Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Works for Me Wednesday - Interruptions

One of the things I shared in our Relief Society meeting in January was another "A-ha" moment that I had many years ago, when our first three sons were little.
Weston - 5, David - 3, Brad - 4 days old
Although I thoroughly enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, there were still plenty of challenges. Here's the evidence in the stress-rash that bothered me for a few months after Brad was born. (I only allowed that picture to be taken because I knew I'd regret it if I didn't have a picture of us together on his blessing day.)

About that time I was reading a book on time management. Although it was geared to a business setting, when I read a description for a secretary the light bulb went off. It's a secretary's job to handle interruptions so her boss can work effectively. All of a sudden I realized that my job description included being interrupted. I chose to stay home so that I would be available to my children, to be there when they needed me, not necessarily just when it was convenient. That change of perspective made interruptions much less disagreeable. It also probably helped the rash to disappear!
later that summer, with the monkey at Hogle Zoo
We also made a plan to minimize the more annoying interruptions. For example, it seemed that whenever I sat down to nurse Brad, David would want a drink. He wasn't big enough to pour his own juice, but he was big enough to open the fridge. So, every morning we'd prepare a supply of pre-filled sippy cups and keep them in the fridge for him. A week after I shared this story in our Relief Society meeting, a friend with a current three-year-old and two babies told me this piece of advice was a lifesaver for her. Maybe it will help one of you too!

As always, feel free to share something that works for you. What do you do to minimize unnecessary, annoying interruptions?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Robyn's Baby Blessing

This past weekend we took a quick trip to meet our newest granddaughter. I'm trying to do better at going through the pictures more promptly. Maybe I shouldn't take so many; that might make it easier.
Not enough vacation time, so instead of driving we got on a plane.
Part of the Atlanta skyline
Brooke had a lot to show us. She likes washing the kitchen floor, standing on Great-Grandpa's foot, teasing Grandpa, reading with Boppa (her other grandpa), and telling us "I'm 3, and I'm 3 feet tall!"
First on the itinerary was a picnic in the park. Although it was overcast when we arrived, the sun came out and it was a gorgeous day. A lot of other people had the same idea, but Piedmont Park was large enough for all of us.

Robyn was content to meet her great-granddad, but she wasn't too happy about getting a 4-generation picture.
The two grandmas took Brooke to feed the ducks; unfortunately, they weren't very hungry. Some of those other park visitors must have had the same idea.
Brad said this is the Spinning Rock; it's just sitting on a street corner in Atlanta.


All cleaned up and ready for bed!
Sunday was the baby blessing day. It was rainy so we took a few pictures inside instead of outside.
The happy family
Mom and Dad and Robyn
Brad and Robyn
So grateful for priesthood power!
Grandpa C, Great-granddad B, Daddy, Robyn and Grandpa W
Brooke loves her little sister and is learning how to be gentle!

We'll keep her!

Think there might be a family resemblance?
Robyn
Brad
Brooke

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Works for Me Wednesday - "Use It Up"

I imagine you're all familiar with the little couplet attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

Use it up, wear it out,
Make it do, or do without.

We definitely try to live this principle, and it's something that "works for us." Here's just one example that we put into practice this week. Hopefully, it will give you ideas for ways you can follow this advice yourself. I may even turn this into a series at some points, because there's definitely more than one way to use up items around the house.

Last December I purchased some red and green "holiday" baking M&M's, but then never used them before Christmas. I could put the bag in the freezer and wait for next December, but instead I decided to use them in some cookies for St. Patrick's Day.

I didn't want the red M&M's in my green cookies, but it only took a few minutes to separate the two colors. That few minutes saved me a trip to the store to buy a bag of "green only" M&M's!

We've done this in the past, usually in time for Valentine's Day. I didn't make Valentine cookies this year, either, but the red will work for an Independence Day treat, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Works for Me Wednesday - Shopping for Food

Yesterday was "Errand Day" which meant I did some grocery shopping. One of the stops on my list was the Zaycon truck. That gave me the idea to remind you of an old post:
I don't know if you have Zaycon available where you live, but I've been happy every time I've used their service. Basically you order and pay online, and then go to some parking lot at a particular time to get your food. These are large quantities - the minimum order for the chicken I picked up yesterday was 40 pounds - but you can always share an order with someone else. Check out their website at zayconfoods.com to see if it's something that might work for your family.

Now that we're down to just two people at home, our cooking and shopping habits have changed, but another thing that worked for us when the kids were at home was a Farmer's Market co-op. You can read a post about that here. When I think about it, I do try to find new fruits and vegetables to try at our ordinary grocery store. 

One of the latest ones was chayote squash, but that was a while ago. I have purchased salted cod fish and whole dates recently, but those were requests from Wayne for a recipe he wanted to try. I need to try new things more often, all on my own. It's easy to get in a rut with our menu planning and grocery shopping. While routines and habits are important and even desirable, sometimes it's a good idea to try something new. We might just find that it makes life even better!

What are some hints and ideas you have for making shopping and cooking fun?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Works for Me Wednesday - Planning Ahead

While there's something to be said for spontaneity, overall I've found that if I want something to happen, I need to plan for it. Just as one example, the year we actually had a fun Christmas Countdown was the year I created the little garland with activity suggestions while staying up with ten 10-year-olds for a Halloween sleepover. (That may not be factually correct, but it's what I remember!)

Anyway, in honor of preparing ahead, I'm reminding you all of our Great St. Patrick's Day Experiment from a couple of years ago. You can read all the details here. Basically, though, we compared packaged corned beef brisket with making it ourselves and decided we liked the home-prepared version better. However, it takes several days of "brining" time, so it's not something that can be last minute. If you want to have it this year, put "beef brisket" on your shopping list this week!
Other than serving Corned Beef and maybe a green dessert, we won't do too much to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year. However, some of you may feel inclined to do a bit more. If you plan now, it won't be stressful in a couple of weeks! Here's the link to my Pinterest page if you're looking for some ideas. I think we'll go with this one (no mint involved!):
Best Saint Patricks Food and Crafts 22
What fun holiday traditions are you planning for March?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Works for Me Wednesday - Learning New Things

Recently we were visiting with someone several years older than us, and one thing he said resonated with me. He said that even at his age, he still wasn't sure what he wanted to do when he "grew up" and, in fact, was in the process of applying for college. He mentioned that when he was a teenager his grandfather gave him some advice that he never forgot, and that was to learn at least one new thing every single day. If you just happen to learn more than one new thing, that's great, but it doesn't let you off the hook for learning something new the next day! Isn't that fantastic advice?
That's exactly the purpose of these blog posts, to share the new things we're learning so that others can benefit from them as well. Education is important. This train of thought reminded me that I never did post on this blog something I wrote on the subject last fall. It was published here as part of the Family Proclamation series, but now it's also part of this blog. It also reminded me of the quote, "I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it." (You can read more about that here.)

One thing I learned today was a new scripture teaching the importance of following through and actually doing things (2 Corinthians 8:11). So, I figured I should make the time to write this post and keep up with "Works for Me Wednesdays" tips and ideas.

In particular, what works for me is learning new things from my kids. There's Greek yogurt in my fridge because one daughter-in-law mentioned she really liked it, and Costco tortillas in my freezer because another daughter-in-law introduced me to them.
Another son and his wife gave us a cookbook, saying every recipe they'd tried in it was great. Last week we tried one of the cookie recipes, and the results were delicious. You can make them yourselves someday if you want - Oatmeal Toffee Cookies.
Finally, a little while ago one of our sons encouraged us to read C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. I had read it before, but it's been years, so I decided to read it again. This time I also decided to record some of the passages that I really liked; you can find them over here.

As always, feel free to share whatever has worked for you and your family this week. And remember to learn something new every day!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Revisiting Dyer Park

We decided to spend the Presidents' Day holiday back at Dyer Park, doing the next hike on the list. This time it was a series of 3 trails (because the 4th one* didn't exist) on what we called the bike hill. First up was the winding dirt bike trail. According to the county park website this 2.4-mile, single-track trail, built upon the face of a previous landfill, which has been converted into a natural setting and then transformed into a winding, climbing/descending single-track trail, is the only location in South Florida with appreciable climbs and descents. 
If you look closely, you'll see the little dirt trail zig-zagging back and forth.
Because of the floating clouds, there was always something new to see.


Here's my favorite picture of the day:
The dirt bike trail wound around the sloping sides of the hill, and once we were done with that, we joined the bikes on the paved path around the perimeter of the top.
That gave us a pretty decent view of the surrounding area, which included the "new" landfill across the freeway, some baseball and soccer fields, and some utility buildings, along with the parking lots.
The first trail could be considered a hike; the second one was definitely a walk around the park!
So was the third one, which was a paved loop around the base of the hill. 

This picture reminds me of the view from our kitchen window when I was a teenager, of the rolling California hills. All it needs are a few cows and some additional height.
Afterwards, it was time for a barbecue. Although we used the same barbecue spit and had the same view of the lake, this time instead of hamburgers, we had chicken and vegetable kabobs. They were just as delicious, and probably a bit more healthy.
We even actually saw an alligator out in the middle of the lake. I guess the posted signs are necessary!
Someday we'll go back and try the next hike, which is the yellow "rectangle" marked in the center of the map below.
* The bike hill is the trapezoid in the upper left corner. The red squiggly lines marked in the center (on the top of the hill) didn't exist in real life. That would have been trail #4.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Works for Me Wednesday - The "AHA" Moment

Many years ago I was on our local elementary school's School Site Council (SSC). This was a committee composed of the school principal and 3-4 teachers and 3-4 parents. The purpose of the committee was to develop a school improvement plan, and then to make sure it was carried out properly. It was an interesting opportunity, and much more suited to my temperament than serving in the PTA. (I did volunteer some through them, but it seemed to me the focus there was on fund-raising - definitely NOT one of my strengths or even interests.)

Anyway, one year one of my responsibilities was to help submit a grant application. As part of that process I attended a seminar at the school district where they explained the various steps involved. Near the end of the meeting someone asked a question, and the presenter didn't know the answer. However, someone in the audience did; it was something they had learned through trial and error - when their previous application had been denied.

For some reason, that little experience stuck with me. I was flabbergasted that for all the years the school district had been giving seminars on how to fill out grant applications, they had never bothered to ask the individual schools what worked and what didn't. They seemed to expect each school to flounder and figure things out all on their own. (That may not be true, but it was my perception at the time.)

It made me grateful for Relief Society. Whenever I had a question about something, particularly about raising children or being a good neighbor, I could ask someone. Often I didn't even have to ask; the topic was introduced and then discussed either during a Sunday class or our monthly Homemaking/Enrichment Meetings. I learned to value those times greatly and I learned a lot. Not every solution worked for each family or individual, so having a variety of options to explore to see what worked for me and my family was wonderful.

We had a "share what works for you in setting goals" Relief Society meeting in my current ward in January and that reminded me once again of this experience with the School Site Council. And that gave me the desire to start writing these "Works for Me Wednesday" posts once again. I hope they're helpful to someone!

So, that's why I like these types of blog posts. This one doesn't necessarily have a "works for me" tip included, but you could go here if you want to find some. The first one is "done is better than perfect" which definitely works for me often! And I guess finding a place to volunteer that suits your personal temperament and abilities is another one. What could you add?

Because posts are always more enjoyable with pictures, and because I didn't take a camera with me to any SSC meetings, here are a few that I found in our family photo album of John Muir Elementary and our experiences there.
Steven's and Michelle's first day of kindergarten - a year apart but the process was the same! 
Field Day one year with Brad's and Jeff's classes.
An open house night for Steven, Brad and Jeff.