Tags: getting organized

be happy

Krumping in the Kitchen... whatever that means

I think life is meant to be fun.

I'm enjoying being more organized these days - partly because I've discovered how satisfying it can be, and partly because with these two little nutcases in our busy life, I've gotta be either organized or hiding in a cupboard.

And most days, I'm doing pretty well. Up early? Mostly. Planning ahead? Mostly. Staying on top of what needs to be done? Mostly... (Right, Liam?)

But we all have those days. You know, the ones where you start out feeling behind and just can't seem to catch a break. The ones where you know what you could be doing, but just can't motivate yourself to get started. The ones where you can't even get your head around what needs to be done, let alone start anything. Don't be thinking you're a weirdo (and don't be looking at me like I'm a weirdo either, thank you very much) - we ALL have them.

Unless you never do. In which case, maybe you're the weirdo...

Anyway.

When those days strike (and boy, do they ever), I've found a way out. I've found a reset button, so to speak.

Turn up dem beats. Everybody in the kitchen. And... dance. As ridiculously as possible.

(Okay, it doesn't have to be in the kitchen...)

I kid you not, being a big goof and pretending to my kids that I've got awesome moves, just for a few minutes, is the most energizing and motivating thing, and a total mood-changer. This morning Pandora hit me with Two Shoes and a Nosebleed Section, and I was ready to boogie forth and DO ALL OF THE THINGS!!!!!

I think there is space in every week for dancing in the kitchen like a mad thing to your favourite music - whether alone or with loved ones who think you're crazy but are having fun anyway - whether to music expertly selected by Psychic Pandora (it knows me so well!) or in relative silence to the songs in your head.

(Or maybe in front of your mirror. Door-snake-monkey-tail optional.)

Absolutely, there are other ways to motivate and lift yourself out of an off-day slump. And some of those ways are better, and certainly more edifying, than music. Pray. Spend quiet time with the Word. Go for a walk. Write it out. Preserve fruit. Whatever. I'm not promoting this as the best. It's not all I do. But dude. It's fun.


And I think life is meant to be fun.

Sure, I know there are serious bits. There are things that need to be done, things to be dealt with, bills to pay, laundry to... launder...

And sometimes the big things happen; the things that stop us in our tracks, making us catch our breath and stand outside our normal day-to-day and wait... until, sooner or later, we're ready to draw breath again.

I'm not playing those things down.

We all know what "bleak" looks like. Worn down by daily grind; dealing with loss; staring down seemingly insurmountable obstacles; disappointed, aimless, weary... We've all seen bleak.

But joy is the antithesis of bleak. It's okay to see the bleak times, but just know they're not forever. For all the grey days, there will be days of bursting colour. Because life is not all easy, but it's all got good in it. Life is full to the brim with emotion and experience and wonder, like some big fancy light-and-sound show that doesn't stop til it's all done.

And it's not done yet - not right now.

The time will pass, whatever you do. And meanwhile, there are things to be done. But it doesn't have to be bleak. It doesn't have to feel like work.

Life is meant to be fun.

We all work better with a joyful heart. And we all need to recharge.
So how about spending some of that time doing what brings you joy?

be happy

Surviving in a Post-Daylight Savings World... With Kids.


Hiiiiiii! Been a while. Sorry, not sorry. Had so much going on, and all of it totally worthwhile. Except for the whole family sickness thing. But even that was valuable in slowing us down and giving us time to remember a few things.


And to find and eat chocolate.

Got a few photos of the bonces doin' their respective things, but I'm going to add minimal commentary - instead I'll be talking about something a lot of us are currently dealing with:



No, not used-toilet-paper kneecaps. This:


Surviving Clock Changes with Little Kids

Cos honestly, who here got to sleep uninterrupted until 7am this morning? No, don't tell us. We don't wanna know.

The thing with all of this is, it's about perspective. And a little bit of planning and preparation. The 3 Ps of Daylight Savings, if you will.

Allow me to illustrate.



Moving the Clocks Back

This is the one that's just happened; the one we used to excitedly herald as "gaining an hour's sleep". And then we had children. And every year, they just don't get the memo. Here's the deal:


  • It's light earlier. They're awake earlier. (Well, actually they're awake at the same time as always, but we've turned it into later with all our changing of clocks.)

  • It's dark earlier. They're tired earlier.

  • That one-off bonus hour in the evening (for night owls) or during sleep (for my husband and those of his ilk) will come back to bite you in the morning, if you continue to treat it as such.

How do we tackle this?



First light (in Ballarat) has just been shifted from 7:20am to 6:20am. Good news for my morning run, wakey news for my kids. ("Wakey"? Just go with it.) My advice for the Big Night would be (**Preparation**) to reset your clocks in the evening, go to bed an hour earlier (by the new time - which is, according to your body, your usual bedtime), and get a normal night's sleep (which will end an hour earlier than usual, but that's okay, cos you went to bed an hour earlier, right?). My brain hurts.

That's one way to handle it. Now, in reality, I'm sure for most of us (myself included) the idea of going to bed an hour earlier on clocks-back night will remain just that - an idea. Because come on, man! Bonus hour!! And that's fine. We're grown-ups, we make our own decisions, and we'll survive.

But the kids will continue to hand you the delightful gift of another bonus hour: approximately 6-7am.

Here's the trick to get them kids back to normality (**Planning**):
Your kids will be ready to go to bed an hour earlier. It's getting dark, and their bodies are still on the old time. Keep them up a leeetle bit later. It'll still be an early night, timewise, but they'll have been up that bit longer. So for a 7pm bedtimer who is now sleepy at 6pm, we're talking distracting them with stories or an extra long bath (with glowsticks in it, taking advantage of the early dark!) for maybe twenty minutes or so. If they're flexible kids, they may make it easily to the new 7pm - just don't expect that to mean they've snapped straight into the new timetable and will be sleeping in till 7am. If only 'twere that simple.

See, this won't have a direct correlation with the time they wake - but it will start to take effect, gradually. If you ease them into a new (same) bedtime, eventually the morning thing will right itself. A bit, at least. And soon, you'll be settled either back in your old routine, or in a new one everyone's happy with.

This is where the third P comes in (**Perspective**). Daylight Savings changes are way less traumatic for everyone involved when they involve accepting that there'll be a new routine. In my experience, when it comes to kids it's best not to get too attached to any routine - because as soon as you do, they'll change it.

Rollll with it, mama. And meanwhile, here are some uses for that sweet gift of a morning "bonus hour" your kids are giving you:


  • Pray.

  • Go for a run.

  • Have a long, hot shower.

  • Put on cartoons, make yourself a cuppa, and have some thinky time; grab pen and paper and plan out an awesome day for your family.

  • Read books with your little ones - read to them or, if they can read by themselves (or are happy looking at picture books), read your own book alongside them.

  • Get some housework done, before your official day has even started!

Or,


  • Lay in bed, covers over head, groaning and hoping it'll all go away.

Your choice. :)




And the other one?

Moving the Clocks Forward

This one happens sometime in October, when we indignantly "lose an hour". It also tends to mess kids around a bit more. But there is one bonus. See:


  • They might actually sleep in. For the first day, this won't feel like much of a sleep-in regardless of what the clock suggests (you know, what with the lost hour overnight). But then, for a while at least, it'll keep happening. Ahhh, lovely!

  • They won't feel sleepy by bedtime. It's light later, and they slept in, and their bodies are still saying early o'clock, whatever you might be suggesting to the contrary.

  • This bedtime issue, combined with the lengthening daylight hours, can cause a bit of Daylight Savings Mania in kids (okay, and adults).

How to ease your family into Daylight Savings?



**Preparation** starts a bit earlier with this one. If you don't already have a solid bedtime routine established, try to have one by around September - just for this short period. If you do have one, focus on sticking to it and mega-tightening that sucker, so it's clear and gives clear "sleep-time" cues to the kiddos. Get those pyjamas on them as early in the routine as possible, to start getting them into that "bed" frame of mind.

When the clock-changing day hits, in with the **Planning**. Get that awesome, familiar, super-tight bedtime routine started maybe 20 minutes or so early (depending, again, on the flexibility of your kids). The lack of those physical sleep-time cues that aren't ready yet in their bodies will (in theory, to some extent) be covered by the cues you've put in place with all that preparation.

For your own sanity, accept that they'll be a bit unsettled and eat into your previously lovely, free, peaceful evenings for a while; again, it'll be a gradual transition. New routines, remember? **Perspective**.






The Mental Game

In terms of this perspective lark, let's take a look at the reason behind the clock changes: to make the best use of daylight.

At this time of year, plan and prepare to be rising earlier (your kids have got it right!), and utilise that early light. Then, plan and prepare to be winding down by dinnertime for an early night (they're right again).

When we move the clocks forward in October, plan and prepare for some bonus family time during those warmer, lighter evenings - take full advantage of their wakefulness.

With both sets of clock changes there will be a period of adjustment, followed by a new-and-improved routine for your family. Don't expect to have the old routine back - as well as changing your smoke alarm batteries, you'll be changing your definition of a typical day.

It's about going with it, and changing with the changes, rather than trying to cling to your old timetable. The direction remains roughly the same, but there are minor shifts along the way. It's a mindset thing.


Guess who's a cyclist now.


And Another Thought...

It might be cold and dark in winter, but if you take the virtuous woman's working hours as being from just before sunrise (Proverbs 31:15) until evening (v.18), then hey, early minute! - you're looking at being up around 6am, and off duty any time from 7pm.

And isn't that what your kids are doing anyway?



That, and riding unicorns.

See? They've got it all worked out.

be happy

The Earlies

By the end of this post, I promise to introduce the newest member of our family.

But first...


We've got the earlies going on in our house this week.

I'm working on a bit of a project, which currently has me setting my alarm for 6am every morning. Every morning. 6am.

And, weirdest thing of all: I'm liking it.

Huh???

More on the whys and whats and who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-Zoes later - it's still very much a work in progress.

Meanwhile. Besides starting every pre-dawn morning with mucho prayer (which is obviously working, because it's been six days and so far I haven't hated anyone for still being in bed), these are a couple of things that have helped:


Good Morning, Sunshine

Up in the dark, dress in the walk-in so the light doesn't disturb Liam (no small feat - it's not particularly spacious in there), tiptoe past the kids' room (because Ellie, who can sleep through a screaming brother earlier in the night, mysteriously develops super-hearing early in the morning), bit of time with the Lord, make breakfast.

And then, greet the day.


I need to clean my windows.



Magic Super-Tonic

Okay, so it's not. It's water, infused with good stuff. It's detoxy and metabolism boosty. It tastes good and it feels good. And it's an awesome wake-up!

I read about it here (thanks, Pinterest) and decided to try it.

Basically, if you're like me and don't have the capacity to make a "gallon" of this stuff in one go, here's what you do:
Fill a two-litre jug with water.
Grab half a lemon or so, and about a half to a third of a cucumber.
Slice up all of the things.
Throw them (gently, you nutcase) into the water, along with a small handful of mint leaves.
Leave it in the fridge, and drink the water as your water for the day. (No, you don't have to drink the solids. Just leave them in there, all floaty-like.)
If you don't get through it all (dude! that was your two-litres-a-day! lift your game, son!), throw it away sometime tomorrow when the leaves are looking manky.


Chop-chop.


Angry half-naked photobombing baby optional.

It's not an every day thing; I'm thinking I'll go with once a week. Bit of a boost, and a refreshing reminder that I'm doing healthy things.

Yum, and zing!


Much better. (He's dangling off my leg, but hey, he's outta the shot.)


And what am I doing with all this extra time and "zing"?

I'm glad you asked.


More Organizey Bizzo


A nice, orderly containers cupboard fills me with something akin to joy...
Elation. Satisfaction.

Elatisfaction.


Fridgey didge family planning area:


(Yeah, I just realised I said "family planning", and that's not what that means. Whatever.)

I was sure I'd posted about this stuff loooong ago, but scanning back though my blog can find no evidence of it. Did I? Anyone? Or is it just one of those things that hopped over from my mental "to do" list to my mental "done" list without asking?

Anyway, you're looking at our calendar, weekly meal plan, and notes board. Printed out, put in cheapo picture frames, magnets stuck on the back, and a whiteboard marker in a magnetted clip alongside. I've used these babies for a while, and looove it.

Also, magnet stuck on a plastic bag, for my "trolley dollar". Cos there's nothin' like getting to the shops with two arms full of baby and nappy bag and shopping bag and inevitable "I promise I'll carry it... Hey Mummy, can you hold this for me?" soft toy, and realising you don't have a coin for the trolley. Gahhhhhhh.

(This is where Aldi, with its trolley token that clips onto your keyring, is a bit genius.)

And yes indeed, that is a delicious roast chicken and its veggie friends hanging out in the slowcooker. And now I'm hungry.


Aaand, office.



Not much to look at right now, but that was kinda the idea. It was a lot to look at beforehand - a lot of junk.

Now there's our mail sorting system, cookie dough container turned stationery holder, little tin of sticky notes, coaster for my cup of tea. And lamp and lappy, obviously. And on the corkboard is our two-week planner, with colour-coded sticky notes (pink is for Zoe, who clearly runs this joint) for events and reminders, and the calendar, which has been made slightly redundant but survives largely by virtue of its awesome picture-and-scripture combos.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercy never comes to an end, it is new every morning."

Boom.


Further Benefits of this Bright-and-Early Lark

When everything's organized by the time the kids are up and about their chaos-based business, it means there's more time in the day for cool stuff. Like my kids.

Ellie's rediscovered the teatowel baby carrier.

Eat your heart out, bazillion-dollar imitation Ergo.


Comes complete with gangsta-lean and conveniently tidied-up hairdo.

Also, that baby doll has a bell inside, which means one less person in this family who can sneak up on me and freak me out all of the time. (Yeah, I'm talkin' 'bout you, hobbit-footed husband.)

And they play together, like they aready were doing, but now I'm not busy still getting ready for the day. So I get to witness it, and soak in the loveliness. And so on.


She desperately and constantly wants to hug him. He just wants to taste random items.



And finally, as promised:


Introducing...

Leo!!!


No, Leo's the one on the left of the picture. Holding Ellie's hand. Wait, can't you see her?

Leo suddenly appeared at the dinner table last night. Ellie had been very quiet, munching her way through her mushroom and barley (and chicken) "soup" and showering breadcrumbs all over her lap. Then I asked her to pass her bread plate, which was down the table off the other side of her placemat. After a long, vague pause on her part, I reached to get it myself.

Suddenly, she snapped to attention.

"Hey!" she exclaimed. "You took Leo's plate!!"

Umm... Leo?

I asked if Leo was her friend.

"Yes," she said. "She's my best friend in the whole wide world."

Turns out Leo is three - just like Ellie is three!!! - and is invisible, and lives here now. She spent last night on Ellie's fold-out couch under the bunk. In Ellie's sleeping bag. I had to kiss her goodnight.

Sometimes, when Ellie's needing to feel a bit of superiority, Leo is only two.

Leo requires a place at the table. She doesn't need a real placemat or bowl - because she's pretend - but she does require Ellie to pull out a chair for her and help her up.

Leo goes to the toilet with Ellie, because she's still learning and Ellie is so good at teaching her. Leo frequently forgets to wash her hands.

Leo likes Nutella sandwiches the best. And when she doesn't eat them, that's okay, because Ellie does.


Leo needs to be prompted to smile for photos.

I like this Leo lark.

I love my daughter's imagination. I love her warnings against "fireboys", and her sudden desire to be a Mummy with a beard, and her notion that a fire engine is something that spits out fire. From the monster that lived behind her curtains when she was two to this latest house-guest, it's been an adventure to meet the procession of assorted oddness that a small child with a big imagination can bring to a home.

I'm enjoying asking her about Leo's opinions and preferences; watching while she carefully considers and then gives me new information about her friend with the utmost confidence. That moment when I see her come to a decision on some previously unexplored aspect of Leo's character is intoxicating for a writer-mama like me. And I think Ellie finds it deeply elatisfying.


Welcome to our home, Leo.

be happy

Livin' The Dream...

When we moved in here, I remarked to one of our friends, "Look, we've got a walk-in robe! We're like grown-ups!!"

And then proceeded to mistreat said walk-in like a surly teenager.

After procrastinating having more important things to do for the last month or so, yesterday a bubble of inspiration wiggled to the top and went "pop!" inside me, and sent me fizzing in the direction of the walk-in robe. My section thereof, anyway. (In other words, waaay too many boxes. Plus some very chaotic shelves where I swore I wouldn't "just dump things"...). One afternoon of sleeping toddler and doll-mothering girlie later... Ahhhh.

So nice to have a walk-in robe I can actually walk into. You know, instead of, for example, this:


Yikes.

When we packed to move here, I used one suitcase for my "wear all the time" clothes; the rest went into boxes. The idea was that that suitcase would tide me over for the first few chaotic days. I highly recommend this - but with a word of warning. When you've unpacked that one suitcase of clothing, along with the rest of the contents of an entire house, you will look at that small spread of clothes and re-evaluate how long they will last you. You'd be surprised how long you can survive on not many clothing options, when the alternative is to unpack more boxes.

For me, it was nearly six weeks. Handy to know.

I believe part of my inspiration to just get it done came from this site, in which I finally found what I'd been looking for, inspiration-wise: the notion of shelf dividers. This sounds like such a simple thing, but it should come accompanied by bright lights and confetti and the sound of at least three trumpets. Shelf dividers!!! Of course!!!

And so, because I'm impatient trying to be frugal, I set about making my own.

Behold:


Skirts, jumpers, woolies, cardies.
Bags, pants, shorts, tops & t-shirts, singlets.
In case you were wondering.

Oh, it may not be pretty... but it's organized. I used cardboard boxes to separate genres of clothing, and in one spot a plastic lid served as an extra divider to keep two piles of tops from merging into one mountain of tops. It works. It'll be easy to change things around as the seasons change. And it makes putting things back neatly a very easy thing.

So there's less chance of it reverting back to this:


Remember? From just before? Auggh, the horror!

So now, here we are at this:


3 stackable baskets - el cheapo from Kmart, Stockland Wendouree - looking after our hats, beanies, etc; subject to change.
Scarves-and-belts hanger - from IKEA, Adelaide - awesome for all my, you know... scarves. And belts.
Shoe storage: funky sneakers etc (biggest box, IKEA), fine selection of uggies (next to it, Big W), heels & other strappy nonsense (smaller IKEA box), extensive thong collection (they're FLIP-FLOPS, Mum!; pantry organizer basket, Big W).

Ahhhh. Lovely. Lift your game, husband.

An important matter to note is there is now a box on the top shelf (on top of my wedding dress box), marked "Maternity Clothes". Because:
(a) I decided it was time to stop filling up my wardrobe space with items of clothing that are mega comfy but not exactly necessary - or flattering - right now, and
(b) contrary to what Ellie is telling people, I am not about to give birth to her baby sister. Or baby twins. Or any kind of baby at all, actually. Seriously. The checkout lady congratulated me last week. It's all lies; an elaborate three-year-old's hoax.


Look at that face. "Would I lie to you? Also, Mummy, check out my new Princess Shoes. They totally fit me."


Couple more organizey things coming up next post (soon, my pretties... soon...) - including my new-and-improved office space. And the partial secret to my new-and-improved get-up-and-go...ness.

For now, I'm off to revel in the brand new walk-in quality of my our walk-in robe.

be happy

Return of the Thing



This is happening (hopefully with eyes closed by now), so I'm FREEEE!!! to return to the blogging lifestyle to which I am accustomed.

Poor ol' blogski. Been feeling pretty abandoned lately, I bet. Start a series, don't finish, disappear without a trace... I'm impressed it's even letting me log in. Not one to hold a grudge, I guess. Phew.

So anyway, where did I go? Cut me a break, mama!

The day after my last post, I had a call from the property manager who's taking care of our house in Adelaide. Let's have an open, she said. On the 3rd of January, she said. Sure, I replied.

And then realised that gave us five days - including a Sunday meeting down at camp and two family Christmases, so basically two days - in which to completely prepare our home for the open. And pack for nearly two weeks away.

Something had to give, and that something ended up being the blog. Incomplete series or not, this mama had to cut herself a break.

And we did it. Somehow, the Room That Dare Not Speak Its Name managed to turn from this:


(but worse, because this was taken about halfway through)

to this:


(ooh, shiny and lovely!)

And the rest of the house was looking pretty sweet, too.

Job well done, and off we went on a very well-deserved and much-needed break. A brief, quiet stopover in Ballarat on the way, then a week of fun, food and fantastic fellowship (and ample alliteration) at Anglesea camp on the Great Ocean Road.



Spent a nice couple of days with some great people in Ballarat on the way back, too.



And then we had one week to get through four loads of post-holiday washing, fit in as many farewell catch-ups as possible, and PACK ALL THE THINGS!!!

And then, after a beautiful last night in Adelaide...



...we hit the road. New start, new home. Hello, Ballarat.


(Ballarat, land of lake walks.)

For the last twelve days we've been unpacking, settling, exploring, adapting; buoyed up by excellent fellowship (including last night's post-house meeting chorus & hymn session) and plenty of answered prayers. Liam's settling into his new job, I'm settling into a good routine with the kids (or as close to "routine" as we get), Ellie's adjusting to her new Ballarat family (while frequently reminiscing about her Adelaide loved ones), Owen's strolling about like a cheerful little champ.

The new house is perfect. Answered prayer #387, or thereabouts. I'm finding myself loving getting things organised around the place, getting off to a good start housey-wise. This morning I sorted our ensuite cupboard contents into categorised baskets. It's pretty sweet up in there.

Oh, and I now have a PANTRY. That's been on my wishlist, oh, for ever. Or at least the last 2-3 years.


(Argh, the tinned peaches are in the wrong place!)

And truly, this bookcase has never held so many books in its life. Also, there's another (albeit smaller) bookcase in the office (that's right, I said office). But at last all of our books are shelved! Stacked and double-layered they may be, but they're also organised by genre/author, allowing growing room for those I'm still collecting. *happy sigh*


(3 months till the release of "Light", the last in Michael Grant's "Gone" series!)

And hey, who else loves my awesome housewarming present?


Yes.

So, bit by bit, day by day, this empty (but lovely) house



is turning into a comfortable, vibrant new home for our little family. We love it.

Ellie and Owen are now sharing a room, which is going so well I'm gonna go ahead and describe it as fantastic.



Their little square patch of real estate quickly filled up with dresser, reversible bunk (set up as low bed) and cot - until, a couple of days in, Ellie asked for her bed to be turned over so she could sleep up top.



Nice, huh? Lasted one night. Came home from the house meeting with two very tired children, tucked Ellie into the top bunk and Owen into the floor bed (with a portable cotside so he wouldn't roll out). Perfect night's sleep.

Following night, not quite so successful. Owen had realised he could get out. And did. A lot. Until, about two hours after bedtime, we gave up and reconstructed the cot. Sweet dreams, boncecake.

We'll try again, later. Much later.

So, between restless little ones and evenings of fellowship and impromptu lake walks, we haven't had many quiet nights in. Two in the last twelve nights, actually - and one of those was the night of the bunk fiasco. Kinda looking forward to some peace and the switching off of the brain this evening.


Unless the lake calls us again.

Balance will come. For now we're finding our feet, getting the hang of Aldi, learning our way around, adapting to the rhythm of cool until lunchtime, hot sun all afternoon, refreshing evening breeze.

Figuring out our shopping hotspots.



Exploring our local parks.





We have good support here, and look forward to contributing in any way we can. This is going to be so good for us.

I'm learning more about my boy and girl every day. So much more of Owen's character is showing through now he's walking (and trying to run...). I've realised what his deal is: everything he does, he throws himself into completely. He doesn't know how to do half-hearted. That's why when he's having fun, everyone knows about it. And when something's wrong, it's a national emergency. Every cuddle is deeply heartfelt, every grin beautifully sincere. When he tries to do something, he does it with such complete determination that, when thwarted, it's hardly any wonder there are tears and offending items thrown across the room and a small body cast to the ground in utter frustration. But when he loves you... oh, he loves you. With his whole heart and his whole being. I can neither fathom, nor get enough of, that kind of passionate approach to life. He is incredible.

And Ellie. Oh, we've seen plenty of Ellie lately, in all aspects of her personality. Our awesome, adaptable girl is dealing with the move beautifully. A little more cuddly than usual, a little more emotionally volatile (which can - fairly often - disguise itself as bratty), but for the most part cheerful and accommodating and enjoying the new experiences we're having every day. My favourite new thing with Ellie, though; my favourite of all her coping mechanisms? When things get a bit much, and she takes herself off to a quiet spot (her room, if we're home), and waits for me to come.

"Can we have a chat?" she says.

And I sit beside my big little grown-up baby girl, and ask her what she'd like to chat about, and we discuss moving house, having a new home, missing family and friends, doing things differently. It never takes long, and always ends with a cuddle and a happy girl skipping away to some new adventure. I just love her new-found ability - and willingness - to share her thoughts and feelings so clearly. She is amazing.



And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to cuddle a freshly-woken little boy and return him to the delighted clutches company of his adoring sister. And then, back to making this house a home for my sweet girl, super boy, and wonderful best-friend-husband.

Welcome back.

be happy

Double. (CYABM 7&8)

Greetings. How are your preparations going for the upcoming apocalypse on Friday? That should be fun. And embarrassing for quite a lot of people on Saturday.

Anyway, if you've got a minute in between wrapping Christmas presents and stocking up on canned goods and creating a zombie-proof barricade around your home, it's time for some more of:



Day 7 brings you advice in one word: Multitask.

More? Okay.

Now, when we're busier than ever, it's especially helpful to find ways to knock off two to-dos in one. Going to fetch something? Take something with you that needs to be put away; don't leave a room empty-handed, unless the room you're leaving is weirdly perfect. Other examples of everyday multitasking:

Walking to the shops instead of driving = exercise + shopping trip. Also, it wears out the little folk so hopefully you'll have some peace when you get home. I am currently loving this.

Prep lunch while you're putting those groceries away. Saves time and effort putting everything away just to get it all out again later. My kids' sandwiches are very rarely made at lunchtime - they're usually made and boxed up in the fridge during breakfast cleanup, or in a quiet moment after Owen goes for his nap.

Wipe down the counters, or wash those three random items in your sink, or put dishes away, while waiting for the kettle to boil. Then treat yourself to a smug cuppa.

Direct your small child in the collecting and disposing of manky fallen fruit in the garden while you're pegging out the washing. Bonus points for this one: you're doing laundry, AND entertaining your child, AND tidying the garden, AND taking in your daily requirement of Vitamin D (also known as "working on your tan). Booyah.

Or, you could try what I saw one mama attempting at the shops yesterday: talking on the phone, carrying a coffee, putting her purse away, pushing a stroller (with her elbows), window shopping, and doing that wriggle that makes your pants temporarily stop annoying you. All at the same time.

Now that's multitasking.

Here's another one: writing two blog posts at the same time.


Nice segue. On to Day 8.

Tip of the day: Don't Move House In January.

Honestly, as if the silly season isn't silly enough - ours is full of house applications and half-filled cardboard boxes and not knowing where we'll be in a month. And this isn't the first time - we did this two years ago, too. You'd think we'd learn. Maybe one day.

And if you decide to ignore this advice, and you discover, a week before Christmas, while your husband's away for four days for the second week in a row and your kids are weirdos (oh wait, that part's all the time), that someone's coming IN TWO DAYS to take photos of your house to post on the internet...

Do this.



"Bits" boxes. One for each room.

Those kids can't be trusted to not eat [/ feed each other] chalk, let alone keep a room tidy or keep their sticky digits off the glossy dark furniture for more than twelve seconds. And so, my little bit of "relax, mama" magic. I clean the house over the next couple of days, and I don't lose my mind over the constantly regenerating mess of toys and discarded clothes and inexplicable bits of stuff these little whirlwinds tend to leave in their wake.

When Photo Lady comes we walk into a room, I throw all the stuff into the box allocated to that room, I shift it out of the way, and we take the photo. When she's gone, I put everything away, or pack it for the move.

Ixnay on the eaking out...fray.

I'm guessing some version of this would also work for news of other last-minute visitors. Just have a good cupboard/shed/car/neighbour's house to stuff all those boxes into, if you care about more than the photos. Personally, I have more mess-making children than I have tidy-making adults currently residing in my house, plus the place isn't actually all that bad anyway, plus whatever. So I'm cool with "Hey lady, nice camera; here are my lovely kids, here's my nice photogenic house, here are my boxes o' kid-mess."

I give people the benefit of the doubt a lot. It makes me happy. So, I'm assuming she'll understand. Or at least fake it real good.

Anyway. Gotta go clean windows and attempt to spy on my daughter's enormously entertaining over-the-fence conversations with Friend Next Door.

Enjoy your day!

be happy

Skippy. (CYABM 4)

Today is Day 5 of:


And yes, I'm posting for Day 4. Which brings me to today's thought:

Sometimes, you won't get something done on the day you planned to. Sometimes, you'll decide you can let that thing go. Other times, you'll decide it can be done another time.

And this is okay.

Breathe. Make space in your day to hug your children, to listen to their chatter, to laugh with them. Don't fill your to-do lists so completely that there's no space left for enjoying the fruit of your labours.

Cut yourself a break, Mama. Life is for living. Go live it.

be happy

Cut Yourself A Break - Pt 1

Pssst!! Hey, you busy?

Of course you are. That's life at the most "normal" of times - and this is not the most normal of times. Because today is...

TWO WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!!

Eek!! Where'd THAT go?

Countdown's definitely well and truly on now. Gotta check those lists... finish the Christmas shopping... wrap everything... write cards.. eek.. buy cards.. write cards. decorate stuff. prep for post-Christmas camps. remember to keep up with normal grocery shopping and cleaning and cooking and laundry and child-wrangling...

Phew. So here's my tiny offering: in the midst of this Christmas season madness...

Twelve days of
Cut Yourself A Break, Mama.

It'll look a little something like this:


... and involve a simple tip / thought / perspective shifter each day, to (hopefully) help you through the hectic day-to-day.

And it'll only go for twelve days, even though there are fourteen days in two weeks - and hence fourteen days until Christmas - because, let's face it, who's going to have time to read this, or write this, or indeed to cut oneself any kind of a break, after that pre-Christmas weekend hits?

Not I.


So, here's day one:

Your New Secret Dinnertime Weapon

Liam's working away. I have two small children here who will play contentedly by themselves for large portions of the afternoon, and then - as soon as it's time for me to prepare dinner - are suddenly incapable of being away from me. Or start having toilet emergencies. Or shut themselves in the dining/packing room. Or fall and hurt themselves every three minutes.

Also, pre-Christmas isn't exactly a heaps wealthy time of year for a one-income-four-people family, right?

So for dinner tonight, I threw together my Secret Weapon. The kids loved it - my slightly fussy girl and my lightly-graze-all-day boy both emptied their bowls. And speaking from a grownup's perspective, it actually was pretty tasty. Took me under ten minutes. Filled us up. Made my kids happy.

Win.

Here's what you do:

1. Cook something in your slowcooker. Cook double - there's an extra (quick and easy) meal already. Now, you know all that juicey wet stuff you've got left over? Keep it. Label a freezer bag, pour that liquid in, and freeze it flat so it can stack away neatly in the back of your freezer.

2. Buy a bag of gnocchi. Sealed pack, sits in the cupboard, just waiting for the day you need a magical quick-fix dinner.

3. When it's One Of Those Days, you simply defrost that sauce and throw it in a pan, bring it to the boil, then simmer it for a bit (especially if it needs thickening up a bit). Meanwhile, throw your gnocchi into salted boiling water, and skim them off into your bowls as they start to float. Pour on the sauce. Done.

Maybe my children are weirdos, but they will eat gnocchi till the cows come home. With anything, apparently. Tonight's sauce was left over from making a mustard chicken recipe I found on Pinterest. I stirred a tiny sprinkle of shredded cheese into the kids'. I wasn't sure how it'd be, but figured at least if it was too weird Liam wouldn't have to suffer through it this time.

It. Was. Awesome.


This kid thoroughly approved.

Now, sure, there's not a lot of nutritional value in a meal like this. But hey,
(a) compare it to the Maccas-run alternative, and
(b) if it really troubles you, maybe wilt some spinach or whatever in that boiling gnocchi-water to throw into the mix.

Disclaimer: This is not a recipe; this is a tip. This may not work for every sauce ever produced in a slowcooker. Or it may. You be the judge. Just, please, heat that sauce through well - make sure it comes to the boil. Save your stomach lining for Christmas lunch.

Bon appe-cheap!

*rolls eyes at self while smiling encouragingly*

be happy

Ease Your Mind: Day Five

This post is the fifth - and last - 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.


You Manage Your System

You've emptied your brain of its tangled mess of "should"s and "must"s. And from that mess has emerged, phoenix-from-the-ashes style, a simple, easily managed system of daily reminders and notes on ongoing projects. You know what's what. Kudos.

I just said "easily managed". Sweet. 'Cos that's what we're talking about today.

Let's knock this thing off quick and get back to dancing in the kitchen, eh?


Step Three: Keep It Running

This is a system that will pretty much run itself, as long as you keep up a leeeetle bit of maintenance.

I like numbered lists. This one goes up to five. The last point's the doozy.

1. Add new items as they come to you.

Think of something else? Add it to an Evernote note, or make a new project note, or RTM schedule it. Given an invitation? Add the relevant info to the relevant app(s), set the appropriate reminders, and throw out the paper invite - you're de-cluttering your mind; it doesn't make sense to allow unnecessary clutter to keep building up in your home.

If you're RTMing it, remember to add any prep tasks, too - like gift buying before a birthday, or trying on last year's bathers before a beach trip, or prosthetic nose fitting before a witness protection program reunion.

2. Examine the situation around overdue RTM tasks. (They're easy to spot - they're the ones with yesterday's - or last week's? - date in red next to them.)

Why is it overdue? Did unforeseen circumstances arise that day? Fair enough. Leave it on today's list, or reschedule it. Did it become unnecessary? Delete it. Is it something you just don't want to do? Try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks; or re-word it in a more appealing/compelling manner; or consider delegating it; or give yourself a stern talking to. Whatever it takes to get that thing off your list.

Leaving overdue tasks to roll over from day to day to day... that's just going to clutter up your list, and your mind. Find a way to free yourself. Your goal is to have your RTM "Today" list empty each night when your head hits the pillow. (My last task is always a bedtime reminder. It helps as a deterrent against those "just five more minutes" late nights, and it feels great to tick off the last thing on my list as I turn off my light.)

3. Review Evernote.

Set a reminder to do it regularly, unless you completely trust yourself to do it often. I aim to glance over each note at least once a fortnight, and add a reminder if I need to deal with something sooner.

Those notes are there to hold thoughts, ideas, information and future actions outside of your head, until it's time to deal with them. They're not there to store this stuff forever. They're not Ellis Island, but they're not a permanent home, either. Consider them your thoughts' foster homes. They can live there for a while, with regular reviews to make sure everything's going as it should, but sooner or later they're moving on.

As time passes, they'll outgrow their spot in Evernote. They'll mature into lists of RTM-able items, or they'll (okay, this has stopped being a foster home analogy) become obsolete and you'll be able to erase them. A "Christmas Gift Ideas" note becomes pretty useless on the 26th of December, for example - although you may be able to leave in a few unused ideas for next year.

Just don't let your Evernotes gather dust. Okay? Else your brain will know it, and will try to resume management of all the things. And that's back to stressville.

4. Troubleshooting? Allow me.

Got a RTM task that just keeps following you, and can't figure out why it's not getting done? Got an item that you just can't shift out of Ellis Island - maybe not sure how best to categorise it? No idea what I meant by something (or all things) in a particular step? Want in on a Gangnam Style kitchen sesh sometime?

You're welcome to Facebook me with your questions, feedback, amusing anecdotes, etc. All criticisms will be filed appropriately*.

*dismissed immediately and with great amusement.


5. Enjoy your new capacity for enjoying life.

Seriously. Set a reminder if you think you need to. It'd be silly to do all that work, and free yourself of all that mental clutter, and then forget to enjoy it.

Off you go. Go on, go dance in your kitchen. Bare feet, windows open, tunes on. You've got nothing to worry about.

be happy

Ease Your Mind: Day Four

This post is the fourth 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.


Commence Simple Life

Hello my pretties! I see you've made it through yesterday's sorting marathon, and are ready to see the "worth it" part I promised.

Okay, it begins.


Step Two: Working The Plan

With the day-to-day use of the system, we come to the third app in my merry triad: Daily Planner (or, for the non-Android user, Something Else). I started out working with just the two apps, Evernote and RTM, but I found myself needing something else for two reasons:

  1. I liked using RTM on my iPad because, let's face it, a bigger keyboard means easier typing - but that meant I'd have to lug my iPad around everywhere I went in order to know what was next on my list. I needed something more portable (ie on my phone) and basic (ie on-the-go friendly).
  2. RTM lists the day's tasks in priority order. This is good - in fact, it's very helpful - but it does mean they're not in chronological order. And when you're working through a day's to-do list, chronological order is pretty useful. Nothing like getting home from the shops and realising you didn't post that letter because it was lower down the list. Gah!

Enter Daily Planner (or similar). Now here's my morning ritual, in a nutshell:

  • Husband's alarm goes off. Vaguely aware of this. Meh.
  • Husband (my hero) wakes me with cup of tea and open curtains. Ah, good morning!
  • Sit in bed, sipping cuppa, and fire up the ol' iPad.

By the time Liam comes in to say goodbye - and Ellie comes in to make sure I'm getting up immediately - my tea is nearly finished and I have a nice, clear plan of action for the day. And here's how (just one more numbered list, please?):

1. Check today's task list in RTM. Anything that can be dealt with in a minute or two, while I'm sitting in bed with a cuppa (Bible chapter, check email, send text to Whoever), is done and ticked off straight away.

2. The day's tasks are then assessed for timing and location. Say I've got a couple of housework tasks, a bit of shopping, a return-horrendously-overdue-things library errand (shhh, don't tell my librarian mother-in-law!), and a phone call. I might plan to knock off the housework first thing, drop by the library while I'm out shopping, and then make my phone call later while Owen's napping. For example. You arrange your business to fit what you've got going on.

(If there's something on today's RTM list that just won't fit into today, and it's not desperately urgent, don't feel too bad about moving it to a more suitable day. You're making the system work for you, after all.)

3. Hop onto the smartphone and make yourself some new folders ("groups") in your Daily Planner. In the above example, I'd have "Morning", "Out", and "Naptime". Chuck your tasks into the appropriate folders (remember DP lists newest tasks first - so you'll need to build each list in reverse-chronological order if that matters; also I prefer to delete DP tasks - and folders - as they're completed, instead of collecting a backlog of finished items).

There. You now have a plan for your day, which - if you stick to it - will see all necessary tasks completed. At this point I like to glance over it one more time for big picture's sake, then close all but the first group of tasks, gulp that last tepid swig of tea, and get up, ready to (get dressed and make the bed and) start Working The Plan.


Tomorrow we'll deal with the last Step - the one that keeps this whole thing working for you.