Friday, April 27, 2012

Half a Year

Well, Austin is half a year old!  Six months already- I just can't believe it.  Actually, he's six and a half months old.

I decided that it was a good time to get some pictures of him.  Our living room, where Austin spends most of his awake time, doesn't have the best lighting for photography.  The covered porch (which I love) makes it a tad dark.  Anyway, I thought I'd take him outside.

The weather was beautiful, Austin was happy.  This was going to be a good session, I could tell already.  I put down a blanket, flipped on the camera and got Austin settled.  He, however, had other ideas.

Apparently, the great outdoors is full of distractions.  Like wind.
And sticks.
And brothers riding bikes.
And grass.
Lots of grass.

He kept insisting on going over to the grass, even though he didn't seem to like the way it felt.
Then, of course, there were the publicity hounds.  Those types always look at the camera.

Austin has been "this close" to crawling for weeks.  He can get up on all fours, move his arms, move his legs, but not all at the same time.  He boot camp crawls pretty well, though, so he is mobile.

Toward the end, he started doing this little frustrated squeal.  Not crying, just saying, "Help!  Mommy won't stop trying to get me to smile!"
Happy Half Birthday, Austin!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tools of the Trade

This contraption is a big deal. Really, it is.

It’s a jar grabber. For years, I’ve been making jam. I’ve been making jam without a jar grabber. I’ve wrapped tongs in rubber bands or towels and extracted slippery jars from boiling water. I’ve never broken a jar, but I have, of course, scalded my fingers. Now, I have a jar grabber. I bought it from Amazon, and it cost very little, but what a difference! Stick it in the water, and it does what it was meant to do: Grab jars! Very nice. No more burned fingers.

Now, I’ve known that jar grabbers existed. I’ve just never actually gone out and bought one. It kind of made me think about how many other jobs I may be doing without the proper tools.

Of course, there’s something to be said for making do. After my last post about minimizing and getting rid of stuff, I couldn’t exactly turn around and start advocating buying every cool gadget at Bed, Bath and Beyond. But having a few carefully chosen tools can actually help in keeping things simple. I suppose that’s the key: Evaluate carefully and buy only those things that justify the space they’re occupying and the upkeep they require.

And buy quality items. If a bargain item falls apart after one use, you haven’t saved money, you’ve just collected more trash. Case in point: Above mentioned jar grabber. Take a look. Believe it or not, the rubber is actually torn down the middle after one use! Ugh. It still works, though. They don’t make things like they used to!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I don't flip through channels- usually. And I wasn't actually flipping channels, or even trying to watch TV. Honest. Steffen turned the TV on and the channel happened to be on HGTV (one of the few channels other than Fox News that we ever watch.) And guess what was on, a show called Clean Freaks! I don't know whether it's a series or just a one-time thing, but I only watched about 2 minutes and then I just recorded the rest for later.

That two minutes, however, got me thinking. There was this lady who had an ultra-organized (child-free) home. She had some good ideas. (Put rubber bands on the ends of your hangers to keep your silk dresses from sliding off. And, really, who doesn't have just scads of silk dresses littering the floor of their closets?) But her advice wasn't what caught my attention. Instead, I was floored by the amount of STUFF that she had. There were tons of gift bags and ribbon and cards and tags. All beautifully organized and labeled. Her house looked like she had bought out the Container Store.

There was a time when I was all about managing the STUFF. I love bins and labelers. (Yes, I have a labeler.) Now that I have more children and our lives have gotten far more busy, though, I've started to change my thinking. I've started to question the necessity of the STUFF. Stuff means work. It gets taken out and has to be put back. It gets broken and has to be fixed. It gets dusty and lost. Whoever said that your stuff owns you instead of the other way around had it about right.

So I started getting rid of STUFF. And, because I felt guilty about how much STUFF we had to get rid of, we've started to scale back on how much STUFF we get in the first place.

Now, we're far from minimalists. Anyone who has seen the 245,358 Playmobil pieces in our playroom can attest to that. But we are minimizing. It's a process we've been engaged in for over a year, and it's starting to have results. Each time we go through and purge, I'm amazed by how much STUFF we still have, even after all those trips to Goodwill.

Here's our latest haul, and I didn't even go through the whole house this time. You can't really tell from the picture, but those are enormous bins- like 2 feet by 3 1/2 feet. I'm trying to use the "if you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it" rule of thumb. We really can live with so much less than what we have.

The kids, by the way, are on board because they get as tired of keeping up with stuff as I do. In fact, the other day, we got a fancy catalog in the mail with all of these million dollar homes in it. I heard Megan say to Nathan, "Can you imagine how long it would take to clean that thing?"