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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Surrendering My Mommy Day

This past week our littlest guy was sick. The last in a long line of all the boys in our family falling prey to a nasty bug that claimed each one for about five days. I was feeling pretty tired and my poor baby was up needing mommy from 4-6 am. one night. We sat in the bathroom with a steamy shower running. I held him upright and patted his back. We watched some elmo on youtube. I consider it a blessing to my love on my littles when they aren't feeling well. And my poor little baby needed lots of loving that night.
When we both awoke the next morning sometime around 8 I realized we had a field trip with our co-op that day. Thankfully our night time vigilance had resulted in our baby feeling much better. But there was still laundry. Cleaning. Schoolwork. Four kids to tend to. Meals to make. And oh yeah, that field trip again. And I felt like I had run a long race. Exhausted just begins to cover it.
I stopped, and prayed, "Lord, I just woke up. Today seems pretty normal and yet overwhelming. I don't think I can do it-- I'm just giving it to you. Please equip me and enclose our home in peace that passes all understanding." We made the field trip... a few minutes late... but together, and clothed, and happy, and in a teachable spirit. It was amazing.
Seeing apple cider and apple butter made was a cool experience.
My Little bug trying to swipe an apple-- love him to pieces.
We came home and had a peaceful lunch. My oldest and I put the Christmas tree lights on. Love that he can help with the "big" decorating jobs.
My littlest thought the tree was on fire and kept trying to blow the lights out-- it was adorable to hear, "Dat hot!" over and over again followed by intermittent puffs.
And my middle two put on the sweetest nativity story re-enactment. Here he is pushing Mary on the donkey to Bethlehem.
My heart was so full. I hadn't done it. I couldn't have done it. But here was God showing me His love in these four beautiful little beings. We were working and playing together in a wonderful harmony. God in my weakness, delighted in making a beautiful day for us.
How awesome is that? How awesome is He?
and then after all the days festivities: we napped. For like two and a half hours. Amazing! Thank you God for naps and field trips and clothed children who are getting along so wonderfully. There is something to be said for surrendering our all-- even the mundane like field trip days when you are exhausted-- to a great and big loving God.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Getting Organized and Simplified-- Starting with JUNK Drawers

Somewhere between a Disney trip, finding out we were expecting baby four, bed rest, having baby number 4, a kitchen remodel, and just life in general we had accumulated stuff and clutter and it was getting the best of me as a mom. My husband and I have become intrigued by the tiny house movement and mostly their ability to live with less (Not so much the smaller space because with 6 people I feel we are small enough thank you very much). So, we have begun several projects in order to scale back and do more with less. Lots less. I mean a LOT less.
The first place I began was our kitchen junk and silverware drawer. This is the entire contents dumped out. Yuck! I always dump and clean out whatever I am organized so I can have a "fresh" slate to work with.
I got some small organizing bins from the silverware drawer aisle at Target. I used the long ones here and the rest I saved for another project. I have since labeled each bin so the hubs and kids can see where everything's place is. I also waited a month to share this to make sure this worked. You see, it's not like I totally neglect these drawers-- I would clean and "organize" them and then within a week they'd be pretty much right back to their hot mess of clutter. I'm happy to report that a month later our drawers still look like this which is a huge victory!
Next, I tackled under the sink. We use all cloth napkins, paper towels, and Norwex cleaning cloths, so it can get crazy underneath with everyone putting them away in all sort of disarray. We needed a better system.
I got four bins that seal (also from target) and applied some cute labels and stored everything away nice and tidy. One bin for norwex cloths, one for napkins, one for kitchen towels, and one for small misc. cleaning items.
Ahh-- so much better!
Now, onto our night stand drawer which is the other junk drawer in the home. I started with these two junk drawers because we needed these two to be cleaned up and an example of how great a better organized and simplified life can be. I didn't get a before picture-- but trust me, it was stuffed! Here is my cute little helper staying busy and keeping me on task! Our nightstand is was a catchall for everything from old Christmas card pictures to pacifiers to bobby pins and safety pins and books-- just about everything got tossed inside.
I used some more of the drawer organizers from target and cleaned out all of the paper. Things that were meant to be saved went into files or picture boxes and things meant to be trashed met their end. This is so much better! A little cubby for hair ties, one for medical/baby items that we often need in the middle of the night, and a spot on the side for our badger rubs which we often use at nighttime. Books and tablets go in their basket on one of the shelves under the drawer. This has made our lives so much easier-- truly I don't know if that makes us sound shallow but truly-- I don't have time to waste digging around for things or cleaning out the same space every few weeks only to have it go right back to being trashed.
Our next project that I am hoping to share is a shared "closet" space for all of the kids in one room-- it's been amazing! AMAZING!!!
So, how about you? What's an area you have mastered in home organization or one you cringe about?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

From Lawn to Garden: Getting Rid of the Last bit of Lawn for the Spring

It's hard to believe our growing season has for the most part come to an end. We still have some potatoes that I'm experimenting with growing in a container and I'm curious to see if we will get any since it's colder now.
Just because our harvest has almost ceased doesn't mean our work has. If you would like to begin a garden next year, START NOW! That was one of our biggest regrets this year- that we hadn't had this idea to transform our yard into a vegetable garden. If we had, I believe more of our yard would have been able to be converted and more nutrients put into the soil well ahead of time. So, we are trying Back to Edens methods as much as we can. We have a large area to cover and were very grateful to our dairy farming friends for letting us come and get some au natural fertilizer-- what a huge blessing to add this into our soil! Alas, it would take me several trips to cover our entire garden, but some is much better than none. We laid down newspapers, the manure, and then a mulch. We were hoping for wood chips and despite calling tree companies and going to home improvement stores, couldn't get our hands on any. But again, we are doing more than we did last fall and hopefully we will see healthier soil next year.
Here are some pots that produced poorly so we are even strengthening the soil in them as well. I wanted to show this because even if you have a patio garden or do strictly boxed gardens, you still need to put some nourishment back into your soil. You can use rabbit, chicken, cow, or any farm animal's manure really as they are all good sources of nitrogen.
As I mentioned in the title, we are converting more of our tiny yard into growing spaces. We removed our pond and will have a nice fertile area for next spring. Very excited as once the pond was out, we saw how much more land was there than it looked like. We also brought forth a smaller box frame and some pots in the hopes that they will kill the grass under them this winter and we can grow and expand more. Moving grass is a LOT of work, but this should help us out. You could also begin to cover your lawn with cardboard and leaves NOW and that will help you convert your yard (or some of it) into growing space next year without so much back labor.
In the rear of our shed we had these boxes last summer.
They have been moved to the front of the shed to a patch of grass we never got to this summer. Our hopes are that they will once again kill off some of the grass and make it easier to clear the area this spring. If they do, they will move up to the old pond area and grow lettuces there and once again, kill off the last few areas of grass.
Now, the area that used to hold the boxes (in the rear of the shed) has been cleared with minimal work from us this week. We covered the ground with cardboard, manure, and mulch to prepare the area even more since it used to be a stone driveway! We moved the cucumber trellis over and will have our cucumbers growing in the rear of the bed and then another smaller fruit in the front-- although I think swiss chard would do awesome here! We will see.
In the old cucumber bed which was actually very small bed wise last year-- we dumped dead plants all summer under the trellis to prepare that soil (which was also a part of the former stone driveway). We just cleared out the weeds this week, turned the soil, and will be adding cardboard and some leaves soon to help prepare this large area for growing next summer. Perhaps our beans will go in this year although I need to check our crop rotation guide and see what will do best in this corner.
The blueberries are blessing us with some lovely fall foliage and the strawberry plants have grown to a nice healthy size. Hopefully next summer we will enjoy the fruits of our patience and tending. We have plans to add cantaloupe or honeydew next year and are looking forward to supplying a lot of our fruit as well as vegetables.
Now, you may be wondering if all the hard work is worth it. Yes-- so very much!! We are still pulling onions and pretty much at least two meals a day we are still enjoying at least one thing from the garden in our meals. Whether it be salsa, tomato sauce, frozen peas, vegetable broth, veggie soup-- the list really does go on, but YES it has been so worth it! It cut back on our grocery bill tremendously last year and to be honest, it was a harder year as we had to put more time in to preparing the ground and deal with lots of rain and cooler temps than what is normal. We are already looking at our seeds for next year-- and we saved lots of our own which will be exciting to see them grow and produce next summer. We are going to be using lots of Baker Creek seeds this year as man of theirs preformed super well.
So, can I encourage you to try and grow more? Expand and produce more of your own food? It is such a rewarding experience! Do you have questions? We'd love to help-- or do you want to share what you do in the fall to prepare for the next spring?