Friday, August 31, 2012

Organize Your Books


This month, Family Fun Magazine has a ton of great ideas/tips to help organize your home.

Here is one that I loved and instituted immediately:

A book color code system using electrical tape.

When my sister Marissa and I were kids, we shared the attic bedroom.  It was a magical place, and often messy.  The slanted ceilings and having the top floor of the house helped the space to feel like a world all our own.  We also enjoyed having a bird's-eye-view of who was coming and going and goofing around with our neighbor through our windows which were close enough to throw various items back and forth through!

But one of the most magical elements of our bedroom had to be the bookcase that encircled the entire opening of the staircase.  This bookcase was sort of the heart of the bedroom.  It held an endlessly rotating library of titles that included everything from babysitter club books to encyclopedias!

One fall, my sister and I created a system to organize our book collection.  We didn't think it through too well though.  I remember taping small alphabet letters to the binding of the book using paper and scotch tape.  I think I was going for alphabetical by title...and it was fun while it lasted, but we didn't get far beyond the letter D.

This color code system suggested by Family Fun makes it so quick and easy to find your favorite books (and the tape stays on well but is very gentle on the books.)  

All you have to do is create a key by categorizing your books.  Here's what our key looks like:


The great thing about this system is that it's so easy to find what you're looking for, even if it's a mess.  It's easy for Guy now to find the books on his reading level and interest.  It's easy for Mom and Dad to find our favorite books to read the kids at bedtime.  AND it's easy for the kids to organize the books now, because all I have to say is "go put all the orange books together and all the blue books together," etc.


As you can see, not every book made it into the color code system...just our very favorites, but we are loving our new color-coded library!


Ok, time to announce the winner of the Bible Chicks prints from Puexican Designs.

THANK YOU to everyone who sent me name suggestions!  

They were very helpful, and it was fun to hear some many beautiful names and to learn more about your families!  I enjoyed that very much!

Super Bible Chicks--Esther Eve Hannah--Digital Download

Oh, and before I announce the winner, I want you guys to check out this room that Kris decorated for her son using the Book of Mormon Heroes prints...She might give you some good design ideas:  Click here to see it!

Ok, the winner of the Bible Chick Prints is:

Danielle Garcia!!!

Danielle, please email me your mailing address so you can get your prize.

Thanks again, all!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our Family Daybook



{Ok, so I deleted Disqus off of my blog at least for the time being, because it is having major problems posting your comments...Just wanted to let you guys know that.  So be a dear and comment on this post just so I know everything is working right now in that area....Thanks!}

So, I've been nesting ALL SUMMER...cleaned the basement, purged toys, back-to-school shopped (I've even Christmas-shopped!!), painted rooms, organized kitchen cabinets...and still my house is somewhat of a mess...go figure!

However, I have managed to institute schedules and organizational solutions to some of the "bottleneck" times of our day.  Two of those times are bedtime and morning.

I realized that bedtime had become too routinely a time of a lot of frustration and raised voices and craziness and last-minute requests.  And a lot of Mom and Dad reminding everyone verbally what is to be done next.

In her book, Walking Into a Hug, Janene Ustach mentions that bedtime should be a "blessed time."  And I wanted our bedtimes to become more of a peaceful, happy time...a time to connect with my kids and to reassure them, not just a time to rush and hush!  Same deal in the morning...I wanted to send them off to school with love and hugs, not reprimands!

Since I was already making a simple after school chore chart for the kids, I also made a bedtime/wake-up time "road map" to help our little ones VISUALIZE what bedtime should look like in our house.  

It evolved into Our Family Daybook, and it looks like this:  


Since I've got mostly pre-readers, I just used images off of a Google image search...I tried to find the happiest looking images so that my kids could start to internalize that this was not just a "to do list", but a time to wind down and to embrace.  

I want them to understand that when we all do the little things we are responsible for, it leaves us time for extra "fun with Mom" before school and "hugs with Dad" before bed, etc.


So far, it's working.

This is our after school chore rotation.


(Who knows, maybe MMM will mass-produce this for his MMM Marketplace??  ;)

One night before bed, I saw Autumn, my three-year-old, carefully studying the "bedtime" map.

She never forgets to carry her basket upstairs, which is number one on the list.  That was another thing I instituted.  

I was getting tired of personal items piling up on the landing of the steps.  It's a hazard, and I am just no longer able to get it all upstairs every night!  So, I bought the kids these baskets with handles at Walmart.  Throughout the day as we tidy up, I put their items in their respective baskets, or they do.  Every night, they carry their own baskets upstairs and put their stuff away.  No more overwhelming piles of who-knows-what on the steps for mommy to deal with!  Yay!

Then I was reminded of CaMarie Hoffman's post from last year's Family Proclamation Celebration about Reaching Your Family's Potential.  She talked about how they create posters of their family goals using pictures they cut out of magazines, and they post it where they can look at it often.  It helps them to visualize what they want their lives to look like...and achieve it!

So what do you do as part of your daily routine to make things more lovely when they can easily get hectic?  Do tell!


PS - You can still enter this week's giveaway...just go to this post and give me your name suggestions!  I will announce the winner of the Gospel Chicks prints tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Political Conventions: Been There, Done That!


I was getting pretty nostalgic yesterday afternoon as I tuned in to some of the Republican National Convention on C-Span.  

Has it really been twelve years since I attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles?  Wow, I guess it has!

It's moments like these that I sometimes need to pinch myself and realize that I have lived a pretty amazing life.  

How many average citizens really get a front row seat to history like I have on so many occasions?  I have my career in journalism to thank for that...and so many mentors who encouraged me to throw my hat in the ring time after time.  (And my Mom, of course, who always taught me, "If you don't ask, you don't get."  And the Lord.)

During the summer of 2000, I had just graduated from college and started my first sort of "real job," but I already had plans to freelance for Reuters Wire service at the DNC, and I somehow convinced my boss before accepting to give me the two weeks off...two weeks that would be one of the most exciting of my life. Two weeks that would remind me what career trajectory I was truly interested in following.  Two weeks that would open doors for me many times over in the future.

Come down memory lane with me, won't you?


First of all, why the Democratic National Convention, you might ask?  Well remember, I was attending as a member of the media, so I didn't get all wrapped up in which party it was...as long as it was a party I got to go to!  And let's face it, spending two weeks in LA (where I'd never been) sounded like more fun than where ever the Republicans were going to be.  And I was pretty sure the Dems would put on a better party...at least with better entertainers!

And really, doesn't this photo just say everything?  "Uncle Fester for President!"

Political conventions are full of interesting characters...both on and off stage...and I enjoyed mixing with all of them!

However, there were days when we couldn't get into the Staples Center because of protesters (at least by certain walking routes).  Today was not one of those days.


One of the coolest perks of the job were these babies that got passed out each morning.

The highly coveted "floor pass" allowed me to go anywhere I wanted to, anytime I wanted to, so I tried to arrive at Reuters early each day in order to make sure I got one!


My mission most days was to make my way from the editor at our Reuters home base at the back of the convention center, through the crowds of delegates, up to stage left where my photographer Vince was taking photos of all the action.  

When his data card was full, it was my job to run it back to our little media room, so the pictures could be edited, uploaded, and purchased by other media outlets and used on their websites or in the next day's newspapers.  I'd imagine they've got a better system these days, but I hope not as it gave lowly "field producers" like me such an amazing opportunity to be in the middle of all the action.


When we weren't on duty, like during the downtime of the day, we mingled with "celebs" where in the Staples Center and visited with colleagues from other media outlets.  Here I am with Gov. Jesse Ventura.  Seriously, his fist was as big as my head, and he was smoking a stogie right there in the convention center.  Yikes!

One night, I was standing to the right of the stage just sort of taking it all in, and realized that I was standing right next to Sarah Jessica Parker.  I didn't realize it at first.  She was just wearing a tank top, nothing fancy, taking pictures of the speaker with a disposable camera.  Pretty funny, huh?


More thrilling for me by far, was meeting and taking photos with some legends of journalism, such as Helen Thomas who I'd seen a few times at the White House when I interned in DC previously, but hadn't met until LA.  She has been covering the WH so long that the president takes her question, no matter what, out of respect.


Here I am with my super good buddy J.T. who was a friend and mentor to me when I worked at Tribune Broadcasting in DC.  J.T. is a California boy though, so it was a happy reunion running into him at a party one evening.

A word about the glasses and the jacket.  I have never needed prescription glasses in my life, but I thought it would be fun to be someone else style-wise while in LA.  That's where I bought this suit too...and I still own it...and love it although I haven't quite found the right occasion to wear it to here in Pennsylvania...and I never did in Columbus, Ohio either for that matter! :)  Guess that's when I knew for sure that I needed to move back to DC!


Another thing we did during down time at the Convention is we traded pins.  This person had an awesome collection.  Mine was less impressive, but I was pretty proud of the "cheese head" pin that I got from a Wisconsin delegate.


We also interviewed people.


This guy wouldn't say a word.


But this delegate from Hawaii was pretty sweet...a darling woman.


One night before the Convention began, I caught a Dodger's game with my friend Lauren and our mentor Dr. Dansker.  

Dr. D. has been helping students get jobs with media outlets for these conventions (and inaugurations) for many, many years.  

He has been to every convention for how long, I don't know.  But he showed us the ropes and reminded us that at Conventions, we just fly by the seat of our pants and things tend to work out, because "That's the way we do it!"  

He's a wonderful man, and I have enjoyed running into him over the years, while living in DC.  Like many of my mentors in journalism, he believes in "passing it on" and always encouraged us to do the same.


Another day, I met my friend Nick at the CBS studios.  I would have loved to attend a taping of "The Price is Right" (life-long dream here!) but it was on hiatus, so instead we went to a live taping of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.  That guy is a real piece of work.  (Bill, not Nick...well Nick too! ;)


Well, there's much more to tell, like how the Secret Service works, and how political conventions are an amazing display of wealth, but the one thing that has stuck with me long after the event was how high the energy was in the room and how emotional some people got because of it.  I remember looking over and seeing this girl sobbing as someone spoke.

At the time, I just didn't get it.  I was sort of like "get it together girl!"  It's just politics.

However, as I was watching Ann Romney's speech on DVR earlier today, I too got emotional.  Of course, it helps that I'm on a steady stream of pregnancy hormones, and that over the last twelve years a lot about me has evolved.  

I'm a mother now (almost four times over!)  I'm married to a man that I love, and I'm in a "real marriage not a fairy tale one" (as Ann pointed out!)  Whatever the reason, Ann Romney's description of what it's like to be a woman, a mother, a wife, etc. really touched me.  I felt it was very unifying.  

And her expressions of the love that we all have for each other and for our country and our desire to help each other were a message that you rarely hear expressed so sincerely in a political forum, and I really connected with it.

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Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down memory lane with me today.

I mostly wanted to record this for my children, so they can get a glimpse of my life before becoming their mother.  

Although I've had so many exciting times, bringing my children into this world and being their mother is still the biggest thrill I've ever known!  I'm pretty sure every Mother would agree with that statement.

And if I had it to do all over again, I'd still give up the excitement of political conventions for one beautiful lifetime with my family.

 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bike Rally FHE



For three years now, we've had a "bike rally" at our house during the first week of school.

You see, we've got a Dad in our family who is an extremely talented and dedicated bike racer.  He used to race mountain bikes as a kid, and now he races road bikes in his free time.


Here he is this past Saturday, winning first place in his age-group in a local race.  

We're really proud of him.


Steve likes to encourage the kids to ride bikes...a lot.  At the end of the summer, Steve realized Scarlett would do better learning on a bike with smaller tires, so he found a bike that was being thrown away and rescued it for her.  (He can fix up old bikes in a cinch.)  

In less than a week, Scarlett was riding without training wheels...and proud of it!


It's fun to see a father passing on an activity that he is passionate about to his children!

The bike rally is a fun way that Steve helps the kids to show off how much they've improved their bike-riding skills over the summer.


He usually starts off with a lesson in bike safety...Then he runs the kids through bike races, agility exercises, and obstacle courses.  


Last night's bike rally was more low-key than it's been the last three years because some of our neighborhood friends weren't around, but it was still a lot of fun.

Do you or another member of your family have an area of expertise or a special talent that your kids and family could celebrate, learn from, or enjoy together?

It might make for a fun family night!


PS - I am sorry that many of you have been unable to comment due to kinks in Disqus' commenting program...I'm hoping that'll go away soon.  In the meantime, you can try emailing me your name suggestions if you'd like to be entered in this week's giveaway!

And remember to check out That Good Part's FHE from last night as well!  Catania is planning a really cool Plan of Salvation Scripture study series...so check it out!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rumpelstiltskin

Super Bible Chicks--Esther Eve Hannah--Digital Download

Remember a while back I did a giveaway of cute prints from the Etsy shop Puexican Designs of Book of Mormon Heroes?

Well, now Alexis is back with a sweet trio of heroines from the Bible...Esther, Eve, and Hannah.  And she is going to send this set of Bible Chicks prints to one of you!

I'd love to hang these in my baby's room to remind her to be "Brave like Esther.  Happy like Eve.  And true like Hannah."

Now, I'm not really going to make you jump through any hoops for this giveaway...but I DO need help coming up with a name that Steve and I both like for our baby!  

So, please, leave me a comment with some name suggestions for us. I'm not guaranteeing I'll use it, but you might save me a few sleepless nights by helping us come up with the perfect name for our little one.  We've already got a Guy, Scarlett, and Autumn, so that should give you a feel for the type of names we like.

Have a great Monday, and thanks in advance for your name suggestions!!!  I will announce the winner on Friday.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are


Our after-school experience yesterday was hairy.

After day two, the shine of going back to school was wearing off.

We've been sending the children to school on the bus so that Scarlett can "learn" how to ride the bus, because that's how they have to come home whenever school is closed early because of inclement weather.

However, after just one day, I had not been pleased with the attitude that I heard coming from my little darlings, and after day two they came off the bus laughing like hyenas, and telling stories about things that went on during the ride that I just wasn't thrilled with.

They were tired, overwhelmed, overstimulated, and unable to remedy the situation on their own.  I could tell that it was time for me to do my job...time to "be the Mom."

NO you cannot run off and play with friends as soon as you step off the bus, roaming the neighborhood like a pack of wild animals.  YES you will sit at the table and eat your food (and keep your feet off the table), and just in case you didn't realize it, dinnertime is a time to talk and share and ask questions not just play "the skinny dog" and eat and run.  

I could finally sympathize with the Mother in "Where the Wild Things Are," and picture just how she got into the situation that she did with her little boy.

I recognized that I was in a pivotal Mothering moment...that what I did and said, and what rules I enforced in that moment were going to have big consequences for our little family.  

I realized in that moment why it was so important that I was here for them in their little hour of need...to be the anchor that they so desperately required.  All of the other moments were special, but this one was a window of opportunity not to be missed.  

So, I started by declaring that our time of taking the bus was over...We'd go back to parent pick-up starting tomorrow.  

Then I designated the full dinner hour to be family time.  

Then I tacked on that they needed to start doing their nightly chore... This news was welcomed by a healthy dose of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially by Guy who had to help me do the dishes.  

Daddy was welcomed home to quite a theatrical display, but amid the chaos, I felt more in control than at any other moment in the past two days, because I knew that I was doing what what right for our family.

And just when Guy thought he was going to finally be released back into the wild, I remembered that we needed to start scheduling in 20 minutes of reading every night as required by their teachers...so we'd best start tonight!  

That's about when Guy truly lost it!  And Scarlett wasn't too thrilled either.  Steve let me know that he really needed to go outside and mow the lawn, but I told him that helping Guy calm down right now was more important than the grass, so he stayed and tried to soothe the beast.

I sat reading with Scarlett and Autumn tucked under my arms and Guy sat across the room crying and yelling, "I don't want to listen," for about 15 of the 20 minutes.  I wondered why I even bothered.

Finally, I let them loose.  Scarlett ran upstairs to change out of her school clothes so she could ride her bike.  She scurried back down the stairs, but paused for a moment to say, "Mommy, I'm so happy!  I love when you read to me.  You are the best reader in the whole world!!"  And off she ran.

And then I knew why I bothered...why all Moms bother to take the hard road.  Because if I had just sent them out to play, it would have been easier, but I would have missed that sweet time and even sweeter feedback.


After seeing that his friends were gone now or eating dinner, Guy came back inside.  I asked him if he wanted to play Uno with me, and he did.  I could see his irritable, growling outer shell melting away with each game we played, and eventually he returned to his sweet Guy-like self.


We also rode bikes together and joined the neighbors for birthday cake, and flew Daddy's remote control helicopter together before bed.  As Guy said our family prayer last night, he tacked on "And thank you for Mom and Dad," something he doesn't normally say.

From now on I can answer confidently that I know just where the wild things are...they are right where they should be...in my arms, in my home, and around our dinner table.

(These photos were taken this morning as we had a nice relaxing time together at home before I drove them to school...breathing a sigh of relief for all of us, I think!)



OK - Time to pick a winner of the Justin Cash Beautiful World CD!

Thanks to everyone who entered.  I think blogger was having commenting trouble on Monday, so thanks for persevering!

The winner is:  LISA SCHILLING!~  Congratulations!!
Just email me your mailing address, so you can get your CD!

As for the rest of you, I know you're all big fans now of Justin's music, so thanks for listening and reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Baby, You're a Firework!


I was being brave.  I really was.  Until I tucked Scarlett in last night.  

Then the floodgates let loose as I expressed my love for my little shining star.

And then, being the compassionate person that she is, she started balling too!

She said, "I don't want to go to school...I want to stay here with you.  We'll never have Mommy Preschool ever again!!"  And then I felt like a jerk for causing her sadness on the eve of such great excitement!


This morning, however, she was nothing but smiles, and I'm happy for her...


Girlfriend is ready to go...


and so are Guy and Autumn (although Autumn doesn't go to preschool for two more weeks.)


But first they had to wake up the whole neighborhood and make sure our friends had someone to walk with to the bus stop!


Kindergarten won't know what hit it!


Guy gave his friend a "pep talk."


Scarlett sought some advice from her friend.


Our superhero dad made it to the party at the bus stop...


A kiss for luck...


And they're off!


I'm going to miss my spunky, capable little companion!