our family do's

As part of my recent spring cleaning spree, I've been adding and updating a few decorative touches here and there around the house.  For the longest time, there has been one HUGE blank wall in my living room and I had no idea what to do with.  Should we hang photos there?  Artwork?  I was at a loss.  Then hubby and I talked about creating some art together to hang there.  We felt excited and creative.  We even bought canvases and paint.  We even hung those canvases on the wall in hopes that we would be inspired to create something awesome.  But then we got stuck and couldn't agree on what we wanted.  So for months, six blank white canvases hung on that wall...staring at me every time I walked in the room...mocking me.

I scoured Pinterest (imagine that) and found alot of great ideas.  The one that stood out to me was a sort of "house rules" turned art kind of thing.  With the bean becoming more and more a participating member of our family team and learning more about right and wrong, I thought introducing some family rules would be a good idea.  And what better way to start than to display it right on the wall of the room that we spend the most time in together.  But I didn't want it to be too "rule-y" if that makes sense.  I didn't want to hang a list of don'ts in our living room.  I didn't really want him to constantly see a list of things he wasn't allowed to do.  Instead, I wanted to list out the things that our family does...the values and traits that I want us all to have.  What I came up with is really more of a family pact or covenant.  It's our family do's.

Here's how I made it happen:

  • First, I came up with our list of do's.  These are some of the most important things I want to encourage the bean to do and be.  I laid everything out the way I wanted it in Word and then printed it on six different pages.
  • Then the hubby and I decided on paint colors.  This was easy...we just went with colors that we already have in our house.
  • I painted the canvases green as the background color.

  • I then traced my printed words onto each canvas using carbon paper.  This took a while because I'm a perfectionist and didn't want to have to do a lot of touch-up painting to cover up any errant lines that I made.
  • Then came the task of filling in the traced letters with brown paint.  I'm going to be honest...this took forever.  I think it took me about 8 hours or so (spread out over a few days) to paint in all the letters.  I used the stiffest, tiniest paintbrush I could find and just went to work.  Again, I didn't want to have to do alot of touch-up at the end to fix any mistakes, so I took my time to make sure I stayed inside the lines.  I did have to do a little touching up with green paint at the end, but it didn't take long at all.

I love the finished product.  Up close it's not exactly perfect...it definitely has a hand-painted look to it.  But to me it's really the words that matter most anyway.  I love seeing our family covenant when I walk in the room instead of that big blank wall.  It just makes me smile.

farewell, afternoon nap

Ever since he was just a tiny guy, the bean has been a fairly decent sleeper.  I think it's partly due to the fact that he's usually a pretty easy-going kid and partly due to the fact that hubby and I have worked our butts off trying to stay consistent with his routine.  It's been alot of work, but has made life so much easier in so many ways.

Up until a couple of months ago, the bean would usually take two naps a day...one around 10 am and another around 2 pm.  They were never really that long.  A half-hour nap was considered good and I'd almost do backflips if he took an hour-long nap.  But even with his short-ish naps, he was generally happy and well-rested.  Then things started to get a little hit-and-miss when it came to his napping.  He started fighting and skipping naps...sometimes the morning nap, sometimes the afternoon nap, a couple times both.  When he did nap, he would fuss and fight it until he finally fell asleep.  And his naps started getting shorter and shorter.  And he started getting crabbier and crabbier.  But still, I stayed consistent, stuck to our routine, and tried putting him down for his two naps a day.  Well as of last week, that was not working anymore.  We were both getting frustrated when the afternoon nap wasn't working out...I was frustrated because he wasn't taking one and he was frustrated because he was stuck in his crib when he clearly wasn't tired.

So, we've decided to adjust the schedule and cut out the afternoon nap.  Instead of laying down for a morning and an afternoon nap each day, we are shooting for one mid-morning nap a day plus an afternoon quiet time where he goes into his crib to play or "read" or sleep if he feels tired.  Hopefully this will allow us both to have a break and a little rest in the afternoon. 

It's been six days on our new routine and so far, things are improving.  His one nap a day has been a bit longer these past few days (an hour or more each day) and yesterday, he even took a 30-minute "bonus nap" during his quiet time.  Woot!  And aside from a little crabbiness being caused by teething (poor kiddo), my little guy has been a happier kid these past few days.  Honestly, I think the new routine will be a bigger adjustment for me than for the bean.  I'm still trying to figure out the best time to run our errands and get out of the house.  But a little inconvenience for a while during this adjustment phase is a small price to pay for a well-rested and happy kid!


learning to coupon

I have never been that great at couponing.  My mom has always clipped and used coupons.  I just never really had the time to devote to sifting through store ads and newspaper flyers...and then keeping all those clipped coupons organized.  It always just seemed like too much work for such little payoff.  But I always felt sort of guilty for letting those savings go to waste.

Well, lately I've taken another look at couponing and now I'm starting to "get" it.  I mean, I understood it before.  Clip coupon, purchase item, give coupon to cashier, save money.  Duh.  But now I'm starting to see that by putting forth a little more effort to match up coupons with store sales and by really understanding the coupon policies at different stores in my area I can get a much better payoff for my hard work.

Now, I'm no expert...yet.  But I'm trying.  And I'm learning.  And in addition to picking up sales flyers and coupons from the stores that I frequent, I've found some great online tools to help me in my coupon conquests.  Here are a few that I'm loving right now:

The Krazy Coupon Lady  I mean, with a name like that it's gotta be a great site.  There's a really helpful section for newbies (like me) and also a much more in-depth section for the more extreme couponers among us.  There is also an extensive list of all the current printable AND paper coupons available.  Lots of useful info at this site.

Money Saving Mom is my favorite right now.  I love the Store Deals section and the Weekly Deal Match-up.  It takes a lot of the guesswork out of how to match up my coupons with store sales.  There is also a great Freebie section, too.  Gotta love free!  I also follow her Facebook page, which is great because I can keep up with all the newest coupons and deals that she has found as she posts them.

Coupons.comRedPlum.comSmartsource.com, and Coupon Network are all great online resources for printable coupons.  I love being able to search for exactly what's on my shopping list and print a coupon right at home.

And did you know that the Target website has a whole section where you can print coupons??!!  (Note the exclamation points...I LOVE Target and was crazy excited when I discovered this)  And their coupon policy allows for using both a store coupon AND a manufacturer coupon on an item (unless it is prohibited in the fine print on that specific coupon, of course).  So my favorite thing lately??  Finding a Target coupon I need/want to use, then scouring the internet for a manufacturer coupon to stack with it.  How exciting!

Again, I'm far from being an expert at this point.  So, I know there are a ton of other great coupon resources out there.  These are just a few that have helped me out so far.  I can't wait to learn more and get better at couponing.  The way I see it, if you do it right it's free money.  And I will take some free money any day of the week!


the chore train

The bean is totally into trains right now.  Surprisingly, he is also really into helping us out around the house.  That's right...my toddler likes to do chores.  I know, I know...I am a very blessed mama!  It kind of happened by accident, really.   He started helping clean up his toys at a pretty young age.  Then I realized that he loved to put away his shoes at the end of the day.  Then, I decided that if he could ransack my Tupperware cabinet and pull out every piece of plastic ware I have (one of his favorite past times for a while), he was probably capable of putting it all away when he was done, too.  And lo and behold, he not only could do it, but he LOVES doing it!  You should see his face light up when I unload the dishwasher and hand him a stack of clean Tupperware for him to put away.  And it is so cool to see him so proud of himself once the job is done.

So, I figured we needed a chore chart.  And don't get me wrong...I don't expect my twenty month old to do chores at this point.  I'm not forcing him to do any chores that are beyond his developmental level at this point.  That being said, he LOVES helping out around the house and I know that the time will come when he is expected to do chores.  So, I figure why not go ahead and get him used to the idea of a chore chart and keep him excited about making a contribution to our home's upkeep?  And at this point, it really serves just as a kind of fun visual of the jobs he has done throughout the day.  I didn't add any additional chores above and beyond what he already likes to do anyway.  I just listed out the six or so chores that he already does and then started thinking about how I wanted to display the chart.

After scouring Pinterest for ideas and not really finding a design I was crazy about, I came across these wood train shapes at Hobby Lobby.

They came in a pack of 8 (2 engines and 6 train cars) for around $2.   I just painted them the colors I wanted.  Then I traced chore icons and text onto the train cars using carbon paper and painted over the lines in white paint.  My little man doesn't read yet, so I went with simple, graphic icons rather than words.   I sealed them with a couple coats of Mod Podge and then stuck magnets on the back.  Then they went right on the fridge.  Done!

Here are the chores that we have so far...put away toys, throw away trash, check the mail, put away shoes, put away Tupperware, help feed the dog, help feed the cat, help mom with special jobs.  That last one is for any extra tasks that he helps out with...like yesterday, he helped me out by handing me water bottles to put in the fridge.  I also have a few extra blank train cars so that we can add chores as he gets older.  Each day, we line up the chores to be done next to the "to do" engine. When the bean finishes a chore, we move that car to the "all done" engine. So far it's been a hit. And hopefully it will help him stay receptive to the idea of doing chores later down the road!