done to keep your house clean without driving you insane.  She has wonderful daily, weekly, monthly routines that keep your house in order.  I can’t say enough about her- follow her and you’ll see what I mean.
Take the Time to Coordinate with Your Spouse-  following some sound advice from the book  Family, Inc. my husband and I are now working better as a team at managing our household.  The authors Caitlin and Andrew Friedman have developed a system for running their household using sound business management tools.  In their book they outline how you can implement work related solutions into your own household.  I bought the book after reading an article about it.  I thought it would appeal to my husband because he likes to read “business” books.  I knew a "touchy feely" book on organization wouldn't appeal to him.  So far the solutions seem so obvious but we just weren’t doing them.  We have implemented a weekly meeting so that we can go over the upcoming weeks to do lists, calendars and issues.  We also finally synced our calendars so we don’t spend so much time trying to figure out what we are doing!  I love my big wall calendar but have now realized I can’t live without our Google calendars that go everywhere with us. 
A Place For Everything and Everything in its Place- Seriously, the old adage is true.  You really have to have your household set up so that you know where everything goes.  We have put a good deal of time and effort into creating storage solutions in our house because our space is so limited.  We have added closet organizers, kitchen cupboards, extra shelving units and all sorts of solutions to keep things organized around here.  I also label like crazy so that I get help in putting everything away.  It is one thing if I know where everything belongs but it is heavenly if the whole family can help.  I also rely heavily on the fly ladies saying that “You can’t organize clutter.”"You Can't Organize Clutter."  It reminds me to get rid of things rather than save everything.  If we aren't using it, we try to get it out!   It is honestly so much easier to keep track of important things if we don’t have clutter laying around.  Having a place for everything also helps keep our rooms neat.  Every night when I put the boys to bed or check on them, I do a sweep of their room, toys in bins, books on shelves, everything off the floor.  This way I know that the path is clear for us if they should cry out in the middle of the night and for them when they wake up far too early and race to our room.  I like that I can tidy their room, with their help, so quickly because everything is organized.  I will try to identify little tricks I use to make all of this possible.  I hope that you'll share some of your ideas as well.
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