Friday, April 29, 2011

How To: Rain Gutter Bookshelves

Over the past 3 years our children's book collection has grown exponentially. And boy am I glad. Julia loves to read and be read to! Josiah is more interested in playing with trucks at the moment, but he'll get there.

Although we have always felt very blessed with to have so many books, for a long time it was a big challenge trying to figure out how to store them. I don't even remember where they were at our first apartment. At our last one, we had them stacked on the fireplace hearth. I tried to find "sling" bookshelves like you see at doctor's offices, classrooms, libraries, etc. but never came across anything affordable.

Then one day not long before closing on our house, I don't even remember where, I came across rain gutter bookshelves. Huh? You mean those things that run along the roof of my house? Yessiree.

I'd never heard of anything like it. I looked around at more pictures online and just KNEW it was exactly what we needed! I immediately put it on our list of things to do for our new home.

The books take up absolutely no floor space, don't fall off and everyone can easily see which books are which. It looks great on the wall too! I suppose you could paint them if you wanted, or decorate them some other way as well.

So, how do you get this? You go down to Home Depot/Lowe's and get a 10 ft rain gutter. White vinyl. Decide how many shelves you want to split it into, and get end caps (right under the gutters on the same aisle) for each shelf. Haul the gutter over to the cutting section (unless you can fit the gutter in your vehicle and do it at home) and saw away. Or try to talk an associate into doing it for you! We used some special scissors they had there, I forget what they're called, but the people there will know what to suggest. We divided ours into three 40-inch pieces.

You'll need some heavy duty screws to support the weight of the books. It's also a good idea to secure them into as many studs as possible. Just for reference, there are 60 books on ours right now, so you can see how many you will need.

I situated mine onto the wall so that the kids would have access to the bottom shelf, and put enough room between each so that tall books would fit anywhere. You can stack them, put one on each wall, one in each child's room, stagger them... lots of options!

Alright, how good of a deal is this?

10 ft rain gutter: $4.99
3 pairs of end caps: $17.97
(Of course, if you decide to do fewer or more shelves the price will be affected because of the number of end caps needed) 
12 Screws: already had some ($0)

Total cost including tax-----------$24.85 =)

Now I dare you to show me some bookshelves for $25 that are as great as these!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"There Was This Black Guy"

Before I begin, let me apologize for the lack of a photo. I just couldn't find anything appropriate, non-cheesy, or un-biased. There was one of a baby with the caption "arrest black babies before they become criminals" but I don't want to give the wrong impression. Besides, I'm not certain what message it is meant to convey.

Moving along.

Sometimes I need to vent. This is one of those days. As you can all see from my picture on the left, I am White/Anglo/Caucasian/European-American/whatever. If that matters.

I have this pet peeve, see. When someone (non-black) is telling me a (true) story about something that happened to them or that they saw, more often than not, if a Black/Negro/African-American person is part of the story, they are going to specify the race.

For example,
"I was walking down the street and these 2 black guys stared at me as I passed them"...
"This big black lady at the grocery store was my cashier and she was so rude"...
"We went to the park this morning and this little black kid pushed my kid off the swing"...

You get the point.

I have to bite my tongue because I always want to say, "Um, does it really matter that they were black? If not, why did you mention that fact?" Maybe I should sometime. I just don't particularly enjoy putting people on the spot. Usually.

Why is it, that people feel the need to tell me that the person in their story is black? I almost feel like it's pretty safe to assume they are white unless I am told otherwise. Now, of course, sometimes Asians and Hispanics are mentioned too, but never in my life have I heard (at least from a non-black person) "So I was driving down the highway, looked over at the car next to me and this white guy flipped me off." No, they're just going to say, this jerk, or this dude, or the like.


Does this mean that people are trying to prove that blacks are more [insert adjective] than non-blacks? I don't get it. Does it really matter in your story that the person you are telling me about is black? Do you think it would make me feel differently about the person if I assumed they were white?

Forgive me, because I just don't understand. I'm not jumping to conclusions that these people are racist, it just makes me wonder WHY people have to unnecessarily include race in their descriptions of events. As if they think I need to know that the person was black so that I can perpetuate whatever mindset I have toward that race.

So, I ask you (whether you consider yourself racist or not):

Should race always/never/sometimes be indicated? Do you find yourself doing this? Should it only be mentioned when absolutely essential? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

7 Minutes to a Clean House

Most people, if you're like me, enjoy having friends and family over! Spending time with those you love (or are getting to know) is one of the simple pleasures in life.

I don't know about you, but I get really excited the days/hours leading up to the time someone is supposed to arrive. BUT, something that can really squeeze the life out of that excitement is a dirty house.

Now, don't get me wrong: Our goal should be to bless, not to impress. We're not talking perfection here, just a place that makes people feel welcome. I for one am more relaxed when my house is in order. If it's not, I just can't get comfortable.

For those of you who have a bad habit of procrastinating, or have the occasional short-notice visitor, I've come up with a 7-minute quick clean-up so your home can be company ready!

Let's say your guest is coming at 2:00.

1:53-- Grab your laundry basket, do a quick walk around and pick up all the stuff in each room that doesn't belong. If your laundry basket is full, put the clothes back in the dryer. If the dryer is full, put them on your bed.

1:54-- Return as many of those things as you can to their home, then place the basket in a closet to do the rest later (don't forget to finish after they leave).

1:55-- Move all the dishes from the sink to the dishwasher. If the dishwasher is full, stack the dishes in such a way that you can place a large cutting board across the sink for a cleaner look.

1:56-- Put some music on and/or light a candle.

1:57-- Check the bathroom they might use. Do a quick wipe/scrub of the toilet and floor if needed, and make sure there is enough toilet paper.

1:58-- Clear off your kitchen table and set with snack plates and/or cups.

1:59-- Sit down, wipe the sweat off your brow, close your eyes, and say a prayer that it would be a time of refreshing and encouragement for everyone! Ask God to use you to bless them in some way while they are in your home.

2:00-- Knock, knock! Enjoy your time together =)

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Favorite Things Giveaway!

Well, it has taken me almost three years but I'm so excited to be on the cusp of 100 posts! What does that mean? GIVEAWAYS! They will all be a few of my favorite things (that money can't buy), and I'm really looking forward to sharing them with you. =)

First up, is the greatness that is called Bare Fruit Cinnamon Apple Chips. I started buying these at Sprouts a while back and it was love at first chomp. Riley never gets any because they just don't last till he gets home. Poor baby. One time I actually polished off a whole bag (each one contains 5 apples, mind you) solely on the 17 minute ride home. Although I may have shared one or two with the kids, hehe. They also come in Fuji Apple and Granny Smith, but I like the cinnamon ones best!

So. Anyway! I found them online by the case, for less than what I was paying before. If I don't share, they'll be all gone in no time. Being the bighearted girl that I am would like to be, one of you is getting half the case! That's six 2.6 oz bags of this delicious treat. You can thank me as soon as the last chip is devoured. Oh, and these aren't your run-of-the-mill chewy apple rings you find on every corner. They are crunchy and sweet (but not overly so) and will leave you and your friends/kids/spouse begging you for more. I really need to audition for their first commercial, don't I?

The best part (besides being so yummy) is that they are 100% organic, bake-dried and the only ingredients are apples and cinnamon. That's it. No sweeteners, preservatives, GMOs, trans fats, MSG, common allergens, gluten-free, and manufactured in a nut-free facility. What's not to love?

Ok, so here's how you can win:

Leave me a comment stating your new favorite snack!

And for extra entries (winner will be chosen via

~Surf through my blog, find a post you like, comment on it, come back here and leave another telling me you did so.

~Post the link to this giveaway on Facebook, leave another comment.
~Tweet this giveaway, leave another comment.
~Blog about this giveaway, leave another comment.

You must leave a separate comment for each entry in order to increase your chances of winning! All comments must be left here on the blog (not on FB) to be valid. Make sure your name is included somewhere.

You've got till 3pm Central time (US residents only) on Tuesday 4/26 and the winner will be announced later that evening.

Ready, Set, GO!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

20 Easter Egg Treats Sans the Sugar Rush

The last couple of months I've been thinking about Easter coming up and the imminent surge of candy that it typically brings, i.e. egg hunts and baskets!

While I love to watch my little girl find those colorful little eggs and open up her basket, it would be so nice if we could avoid all the junk! Don't get me wrong, I love candy and so do my kids. But it's just not good for them, especially in such large amounts!

All I could come up with on my own to put in Easter eggs was miniature raisin boxes. Exciting, I know.

So naturally, I googled for ideas.

I found some really great ones that I'd love to use! If you're like me and want some candy alternatives without having to forgo the fun, try filling your eggs with these instead:

1. Coins
2. Marbles
3. Stickers
4. Dice
5. Top
6. Hairclips
7. Beads
8. Squeeze ball
9. Seashells
10. Polished rocks
11. Lip gloss
12. Whistle
13. Nail polish
14. Jewelry
15. Temporary tattoos
16. Small plush animals
17. Playdough
18. Silly Putty
19. Mini bottle of bubbles
20. Confetti

* Obviously some of these could be choking hazards so be careful with little ones and choose only things that won't end up in their throat!

Have fun! 


Monday, April 11, 2011

My growing Hunkaboo

I started writing a status update on Facebook about "little" Josiah, then realized it was turning into a blog post. So here you go!

The prince of the house is 20 months now, well closer to 21. What's new:

~ He's been walking up and down the stairs for a few weeks now. One day I just noticed him doing it and was like, whaaaa?! He usually says "ats" though if I'm close by because he wants to hold hands while going down. Doesn't really need it, but how could I object? It's so sweet.

~ Just started climbing out of his crib 2 days ago at naptime. So far, he stays in there to sleep then just gets out when he wakes up at the end of nap or in the morning. *I'm hoping it stays that way!*

~ Still pretty picky about veggies but everything else he devours... especially fruit and meat! If he's all done and I get him out of his chair (or he takes his own tray off and climbs out, haha) and Julia leaves the table and there's food left on her plate, he climbs up to her seat, sits on her stool and snatches it all up. Watch out girlfriend!

~ He used to give me kisses after every nursing session but then he got too old for that I guess. I was sad! But now he's giving them again, except now he actually makes the kissing sound! Happy momma =)

~ Loves to clean! This is refreshing because it takes some real skill to get Julia to pick up after herself. But this boy, oh my, he wants a napkin for his hands after he eats; if he spills something, he finds a towel and wipes it up; when I sweep/mop/vacuum, he grabs another from the pantry and joins me; when I'm doing laundry he helps put the clothes in. It's pretty awesome! I'm already thrilled for his wife ;)

~ I can tell he understands a lot because he follows instructions really well. But he doesn't say much yet, although I hear that's the norm for boys. Here's his vocabulary:

   ah-puh: diaper
   a-ee: daddy
   ap: cup or up
   at: outside or light
   ats: hands
   ah-mun: i don't really know, one time he actually was talking about almonds but he usually just says it when he wants something... maybe he means mommy? ;)
   beep: when the oven beeps
   ar: car
   baby/beebee: his stuffed monkey
   af: off
   no: oh no
   ba-ba: bye-bye
   ups: chips
   ith: outside or cheese

I think that's it.

~ He's really starting to get independent... doesn't want to stay in the sling as long, and hits the ground running anytime we go outside!

~ If you're wondering, NO signs of potty-training.

~ If you're wondering, still nursing (Julia stopped at 21 months but Josiah will probably go till 2 or later).

~ For close to 2 months now, he's been MUCH better about going to sleep on his own. I still nurse him at bedtime but it doesn't take near as long because once he's done I can put him in his crib whether he's asleep or not. This is huge!

~ He's grown a little attached to his stuffed monkey, which he started calling "baby" or "beebee" while we were on vacation in San Antonio last month.

~ Loves going outside. Like it's the first thing he wants to do in the morning, even before breakfast. I usually make him eat first but the whole time he's pointing at the glass door to the backyard.

~ He can take his cup (no lid) with one hand, and push the spigot on the filtered water container on the island, and stop before it spills.

~ Does pretty much everything Julia does, which gets them both in a lot of trouble! For example, pushing the chair into the kitchen, climbing up and pulling out whatever he thinks is cool and trying to cook.

~ Can take his own pants off for bathtime, and if he ever doesn't have pants on any other time of the day, the diaper comes off pretty quick! Ooh, maybe it IS time to potty-train! Maybe after his birthday.

~ Record time for going without me is 22 hours. Will be doing that or a little longer next month!

~ If he knows you have an ouchie, he kisses it. So precious.

~ I can't remember who got it for him for Christmas, but he loves his "scoot-n-zoom"... rides it all around the house, takes it outside, carries it up and down the stairs. Great gift!

~ When we sit down to eat dinner as a family, he holds his hand out to me before we pray (and I caught him closing his eyes last time!)

Okay I guess that's enough for now. Love that boy!

This is actually the first time he's ever fallen asleep in the highchair, which was always a frequent occurrence with his big sister!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Motherhood is a gift

As I rocked my baby girl to sleep tonight, I was reminded of the tremendous privilege it is that God chose me to be her mother... her teacher, her ouchie-kisser, her chauffeur, her cook, her maid, everything.

She is so infinitely precious to Him and He entrusted her life into my hands. It was no small decision, either. Of all the women on earth, throughout all the thousands of years past and future, he knew her, picked ME, formed her in my womb, knowing every single mistake I would make in raising her. And I've made a lot.

It blows my mind. It's overwhelming yet encouraging at the same time.

How can I take that for granted? Or have any sort of disdain for the responsibility?

No matter how hard it gets at times, I choose now to remind myself what a blessing it is to have such a sweet, sensitive, caring, funny, beautiful, intelligent, helpful adventurous, curious, creative daughter!

Out of nowhere she tells me she loves me. She asks the most amazing questions, and tells me the most brilliant ideas that I have no idea where they came from. She shows compassion for those that are hurting. She takes care of her little brother in ways she's seen me do without me even having to ask. She loves to learn and help and cracks me up on an hourly basis. Almost every morning after getting out of bed and dressing herself, she comes into my room and gently wakes me up. We sit outside together while Josiah naps, and enjoy a cup of water or a smoothie and enjoy the sun or chalk on the patio or new bubbles. She more than exceeds my expectations when we go through her preschool workbook. She loves to run but would watch movies all day long if I let her! She giggles when I tickle her then says "uncle!" She dances her own dances and sings her own songs.
She will be 4 in less than 8 weeks and I'm in for it! Another great year, that is =)

I love you so so so much, Julia Brynne. The past 201 weeks have been the best of my life!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I control my little world!

Do you ever get the feeling that your every move is like pushing the buttons on a remote control?

For example, you take a pregnancy test and then voila! The next day you get your period.

Or, you mop the kitchen and BAM! Somebody drops a glass of milk on the floor.

One of my personal favorites is when I lie down in bed, find the perfect position, get the covers just how I want them, sigh and just when I'm about to sink into sleepyland...WAAAHHH! One of the kids needs me.

What about you? Somebody please tell me I'm not alone, weird and watched "Click" one too many times.

Friday, April 1, 2011

To Snip or Not To Snip?

As all parents will admit, we make a lot of mistakes. I make them every day. One of the ones I regret the most happened when Josiah was a mere 11 days old. We paid a doctor to permanently amputate a perfect, functional, healthy part of his tiny little body.

Why? I really don't know. Cultural tradition, religion, preventative health...  several bad excuses we could choose from.

The problem is, well, there are several problems.

First of all, it shouldn't have been our choice. There was nothing at all wrong with his foreskin. It was not medically necessary. No parent should have the right to subject their child's body to cosmetic alteration. He had no choice. Had he had the choice, I have no doubt what he would've chosen. That's why they have this thing called the circumstraint.

Most babies that are breastfed really like to nurse. It satisfies their hunger along with calming mental/emotional/physical discomfort. Josiah refused after the procedure. I could immediately tell he was traumatized. Had I had my brain turned on before the procedure, I would've taken one look at that room, snatched him up and taken off running.

But I didn't, and I will always regret it. Someday I will apologize to him and hopefully he will forgive me. In the meantime, I fully intend to try and inform people who are still under the impression that routine circumcision is the right thing to do, that it is by all means NOT.

Here are a few facts:

~In the US, an average of 117 baby boys die every year from complications to circumcision.
~Circumcision is the most commonly performed medical procedure in the US, so of course there is money to be lost. Think about it.
~Were it to be left intact, a baby boy's foreskin would grow into 12-15 square inches of adult skin.
~The circumcised infant penis actually requires more care than the intact one. A natural, intact penis requires no special care, beyond gentle washing while bathing.
~The American Academy of Pediatrics says on their website that "circumcision is not essential to a child's health." No professional medical association in the United States or the rest of the world recommends routine neonatal circumcision.
~It's not a birth defect! The foreskin has many purposes: keeping contaminants from entering the urinary tract; sexual pleasure due to the thousands of nerve endings contained therein, and natural gliding.
~Circumcision as it is routinely performed today is not a mere snipping of some extra flap of skin. It has to be sliced and pulled off.
~You wouldn't circumcise your baby girl (it's illegal, as a matter of fact), so why the double standard?
~Some statistics claim that the percentage of boys now being circumcised is only one out of three.
~Most medically advanced countries leave their boys intact, and people throughout the world are appalled to hear that American doctors routinely remove part of a boy's penis shortly after birth. 
~Most men in the United States are circumcised, but our STD rates are as high as or higher than those in countries where circumcision is rare.
~Even if they don't remember, that doesn't make it okay.  Experiences not consciously remembered later in life still contribute to a negative or positive effect on each individual.
~Studies have shown that boys who are circumcised have a lower level of pain tolerance later in life.

And the #1 most important reason you should not circumcise your son:

"Because children should be protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit, or parental preference. Under accepted bioethical principles, parents can consent to surgery on behalf of a child only if it is necessary to protect the child's life or health. "Routine" circumcision fails this test because it painfully and permanently removes a normal and healthy part of a boy's penis, does not protect the child’s life or health, and in fact creates new risks. Removing the foreskin is no more justified than removing a finger or any other healthy body part."

I'm amazed at all the controversy there is around this subject. It might even rival vaccines and spanking. Anyway, for me it all comes down to this: most boys are born with a foreskin that has absolutely no problems and were it to be left intact would most likely never have any medical reason to remove it. Most medical doctors will tell you that routine circumcision is purely cosmetic. Only the person whom the body part belongs to should be able to consent to any kind of modification. I'm not saying that if your son has a real issue with his foreskin, that you shouldn't be able to get a doctor to take care of it. Neither am I condemning the practice of, after much prayer and scripture-searching, taking your son to a mohel to have him perform a biblical circumcision (nothing like the kind they do in hospitals today, rather a simple nick to draw a drop or two of blood).

We fully intended on having it done on the 8th day with a rabbi, although we didn’t really do any research on the subject. Plus Josiah was born 2 weeks early so we didn’t have a chance to arrange it as we had hoped, although we did refuse it in the hospital. Obsessing about getting it done on the 8th day, we quickly tried to make an appointment with somebody to have it done but the soonest we could get was the 11th day with an MD in an outpatient facility. I had no idea how or where to hire a mohel. If I had known at the time that it was completely different, I most definitely would've waited until we could figure it out and do it the better way. The good thing is, God is gracious and like one of my favorite songs says, "I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us!"

    If any of you still think signing your son up for a typical infant circumcision is a good idea, I strongly encourage you to go watch this video and see exactly what you would be putting your son through in the name of whatever reason you think you may have.

    Now before you start writing me hate mail, let me say this: I am not out to condemn or judge anyone who has allowed their son to be circumcised. After all, I did it too. What I am after, is for people to be better educated about the truth behind this awful practice, so that one or a hundred or a million less boys have to suffer the way our sons and brothers and fathers and husbands have. While many circumcised men have no complaints or angst toward their parents for getting them circumcised, it doesn't change the fact that they were robbed.

    If you're interested in reading more, my friend Heather (aka Mommypotamus) has posted two great blogs about circumcision, you can find them here and here. Another friend, Dr. Cindy has a really good one here.


    PS- nothing against my tattooed friends, y'all know I love you! I just couldn't resist that pic ;)