Thursday, May 28, 2009

De-clutter Continued

A few days ago, we tackled our collection of VHS movies (thank you, DVD's, for being so much more compact in volume and scant in number). For the record, about 75% of the movies were given/handed down to us, and many of the rest were yard sale finds. I have to REALLY like a movie before I'll hand over cold hard cash for it. As you can see, the whole collection was literally threatening to cause bodily harm sooner or later, and the kids had done a number on it. (Scroll away Mom . . . nothing to see here . . .)

The kids helped sort, stack, re-sleeve, and decide the fate of each movie. (We were surprisingly unanimous in our decisions!)

The end result wasn't too shabby!

Still more numerous than I wanted, but SO much better. I also tossed all the gigantic, hopelessly squashed, plastic Disney Clamshell cases, and made an open-ended sleeve for each movie out of the label and some cardstock. I've always loathed those cases.

I've conquered the hall cupboard (floor-to-ceiling) and the laundry room in recent days. Sooner or later, I have to face my bedroom closet. Heaven help me. However, every cupboard and closet I've tackled has ended up with at least 2 completely empty shelves in the end, so that's a very encouraging payoff.

Also, I found some ideas here today that I'm tempted to try:

Idea #1: Chore Jar

I was already planning to make a "Job Jar" of pesky extra chores (like wiping down cupboard doors or de-webbing the front entryway), but both of my big kids have approved the idea of putting the daily chores in a jar to be randomly drawn, too. I'll let you know how that works out.

Idea #2: Toe-hold Shoe Rack.

I'm not sure I have a good place to put this, but I like it!

Idea #3: Stop with the 35 cups a day already. (You think I'm kidding? I've counted before!)

This idea is from my fantastic friend, Mrs. P (incidentally, she also got it from Each kid has their own color cup, plate, and bowl, and they're in charge of keeping them washed. When mealtime rolls around, they can't eat until they have clean dishes to eat off of. We've been working on implementing this for several months now. It has required a LARGE amount of vigilance on my part, but it does work. Ikea was kind enough to provide enough colors for my 4 kids plus 2 guests.

So that's how it's gone this week. My yard sale has been unavoidably postponed a week, so I really might get through every square foot of our humble abode. Interestingly, while I've always liked this house and been grateful for it, I'm finding I like it more and more the emptier it gets!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Introducing Laura

Note: Today (Monday) is Laura's birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURA!!!

From Mrs. B: Meet Laura! First of all, she's super speedy and was the first profile in. Second of all, I've know Laura all of my life (well, all of hers. Because she's younger), and I can prove it, too:

See? (She's on the right, but you didn't hear that from me.)

Laura and I share the same excellent heritage. Don't you think cousins are one of life's best relationships? They're like bonus siblings, but without the history of hair-pulling and dumping-cups-of-cold-water-over-the-shower-curtain-rod. (Why does that stunt still make me snicker?)

One of my favorite things about Laura IS her fearlessness. She's always trying new things, and pushing herself further once she gets them down. She's also not afraid to let some of her struggles show, which freqently inspires me to conquer things I'd rather hide. Don't you all wish she was your cousin too?

From YONF: I don't know Laura, but I can only imagine that since she is related to Mrs. B, she must be awesome! I don't have any cousins that I am close too, so it's neat to see the closeness between these two.

Name: Laura

Job: Pediatric nurse on a neurosurgery/intermediate care floor in Portland

Kids: As Ben put it so well, "So far we're not doing so hot."

Spouse: Married to the long suffering Ben for five years.

Last book I read: The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

Dream Vacation: One of many is to go to NYC and ride the subway all day. I don't care about

any of the stuff above ground - except tasty food. I really just LOVE the subway.

Random thing: Everything I do seems to be random. I like to wear a cape and tiara (pictured below) at work. And people actually call me Your Highness.

Things I've been avoiding: (Can this be a list?) Marathon, ultramarathon, piecing a quilt that has triangles, knitting something that is not square or rectangle. Working in the pediatric ICU. Communication in general (I have issues with responding to emails and answering the phone.) A triathlon. Cleaning out my storage unit. Making sourdough bread. I think I could list a million things. I feel constantly hamstrung by my own stupid insecurities and my inability to get over them.

Craziest thing I've ever done: Two years ago Ben and I moved to Portland without jobs, having visited only once (three weeks beforehand to pick out an apartment). Luckily we really like it. Also, I started a Tae Kwon Do class a few weeks ago. (Really, I think that is crazier than the move to Portland.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Profile #1 is on the way, but meanwhile (LOOK AWAY LCM!). . . .

You know what frightens me?


I know what you're thinking: That's disgusting. How do I make it?

Instructions here)

I couldn't resist giving it a shot. The kids were intrigued, but equally grossed out. Nobody ate theirs. (FYI, the Pita Dad was a huge hit.)

Culinary Adventures aside (wait, not totally aside. Have you tried out yet? A month's menu of easy dinners with weekly grocery lists you can print out. Hooray! Now it's aside), my current project is tackling all of the clutter that has crept stealthily into my house behind my back, and preparing it all for a yard sale.

I don't think I qualify as a pack rat, exactly, because I'm not much attached to 99% of it. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty sorting, I get a thrill out of hauling it all away and walking back into a clean, organized room. It just feels like such a huge project that I'd rather pretend it's not all sitting there, waiting for my personal attention. And so it grows.

Project number one was the coat-closet-of-death (you know, the avalanche closet from Looney Toons). We're all a lot safer opening that door now.

Then I took all the board games out of the three different cupboards they had shanghaied:

Would you believe that all but six of the board game boxes were mostly full of empty space under the plastic mold? And that every one of those games fit into a gallon ziploc bag? (Sans boards, which are now labeled and stacked together.)

So now, all of this:

Fits here:

I'm not saying it's the most convenient way to store them, but in this house, saving space trumps convenience. Game night, anyone?

Next, I tackled my sewing fabric, which had spread itself out like some kind of self-replicating organism. I rolled each piece up and rubber-banded them like you see them in fabric store remnant bins, and beat it all back into 2-shelf submission. (I would admit here that I also organized and whittled down my craft supplies and album-destined mementos, but my sisters would smack me for such shenanigans.)

Next up, the gigantic cupboard in the hallway. Towels, sheets, blankets, and whatever clothing got miscategorized when the kids were folding it. Then my closet, and the kids' closet, and on and on until the kids are afraid they're the next thing headed out the front door.

Should be fun.

So what big project are you procrastinating the tackling of?
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Monday, May 11, 2009


It struck me rather suddenly the other day that I hadn't ever picked a winner from this post! How lame is that?? So I went to (I considered just asking my 13yo to pick a number between 1 and 14, but the website seems so much more official and unbiased), and randomly selected Julie!

(This Julie)

Hooray! Julie, send your contact info to yearofnofear{at}gmail{dot}com and I'll be in touch.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful and helpful comments. It really helped me to direct my focus, and gave me such great information to work with! The workshop went well . . . my favorite part was all the insight I gleaned from the discussions among the fantastic group of women that attended.

One of the best comments came during the discussion about women's tendency to downplay their efforts and successes. We respond to compliments with self-criticism about what we did wrong and why our efforts were sub-par. Why do we feel like we have to apologize for making a creative effort? Why can't we just say, "Hey, not bad for a rookie, eh?"

(One woman pointed out here that it's in our nature to aim high, and we ought to, but we shouldn't give up when our first efforts aren't perfect.)

So then, Grandma Jan (I want to be just like her when I grow up) spoke up and said, "The only response you need to give to a compliment is, 'Thank you very much! I whole-heartedly agree!'"

I've been trying to practice this skill. I always worry that someone will think I'm totally full of myself if I willingly accept a compliment, but on the flipside, when I pay someone a sincere and admiring compliment, I'd much rather see them agree with it than downplay it.

Something else I've been trying to practice since the workshop is creativity in simple ways. You can get a lot of bang for your buck this way, particularly with young children. They're just as impressed with Mystery Utensil Dinner (preparation: drop several cooking utensils into a bag) as they are with a 3 hour Birthday Extravaganza.

Yesterday during church, my 6yo was reading the Friend Magazine, and showed me the instructions to make a Pita Dad:

Time involved: Way less than a normal dinner.
Odds that kids will eat healthy food: Fairly high.
Odds that I will score some Cool Mom points, and 6yo will feel awesome for having suggested it: Pretty good.

(It's on this week's shopping list.)

So thanks again to Julie and all of the rest of you (JeRee and Kathy - I was tickled to see you here!) for your fantastic comments!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shakin' it up

Yonf and I have been meaning to get around to this (we started with Megan, and then fizzled), and Jacque's suggestion reminded us about it! (Also, Jerilyn, I am about to shamelessly steal your brilliant idea from your own previously famous blog. Consider yourself imitated AND flattered.) (And way cool.) (See? Flattered again.) (And imitated with the successive parentheses as well.)

We're sending out the challenge to all of you to join the Year of No Fear! Or, if that's a little daunting, you can go for The Week to Not Freak, or the Night of No Fright, or the Minute to Be In It . . . (I know, I know . . . I'll stop.)

SO. If you're up for the challenge, then email the answers to any or all of the following questions as well as a picture (totally optional), to yearofnofear{at}gmail{dot}com, and we'll spotlight you! (You can be anonymous if you'd prefer, but be forewarned that we will nickname you according to our own whims.)

  • Vital Stats (name, job, kids, location, etc.)?

  • What's the last book you read (or favorite book . . . or both)?

  • Where would you go on your dream vacation?

  • Do you have a blog? Will you tell us where?

  • Tell us one completely random thing about you.

  • What is something you've been avoiding that you would love to conquer?

  • What's the craziest thing you've ever done (and are willing to admit to)?

Also, if you have a fearless story to tell, we'd love to hear that too.

What are you waiting for? Email us already!

Actually, the humorless receivers of overdue fines (fines on overdue books, not fines that are overdue) scare me a little.

Why we love going to the library (I'm breaking from our theme . . . I just wanted to share):

First stop: Hand stamps (you get to choose one of three ever-changing designs) from the friendly librarians!

No child can resist climbing into this guy's lap!

Children's courtyard - fully enclosed and easy to observe from the comfy couches!

Our favorite attraction: A plastic canvas dollhouse, made and donated by one Phyllis Pyle, and filled with mind-boggling, genius-inspired details! (A toothpaste cap for a lamp shade? I never would have thought of that!)

If you click these pictures, you can see the details better. The kids love trying to find new things we've missed before, and it holds their attention for a lovely chunk of time!

Oh yeah. And the books, which the kids love loading into their sweet library totes.