Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wow! Happy Birthday, Charming!

This beautiful baby is turning 21 today!

This is what he looked like on the occasion of his first birthday!
Superman and I couldn't be more proud of him.  Like all of us, he's had his struggles and his challenges, as well as his triumphs and successes.  He's met them all with dignity and grace.  Really, is there anything else we can ask of these children we've had the privilege of raising?

He certainly doesn't fit in my lap anymore!
Happy Birthday, Charming!  Your father and I are so proud to call you our son.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another Book to Warm Your Spirit as Winter Winds Down

After reading The Little Book, I was fortunate enough to find another gem of a book.  I actually read about this book in the Costco newsletter.  It was their Buyer Pick and  I must confess I am glad to I took their recommendation.  The book I'm talking about is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  In her debut novel, this Alaskan bookseller give us a lovely modern retelling of a fairy tale that might be familiar to many of you, but it is so much more than that.

The author paints a poignant picture of long winter days in early 20th century Alaska...the struggles of homesteading, the challenges of farming in such harsh conditions, and the unspoiled beauty of the land.

If you're looking for a book to cuddle up with as the winter winds down, I highly recommend The Snow Child.  I think you'll be enchanted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Cure for the Winter Blues

I have had a bad case of the winter blues, the doldrums, cabin fever, or whatever you want to call it.  Truly...between grey days and the drama of three kids with various and sundry broken bones and other orthopedic ailments for the past four months, I've really started to feel overwhelmed and underenthused.  "Yippee...another trip to the orthopedist!  I'm so excited!"  "Woohoo!  Another cloudy cheerful!"  Throw in a fender bender and the normal demands of life and I've been in a funk.  I felt like I have been running from morning to night and with never a moment to myself...ever.  I just bounce from one commitment to another until I fall into bed at night, exhausted.  Did I mention I've been in a funk?  Really funky.  (Hey, I'm not proud of it, I'm just keeping it real for you all.)

Obviously, my dearest friend could see my normally cheerful facade fraying at the edges and needed to have my spirit refreshed.  She used one of her precious Paperback Swap credits to surprise me with the most amazing book.  Truly.  I haven't read a book like this book in ages.  In fact, I'm not sure I've read a book like this ever.  Here's the thing, though...I hadn't ever heard of it before my friend mentioned it to me.  Now I can't imagine having missed this is that good.

The Little Book by Selden Edwards was a rare treat...a book that drew me in, avoided the many opportunities for cliches, and kept giving right up until the oh-so-satisfying conclusion.  It was described as a love story, but it was really a life story...filled with philosophy, history, wisdom, and, of course, love.  It was woven together so sweetly, I don't have the words to describe how beautiful this book was. 

It took me a few days to finish this book because my life doesn't allow for hours curled up on a couch, but that was okay by me.  I found myself looking forward to sneaking 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there.  I shoved it in my purse for waiting room time.  I brought it in the car when I headed off to pick up my daughter from youth group.  It is that good.

I urge you to read this was truly a work of art.  It sounds cliche (which the author avoids), but this book is truly amazing.  Oh, and it is a fabulous cure for the Winter Blues.

PS.  A - I know you want me to send it on to Superman for him to read, but I'm just not sure I can give it up.  I am so grateful you thought to gift me with it.  You are an amazing friend.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food for Thought

Love one another and you will be happy.  It's as simple and as difficult as that.

- Michael Leunig

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Last Big Project for Organizing Season

So, I confessed the details of this project to my sister and she burst out laughing at me.  Then she told me I was "special" and I'm not certain she meant it as a compliment, but still, on the off chance some of you are "special", I decided to share with you the last "big" thing I did this Organizing Season.

Our closet.  Exciting, isn't it?
(How is that for an introduction?  I'm hoping you'll be so disarmed by my candor that you won't laugh too hard at me.  Besides, by sharing it this way, Superman will have time to digest it before his next leave!)

Of course, this is the "after"!  Who thinks of taking a before
of their closet?
Are you an early adopter of things like technology or "time-saving" gadgets or "new, improved" old things?  I'm not.  I have to be convinced that the new widget will improve the quality of our lives.  I really think long and hard about whether "new and shiny" will actually do anything to enhance my life.  Will it just be a thrill to get something new or will it really be a help?  Will it only work because I'm paying attention to its newness or is it really an improvement? This is the line of questioning I ask myself when considering bringing new things into our home.  Still, I do adopt cool things:  We have an iPad, I have a smart phone (albeit with Virgin Mobile because I'm anti-contract), we have wireless internet, and we have laptops.  Heck, I even have a Blendtec (but it took me 18 months to decide I'd really, really use it...and I do.)

Were these really going to be better than the cheap-o tube hangers?  What
about the heavier plastic hangers that swiveled?
So, don't laugh when I tell you it took me more than a year to decide to upgrade our...hangers.  Yep, I said hangers.  You know those fuzzy hangers?  They tempted me from the get go.  No tank tops falling off the hangers?  No paper thin t-shirts sliding right off the hangers?  No slippery workout jackets needing to be zipped to stay where I put them?  Buttercup's strappy little summer dresses would actually stay put?  No misshapen cardigans that slipped but didn't fall, so now they have a weird lump?  I didn't believe it.  I held back.  Its just a hanger.   Would they even be strong enough for coats?  They look small.   How much difference could they possibly make?  Still, I continued to be frustrated by trying to keep our clothes on the hangers and looking nice.  Maybe it is because my shoulders are so broad, but my clothes were constantly falling off the drove me crazy.    I was so tempted to get those fuzzy hangers, but I just wasn't sure.

Oh, yes!  They were much better!  (See my old hangers in the first box?)
Finally, though, I'd had enough.  I'd been pricing the hangers and really was having trouble justifying them, no matter how frustrated I was. ($5 for five hangers?  Really?!  Um, no thank you!)   Then, the stars aligned and I walked into my local Costco and saw packs of 35 hangers for $9.99.  I pulled the trigger and bought three boxes.  (I suspect strongly that my tipping point arrived when inexpensive hangers arrived at my Costco.  The correlation between the price going down and my purchasing the hangers caan't be understated!)  

See Superman's shirts?  Look how nice they look!
 I enthusiastically threw myself into the project of rehanging every item in my closet.  I touched every article of clothing in there.  Everything came out, but not everything went back in.  (Changing out your hangers is an amazing way to go through your closet.  You miss nothing!)  It was amazing...everything stayed where I put it.  I was hooked.  I went back and bought more hangers (yes, Superman, I did...I needed to do your side!) and finished the job.  And when I was done, I was happy.  It looked so, well, organized.

Can you tell I have a mom uniform?  I hate shopping, so if I like something, I buy
a few of it...coral t-shirts, grey t-shirts, white t-shirts...notice a trend?
But, here is the real test.  Its been three weeks.  Am I still happy?  Oh my gosh, yes!  I cannot believe how wonderful it is to have my clothes stay put (they stay put even when you're pulling out something next to something else and they used to both slip off -- not any more), to have all my clothes hanging at the same height, and to know everything in my closet is something I wear. 

There you have it, my last big project for Organizing Season.  It was a big "little" project, but it was so worthwhile.   Commence laughing!  (It is won't hurt my feelings.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Valiant!

16 years old today!

 Our beloved Prince Valiant turns 16 today!  He's grown up so much in the past year and this coming year will be even faster (for Mom and Dad!)  This year will bring driving, employment, and junior college, so for now, I'm looking backwards.
Obviously, he couldn't find the movie he was looking for...
1997 - Silly baby!  He really gets into movies.

Still, he was darned cute in his uniform!

2001 - He never really liked baseball, but we tried...

Wild and Crazy Boy!
2002 - Dancing with Buttercup.  Who needs pants?  (at least he wears shorts now!)

He still has his little green friend.

The California ScienCenter was one of his favorite places. 

Who needs musical instruments?  The rubber mallet is an awesome air guitar!

Oh So Cool! (in Mom's blazer and sunglasses!)
2003 - Too cool for school!

7 years ago today...his sister has always been his biggest fan!
2005 - Happy Birthday, Valiant!  We do so love you!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Organizing Season: Tackling Visual Distractions

Have you ever heard of the concept of visual distractions as it applies to the home?  You might well have heard about it if you've dealt with a child who has ADD/ADHD or if you've been involved in getting a classroom ready for 30 students.  They even talk about it in the workplace. As for me,  I had never heard the phrase before a friend mentioned it in relation to her child's ADD and her need to combat visual distraction in his homework zone.    When I heard that phrase, a lightbulb went on in my head.  Finally, an explanation for why I work so hard to keep my house organized.

Visual (n):  Seen or able to be seen by the eye.

Distraction (n.):  something that diverts attention; something that interferes with concentration or takes attention away from something else. 

So, a visual distraction is anything you see that diverts your attention away from something else.  In your home, that can be too much stuff, stuff in the wrong place, stuff that isn't finished, and even not enough stuff or not the right stuff.  Think about it.  A visual distraction is a discordant note for your eyes.  You "see" it all the time, to the point that you can be blinded to everything else.  Alternatively, you can stop "seeing" it to the point that you don't notice it at matter how big and distracting it really should be.

Think of it like this: Driving down a country road, you see trees and greenery. The occasional cow or horse brings a smile to your face. You notice actually see more of what you're looking at. Looking around is actually calming. Driving in the city, on the other hand, you're bombarded by billboards, street signs, speeding cars, and storefronts. You literally can't take it all in, so you start shutting it out. You deliberately "don't see" what you're looking at because it is all too simply can't process it all, so you don't. Definitely not relaxing.

The same thing happens in our homes. In our hurry-up lifestyles, clutter-filled surfaces become distractions so great we don't allow ourselves to see them out of self-preservation. The flyer from the kids' school, permission slips, homework to be looked over, the newspaper, the magazines, the stack of bills, yesterday's dishes, the overflowing trashcan, the pile of clean clothes, the pile of dirty clothes, the toys on the floor, the carpets that need to be vacuumed, the dust on the shelves, the smudges on the mirror, the cluttered bathroom counters, the dirty all feels like too much, so we stop looking. We have to in order to go about our business with any sanity. The only problem is that eventually, as we avoid dealing with the visual distraction, the space we can still "see" becomes so small, we don't fit in it.  So we head out...we shop in nice big clean stores...we eat in clean restaurants...and suddenly, are homes aren't homes anymore.  They're way stations...

Now, I'm truly not OCD and no one in my family has been diagnosed ADD/ADHD (I'm not swearing that no one suffers, though.).  Through trial and error, though, I have discovered that I simply cannot function in a house with a lot of visual distractions.   It takes very little messiness to throw me for a, I try not to let that happen.   Even more importantly, I've discovered my children function far better with orderliness...clean lines, empty surfaces, etc.  For example,  I can't watch a movie with my family if the room we're to sit in is messy.   I can't sit down to read in a room that needs attention.   I simply can't relax.  I can't sit down to study in a room that is untidy.  (Man, oh, man, was my house clean when I went back to school to finish my degree!)  I have trouble writing blog posts if my desk is messy, even if it is messy for a good cause.  (Hey, it can happen!) 

For me, a harmonious home is all about minimizing visual distractions for all of us.  I like to decorate with clean lines (no ruffles, please), simple patterns, and colors that flow.   Let me be perfectly clear:  IT IS NOT ABOUT PERFECTION.  It is all about making a home that truly works for you, not one that you work around.   The macaroni and cheese room was fun for the kids, but it got very tiresome very quickly.   Suddenly, I realized I was working around it...I wasn't enjoying it at all...time for the orange to go.  Now the room works again.   Have you ever wondered why you feel so good after tackling a big clean-up project?  Being productive feels good, but looking around and seeing everything in place actually calms your mind.  Think about know I'm right.

So, what does this have to do with Organizing Season in my house this year?    Let's face it, we all have weird situations we face when attempting to organize our own homes.  Each family is unique.   In my case, 

I find myself amused to see hamster supplies next to cat supplies...I don't know why.
Part One:  The Garage - I know, it sounds weird, so let me explain.   Pulling into the garage everyday, I was always frustrated by how much disorganized clutter I had to walk through to get into the house.   We have seven mammals that need to be cared for, which means I'm always struggling to deal with pet supplies.  (I looked for "before" pictures, but, for obvious reasons, I don't have a lot of pictures of our garage...I mean, it is the garage.)  We had trash cans and recycle bins and dog food bins and cat food bins and bins for the cat litter and bins for the hamster bedding and none of the bins went together.   Some rolled, some didn't.  Some were big, some were little.  It was really inefficient, too.   In order for the kids to get to them, they were always pulled out of place and left in the way.  (Translation:  left out for me to deal with!)  With Superman overseas, I have been dealing with the garage more than ever before and it was making me crazy.   When Superman is home, I don't "see" the garage.  It is his domain.  These days, however, I'd want to head out to do a quick project and I'd be so visually distracted that I couldn't focus on my intended project that I'd spend two hours cleaning, organizing, reshuffling, whatever, in a vain attempt to make it all work and it didn't. 

Clearly labeled.
I finally conceded defeat and got rid of all the mismatched bins.  I liked our recycle bins (lids keep the animals out), so I kept those.  But I invested in new pet supply containers.  Then I labeled everything with vinyl from my Silhouette (still love that machine!) and set it all out. 
Cutter free...and definitely usable.
Now when I pull into the garage, this is what I see.  I feel happier when I walk through the door into the house because I didn't have to walk the gauntlet of "stuff I should be dealing with".  I've dealt with is done...and I like it.   My solutions were simple and sustainable, even for teenagers.   Best of all, I'm pretty certain Superman will approve!

To be continued...

Part Two:  My Closet!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Organizing Season Always Involves Decluttering

The best part of Organizing Season is how the act of decluttering helps me align the real me with the "vision of me" I have.  Have you ever thought about it like that?  All that stuff we hold on to represents the vision of ourselves we have, but doesn't necessarily mesh with our reality.  We can go two ways.  We can change our reality to match our vision of ourselves or we can change our vision of ourselves to match our reality.  In my case, it seems that this time of years is all about changing my vision to match reality, which means I shed those things that just aren't "real".  Does that make sense?  Think about it for awhile.  Let it bounce around.  You hold onto stuff that you don't use because it is part of an unrealistic vision you have of yourself.  

Enough serious stuff.  You'll be thinking about that idea all day, I promise.  So, let's move on to the nitty gritty of my Organizing Season week.

Getting organized just wouldn't be complete without a hefty bout of decluttering.  Especially after the holidays, it always feels like we're surrounded with too much stuff.  From holiday decorations to layers of clothing to undone projects, it all just starts to feel like too much.  I feel weighed down by my own expectations for myself.  I just start to feel like my stuff owns me.   Do you feel that way, too? 

Fortunately for me, last week a local charity called to let me know they'd have a truck in our neighborhood Tuesday and offered to pick up anything I'd have for them.  Woot!  Now I had a deadline--just what I needed!  They're wonderful motivators.

The first thing I tackled was 13 years worth of scrapbooking materials, of which I'd used none in the last six and half years.  Yep, you read that correctly.  I have not done any scrapbooking since we moved to Eastern Washington.  Without my friends in California, I didn't enjoy doing it anymore.   Still, I held onto the materials and equipment for "someday".  Well, this year, I finally accepted that my vision of myself as a person who made amazing scrapbooks for my children was not ever going to become reality.   Paper is just not a medium I am creative working in.  (Hopefully, my children won't be scarred for life.) 

The scissors were actually dusty!
The scrapbooking stuff had to leave.  I didn't need the guilt anymore.  Three Trader Joe's bags of stuff had to leave, to be exact.  This was after I'd sent two boxes of paper to my sister last year.  Rewriting your vision of yourself takes time.   For me, it has been a process of letting go of that "ideal" takes some honesty to say to yourself, "I'm just not going to do that...ever."

Idea books, pages, etc...
Fortunately, my bff Andi loves to scrapbook, make cards, and generally create beautiful things with paper, so I gave it all to her.  (She was thrilled, I promise!  I wasn't just dumping stuff on her.)

Paper trimmer, punches, stickers, the works!
She said I had tons of good stuff, we didn't have as many duplicates as she had expected and she'll pass the books and some duplicate supplies onto other ladies who have interest.  All my unused stuff will finally get used.  That is a fabulous feeling.

Still, none of this got me any closer to stuff for the charity truck.  Next up was my fabric stash.  Yes, I've been sewing a lot (for me!) lately, but there is still a ton of stuff I will never use.  Tastes change, kids grow-up, etc.  I don't have babies...I won't use some of this fabric for anything and someone else might...but, not if I leave it in my stash.

Tastes change...
All this fabric just got added to the pile.

A huge bag of fabric leaves the house...

Pretty cool, right?  I hope people get to make wonderful stuff out of this fabric.

Three bins that were too full were culled into one bin that isn't full.

Three bins of holiday decorations was cut down to one and one of the bins ended up get donated.  Holiday decorations?  Really.  I don't know about you, but my holiday decorating changes as my household decor changes.  Things I loved when my kids were little don't seem to "fit" in my house these days.  After a few years of not using them, I realized it was time to cull the decorations.  I also got rid of a ton of gift bags.  (Hey, Tricia, some of them were yours from 12 years ago!  That is how long I held on this stuff!)

Anyone need a punching bag?
I was on a roll.  I got onto Skype and said, "Hey, Honey, may I get rid of your punching bag?"  He said to check with Valiant, so I checked with Valiant.  "Hey, Valiant, you know that punching bag you NEVER use?  May I get rid of it?"  As you can imagine, he didn't care, so the charity truck is going to be picking up a punching bag, too.  (Boxing gloves included!)  A sewing machine carrying case, curtains panels, a bowling ball, picture frames, and a cork board are just some of the things in the pile.

That is a lot of stuff that is no longer in my house!
I don't want to bore you, so I'll stop for now.  I thought you'd get a kick out of seeing just how much the charity truck is picking up in the morning.  It goes all the way up the stairs to my front door.  What do you think?   All that stuff is leaving my house for good!  How cool is that?

P.S.  Oh, do you see the big bag of hangers?  Wait til you see what we did!  Did I mention I love Organizing Season?

It might a month late, but Organzing Season has arrived in the Nagle5 household!

Typically Organizing Season coincides with the de-Santa-fication process and runs right along with the New Year.  This year, however, Organizing Season was delayed by Superman's departure, a bad case of the flu, some broken bones, and a small car accident.  Still, it arrived and I've been busy embracing all that Organizing Season entails.  Rethinking projects, rethinking belongings, rethinking processes.  The goal?  A smoothly running home, a clear mind, and a simpler flow overall.  My posts this week will be sharing the progress I've made in the past ten days or so.  I hope you find a little inspiration to tackle those niggling projects that are always right there in the back of your mind...waiting for you to get them done.

Let's get started with Superman's Christmas present.  I couldn't show them to you before the holidays and I couldn't tell you about them.  It was the most difficult secret to keep.  Why?  a)  I'm just not a good secret keeper and b) this was a fantastic secret.  Let me show you:

Before November of 2011, this was the most recent official picture of our three children together.  Notice that Buttercup still has all her baby teeth!  That would be because she was four!  Yes, I've been remiss in having pictures of the kids taken period, let alone taken together.  So, this year I decided to surprise Superman by having an updated picture of the kids taken, as well as having individual pictures of each of them taken.  (We're home schoolers, so we don't have "picture day" every year...I'm a slacker that way.)

Cute kids, aren't they? 

So, imagine his surprise when he opened this at Christmas!

Not such little kids any more, are they?  The baby in this picture is almost the same age as the big kids was in the first picture...

The kids were so touched because Superman got tears in his eyes when he opened the made keeping the secret worthwhile.  Did I mention I had individual shots taken of each of the children, too?

Our beloved Prince clearly a man now.

Our spirited Prince Valiant...growing up so quickly.

Our beautiful Princess Buttercup...a baby no more.

(To those of you who know us in real life, I couldn't even send him a copy of the Christmas card/photo you all received via snail would have spoiled the surprise.  I'm telling you, it nearly killed me!)

So, what does this all have to do with Organizing Season?  Having the pictures taken was only the beginning. I needed to get these picture framed and hung. Superman knew the surprise...I had no good reason to not finish the job, so last week I got right to itl.  I ushered in Organizing Season by getting these gorgeous photos framed and hung on the walls.  I love how they look in our bedroom...Superman just had to trust me, as he won't be home on leave for a while.   

A win-win, don't you think?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hard Work...

Hard work isn't always pretty...

 Hard work isn't always fun...

Hard work isn't always cool...

Hard work is sometimes awkward...

Photo credit:  Crossfit509
Hard work isn't always hard...

Hard work is isn't always lonely...

Photo credit:  Crossfit509
Worst of all?  Hard work almost never yields immediate results.  But let's be real here.  Hard work teaches us perserverance and dedication.  We fall down and get up again.  And, finally,

Hard work helps us reach new heights...

and they are all the sweeter because of the effort that went into reaching them.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Quick Fix for a Bentwood Rocker

I love Bentwood rockers.  I have had two and think they're just so pretty.  The one I currently have has been moved all over the house, filling in whenever I need extra seating in a room.  After being in a high usage area for maybe too long, I brought it downstairs to protect it.  Unfortunately, I think I was a little too late.  This poor rocker couldn't handle the pressure anymore and its cane seat finally gave up the ghost.

I just couldn't bear to get rid of the chair, but I didn't really want to learn to recane it right now.   I'd seen "before and after" shots where people had reclaimed rocking chairs and thought we could do it.    I pulled out the cane seat and discovered that there is a lip there that can hold a thin board.  Now my biggest problem was a lack of skill with the jigsaw to create a board in the necessary shape.  (I'm pretty handy with the scroll saw, but controlling the hand-held jigsaw isn't one of my strengths...yet.)  Once I explained what I was trying to accomplish, my beloved Superman came to my rescue.    We headed to Home Depot, picked up a small sheet of 5mm underlayment, then headed over to Hancock fabric to pick up a square of foam, and some adhesive to make the foam and the underlayment stay friends and we were ready to salvage this chair. 

First, Superman traced the shape of the seat using the broken cane seat, then he cut out the board and refined the shape with the sander.  Using the board as a template, he traced the shape onto the foam and cut it in the appropriate shape using a bread knife.  At that point, he was ready to glue the foam onto the board...a little spray adhesive sprayed onto the board did the trick.  Oh, he's says it really isn't movable once the foam meets the glue, so keep that in mind.   (He's not big on stopping for pictures, so you'll just need to use your imagination for this process.)   I was ready to cover the cushion with fabric I already had, but he ran with that, too.  A staple gun and a few minutes later, he had the cushion ready to go.  He finished the project off with a few finish nails to attach the seat to the rocker and, viola, my Bentwood rocker is one again usable.   I think the entire project (not including the trips to Home Depot and Hancock Fabric) took about 1/2 hour, maybe 45 minutes.

Not only that, it is sturdier than ever.  This is the xBox chair these days, so it is withstanding the enthusiasm of teenagers.  Need I say more?

One note:  I think I need to hot glue a piece of cording around the seat to camouflage the edge, but I haven't gotten around to it.  I thought you'd like to see the down and dirty, though, to make it easier to picture the process.