Monday, March 31, 2014

Minimalist Living: Social Media and Internet Downplay {ie Pinterest}

Having a child really makes you want to simplify and get back to the basics of life - those things that really matter. Before Declan, I did have time to waste on social media. It was my time to wind down after a long day. Of course, I still had laundry and cooking and dishes, but not nearly as much as I do now!!!

After reading about the Minimalist lifestyle, I began to clear out and purge our belongings {Minimalist Living: The Closet} and {Minimalist Living: Books}. That was very therapeutic, but that only helped purge things. I needed to make more time as well. I also felt the desire to begin really fostering close friendships with people who had children Declan's age and could help support me in this new role as mother. 

It all started with a book lent to me by a neighbor - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. My neighbor is very interested in Chinese culture and reads novels based with an Asian setting and storyline. Being married to a Chinese man, I was intrigued.

A Little Background

One particular theme of the book that stood out to me was the theme of friendship. In the book, daughters were still matched to their future husbands through the use of a matchmaker. Women would then, following Chinese culture, MARRY INTO THEIR NEW HUSBAND'S FAMILY. They would leave the natal or family home of their childhood and would live with their husband's family. They would not see their birth families until big holidays. This was quite a lonely life for these women because they were going to a new place and living with a family they did not know. They were leaving everything familiar behind. {This is much like the lives of many women today - lonely}

But, these women did find a way to happiness. The matchmaker would also match the young girls early on with a "sworn Sister" or "sister for life". In Chinese, the term is Laotong. These "sisters" were to serve as a support for each other through life's hardships and everything they would be facing. Sisters were matched based on birthday, family status, size of bound feet, etc. This was a match that was to never be broken.

True Friendships (as opposed to FB friendships)

From this book, I took the idea of such a deep friendship to heart. Yes, many of us have hundreds is not thousands of "friends" on FB and Instagram and Pinterest etc...., but how many TRUE "Lao Tong" relationships do we as women truly have? Women need these deep relationships. We need other women who can be there through thick and thin and through all of life's ups and downs. People who will truly share in our joys and sorrows. Women who will be there no matter the distance or time apart. You know the friends I am speaking of (hopefully you have been so lucky) - the friends we have that we can just visit with or talk on the phone to and just pick up where we left off even after a long period of time.

Being a woman is hard! Being a mother is hard! We as women are our own worst critics and sometimes we are each others worst critics!!

My husband and I have both been very lucky in friendships of this kind. I have several friends who are always there for me whether we see each other very often or not. {Nora, Holly and Regan I love you all!!!} My husband has one friend, John, who he can call on at any time even though there is distance between them.

With the beginning of social media, I believe true friendships are falling to the waste side. True friendships that are fostered through time spent together. I am as guilty as the next person about not calling people or sending cards on their birthday since I can wish them a Happy Birthday on FB - I am even reminded by FB when to do this!!

FB Purge 

So, my FB purge began. I have recently felt convicted that my time is being wasted way too much on FB and Pinterest. I won't cancel either because they do provide a way for me to show photos of Declan to out of town family and Pinterest does help with research for my business projects. But, I did began to delete a lot of "friends" so I wouldn't have so many things jumping out at me when I log in to just post a photo which in turn ends up being an hour long viewing of what everyone is doing!!

I believe there are people who are brought into our lives for a season when we need them most. All friendships are not going to be these LaoTong types of friendships. But, we should all strive to have at least one person in our life that is our LaoTong - someone who we can spend time with and someone we can talk to and someone who will support us. Someone who will not judge. Someone who will be there for us no matter what is going on or what is not going on. This takes effort on the part of both people.

My friends were there for me through our struggles with infertility even though both of them had beautiful children already. They were there when I had my appointments and they were there when our IVF failed. They were there to support us through our adoption and they are still there to provide deep friendships for our son and us as we travel this hard road through parenthood.

As a Christian, these true friendships are Biblical. Forming friendships based on commonalities of belief and life stages is important. You need someone who will give you wise counsel when you need it. You can go to the following passages to read about what the Bible says about friendships:

  • Proverbs 27:17 Friends can help you stay strong 
  • Proverbs 12:26 Be careful in choosing friends
  • Proverbs 18:24 True friendships
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9 Laboring together
  • Proverbs 17:17 Friendship is lasting 
Don't get me wrong, FB has its value. FB can also take our time when we should be focusing on much more important things in life. 

My challenge to you today is to put down the phone, log out of the computer and spend time doing something wonderful with a true friend. Whether it be lunch or time at the park with your kids or just talking on the phone. Spend some time fostering those relationships. 

If you have any more verses on friendship, feel free to post them in the comment section!! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Meaningful Play: Tools and Resources

This post will be simple and to the point and will include resources and tools to help your infant/toddler learn. I will focus on the one year stage since that is where Declan happens to be right now.

Special NOTE: I am not the mom who thinks her son is the smartest on the block or even should be the smartest on the block. These resources are only suggestions to help enhance meaningful play with your child. Exposure is the main idea behind introducing any ABCs or numbers at this point. Repetition is key, but you can model ideas for your child as well just in daily routines. It also is important to remember that we are dealing with young children - they are sponges at this age, but they also need to burn off energy!! Down time and just fun time is important. Routine is also important to children at this stage. So, having a "lesson" time each day is fine as long as it is still fun. Let your child lead - if he isn't into putting pom poms into the egg carton that day, move to something else.  

This is just a list. Remember my philosophy when it comes to buying anything -  always hunt at garage sales, secondhand stores (our area has a store called Kid to Kid with gently used clothing and toys), and get CREATIVE in what you can use that you already have on hand.

Don't spend a ton of money on items for your child to learn. You will be amazed at what they will pick up without any toys at all just from their observations.

Online Resources for lesson ideas (I will add to this list as I find things):

  • {Lesson Plans and Activities + Resources}
  • Learning Videos: 

Things to Collect:

  • Paper towel/toilet paper rolls
  • Egg Cartons
  • Containers such as wipes containers and plastic snack containers {A friend even saved these and created her son's own little bowling set}These are also great to make bean shakers or rain sticks using beans or rice (music is important as well and developing rhythm).  

  • Beads 
  • Buttons (save from clothing you buy)
  • Tops to food squeeze pouches like those from Plum Organics or GoGoSqueez Applesauce (great colors and can serve as counters for patterns) You are already buying them possibly so why buy additional colored counters. A word of caution - watch children carefully who still put things in their mouth. 
  • {Tops To Save}
  • Containers from food like sour cream etc. to hold items (cheaper way to do this)
  • Beans/pasta
  • String
  • Ribbon
  • Scraps of felt or cloth

Toys (online and local resources):

Declan is at the age now (16 months) where he loves to stack things. He also is beginning to enjoy puzzles and he enjoys putting tops on containers and putting items into containers. He is also really into construction vehicles and trucks of any kind. Many of these toys can serve his interest long past 16 months even though some are labeled as 2+. 

Melissa and Doug
{These toys help with hand/eye coordination and physical manipulation of items- gross motor skills as well as learning shapes, colors and numbers}

Melissa and Doug 
A. Stacking Cars Baby & Toddler Toy $12.99
B. Caterpillar Gears Toddler Toy $9.99
C. First Bead Maze $14.99
D. Geometric Stacker Toy Toddler $16.99
E. Shape Sorting Cube Classic Toy $14.99
F. Classic ABC Block Cart $14.99
G. Large Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle - 8 Pieces $19.99
H. See Inside Numbers Peg Puzzle - 10 Pieces $7.99
I. Vehicles Jumbo Knob Puzzle - 8 pieces $19.99

**M&D also has some great puzzles that make sounds when the pieces are placed. Declan LOVES his animal noise puzzle he received for his birthday!! {Zoo Animals Sound Puzzle}

IKEA **Great place to check first along with garage sales**
{These toys help with gross motor skills, learning shapes and imaginative play}

A. Mula Stacking Rings $5.99
B. Mula Crane with Blocks $14.99
C. Mula Bead Roller Coaster
D. Mula Stack & Nest Cups $2.99
E. Mula 24 Building Blocks with Wagon $7.99
F. Mula Toy Hammering Block $5.99
G. Latsas 11-Piece Shopping Basket Set $7.99
H. Duktig 14-piece Vegetable Set $7.99
I. Duktig 9-piece Fruit Set $7.99


Other Resources
  • (we are members of Prime which helps save on a variety of kids' items as well as downloadable videos for Declan to watch on our Roku - {Little Pim Language Videos}
        Christmas Present via 
{Parum Parum Pum Drum - Lime}
  • Ross (or other discount stores)
I recently snagged these two toys at our local ROSS: 

Melissa and Doug Stack and Sort Board (teaches shapes, colors, patterns, coordination) Regularly $9.99 - Purchased for $6.99.

My First Construction Set by (Teaches Hand/Eye Coordination, Building Skills, Vehicle names- cement truck, dump truck, gasoline truck, front end loader) Purchased for $7.99. 

  • Dollar Tree (or other dollar stores)
  • Spielgaben "Smarter Play, Smarter Child" {More Expensive Option created for homeschoolers} 
  • Oriental Trading Company 
         - Cool Craft Trays {Tot Trays via 1+1+1=1 Blog}
Oriental Trading Company $10.50/6

Tools (for crafts and learning):
  • Oriental Trading {Follow Websites Notes for Age Appropriateness of Foam Items for Choking Hazards}
         - Wiggly Eyes for crafts {Dollar Store or Walmart}
         - Pom Poms {Dollar Store or Walmart}
         - Pipe Cleaners {Can also be found at the local dollar store}
         - Foam Shapes and Foam Sticky Back Letters {Foam Letters} {5" Foam Letters}
         - My Book of Numbers Thumbprint Craft Set {Make a Number Book}
         - Tissue Paper and Craft Paper
         - Kitchen Tongs to pick things up {We bought these at Bed, Bath and Beyond for our    
           kitchen, but you can purchase them at or {Tongs Set of 3} for              $12.70.

  • IKEA
        -Mala Chalk $1.99/24 pack
        -Drawing Paper Roll $4.99
        -Mala Tabletop Paper Roll Holder $6.99
        -Ice Trays (or at the dollar store)

Local Resources:

  • The School Box Teacher Store
  • Learning Express Toys 
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Dollar Store 

I always try to buy toys that are educational as well as fun. And, I try to buy toys not based on age, but on how long Declan will be able to play with the toy and how many things it can teach. For example, he isn't going to be learning his ABC's anytime soon, but he can pull the Melissa and Doug cart behind him and can use the blocks to build towers.

Wonderful Addition I happened on toda: Dwell Studio

I have always LOVED Dwell Studio patterns and home items, but these are so cute!!! Meaningful play and imaginative play!!

{Wooden Play Sets} On Sale Now for $15.99 Regularly $36.00.

{Woodland Creative Play Set}

{Skyline Creative Set}

Friday, March 21, 2014

Meaningful Play

I always said when I had children that they wouldn't be TV watchers. When I was younger, TV wasn't an option most days. We went outside to play - all of the time. We rode our bikes, roller skated, jump roped, went to the park with our cousins, made mud pies in our front yard. And, when it rained, our back yard would fill up with water (Mississippi is very flat and my parents had the largest yard in the neighborhood since our house was one of the first built). This large area of yard filled with water made a great playground. When we were done slipping and sliding and rolling in the water, my mom would pull out the waterhose and hose us down. {Honestly, if I remember correctly, it was me who made neat little mud pies while my sister and brother rolled in the water and grass and mud.}

My brother would also disappear for a whole day in the creek near our house. He came home only to change clothes uniforms to match what he was pretending to be - fireman, cowboy, military. This was the worst for my mom!

Those were the days!! Reminiscing about the days of my childhood sparked something in me - a reason to foster meaningful play with my son. All of those days outside were filled with creativity and imagination and fun!! Nowadays, we have to be careful with our children outdoors which is very sad, but we still need to foster that creativity and imagination that comes from being outdoors.

Today, TV and electronics are the staple in most homes and sadly in most children's activities daily. I admit I have followed suit with cartoons in the morning and movies on rainy or sick days or even days when I just would have rather stayed in bed.

But, recently, a friend of mine has begun to do "school" with her son at home. I became excited about doing the same for our son, Declan. Granted, Declan is only 16 months old, but he is a SPONGE!! He learns so quickly and is starting to say actual words we can understand. {Everything this week has been APPLE - even his little friend who sent a photo birthday invitation!}

I began to feel I needed to harvest this learning while I can. Why wait? Fostering that same creativity I grew up with is of utmost importance to me right now.

You may ask, how can you have "school" with a 16 month old who isn't talking yet? Well, you focus on what they can do and the skills they need to improve for their age.

According to, these are the milestones of a toddler 1-3 years of age:

According to, a child has certain milestones and adults can foster these: 
{Ages 13 to 24 months} **See the website for other ages

  • Confident on their feet, climbing, running, kicking a ball
  • Language skills are growing and he/she understands more than he/she can express
  • Follows two step directions
  • Beginning to identify colors and shapes
  • Uses crayons, builds with blocks, throws a ball, fills/empties containers
  • Wants independence - dress him/herself, uses a spoon/fork, washes his/her hands
  • Children may show defiance at this stage since they want that independence 

What can WE do to FOSTER these MILESTONES: 

  • Read to your child and discuss/talk about the books (this is an early thing we began when Declan was an infant even)
  • Have conversations with your child and answer their questions 
  • Begin teaching letters and numbers
  • Discuss feelings and help them put their feelings into words
  • Rephrase sentences if they are incorrect, but don't get on to them
  • Practice having child ask for items instead of pointing 
  • Learn parts of the body
  • Categorize items while playing/sort items by color/shape
  • Encourage pretend play 
  • Explore outside at the park, the zoo, etc.
  • Reinforce good behavior and set clear limits {Safety is key at this age such as running into the street}
  • Allow toddlers to have a few options and allow him to make choices 

As you can see from this list, we as parents have a huge role to play. Now, that being said, I am not one of those moms who says her child is going to be the brainiac of the neighborhood. The meaningful play we take part in is meant to make learning fun. It is really play that our children actually learn from. It really isn't "school" in the traditional sense of the word. I still want our child to be a boy. Run, play, turn flips, get muddy, learn to fish and hunt, but I also want to foster learning so he will do well in the future. 

Please read my next blog post on meaningful toys and activities that Declan and I have been doing each day. I will list a few toys and activities as well as websites that can take the guess work out of "planning" for these activities. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Minimalist Living: The Closet

Recently, I began to see these small pin sized brown bugs on the baseboards in our Master Bathroom and sometimes in our Master. Ugh! Ick! I was curious as to what they were. So, I did a little digging via the Internet. My OCD self immediately felt like cleaning.

I am still not sure what they might be at this point, but I have narrowed it down to DUST MITES or CARPET BEETLES. 

Resources for Dust Mites:

Resources for Carpet Beetles:

Apparently, my busyness as a mom has resulted in my house not being as clean as I would have hoped. Of course, we do have two dogs (one a long haired Australian Shepherd) and the dog hair alone would be enough to feed an Army of Dust Mites!!! Ick!! I do dust at least once a week, but sometimes it can go longer. I do vacuum my mattress and wash the sheets weekly as well as put the pillows in the dryer. But, it is difficult to keep up with the hair especially with this winter season and the dogs being indoors more than out.  

So, I turned to my new found interest in MINIMALISM. I decided to do what any OCD person would do - Super Clean the Closet and Bedroom. This would get rid of the bugs if that was their source and help organize the closet at the same time. 

Steps to a Minimalist Closet

Even though I do vacuum, the closet hardly ever gets vacuumed. Maybe because it on the other side of the bathroom. Maybe because it is often too crowded with laundry that needs washing. Either way, it was quite dusty in there. 

Do you ever have the conversation with yourself when you are getting ready for an event that goes something like this - 

" I have so many clothes, but I can't find anything to wear!" "This is too big, this is too small." "I LOVE this skirt - why haven't I ever bought a top to match so I could wear it?"

If you have, like me, have this conversation with yourself all too often, something is wrong!!

My Closet Purge Process: 

1. Take EVERYTHING out of the closet and lay it on the bed

2. Quickly go through each set of clothing {Dressy, casual, jeans, etc.} and toss what you haven't worn in ages into one pile. Don't forget the shoes too. You don't really need 5 pair of black pumps. 

3. Make another pile of clothing you need to try on

4. Toss doubles of items into a pile {You don't need the same shirt in every color} 

5. Clean: Dust and vacuum EVERY surface in the closet. Yes, I even vacuumed the walls and the shelves. Don't forget the baseboards, corners, and vent if there is one. 

6. Replace items you are keeping in an organized way (ie. Dresses together, slacks together, work clothes together.....)

OPTIONS TO DONATING if you need additional money to rebuild your wardrobe or a Girls' Night- Clothing Swap Party or Sell them online. 

Things there is no need to keep:
  • Items you haven't worn in at least 6 months
  • Items too large for you {Do you really want to plan on gaining weight??}
  • Items too small {Unless you have just gone on a diet or you just had a baby, keeping clothing several sized too small isn't worth the space it takes} I did honestly lose 20 pounds after changing my diet/exercising and went through several sizes over a time. 
  • Items you no longer need to wear {I was a teacher for 10 years and I have a lot of business clothing that I do not ever wear- I kept some for when/if I return to work, but got rid of the outdated items}
  • Items that are torn, faded or worn out {DO NOT DONATE THESE ITEMS!!}
  • You DO NOT need a T-Shirt for every day of the year (My hubby gets free ones from conferences and meetings and from his job and vendors - we are working on this. LOL!) I love you honey!!!
  • Items with sentimental value (I admit I am having issues with this one as my little man gets older. I find it hard to part with an outfit I can picture him wearing as a baby.) You do, however, need to protect items such as wedding dresses if you do plan to keep them. They will age quickly hanging in a closet. 

Tips for Rebuilding an Efficient Closet
(my favorite is the last one)}

  1. Items that are classic and versatile - classic pieces that never go out of style 
{White button up dress shirt (short and/or long sleeved), black slacks, black heels/flats, simple versatile blazer, black skirt, Little black dress; Black Cardigan; Colored Cardigan}

SIDE NOTE: When I was still teaching, I semi-purged my closet and gave some of my clothes to a coworker. I didn't like them and I didn't wear them anymore, but they were in great condition. The first time I saw her wear some of them to school - I selfishly wanted them back. Why? Because of the way she created a totally different look with the same items. 

    2.  Items you absolutely LOVE and they go with your individual style 
{Stay away from purchasing items just because they are "in style" - create your own unique style}

    3. Items that are well made and high quality - I often think of how an item needs to be take cared for as well. I don't want items that are hand wash only or dry clean only when dealing with a toddler! But, I do appreciate well made items. 

    4. Seasonal Items
{Great Winter Coat- remember versatility - dress up or dress down, Winter hat/scarf/gloves, Rainy Day Coat with lining for warmth (mine has a removable warm layer lining so I can also wear this as a summer rain coat}

    5. Don't forget to accessorize
{Scarves, jewelry, hats, belts- don't forget that the same outfit can look very different depending on what accessories are added} 

What is the moral of this very winded story on the tiny bugs in our room? 

Purge your wardrobe and build one that works for you - not everyone else. On her blog, House for Five, Demi points out that Pinterest can be our best friend when it comes to planning our outfits. I honestly do this a TON. Pick out a dress or skirt or any piece and then go to Pinterest and see how people have worn that same or similar outfit. I do this and it really helps you to look at your wardrobe in a different way. What used to be your mantra of "I don't have a thing to wear." now becomes, "Oh, that is cute together - why didn't I think of that?"

Examples: The ever popular Maxi Dress (I admit I own 2- one blue stripe and one tan with lace detailing) and Maxi Skirt 

YouTube Video (Pop Sugar): {10 Ways to Wear a Maxi Dress}
You Tube Video (Maxi Skirts) {5 Ways to Wear a Maxi Skirt}

I love this 2nd one because these would all work for a shorter person like me. I find that most Maxi Dresses and Skirts are often too long for me. These tricks would save me the hassle and money for hemming. I admit I have actually worn many of my skirts as dresses before - one huge benefit of being short!! 

The Maxi Dress and Skirt actually fall into the VERSATILITY category as well. Add boots for cooler weather, a jacket, scarf and pare it down to sandals and a beach hat for summer. 

So, go get busy restyling your closet! Just in time for Summer and a new look. Who cares you have a toddler in tow? Looking great is for mommies too. It will make you feel great!! 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Scarf Holder: My Attempt at Being "Pinterest" Worthy

Recently, a friend came to me to ask for an organizational solution for her daughter. Her daughter, like many women/girls these days, has a large collection of scarves. The scarves lived in a pile in the top of her closet.

I searched Pinterest and the Internet for ideas and ran across the following post on Pinterest from "Live a Little Wilder" blog. This was my inspiration. There is no shame in borrowing an idea when it is fabulous--in my opinion.


 1 Pallet {Thanks to my hubby who scavenged one from his work}
 White Paint {Leftover from painting the nursery}
Aqua Paint {Leftover from a previous project}
 Paint brushes {I like Purdy}
Hooks/knobs {Hobby Lobby @ 50% off} 
Sawtooth Picture hangers {2}

 Electric drill with drill bits and attachable screwdriver bits
Kreg Jig {A birthday gift from my hubby's friend}

  • Separate the wood from the pallet {Hubby still does this for me} At 5'. ____ pounds, using power tools takes a little more effort on my part!! Smile. 
  • Lay the pieces out in a pattern {I staggered the wood} and then use a pencil to mark where you want to trim the pieces for the look you want. Number them with a pencil on the back. 
  • Use the saw to make your cuts **NOTE: Always use safety glasses and cut on the outside of the line you make. Measure twice, cut once. 
  • Use the base color paint {White in this case} and dry brush the paint onto the wood-- this gives it a little bit of an aged look 

  • If you want to add a second color, wait for the first coat to dry and use the same dry brush method to add in the color {A greenish blue in this case}. The client has white furniture and touches of turquoise with other accessories in her room. 
  • Use the Kreg Jig to connect the wood on the back. This makes a the connection invisible from the front of the piece and it is a strong attachment.
Kreg Jig Holes

  • Use the drill bits to drive pilot holes for the knobs you will use {Several sizes of bits were used since the screws on the knobs were different sizes}
  • Attach the knobs/hooks with screws using the electric screwdriver and appropriate bits. A variety of knobs/hooks were used. Try to get hooks and knobs that will hold bulkier scarves. Some of these hooks would also hold more than one scarf. 
  • Add two pieces of wood vertically to the back {These pieces keep the screws from hitting the wall and keep the piece flush so it doesn't lean away from the wall when hung} 
Vertical Supports

  • Add picture hangers {Steel Sawtooth Hangers}
Picture Hooks

  • Hang 
  • Add scarves 
Finished Product

Happy Client!!