Tags: getting organized

be happy

Ease Your Mind: Day Three

This post is the third in a five-day series about the three apps I use to manage my life, and the system by which I make them work for me (so my brain is free for more enjoyable things). Interested? Start at the beginning.


Preparing For Take-off

Stick with me on this one - it's a bit of work, but it's going to be worth it really soon.

Hop back into Evernote. Check out that list you made yesterday. Good job, you. Now, what are we going to do with it?

Time for:

Step One, Part B: From Brain-Mess to Clarity

Today's job is all about sorting. You'll need a cuppa and some peace for this. Maybe some chocolate. We're going to empty this note. Completely. Not delete it - you'll need it as a processing space for new incoming items in the future - but empty it.

Start at item #1 and go through your list, item by item, categorising and re-housing each list item as follows:

1. Pre-Existing Recurring Items

These are your standing arrangements - the daily glance at your meal plan to figure out what to defrost, weekly swimming lesson, monthly lunch with friends, annual zombie apocalypse readiness drill.

Open up Remember The Milk and enter these tasks first, creating new RTM "lists" as you need them (I have "Homemaking", "Personal", "Liam To Do", "Other People", "Work", and - because we're moving soon - "Packing").

Schedule them, tag them, and erase them from Evernote. Dealt with. Now you can forget these things until the day you need to know them.

2. Pre-Arranged One-Off Items

These are single tasks/events which are already set in the calendar - the birthday party, the movie night, the doctor's appointment, the flash mob.

Add these to RTM next. If there's a clash with one of your regular tasks, you'll need to decide - based on priority - which stays and which is moved/cancelled. If there's preparation required (eg buying a gift before a birthday party), schedule these for an earlier day. Another load off your mind, and your list is one item closer to empty.

3. New Schedule Items

These may be things things you've just thought of. Or they may be things you already do at random, but would like a plan for - I chose a specific day to clean the bathroom, for example, and also set a daily reminder to read a Bible chapter.

Take a look at the RTM schedule so far, and decide where these will best fit. Enter them in, and clear them from your Evernote list. Voila - you're ready to be held accountable at grout-scrubbing time.

4. Future Items / Projects

Not all of the items on your list will be tasks that can be dealt with in one - or two - simple, scheduled actions. Some will be about ongoing projects; others may be non-urgent tasks to be dealt with "one day", which you just weren't sure how to schedule.

For these, you'll be using Evernote. Set up a new note for each project, or each list of related "pending" tasks. I have a note for things to do when we've moved to Ballarat, for example, and another for Christmas present ideas. Etcetera. This is your thinking space. You might like to set up a RTM reminder to check in on a specific note on a specific day if necessary - or not.

5. Forgettable Items

Those old Chinotto bottles I was holding onto for some vague decorative idea, Owen having a free Saturday to try out Kindergym before we move... they're not all winners. It's inevitable that some of the things hanging around in your head are there unnecessarily - an honest scrutiny of your mental to-do list is bound to turn up some dead ends, practicality-wise.

When you come across something you're never going to actually deal with for whatever reason, delete it straight away. Some deletions may require further action - I also had to throw out those cute bottles; and as I deleted the Kindergym idea I added a reminder to check it out in Ballarat instead. Free up that space for the things you are going to deal with.

6. One More Thing...

I'll add another item to your list here: Birthdays. I highly recommend adding all important birthdays (ie those you plan to act on in some way - gift-giving, phone-calling, Facebook-posting, whatever) to RTM.

Be specific. If you plan to send a text on the day, mention that in the task description and schedule it for the birthday itself. If you plan to buy a gift, schedule that task far enough in advance to make sure you have time to do it.

Remember RTM rolls on incomplete tasks to the next day, so you'll continue to be reminded until you tick it off as completed. This feature is your friend. No, really.


Aaand... booyah. Take a moment to love that emptied list. All the muddle you were trying to deal with internally is now outside your head, neatly pinned down into categorised groupings and scheduled actions. Feel better about it all?

I did.


Tomorrow we'll have a chat about this system we've created, and how it's going to work for you Every. Single. Day.

be happy

Ease Your Mind: Day Two

This post is the second in a five-day series about the three apps I use to manage my life, and the system by which I make them work for me (so my brain is free for more enjoyable things). Interested? Start at the beginning.

Meet The System

Okay, so you've met the apps that are going to start doing all the work for you. Now it's time to look at: The System.

Three steps to this. Step One (a two-parter) is something you'll only have to do once (if you keep up with the other steps). You'll be feeling better already. Step Two is the everyday use of these apps to free your mind for more important things (like noticing rainbows and caring about people and practicing Gangnam Style in the kitchen with your three-year-old). Hellooo, new brain! Step Three is a regular-ish review of your stuff (to keep your System running smoothly). Cue smug I'm-keeping-on-top-of-everything feeling.


Step One, Part A: Purge Your Head-Parts

Welcome to Evernote. Start a new note called "Inbox" or "New Thoughts" or "My Brain's Version Of Ellis Island" or whatever. Call it something that will remind you that this is a temporary location for incoming thoughts - a processing area where some items will be rejected, some will be processed immediately, and some will be re-housed to deal with later. Nothing's going to be living here, long-term.

If you want a system that's going to work for you, first you need to give it the work to do. Open this new note, and start listing things. Anything and everything that's in your head. A snippet of my list, for example, looked something like this:

  • schedule day of wk to clean bathroom.
  • Ellie new sheets for new bed?
  • call pay office re leave.
  • sell pram - ebay?
  • running.
  • kids' next immunisations.
  • moving - get boxes, talk to agent, gardeny things.

...And so it went on, for well over one hundred items. I know I frequently exaggerate for dramatic effect, but seriously. 116. You might have less; you might have more. No shame in having 7; no medals for having 600.

Take your time over this. The more you get out into written format now, the better the system will work, and the better you'll feel. It's no good mostly doing this, and still having some things rattling around in your head - your system can't take care of remembering everything for you if you don't give it everything. And we're talking everything - projects you've been meaning to start or are in the middle of, regular housekeeping tasks, upcoming events, people you'd like to contact, things you've been wondering, 2am genius ideas... the works.

Purge, baby. Purge.


See you tomorrow for Part B of this step - where we figure out what to do with this monster of a list.

be happy

Ease Your Mind: Day One

These are the three apps I have been using to simplify my life and keep on top of all my stuff. They manage all the things I "should" be doing, so my brain doesn't have to. (This post is the first in a five-day series about these apps, and the system by which I make them work for me. Interested? Start at the beginning.)

Meet The Apps

App 1: Evernote

Any notes app is good. I like Evernote. You can view thumbnails of all your notes, which is helpful for finding the note you're looking for or being reminded at a glance of what projects you've got going on. You can search your notes, which is handy. You can tag notes for easy sorting. You can even share sets of notes - a feature I haven't used yet, but might.

App 2: Remember The Milk

A reminders app. Also, the bomb diggity. Enter a task. Tag it with a day, priority rating, location, estimated duration. Add it to a "list" (category). Set it to repeat whenever you want. So clean, simple, and nice to use. And you can view your reminders by day, location, list... whatever. This app is my secret weapon.

App 3: Daily Planner

So simple, so effective. Make a folder, add to-do items to it, do them, tick them off. Long-tap brings up a menu of options for each group/task. Easy to use. And portable, so you know where you're at all day.

(I use this one on my phone. If you're an iPhone user, you might have to search for something similar - pretty sure this is just an Android thang.)


There - that's it for today. Take some time to explore these apps; have a play around; get to know them and how they work. Just leave them empty when you're done - all ready for Step One of The System, coming up tomorrow.


(Disclaimer: These posts are not sponsored and I'm not receiving any compensation for reviewing these apps - this stuff is just my opinion.)

be happy

Ease Your Mind.

Hi. You're busy, right? Bit overwhelmed sometimes, maybe? So much going on - so much to keep track of? Feeling a bit overwhelmed, a bit frazzled, a bit scattered? Worry you're losing track of things while trying to keep track of other things?

I don't pretend to have all the answers. I don't pretend to be mega-organised all of the time. (I do sometimes pretend to be a bear and chase my children around the house.)

But anyway.

I've recently started using three (free) apps - two on my iPad and one on my phone (though the iPad ones are also available for iPhone or Android, so you can use whatever device suits you) - and have developed a system that seems to be working for me. This system shifts all the stuff from my mind into these apps, so I'm reminded of them when I need to be, instead of when I'm trying to go to sleep or have fun with my kids or, I dunno, form a coherent sentence.

Wanna try?

If so, stay tuned. I'll be posting a new step each day for the next five days. This is my first attempt at a running series up in here... But the plan is that by the end of the week we'll have something that looks like a how-to of getting organised and feeling mentally clearer.


This may not be the ultimate answer for everyone. But it works for me. Maybe it'll work for you?


Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to my precious little minions favourite being-organised apps.


(Disclaimer: These posts are not sponsored and I'm not receiving any compensation for reviewing these apps - this stuff is just my opinion.)

be happy

less winging it, more loving it

Much too late to be writing a coherent post.

Been spending a pleasant evening just relaxing, browsing mama blogs, while Liam plays Deus Ex (and mutters quietly to himself from time to time). Man, what's all this quiet stuff? Is this what it's like for non-parents all the time???

Have to admit though, while most of me soaks in the peace and quiet and opportunity to hear myself think but not need to, there is a tiny little hidden-away bit of me that actually misses the kids when they're sleeping. It's a small bit, and it tends to hide behind the big happy peace-enjoying bit because it's a bit embarrassed and a bit shy. It thinks it's possibly being silly. But still.

They are good company, quite a large percentage of the time.

Anyway, briefly:

Day 12: a place you love

The short time I have before I collapse exhausted onto the keyboard and wake at 2am with "QWERTY" emblazoned backwards across my forehead won't allow me to do this place justice. But here's a quick stab.

Today, like every Sunday, we went to our fellowship's meetings. And here I need to clarify something important. Church is not a building. "We went to church" is easy to say, and easy to understand. "Oh, sure, you went to church. Got it." And I'll say "church" to people who know me, because they know what I mean. But in reality, the church isn't the building. The church is the people. It's people God deals with. In Old Testament times his glory would dwell in a physical temple - but with the advent of the New Testament the Holy Spirit brings God to dwell inside us. I don't have to go to our hall to be close to God.

So, when I say our hall is a place I love, I'm not talking about it in some special "because God is there" way. I'm talking about it in a very practical, "I've spent so many years of my life going there on a regular basis" way. Sundays, Wednesdays, and a whole lot of Saturdays and quite a few Fridays, too. Plus extra bits and pieces here and there. The big hall was built when I was 11 - my parents helped build it. And when the atrium was built between old hall and new, I was there doing my bit. I've made friends there, liked boys there, walked a thousand teenage-girl-talk laps around that building. I've taught Sunday School, managed three-year-olds in creche, learnt to work the photocopiers, cleaned pretty much every square inch of the place. I've acted on that stage, made props in the kitchen, practiced wacky skits in the foyer. I've played newspaper hockey in that old hall, eaten countless fellowship dinners in the atrium. I've watched close friends get married there. I've brought my new babies along, handed them over to the capable hands of the babies' creche ladies, watched my eldest survive the every-toddler-for-herself madness of crawlers' creche and the slightly more dignified chaos of toddlers two. I've learned so much, grown so much, had some of my biggest penny dropping moments in that hall.

For the memories, and the familiarity, and the simple fact that it's where people I love come together each week, that hall is a place I love.

Didn't do it justice.

***

A couple of Ellie's room makeover photos, before I go. The weird afternoon light doesn't do justice to the colours, but a girl can try. Also, kicking myself over the lack of "before" photos...

Still, :

Jemima's fallen down, Teddy's missing - this bothers me

Moved the couch from this spot, across to the window where it does double duty as both powerpoint coverer, and convenient comfy seat near bookshelves. And now most of the soft toys are in this basket, there's actually room for Ellie to sit on her own couch. The green Ikea chair was ignored in a corner before - yesterday she sat on it for the first time since we first brought it home!

spot the boncecake
Brother likes it.

agh! the sun-glare!

Her books are now re-organised. This required quite the overhaul - they were two deep, all over the place, and good ones were hidden behind nonsense. Sorted. L-R: board books she still loves; simple storybooks she currently loves; more complex storybooks she's not quite ready for (but at the rate she's going, will be ready for by next Tuesday); novelty books (pop-ups, puzzle books and the like). Several donations to baby Owen's bookshelf, along with the train moneybox she gave surprisingly freely. In front of her big-girl books is the box from my hair straightener - the lid lifts up, has a mirror inside, and there are her sunnies, bracelets, and associated bling; a little slide-out tray at the bottom hides all her hairties and clips. She LOVES it. That afternoon I found her standing in front of the little mirror, trying to put clips in her hair all by herself. She actually looked fairly professional, and the multi-clip job she did on Liam's hair later... wow.

And finally, the biggest wow and the biggest I wish I'd taken "before" photos...

ta-da!

This was seriously the Wardrobe of Doom until yesterday. Outgrown clothes, outgrown shoes, outgrown toys, outgrown nappy change supplies - you name it. Now it's got a dress-ups corner (the pink hanging organiser - includes Captain Feathersword sword, a free bonus with an ebay purchase; doctor's bag; white silky basket and rose petals left over from Rhyan and Rucita's wedding; fairy wings that shed ridiculous amounts of glitter; outfits that are cute but not for serious; and more...). It's got hanging space, which I'm actually using. For things that actually fit her. It's got an arts-and-crafts box, with crayons, paints, colouring books, stickers, smock, etc. Along the bottom are toys she's technically outgrown, but still occasionally plays with in her imaginative way.

Here's the big thing - it's all accessible. This isn't a toddler's room any more - it's a Little Girl's Room.

Because I've got one of those now.

 muhuhuhuhah.Liam taught her to say "stethoscope" properly - cute!

See?

Next project is Owen's room, because a newborn can sleep in a dresser drawer (ours didn't, but I'm just sayin') and doesn't even need a room, but a big-boy-baby gets more than just cot-and-change-table-in-spare-room. Big-boy-baby gets a Room of his own. Here it comes, ma'boy.

this second child thing is going swimmingly, thanks for askinghangin' out with babyO

We're ready for this.

***
This room-sorting thing is all part of a bigger deal. I, Mrs I-Don't-Do-Routine (nee Little Miss Disorganised-Winging-It-She'll-Be-Apples-Mate), am embracing organisation. Not even as an experiment - I intend to take this new thing on and make it my own. This weekend I've made a meal plan for the week and written my shopping list accordingly - it includes two slowcooked meals, one meal made almost entirely from leftovers, and one meal cooked in bulk to freeze half for another time. I've made a weekly schedule of household tasks. I'm becoming someone who puts things in place to make sure things get done - cleaning cloth hanging on the shower screen, bag of library books by the door to be put in the car ready for the next time we're near a library...

I'm revolutionising the way this house is run. It's going to work for us; I can feel it.

No matter how organised and rostered I get, I'm not going to start letting logic come before feeling. It's how I do.

Anyways, more on this as it goes along. Monday morning is clothes washing and grocery shopping before naptime, so this little barefoot housewifey better get herself some shut-eye.

Nighty night!

be happy

Stoning birds (challenge days 7-9)

There are suddenly so many more hours in the day when your toddler shifts her naptime from 11am to 2pm. In the last couple of weeks Ellie has made this dramatic change in her routine, and I'm loving it. Instead of "Oh well, she'll be back in bed in a couple more hours, no point changing her out of her pjs," we're dressed and organised by breakfast time. And there it is: a whole day stretching off ahead of us, all that time left to fill. Which we manage to do - mainly with tidying, cleaning, tidying, preparing meals, tidying... (I'm not a neat freak - I just have a two-year-old.)

Today we had plans that fell through, which meant by late morning most of the day's jobs were already done and we were all set, with some unplanned free time on our hands. Baby Owen was ready to go back to bed for his mega-nap (he gets up in the morning, has a feed and his breakfast, and graces us with his presence for two hours tops before going back to bed for 3-4 hours). As I had ebay / post office things I had to go and sort out today, we were posed with a bit of a dilemma: should I go straight away with a tired baby and a bright-eyed toddler, or let Owen sleep for a while and then wake him up to go, or wait until after his nap and take a bright-eyed baby and a tired toddler? I decided on (d): I'd wait until Ellie had had her nap and been picked up for dinner at Grandma's, and then I'd take Owen. This was a risky choice - Ellie was being picked up after four, so what with Owen's erratic afternoon schedule there was no guarantee I'd make it to the post office in time.

This choice also meant that the One Thing I had to get done was threatening to spend the whole day hanging over my head. So, as is my wont, I decided to shrug and go "Oh well," add it to my to-do list, and push it out of my mind. And so, with Owen happily settled in bed, Ellie and I went about enjoying our day.

We did playdoh together. We picked little bits of dried playdoh out of the carpet together (she's got one of those cool little things where you push the playdoh in and give the guy a crazy playdoh hairdo and then have no way of getting the bits out of all his tiny scalp-holes until they dry and fall out onto the carpet, you know the ones?). We looked through parenting magazines together, choosing pictures to cut out (me with mega kitchen scissors, she with ineffective playdoh scissors). We glued the pictures into a notebook in the order of her choosing (which was a surprisingly logical order, as my two-year-old is secretly a grownup in disguise). Then she decorated the front page with her crayons while I made lunch.

We sat outside and ate lunch together for an hour and a half. It was the longest relaxed al fresco meal I've had in a long time. We ate, we chatted, we sang silly songs (such as "I like your song / I like your song / That was beautiful singing / What a goood soooooong"). She gave me a "lovely" "massage", and she comforted me when the sound of a plane flying overhead scared her. I told her a Princess Elanor story, on request. She shared her memories with me, like the time Abby had an avocado and gave her some, the time she fell over when we were camping and hurt her knee, and the time there was a big scary bear and it said "Hellooo" and I put it in my mouth and ate it (pretty sure that one was a dream). We kissed, and we hugged, and we told each other how much we loved each other, over and over again. In short, we spent time enjoying each other's company.

I find that, as with shopping, so too with lunch: we don't always have the time to go at toddler-pace, but it's always so enjoyable when we can. She didn't feel the need to test the limits. I didn't feel the need to nag.

(Also, a baby who naps for ages is a baby whose mother is always happy to see him.)

By the time Owen got up and Ellie finally settled down for her nap, we were a very happy, relaxed little bunch.

All this leads me to the Birth.com.au February challenge. I did Day 7 on day 7, but perhaps not any more than usual. Day 8 was going to happen on days 7 and 9, but on Tuesday I wasn't well and today our plans fell through. I'd been wondering what special thing we could do for Day 9. And when it came to writing about it this week, I thought I was being a bit slack. Turns out I was just waiting for today.

Day 7: say how much you love
Day 8: catch up with friends you love
Day 9: celebrate your love


Three birds, one stone, baby. 'Cos we sure did.
be happy

Camptastic!

We're doing it again, crazy people that we are. Nine days sweltering in a tent wasn't enough for us, so next week off we go again.

Doing the South East this time. Same place we took Ellie when she was a wee babe, same camping compromise - we're in a caravan park, so unlike our usual annual rough-it camp there will be toilets, showers, local shops, and all those other disgusting things roughing-it purists generally frown upon. But hey, we're in the "bush camping" section this time, so no power. Just us, my parents, our tents... and some nearby facilities. 'Cos baby Owen likes him some facilities.

Very excited. A week of relaxing, some mild sightseeing, and beaching up a storm - yes please! Ellie's seen a picture of a big, colourful playground we'll be visiting while we're there, so she's keen. Owen has no idea what's about to hit him (again), but he'll be fine. Camping's in his blood.

There's something about the lead-up to a camping trip. It's a bit like planning a wedding, I reckon. Planning stage (which, if you're anything like me, involves the writing of lots of lists), organising stage, frenzied last-minute "I wish I'd done this sooner" stage, and then... a holiday. At our wedding, someone asked me where we were going for our honeymoon, and I had a moment of utter delight as I remembered that all this preparation and a very long, busy (but beautiful) day was going to end in a holiday in paradise with my best friend. I had completely forgotten!

ahhh
Lord Howe Island, thanks for asking!

Camping preparation is a little bit like that, except you don't get hitched the day before you go so there's much less paperwork. But in the busy leadup to the trip I'm making my beloved lists, calculating how many nappies and muslins and packs of "cracker cheese" we'll need, counting out mismatched cutlery and gathering second-rate utensils, and planning meals based on how few pans they use and how well their ingredients will travel. I'm rolling my eyes over the impeccable timing of my two-year-old, who has just now, three days before we leave, suddenly decided to start using the potty she's had almost no interest in for six months.

And somewhere in the middle of it all, I'm reminding myself that We're. Going. Camping. This isn't just all work and not much play (no matter how busy, it's never NO play) - it's the work before the play. The yucky flat grey humid day before the spectacularly dramatic thunderstorm. The slog through hot, crowded streets with straggling, whingy children before the excitement and fun of the Christmas Pageant. The endless tree descriptions and singing hobbits before the awesome battle scenes.

(Okay, you got me, I am a sucker for a singing hobbit.)

Life is busy. Even just the basic repetitive day-to-day stuff, without additional pre-holiday madness, keeps us constantly on the go. And in the middle of all the rushing around and crossing off (or shrugging off) to-do list items and fulfilling our multiple pressing obligations, it's important to take a minute here and there, to stand back remind ourselves what we're busy for. Whatever that may be. For a camping holiday. For your kids. For your education. For your friend. For the greater good. For your soul. For some extra money in your pocket. Whatever.

It took me four attempts to read The Lord of the Rings in full. In the end, know what kept me going past my sixtieth description of a tree? I flicked to a random spot near the end, and what I saw there looked pretty exciting. An ending that reads like the greatest legends? Sweet! Changed my perspective of the book. And before I knew it, I was enjoying the bits I just hadn't been able to get into the first three times.

When you know what it's for, the journey is not just worth it, it's kinda enjoyable. No one in their right mind would enjoy vomiting daily, gaining ridiculous amounts of weight, and not being allowed to eat all the best types of cheese for three-quarters of a year. But with a baby at the end? Even the sickest of pregnant women will tell you pregnancy has its special moments (and if you catch them at the right time, they might not even sound sarcastic when they say it).

This isn't The Lord of the Rings, and believe me, it's not pregnancy. (As you may have gathered by now, I like a good analogy - this may very well be the post with the most analogies yet.) But it's a lot of preparation and planning, which is going to end in something fantastic. Because

We're. Going. Camping.

As Ellie would say, "Skippdidy doo-dah, skippdidy day-day." Bit excited.

***

In other news, while I was sitting outside writing this Ellie did a wee, and then a poo, and then another wee in the potty. Yippee for warm weather and bare bottoms in the garden!

She likes to sit on it backwards - apparently it "doesn't work" the other way. Fine, man, whatever works.

girl contemplating nature
The End.
be happy

Cup Running Over

So, this Christmas thing.

In our house this year, it started with small touches.

simple, yet... simple
Baubles-on-Twine sounds like a quaint little English village.

smells like apples

Apple-scented candle. Vanilla-scented candle. Red card. White box I've known for years would come in handy one day. Scrap o' tinsel. Voila.

beachy keen on christmas!

Ah, I love me a home-made beachy-Christmas tree! And randomly strewn baubles - can't beat that for breezy festive cheer.

... And now we have our proper little Christmas tree, all decked out with silver tinsel and stars and little Christmassy characters and lights and baubles, with a few little red baubles dotted here and there. It looks fantastic - there'll be a picture after tomorrow morning, when Santa's delivered the presents.

Some years we've missed the boat a bit with getting into the festive spirit. Some years I've tried too hard to jump into it. This year we eased into Christmastime. And I think we got it right.

***

Three Christmases

We've had our three family Christmases. Spent three beautiful occasions surrounded with beautiful people and lots of love. This time of year is at risk of feeling hectic and tiring - but it didn't. Instead, I feel so blessed. How amazing to have so many people around me who love me, and love my man, and most importantly love my kids. Passing the baby around, seeing him dozing in various relatives' arms, and thinking, "This is his family, too." That's pretty special. And finding people who don't mind being trapped in sheds, Barbie-filled bedrooms, or backyard bicycling areas with a chatty and insistent two-year-old - that's pretty special, too.

I also love the cards from overseas - sweet little reminders of all those people I'm related to over there, who still think of me even though we haven't seen each other for years. Special.

I love ALL of my family - those who raised me, those who raised my husband, those who had some involvement in our childhood, and those who've come along more recently.

And there's nothing like some festive cheer - preferably around a table groaning under the weight of a mountain of deliciousness - to remind a girl how much she appreciates the privilege of family.

***

The Other Side

When I was a kid, I left out milk and biscuits for Santa every Christmas eve. And a carrot for his reindeer. And every Christmas morning, the milk was almost all gone, the biscuits and carrots were well bitten, and I was satisfied. As if that one piece of evidence, even more than the bulging stocking or the pile of gifts beneath the tree, said yes, he's been here.

So tonight we did the same with Ellie. Empty stockings on door handles. Glass of water (it's a hot night) and a biscuit by the tree where he'll see them. And she loved it.

"This is my half-a-biscuit," she informed me, munching on a pre-bedtime snack, "and that's Santa's BIG biscuit."

She was ever so pleased to help hang up a stocking for baby Owen.

Then they went off to bed, and we did the mad run-around. Stockings stuffed, presents under the tree (well, around the tree mostly - it's only small), and big shiny silver ribbon around my favourite of Ellie's presents:


'scuse the washing in the background

That's right, I made it. $8 cupboard from a garage sale, plus paint (intended for Owen's bedroom door, but we haven't got around to it yet), bowl stolen from my kitchen, tap my parents weren't using, cupboard doorknobs painted as taps and stovetop controls, unwanted CDs as hotplates. Gift box inside, filled with pretend food and utensils from a $5 op-shop mixed bag. Plus toy appliances from Nana & Grandad. Shout-outs to Daddy and Grandad for help with the cutting of holes, and to Nana for unsolicited painting advice (and knowing when to stop giving it). Kid's gonna love it.
And whether she loves it or not, I love that I made this. Cos I said I would, and I did.
That's big.


Busy night and lots to think of. As a kid, I would go to bed and eventually overcome my excitement enough to fall asleep. Christmas Eve, that was all there was to it. Now Christmas Eve is chock-full of preparation, to make the next day special for my kids. And it's bringing all the magic back, this time with a newfound appreciation for all the work my parents put in behind the scenes, to bring the magic for me.

Carrots bitten, stockings stuffed overnight... I love this stuff.

***

Santa, Snow and Sticky Fingers

We ended our Christmas Eve with a second visit to our current favourite street. A couple of minutes' stroll from where we used to live, we found ourselves in a wonderland of lights, people in ridiculous attire, a Santa handing out sticky goodies to little ones whose parents usually know better, snow and bubble machines, and enough driveway laser light displays to power an elf city.


all aglow

santa, giver of sticky things

Carol singers gave Ellie a glowstick. Santa gave her a candy cane. By the time we got back to the car, I had Ellie's dummy and a rock from someone's garden in one pocket, Lamby and a plastic wrapper in the other, a glowstick on my wrist, and sticky patches on my shoulder, thumb and most of the left side of my face.

mmm... frothy
Really? A machine on your carport that fires frothy "snow" through the air for the benefit of the neighbourhood kids? Could you be any more awesome?

baby likes lights, too

taking it all in

As if I needed further evidence of how wondrous life is through the eyes of a child.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

be happy

House -> home.

Step by step, bit by bit, I'm getting my house.

When we moved in here back in January, I was newly pregnant. Nauseous, tired. With a nutty 1 1/2 year old and a (suddenly fairly stressful) job that had me out of the house all evening while my nutty 1 1/2 year old slept and I could otherwise have been getting things done at home.

We came from our two-bedroom unit to this fantastic three-bedroom house with a nice big lounge room, bonus converted-carport room (which shall be our dining room / office one day), big renovated kitchen with space for a kitchen table (love love love), spacious bedrooms, nice renovated bathroom, new paved outdoor entertaining area with pergola, exciting toddler-adventure-inducing rockery... We came here with too much. Living in the unit we kept a lot of furniture and knick-knacks we didn't really need, just because we didn't know what we'd want once we got our "real house".

Too much. We've sold furniture online, loaded up the shed. We've got the place to a reasonable point... except for that extra room. One day it will be our dining room and office - I'm determined that that will be one day soon. But at the moment, it's full of boxes. The dining table has disappeared under half-unpacked bric-a-brac. The bookcase is virtually inaccessible. Computer desk? Forget it.

But now, things are changing. The baby has arrived, and we're moving past the early days' sleep deprivation stage; I'm getting my energy back. Baby boy's starting to sleep for decent stretches of time during the day, and the girl's settling back into entertaining herself for reasonable periods. So I'm starting to have time.

We've got Christmas sorted. Tree up, eclectic home-made decorations, no worries. Nice work, me.

Today I reorganized some of Ellie's toys so the lounge is less cluttered with her random items. Back into her basket drawers went recorder, fairy wand, length of blue ribbon, little stuffed Marvin the Martian, Polly Pockets from my childhood, four purple plastic cups, assorted stuffed farm animals. I dedicated a box specifically to her growing collection of Playdoh paraphenalia. Some books were shelved, others boxed for later. Spare crayons went away. Her toy cleaning kit found a new home in a more distant corner of the lounge - she plays with it every day. Gotta teach her how to do a proper job of it...

So, I've achieved.

I'm also slowly reclaiming the tops of our two chests of drawers, which were lost around the time of Owen's birth and Ellie's birthday party. Those heady days of outward overachieving left our house in even more chaos than before (though it did prompt the overdue weeding of the rockery). But now, my time has come. I shall claim this house, surface by surface, box by box, mess by mess, room by room. I shall select photos, have them printed, and hang them in the lounge in the set of frames we bought months ago. I shall have a dining room in which to entertain friends and family. We had our new outdoor setting delivered today; my resolution is this:

By the time the evenings are becoming too cool to comfortably entertain outside, we will have a dining room. A nice dining room, ready for meals with friends and family; delicious food and laid-back card games and long lazy conversations over coffee and chocolate. With a clear, accessible, neatly set dining table, a full set of chairs, and room tastefully decorated to create a pleasant, comfortable atmosphere.

I want my home to reflect the fun and love and happiness and craziness and joy that resides here. I want it clean, sure. Tidy, great. Nicely decorated, fantastic. But above all, I want it to reflect us.

And we're getting there. Bit by bit.