The Linen Closet Overhaul, Round 2

About a year and a half ago, I had spent a lot of time reading blogs about home organization, DIY updating and repurposing, and improving the functionality of your home. As one of my first projects, I decided to tackle the mess that was our linens closet. I don’t have any pictures from that initial reorganization, but I have noticed the past few weeks that it’s getting bad again, so I just decided to redo the initial organization and chronicle the process for you!photo 1

This is what it looked like right before I started. You can see the remnants of what I consider to be a pretty good system, but there are some people (ahem, Hubby) who just haven’t kept with the system quite as well as we did in the beginning. What did I start with? Cleaning the whole thing out.

Okay, so I left the vacuum and the mop down there...
Okay, so I left the vacuum and the mop down there…
That's a lot of stuff crammed in there. And we aren't counting what's on beds and in the laundry. Time to purge!
That’s a lot of stuff crammed in there. And we aren’t counting what’s on beds and in the laundry. Time to purge!

The first idea that I took from several blog posts about small closets or linen closets was using laundry baskets on the shelves. This worked perfectly for my closet because the shelves are really deep, and I wanted to make the most of that space while still being able to find everything in the back. Since then, I’ve used laundry baskets in organizing several other spaces… more on that later, maybe. You can tell in the first photo at the top that I had a laundry basket and a smaller basket or two leftover from my first stab at organization.

Next, I had to determine which way I would like things folded so that they fit in the baskets nicely. Pillowcases were the main issue – there are so many, there are two different sizes, and they take up so much room! I decided to roll them (cue applause from my father) after I had folded them, and stick them standing up in their basket. photo 4

The way I folded and then rolled caused the king-sized pillowcases to stick out above the queen-sized ones. Score!photo 3 (1)

Everyone loves a label, even if it isn’t a fancy little printable. That sharpie job there works just as well.

More sharpie labels for sheets.
More sharpie labels for sheets.

I continued to separate sheets and towels by sizes, and put them into corresponding baskets. Then I had an enclosed bin at the very bottom for our beach towels… we use those a lot less so I don’t mind them being a little harder to reach.

The finished product! Much nicer, right?
The finished product! Much nicer, right?

I still think the vacuum and mop look a bit silly in there, but I just didn’t really have much to do with them otherwise. That’s a fix for later!

By the way – the main thing that I purged from the closet were curtains. I always like putting curtains on our windows (we have no blinds) because it adds a finished look to a room, even if it’s not all the way there yet. So every time we’ve redesigned a room (study to nursery, girl room to boy room, etc) we’ve gotten new curtains (usually at Target). So naturally, I have a pile of curtains that aren’t currently in use that were taking up a lot of space. I moved them to the basement out of the way for now, but kept them… because who knows when we might need a change?!

I might have a window treatment problem.
I might have a window treatment problem.

Have you ever had to reorganize a closet? What do you think about using laundry baskets as organizational tools?

The Thing That Broke My Heart And The Thing That Saved It

Some of my people know this story… my family, close friends, prayer warrior friends of mine. I hope that by telling it, someone will be encouraged, someone will feel less alone, someone will be justified in their anguish. This story isn’t cute or sweet, and it doesn’t leave anything out. It’s just heartache and details and sadness and redemption.

Hubby and I tried for seven months to get pregnant with EK. I am well aware that seven months isn’t very long to try to get pregnant. It seemed long going through it, but as the cliché goes, God’s timing is always perfect. Hubby and I have always liked the idea of having our children fairly close together, so when she was born, we decided to “not not try”. Pardon the double negative, but that was our short way of saying we weren’t actively “trying” to get pregnant right away, but we weren’t actively preventing getting pregnant either.

When EK was ten months old, I got pregnant. I knew early on, told Hubby, and we somehow kept the joy and excitement of a sibling for EK to ourselves for two weeks. We finally told my parents (who were visiting at the time) when I estimated myself to be about 6 weeks along. With utterly cruel timing, the following week I started having terrible cramps. Not “implantation cramping” or “stretch cramping” or whatever other excuse they give you to tell you “it’s totally normal”. I was having honest-to-goodness, menstruation-like cramps. I tried to keep calm. I tried to monitor my body. I tried to wish and hope and pray them away. And when the spotting started, I called my OB’s office, heard the nurses say it was normal, read on various medical websites that it was normal. But I knew. Somehow, deep down I already knew what was happening.

I went in for an ultrasound, because my OB wanted to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. He was able to rule that out but said it was too early to tell much else. I went home. Cried a little lot. Rested. Tried to pretend everything was fine. Hubby was preparing for a ski trip with his brothers and some buddies, so I tried my best to put on a happy face and not share my darkest concern with him. But two days later, I knew for sure. My worst fears were all but confirmed. My cramping was a lot worse, and so was the bleeding. Even though my head kept wanting to hope, my heart was resigned to the loss.

I had gotten up at 4:00am that morning when Hubby got up to leave for his trip. He had offered to stay, but what good would it have done? Whether he stayed or went wouldn’t change anything. As I sat in the bathroom, weeping, I could even tell the moment that was the peak. It was done. Over. There would be residual damage, of course, but the event was finished. When I was hugging Hubby and sending him on his trip, I told him it was over. He held me for a long time, and left. I knew asking him to stay, like I really wanted to, would be ridiculous. I had already seen that he felt helpless, and was miserable for me much more than for the situation.

Later we would talk at length about this, about how he was excited at the idea of the baby, but it was just that – an idea. For the partner, it’s just an idea until they start to see the belly grow, feel the kicks, see the movements. For the woman who is pregnant though, the motherhood starts the moment you know that baby is there, just a microscopic little bean. Your feelings in that moment, combined inevitably with your hormones, overwhelm you. You start thinking and planning, praying and seeking wisdom from those other mothers in your life. You love that little thing… that little nameless, shapeless thing, because that’s what the Lord created you to do. You begin to neglect other things in your life as you start to wonder what the baby will look like, how far along you (actually, officially) are, whether it’s a boy or girl, whether you’ll even find out until the birth. It’s incredible how quickly you love that little thing, and every possibility it has.

But to have that little thing taken, snatched from you without reason or ceremony, that will break your heart. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?” The answer is probably nothing. The poor little thing never had a chance. And neither did your heart.

In the next few weeks that seemed to drag, I held onto my first baby, my sweet Ella Kate, so tightly. I thanked the Lord for her, tried to believe that it was still possible for me to have a second such miracle. But if there wasn’t, EK was perfect, and I would do my best to be happy with only her. But I wanted her to have a sibling! I wanted her to experience that bond. I know many only children who wish they had shared their childhood with another. I didn’t want to keep that experience from her. I couldn’t help but wonder, no matter how hard I tried not to, if I had lost the only chance at another little miracle.

After the miscarriage, my doctor told me it could be 4-12 weeks before my cycle would start again. You guessed it – all that stuff about every woman’s body being different and all. He also said we should wait till the cycle started back to try to get pregnant again. And oh, did we ever want to try. I didn’t know there was a gaping, second-child-shaped hole in my life until I glimpsed it and lost it. But we waited to “try”. We took it slow, went about our busy lives. Then one day, chatting with two of my girlfriends, I started to count. I counted the days and weeks since my sadness had begun. There were so many… thirteen weeks, to be exact. How long had my doctor told me to wait? 4-12? Well heck, there ought to be something wrong with me if I haven’t started at this point. What could be the hold up? This girl needs to get pregnant!

When I got home, I found out what the hold up was. I was pregnant, there in that very moment. In the midst of my anguish and waiting and wallowing and praying, I got pregnant. Without trying, without stressing over dates and temperatures and wives’ tales. I couldn’t believe it – women don’t get pregnant like that, right? Our bodies need time and healing and rest, right? I guess sometimes not. And when I called my doctor’s office, the nurse I spoke to estimated (based on my miscarriage date) that I got pregnant about eight weeks after the miscarriage, and made me an appointment for when I should have been abut eight weeks along. At the appointment, the ultrasound tech (the same sweet Kayla who had walked with me through both my pregnancy with EK and my shorter, sadder one) burst out laughing and said, “You’re 10.5 weeks pregnant! Due before the end of the calendar year!” What an incredible surprise, to be that near the baby’s arrival! I was almost out of my first trimester, and I hadn’t even known I was expecting.

EK's big announcement!
EK’s big announcement!

Part of the beauty of my story is the way Joseph obliterated my raw sadness. His appearance showed me that my body wasn’t broken. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. A few short months later, he arrived the day before his due date, round and pink and perfect. He’s the symbol of redemption in the story. The proof that something blessed and sweet was on my horizon.

The night before J was born, EK still in her mismatched Christmas pajamas, snuggling her brother-to-be.
The night before J was born, EK still in her mismatched Christmas pajamas, snuggling her brother-to-be.

In my story, I just have one. Just one little being I lost and will one day meet in heaven. But I know there are countless women who have lost more, much more, more than even those little babies that should have been. I count myself lucky to have two healthy children, and just one comparatively brief time of sadness. I don’t sit here thinking I’ve had it the worst you can have. But every miscarriage hurts. It still hurts. It is such a deep sadness, in your bones. But look for the redemption. I won’t tell you the redemption will look like mine. It might not be a child at all. But it will be there. Every situation can and will be redeemed. Let yourself believe it.

In Case You Think We’ve Got It Together…

Disclaimer: attitude and honesty are sure to follow.

I don’t have it all together. No one does. But I’m one of those moms. One of those moms that wishes to be optimistic, to focus on the positive, the highlights of my day. On my Instagram, I’m in the middle (well, almost three-quarters) of my “100 Happy Days”. Because I wanted to be able to click my hashtag and see only my pictures, I dubbed my project #shinyhappy100. I felt a couple months back that I was getting a prophetic word to “shine”. I didn’t know what that looked like, but I took it in stride and did my best to do it, to share it, and to help my family and friends shine as well.

That doesn’t mean that every moment of every day is perfect. I love organization, but just like anyone else, sometimes the mess consumes the house, and I have to succumb to it, go to sleep, and fix it tomorrow (or the next day). I love when my babies nap at their regularly scheduled time, dinner is a delicious feast at the right time, and baths and bedtimes are spot on. But let’s be honest; that shit rarely happens – am I right? Babies don’t nap if they don’t feel like it, dinner can be a peanut butter sandwich (because I’m out of jelly, of course) and we skip the bath to start bedtime early, but no one actually goes to sleep till after 9:00pm. Can I please get an amen, yet?! Sometimes it’s all I can do to not fall asleep in EK’s bed while I’m waiting to her to decide she’s finished playing with my hair and singing to herself… because you know if I leave before she’s finished she jumps right out of bed and follows me out of the room (cue the loud wailing as if being tortured when I put her back).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

I just don’t want to give in to negativity. I’m not trying to pretend I don’t have problems. I’m not trying to pretend I’m the happiest person on the planet with a perfect family and flawless friends and a fairytale ending. But I am trying to encourage. I’m trying to send good vibes. Yes, most of my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds show cute pictures, Bible verses, hilarious things that have happened, and sweet things about my family. But would you really want to hear every time my kids pooped out of their diapers and I had a huge mess to clean up? Would you want to hear about every disagreement Hubby and I encounter? Would you care to hear the details of a particularly grueling day where I didn’t get to leave the house or even shower? I bet you wouldn’t. I bet you’d rather hear about cute stories and successes and triumphs, because they give you hope that positive and happy things happen, even on crappy days, even in the midst of strife or sadness. Why? Because he has overcome the world! There are so many things out there that can discourage you and get you don’t. If you’re looking for a place where women write about all the things they hate and complain about every little thing in their lives, this probably won’t be it. Yes, I’ll do my fair share of venting and ranting, I’m sure. I won’t sugarcoat or pretend things are great when they aren’t.

The kids enjoying some back porch kiddie pool time together
The kids enjoying some back porch kiddie pool time together

But I will absolutely be happy in little moments with my sweet family, and celebrate small blessings, because that’s what keeps us going. I am about encouraging and lifting up and praising and thanking the Lord for little pieces of His awesomeness. Chocolate-covered mouths in wide grins. Successful bedtimes followed by evenings spent watching tv snuggled in the basement with Hubby. Lunch out with the kids that didn’t end in a scream fest. I will celebrate these things! I will post pictures! I will even post the picture that I took right before the meltdown. I do these things because when I look back at the pictures, at the statuses and blog posts, do I want to remember that my children were crying, sloppy messes and I had a husband who never remembered anything I said? No. I will remember I had precious children who made mistakes but had even more redeeming qualities. I will remember a Hubby who loves me unconditionally, even when I am my worst self. I will remember that I was busy and crazy and stressed, but happy and blessed and loved.

What will you do? What will you focus on and remember?

Have We Frozen Children’s Movies?

500px-Frozen-movie-poster

Hubby and I used to go to the movies a lot. I love seeing films on the big screen, right at the same time as everyone else is seeing them for the first time. However, let’s be honest: once you have a kid, that’s a REALLY expensive date night. Movie tickets aren’t cheap, and neither are babysitters. Once you tack on dinner before the movie or drinks after, you’ve spent a lot of money. So needless to say, since EK has been around (about 27 months), we’ve seen a total of less than 10 movies… maybe even closer to 5. That being said, we didn’t see Frozen until several months after it came out on DVD. I had heard all the hype, had students who were obsessed with the movie, characters, and soundtrack. Because I have loved Idina Menzel since “Rent”, I managed to hold off listening to the song until I watched it in the movie the first time. It’s a great song, she sings it SO WELL, and it was almost unbelievable how quickly my daughter heard the first notes of it, stared open mouthed at the tv, and begged for me to play it again as soon as it was over. I mean, seriously? She had never heard it, didn’t know that it was the song that everyone was supposed to love. It was just that great. I think someone tipped her off.

I have long been a fan of Disney. Nay, a obsessive lover of all things Disney. That about covers it. I love the movies, the shorts, the music, the characters, the voices, the animators, the world created for and devoted to Disney. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The next movie I remember seeing in theaters was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Every summer for as long as I can remember, my mom would take my brother and me to the newest Disney flick at least once, maybe twice in the theater, and we would get the VHS (yeah, I said it) for Christmas. Like clockwork… it was our tradition.

Now that I’m the mom, the “grown up”, I’m watching these animated features with a little more scrutiny. I still love them, oh yes, but I’m looking for more than a catchy tune and a happy ending. Pixar added incredible things to the latest movies, not the least of which were new ideas and 3-D animation. Whether or not the movies were complete musicals has gone in and out over time, as has using original stories versus tried and true tales. I will say one thing: every time I see a new one, I’m amazed at how the integrity of the movies I’ve loved since childhood has been upheld, in quality and in magic.

Two of my newest favorites are Frozen (I love it almost as much as my daughter) and Brave. On the heels of my #LikeaGirl rant (read it here), I love them for their heroines. Brave‘s Merida is the epitome of who I was as a preteen: outspoken, strong character, always right, forever at odds with her mother, and yes, a bit awkward. I relate to her immediately, as I’m sure thousands of girls did during their first viewing of the movie. My favorite thing about the storyline? Redemption of relationship and no romantic love interest in sight (quite the opposite, in fact). Brave is about Merida and her journey, so no man needed. Talk about empowering girls! Look at this gal, she might have made some mistakes, but she worked to make them right again, and here she is, a total rockstar. She even makes me want to grow out my hair, get a perm, and dye it red.

But Frozen? It’s totally confusing me. I mean, yes… empowering girls? That’s covered. Strong relationships with your girls? Covered. Anna sees that Elsa needs help. She goes out, gets the help, saves the day. But she find one love, realizes that’s a bust, and then finds a new one in what, a day? But back to the girls, in the end, Elsa saves Anna, too. But after she’s been totally unhinged, right? She has this magic power, can’t control it, freaks out, freezes her kingdom, almost kills her sister, and still is just barely hanging on to her sanity until she has a miraculous change at the end of the movie. She’s a powerful gal, sure, but that isn’t the power I want my little girl to aspire to. I want her to be like Anna… I think..? (Check out my friend Sydney’s thoughts on Frozen here)

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. I mean, I don’t remember having any thoughts about the movies past “I love that song “Part of Your World” and “Lumiere was really funny!” and “I can’t believe Pegasus acted like a bird the entire movie.” I never had a thought about Ariel disobeying her dad just to get with a guy, paying for it, and then having to have her dad bail her out anyway. Or how selfish Woody is in all those Toy Story movies, trying to selfishly keep Andy for himself. I just enjoyed them for what they’re worth… and they’re GREAT films. Truly. But some of the early movies, like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, don’t really give the image of their heroines doing anything much at all mostly just cleaning, yet I can still safely say that Sleeping Beauty is one of my all-time favorites. How does that work out? Honestly I’m not sure. It just is.

Am I overthinking it? What do you think about the leading ladies of Frozen and Brave? 

Bedroom Swap

We are blessed with two children who are great sleepers. But once in a while, there is a fluke. And what happens when your groggy bedhog of a toddler climbs into your bed at 4:00am?

20140708-100747-36467050.jpg This. Your gallant husband takes a hit to his dignity at being wedged out of the bed, goes across the hall, and gets in your daughter’s pinktastic bed, complete with your childhood PowerPuff Girls and Tinkerbell pillowcases. And you humiliate him on your blog.

Parenting Plight #7: Puzzles and Blocks and Toy Crumbs, Oh My!

For our last parenting plight, I picked one that I know all moms and dads are familiar with. I was reading a blog a while back (honestly, I can’t remember which one) and came across the term “toy crumbs”, meaning the little pieces that go along with every toy that are inevitably getting lost or broken or scattered about apart from the main part of the toy. Puzzle pieces and blocks of all sorts are the primary perpetrators in our home.

EK loves puzzles. She has all kinds: ones that make noise, fuzzy ones, flat floor puzzles and wooden puzzles with holes cut out for the pieces to fit in. Most of them are from Melissa and Doug so they are adorable and durable and well loved. However, we never have a moment that all the pieces to all the puzzles are where they should be. Shall I rephrase that? The. Pieces. Are. Every. Stinking. Where. I recently spent a few hours with my mom organizing a lot of the toys in our house. Most of the puzzles had their pieces close by, the blocks were with their kind, and we put away lots of the things that are too old for J, but a little boring for EK nowadays. Already, a week later, our house is an explosion of mostly puzzle pieces, because EK loves them so much that various pieces get carried around to every room in the house, and left there. I guess maybe one day I’ll have rid my house of the puzzle clutter, but no time soon.

Christmas morning, 2013, EK playing with her instruments puzzle (that makes sounds!)
Christmas morning, 2013, EK playing with her instruments puzzle (that makes sounds!)

Blocks, on the other hand, are more than just an annoyance; they can cause near-fatal wounds. We have all sorts of blocks at our house, and stepping on them is an unavoidable bit of torture. Legos specifically are designed to injure the most tender part of a foot, with their corners and edges galore. We have lots of wooden blocks, also… and while those aren’t quite as painful to the foot, they are smooth, slick even, and slide gracefully across the floor and underneath any piece of furniture that isn’t quite touching the floor. Therefore, what can a child do but purposefully slide them across the floor, as if playing hockey, to every corner of the room to be found only by a vacuum? The only other  blocks we have besides Legos and wooden blocks are cardboard blocks. Who decided that kids needed cardboard covered in shiny paper as a toy? It’s my child’s personal mission to make sure that paper is ripped off by whatever remotely sharp item she has on hand (fingernails, teeth, a stray pen left out with a journal).

EK with her nesting and stacking (cardboard) alphabet blocks from Melissa and Doug.
EK with her nesting and stacking (cardboard) alphabet blocks from Melissa and Doug.

Long story short, toy crumbs invade the houses where children can be found. Do you agree? What is your toy crumb kryptonite?

Happy Fourth of July, ‘Merica!

There’s nothing more American than family and friends, grilling burgers and hot dogs, drinking beer and playing games on the back deck. That’s exactly what we did today. And then after we had eaten our fill and were ready to cool off inside for a while, we all went over to my brother-in-law’s house to see my new nephew on his first day home from the hospital. It was indeed an incredible day spent enjoying the freedom that so many have fought and sacrificed to give us.

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My bestie Lauren hanging with EK
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My awesome, hair-twirling bro getting some snuggles with J.
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American dresses! My mom literally got EK’s at a Cracker Barrel. True story. Mine’s from J. Crew about 6 years ago.
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My awesome dad telling J how to be a cool dude!
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My mom can get that smile outta J every time!
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Hubby and buddy Drew throwing the football. I’ve never seen this before.
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Lauren and me, getting some face time with my nephew, Finley.
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