Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chore Time!

"Do your chores." "Have you finished your chores?" "Did you check the chore board?"
How many times have I asked these questions in nearly 27 years of parenting? With 8 children, I really am not up to doing the math at the moment.

One of the most common questions I get from young moms deal with chores. I am not going to address just which chores children should be doing at different ages (that just might be another post!). But I would like to show you the system we've used for almost 20 years.

The story behind our chore board and how it works:

I asked Handy-Dandy-Hubbie to pound nails into a board in 4 rows (one row per child), leaving space on the left for names.  He used a couple of scrap pieces from our cedar siding. He had it ready in under a half hour.


Next I painted the names of each child along the left edge. I then took my list of jobs/chores/habits I needed to be attended to each day and made a picture card for each. The little cards used for organizing embroidery floss were the perfect thing - just the right size and a little hole making it ready for hanging.

For Habits such as make your bed and brush your teeth  I made 4 copies, one for each child. For regular chores like meal prep, meal clean up, wash table, etc. we used a rotating system, so I made one card per chore and then rotated them monthly. 

At the beginning of each month chores from child #1 are passed down to child #2, #2 was passed to #3, #3 was passed to #4 and #4 were passed to #1. These little cards are so much easier than writing out lists or printing off new lists or keeping track of everyone's lists. At times, I have had each child turn their card over when the had finished that particular chore.

To create the cards, originally, I drew a little picture freehand to represent the chore. I still have a few for posterity's sake, but with so much clipart and images available I searched and found cute little pictures to update and give a new spin on things for our younger children.

A tip for Moms of Many --  as the older 4 kids grew up and out of our little system, I had Luke make wooden tags on which I painted the next 4 children's names. He drilled a couple of holes in each tag and added a couple of nails so I could hang them. Sentimental Mom that I am, I just couldn't paint over the top of my the 'original four'. Seeing their names makes me smile, takes me on a walk down memory lane. Fun!

This little system has been a wonderful tool over the years. It works beautifully, but just like any system, it works best when Mom stays on top of things and follow through and check up on progress. And that, dear friends, is a topic for yet another post!

 I'm linking this post up at Works For Me Wednesdays

And you have until 8:00 (central time) tonight to vote over at the New Years Organizing Revolution  challenge -  I'm entry #9, Apron Strings & other things. Have you checked out my newly organized spaces yet? or the amazing posts by the other participants?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Organizing Revolution - The Home Stretch

January is nearly over and I'm ready to catch my breath! 
Thanks to the blogger ladies who hosted the New Year's Organizing Revolution, I've cleaned up my office area, organized some kitchen cabinets, did an overhaul on 2 closets and spruced up my living room (remember the sneak peak at my new stereo cabinet last week?).

What? You haven't seen the rest of the living room yet?  Well, then, please take a look!

You can see above, the state of this room before. Piles here and there, the sock basket left on the couch, parafernalia left behind after a visit from the grandkids, over-stuffed bookshelves --  Yikes! does anyone else's living room get into such a state?

I put every to work taking (almost) everything out of the room. Wish I had the magic of television to capture the scene - you know, those shows where people swapped houses for a weekend and emptied out and re-decorated a room in each others' houses? That's what it looked like in my living room this weekend. My assistants were all a-blurr moving everything out.

(mostly) EMPTY!
Once everything but the large furniture was removed, I swapped out the bookcases. There wasn't going to be much furniture rearranging, since sweet hubbie likes his favorite green chair just where it is, and he prefers the other chair and couch where they are. He has so few requests when it comes to the house, I'm happy to comply with his wishes. 

I was thinking it'll be nice to have things cleaned up and cleaned out, but everything will basically be the same. I was ok with that. What I didn't expect was how much difference moving 2 pieces would make. And how much I LOVE the emptiness. 
So, what did I put back in the room? The most important items and our most favorite things. That's it. I am so pleased with the results!

My absolute favorite thing in this room now? My new family gallery wall:
with 3 new grandchildren this winter and a wedding next month, this wall already needs updating!

These final days of January, the hosts of this Organizing Revolution are giving Grand Prizes to the 3 finalists who get the most votes. (Voting begins January 28 and closes January 30 at 8pm central time) You can view all 12 finalists HERE and vote for your favorite. I am finalist #9 (Apron Strings & other things). 

Thank you to everyone who has followed along, cheered me on, left sweet comments and took time to view my progress. I appreciate each and every one of you!

also linking up to TeachMeTuesdays at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Organzing Revolution - The Living Room

Wow-ee! Wow-ee! Wow-ee! Yessiree, I'm wowed! 3rd place for me last week in the New Years Organizing Revolution. Incredible! I thank each and every one of you that stopped by to view my spaces and clean-out projects, each of you that took time to vote, the ladies hosting the challenge, the sponsors providing the prizes. Thank you everyone!

And so we come to a new week, a new room, a new project. On to the living room! 

Today, (and tomorrow, and maybe even the next day) we are doing a little purging, a little rearranging, a little decorating and updating in our main living area. 

Starting with the spot where we keep the stereo and cd's. The place where all good dust bunnies go to hide, or die, or multiply, or whatever it is they do. 
Stereo/Entertainment Area - BEFORE
Crazy, isn't it? How is it that all that dust and cobweb-by yuckiness collects around the electronics? And if there is a tiny space under the stand or cabinet or behind the unit it becomes a magnet for, well, you know!  

(Imagine here a photo of those cute dusty little critters. Alas, the battery on my camera went dead and so you are spared the ugly sight.)
  I came up with a solution for the taming of the dustbunnies AND keeping our stereo and supplies organized and lovely to look at. I presented the idea to my amazingly talented husband and he has custom-built for me this perfect little cubbie-cabinet. 

Stereo/Entertainment Area - AFTER
The stereo unit is now up at a more user-friendly level. I have my eye on baskets just the right size for containing the cd's and other stereo accoutrement (think IKEA-style). They'll fit nicely into those cubbie-holes, but I'll wait patiently and be content with this big improvement we've made already. Perfect! Love it! I'm so happy!

Stay tuned for the next installment of our living room make-over. It'll be an ongoing project this weekend and I'll keep you posted!

I will not be adding my link to this week's challenge since I'm still in the midst of the big re-do of our living room, but I'll still be checking out what others have done. I'll be voting and I hope you will too. Hop on over to and see what bit of inspiration you can find for your living spaces. You may want to visit the sites of the other host-bloggers, too. They are an amazing and talented group of ladies.

'Tis a Sad, Sad Day

It is with a heavy heart that I share sad news. My faithful friend who greets me each morning, puts a sparkle in my eye and a smile on my face so I am ready to begin a new day has gone on to that Great Brewing Land Beyond. 

A shock, but true. As is my normal custom, I measured out the coffee grounds, poured in fresh water, hit the brew button. I turn to continue conversation with my son and several minutes later, it occurs to me I do not hear that wonderful little perk-perk-perk sound, and my nose is not tickling happy with that amazing aroma the morning's coffee brings forth. 

What?! Oh, I must have forgotten to push the button. Nope, button was pushed. 
Is it plugged in? Yes.
Did I remember to add the water? Reservoir is full.
Were these questions necessary? Yes. I do sometimes forget to push the button, or plug it in, or fill the reservoir. (I know, I have issues)
Luke and I worked to resuscitate her, but alas, to no avail. All systems say 'GO' but water pump fails to pump.
We boil water on the stove top to manually brew one last pot (this . And then we say 'good-bye, old friend'. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Organizing Revolution - Closets

It's Week 3 of the New Year's Organzing Revolution - YaHoo!! It is feeling so good to get so many spaces cleaned out this month. Would you like to see what I've accomplished this week? Our assignment was to take on a closet. I'm sure some have glamorous and gorgeous closets and amazing storage systems. Me? I'm happy to have some closets and thrilled to get them cleaned out and in order. You may not see much of beauty here today, but you will see two labors of love. 
If you like what you see, if I've encouraged or inspired you at all, please click HERE sometime this upcoming weekend and vote for my closet spaces. My entry will be labeled 'hsmominmo'.
You can see my previous posts in this series by clicking HERE.
First Up: The Coat Closet

Just look at this cluttered, inefficient, totally embarrassing excuse for a coat closet in the front entryway to my home. Shameful! 

Well, now take a look at what my handy-dandy-six-year-old-helper and I did yesterday. (wish I had picture of her working hard, but she was on the other side of the camera this time around)

First, following the PROCESS, we completely emptied the space. 

We purged and sorted and returned items to where they belong and found new homes for some things and added more to our Donation Station.

What did we put back into the space? Only things we use and wear.

 On the upper shelf we stored the lightbox Dad and Caitlin sometimes use. and various binoculars/spotting scopes for bird watching, nature walks, hunting. On the lower shelf we put a bin for outdoor kidfun equipment (like bubbles and chalk and such). The drawstring bag and bin under the shelf hold wooden blocks for kiddos. This may not make sense in other families, but this is where we go to look for them, so when the grandkids come to visit, that's where they'll go to find them. So they stay. We slimmed down our collection of coats and now have room for guests to hang theirs - Nice!

Now, the dilemma - where do I put all the wrapping/shipping materials?  Not back in this closet. I'm on the lookout for just the right spot, so I'm scouring the house with my newly shined organizer glasses. We'll find a solution, just praying it's the right one so I don't have to keep moving and readjusting.

Next Up: The Broom Closet
You see before you very eyes another shameful mess. This closet is right next to the kitchen area and is the hold-all, catch-all for housekeeping and home maintenance. From time to time we clean it out and put things back in an orderly fashion, but it doesn't take long to look like the photo above. 

So, here we go again!
First we empty the space. Then we purge, sort, and containerize. 
 Take a look at the result. Amazing! Love it! So nice!A place for everything and everything in it's place. The brightly colored bins are from the nearby dollar store - the perfect thing to keep bottles and and such corralled. The green bin for small paper bags and a magazine holder turned on it's side is perfect for keeping old newspapers contained. If the bins start overflowing, it's time to get rid of some. On the floor a cardboard box to keep grocery totes and paper sacks from sprawling all over the place.

Now let's look at solutions we found for two problem areas. 
1. brooms, mops, dusters, etc  were either shoved in, falling over, or on random nails here and there.  This little rack took care of all these problems. Luke installed one on each side wall in a manner of minutes. Love it! 
2. measuring sticks - we use them often. Previously they were tucked, sort of, in the corner right inside the door. Amidst all the other junk falling all over the place, this was a disaster. Solution - mount a paper towel tube on the wall and slip the sticks in. LOVE it!

I believe this week's projects have been the most enjoyable and satisfying. I was dreading it, but really, it took very little time and is making a huge impact on daily life. I'm so happy! Big sigh of relief and contentment. 

Don't forget to come back and vote, starting Friday morning and ending Sunday afternoon. See you next week with more organizing!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: January 14-20

We are beginning the third week of the new year and around here we are working at getting back to a more 'normal' and regular routine. Aaaahhhhhhhh --  big breath in, big breath out. Feeling good! 

Getting back to my printed menu plan is one of the things that is helping me get back on track. For several different reasons, I'm doing my planning and shopping once a week. Yikes! I've been a once-a-monther for so long I'm really out of practice. Not sure I like it much, but it is forcing me to focus in on using what I have on hand and making deliberate choices about what I purchase each week. That's not a bad thing. Next month, I'm going back to monthly planning for sure!

On the menu for this week:

b'fast - cereal, banana
lunch - tuna salad sandwiches, carrot sticks, pretzels & potato chips
supper - mexican casserole (rice, beans, burger, cheese - topped with cornbread)

b'fast - breakfast burritos 
lunch - minestrone, Mama's wholewheat bread
supper - chicken pot pie
b'fast - oatmeal
lunch - sandwiches, fruit, pretzels & chips 
supper - Pizza Hut (redeeming BookIt coupons)

b'fast - toast (made from mom's whole wheat bread)
lunch - mac & cheese, fruit
supper - sloppy joes (date night so Esther's in charge!), veggie tray, apple slices

b'fast - muffins and fruit
lunch - chicken wraps
supper - pizza night

b'fast - pancakes
lunch - leftovers
supper - hamburgers, homemade fries, baked beans

b'fast - bagels and fruit
dinner - crock pot lasagne, salad, garlic bread, green beans
supper - popcorn, apples, leftovers, every man for himself

looking ahead, you may see these dishes on next week's menu:  fajitas, meatloaf, french dip sandwiches, chicken caeser pasta salad.

Now that I have my menu planned out, I can dig into my closet project! This week's challenge in the Organizing Revolution is 'Closets'.  We are going to empty out the broom closet and coat closet and put things back in a neat and orderly manner. 

Thanks so much to all of you who have cheered me on this month. It helps so much! And a HUGE thank you to all that took time to vote for me.  First week I came in 15th out 150. Last week I place 13th out 119. Not bad, eh?   Best thing is we are enjoying our newly organized and efficient spaces. 

I'll be back in a day or two with my next organizing post so stay tuned!

Linking up to Menu Plan Monday at

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Organizing Revolution - The Kitchen

Last week I took on the challenge of organizing up my office area. This week it's on to the kitchen!
During this first month of 2013, I've taken the New Year's Organizing Revolution challenge put out there by Laura at and 6 other bloggers.

Last year I cleaned out and organized my junk drawer and a couple of other drawers in my kitchen and wonders of wonders they are STILL clean and organized! So let's build on this terrific foundation, I say!!!! (please excuse all the exclamation marks - a girl has to do whatever it takes to psych herself up for a job like this)

I have once again been following the PROCESS for cleaning out and organizing. It really is a most amazing help. I stay focused and on-task when I work through each step.

As I walk you through all that I've done, you'll see pictures of the amazing transformation of my kitchen cupboards. Soooo, grab a cup of your favorite cuppa and get comfy and enjoy the show!
I used items that were sitting around, like random organizers (this one became a plate rack).  Only purchase for this project was new shelf liner
I Planned out my project -- get rid of items we do not use/need, make items in cabinets more accessible, give shelves and cupboards a good cleaning, change shelf liner, etc. Do the easy jobs first, then tackle those that are driving me bonkers. The rest can wait.

My "Special Pieces" Before (left) and After (right)
Then I Removed and sorted what was to stay and purged what needed to go. I was in such a hurry I didn't take pictures of any totally blank spaces. But trust me, each cabinet was a blank slate before moving things back in. You can see in the photo above I started cleaning out before taking my 'before' shot.

Coffee Mugs (can a girl have too many? um, ye-es!) Before (left) and After (right)

Under the Baking counter (Before, top. After, bottom)

Baking Pans - I just love the red/cream checks - makes me smile everytime I open up the doors!
Organizing like things with like was pretty easy with this project once I finished the purging. My spices were pretty much in all the same area, breakfast foods and snack crackers were all together. Hot drinks and vitamins and baking pans each had their homes all ready. Mugs were all in same cabinet, specialty pieces were together behind glass doors. 
PURGE!!! I threw out empty and expired vitamin containers, combined half-empty boxes, got rid of my absolute favorite teapot (the one with the broken-haven't-fixed-it-in-10-years handle, sniff sniff), tossed various bottles and crazy amounts of who-knows-why-I-stuffed-that-up-there items.
Next, Containerizing!!! (Love this part!) But with very little $$$ available for this project, I had to utilize containers I already had around and/or get creative. I consolidated as much as possible and assigned space for everything.

Cracker/Cereal/Snack Cabinet (Before on left, After on right)
Spice/Coffee/Tea/Etc Cabinet - top photos show Before and After as you peek in the corner door. Bottom photos show before and after The Great Spice Purge and Reorganization. I keep most spice bottles on 2 lazy suzans, alphabetized (in general) with A-L on the left one and N-Z on the right one.
Gotta love containers!  Above you see coffee and tea condiments in a plastic bin, vitamins and other 'health' products in baskets. The photo on bottom shows how I corralled peanut butter and honey jars in a plastic bin--easy cleanup for those sticky messes now! See also how I re-purposed a large cardboard package as our snack bin. I (usually) keep this stocked with granola bars, snack cracker sandwiches, small raisin packs, etc.
 Once that fun part if finished (oh, yeah, right. this it's ALL fun!), it's time for an Evaluation of the plan. Since my kitchen space has already been working pretty well for me, I do not see any major problems. Except to convince police retrain the family as we build new habits putting things back into their designated containers.
This cabinet is above my double oven - I called it 'The Abyss' because it was so high, deep cavern. A plastic coated wired shelf to utilize some of the vertical space and a wire organizer (meant to be attached to a door/wall) turned on its side to keep serving trays at-the-ready leave plenty of space for bulky pitchers.
Do I have any issues to Solve/simplify? We'll see. Anything that doesn't seem to be working will be addressed over the next couple of weeks as we work in the kitchen and prep/clean up meals.

Smile, relax and enjoy! That's easy when you look around at a job well done.
What!? Could it be!? Empty Space!? Loving It!

If you've made it all the way to this point, and if you've enjoyed your tour through my newly transformed kitchen cabinets, please consider popping over to the Organizing Revolution and voting for me (#102 - hsmominmo) beginning Friday morning (Jan 11) and ending Sunday afternoon (Jan 13). 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Newlywed Cooking Story

An article posted recently by my friend Amy at Raising Arrows inspired this  little story from my past for today's post. You can hop on over to read her version of Newlywed Cooking when you are finished reading here.)

With our two oldest children already living a life of wedded bliss, and number three jumping into Holy Matrimony in just a few weeks, memories from our early newlywed days come to mind regularly. The kids always often sometimes enjoy tolerate these stories from The Old Days. At least, they smile and nod and share encouraging comments like "uh-huh" "really?" and "oh".
Thrilling little stories, with lessons to learn. 
Stories such as . . .

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a young and happy bride. Eager to please her strong and handsome husband she vowed to fix a delicious, home-cooked, country breakfast every weekend. A breakfast that would be sure to win the heart of this farm-boy. Bacon and eggs and toast and juice and, well, you get the picture.
Several weekends in a row she cheerfully fried those eggs and toasted that bread. But then, one Sunday morning, as the love-birds were donning their coats to head for church services, this fine young man turned to his sweet wife and said . . .

"Ummm, it's ok with me if you don't cook breakfast like that anymore."

The bride was crushed. So many thoughts went through her head. "What?! He doesn't like my cooking? He'd rather have his mother's cooking? I've been to their house many weekends. His mother ALWAYS makes breakfast like this. A good old-fashioned, hearty breakfast is what EVERY country boy wants! I must be a terrible cook. He hates my cooking!"

Fast forward 15 years. The still young and happy bride relays the account to newly married couple in hearing range of her still strong and handsome groom. Funny thing is, he recalls the incident very differently. 

"That is what you thought?" says he. "I only meant that I've NEVER liked a big, heavy breakfast. Fried, greasy foods have never set well on my stomach. I think you are a wonderful cook!"

Moral of the story --  do not take off-hand comments personally, be ready to quickly extend grace and love, and you are never too old or married too long to learn something new about each other.

And on another note - Have you voted yet? You have until noon on Sunday, Jan 6 to click on over to see the entries in the Office edition of the New Years Organization Revolution. You can find my Office Space at #125 - hsmominmo. 

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