Visually Managing the Eggs

We eat eggs daily around here. Some mornings we can easily consume half a dozen eggs at a single breakfast. This means we buy at least two dozen eggs at each grocery trip.

And that means at any given time there are two or three dozen eggs in our refrigerator.

And we were having trouble easily knowing which carton had been opened and should be used first.

Which often resulted in two egg cartons, both half full.

I would glance at how many egg cartons were left and think, “Oh, there are still two cartons. We shouldn’t need eggs this trip to the store.” Only to find out that one carton had 3 eggs left and the second had 5.

And we mentioned several times that this was an issue, and sort of joked that we needed some visual management in our fridge.

And finally one day I realized that there was a pretty simple fix. And we didn’t need some big process to analyze the problem and determine the best solution. It took about 15 seconds total.

So I got a Sharpie and just wrote a number 1 and number 2 on the cartons.
IMG_0195.jpgA simple step that has already alleviated frustration and confusion.

Some problems require a fairly involved process to really understand all the pieces involved in order to really find the most effective and beneficial solution. And some problems can be fixed with a quick decision and a Sharpie. Ben wasn’t even in town when I did this. There was no reason to wait until he got home, days later, add it to our agenda, discuss it at length, and then implement a solution that we mutually agreed on. We didn’t even make a Post-It for this one! (*gasp!*)

Sometimes you just need to know which egg carton to use.

Video Stars

We have seen how visual management can be helpful for ourselves, as adults. And I can remember bulletin boards in my elementary school classrooms with big monthly calendars, a spot for today’s weather, the daily schedule-all in very colorful, visual formats. So I wondered if it would be helpful for a specific problem we were having.

Abraham has a weekly calendar that utilizes visual management already. He really seems to find it helpful and enjoys moving the star each morning to the new day and seeing what we have planned for the week.

So, the problem was that we (I)  had gotten into a habit of letting him watch a lot of videos, or at least more than we wanted him to be watching. He is still pretty limited on the screen time he gets and what the content is. But basically any time he asked to watch a video, I saw 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to get dressed, catch up on dishes, eat my breakfast, etc. Which is great and all, but we just felt like for our family and our goals and values we needed to set some limits on video watching with Abraham.

We decided three videos a week was a good place to start. I made three small yellow circles that say “Watch One Video” with a star in the middle. (Yes, I realize we call them “video stars” but they are really circles with a star in the middle.) Each Sunday we move the three video stars to the wall next to his calendar.

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“Videos” are what we have described to Abraham as “short”, meaning 30 minute episodes of Daniel Tiger or Reading Rainbow, etc. “Movies” are “long”, meaning full-length movies. Movies are extra special and we really try to limit those to a specially planned family movie night. Or like last week when he was running a fever and laid on the couch basically all day.

The big difference between videos and movies in our house, besides their length, is that he can request to watch (up to) 3 videos each week and Ben and I decide when a movie is appropriate. He will often ask to watch a movie, but our response is usually, “That would be really fun. We aren’t going to watch that movie today, but maybe sometime soon we will have a family movie night and we can all watch it together.”

So every Sunday he gets three video stars. He can choose (for the most part) when to watch them throughout the week. We still get to decide if it is a good time to start a video. (Not at 8am when we have to be at school in an hour, etc.) And he can’t watch more than one in any given day. When he uses a video star he moves the token to the day he watched it so he knows it has been used and that he can’t watch another video that day.

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I would say that for the most part he does really well with this system and understands. Having the physical tokens that we move from the wall next to his calendar (their “holding place”) to the day he watches a video seems really helpful. And giving him a choice about when to use them will surely start to help him make decisions and learn a little about delayed gratification (or…the pain of using up all your video stars before the week is even half over and not getting to use one later in the week when he really wants to.)

It sort of has be wondering what other areas of my life I could employ visual management to limit “fun” things like watching tv, time spent on facebook, and things of that nature.

Abraham’s Calendar

We have seen for ourselves benefits of visual management. So we figured it could be helpful for our toddler also. My calendar is full of things like play dates and story times these days. And as we added in a day of school for Abraham each week I wanted to help him understand the concept of a week a little better so he could start to grasp that there was consistency to which day he went to school. I felt like without this visual management for him, he would maybe assume that I chose when he was going to school at random. He seems to do really well with consistency and routine so I figured with a new addition to our schedule as big as school, being able to see how it fit into the other weekly activities we do would be helpful.

I did a few brief searches online and saw a few things I liked. But I had an idea in my head of what I wanted and nothing was quite what I was looking for. And there were plenty to choose from with downloadable templates. But in the end, I decided to make something myself.

It is a very high-end calendar made of white poster board, some washi tape, and some activity cards I have hand-drawn. (A bonus of doing it this way is that it has really stretched me creatively, specifically in having to sketch out each card. Drawing has never been something I felt confident in, so this has been a challenge, but it has actually been fun!)

There is one column for each day and a star that gets moved from each day to the next. Some cards stay pretty stationary (church, school, etc.) Some cards I keep in a drawer and they get added as appropriate (birthday celebrations, doctor visits, grocery shopping, etc.)

One thing that seemed helpful with this way of laying out our week was that when Ben had a trip that spanned several days, I put one card on the day he left with a string connecting it all the way to the day he would return. I think this helped Abraham’s toddler brain begin to comprehend length of time and see that there was a finite time that Daddy would be returning.

I used to wait to tell him about something exciting that we were going to do until just before the event. (Sometimes, in the car as we were about to walk into the event.) A toddler can only understand so much about the concept of time and if I told him at the beginning of the day a friend was coming over to play, but then something came up and they didn’t end up coming after all, he would be so disappointed. So I hesitated some before making this calendar for fear of constant disappointments as cards had to shift around or be removed. But I figure it is a good way to start helping him understand that while we can plan things, sometimes plans change and we have to be flexible.

He really enjoys moving the star each morning. And it helps him feel involved while we are planning out our days and looking at our own board each morning.

So far it has been a really valuable tool. We recently added a token system as a way to limit the amount of screen time he requested. I’ll share more about that soon.

Grownup Book Reports: Notes from a Blue Bike

My thoughts on Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. Or, why we are not getting a new car. (Yet.)

Overall this book didn’t contain any earth-shattering ideas for us on how to live more intentionally. However, it was an encouragement to read of someone who is also attempting to live a life of intentionality and simplicity-especially in our fast-paced and busy American culture.

And while I admire this family’s deep need to maintain flexibility so they can travel and experience the world, that’s not a value our family shares. Well, not that intensely anyway. Certainly we desire to travel and experience different cultures and we most definitely want to expose our children to those that live differently than us. But I wouldn’t say it is the central theme of our family.

We are actually still working through how to articulate what it is our family values are. But a rough version would be that we desire to live a life that allows us to help others change the world. We don’t necessarily have a need deep in our souls to be front and center to changing the world. But we do feel we have a role to play in helping others use their gifts, skills, talents, resources to make big and small differences in the lives of people right here and across the globe.

But back to the book…

One of the most inspiring parts to read was where she talks about how they were able to pay off a significant amount of debt.I think what really struck me was that they were able to pay off an amount of debt that is more than we owe, while making less than we make. It’s not that we have to be making so much more money each month. It’s that you have to prioritize and sacrifice now for reaping the benefits later. And the sooner you tackle the debt (or whatever hard thing it may be), the sooner you can live free of that burden.

While reading this we had been talking about purchasing a new car. We have one car for our family. One that is quite well-worn and needs some significant work. By many people’s standards we would be well justified in replacing this car. And we do want to replace this car. We even test-drove a vehicle and were approved to take out a loan.

But then I encouraged Ben to read this book too. And one night he said he thought we needed to hold off on getting a new car. And deep down I knew he was right. Because even as I was reading about their mantra that “Debt is not a tool,” I knew that this was a better decision for us. Taking out a loan to get a new vehicle is not necessarily a bad decision. And for us, right now, it isn’t necessarily that it is a bad or unwise decision. But paying off some other debt, saving some money, and making this vehicle work for a little longer just seemed like a better fit for us right now.

So we aren’t getting a new car. Yet. But we have a plan and a system to help us get to that point. And so we are choosing to put this desire on a back burner. Which, honestly, isn’t fun. I was really looking forward to a newer vehicle with power windows and locks. And doors that all opened from the outside. But I have peace about waiting on this one.

We Need a New Couch. But Not Yet.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of piles and stacks of things.

I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed when I walk through the house.

I’m tired of seeing piles of things everywhere and just adding to them daily because that’s easier than taking the effort to find a place to put something. It’s easier and faster to just set it down on the already growing piles. And really, there’s an art to stacking things, right? I mean, there’s some skill in adding the next piece to the pile without it coming crashing down.

There’s a quote that I cut out of a magazine probably 3 years ago. My intention was to have it posted somewhere I could see it on a regular basis. Like so many other things, it got buried in the bottom of a pile. I found it recently and put it on my weekly planner, where I’ll see it frequently throughout the day and week.

But we never make it pass the quote to cleaning up the clutter. A few weeks ago Ben and I decided that we needed a way to keep track of all the things that need to be done, not just the piles that need to be cleaned, but the projects and tasks, and budget items. So, we wrote down every to-do we could think of on post it notes, gave each one of them a priority and stuck them on the wall. It’s not exactly a great looking decoration that blends well with our Dining Room decor, but it is a system for setting priorities.

We need to this because I’m tired. And I’m ready to feel like we are making decisions on how to use our time, instead of feeling overwhelmed by a growing “to-do” list.

And already, I have felt a freedom and a sense of release by just using our new system for a matter of days.

For example, I want a new couch. Ours is a hand-me-down that has served us quite well for the past 14 years, but it’s tired. It’s saggy and uncomfortable. So, when we started all this, I wrote on one of my post-its that in 10 years I don’t want to be sitting on this same worn out couch anymore. And there is a feeling of freedom and release that I have found by writing on a post-it. It is something that is important to me. And together we can determine when the time is right to buy a new couch. But putting it on a post it helps me. It is out there & won’t be forgotten. And I am ok with prioritizing things like fixing the back deck, and preschool tuition because I know that my desire for a new couch is not being ignored or forgotten. It’s been made known and we agree that replacing the couch should happen. But it’s no longer an emotional decision to replace the couch because I found a good deal on one online that I really like and ‘a deal like this just won’t come around again.’ (That’s not true.) When the time is right, and we have the funds, we will be able to find a suitable couch in our price range. (That’s the truth.)

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To me, this is the beauty of the post-it system.

There is also freedom in looking at the wall and choosing to spend my 15 minutes of free time while both kids are napping to put some work in on something we have collectively decided is a priority. And that means it is ok for me to ignore some of the other things I feel a need to be doing.

So, I can spend 15 minutes searching Craigslist and AutoTrader for a new car. I don’t have to feel guilty for doing that. (Even though there are lots of other things that could be done…sorting the books that don’t all fit on the bookshelf…so instead, they get piled in stacks next to the bookshelf.) And many days, part of me really wants to just sit and sort through the piles of books and get rid of what doesn’t fit on the shelves, because I really LOVE doing tasks like that. But that fire isn’t the one that needs to be put out right now, so it is better to just let it burn (or simmer, as it were) and we will get to the books when some of the other, more pressing things have been tackled.

I’m still tired. But we are already making progress on things and throwing post-its away because we are accomplishing some of what we have set out to do.

I stay at home with a toddler and an infant. I might feel tired for the foreseeable future. But I have a renewed hope that I won’t be sitting in this saggy, worn out sofa forever. One day I’ll rest these weary bones on a new sofa, and I will enjoy it all the more because we worked hard to get to that post-it.

Ten years!

We’ve been married for 10 years today.

Ten years!

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We’ve had an incredibly blessed 10 years. Lots of adventures, lots of friendships, lots of love from our families. Very little hardship.

We’ve lived in campus housing that was so close to the radio station that anytime someone called our land line before 5pm, the AM radio station coming over the phone was louder than our conversation.

We’ve lived among a community tucked back in the woods where we learned to be married. And we were loved on so well there.

We’ve lived in the heart of the city and are part of a community that loves us so well. To the extent that they know just how much a gift like this speaks to our hearts.

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We’ve spent time in the mountains of Colorado, walking along the cobblestone streets of Europe, experienced the joy in a Ugandan smile.

We have many adventures ahead, and though we don’t know what those might be, I am grateful for such a perfect partner to go through life with.

“In the presence of God, and before our friends and family, I thank God for you. I thank Him for entrusting you, his beautiful creation, to me as my wife/husband. I promise to be your best friend, to honor you and to respect you. I promise to help you become the person God wants you to be. I will count it joy when we experience trials, knowing that through the struggle God will draw us closer to Him and build us up. I will strive to love you as Christ does. This is my vow and promise to you that will not be broken-in good times or bad-as long as we both shall live,or our Lord should return.”

Celebrating a decade.

It seems sort of amazing to me that Ben & I have something to celebrate that happened 10 years ago.

 

10 years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I came home from work & was sent on a random scavenger hunt that led me to Ben, a fondue dinner out in the woods, a Big question, and a sparkly ring.

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We usually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a fondue dinner. Here’s our current favorite fondue recipe. (Getting the gruyere cheese at Sam’s is usually a better deal than getting at the local grocery store-it’s a little pricey.)

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This year our dessert was Reese’s s’mores in the toaster oven. YUM!

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Our Home

About 6 months ago we entered into something that is undeniably “adult.” We bought a house!

And I have to say, after 9 years & 8 homes, it feels really good to be in a place that we can call our own. A place that allows us the freedom to make significant changes to walls & room colors & the yard.

We have lived in some really great houses & apartments. And most all of them really felt like ours. But this is different. This is our home. The one we searched for & the one that best fits the way we want to live. And the part of town we want to live in.

There is a deep-rooted peace I’ve felt about this home since we first moved in. We don’t know what life will bring us in the next years, but I feel like for the first time, I’m able to settle in & get attached to this place in a way that I haven’t before. And we love that we get to be a part of the history of this home that has been home to many other families through the past 89 years.

So, how about a tour! [WARNING: some of these are not-so-great camera pics]

2012-09-15_1347743123[a fabulous front porch, just waiting for some big, comfy chairs & a swing]

1-IMAG0016[kitchen organization]

1-IMAG0017[Where the coffee magic happens. (Thanks, Klendas!)]

2012-10-06_1349543649[One of the first home improvement projects-and we LOVE it!
It’s so great to have everything out & in easy reach of the stove.]

[What our room looked like before we moved in.]

1-IMAG0010[And after. The color isn’t quite a dark as it looks in this pic.
But it is a deep, gorgeous shade of teal & I absolutely love it.
Fun things to point out: nightstand made of old encyclopedias (Thanks, Deedra!),
& a duvet cover I made from a $17 sheet set from Target.]

1-IMAG0018[And one of my favorite parts…we’re only about a mile from downtown.
And we have some great views of the city from the back of the house.]

 

So come visit-we have an extra room & everything!

 

 

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care…

We have had an ongoing dilemma in our house every Christmas since we got married.

 

Ben displays the stocking he has had since he was little.

 

But my childhood stocking is still with my parents. And I sort of want it to stay there for now. I guess I just always imagined that when I had my own family we would have matching stockings like I had while growing up.

 

Ben has been reluctant to trade in his stocking for a newer one, so that we could have matching stockings.

 

And so this year (9 years later), we have finally have matching stockings!

 

Because I made one for myself, to match Ben’s. I used a scarf that was a beautiful blue knit fabric, but the scarf itself was a bit too short. So I re-purposed it into the base for my stocking. I used fabric scraps that I have had for a long time for the rest of the stocking.

 

My favorite part is the gold ribbon along the top. This fabric scrap was nestled in the sewing kit I inherited from my great grandmother. I have loved it since I found it (about 15 years now!) & have been saving it for just the right project to come along.

 

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and stretching that creative ability I mentioned yesterday has been good for my soul.

 

I’m really happy with the way it turned out. And that we now have matching stockings. 🙂

Creativity

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
 

I don’t really see myself as a naturally creative person. I think at some level we are probably all creative in some aspect. It seems that I have to work at it a little to find my natural creative outlets. And I’ve found ways to let my natural creativity come out. (making cards, seeing the beauty that still lies in old, discarded things.)

I recently came across some old artwork I created in elementary school. Some of these made me laugh really hard. And some of them seem to have come from a completely unfamiliar creative brain.

 {That’s a brontosaurus w/ a freakishly long tongue. Standing next to a tar pit.}

{You’re missing a lot of 3-D detail here, like layered construction paper hills, and cardboard behind the big balloon, making it just “pop out” from the page, and red yarn tying the basket to the balloon. You can, however, see my signature “m” birds.}

 

Because looking at these, it seems that maybe somewhere along the way, I fell into a trap of thinking too much. As Ray Bradbury said, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

{I call this one “Root Trapper”}

And I’ve tried figuring out the logistics of this story. Can you read it? Here, I’ll transcribe it for you.

“This Plant is called a Root Trapper. It is purple and green. It has a wheel that goes around and eats the roots. On the leaves of it, it has the plants food to attract the roots. The neat thing about it is that it is it only grows by green hills on its right.”
The right side of the picture is my rendition of The Root Trapper. It says, “This is a root trapper. With a wheele that goes eight miles per hour. and eats the roots.”

But I think the beauty of this story & creation is in just celebrating it for what it is. Not trying to figure out the logistics of how in the world this “World’s Scariest Plant” would ever survive.

I’ll leave you with some deep thoughts by Calvin & Hobbes.

“As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance”-Calvin