Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Making Every Night Date Night!

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Like all most women, when Mr. Superman & I married, I had a "dream list" of how I thought our marriage would be. We would kiss every day, never disagree on ANYTHING, and have a date night once a week (preferably complete with candles and flowers)! Okay, so one out of three isn't bad ;) But just as I have learned that two people with two different brains WILL disagree sometimes (though I must point out that it IS possible to disagree without fighting!), I have also learned that weekly "dinner" date nights aren't always possible with three kiddos and a shortage of babysitters!

July 1st, 2006-- just married!
Actually, for the first four (or so) years of our marriage, we were able to go on dates pretty much whenever we wanted, since we lived right next door to my in-laws! Talk about a built-in babysitting service-- "Hey, honey, I've gotta run into town to get a part for the (car/toilet/lawnmower)-- wanna come along?" "Sure! Lemme just take the kids down to Grandma's house!" We were SPOILED!!! But sadly, all some good things must come to an end, and our weekly date nights and impromptu just-the-two-of-us outings were cut short when Grandma & Grandpa moved 6 hours away :( Since then, traditional "dinner dates" have become special treats generally reserved for birthdays, Valentine's Day, or our anniversary-- especially since there is only one other family nearby that we allow to babysit our kiddos (yes, we are very strict as to who we let spend time with our kids-- unfortunately, parents have to be very careful nowadays, as this world is a lot more treacherous place than it used to be!)

So what do we do? Does this mean I have to settle for only talking to my husband on birthdays and special occasions? No, rather, we make it a point to spend time alone with each other EVERY night!

It's really as easy as 1-2-3:

1) Have a scheduled, early bed time for your kids.

This is the first, and most important, rule! It doesn't necessarily have to be a set-in-stone "be-in-bed-at-9:00-or-you-will-be-turned-into-a-pumpkin", but we do have a general bedtime "guideline" that I aim for when getting the kids ready for bed. For my 18-month-old, it is between 7:30 and 8:00 (although he occasionally stays up for our evening family devotions if he has had a longer afternoon nap)... for my 4- and 5-year old, is is between 8:30 and 9:00 PM. If you have an older child, you may want to allow them to read quietly in their room for awhile, but "lights out" should still be no later than 10:00.

Not only does this make time for you and your spouse to spend time alone, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, kids need a lot more sleep than adults do-- so they should be going to bed several hours earlier than you anyway!

Note: If you have a baby, I cannot say enough about getting him or her on a (loose) schedule (I know, babies are highly unpredictable, but if you follow a general routine in wake-times and bedtimes, it will save your sanity... and greatly help your marriage! No husband OR wife likes to be interrupted mid-cuddle!) ;) With my three babies, I loosely adapted the schedule recommended in "My First 300 Babies"-- again, it's more of a guideline/routine than a strict minute-by-minute schedule when they are newborn! :)

Once the kids are in bed, it's MOMMY & DADDY TIME!

2) Spend time TOGETHER!

"Okay, so it's 9:00 and the kiddos are in bed... does this mean I can go and work on my craft project till Hubby comes in from the garage?" :) Sorry, but NO! (That might be okay once in a VERY long while, but doing that often would totally defeat the purpose of more TOGETHER TIME!) If the kids are in bed, and your hubby is still embroiled in a project (as hubbies often are...), how about going and joining him? (And if you give him some nice, longing looks, he may even cut his project short to come inside and spend time with you!) As a matter of fact, some of my favorite "together memories" are of "helping" my Superman restore his 1953 Chevrolet pickup (or work on one of his many other projects) in the evenings after the kids were asleep! Whether it's holding a wrench as he works on a car, or just sitting beside him with your head on his shoulder, I guarantee you will be having a LOT more fun than if you were holed up in your craft room fuming because he isn't coming to bed yet! ;) 

You may even want to do a special activity together-- maybe a fun game or a special "dinner-at-home"! We're not as good at doing these, but Six Sisters Stuff put together a great list of  "Stay-At-Home Date Ideas" here:

But it doesn't always have to be a "special activity" to be fun! Case in point: two evenings ago, hubby came home from work to find that 6 inches of snow had fallen on our driveways and parking lot during the day! He had no choice but to plow it that evening-- a process that takes several hours. So he told me, "Put the kids to bed early, and come out and plow with me!" As soon as dinner was over, I started the kiddos' bedtime routine (even though it was about an hour earlier than usual-- thankfully they're too young yet to notice! LOL) as he went out and started plowing. All three kiddos were in bed by 7:30, and I bundled up and went out and joined him in the plow truck as we drove in circles around the parking lot and driveways of our building (we live in a parsonage-apartment in our church). I got to lean on his shoulder as he showed off his snow-driving skills for the next hour-and-a-half-- and he even bought me an ice-cream cone when we stopped for fuel at the little gas station on the corner! It was a blast of a mini-date, and it was all while the kids were asleep!!! (Note: if you plan on going outside of the house while kids are sleeping, use a baby monitor to keep an ear on them, and don't go outside of its range-- and routinely go inside and check on them.)

Even if you don't feel like staying up late playing a game, or doing a project together, though, you can still spend time connecting with each other. See #3...

3) Go to bed TOGETHER!

Yes, this is sort of the same thing as #2, but I can't say it enough-- if you want to spend time together, you have to BE together! And it doesn't always have to be something special... just be together! Got it? TOGETHER! :) (Did I say that enough? LOL)  If you take showers in the evening (and it's a good idea, at least if you plan on being in close proximity to each other!), then take them together! You don't have to necessarily be in the shower at the same time, but you can hang out in the bathroom and chat about each other's day while the other one's showering, or blow-drying their hair, or shaving! ;)

Then it's bedtime.... and what you do is your business ;) We like to unwind together most evenings by watching a DVD of something (usually an episode of NCIS, or Psych, or an oldie like Andy Griffith... something that doesn't take all night!), usually while we eat a little snack. Or, we might skip the movie and just chat! ;) (Occasionally we'll even have a serious discussion about something that's bothering one of us... I have found that it's generally easier to resolve things when you're "stuck" in close proximity to each other!) Either way, we always end up feeling VERY close to each other by the time we fall asleep... ;)

Six years and three kids later-- still in love!
And that's how we do "date night" every night! Like I said, we don't always do a "special activity" (though I may try one of those soon!), but we always make it a point to end our day together. No chocolates or roses necessary! (but we do always end with a kiss!) ;)

So what do you do as a couple when traditional "dinner dates" are difficult to come by?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Battle of the Toys, AKA Fourth Time's the Charm?

If you are a parent of littles, you know that the biggest battle of the day is NOT what to wear, or even when to take your shower-- it is what to do with all the toys! Over the years (all five of them since my oldest was born), I have tried every way possible to keep the constantly multiplying little toys, blocks, and trinkets at bay.

First up, the traditional "Giant Toy Box" Method of toy control-- this was a dismal failure from the start. It never failed that, by the end of the day, the box was empty, and dumped out all over the floor, because the toy of interest was ALWAYS at the bottom!

The Bookshelf Method-- in one of it's "more organized" moments... :/

So on to Toy Management Method #2: the "toys lined up on a bookshelf/everything in sight" method. This time, not only did the toys still all end up on the floor, but they NEVER looked neat, no matter how many cute labels I put on the shelves! (Seriously, have you ever met 2- and 3- year-olds that like to line toys up neatly???  Definitely not mine...) So Method #2 bit the dust...

Then I found this at my local Goodwill:

The heavens parted, and light shone down... "Success!" I thought, "It's the best of both worlds... they can easily see and get out what toy they want-- and cleanup just requires throwing the toys back into the bin!" Well, that may have been a good idea, in theory, but somehow every single toy STILL ended up on the floor every time! (Please tell me this isn't just my children!) And cleanup was still a struggle (what kid likes to pick up fifty toys at a time?) So, sadly to say, the bin method became Toy Control Failure #3. :(
Method #4: Divide and Conquer
It wasn't till I finally realized, that, in my urge to give my kids every possible toy that they would enjoy playing with, I was actually burying them in so much stuff that they couldn't have fun! (It doesn't help that my two oldest share a bedroom-- and that this room is also the toy room! Who wants to sleep in a pile of toys?)

I finally (reluctantly) decided that the only way to reduce the number of toys that ended up on the floor every night (and give my kids enough space to actually enjoy their playthings), was to reduce the number of toys they had access to! No, I didn't take all of their toys away (though I may have been tempted once or twice). :) I did,  however, go through the toys (with my children's help-- they were actually more willing than I was to say "goodbye" to some of what I thought were their "favorite" toys!), and culled them down to about half of what there were before.

Then I broke down and purchased white plastic stacking bins from Walmart (they were $2.50- $4 apiece), and two packs of Martha Stewart adhesive chalkboard labels (from Staples). I sorted the remaining toys into "sets"-- building blocks, Lincoln logs, army men, train set, Potato Heads, Duplos, and Matchbox cars. One basket was also allotted to generic toys (toys that don't belong with a "set," like squirt guns, plastic horses, or balls)-- since we still ended up with a giant Tupperware tote full of generic toys, the plan is to restock the small "toy" basket with new, different toys every month or so (the rest stay in the storage room). Each "set" has its own labeled box, and since they are stored on the top shelf of the closet, only one set can be played with at a time! VICTORY!

The few large toys that we kept-- a couple Tonka trucks and a dollhouse-- were now able to be lined up neatly in the bottom of the closet. Now not only can you see the floor in their bedroom (most of the time!), but they can actually enjoy their room now-- one box at a time!

Sorry for the blurry cell phone pic-- these were taken before I got my new camera :/
I've since made the next step in the Adventure Kids' Room plan--
a navy striped curtain for the closet that I hope to show you soon!

Yes, it is still a constant fight to keep the toys from multiplying and taking over the world! But the Divide and Conquer method-- having them pared down, sorted, and, most importantly, having access limited-- seems to be, by far, the most effective way of winning the Battle of the Toys! (at least for my kiddos!)

What is your solution for fighting the Battle of the Toys? Do you struggle to teach your kids orderliness... or do your kids automatically pick up after themselves (and if so, what did you feed them to make them do that?)? How do you balance the desire to give your kids everything, without smothering them in it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's a New Year... Now What?

Is it just me, or does the "new year" bring some sort of requisite "life revamping" with it? When the bustle of the holiday season (somewhat) fades, and the Christmas baubles are packed back into their snug boxes for another year... that is the time that I sit back and look at the empty space and go, "hmmmm... I think I want to do something different here!"

I've always loved soft, grassy greens, but lately I've found myself
being drawn to the soft, rejuvenating blues of the sea and sky.
Source: via Kathryn on Pinterest

At the beginning of January, I chose "FOCUS" for my "word of the year. Hey, if multi-tasking was an Olympic event, we moms would ALL have gold medals, right? But lately I've been realizing that sometimes multi-tasking robs my attention from the really important things-- like my three precious littles who are growing up so fast. Just because I can blog, talk on the phone, fold laundry, and keep three kids from killing themselves at the same time, doesn't mean it's the best idea! Yes, I still find myself checking the email on my smartphone while folding laundry, but when one of my kids needs my attention, I need to give it to them fully. And I need to take certain times of the day to just be with them-- look them in the eye, smile, and play with them! (The same goes for my husband, too!)

Which led me to my next "word of the year": SIMPLIFY. I actually confess that I have done NOTHING yet for after-Christmas decorating. Decorating blasphemy, I know. But, for the first time in my life, I'm actually enjoying some empty space-- some room to breathe. In the past, my decorating philosophy has been "something beautiful to look at in every view". But now, I'm beginning to believe that even the most beautiful things need some breathing space around them to let them shine!

And so I sit, and do nothing (decorating-wise, that is). Well, not NOTHING. I'm actually embarking on a purge-fest-- getting rid of anything and everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Okay, maybe not quite that radical, but I am trying to take to heart the William Morris quote:

(The same goes for life in general, as well-- doing nothing that does not improve or bring beauty to my life!) And so my "word of the year" has actually become two: FOCUS, and SIMPLIFY. Resisting the urge to constantly multi-task, and paying attention to the job/person at hand-- and reducing distractions in my home and life.

Hence the reason that I haven't been around here as much lately-- I've come to accept that this blog, as exciting as it is, must take a "back seat" to my children, home, and our church ministries. :) As much as I'd love to have hundreds of followers here on "A Heartful Home"-- and maybe even bring in some sort of income-- I just don't have the time to write 3-4 posts a week, juggle sponsors, or host a link party (*sigh*)-- at least not and still have meals cooked, dishes washed, lessons taught, and clean clothes for my family. :) (I'm not saying that if you do any of these things, you're neglecting your family-- just that, at this stage in my life, I haven't mastered that yet!) ;) I won't be stopping, but I will be keeping it in it's place as a hobby, and I'll be content with posting 1-2 times a week-- rather than taking time away from something more important, or beating myself up for not posting "enough."

"Focus and simplify"-- that's what my New Year is about! :)

What are your "resolutions" or "words" for the New Year? Any major life epiphanies going on? Or just minor goal adjustments? I want to hear them!

P.S. Another reason for my mid-winter decorating stalemate is that I'm still trying to figure out my decorating style... but that's another post in and of itself :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Christmas Cards That Weren't

I had very high hopes for our Christmas cards this year. I've never gone the professionally printed route (mostly because I'm too cheap... LOL), so each year I spend hours designing the "perfect" Christmas card to remind all of our far-flung relatives what our family looks like ;) This year was no exception-- I laboriously selected the photos, created a layout, and tweaked it over and over again until I was happy (I always have a hard time being "satisfied" with my own work, but this one I actually liked!)

But then, the unthinkable happened. When I hit "print," our printer gave a cough, shuddered, and collapsed. (Well, okay, maybe it wasn't that dramatic. More like, I pressed "print", walked away (fully expecting it to do its job like always), and returned 5 minutes later to find a stack of photos with hideous white streaks across them!) One way or the other, after much research, troubleshooting, and weeping, our printer was declared deceased-- and the soonest we could afford to replace it was AFTER Christmas. :(

This meant that December 25th came and went with nary a Christmas card in the mail. This in itself is, unfortunately, not a new thing for me-- I am known to deem it acceptable as long as the cards are in the mailbox by December 31st! But when the calendar changed to 2013, and my Christmas cards were still giving me the stink eye from my computer, I gave up and went to Plan B-- New Year's cards!

Granted, these are not nearly as fancy-- I literally threw them together (on Microsoft Publisher) in less than 15 minutes! But the best news is, with a blank inside, they double as "thank you" cards for all of the gifts and cards we have received! I think I may have just started a new tradition!!!

So here's my big holiday tip to you: if you want to cut extra stress before Christmas, skip the "Christmas cards"-- just mail a New Year's thank-you card that contains the annual family picture/relative-reminder as well! Hooray!!!

So what is your holiday card M.O.? Do you design your own Christmas card, or do you fork out the money and let someone else handle it for you? Do you adhere to the traditional schedule of pre-Christmas card mailing, or do you (accidentally or on purpose) choose to wait until a different time to send your annual letters?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012: In My Rear-View Mirror

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Wow, where did this past year go?!? I've heard people say that time flies faster as you get older, but I sure hope that's not true, because 2012 went by so fast it made my head spin! So I guess I'll join the "Year-In-Review" club, and refresh your (and my) memory about what went on here at "A Heartful Home" last year!

May 2012:

I started this blog! ;) My very first post was, Home Is Where My <3 Is. My personal favorite post of the month was my first furniture makeover: My "Chair" Lady! My most popular post of the month, however, was my 99¢ Goodwill chandelier-- it has received 893 pageviews so far, and is currently the third most-viewed post on my entire blog! I guess people like crazy-good thrifty finds! ;)

June 2012:
June kicked off a summer of nautical inspiration: from my nautical thrifting finds,
to my nautical bookshelf, and my neutral nautical "mantel"!

June was the month of super rummage sale-ing, and I scored BIG, both in thrifty finds AND in pageviews! My two most popular posts of all time were Thrifty Treasures Monday: What A Haul! (when I found a console table for $5 and five dining rooms chairs for $20), and the reveal of the Chalk Paint Console Table makeover (with homemade chalk paint!)-- both have received over 1,000 hits!

July 2012:

My favorite post in July (and quite possibly my favorite furniture makeover EVER) was the neutral Union Jack/Jacques side table! The most popular posts of July, according to pageviews, were my DIY Seashell Topiary, as well as more thrifty treasures- Ironstone and Old Gates!

August 2012:
August also featured this wicker basket-chair makeover, and my first pillow-making attempt!

August was another month with several popular posts! I showed you how I freshened up my kitchen by changing out the accessories above the cabinets, and confessed to some serious Target envy (& acquired my first ceramic owl!) I also did my first "blog-techie" tutorial, on "How To Truncate Your Blog Posts".

September 2012:

September was another successful thrifting month-- I hit the Junker's Jackpot (aqua Mason jars, old windows, and RH-look-alike pendant lamps, oh my!), plus I found a giant original canvas painting for $5 and a real vintage "Farmer's Market" sign!

October 2012:
I shared my neutral autumn bookshelf, plus a FREE printable fall sign!
October was a month of makeovers-- I turned a humongous green vase into a Pottery-Barn style lamp, spray-painted a pair of ceramic owls (to replace my poor Target owl, who suffered a tragic fate), and rescued my under-sink kitchen cabinet. But the month's most popular post was my first (and only) "recipe" post, for "Cream of Anything" soup mix! (It is also my most-pinned post!)

November 2012:

Call the tabloids! In November, I got a facelift and confessed to a love affair-- though it didn't seem to bother my husband, thankfully! LOL ;) I also shared some pictures of the world's cutest kiddos (though Guinness hasn't ruled on that one yet)

December 2012:
I never did formally "reveal" my blue-and-green Christmas tree (oops...),
but you did get a good glimpse of it in my post on decorating with camouflage!
In December, I didn't blog as much as I wanted to... but I did manage to share an easy DIY Christmas tree garland (that also happened to be FREE)! I also posted a round-up of 10 Christmas Gift Ideas under $10! (Go ahead and pin it for next year-- because if 2013 goes by as fast as 2012 did, you'll need it sooner than you could ever think!)

So there you are-- 2012 in review! (Of course, that's just a basic overview-- check out my Project Gallery for an exhaustive list! Trust me, I'm exhausted just reading back over everything!)

Thanks SOOOO much to all of my awesome followers! Whether you follow through GFC, Linky, or Facebook, you make me so happy! And I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for A Heartful Home! One of my goals is to start a link-up party (woohoo!) I also plan on doing more room reveals-- even if the room isn't quite "perfect" (in my eyes) ;) (Will it ever be?)

Sooooo... what kind of posts would you like to see in 2013? 
Do you salivate over garage sale/thrift store finds? 
Are you more of a craft person? 
Or do you prefer the big picture of room reveals? 
Maybe you'd like to see more "personal"- type posts? 
And why, do people say "a penny for your thoughts", but you put in your "two cents worth"-- isn't that a ripoff???

Either way, happy 2013, folks!!! :D