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A Challenge: Striving for a Less Cluttered Home

2012 July 3
by Sarah

We semi-recently rearranged our dining room in an attempt to de-clutter our main living areas. The dining room had become the catch all room and I was tired of it. In addition to the normal dining room table, the room also held my desk, two dog kennels, a bookcase, the car seat, and a highchair. It is not a large room.

Out went the desk first. Or rather, up went the desk to the office, and down to the basement went the other desk that had been in the office. The bookcase also got sent to the basement and we replaced it with a new, narrow, tall bookcase. We brought down a console table from our bedroom in place of the old desk and rearranged the dog kennels, car seat, and highchair. I still don’t like the kennels in the dining room, but we cannot think of any better place for them in our small cozy house. We also brought in some new art for the previously mostly bare walls. More on those changes later.

I can’t tell you how much this de-cluttering and rearranging helped improve my attitude about our small space. So when I started to see multiple blog posts popping up about simplifying the home and the problems with too much “stuff,” I was nodding along.

I’ve decided to follow Stephanie’s challenge and slowly work through my home in little chunks each day, donating and throwing out the stuff that’s doing nothing but taking up space. She’s set up a 40 day plan with a goal to get rid of 10 items each day. Yeah, that’s 400 things at the end of the two months! That sounds like a lot, but really, I bet I have more than 400 things I could easily be rid of. (Our basement is a disaster zone and the place where stuff goes to sit out the end of its days.) The plan is designed to take about 30 minutes each day. I can totally do that! Plus, it doesn’t include weekends and some days won’t apply to me (like tackling the second bathroom… I wish!).

Would anyone like to join me? Technically the challenge started yesterday, but it’ll be easy enough to catch up or just start when it works best for you. Like I said, the schedule is flexible. I’ll be posting a half-way update on July 30th and a challenge wrap-up on August 27th. If you’re a blogger, post your own updates on your blog and come back to link-up here. If you’re not a blogger, feel free to give an update in the comments on those posts.

You can also join the official Facebook page and use the hashtag #8weekdeclutter on Twitter.

Two Reunions and a Soccer Game

2012 July 3
by Sarah

I can hardly believe it’s already been two months since I took Sam back to Illinois by myself for a long weekend trip. Our trips back to my hometown to visit family are usually focused around holidays and family with little time left to catch up with old friends. This spring, we decided the baby and I would plan a visit where we could take time for those neglected pleasures.

The main reason for the trip, however, was to watch one of my niece’s senior year soccer games. When first my oldest nephew and then oldest niece graduated from high school, Jeff and I were there in the gymnasium to celebrate the accomplishment with them. This year, with my next niece graduating, was more complicated with a squirmy baby to consider. We decided it was best to skip her graduation ceremony and come for a soccer game instead.

Since we live so far away, we’ve only gotten to see two other games during her high school career. This year Jesse was captain of the team and she won a full scholarship to play for the local community college team next year. I would be proud of her skills and hard work regardless, but it’s extra fun to see her excelling at a sport that I also love and played for years.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

We left at nap time on a Thursday and made the 5-hour-ish trip without incident. I was a little nervous about my first car trip with just me and the baby, but all was well. We even managed to only stop once for a Sam break! I have to add that, while sad to miss seeing Jeff, my parents were thrilled to have us staying with them. Staying with my parents = more grandbaby time. We usually stay with my brother because Jeff is allergic to my parents’ cat.

Friday was a full day. Too full as we found out by the end of it. We headed out first thing in the morning to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Katie, who has recently moved back to the area after spending three years in Texas. We have always been able to pick up again like no time has passed, no matter how long the interval has actually been. Her continuing friendship is one of my greatest gifts.

It was lovely to chat, meet baby Hannah (who is just 4 weeks older than my Sam), get to know big 3-year-old Abigail a little bit, and see their new house and property. We did our best to photograph the kids together; you can judge for yourself how that turned out.

After a delicious lunch with the H ladies, I drove around a bit to give Sam a short nap before seeing another old friend, Ellen. Ellen and I were school friends throughout junior high and high school, and she is one of the few friends I’ve kept in close contact with since that time. It had been about three years since we’d seen each other last. Sadly, we didn’t think to get any pictures and I had to rush off at the end to get to Jesse’s soccer game.

I again drove around for a very short time so Sam could get a nap. He was used to two naps for a total of three hours of daytime sleep and had only gotten two half hour naps. Originally we thought the game was at 6:45, but we found out that morning that it was really at 5:00. That was unfortunately very poor timing for us. We were late to the game because I just had to let the poor baby sleep a little, and we arrived shortly before half-time and right after Jesse scored a very pretty goal. Thankfully the local TV station was there so I got to see her goal on the news later that night.

Jess is #24 above.

Oh, and her school colors are not pink. This game was part of a fundraiser for breast cancer research, hence the special shirts and pink ball.

Sam was cranky the whole time, poor kid, but grandma took him on a walk around the field in a borrowed stroller and he seemed to sort of enjoy that. (“Enjoy” might be a bit strong.) His aunt wanted to hold him, but he would only cling to me and wasn’t giving out any of his usual smiles. Too late, I discovered that he was mostly hungry and would have been much perkier if I’d fed him at the half. Ah, well, live and learn.

There is way too much plaid going on in that photo. ^

Saturday was much more relaxing, thank goodness. The baby ended up taking a 5-hour nap (!) to make up for the day before, and I accidentally took a 4-hour nap myself. Yeah, think we were tired much? After dinner we headed out to introduce Sam to my grandma for the first time. We also stopped at my aunt and uncle’s house as they live very near my grandma. It’d been several years since I’d seen any of them so it was really good to have a visit, albeit a short one.

Sunday brought church and more quick visits with old friends (one of whom–Kate–got Sam to belly laugh when he was being sparse with the smiles for strangers) before packing up for home, sweet Ohio.

Playing with Papa before church


Helping Papa wind the clock

We also made good time on the return trip. I’m extremely thankful that Sam has proven to be an easy traveller thus far.

Blueberries for Sam

2012 June 23
by Sarah

Jeff went blueberry picking this morning and brought us the beautiful, blue bounty of berries you see above. Mmmmm…

I wanted to go this year, but you have to get there early if you want good picking and it’s just not practical with the baby. He went last year without me too since I was 8 months pregnant and not moving in the heat so well. Maybe next year?

Sam loves blueberries almost as much as his mama. In fact, he wasn’t doing so well with self-feeding because he enjoyed throwing food more than eating it… until he tried blueberries. Blueberries = magic. He still throws food, but it’s not his first response anymore.

Blueberries for Sam from Sarah on Vimeo.

Life is good. :)

Odds and Ends (and Thankfulness)

2012 June 4
by Sarah

Remember how I’ve said before that if mama isn’t sleeping, mama isn’t blogging? Yeah, well, now you know why I’ve been a bit absent around here lately. This past week Sam had a particularly bad night for some unknown reason. I was completely zonked the next day. I napped during both of his naps, which I never do anymore even though he still isn’t sleeping through the night on a normal night. However, a friend encouraged me to keep up with my blogging so here I am. Am I still tired? Oh yes. Do I feel like I might have an emotional breakdown at any moment? Nope, not anymore.

By the way, this post is going to be full of random, unrelated things. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I got a Kindle about a week and a half ago and, I must say, I love it. I was wary about eReaders when they first came out, but now I find it very handy to have while trying to read and nurse the baby at the same time. I got hooked when I first started checking out Kindle books on my iPod and iPad from the library. I love the library, but am horrible at returning books on time and have racked up quite a number of fines in the past. Checking out eBooks is perfect for me! Reading on an LCD screen in okay for a little while, but I started to tire of it plus you can’t read outside that way. When a great deal for a refurbished basic Kindle came across my inbox, I jumped on it. $79 for a Kindle? Eh, not sure. $49 for a Kindle? Yes, please!

Back in February, Downton Abbey fever was sweeping the country and our group of friends. We, along with three other couples, thought it would be fun to watch the season finale all together. That spark of an idea turned into a 3-course dinner party based on the final meal served onboard the Titanic. It was like Christmas in February.

Our Downton Abbey dinner party menu:

First course: Cream of Barley soup
Second/main course: Steamed asparagus, creamed carrots, chateau potatoes, roast chicken, roast beef, rice pilaf, bread
Dessert: Waldorf pudding and French vanilla ice cream

Does that not sound amazing? Let me tell you, it was amazing.

We all pitched in to make the meal, but our friend Jenn put together the menu for us. Everything was homemade, even the butter! I contributed the chateau potatoes, waldorf pudding, and wine. The pudding (which is actually a custard) gave me the opportunity to bake using a water bath, something I’d been wanting to try.

Sadly, we only got one picture of half our group that night. The other half of us were busy wrangling babies and then enjoying our meal.

I have this strange patch of hair at my forehead that has been growing in fresh. I was very confused at first as to what was going on, but I finally figured out these were “baby hairs.” My hair got pretty thick during pregnancy (thank you, hormones and prenatal vitamins), and then after the baby was born a bunch of it fell out. Apparently a large section of said hair was at my forehead hairline, including my lovely cowlick. It’s grown about 3 inches now, but it still likes to stick straight out from my head. Chalk this up as another one of those strange baby-related things that no one tells you about.

This year our church is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Our theme is “The Lord’s Faithfulness: Our Heritage and Hope.” March 4th was the official 50th anniversary and during that morning’s services they showed the following video put together by our friend Adam who just happens to be a professional filmographer:

Faith Bible Church 50th Anniversary from Faithful Bull Productions on Vimeo.
Music by Chad Crouch of

We are so thankful for all that FBC has meant to us over the last seven years. God has been faithful to us and to this body of believers.

Some friends told us about a new show and we’ve been totally hooked. It’s hysterical, witty, and full of good musical numbers. Thankfully it’s on Netflix streaming since we don’t have cable. You are probably wondering the name of this show, huh? It’s called Phineas and Ferb. Oh, and it’s target audience is 10-year-olds. Yes, we are addicted to a kids cartoon, BUT it’s like Pixar in that they include stuff for adults that kids would never get.

Because of my tired and fragile state on Thursday, I missed out on posting my monthly Thankful Thursday post. I don’t want to miss this practice of gratitude I’ve committed to so I’m tacking it on here.

This past month I have been thankful for:

  • a last minute opportunity to make a little extra money
  • flowers in bloom
  • my new fine feathered meal companions
  • a huge, exciting answer to prayer several years in the making for some dear friends
  • visits with family
  • picking up with old friends like we were just together yesterday when its really been years
  • beautiful spring weather and summer thunderstorms
  • opportunities to celebrate birthdays with friends young and old
  • my two wonderful mothers who are blessings to me and my little family
  • the chance to get out of the city, soak up some country air, and see the stars clearly

The new view from my dining room window:

My [newly, severely pruned] butterfly bush in the morning sun:

Sam is Nine Months Old

2012 May 15
by Sarah

I was doing so well getting this update out on time, then I ran short adding pictures and video and we went out of town. It’s been two weeks now since I wrote this letter.

I’m writing letters to my first-born at his major milestones, which so far have been 3 months and 6 months.


Dear Sam,

You hit the 9 month milestone a few days ago, and these last few months with you have been so much fun. You are turning into a little boy right before our eyes, and are still as happy and smiley as ever. As your daddy likes to tell people, we feel like we hit the ‘baby jackpot’ with you.

You are so much more interactive and mobile now and gaining independence, though you are also becoming more of a mama’s boy. You enjoy sitting and playing with toys by yourself for short periods, especially if I put music on for you.

Speaking of music, you laugh and smile when I turn it on, and it often calms you down if you’re fussy. Even one of the ladies in the church nursery discovered this trick. You turn to look toward the source of the sound when I first turn on music, and often will turn again to look or give a little laugh when a new song starts.

You also often laugh and smile when we pull out books to read, which just thrills this mama’s book-loving heart. You’ve learned to turn pages and open flaps, and you enjoy touch-and-feel books and lyrical books like Dr. Seuss among others.

Reading with Daddy from Sarah on Vimeo

Your favorite toys are balls, blocks, and stuffed animals. Just in the last few weeks you’ve started to really enjoy taking things out of bigger containers. Anything that you can throw, has an interesting texture, or makes noise also makes a great toy. The puppies continue to be a great source of entertainment, and their toys are more interesting than your own.

Sometimes I look at you and see your daddy looking back at me. People have long said you are a miniature version of your dad, but I see it more and more in startling moments. Certain looks, certain smiles look just like your daddy’s baby pictures.

You give great hugs, but really only to me. I love the way you wrap your little arms around my neck and reach up to finger my hair. GramGram informed me that her little brother, your great Uncle Bruce, used to do the same thing when he was a baby! When you are sleepy, you especially like to gently play with the hair on my neck. And when you nurse lately, you’ve been constantly reaching for my hair and face as well.

You give me kisses now too and I can feel your two new bottom teeth against my cheek when you plant one on me. You’ve learned to wave bye-bye and always wave goodnight to Daddy each night when he leaves your room.

Hugs may be reserved for Mommy, but Daddy gets your biggest belly laughs. He knows just how to get you to squeal with delight and give us your whole-face grin and infectious laugh. You’re ticklish all over–feet, sides, belly–and that’s another great way to coax giggles out of you.

At your 9 month check-up with Dr. F, you weighed about 19 lbs. (25th percentile), measured 28 inches long/tall (50th percentile), and 17.5 inches in head circumference (25th percentile). This is the first time you haven’t outgrown your clothes a month of ahead of time. You’re still wearing a lot of your 9 months clothes, but fitting some of your 12 months things as well.

You’ve been rolling over for awhile, but finally got the strength to roll over on your curved changing table pad. You do not like being on your back and love to try to roll over mid-diaper change. You’re not crawling yet, but you are creeping around on your belly pretty well. You get closer to real crawling every week and I predict it won’t be long now. You can pull yourself up to standing by holding onto someone’s fingers, but haven’t figured out how to do it using furniture or anything else. Walking with help is wobbly, but fun and you’re taking bigger steps all the time. We do laps around the coffee table and dining room table, and you really enjoy it.

Baby Steps from Sarah on Vimeo

We’ve learned you are a sympathy crier in the church nursery, but the paci always seems to help. You do great on Sunday mornings, but will often burst into tears if you catch a glimpse Mommy and I don’t pick you up right away.

I tend to focus on the things that you do in these letters I write to you, but here are some things you don’t do. You don’t drool or have the usual baby instinct to put everything in your mouth. You have never rolled over more than once consecutively in either direction. In fact, you’ve still never been keen to roll from belly to back; you just don’t like being on your back for very long.

We finally figured out a sleeping routine that works well for all of us. You go to bed at 9pm so that you get to spend some time with Daddy when he gets home from work. You’re usually up twice in the night (this part doesn’t work out so well for Mama) before waking up for the day around 9am. Around 8 months we figured out some nighttime sleep issues together and you were only waking up once to eat, but then you got a little cold and cough and you’ve been back to your old twice a night wakings. You take a long, usually 2 hour nap at about 11:30/12:00 and another usually hour long nap about 2.5-3 hours after waking up from your first nap.

We embarked on the journey of introducing solid food between 6 and 7 months, though I didn’t give it to you consistently until around 8 months. We’re mostly following the ideas in a book called Baby-Led Weaning. That means you’ve never had baby cereal or jarred baby purees. I have a food grinder to make homemade purees, but I’ve only used that a few times. You’ve learned quickly to take your own bites and chew regular table food. So far you have tried the following foods: banana, pear, apple, applesauce, yogurt, cheerios, grapefruit, carrots, hummus, sweet potato, regular potato, broccoli, chicken, cheddar cheese, rice, strawberry, pasta, and corn. So far your favorites seem to be pears, carrots, banana, and sweet potato, though the only things you haven’t been too keen on are broccoli and pasta. You still nurse like a champ though you’ve gotten a lot more efficient. We’re well on our way to my goal of nursing to at least 12 months.

You keep up a good chorus of babbles and screeches. Your favorite thing to say is “da, da, da, da, ba!”, and while you don’t associate your sounds with anyone or thing yet, Daddy does so love to hear you say “da da” over and over again.

Babbling from Sarah on Vimeo

Little man, you are our pride and joy. Your daddy and I are having so much fun watching you grow up.


PS: Here are some more pictures from the last three months…

Trying your first solid food, banana:

7 months old:

The dogs have quickly learned to gather ’round when you eat:

Enjoying a warm early spring day:

8 months old:

A typical day of play with your sisters close by:

Not showing mama your two bottom teeth:

9 months old:

Best buds, Sammy and Daddy:

Things I Have Learned as a Mother

2012 May 13
by Sarah

Today is my first official Mother’s Day. While the day is mostly beloved, many people have mixed feelings about the holiday. I want to acknowledge those people who may have recently lost their moms or a child, those wish to be moms but aren’t due to singleness or infertility, or those with other reasons to have mixed feelings today. On a related note, I’ve read a couple interesting takes on this holiday recently that I want to share with you: Will You Remember Her? and Reflections on Mother’s Day.

Though I am still a novice at this motherhood thing, I want to record and share some of the things I have learned since becoming a mother a little over nine months ago. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you are a mother (or father), what would you add to my list? Let’s put our collective brains together.

I have learned that sacrificial love is hard even for someone as cute and helpless as an infant.

I have learned that if I want to wear a particular shirt somewhere in the afternoon/evening, not to put it on in the morning. It’s a sure way to have the baby spit up on me that day. The same is true for the baby’s outfit.

I have learned that babies are simply precious when they are asleep, no matter their age; it’s not just newborns.

I have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all way of parenting.

I have learned not to let my baby eat a pear or apple while wearing light-colored clothing. Those clear juices stain like the dickens.

I have learned that no matter how much my baby cries, I will still love him so much it hurts.

I have learned that those camp songs I learned as a kid are coming in handy now that I have my own kid.

I have learned that the lack of sleep is totally worth it when your child’s face lights up at the sight of you.

I have learned that it’s true what everyone says: Motherhood is both the best and toughest job in the world. And I haven’t even faced the really hard challenges of parenting yet.

I have learned that naptime is precious.

I have learned that I am willing to do things I never thought possible for the love and benefit of my child. (Like using the Snotsucker, for instance.)

I have learned that my husband does not parent the same way I do and that’s a good thing.

I have learned to change a diaper in the dark (even cloth diapers with snaps!).

I have learned that there is something new to love about each stage my child goes through.

I have learned that no matter how heavy a sleeper you were before you had baby, you will always wake when your baby cries.

I have learned that there is something extra sweet and special about those quiet, peaceful midnight feedings when the rest of the house sleeps. (Though I only sometimes appreciate them.) I have also learned that uninterrupted sleep is a highly valued commodity!

I have learned that I didn’t realize all the time I had before I had a baby.

I have learned to better understand God the Father’s love for his children and the sacrifice of His only son.

I have learned that it is possible to completely dress myself while holding the baby.

I have learned to appreciate my parents on a new level.

I have learned that when I read the same kid books over and over and over again, phrases from those books work their way into my everyday speech… with the same cadence.

I have learned that sometimes I have to ignore the best advice of experts, follow my heart, and just do what works for my baby and our family.

I have learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Thankful Thursday

2012 April 26
by Sarah

What’s this? Another post? Nothin’ all week and then–BAM!–two in one day.

It’s been another atypical week around here. Sam’s been fighting off a cough and cold for the last couple weeks, and as such has not been sleeping well at night. He’d finally been doing so well too! As I’ve said before, blogging is proportional to the amount and quality of mama sleep.

I need this focus on the positive things today, but really, when isn’t that true?

I am thankful for…

  • the ability to stay home with my baby, especially on days following sporadic, interrupted night sleep
  • our house. Lately I’ve been dissatisfied with what I thought of as our cramped living space, but we have all we need and more in our cozy home. I’ve been de-cluttering, purging, and re-organizing and it’s done wonders for my contentment and perspective.
  • my husband’s good job
  • vacation plans in the works
  • long baby naps that give me much needed down time and project time
  • success with new recipes
  • a family doctor with a laid back attitude, calm demeanor, and evident care for my baby
  • warm meals on cool days
  • the chance to run errands and get out of the house, baby-free

Linking up at Red Oak Lane and Finding Beauty in the Ordinary.