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Making Peace with my To-do List

So I was planning to write a post this week about organizing our embarrassingly messy pantry, a post complete with pretty, shiny “after” pictures, but the thing is that I have to actually organize it before I can write a post about organizing it. And life has been pretty messy around here lately (not a whole lotta organizing going on). Just so you get the visual, here’s what our house looks like currently:

photo 1-1our bathroom

photo 2-1our bedroom

photo 3-1our living room

Like I said — messy.

We had a water pipe bust last week, and our bedroom floor and wall are still in the drying process, so everything has yet to be put back together. We’re currently sleeping on the pull-out couch (wishing we had a guest bed right about now, because sleeping on this thing makes us wake up feeling at least ninety years old).

Anyways, with all of this craziness going on, it’s been one of those weeks where not much on my to-do list really gets crossed off. And that’s something that generally stresses me out.

Case in point: Weston went through a stage a few months ago where he literally would. not. nap. during the day unless I was holding him, and I just about lost my mind because I felt so suffocated and angry about not being able to GET ANYTHING DONE. But then I realized that I was really just mad about the fact that I was not the one in control of how my day was going. And that people (like my infant son) are more important than my to-do list. And that baby snuggles are way more fun than vacuuming, anyway. I know all of this sounds obvious (maybe this is easier for most people), but I was really having a hard time with getting to the end of the day and feeling unproductive.

So one of my goals for this year is to not be so driven by productivity and to remember that loving the people under my roof well is more important than how much I get done in a given day.

Having said all that…the house still has to get cleaned by someone, and being a responsible adult means getting some of that to-do list crossed off at some point.

So, here are some strategies that are helping me keep my sanity and make peace with my to-do list, especially during days, weeks, or seasons when life is unusually hectic.

  1. 3 “Most Important Tasks” – I’m reading Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, a book that defines simple living and offers suggestions for how to get there. One thing she writes about is having 3 tasks each day that you label as “most important.” That way, you’re not pressured and overwhelmed by your entire to-do list; if you get to more items on your list, great, but if not, at least you know you made progress.
  2. Chip away at large tasks – Some things on my to-do list loom so large in my head that they feel almost too intimidating to even start, like that newborn photo book I still haven’t made, or organizing our closets. But a few minutes here and there really do add up, so even if your only time to work on something is during your child’s nap time, or whenever you have a few extra minutes, tackling large projects in small bites adds up quicker than you’d think.
  3. Evening tidy-up — Some things I wait to do until right before bed, like picking up Weston’s toys or putting the day’s dirty dishes in the dishwasher. (Check out that alliteration!) Otherwise, these are tasks I’d be doing over and over again throughout the day. Every night, I do a quick tidy-up (15-20 minutes) around the house to get things back in order. This way, even if I didn’t get the chance to get much more done throughout the day, I can go to bed feeling like I’m not surrounded by clutter.

Maybe next week I’ll get around to organizing that pantry and sharing about it here. Or maybe more important life things will come up and it won’t get done quite yet. Either way, I think the world will keep on spinnin’. :)

What are some tips you have for managing your to-do list/not stressing about getting everything done? I’d love to hear, because obviously I’m still figuring all of this out.

Weekend Links

Happy weekend! Some links I enjoyed last week:

 

It’s a stormy day here, so I’m trying to spend as much time as possible on the couch with a hot drink and a book. (And trying to ignore the fact that it looks like IKEA threw up in here — all of our bedroom furniture/decorations are currently thrown in other rooms thanks to our busted water pipe damage still being fixed).

 

 

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 silly boy doing his crazy-sleepy laughs

Hoping your weekend is filled with all of your own favorite kinds of rest.

Recipe: Crock-pot Taco Chili

I’ve been obsessed with crock-pot recipes lately, since they’re usually pretty idiot-proof and often just require dumping ingredients together and pressing a button. This taco chili is my new favorite thing to make for dinner — it’s super easy and is perfect for these cold nights we’ve been having. And since this recipe makes a TON, it’s great for if you’re having people over, or if you want to freeze some for later, or for leftovers the next day. Plus, it makes the whole house smell delicious while it’s cooking. It’s a win all around.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Directions: 

  1. Combine all ingredients except chicken in crock-pot.
  2. Place chicken on top and cover.
  3. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. 30 minutes before serving, remove chicken and shred. Stir chicken back in.

We love ours served with tortilla chips, and it’s yummy topped with sour cream and cheese, too.

What’s your favorite crock-pot recipe?

 

 

 

 

Our Favorite Baby Products

When I was pregnant with Weston, Will and I were clueless when it came to creating a baby registry. Who knew there were so many baby-related products? And were they all really necessary?  Walking into Babies ‘R Us and seeing everything in all its pink and blue pastel glory is pretty intimidating. Thankfully, my incredibly kind sis-in-law (who had a baby just months before) helped us wade through those murky waters by helping out with our registry.

If a little one is in your future and you happen to be as confused as we were by all the products out there, here’s a list of our top five must-have items, in addition to the obvious things like diapers, bottles, pacifiers, etc.. Of course, every parent (and baby) is different, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but we use each of these products daily and love having them for our five and half month old.

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1. Aden + Anais blankets – These large, muslin blankets are super soft and breathable, so they’re great for swaddling. They’re also handy to use as nursing covers if you’re around other people and don’t feel like giving them an eye-full. We use one of these every day to swaddle Weston for his naps. (He is a swaddle ninja and usually wiggles himself out of blankets, so we don’t use these at night when he’s asleep for a longer period).

2. Just Born Wear-A-Blanket – Aside from its awesome name, this product is probably our favorite baby item because it drastically improved the quality of Weston’s nighttime sleep (and therefore our nighttime sleep). For weeks, bedtime was so frustrating because we couldn’t settle on a swaddle/blanket option that seemed to suit him. He used to squirm angrily when his arms were swaddled down, but if his arms were free, they would flail and wake him up. We tried those velcro swaddle things, blankets, sleep sacks, you name it. Nothing seemed to work – either Weston wasn’t happy or I was worried about a blanket coming loose since he wiggled around so much.

Enter: the Wear-A-Blanket. This thing is the bomb. Weston slept so much better once we started putting him in one. (He also outgrew his startle reflex around the time we stumbled across these, so the whole arms-being-free thing wasn’t as much of a problem by then). It has a velcro strap underneath that makes baby feel more secure, and small mesh areas to add breathability. I’m sure all babies are not as picky as ours when it comes to nighttime sleep preferences, and this specific product might not work for you, but sometimes it just takes a ton of trial and error (and patience) to figure out what works for you and your baby.

3. Sophie the Giraffe – This teething toy is soft for baby’s gums, and the legs are easy for little fingers to grasp. It’s also made of natural rubber, which is cool if that sort of thing is your jam. Sophie is by far Weston’s favorite toy – she makes her little photobombing appearance in just about all of the pics I take of him.

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4.Changing Pad Liners – This one is a little boring, but we use the heck out of these Babies ‘R Us pads that come in a variety of sizes. We use medium sized ones on top of Weston’s changing pad and small square-shaped ones under his head to catch spit up when he’s playing on a blanket/activity mat. These pads are also good for impromptu diaper changes if we’re not near his changing table, and the large ones protect his crib sheet from diaper leaks. These things are so helpful!

5. Baby Bouncer – A bouncer may seem like an obvious essential baby item, but I wish we had gone with this one from the start. (We also have a Graco combination swing/bouncer, but this one is a little smaller and easier to move from room to room when needed). Weston plays in this bouncer every day right now, and the bar allows us to latch different dangling toys to add variety for him. He likes to hang out in it so he can play with his toys and watch us while we’re doing stuff around the house like getting ready in the mornings or cooking dinner.

Those are our favorite products – I’m sure I could keep going, but this post is getting long enough. The only other things I’d say we consider essential are lots of burp cloths, an activity mat for playtime on the floor, and a baby monitor (this is the one we have). I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but that’s all I’ve got for now. And for those mamas planning to breastfeed, nursing camis from Target are the best thing since the Baconator.

What are your baby item essentials? Leave a comment and share!

 

2013 Recap & Happy New Year

I’m a few days late, but Happy New Year!

2013 was a big one for us. Some highlights:

1. The best part of 2013 for us was adding our sweet baby boy to our fam. Weston has brought so much joy into our lives. Motherhood is by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done, but we’ve been having so much fun these past five and a half months. Even on the most frustrating days (like when he decides to boycott naps all day, like yesterday), all he has to do is look at me with that big gummy grin of his and it’s all worth it. We’re so blessed to have such a sweet little guy.

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2. This one is connected to #1, so maybe it should be called #1.5 instead of #2, but being pregnant for over half of 2013 was also a highlight. I loved being pregnant. Yes it was uncomfortable at times, and the second half of my pregnancy was in a way a very scary time because of a potential umbilical cord problem we faced (more about that later), but I would do it again in a heartbeat. (Ok maybe not in a heartbeat — more like in a couple of years, when I forget that whole newborn-never-sleeping-at-night part). Anyways, I loved feeling Weston’s kicks and having a big ol’ pregnant belly and not having to count calories. And having cleavage for the first time, that was a plus. K, moving right along.

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 3. Quitting my job. That was a biggie. I miss the feeling of productivity I had with teaching, and I miss the people I worked with, but this was the right decision for me for now. Even though I most likely won’t go back to middle school (God bless the brave souls of middle school teachers!), I’m sure I’ll return to teaching at some point. I’m loving being at home with the munchkin, so leaving teaching definitely goes in the “plus” column for 2013.

4. Joining community groups through our church. We’ve been attending our church for a while and love it — everything from the pastor to the music to the fact that we can wear jeans and get free coffee. But we hadn’t joined a small group, so we didn’t feel very connected. I am generally not the type of person to just show up to something where I will know absolutely nobody and actually participate (in terms of scary things, that ranks right up there for me with spider attacks and giving speeches), but I knew it was time to make the leap and get connected. I wanted to actually know other people when we showed up for church on Sundays instead of just smiling and saying hello to people whose names we didn’t even know.

So, I signed up for one, and one rainy day this past summer, I put on my brave girl pants and showed up. And I’m so glad I did. Those last months of my pregnancy were the scariest in terms of the cord knot we knew was threatening Weston’s life (but praise God it didn’t cause any problems!), and the book I read with this group of women was just what I needed during that season. I was in a different group this Fall, and it was wonderful, too. And (!) we actually know people at our church now, so yay. Branching out of my comfort zone and signing up for these groups was a definite highlight of the year.

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I’m thankful for the ways we were challenged and grew this past year, in our faith and in our marriage and in becoming parents. It’s been a crazy good year. Here’s to a 2014 that undoubtedly has many more exciting things in store.

Happy New Year!

photo-3P.S. I think this just might be my favorite pic of the year: my men in their Gamecock gear.

 

Recipe: Festive Peanut Clusters

I’ve been saying forever that I want to start a blog one day, when I have the time. With an infant, I feel like my life kind of revolves around changing diapers and doing laundry, and at the end of the day I usually just want to fall into bed instead of starting up a new hobby like blogging. But I finally realized I need to just make time for it if it’s something I want to do. You have time for what you make time for, right?

I thought I’d start by sharing an easy recipe that’s great to make for holiday treat bags, neighbor gifts, a Christmas party, or just to have around the house to eat until you make yourself sick. Which I almost did because these things are that good.

I was looking for something to make to give our neighbors, and I found this recipe that has both a very short ingredients list and a very short instructions list (my two requirements for recipes). I found it in a Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook that I snagged earlier this year at Books-a-Million for 7 bucks.

Here it is:

Ingredients: 24 oz white baking chocolate, 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter*, 4 cups Cheerios, 2 cups mini marshmallows, 2 cups dry-roasted peanuts

Instructions:

  1. Break up the white chocolate into small pieces, put in a microwaveable bowl, and heat until thoroughly melted.
  2. Stir in the peanut butter until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until completely coated.
  4. On waxed paper, drop mixture by heaping spoonfuls. Add sprinkles if you want.
  5. Let stand for about an hour or put in the fridge until firm. (I think they taste better when they’ve been in the fridge).

*I reduced the amount of peanut butter to 1/3 cup, because as seen in the below photo, the clusters came out looking more brown than white. I figured that reducing the peanut butter would help them look more white/Christmasy next time.

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To give to our neighbors, I tossed a few of these bad boys into these containers from Michael’s.

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And there ya go – easy and delish.