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Fall Frenzy and a BIG Blessing

Fall is in the air, here in Idaho. The leaves have yet to start turning, but you can feel it. Everything feels a little more urgent, frantic even, as fall creeps nearer. The air is cooler, and yet the sun is more intense, as though it is giving us one last “what for” while our side of the earth slips away. The garden is slowly ceasing to flower, but vegetables are ripening daily and I am frantically trying to pick and can and freeze in every spare moment. The kids seem to know their days of sunshine are coming to an end and are outside every waking moment, along with the steady stream of neighborhood children that seem to make their way into our back yard each day. And to top it all off, school has started along with all the fall sports and activities that keep us running from place to place.

We are trying something new with our oldest son, who is now in 6th grade. While we continue to homeschool, he is attending the local middle school for band each day, then he heads back over there after school to run with the cross country team. I am suddenly seeing this young, confident, independent young man emerge. On his first day, I was so nervous I didn’t sleep the night before and thought I might throw up when I walked him in to complete his registration; he was completely calm. Now he is riding his bike to and from each day, taking care of all the little details I thought I would have to help him with, and of course immediately finding friends. He said to me yesterday, “Mom, I love homeschooling, but I kind of like going to ‘real’ school too because I got to talk to another boy about Jesus.” I almost cried. This is what it is all about!

Unofficial Projects

I haven’t posted for a couple weeks, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. Since I haven’t officially been doing any organizing projects, I thought I would give a quick re-cap of some of what I have been doing and share my very limited knowledge or the resources I’ve used.

Project #1 – I started my garden. Well, the seedlings for my garden. Though our sunny weather has been tempting me to get out and plant in the ground, I’m resisting because March in Idaho still freezes pretty hard at night. We are starting to see a little bit of green popping up!

Plants

I’m not even close to being a gardening expert, but this is what I do to get my seedlings started:

First, I determine what to start and when to start it.  Most plants shouldn’t be planted outside until the danger of frost has passed, which is around the beginning of May in my area. A quick look at the back of your seed packets will determine when and where you should start your seeds.  Many seeds will instruct direct sowing, which means planting them directly into your outside soil.  I wait on most of these until May. I might plant some cooler weather plants (peas, broccoli, lettuce, beats . . .) a bit earlier. Other packets suggest beginning indoors 6 – 8 weeks prior to planting.  Typically, I stick with my tomatoes, my peppers, and sometimes my cucumbers to begin indoors. This year I also started a few grasses and flowers for fun. My friend over at Kate’s Kitchen Garden begins a lot more than I do a lot earlier because she likes to get a jump on her garden (for serious gardening advice check out her blog). It all depends upon how much work you want to put into it. If you start indoors early, you will have to do a lot more transplanting into larger pots before taking them outside.  I will transplant, especially the tomatoes because in my experience they really need to be larger than the planter allows in order to have a better chance of survival in the garden. But I don’t mind a later harvest, so I don’t plant but what is absolutely necessary indoors.

Next, I find what I will plant in.  This year I bought a seedling planter.  It’s convenient and easy to use and not terribly expensive.  In the past I have used egg cartons as starters. I also buy a bag of planting soil. I will dump it in a bowl, then slowly add water until the soil is damp but not saturated. Then I put the soil into the planters and make a small depression in each partition for seeds.  I will place 3 of 4 seeds in each partition just for a better chance, then thin each down to one sturdy plant later.  Finally, I cover the seeds with a little more soil and add just a little more water.  It is important to keep the soil damp at this stage, so if I have the store-bought planter I will use the lid on top as a sort of green-house and to keep in moisture while the seedlings are getting started.  I find a nice sunny place (usually by my kitchen window) and check daily to ensure the soil stays damp.

Project #2 – I started Dante Alighieri’s Inferno with my homeschool co-op literature class.

Inferno2

It was the class request (homeschool kids – sheesh), but we are having so much fun with this one.  I’m not sure if there is much of a market for resources for this text, but if needed, here is a link to one I have found particularly helpful (and free!) as I prepare.

Project #3 – We (and by we, I mean me – the hubby was on-board long ago) finally broke down and got the kids a puppy.  They have been wanting a dog for years. So after a little research and a lot of looking on Craigslist and in the paper we found a little labradoodle we’ve name Daisy.

Daisy

She’s awfully cute, but puppies really are a lot of work. We’ve been reading every article we can find and wading through all kinds of opposing views on how to and how not to train your puppy. We are new to puppies, so it can be confusing.  I’m still not sure if we are doing it right (check back with me in about a year or so), but click here for a link to an article on puppy training that seemed to present the least confusing method.

Project #4 – This is not really a project, but something to check off the to-do list.  We finally took the kids to the zoo!

 Kids at Zoo

There you have it . . . a sampling of what has kept me busy the past couple weeks.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

My sister-in-law over at Winged Wisdom (homeschool mom extraordinaire – someday she will be on a speaking tour and publishing her own curriculum), made a comment on my previous post that made me think. She asked whether anyone used an old fashioned desk for their “command center” anymore. I don’t have a desk, but I had to admit that maybe I was getting a little carried away with my plans (again).  Why not just keep it simple? So, rather than going with my somewhat elaborate ideas (see previous post), I kept a lot of what I already had with a few added touches.

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The wall above this little piece was already complete with the shelf for keys and magnet boards. I simply added the blue desk organizer, then cleaned out the top drawer to make it my new “junk drawer”. It previously held bibs and wash-rags for sticky little faces and fingers. My kids have outgrown both so it was time for the clean-out.

I did have two little moments of creativity (or complete cheapskate – you decide). First, I wanted pretty file folders, but I already had a big box of regular file folders and just couldn’t justify the purchase. So I made my own. I took wall paper samples from a discontinued wall paper book I was given, all in the same color scheme, and pasted them onto the front of the files. Boom – pretty file folders!

Plain files     Wallpaper books     Pretty Files

Second, I wanted some drawer organizers for my “junk drawer”. Rather than buy fancy organizers I decided to use something I already had. I found these unused plastic pencil boxes in my school room.

Plastic

Open them, place them in the drawer, add some labels. . . Boom – drawer organizers!

Drawer

Thanks for the inspiration, Julie!

Commanding Inspiration

I have been slowly working out my updated command center. I have, once again, gone searching to see what others have done that might suit my new space more effectively.  Here are some that I am drawing inspiration from.

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This from Clean and Scentsible is just plain clean and sensible. I plan to incorporate a wall file holder as she has done.

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Here is another straightforward, clean and simple command center from Simple As That.  My take from this is that I will be downsizing the visible command center components and incorporating a chalk or white-board for menus and grocery lists (that part of the project will probably be added next week).

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Finally, this command center from Organizing Homelife has inspired me to make use of the ample cabinet space I have in my new kitchen, so my paper trail is not always visible. I will be busy this weekend.

Back in Command

This week I am revisiting my “command center“.  The “command center” is the latest word for that place in our homes from which we keep track of and manage what is important – schedules, homework, budgets, bills, etc.  This is what I came up originally:

DSCF2332 DSCF2036 DSCF1921

After living with mine for well over a year, I have a few issues I need to deal with. First, in our move from one house to another, the spaces just didn’t transfer well. What was in reach and functioning well in our previous house is not compatible with our go-to space in this house.  Second, there are some things I simply don’t like about the way I set up my home-management system. For example, I don’t like having everything in a home-management binder, especially bills. It may sound terribly lazy, but when I get a bill in the mail I want someplace to just quickly toss it until bill-paying day rather then getting out my binder, finding the right tab for bills, then filing it. Some aspects I will keep, but this week I will be fine-tuning and changing things up a bit.

Back to the Basics

As I stated in a previous post, I’m coming off a season of slacking a bit in the organization area. So this week, to get myself back in gear, I’m getting back to my to-do lists.  I don’t really like to-do lists; I don’t like feeling beholden to a little piece of paper. Yet, much as I hate to admit it, I really do stay focused on and actually remember what I need to do when I write things down. It has to stay. This week I’ve been making mine on a little yellow note pad and plopping it down on the first flat surface (my little “easy-going” rebellion – I may have to use a list, but I don’t always have to know where it is).  As I studied other’s use of the to-do lists, hyper-organized types suggest listing items in the order in which they should be completed. Some even insist on listing the hours at which items should be completed. But since I am a reluctant to-do list-er, I just list things quickly the night before, review it in the morning to add or delete, then do things in any order I wish – my “easy-going” compromise. See my rules for the to-do list here.

Another item I’ve revisited this week is the Master Schedule. This is a little on the hyper-organized side, but it really is helpful for me, and of course, I add my “easy-going” touch.  The idea of the “Master Schedule” comes to me from Marcia Ramsland’s book Simplify Your Life, Get Organized and Stay That Way. The idea behind it is to have clearly laid out your weekly routine – schedules and things that need to get done at the same time or the same day each week. I started out by taking my trusty yellow notepad and simply listing everything my family and I  have scheduled and everything that must be accomplish week after week. Next I borrowed a cute little print-out from iheartOrganizing and started plugging things into the calendar.

Master Schedule

I started with the things that have definite times. Then I added the things that had to get done on a particular day. My easy-going twist is that I didn’t assign this second group of items a particular time. I like knowing what I have to do each day while having the freedom to get it done in my own time. I’m feeling more organized already.

 

 

Another Week, Another Goal

This week I’m getting back to the basics of organizing.  I’m going to be working on my schedule.  I will be revisiting my to-do list, re-working my master schedule, and getting myself back into a (flexible) routine that will help our household run more efficiently.

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