Surprises in my Mailbox!

A few weeks ago my friend Kaysi from the craft blog Keeping it Simple hosted a couple of giveaways. One was a box from Pick Your Plum valued at $50. And guess who won it!?! Yours truly! I was so super excited! I stalk Pick Your Plum a lot but I’ve never ordered anything! I was stocked to be getting a box filled with some of their favorite products right now and I was not disappointed! The shipping was really quick, I received the package in less than a week. And when I opened it up it was filled to the brim! Here’s a peek inside.
It felt like Christmas opening up the box!
A reusable piping bag and four different decorating tips. These are the extra large decorating tips like you would use to decorate cupcakes! I’m thinking about making some fun cupcakes for Easter using the top tip on the right hand side to make little nests on top, putting a Peep in the center and then hiding jelly beans underneath. I’ll post and let you know how they turn out if I do in fact do them!
Wooden spoons. I have seen these all over the crafting world right now! People are taking Washi tape and decorating the handles. So fun! I’m thinking these will be used for a certain little girls birthday party this year. (And if I like them I’ll have to get some more for Jonah’s birthday party!) And aren’t their little tags cute?!?!
Paper straws- AWESOME!! I’ve wanted these FOREVER!!!
An assortment of tags in lime green, coral, light gray and light blue. I can see these ending up on some scrapbook pages.
Gray and white twine. Not sure what I’m gonna do with this yet. Any ideas?
Pink  and white chevron gift bags (earmarked for a little girls birthday party!) and cardboard gift boxes. Those hold so many possibilities!
Two different kinds of clips. I love the curly Q ones. So fun! Hello scrapbook pages! But the silver ones are really fun too! I’m thinking add some really cool initial “jewels” to them and use them as bookmarks in Brianna’s gift bags for her birthday party. She loves to read and they would be super cute I think!
I was so excited about this one! I love stamps!
Look how fun!! Scrapbook pages, cards, tags…oh the possibilities!
These were probably the kids favorite-glow in the dark balloons! You fill them with air, pull down on the tab and they glow in the dark! I mean, seriously! How cool!!! I’m thinking these are going to join us on our big camping trip this summer! How fun would it be to fall asleep at night to the glow of a glow in the dark balloon!?!? Whoever invented those is a genius!
 So that’s what was in my box! What a fun surprise and a great giveaway! A big thank you to Kaysi from hosting such a fun giveaway and a huge thank you to Pick Your Plum for all of the fun surprises! Be sure to check out both sites and follow Kaysi’s blog, especially if you like to craft! She does really great crafts that are easy but make a big impact. And believe me when I say they are easy…she’s a soon to be mom of 5 (4 boys!!!) so she doesn’t mess around when she gets down to crafting!
Oh, and did you notice my new button on the sidebar?? If you’re on Pinterest and you don’t follow me yet come on over and join the fun!!
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Organizational Challenge Progress Report 2

 
So, you might remember that I’m joining in on the 31 Day Organizational Challenge over at OrgJunkie. I think I’ve mentioned it a few times 🙂 (You can see the before pictures here and my progress report after week 1 here.) Well, we are on week 3 now! I can’t believe only 1 more week, but I feel like we will make it! (except for maybe all the painting…I’m not sure the master bath will be painted the way we want by next weekend, but we’ll see!) I didn’t post a progress report last week. I lost my cable that connects my SD card reader to my computer so I had no way to upload my pictures. But, I found it today so we’re back! (I noticed I don’t post very often if I don’t have pictures to share. It’s weird but that’s just me I guess!!) So this weeks progress report is actually for last week. I worked on the master bath. It looks much better now! The only thing that needs to be done now is to get the shelf hung on the wall that I bought to house some of the collectibles that were in the window. I’m getting rid of some of them, but there were some that I wanted to keep. Also, like I mentioned it’s not painted yet. We also need to get new rugs for the floor to go with our new color scheme, and new towels, but since all those things are more decorative than organizational I can let that slide a little longer! lol  This week I’ve been working on the closet. You might remember what a disaster it was but just in case you forgot go check out my post with the before pictures. If you dare!! I got some good progress made but then got side lined by illness this week so I didn’t get much done. But there’s always this weekend (if I’m feeling up to it! They think I have pancreatitis AND an ulcer so it can be pretty painful at times!!)
Now, onto the pictures!
Master bath before
Master bath after! Yippy! Let’s go look closer!
 Since the only storage we have in this bathroom is the one cabinet under the sink and the medicine cabinet we had to bring in some extra pieces when we moved in. We bought two Rubbermaid organizers. One to hold miscellaneous items and one to hold towels and wash clothes. This is the mess of the smaller organizer. 
Top drawer before. Yeah, just a catch all for anything and everything!
Top drawer after. A bowl holds nail polish and my Mary Kay Satin Hands products, the striped bag holds makeup. The black bag in the back holds beauty tools (eye lash curler, eye brow trimmer, tweezers, nail clippers, etc) The bag of makeup sponges ended up getting moved as you’ll see in the next set of pictures.
2nd drawer before
2nd drawer after: paper products- QTips, makeup sponges and pocket tissues. That’s it!
3rd drawer before: again a catch all. What amazed me the most were all the sample sizes of toothpaste! I mean really!! How many of those do we need!?!? I think we get new ones at every dentist appointment. I set some aside for 72 hour kits and some for travel and any that had been opened got thrown out.
3rd drawer after: the basket holds travel size items and extra contact lens cases, the zipper bag holds travel toothpaste, extra dental floss and picks. In front are our boxes of contacts and a travel size bottle of contact solution.
4th drawer before- hair stuff and some random ace bandages and asthma separators.
4th drawer after- still hair stuff, but this time just hair stuff! This drawer has since changed a little too! We went to Ikea last weekend and I got some organizers for my closet. They had some small ones that were perfect for the bag of hair bands, bobby pins and barrettes. But all that will be updated in the final post! 🙂
 To say that the under the sink cabinet is the bane of my existence is an understatement! I HATE this sink! We are hoping to redo the bathroom in about a year or so with pieces from (you guessed it!) IKEA but until then I have to make do! 
The before! I got rid of all the various candles, hair dye (I don’t color my hair, I’m not sure why I had all that!) tampons and pads (don’t really need that when you’re using Depo Provera and don’t have a cycle anymore!!) I also threw out any expired sunscreens and lotions and put the ones that were still good in the swim bag in the laundry room. That took care of a lot of this mess.
Under sink cabinet after. So much better!!!

Left side: hair items (straightner, crimper, curling iron, hair dryer, heat protecting spray, hair spray), breast pads (a nursing moms best friend!), toilet paper
Right side: in the back are my husband’s hair clippers, hand soap refills, extra contact lens solution, hand sanitizer, hair spray and the basket holds our extras (soap, toothpaste, scrungies, throat drops, Neosporin, panty liners…can you tell I’m a couponer!?!?)
Medicine cabinet before
Medicine cabinet before 2.
Medicine cabinet after. I got rid of all the expired medications, that helped a lot! Then I separated medicines by category and put each in their own section. I’d like to find some baskets for in here but they’d have to be pretty skinny!
Bottom shelf: 1st Aid, pain relievers, tummy issues, foot issues
Top shelf: Allergy/Sinus, Cold and Flu, prescriptions, asthma
Top: Baby powder (because the kids can’t reach it and make a mess), medicated mouth wash
Outside shelf after
My stuff on the left, corralled in a little box. I threw out a ton of perfume samples, old lotions and body sprays.
Hubby’s stuff. I want to find a little box for him too.
 So that’s the bathroom. As I noted above (and throughout) I still have a few things I’d like to do but overall a vast improvement! Make sure you stop by OrgJunkie to check in on the others’ progress!
 And once again, thanks to Laura for hosting the challenge!

Habemus Papam!

It all started with this:
Then the bells of St. Peter’s began ringing. Habemus Papam! We have a Pope!! 
The resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI came as such a shock to the world. I think many people believed that it would take all this week and maybe into next week before the Cardinals would be able to install a new Pontiff. But on the 2nd day, the 5th vote the white smoke appeared. My phone started ringing (my mom calling from DC to see if I had heard the news!) and I started jumping around the room like a little kid. Conclave is exciting! This is only the 2nd of my lifetime and my first as a Catholic (I came in to the church in 2007, 2 years after Benedict had been installed.) I too was prepared for it to last a little longer. I tuned in around the time of each vote to watch the chimney. At first when the smoke started it looked so dark I was unsure, but then it got lighter and lighter. All I knew was that if this Pope chose the name Peter I would freak out! (lol- if you haven’t read the prophecy of St. Malachy, which the church doesn’t back and believes to be a fallacy, you probably won’t understand that, but if you have then you know!!)
Then the waiting game began. We knew it could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to be introduced to the new Pope. It took over an hour this time. But when the lights turned on on the Vatican Balcony we knew it was any moment. Like Savannah Gutherie said on Today this morning, there are very few moments of pure suspense anymore, but this was one of them!
When they came out and announced Habemus Papam the crowd went crazy! It was amazing to see all those people crammed into St. Peter’s square (they estimate over 150,000!!!) They were truly celebratory, waving flags from countries all over the world. I imagine most of them were Catholics, but a large part of them probably were not. They were every different race, spoke many different languages. Some were there to meet their spiritual Father for the first time, others were there just to be part of history. But they were there, in the rain, in the cold, waiting to see him. When they announced his name I missed it (I don’t speak Latin!!!) but when he walked out on that balcony I immediately liked him! He looks so sweet, so genuine, so humble. Even a little bit shy! And his smile is so warm and welcoming!
Pope Francis I
I love that he took his name after this wildly popular Saint:
St. Francis of Asissi
It’s an interesting choice and immediately people began asking “So is he a reformer then?” St. Francis was definitely a reformer in the church, receiving his call from God who told him to “Rebuild my Church”. And looking at Pope Francis’s record as Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires I think he is indeed a reformer. He isn’t going to change doctrine. The churches position on gay marriage, contraception, women priests, etc will not change under his leadership. He will be a Pope of the People. I think he will mandate a call to get back to the basics: caring for the poor, the sick, the lonely, the downtrodden. This is a man who regularly traveled to the slums to be with the poor (on the bus mind you, not chauffeured by a driver!). He ministered to AIDs patients, washing and kissing their feet. He ministered to single mothers, even chastising other priests who were refusing to baptize the babies of unwed mothers. I heard a commentator on CNN last night say that Pope Emeritus Benedict showed us the teachings of Jesus, Pope Francis will show us His face. I LOVED that!!! We all know that the church needs reforming. I like that Pope Francis is not a Vatican man. He hasn’t spent the last few decades in Rome. He has spent it among the people, serving them, loving them, watching their struggles.The Church needs to return to her roots of serving and loving ALL people. In the politics of the times LOVE has been lost. It’s time to return to it! Jesus said when asked which of the Commandments was the greatest “You shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength. And the second is like unto it, You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself.” (emphasis mine.) And I think Pope Francis will be the one to lead us there!
A friend commented on Facebook that he’s so old and we’ll be doing this again before we know it. My thought was he must be exactly what the Church needs at this exact moment in time. Yes, we might be doing this again in 5 or 8 years, but think about how amazing these 5 or 8 years could be for the Church under his leadership! It makes me excited, and hopeful, to think about!  
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Menu Plan Monday- Tuesday Edition- Again!

I haven’t posted my menu in a while and to be honest I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. Not working so well, so here we go again!!

This week’s plan:
Monday: Fettuccine Alfredo with grilled chicken and broccoli, salad with fresh pears and Italian Herb Artisan Bread
Tuesday: Pinto Beans with Ham, Green Beans, Corn Bread
Wednesday: Chicken Stew, Biscuits
Thursday: Dinner on the Run- Dance night
Friday: Beer Battered Fish, Chips (British style french fries), Cole Slaw
Saturday: date night
Sunday: I’m going to let mom decide what she wants for dinner. She’s been in DC since Saturday for a Conference and doesn’t get home til Thursday night. I’m sure she’ll have something she’d love to have since she’ll have eaten out so much all week. 
I have a question for all you meal planners out there. How do you plan breakfast and lunches? I feel like I do a good job with lunches in general. Breakfast around here tends to be cold breakfast cereal or oatmeal during the week and then pancakes, french toast, egg dishes on Saturdays when everyone is eating at the same time. During the week everyone is staggered at the times they need to be up and I don’t want to cook 3 or 4 different times. But I feel guilty sometimes that they aren’t eating anything other than cereal. Any advice??
Check out other menu plans at Org Junkie. Happy Eating!

I’m A Big Boy!

This little guy:
Yeah, this one:
is becoming a very big boy!!

We had Elijah’s 6 month well appointment on Friday. He weighed in at a whopping 15.9 pounds and is 27.5 inches long. Basically he’s tall and skinny in the 9th percentile for his weight but 64th percentile for his length! And that head? Yup, it’s up to 16.9 inches or 15th percentile, up from the 7th 2 months ago. That must be a big brain in there!! He is still one of my smallest kids (Micah was smaller at this age but not by much!) but he’s right on the curve he should be on from where he started so the doctors are very pleased with his growth and development.
He is absolutely the joy of my life! As parents you love every child equally, I fully believe that. But I also believe that you love them a little bit differently. As each child’s personality is different, the relationship with each child is different. And I think when you get as close to loosing a child as we got to loosing him it changes the dynamic of the relationship. As I hold him and love on him I thank God that he is here. I know I’ve said it before, but he is just what this family needed! And knowing that he is the last baby makes it all a little more precious and a little more enjoyable!

I mean, just look at that face!

 He is so affectionate, even at 7 months. He gives kisses! He pats your arm and snuggles into your neck while he’s sleeping. He reaches out with arms up when he wants to be held. He laughs all the time and is becoming quite a chatterbox! He was telling me a story this morning and he was quite adamant about it! He is a wonderful eater, an amazing sleeper and has the calmest, most chillaxed manner I’ve ever seen. He loves to play with his toys, especially anything that he can get a noise out of. He is sitting unsupported. He is starting to turn himself when laying on his belly to get closer to something that might be out of his reach. He’ll be crawling before we know it (Heaven help me!!) He likes nursery rhymes (This Little Piggie, Pat-A-Cake, To Market to Market are his favorites). And he is so ticklish! I know it’s mean but I love to find that spot at the back of his neck and get a good laugh out of him! It absolutely makes my day! He is pure joy, through and through! 

Little monkey butt! I love pants and sleepers with character faces on the butts! They are just so cute!! lol
Enough pictures mom! I’m done!

31 Day Organization Challenge- Update #1

So, Laura over at OrgJunkie is giving us an opportunity if we’d like to give an update on how our spaces are shaping up for the 31 Day Organizational Challenge. Since I was so embarrassed by my before pictures I’d LOVE to show you what I’ve gotten done! I needed some quick results to give me some pride and a kick in the pants so I started with the obvious…cleaning up the space!!! Going around the room in the same format I’ll show you the before and after. One thing you’ll notice right away is that the walls are painted! This is one of the only rooms in the house that was never painted or decorated in any way since we moved in 5 years ago. My husband and I agreed that if we are going to do a total purge we might as well get it painted and decorated too! I love our color scheme (French Country Blue, Charcoal Gray, White and Black). It already feels like a different room and I haven’t even touched the bathroom or closet yet! (The bathroom is on tap for this weekend…hopefully!) So without further ado, here’s my progress from this week!
I started by making sure I had bags for garbage and recycle and a box for shred items. After I took the picture I realized that I needed boxes for sorting and donations too so I grabbed those, but I didn’t retake the picture 🙂
The view of the door and TV stand before.
View of door after
TV stand after
View of Steven’s side (closest to the closet) before
View of Steven’s side after
Steven’s dresser before
Steven’s dresser after- the candle decoration on the top is from Wal-Mart. It only cost $5!! The votives inside were only $0.50 each. $6.50 total for a chic decoration…not too shabby!!
The top drawer of Steven’s dresser before. I can’t believe all the stuff that was in there!!
The top drawer after! Ahh…this is so much better!
Closer look: a lighter (gotta set the mood sometimes! lol), shoe polish, a crystal dish to empty loose change and Chapstick and the box with the kids picture holds some keepsakes like our daughter’s teeth that she’s lost! lol
On this side is the organizer that once sat on the top. It holds his eye glass cleaner, inhaler, some religious items, a watch and watch batteries, tie clips, class ring and lapel pins. The closed compartment also holds foreign currency that my husband kept on some overseas trips. In the back is his lonely pocket square. He’ll probably never need it but you never know!
This box holds things that came out of that top drawer that I didn’t know what to do with.
The top drawer of Steven’s nightstand before.
The top drawer after. I left him his Bible, our Liturgy of the Hours book, a journal, his eye glasses and his bag of Snickers minis from Valentine’s Day.
The top of Steven’s nightstand after. If you look in the above picture from his side of the room you can see what the before looked like.

My nightstand before.
My nightstand after.

This is my Middle of the Night basket. It holds things that I wouldn’t want to be searching for in the middle of the night if I have, say a sick child wake up. Things like a themometer and covers, a medicine dropper (don’t worry, no medicine!), a dosage sheet for Tylenol and Motrin, etc. It also holds a few pens and highlighters (I often read with a highlighter), some hand cream and my lavender linen spray.

My top drawer before.
My top drawer after. I know it still looks like a lot but I had a really hard time whittling it down to less that this. Our remote controls (TV, DirectTV, and Sony TV), a bag of “fun” items (wink, wink…hey! I don’t have 4 kids for nothing! lol), some journals, prayer calenders and a devotional book, Post-It notes (I read with these too!!), bookmarks and several books I’m working through (Sudoku, The Happiness Project, The Total Money Makeover) and a reading journal.
Bottom drawer before.
Bottom drawer after: now it just hold my hand held massager, the different heads for the massager (in the bag) and the heating pad. 
 Remember these insane piles of crap?!?! 

Here’s the same space now! All those clothes have been bagged/boxed up for the consignment store. The Spring/Summer stuff is on it’s way there this weekend. The winter stuff is in the attic and will be taken this winter. Whatever the consignment store doesn’t take they’ll donate for us so it’ll never enter this house again. Thank you very much!

 So as you can see I’ve made some good progress this week. Our bedroom is pretty much purged and organized. Next is the bathroom (and hopefully it will get painted too!!) and then the closet. I’m saving the closet for last because it intimidates me the most. Hopefully I’ll feel so proud of what I’ve accomplished by the time that I get there that it’ll be no sweat when the time arrives. So that’s my update. Can’t wait to keep going and get our Master turned into the retreat I’ve always wanted!!! Come and check out everyone’s progress at OrgJunkie.

Are You a Morning Person?

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 One of the blogs that I subscribe to is Money Saving Mom. If you are looking to save money (and who isn’t!?!) I highly suggest Crystals’ site. She has everything from weekly store deals (with coupon matchups), frugal (and yummy) recipes (a lot of which are freezer friendly!), lots of info about freebies you can sign up for and tons of other things! Her site is super inspiring for those who want to learn how to spend less and save more. She has an ongoing series called “We Paid Cash” that will blow your socks off! To see the different ways that people have set aside money to pay cash for big items (everything from a new TV to cars and even houses!!) is really inspiring. She is a big fan of Dave Ramsey and I got turned on to him and his plan through her site. But Crystal isn’t just an amazing home economist. She is inspiring in other ways too. She is the uber-queen of goal setting. She sets yearly, monthly, weekly, even daily goals. Oh to be that person! I really would love it! And she’s not neurotic about it! One of Crystal’s biggest things that she talks about is making sure that you are giving yourself grace in your life. We often extend grace to others very easily, but boy are we hard on ourselves! She sets her goals and if she doesn’t cross everything off that’s OK! She lets it go and/or carries it over to the next day/week/month and that’s that! Oh to be that person! lol
A while ago Crystal had a Make the Most of Your Mornings Challenge. I didn’t participate at the time because, well, I had a newborn! And was averaging 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time. I was tired in the morning and the last thing I wanted to do was to try and be productive!! But, now our 7 month old is regularly sleeping through the night and as of next week Steven is off his crazy 2nd shift and back to 8:30 to 5 (YIP YIP YIPPY!!!). That means a few things for me, but the biggest is this: the hours I spend in the morning checking email, emptying my Google Reader, checking on Facebook, and maybe “swinging” by Pinterest (yeah, we all know how well that works out! lol) while lingering over my coffee have to end. Right now I tend to take my time in the mornings because I know that Steven won’t be home til almost 9 most nights. (plus if he’s still in bed or has gotten up earlier and then gone to take a nap with the baby before he has to leave, I don’t feel like I really need to start my day yet.) This means that I have all afternoon and evening to get things done. With him being off at 5 I’ll need my to do list to be finished by early afternoon so I can have dinner started. (Right now we have dinner, I clean up and then I do some more stuff before it’s time to get the kids ready for bed. Then I either climb in bed too or do some more stuff til he gets home.)
What I have realized is that I don’t make the most of my mornings. In fact, the morning hours are completely wasted around here! And a big reason is me just being lazy! I also hate mornings! Always have! But I need to learn to embrace the morning, make the most of it and get things done! So even though Crystal’s challenge is officially over I’m going to take it for myself. If you want to join in follow the link above. It will take you to the main page of the challenge that has each day linked to it. I’ll post here each week to let you know how things went for me (It’s a 3 week challenge) Day 1 on her plan really just started with making the commitment to change your mornings and recognize what makes them unproductive. I’ve done that so check! lol Day 2 is realizing that your morning starts the night before so I’ll be looking at my evening tonight and see what I can do to make my mornings run smoother.
How do you do with mornings? Are you a total morning person who greets the day and starts off running? Or are you an evening person who’d rather do your work later on after kids are in bed while watching your favorite shows? Or do you spread everything out equally all day long? I’d love to know!