Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tips & Tricks Linky Party

Fearlessly Creative Mammas

I have some really exciting news to share with you all today.  I've been invited by some other bloggers to  help host a Tips and Tricks Link Party!  So honored to be a part of this!  Go on and take a moment to check out the blogs by each of these ladies.

1) Kathleen & Heather - Fearlessly Creative Mammas
2) Krysta - KrystaSteen.com
3) Sarah - Glenrose Square
6) Heather - Stringtown Home


Tips and Tricks 30

Heather and Kathleen: DIY Pillowcase with Cuff from JRRM Blog

Krysta: Creamy Dreamy Enchiladas from Pinch of Nutmeg

Karissa: 20 Minute Crescent Cinnamon Rolls from Urban Girl Bakes

Gabby: Jalapeno Popper Breadsticks from Tornadough Alli

Heather: Fresh Peach Pie from Grandparents Plus


37 Year of Marriage Reflection from Debbie Dabble

Now it's your turn to link up your project from your blog!   Just click on the button below to add your post.  It's really that simple!

Here are the ground rules:

  • Please link back to this link w/ either a button or a link back to the individual post.
  • Only family friendly posts please. 
  • Please visit and comment on at least two other links.
  • Only Link projects that you have created! By sharing a picture you are stating that you own or have permission to post that picture.
  • Link to a specific post, not your homepage., and only link the same project once. 
  • No SPAM! Please no etsy shops, businesses or anything you are selling. 
  • By linking up you are giving Tips and Tricks permission to use your photos.

Can't wait to see what you all have to share with everyone this week.

Monday, August 24, 2015

3 Little Birds, Pitch By My Doorstep

As we all know, there can be a lot of wasted time to be found on the internet - and Facebook in particular.  I figure that sums up most of my time on there except for when I'm actually working.

The other day, though, I don't care how much time equaled waste, because I ran across this picture someone had posted in a FB group I'm a part of.

I immediately knew I had to have them.  I even texted my husband the picture and let him know I was on a mission.  {I thought it only fair to warn him of my obsession intentions before he got home.}

You may be thinking 'Why?'.

Or, maybe you're more like - 'Really?!?! You can't be serious, right?!'

So, let me take you on the long, winding journey of my - slightly strange - reasoning, my friends.

If you recognize the title of this post for the song lyrics that they are, you probably already know where this is going.  IF you don't know the song, here's a link.

Bob Marley - Three Little Birds

I have always enjoyed listening to this song and have passed that love on to four of my five children.  I've had it on my iTunes playlist for years.  Whether we're in the house cleaning, by the pool, or driving down the road with the windows open or closed:  this song gets turned up just a little louder.  {Which is pretty humorous considering we are all painfully white.}

However, about three years ago, this song took on a new meaning for me.

You see, when you have the reality below staring you in the face....

So many things in life take on a new meaning.

And you need something to fight off the worry and nasty thoughts that can plague you - especially as a parent watching your child suffer.

I know we've all seen pictures of children dealing with any number of ailments.  And our hearts go out to them.  And their families.  We sit there and can't imagine what they are all going through.  We even say an extra prayer or two just for them.

But when it's your child in that picture...

When it's your child's long, beautiful, blonde hair now collected in a bag...

Or when you are the one sitting on the floor of the grocery store with your child while she has a meltdown for no apparent reason...

You hit your knees on a daily basis.  Sometimes you don't leave your knees for days.  People may see you walking around, going through the motions of life like normal; but,  inside you are humbled in front of the throne of God begging for your child's life.

There are so many things we were able to find strength in during those months and years, though.  We have some of the most amazing friends both near and far.  We were (and are) able to open the scripture and find so many encouraging words to sustain us.  My prayer life was built up significantly during that time, too.  And our marriage gained a firmer foundation.

With this song, though, we could get lost in it.  We would dance and sway together in the living room and smile through the tears.  We could really enjoy the moment and forget for just a little bit.

Can you now understand just a little bit of my obsession/desire to have those birds in my home?  And when I saw these three little birds, I was on a mission.

And I found them just a few hours later at Target.  {Yep, that same day.}

While I thought about putting them in our kitchen; they look perfect over our front door.

It's something we will be able to see every morning when we come down the steps to the main level.  The kids will also get to see them everyday heading out the door for the school bus.  None of us will ever be tall enough to slap the top of the door like all those football teams coming out of a tunnel; but, this is kind of the equivalent for our family in my mind.  It will be a reminder to us all that God takes remarkable care of us through all the good and bad times in life.

I hope I've explained that well for all of you.  I'll be completely honest: this post has taken me several days and  a couple of all out sob-fests to get written.  Because even with all the emotions I've gone through and how thankful I am to be where we are today; I still ache for all those families who don't have a happy ending to their story.  I hope that now when you see those pictures of someone else's kid you will understand just a little more and are willing to say a few (more) prayers for that family.  And then maybe this song will cross your mind, give you a smile and remind you that every little thing really will be alright no matter what may come.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped...   Psalms 28:7

Love to you all and God bless.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Getting Organized for School: Part 3

In Part 1, I covered some lessons I've learned that will hopefully help anyone who has kids in school to some degree.

In Part 2, I shared the calendar methods that have been working out best for our family.

Today I'm sharing a few miscellaneous tricks we've implemented around the house to keep me on top of school things.

Posted Notes

I used to use Post Its on the front door for little reminders to myself.  The idea had merit, but there were just a couple of things that limited it:  they fell off the door every once in a while,  I was going through a lot of Post Its, and the kids could easily remove them.

I had this really cute Roommates Dry Erase Calendar for another project, and had yet to use it.

I still have the calendar waiting for me to get to that other project, but the little word bubbles and circles have taken the place of my Post It notes.  

I purposely put them up higher than what the kids can reach.  Since I'm tall, it's no problem for me to write on them.  (For those of you vertically challenged, arrange yours accordingly.)  

Since there are five kids in our family, one circle is used for each kid/grade with one circle devoted to school wide events.  

This is such a small thing, but it's saved my bacon more than a few times.  The quick reminder that a permission slip needs to be turned in or a lunch made in a paper bag for a field trip or that it's pajama day keeps me looking like a rockstar mom and keeps the tears off my kids' faces (and mine).  There have been lots of tears in the past, too, people!


This has been a HUGE game changer for me!  Not about just getting emails from the teachers and school - we all probably have this happening.  It's the fact that I devoted a single email account to school stuff and nothing but school stuff.  

It takes only minutes to set a new account up.  I decided to use Gmail, since that's what I'm used to, it's easy to use, and I can receive the mail on my phone app.  

Now, if you decide to do this, which I highly recommend, don't use it for anything other than school.  That would completely defeat the purpose of this email account.  Keep it for school, and only school communications: teachers, school district news, and other parents.  That way the important stuff doesn't get buried under junk emails.  Also, make sure to clean out the older emails periodically to avoid clutter.

All of these organizing tips that I've shared are easy to implement at any stage in the game.  My oldest is in middle school and I just started most of these things in the past two years.  I'm hoping that my stumbling along all these years will help all of you be able to get a handle on school organization long before your oldest gets to middle school or beyond!

Share any ideas you have with the rest of us at My Life by Jess on Facebook!  

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting Organized for School: Part 2

I laid the ground work for this series Monday with Part 1.  Go take a look at that if you haven't, yet.

Today is all about the calendar!

It's taken a few years to figure out a good system for me, but here are a couple of things that have consistently helped me the most.

Wall Calendar

I'm such a visual person that I have to have a wall calendar in a very obvious, in your face spot.  And, since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, that's become the calendar's home.

It has morphed a bit over the years that we've been here, though.

 These white board calendars were purchased from Walmart a few years ago.  I'm sure I didn't spend more than $12 per board. {I'm pretty cheap when it comes to things like this.}  I have LOVED having two boards!  My original intent was to switch the boards back and forth as the months changed.  I even put them up on the wall with the Velcro Command Strips so it would be very easy to rotate them.  And it was.  But, I got tired of doing that and now every other month the months are backward.  No big deal to me.

Why two months?  Well, I was constantly not prepared for the start of the next month.  It really bugged me!  I would make overlapping plans or I would procrastinate on getting the next month written up and miss an appointment.  Having two calendars allows me to start planning for the next month and keep it visual.

Ok.  So, having two months up has worked well.  The clutter at the bottom was starting to really get on all our nerves.  I thought the Rust-Oleum Magnetic Paint would be the help I was looking for.  Sadly, it wasn't.

While technically the paint works, it's not worth the money or the time.  Yes, it will hold magnets on the wall, but even the stronger magnets won't hold an appointment post card to it.  I also had to put several more layers of paint up than what were recommended.  Now I have a ridge where the black paint is.  Lesson learned, though.

When I figure out my alternative method, I'll be sure to share.

This is what I now have on my wall.

It's not a complete Command Center, but what I have is working nicely.

I also added this little dry erase board in between the larger boards.

It has really helped to have a place to quickly glance at and see the highlights for the current week.

Now that we have the wall calendar covered, let's move on to electronic.

Electronic Calendar

Having an IPhone, I was using the calendar app that came with it.  It was fine.  Had all the features I needed - calendar, location, multiple alarms, and so forth.

What it lacked was being able to connect with my husband and others.  Maybe I didn't know how to use it to it's fullest potential, though.

Now we use Google Calendar.

The set up definitely works for me.  Our local church group is able to post different activities on the calendar and it automatically goes to my phone.  Whenever Kevin adds an event or appointment to his phone it automatically goes on mine and vise a versa.  I get to color code the events so I can glance and quickly know if an event pertains to family, church, school or work.  (Visual, remember)  It has made things so much easier for me to keep and stay on top of my life and my family's.  It also keeps Kevin and I from double scheduling our life.  

These are all very simple, inexpensive fixes to such a big part of life!  While the family Command Center is still a bit of a work in progress, what I have is working.  Working so well I rarely miss an appointment or special event.  The older kids are able to add school activities as they come up and help keep our life a little less stressful with fewer last minute surprises, too.

Now that you see what I do, I'm curious what everyone else has come up with to keep your events organized.  Do you keep a calendar or two (or three!) on your wall?  Which app do you use on your phone?  Or are you one of those people who can keep it all tucked away in your mind and never miss a beat?  Share and let us all know what you do!  Hop on over to My Life on Facebook and comment or post a picture.

Look for the next on Friday!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Getting Organized for School: Part 1

It's Back to School time around here!  Time to buy school supplies, lunch boxes, new clothes and get fresh hair cuts.

First a question for you....

Why do we, as moms, when asked what we do, feel the need to let everyone know we are 'busy'?  You know how it goes.

Stranger- Nice to meet you.  What do you do?
You - I'm a busy mom of # kids.

I do this all the time (I think it's even in my bio), so it's not a slam on anyone.  However, I'm really curious if there is anything such thing as a mom who's not busy.  (At least, if the mom is actually being a mom.)

While the kids were little, I was busy.  I couldn't wait for all of them to get older so I wouldn't be quite so busy.  Now that my little ones are older, I've found I'm probably busier than before, it's just a different type of busy.  Somewhat of a rude awakening for this mom!

This year all my kids will be in public school, and that can make life just down right crazy busy.  (Yes, honestly, there are days I'm doing a happy dance when I think of school starting soon.)  Over the past several years, I've learned some very valuable lessons about having any number of kids in school.

Lesson 1
Teachers are there to help, but YOU (and your child) are ultimately responsible.

More often than not, the teacher is sending info home in one form or another letting you, the parent, know what is happening in the class or what is coming up.  Take note of these things right away!  I've been notorious for getting the info, setting it aside thinking I would remember, and then completely forgetting when the day arrives.  Or, my kids will helpfully remind me a couple of minutes before walking out the door for the bus.  Find a way to keep track of events and special days.

If you don't feel that the teacher or school is sending home pertinent information in a timely fashion, get involved!  Ask questions, look on the school website, or ask some of the other parents.  Don't just sit back and use excuses - that won't help you or your child.

Lesson 2
The kids can and SHOULD help.

This is something that took me awhile to learn.  Let's face it, the special days, assemblies, parties, field trips, and all those other events are much more important to the child who gets to participate.  Figure out a way to use this to your advantage!  When the little one comes home all excited about something, put it on the calendar right away.  If they are older, have a place for them to record the information - calendar, clipboard, etc.

Please remember!!  This is about them helping.  You are still the parent (aka- the one in charge) and you are where the proverbial buck stops.

Lesson 3
Life happens!  Try to be far enough ahead of the game so when life does happen, life doesn't fall apart.

This is a hard one.  After all, there are only so many contingency plans you can have in place.  However, being ahead of the game and not procrastinating until the last possible moment will help.  If you know there is a party coming up next week, don't wait until the day before or morning of to get whatever supplies you are required to bring.  Inevitably, the store you go to the morning of will either be out of what you need or not carry it at all.  Try to avoid these scenarios by getting or making things in advance.

Things will happen, though, that are far out of your control.  Kids get sick, snow days happen, plans can change, you will forget things.  Make sure you don't have unreasonable expectations

Lesson 4
If you aren't organized at home, things will always be stressful for a mom.

No one is perfect.  Keeping up with everything that comes in from the outside is even harder, though, if you aren't organized before school starts.  There is still a little bit of time to work on this before getting into the full swing of all that school brings.

Once the first day of school hits (sometimes even a few days before), paperwork, notices, and all kinds of other informations starts to find it's way to your home.  Figure out a way to keep school things separate from all your other mail, email, and countertops.  Have a specific place for all things school.  Did the kids bring home papers that need to be signed?  Have a process that the kids know and understand to get those important papers taken care of.  The have the kids put them back in their back packs RIGHT AWAY.

Lesson 5
Be prepared: You will fail.

I'm a realist.  No matter how hard you work to be prepared, no matter how organized you get - you are going to have one or two slip ups.  It will be okay!  Just remember you are human!  When the time comes, just console the little one, if needed, and get right back to living life.  You can't beat yourself up over it.

Also, don't let your kids beat you up over whatever forgotten moment, paper, or special day.  They need to realize that you are only Mom and not Superwoman.  Disappointment is part of life and they need to learn/know how to handle that and move on, too.  (Anyone else just think of Princess Bride there?)  Apologize, if necessary, and move on.


So, these are just a few of the lessons I've learned over the years.  I'm determined that each year will be better than the previous, and so far, it's working out that way.  I already have some great things in the works that will be carried over from last year to this year.  I look forward to sharing those with you in the next couple of posts.

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