Day 2 of the Christmas Cleanup Challenge

Ok, all you rabid blog fans out there, just waiting for some sign of today’s cleanup conquest…I’m back!

First, I want to share a small clean out I did, which netted a lot of paper for the recycling bin out back, in addition to helping our front living area/school room function better.

If you are like me, your stack of magazines and catalogs can quickly grow to mammoth proportions, even if you are picky about what you keep. So, after culling through a TON of these, I moved the periodicals into a smaller basket:

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and voila! I had a wonderfully large basket all freed up. Into it went our many, many library books, and they fit beautifully, with room to spare. Now isn’t that nice?? Some folks prefer to bookend their sofa with tables to hold lamps, a drink, etc; we just throw baskets on the floor everywhere.

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One thing which will help you in your house if you use the library a ton: have a rule that when a book is finished, or not in use, or whatever, that its natural home is in the library basket. Or on the library shelf, whatever you have in your house that works best for you. By keeping the library book “home” in a common area, you leave it available to all the members of the family. Not only does this encourage constant use of the books, since it serves as a visual reminder. But having our basket system has also saved me many a headache by preventing those frantic searches for lost library books!!

Ok, now to get onto the big stuff. Today I tackled a dark and forboding place in our home: the closet of Abigail.  It was so cramped and crowded in there folks, that I got a little freaked out just contemplating cleaning it out – I think I may have minor claustrophobia issues.

Now, I must disclaim: it is NOT really Abigail’s fault that it is in such a state. Ok, it’s partly her fault, but more mine. Since she has her own room, and a fairly sizeable (for this house) closet all to herself, we have used it for storage of more than just her things. All my sewing paraphernalia as well as gift wrapping supplies need to fit in here, for instance.  And lately, it’s just been a good place to toss anything for which we had no other storage spot. So, here is what the closet looked like yesterday (those of you who are squeamish may need to avert your eyes):

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And now today, after a LOT of hard work…it’s not going to win any awards on Rate My Space, but it looks SO much better.  For one thing, my little girl can actually walk inside it now without fear of being lost in there!!

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And pore through her clothes to make very important wardrobe decisions!!

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Even give a little karaoke concert, if she has a mind to!

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As part of this cleanup effort, I revamped my system for storing wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue, etc. Down here is my wonderful Sams’ find today:

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Rubbermaid containers to hold gift wrap supplies: rolls sit at the bottom, ribbon and tissue lie in trays which are inset a bit higher, perfect!! Everything fit beautifully…..well, everything except my stash of gift bags, which I’d love some advice on.

Do any of you have a nice, neat way of organizing your gift bags? What do you keep them in? Please share!! I threw away a BUNCH of sad-looking, rather outdated ones today, but still have a pretty healthy collection I need to store!

Day 1 of the Christmas Cleanup Challenge

I promised I’d check in with all of you about my own progress on the great Christmas Cleanup. After I cleaned out the fridge yesterday, I took a little time to scour the insides of our rather offensive-smelling trashcan, incidentally the very same one that Walker and Missy own, which obviously makes me totally cool!

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Aside: if you haven’t ever read Missy’s blog, head on over there and have yourself some fun. I always love seeing what she has to say. While I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting her in person, her husband Walker was a college friend of mine and Pete’s at Texas A&M, her brother-in-law a roommate of my youngest brother’s a few years later, her Grandma-in-law a favorite fellow church member of Jay’s while he was a student at Rice. So many connections over so many years, it’s practically like we’re related, even though we’ve never met. Well, sort of.

Anyhoo….

Yes, the trashcan is now very, very clean and fresh-smelling. Almost clean enough to eat out of. But we won’t try that.

Then today, I spent some time tackling my tiniest set of junk drawers, the three atop my dresser. Here is how they looked before:

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I know, I know, SHAMEFUL mess!!  And after:

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Please note I did not merely stack the mess somewhere else. Everything inside was either thrown out, or put away in a proper place, and the remains are organized as best as this pathetic organizer could. If the drawers look messy to you, well, please just withhold comments.

The far left drawer holds only the 4 ID bracelets my babies wore in the hospital plus a lock of hair from each one’s first haircut. Middle drawer is full (but not stuffed!) with all those extra buttons and bits of thread/wool we get for clothing when we purchase it. Do any of my wise readers have a strict way of organizing those button and thready-things?? Let me know!!

When it was all said and done, I even had one drawer on the far right which is empty, how ’bout that? Extra space, whoopieeeeeee!

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Alright Friends, well that’s all I’ve got for you today. Check in tomorrow for another cleanup of some random area at House of Horne. I look forward to seeing what messes my readers might be tackling at their own homes as they prepare for the holidays!

Christmas Cleanup Challenge + GIVEAWAY!!

Upon arriving home today from Thanksgiving festivities in Austin, I opened my fridge and was overcome by how unbelievably disgusting it was inside. You know what I’m talking about – leftovers that have been leftover for so long we aren’t sure we even want to open the container they are in, let alone ponder eating the contents. Maple syrup, mustard, ketchup, and other assorted condiments which have literally become glued to the door shelves, because they haven’t been wiped down in so very long. Crisper drawers full of odd bits of vegetation: leaves of parsley, bits of carrot, a soft apple or two. And shelves, drawers, walls, every surface inside in just a total mess, needing a serious wipe-down and shining.

We’ve all been there. Or at least that is what I am telling myself in order to feel better about my utter neglect of the fridge the past couple months. Please humor me if your fridge is always clean and sparkling with nary a spill or scrap of outdated food inside.

Well, during the long afternoon that it took me to cull through, clean out, empty, remove and wash every shelf and drawer in addition to scouring every square inch of the inside of my sad fridge before reloading it, I had lots of time to think about things. Not surprisingly, my mind turned to other spots in my home which I am none too proud of; places that need a touch of organization, cleanup, attention.  A couple of my closets are looking pretty sad, I have so many “junk” drawers, I feel shameful admitting the number to anyone, and my “pantry” (more like a large cabinet) is a wreck.  Now, I do not think it is wise to dwell too much on our perceived failings and thereby travel down a dangerous path of self-loathing and discontentment. But perhaps if one can keep it to contemplating certain short-comings in an effort to do things a little better, it is not time poorly spent.

For me, after thinking through several significant messes that I really need to attend to, it seems appropriate to take time before I get those Christmas decorations up, to tackle some real problem spots in our home. So, in the spirit of taking dominion (this is a favorite phrase of Jay’s!) of some areas around here that need some serious attention, I thought I’d try to make it fun, and see how many of my faithful readers would care to join me in a little pre-Christmas de-cluttering and cleanup – maybe, just maybe some of you have some places in your house that are wanting your attention too!

Sooooooooooooo…….If you care to get a handle on some problem areas of your own, please join me this week in my very first pre-Christmas Cleanup Challenge! I am even going to sweeten the deal by offering a giveaway to one of the lucky participants – call it an early Christmas present from me.

Here are the rules for the Giveaway:

1.  If you have some spots in your own home that need some cleaning up, then for heaven’s sake, stop reading blogs (lol!) and get to it!! Clear out, clean up, organize, make it shine!! Take pictures of your space both before and after if you can, to help you see just how much progress you have made!

2.  Then leave me a comment with either a link to your own blog entry chronicling your cleanup conquest, or if you don’t have a site of your own, just leave a note about your particular area you spent time making pretty again. You can comment once for every cleanup, and the more comments you leave, the more entries you put into the contest.

3.   I will randomly draw one winner next Monday, December 8th.  The winner will receive ONE of these books, their choice:

Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern

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12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Mom, by Lane P. Jordan

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Organizing Plain and Simple, by Donna Smallin

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Until that time, to cheer you on, I plan to post pics and accounts of my efforts here at House of Horne to tame the mess. I hope some of you will join in with me! Here is my “after” photo of the fridge – I didn’t think to take a before picture. It may not be the newest refrigerator – check out the blue duct tape holding the meat ‘n’ cheese drawer together! – but at least now it’s a whole heck of a lot cleaner!

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Updated to add:

Contest participants so far:

Missy from “It’s Almost Naptime”

Jamison from “The Bloggertons”

Grammy Ruth

Kristi from “Gently Led”

Peggy from “The Hutchinson House”

Thirteen

Yesterday, Tricia and I celebrated 13 years of marriage. She was amazing then, and is so much more now. What a privilege it has been to grow and love and live and work together these many years. I am not the man I was (which is a good thing!), and much of that change is due to Tricia’s patient love for me.

May God bless us with many more decades together. I love you, sweetie!

My New Job Title

This year I have a new job to add to my already rather long but not exhaustive list of titles including: wife, mommy, chauffer, personal chef, housekeeper, teacher, decorator, laundry woman, disciplinarian, and nurse. My new job title? One I have never had before and am not likely to have again: I am officially a Matron of Honor. M.O.H. for short.

Sadly, this new job doesn’t pay anymore than any of the ones I already had, but I don’t mind. So far, it’s been a pretty fun gig. Even downright frivolous at times. It requires lots of time on the computer, researching various topics all having to do with something called a “wedding”, and chatting on Google with the B.R.I.D.E. She’s a decent boss, good at delegation, fairly clear with her expectations, and for the most part, happy with my work so far. I’ve only gotten yelled at once or twice.

Along with this new job are some travel responsibilities, which reminds me, I should see about whether I can expense some mileage given the price of gas these days. The B.R.I.D.E. generally goes along when travel is required, and sometimes our resident J.B.M. (that’s Junior BridesMaid for those of you not in the know) accompanies us. The B.R.I.D.E. assures me that future travel will require visiting several nearby, yet exotic locations: places where they take common household ingredients like flour and sugar and turn them into works of art that look amazing yet get gobbled up all too quickly. I think she told me that visits to florists are also in our future.

But so far all our travel has taken us to chic little stores full of ballgowns, where one or more of us essentially get to play dress-up for hours on end. There is much trying-on of satin, tulle, and taffeta. Picture-taking, critiquing of various styles and colors, frowning over things we don’t like, and exclaiming about our favorites. The B.R.I.D.E. is lovely in everything she tries on so it’s sometimes hard to be a completely objective employee, and give her the feedback she needs. I’d love to prove this to you by showing you a photo of her in a frock, or maybe ten, but I do not dare or she would fire me in an instant, no questions asked. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it!

I hope to post more about my adventures as an M.O.H. in the coming weeks and months. Maybe even show you some pictures of this important new work I am involved in. But for now, I gotta run….I see a google message has popped up on my screen from the boss — duty calls!!

Sticky Start to the Day

While checking my blogs just now, and eating my morning peanut butter toast, I had a little mishap. I dropped my toast, and watched it flip around and around as if in slow motion, until it gracefully landed butter side down on my toes. While I hate to waste that precious peanut butter, you will probably be happy to hear that I refrained from licking my buttered toes.

Our Nicolas

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Today Nicolas Andrew (aka: Mookie, Nico, Nicolicious, Malibu-Nic — he tans easily, like the Malibu Barbie doll!) turns five years old. Like each of our first two children, he felt it best to arrive very close to a major holiday, thereby making the timing of birthday parties each year a little tricky. We hope to celebrate his special day tomorrow with family, doing some of the things he likes best. The weather is looking less and less like it will cooperate so I don’t know if we’ll be able to enjoy some of the outside activities we’d hoped to. This will likely ruffle me more than it will the Birthday Boy, though.

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Because one of the great things about Nicolas is that he is fairly content and happy in most circumstances, especially when he is with the people he loves and who love him.

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Nicolas is our most unique child: unique to our family, that is. The rest of us are admittedly a bit more uptight, and tend toward over-achievement in many instances. We’re all even a bit nerdy, you might say!! Nicolas has a personality that I think God knew we would need in this family. He is by far, the most comfortable in his own skin. He thinks he can do just about anything, but doesn’t come across as arrogant. He can make friends with anyone, and usually does. In tough times (in the life of a five-year-old, mind you) such as when he is picked on, falls very ill, or experiences disappointment, he sort of shrugs it off, gives a little sigh, and moves on with life. In a very non-five-year-old fashion. He is very trusting, and quite brave, in an almost-frightening way given how young he is. Most of all, he makes us laugh. He is so funny, and his often comical presence in our lives makes for a lot of humor.

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Which I think God also knew we would need. God sent Nicolas to us as a wonderful surprise, at a time when we didn’t know we needed another baby, and for that, we will be forever grateful.

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I wasn’t thinking this way though when I saw the positive pregnancy test back in October of 2001. We had just moved into a new house, I had a two year old and an eight month old, and Jay and I had already discussed a tentative plan of three years’ interval between our second and third babies. To say this third baby was a surprise was a massive understatement. Truly, to this day, we do not know how Nicolas was conceived. Well, I mean, we KNOW, but circumstances should have rendered a pregnancy impossible at that time.

But, regardless of circumstances and human planning, the first pregnancy test that I took was positive. So were the second and third, much to my dismay. One would think that a woman who had to wait over 18 (agonizing, at least to me at the time) months before being able to conceive her first child, and who experienced not one, but two miscarriages in quick succession before the safe arrival of her second child, would be overjoyed to see a positive pregnancy test announcing the potential arrival of a third baby into the family.

Instead, not only was I not overjoyed, I was panic-stricken. To my way of thinking, it was much too soon to consider welcoming a third child into the family. After all, I still had an infant to care for. I never wanted three children, aged three and under in my household all at once. Sure, we hoped for more children someday but not this soon. All I could think at that point was that I had prayed over and over for children, and really hoped for a houseful someday, and that God, employing some warped sense of humor had made the entire process an emotional roller coaster for me, culminating with Him “blessing” me with more tiny children than I could humanly handle at once.

Being a young, relatively immature and inexperienced mother, I envisioned a crazy and disorganized household in which children ran wild, and life was chaos. Our family calls ourselves Christians, but what sort of picture would the family in my wild imaginings show to a world in which we are called to be salt and light? I feared for our family’s future, I grieved for the lost childhood I was certain that Jonathan, our second child, was to experience, receiving another sibling way too soon, before he was even done being a baby himself. I had many dark and depressing thoughts as I spiraled into months of questioning why God was doing this. I was angry and frustrated with Him, and sadly, I generally remained that way for the majority of Nicolas’ pregnancy. My sweet husband can attest to the fact that I was not fun to live with during those months; being angry with God is neither conducive to an individual’s inner peace, nor to the peace and serenity of their family.

I tried very hard to present a brave and happy face to those I came into contact with, but inside I was panicking. The “helpful” comments of those individuals who constantly reminded me of my plight with statements like, “Boy, are YOU going to have your hands full!” and “Sweetie, don’t you know what causes this?” made me so upset. My husband’s assurances that God would not give us more than we could handle, and that my being angry at God would not make having this third baby any easier, but instead complicate the situation, fell on mostly deaf ears. I wanted to believe him, to trust that God’s grace would be sufficient, that He was the author and giver of life, that this baby was something to be amazingly thankful for, but I struggled mightily in those months leading up to Nicolas’ birth.

Providentially, the events surrounding Nicolas’ entrance into this world culminated in the best labor and delivery experience I have ever had. He was a week and a half late, and the only baby to not be either induced or delivered by planned C-Section. I still treasure the memories around the time he was delivered, and know this was just the first of many surprises and blessings God showered on me regarding this special child. I fell in love with Nicolas the minute I set eyes on him, and was so thankful for this third beautiful baby. But I still remember crying in the hospital as we prepared to return home, wondering how I would handle and care for three tiny children. Aside from some meals our church friends brought that first week home, there was no other outside assistance available to us as we adjusted to being a family of five.

But Jay was a great help and encouragement to me in the early days, and while he was home from work for about a week, he took care of Abigail and Jonathan almost exclusively, allowing me to focus on little Nicolas, and truly sleep when he slept, etc, in an effort to recover and gain strength for the task ahead. In those first few weeks, I truly cherished my one-on-one times with Baby Nicolas, and even waking in the middle of the night to nurse him and change him was a joy. It never felt as hard as it had with my two previous babies. I actually looked forward to those midnight and early morning feedings with him. And all I can think when I reflect on it now is that God was so gracious to allow me these happy emotions and precious times considering how I had fussed and fumed over what I was sure was going to feel more like drudgery.

Nicolas went on to be our easiest baby ever, in most every way. He slept though the night by three weeks of age, and continued that habit long-term. He seldom cried or even fussed, and he smiled often and giggled alot. I remember how Jay and I would look forward to our “Nicolas time”, which usually consisted of us holding our little baby boy and allowing him to smile, gurgle and cheer us in the way he managed to, even at just a couple months of age. His happy personality came through loud and clear, giving us a glimpse into the sunny and funny little boy he was to become.

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Today our entire family and extended family is blessed with happy Nicolas.

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Most people who meet him are charmed instantly by his sweet and friendly personality. And while he has some of the same struggles and issues as many five-year-olds do, yet in other ways he seems to possess a peace and calm that I only hope and pray to someday have. His sweet presence in our lives is an ever-constant reminder of the good gifts God lovingly bestows on us, even when we do not ask for them, even when we kick and fight against Him. Today, we thank God especially for Nicolas, our sweet five-year-old surprise, marvel at the little boy he has become, and look forward in faith to what the future holds for him.

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In Costume

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Why do you suppose I am wearing this clever getup? I’ll give you three answers, from which you may choose your favorite:

1 – I just needed a fresh new look – after all, I’ve been wearing the same “Suburban Stay at Home Mommy Garb” for over 8 years now.

2 – Having way too much free time on my hands, I am off to a daytime masquerade party for other Mommies with Way Too Much Free Time on Their Hands.

3 – I am doing my best to protect my eyes, nose and mouth as I prepare to sand the mudded ceiling in the boys’ bathroom as part of the ongoing remodel.

If you guessed “3”, you were right on the money. The sanding went ok, though I admit I had a great deal of difficulty breathing, as I perched high on my ladder with dust raining down on me. Bleck. But, I got the job done. Here is what I looked like when I finished:

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Very classy indeed!

We are making great headway on the bathroom project. Hopefully we’ll have pictures for you soon!

Supper Troubles

It is a bit of a disappointment, when upon going to check on your supper simmering nicely in the crockpot….

Which you added to the plugged-in crockpot several hours ago,

That you spent lots of time chopping and mixing together a little before that,

Because you wanted to enjoy a warm, homemade potato soup with your family on a chilly day,

And after all, you had several potatoes on hand which needed to be used,

And you even threw in the remnants of the bottle of Chardonnay that was opened a few nights ago (Because we all know that recipes just taste that much better with a bit of wine added in!)

….to find that the supposed-to-be-simmering soup is not simmering. Not exactly. And truthfully, it’s not quite yet hot. Or, patient reader, even the tiniest bit warm. Because for whatever reason, the outlet you’d plugged your trusty crockpot into IS NOT WORKING!! Bummer.

Cold potato soup with crunchy, uncooked potatoes and other veggies doesn’t sound as appealing as the warm and cooked variety. So, I’ve moved the crockpot to a different spot on the kitchen counter, picked a new outlet, and plugged the soup in. For real. At this rate it should be done by about 10:00 tonight. Which, to look on the positive side of all this, means I’ll have supper ready for tomorrow evening with no additional effort on my part.

But tonight, dear readers, we shall dine on omelets!!

What sort of meal (whether cooked or uncooked!) are you enjoying at your supper table??