Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Caroline asked me what my favorite holiday is. She's be perfectly happy with the answer "all of them!" as that is the answer she usually gives (that or "everything!"), but really, that is almost my answer. I love Easter. I love that it is a Christian holiday that has not been (too badly) commercialized. Of course, I love Advent, the excitement and anticipation leading up to CHRISTMAS!

But, as cliche as it is, Christmas has to be my favorite, I think. True Christmas. The Christmas that started yesterday and lasts for twelve days. That is the time that the running is done, the shopping and the wrapping is done. Even the gift-exchanging, as fun as that is, is done. Christmas is time to slow down and enjoy and appreciate God's gifts to us, the gift of his Son, our Savior, along with the blessings we have. I am especially blessed that my husband takes the last week of the year off from work, so we can really have family time during Christmastide.

The girls will get one more gift on Epiphany, January 6, the day we remember the gifts the Magi brought Jesus. And, in our home, we continue celebrating for a couple more days--with our wedding anniversary on January 7 (sixteen years this time!) and Mary Elizabeth's birth on January 8 (and I really look forward when she's old enough to appreciate it, to sharing with her the joy of spending my 14th wedding anniversay in labor with her!)
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rockin' Green!

I remember my mom was a loyal All-Temperature Cheer user. It was affordable, she said, and worked well in cold water, which is all she washed in (as do I, except for diapers). My mom was very brand loyal, and I sometimes think that I am not a conscientious enough homemaker that I am not more brand-loyal. Sure, Comet is a must-have in my cleaning arsenal...but I have bought Ajax and not had a second though. I lurve the Mrs. Meyers cleaners, but if I run out, I can work with vinegar and water (as long as I also have my less eco-friendly Comet to truly clean things up!) And for foods, I'm always willing to try the HEB or Costco brand and am usually not disappointed.

So, I've been a fickle laundry detergent customer. I've used Sun; I've used Kirkland/Costco brand; I've used All.I've tried to pricier eco-friendly Seventh Generation. I do use mostly scent and dye free now that I've mothered a child with sensitive skin. Really, once you've left scent, you can't go back. But (and really, this is thanks to my local mama's buying coop) I have a new brand that has my business. Rockin' Green detergent. It is cloth-diaper friendly, eco-friendly, scent free after washing (but has yummy scents when you put it in, which is really silly, I know, but it's a nice moment.)

Yesterday, both girls wore their adorable Thanksgiving turkey shirts I bought from an Etsy seller. And Elizabeth ate mud and ketchup and chocolate and something blue all in one day! I had forgotten what a bad match toddlers and long sleeves can be! That end-of-sleeve area is quite vulnerable.

And these were hand-wash-only type shirts.

So I put hers to soak in my RnG. I agitated the stained areas a bit and then added in Caroline's shirt. Left them to soak overnight and rinsed them today. Love this detergent!! It hand washed nicely and got out the stains! I'm thinking I may not need detergent and Oxyclean if I have my RnG!

metablogger again: I realize I sound like a commercial. I reserve the right to submit my story/review if RnG ever does a give-a-way in the future. This particular post, though, was not written to qualify me for a prize. :-)

Bloggin' bloggin'

Here's some meta blogging for you. I don't know what I've done here. Blogger discontinued ftp, so I tried to move my blog to the 1and1 blogs, which is a version of wordpress only to find that 1and1 changes the wordpress so it can not be exported and moved to other blog servicers, so then I went back to blogger and put a redirect message somewhere, hoping that any readers I had might find me. But, I'm afraid there has been so much moving that nobody reads this anymore. And that is fine because this is a journal for me, too, and I don't need an audience. But, not knowing my audience, if there is one, probably means I will write something to offend someone who will never speak up about how I offended her anyway and I'll wonder what ever happened to so-and-so.

Or not.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Communion

Caroline received Holy Communion this afternoon for the first time. I am so proud of her!

I'll explain our reasoning behind her celebrating her First Communion now, as our Southern Baptist family might not understand the idea of a First Communion and our Roman Catholic family will not understand why she received hers so young.

In the Episcopal church, we often say "All can. None must. Some do." to explain the ways people participate in the service. Traditionally, children are baptized soon after birth and begin receiving communion immediately (or as soon as they start to reach for it.) In our priest's words, the child never knows a time she is not welcome at the Lord's Table.

Having grown up Roman Catholic, John was used to a bit more ceremony and instruction before First Communion. Having grown up Southern Baptist (and coming to terms with infant baptism, which is a long blog post that I might write about some day), I liked the idea of having Caroline's First Communion be similar to baptism in the Southern Baptist churches (or more specifically, a child, like me and mine, raised in a Christian home, attending church regularly, always knowing that Christ is our Savior) -- once a child is able to articulate, or profess, her faith.

So, we waited. And Caroline can now explain her beliefs in a child's refreshing way. Her Godparents were able to join us today. Our small church is flexible enough to allow us to choose how and when.

Caroline has decided that she will intinct her bread, though, as she doesn't like the wine. And since we're Episcopalians, that is just fine.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Prized Possession

John has always made it clear that there was one thing in his grandmother’s house that he wanted — and now that prize lives at our house. His mom made this collage of a precious poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, and it truly represented how she mothered him, how my parents treated me, and how John and I aspire to parent our children. When John’s uncle brought this to us, he shared that the frame this is in was actually a wedding gift (and there is a religious painting behind it) for Grandma and Grandpa Bindel. (I have not looked at the painting because the framing is very well done and I do not want to disturb it. Someday I will peak.) This hangs on our wall as an often much-needed reminder to me. I am so thankful and proud to have it!
Dorothy Law Nolte
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.
With what is your child living?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mr Pratz,
I had lunch today with my kindergartener, Caroline Bindel. The lunch monitors were so friendly and interacted so well with the kids.The kids had enough time to enjoy their food at a normal pace and visit with their friends. The system ran smoothly. To be honest, one of my biggest concerns about starting public school was lunch. My niece had a horrible experience in Oklahoma with rushed eating and a silent lunch period, which meant lots of yelling from the lunch monitors. I called last year to ask about your lunch policies, and Kelli assured me that the kids talked during lunch. :-) I am just so pleased with what I saw today! Thank you!

Amanda Bindel

 Caroline at two, mocking the lunchroom rules

 Caroline today, goofing with the lunch monitor

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Where were you?

Where were you when the world stopped turning
on that September day?  (Alan Jackson)
That is the answer so many are thinking of today.
And it, along with these past three weeks of school, now, not as the student or teacher, but as the parent, has me thinking of my old teacher days. My days in the classroom.
And I miss them!
September 11, 2001 — I was still green. Not a young new teacher, necessarily, but certainly new. After seven years in the staffing business, meeting financial and achievement goals I’d set for myself, I realized I was always stressed and always working and not really satisfied. I decided to make my passion my work and zeroed in on books. After researching becoming a librarian,  I realized that teaching for a few years would be my best option. I enrolled in a post-bacc program with Texas State and was lucky enough to be hired at an incredible school in AISD, teaching English and Journalism on an emergency teaching permit. I guess by September 11, I’d have been starting the third week of school. I remember the teacher who knocked on my door and told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, that I might want to turn on the TV. I remember my wonderful friend (then and now) and mentor teacher (then) casually walking into my classroom to sit and us watching the second plane fly into the building. I remember not comprehending it as real. I remember that my students did not either. It was like a movie at that point. I remember going to church with John that evening. To a church we had casually visited over the past few weeks. I guess it was that night that St. Matthew’s became our church. I remember (as I did not know anyone traveling or in New York) that my sister, nearly eight months pregnant, and my then unborn niece, were my biggest concern. How do you raise a child in this kind of world? I wondered.
Now here we are, nine years later. I’ve left that job, had two babies, and am already dreaming of the day I’ll return to work, wondering what that work will be. The original plan of a librarian? Continuing as a classroom teacher? Perhaps in some other school role, using my gifted and talented degree emphasis? Or building on the freelance work I’m doing now?
It’s still several years away, but I find myself dreaming of it, planning for it. I find it hard to imagine this new self in the work world again. Before kids, work was my life. Now, my life is my family, which is not as mundane and free as it sounds. I am really quite busy. How could I ever do both? I’m glad I have a few years to figure that out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

and here's a fun indoor game for hot afternoons

Caroline invented this fun game while I was taking pictures of my new curtains.

I call it "Where's Weirdo."

Player One: Get camera focused and ready to take a wide shot. Count to three and take picture.

Players Two, Three, etc: Hide until Player One counts to three, then poke your head out from hiding to be in the picture.

Good, clean fun!

It started with a fever . . .

A few weeks ago, Caroline ran a high fever for about a week. So, spending a week cooped up at home gave me lots of time to look, really look, at my house. I am not a decorator-type. I'm very much into function over beauty. But that week of looking closely brought me to the realization that I could pretty up a few things around here. Through the power of Facebook, I found some used tables for my living room (from John's cousin). And I started checking in to window treatments. We had faux-wood blinds put on our windows when we moved in, but I hadn't done much to them beyond that. Many of our windows have eyebrows, which were not covered by the blinds. These let in lots of light -- and heat -- but are tricky to cover. I talked to my very stylish house twin neighbor to find out who did her window treatments and got the name of a lady in the neighborhood. She is working on valances for one window set for me now. I found some good deals and got creative for the others.

Our living room is now covered in long panels to cover the eyebrows to the bottom. When closed, the room is dramatically darkened and noticeably cooler. I found these on sale online at JCPenney. The super-long curtain rod came from

We're going with the same approach for my dining room windows. I found solid taffeta panels at for them and expect them next week.

I got a little more creative and went more on the cheap side for our guest bedroom/office. John works in this room a few days a week, and it is also our "server room" (yeah, we're fancy like that!), so the room gets HOT. I covered the eyebrow in there to keep out the heat, and John said it is easily ten degrees cooler now when he's working. My make-shift cornice starts with one of those blank canvas frames that you can find at Hobby Lobby and such. (Be sure to use those 40 percent off coupons if they aren't already on sale for more.) I picked out a yard and a half (and had quite a bit left) of fabric. I looked at the decorator fabrics but ended up going with a regular cotton print. It may not last as long, but I'm sure it will survive longer than when my next redecorating whim comes. I covered the canvas with the fabric (leaving the canvas side facing out so the outside of the window shows white) and stapled it all around. John hung it. Pretty cheap (less than $20) and quick (less than 30 minutes, including hanging).

I do believe that over the course of a year, all of these pretties will pay for themselves in utility-bill savings.

(I need to put something on the wall in this guest room/office, I think.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Country Girl, Suburban Mom

A few facts:

My house growing up was on the school district boundary, so I lived farther away from the school than almost anybody else.


Our house now is on the school district boundary, so Caroline will love farther from her school than pretty much anybody else.

I lived 10 miles from my school. An hour bus ride!

Caroline and I will bike to her school, eight-tenths of a mile from our home, in about eight minutes. It'd take us a minute in the car. Riding the bus isn't even an option as we live too close.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Dancing, breastfeeding, keeping Austin weird. These are a few of my favorite things.


And to kick of National Breastfeeding Month, I got to combine all three. :-) Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies organized a flash mob (though we were a bit more obvious than the flash mobs I've seen on youtube). We rehearsed in a hidden location in the weeks before and then all gathered at Zilker Park to do our thang. About midway through the video, you can see that Caroline looses sight of me and gets upset but is comforted by another dad until I see her. (She had just recovered from a five-day high fever and was still a bit off her game.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

ah, kindergarten

Getting sweet Caroline ready for Kindergarten and reading / discussing parts of Ramona, the Pest (John and Caroline just finished reading it as her bedtime book, but I read a night or two to her) have me reminiscing on my own kinder year. I was not a bad kid -- in fact, I was probably a pretty forgettable kid in that I was mostly quiet and didn't stand out much or get in trouble. I guess my memories of "trouble" stand out more, though.

In my day, we went to kindergarten for half a day (which I really wish we did now!). I had Mrs. Brittain in the afternoons (judging from the class yearbook picture.) I have no memories of who was in my class except for my best friend Jennifer.

I remember, before school even started, playing on the playground at kindergarten registration. I was playing with the son of my mom's friend on the see saw, and I was at the first time ever on a see saw, I think, when he jumped off. BOOM! I think I cried and I think he had to apologize.

Once school started, I remember having my chair taken away from me because I wasn't sitting in it right. I think I had my knee in the seat but was pretty much standing and fidgeting. How would taking my chair away from me help me to learn to sit right?

I remember that we had to write our numbers on Big Chief tablet every day.! It took forever. We had to write, like all the way to 20 or something! It took a ridiculous amount of time and energy. So, one day, when I got to those incessant teens, I had a time-saving revelation. I took out my ruler and made a line all the way down the page. Then I just filled in the second digit of the teens. Genius, really, I was. But Mrs. Brittain did not think so. I got in trouble and had to redo the work.

I remember getting on the wrong bus one day. I am not sure if that was kindergarten or not, though.

And I remember whispering in Mrs. Brittain's ear our vote for class favorites. My best bud Jennifer and I said we'd each vote for the other. I whispered my vote for Jennifer in Mrs. B's ear. But I can't be sure Jennifer did the same for me. She won.

I guess, considering how long ago it was and how little I was, I do remember quite a bit. Oh, and how could I forget the memory that just came to me: Weekly Reader! I just searched and it's still around.

Monday, July 12, 2010

An ending and a beginning

I just completed three intense days of training to become certified as a Godly Play teacher. As we ended the training, we gathered in a circle around a large model of the liturgical church year calendar, each holding on to a piece of ribbon that started as a time line but became a circle. We tied the beginning of what was that line to the ending, creating that circle of time that we see in the church year. Every ending is a beginning.

As I begin a my time teaching Godly Play to the children at our church, wanting to commit my energies to doing that well, and as my daughter begins kindergarten, with my wanting to be available to volunteer at her school, I realized that I had too much going on and was not doing anything well. I did not want to give up my freelance work, so I had to choose a volunteer activity to let go of. And so, after La Leche League of Texas's conference a few weeks ago, I wrapped up my duties as an LLL Leader. My co-Leaders are some of my favorite friends. The moms I got to know over the years are, too. I will miss that work. At the conclusion of the conference, I had the kids sing a special song to the Leaders, their moms. Our conference theme was Breastfeeding: Mothering from the Heart. And we were in Texas. This song sums up La Leche League philosophy, which in a large part, is my parenting philosophy as well.

(tune of Deep in the Heart of Texas)

My mother's breast, for me was best

La Leche League of Texas

For my birth, mom was alert

La Leche League of Texas

With my mom is where I belong

La Leche League of Texas

My daddy's arms are nice and warm

La Leche League of Texas

Wholesome food does my body good

La Leche League of Texas

Use gentle ways to guide my days

La Leche League of Texas

Thank you mom, for all you've done

La Leche League of Texas

I am sure I will write more soon about Godly Play. After the past three day (and preparing for VBS tomorrow!) my brain is full, as is my heart. I am so inspired and challenged by this method of spiritual formation for children. I can't wait to share it, but I need some time to process it.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

$10 Doll Closet

Caroline got Molly: An American Girl doll for her birthday and quickly accumulated several outfits for her doll, thanks to ebay and etsy. That prompted my search for a storage solution for this stuff. I could not sleep well at night with doll clothes just piled on top of the dresser or with the doll just sitting on a shelf or on our couch. "A place for everything, and everything in its place" was disrupted! The American Girl Store has closets and trunks, of course, for a pretty penny. I asked mama friends for advice and got some good ideas. And I was tempted to buy one of the $50 knock-off trunks.

Instead, I took inspiration from a friend's suggestion and made Molly her own closet. The girls and I made a quick trip to JoAnn.

Wooden crate: 9.99 ($6 w/40% off coupon)

12 inch x .5 diameter dowels: .99 (for a pack of six -- only need one)

Caroline picked out a pack of Woodsies stars to decorate with, and I needed to use three of those to wedge the dowel in: 2.49

And the splurge -- a 4-pk of doll hangers: 4.49 (I have ordered ten more from an online store for .30 each, but I still have to pay her 4.50 for shipping.)

For now, accessories (which consist of bloomers and shoes since Molly is in her bathing suit) are in a craft jewelry box Caroline decorated this weekend that is sitting on top of the closet. I'm sure the accessories collection will grow and we will need a larger box, but I saw several at JoAnn.

I will rest better knowing Molly and her clothes are in their place. And I think Caroline will enjoy dressing her up more now that she can see all the clothes at once.

*Another AG tip: JoAnn carries a knock-off line of the dolls and has clothes that fit any 18 inch doll starting at $5.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

John and Irene

(the story as told to me by Grandma Bindel, June 2010)

She had graduated high school, and her parents were sending her to business school in Wichita Falls. There wasn't a lot of money, though, so a family with just two kids with parents both working took her in as a boarder and she helped get their kids off to school. After she'd get them off, she'd go to Mass, and then to her business classes. She became friendly with some other girls who were attending Mass, and one Sunday, they invited her for dinner at their house. She got to know their brother, too, and joined the family often for meals over about a month. John asked her to the pictures, and they had a couple of dates. Then one day after lunch, he asked her to go for a walk and asked her to marry him. And then told her he'd be going overseas. She wondered what she would do with him leaving, but he told her he really wanted to marry her. She told him he'd have to ask her parents, so she called her mom and her mom said she'd fix them a nice meal, to come on over. She could tell he was nervous, but John finally worked up the courage to tell her mom he wanted to marry Irene. Her mom told him he'd have to ask her father, so Irene waited in a bedroom where she could watch and saw her father reading the Sunday paper. John had to say "Mr. Mengwasser" at least three times before her father put his paper down, but she could see the grin on his face the whole time he was playing this little game. When John finally got the words out, after asking if he was Catholic, her father said he'd have to ask her mother . . . and John explained that he had. Then he said he'd have to ask Father Bender. Off they went, John and Irene, to the priest's house in the country. They knocked on the door, Irene introduced John. Father Berber asked if he was Catholic and then invited them in. When they explained they wanted to be married and that John was about to go overseas, Father Bender said he could marry them the day after tomorrow.

And he did.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me! Let's examine these two pictures and all the clues to the fun and joy that is my life. First, Caroline and I baked and iced the cake ourselves. I did not have a seven candle, so Caroline used her Wiki Stix to make me my own custom cake topper of a three and a seven. My darling girl is wearing a shirt that says "Birthday Girl." It would be more appropriate if it said "Party Girl" because that is how she interprets it. She wore it to her own party, and she's since worn it to another friend's birthday party (but it was a swimming party so she only wore it on the ride there, don't worry about her stealing anyone's thunder!) Mary Elizabeth loves cake! Selfish mommy wanted a picture of her and her girls on her birthday, though, before cutting the cake. That did not make Mary Elizabeth very happy.

Caroline did really enjoy the cake. In fact, she told me it was the "best cake ever!" which, in an immature way, makes me really happy since just a few months ago she told me that she loves birthdays..."everybody's birthday...except mommy's." A little probing brought out that she didn't like mommy's birthday because we never have cake on mommy's birthday. We sure fixed that! I'll just recruit my little bakers to bake me a cake from now on!

Thirty-seven isn't a very dramatic age. I can hear 40 creeping up, though, so I have added eye cream to my beauty regimen.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Motivated Moms

I like lists.

I like having a clean house.

I like things that make my life easier.

I have discovered Motivated Moms, and I like it!

I have had my housekeeping routine for a while, but with two kids, volunteer work, freelance work, and our social calendar, it was getting harder to keep up with. I had based my system on Fly Lady's Zones -- cleaning one area of your house each day. For example, Mondays, I'd clean bathrooms; Tuesdays, one of the bedrooms; Wednesdays, one of the living areas; Thursdays, floors; Fridays -- catch-up or work on an organization project. It worked great when I had one easy-peasy kiddo at home. But, like I mentioned, with two plus life, there'd be days I'd look at the bedrooms and think "good enough" and skip them. And with my system, it'd be another month before I got to that room on my rotation again.

I read about Motivated Moms on a message board and decided to check it out. It's $8 for the year -- one calendar per week of tasks for each day, plus tasks for every day. I bought the version with daily Bible readings, too, though I have not implemented that yet. The reviews I read, in comparing it to Fly Lady, noted that it was much more mom-with-kids-at-home friendly. Fly Lady is a fabulous system, but it is easier if your kids are older or at school. The genius of Motivated Moms is that each task can be done in just a couple of minutes. Rather than cleaning the whole bathroom once a week, on Mondays, you scrub the toilets. On Tuesdays, you clean the mirrors, etc. From the two weeks I've been doing it, it looks like you have some daily tasks (laundry, wiping kitchen counters, reading to the kids, etc), some weekly tasks (cleaning toilets, vacuuming living areas, mopping kitchen, etc.), and some occasional tasks that I assume may come up once or twice a year (cleaning the ceiling fans, washing walls in certain rooms, etc.) It's nice to know that if I miss mopping the kitchen one week, say because I'm busy cleaning up vomit elsewhere in the house, the mopping had been done the week before and will be done again the next week.

I'm enjoying the lists so far, but I am a list person. I'd make one myself (and I actually just add to hers with my errands and activities for each day.

If you decide to splurge and fork out the $8 to buy the year of lists, use my link, please. :-)

Click here to visit Motivated Moms.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What a great idea...but it's not mine!

(well, actually, rarely are any of my ideas truly original. this one, though, is not something I am doing...and I don't even know if I have anyone I'd feel close enough with to actually clean each others' homes. Not even my sister. Well, on to the story.)

My first months as a new mom were LONELY! I talk about it and try to share that with with friends who have their first babies. I had a pretty easy baby. She slept well and nursed a lot. I worked until a few days before giving birth, so I didn't really know other moms. We just hung out at home or shopped. My house was the cleanest it had ever been after the first few months, and I made some great routines for us. When my Nanny came to stay with us for a visit, I proudly showed her my cloth diapers and how easy to care for they were. Just toss them in the washer. Set the machine to run a prewash, a hot wash, and an extra rinse. The machine does all the work. I thought she'd be jealous.

"All these machines make it easy. But that sure is lonely," she sighed.

I gasped. Then I chuckled. She summed up my feelings perfectly, but what did my amazing washing machine have to do with that?

When she was a young mama, she told me, she and her sisters and friends got together and washed their diapers together. They'd wash and hang. The kids would play. They'd all have time together. I think I remember her mentioning something about clothes-pinning babies' dress hems to the clothesline to keep them from wandering off...but that's not the point today. She told me how they'd all go to each others' homes and scrub the floors. I was inspired by the community.

Perhaps it was some of her inspiration that brought me to get our dinner co-op going. I realized when we took a week off this month that this group really does make a difference in our family when I ordered pizza one night and picked up a ready-made-meal at Costco another.

I discovered a blog (of people I do not know) today of a group of mamas who get together each week and tackle a home organization or cleaning project together. What a beautiful idea! Nanny Jenkins would be proud. (I need to call her tomorrow.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday: Craft Closet "Office" for Preschooler

I have not done a WFMW in quite a while...both due to lack of blogging time and lack of good ideas. :-) I rearranged the playroom last week, though, and LOVE the idea I implemented for Caroline, so I just have to share. I converted the playroom closet into a preschooler's office. The cute table was less than $20 at Ikea, and I paired it with a Junior Chair from Ikea. Not pictured, to the left, are shelves with trays to hold paints, paper, and other crafting materials. A box on the floor holds playdough. Big girl toys, like Legos and stringing beeds and such, are on the shelves, too. On the wall to the right hangs a white board with Caroline's magnetic tesselations. And the bins on the wall hold other supplies like the stapler, tape, and white board markers. Above her desk is a curtain rod from Ikea to hang her art work. I still have room on the higher shelves of the closet for out-of-rotation toy storage.

Sure, the desk gets cluttered and messy as she works on her creations, but the closet has a door to hide the mess of her works-in-progress. The most important part, though, is that door also keeps away baby sister, the toddler -- who has been known to rip masterpieces and eat art supplies.

Caroline escapes here daily and can truly spend hours working on creations. I love to see what her little mind comes up with to make from scraps she finds around the house. My favorite so far is a case for her rock collection. She took an egg carton, used a pipe cleaner to create a handle, and decorated the outside with pictures. She stores a different rock in each egg spot (it's a dozen-and-a-half carton.)
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Monday, March 01, 2010

Lovely Liturgical Linens

Yesterday, I oriented St. Julian's kids to our new Godly Play atrium! I shared my Godly Play journey with them before I unvieled the room: Before Caroline was even a far off thought in my head, I knew that our church's children's program was Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I remember excitedly telling John what I knew of it, and we figured out that it was the program his mom used when she taught him and his friends in their small emerging church in suburban Chicago. By the time Caroline was born and old enough to enter the children's program, our church was no longer using Catechesis, so I started researching it and ways to implement it at home. That is how I discovered Godly Play, a protestant version of Catechesis, and many of the Montessori principals I have used with the girls at home. When we learned of St. Julian's being planted in our neighborhood, I met with the vicar to ask about his plans for the children's ministry. He said he was open to my suggestions, and we quickly agreed on Godly Play. Meeting in a school hallway, as we've been doing since September, made implenting Godly Play tricky, but we did our best. Now, though, we have a temporary meeting space that does not have to be assembled and disembled every week.

At our orientation, I told the kids about the sacred space of the room and how we will "walk more slowly" and "talk more softly" there. Others are talking to God, so we want to respect their space. I showed them the materials and how the room is set up and stressed that every thing in the room had a place, so to pay attention when they worked with an item so they could be sure to put it back in its place. I felt like I was back in my middle school teaching days, spending the first short week of school on procedures a la Harry Wong (but, hey, it works!) The kids had some time to explore and work with some of our response materials (lighting a candle and remembering his baptism was a big hit with one four year old.) Then we gathered for our Feast. Per Montessori principals, we use real materials as much as possible -- avoiding disposables and plastics. So, we have a beautiful array of linen napkins for each season. (In this picture, you'll notice we are missing white -- because they are now pink thanks to my excellent laundry skills. I will never be asked to be on Altar Guild, that is certain. And the blue of Advent and purple of Lent run together in this photo.) We passed out the napkins and showed how to unfold them to make a place for their snack. Then we passed out glasses. Yes, real glasses. One of the boys, as if pointing out I had made a horrible mistake, said "Um...I think these are glass." Yes, they are, I told him. We don't have to use throw-away cups now that we have more room in our own space. This is better for us and the environment. "And I trust you to be careful." They were delighted! Another boy gave his glass a little clink on the floor to test its durability. "I trust you to handle our materials carefully," I repeated. And with a shy grin, he did.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thanks to Fly Lady, my floors have never been cleaner!

I woke up this morning rested and facing a day with no commitments. I had just finished my freelance assignment. I felt caught up on church and LLL work. Elizabeth and I had no plans. What a great day to get to those neglected "zones" in my house. For those of you not familiar with Flying, the Fly Lady is a resource for keeping your house in tip-top shape. In my early days at home, I read up on her ideas a bit and modified them to work for me. One fifteen minute zone / chore per day -- great! Dressing to my shoes -- not gonna happen. I don't have a stainless steel sink, either, so I don't shine my sink nightly as she recommends. I did decide though, that today I would give my sink a good bleach-soak and scrubbing. I put in the stopper, started the water, and added a bit of bleach. As the sink was filling, I took out the garbage and switched the laundry to the dryer. Then I decided to keep going. I grabbed a garbage bag to declutter my desk zone. Oh, that felt good! At the bottom of the stack, though, I noticed an eye doctor bill that I was supposed to pay a while back. I grabbed the phone and called the doctor to get a busy signal. Hmmm...maybe I dialed wrong. Try again, still busy. I headed to the kitchen to check the doctor's office number on the card on the fridge ................................................................................ and stepped in water! Oh, oh, oh...water still running...overflowing!

It was quite a sight, actually. In the end, my counters and floors got a nice towel down. Wouldn't Fly Lady be proud?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Making my life easier...that's always my plan!

I like to think of myself as aspiring to total efficiency, but I might just be lazy. I could spin my housekeeping and shopping routines as organized and efficient, but really, the whole idea is to make my life easier. And it does. I realize, having had a rough few months with a teething pre-toddler (if you haven't been around a baby in a while, you may not realize that teething makes babies fussy and clingy and learning a new skill, like walking, does, too, so my life the past couple of months, adding in the frenzy of the holidays, has been haggard. Now the baby's walking and the holidays are over...but two more teeth are coming in...) how much I NEED my routine. I'm getting back in that groove now with planned outings with Elizabeth each day, scheduled housework each day, pre-planned activities with Caroline each day. And I'm adding a new dimension to make my life easier -- DINNER SWAP!

Today was our second swap, and I am just pleased as punch! Four other moms and I get together once a week. To that gathering, we bring three of the same meal to share with our friends, leaving one of that meal at our own home. We swap our meals, leaving with three dinners for the week. I cook on Sundays so I have help from John occupying the girls. Then on Monday, I swap meals with my friends leaving my fridge filled with a different meal for each weeknight. My new motto is "I only cook on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

There are so many reasons why this food swap is so great.

1. No witching-hour scramble to get dinner together when I'm tired and both kids are extra-needy and we're all counting the minutes until the daddy gets home.

2. No meal planning. Isn't that the hardest part of dinner? Figuring out WHAT to cook?

3. Easier grocery shopping since I'm only planning four recipes a week and can buy in bulk.

4. Trying new things. Don't you always wonder what other people eat? Now I get to try some of the neat things other families eat!

The dinner swap idea was inspired by several friends who are doing more of a dinner coop from ideas in the book DINNER AT YOUR DOOR. I wasn't able to find enough interest within the two mile/five minute radius recommended, so we did this instead. I actually like getting the meals at once because I have a little more control over what we have each night. And it's an extra play date for the mommas and kiddos!

I do plan to blog more this year, though I'm not making that a resolution or anything. I'm just planning on being more organized and less pulled-in-a-dozen-directions...thanks to things like dinner swap!