Friday, February 28, 2014

7 QT: Team Awesome-o FTW!

Okay, once again linking up with the Friday Clean Up Link Up at Real Housekeeping and just generally reflecting on other miscellany from the week.  We'll start with the cleaning part!
If you didn't see it on FB yesterday, I urge you to take the 3 minutes to see the "before" video of our bedroom closets, if for no other reason than to laugh at my crazy eyes, terrible half-up, half-down, all wet hairdo, and liberal use of the phrase "heart of darkness."

The horror! The horror!

I have to hand it to my husband, who was so dedicated and so awesome as to stay up late, late into the night and help me clean and organize.  We ended up rearranging our whole bedroom and I think we are both happy with the results.  Here is how it all ended up:

I realize that the video was kind of dark, so here are a few stills to show the inside.
Not much we can do about the amount of stuff up top, but Allen did reorganize it, I think.  

Look! My clothes are accessible!

Don't you love that origami crane mobile?  The middle schoolers at Molalla River Academy made it for me before I went on maternity leave!  What a great present!
After rearranging the room, I think we were both wondering why we didn't just start out with the bed in the corner.  The obvious reason (at the time we moved in) was that it would be really annoying for the person on the inside part who would have to crawl over the other person to enter and exit the bed.  So we put the bed in the middle and left aisles.

But it wasn't long before the aisle on Allen's side was completely (and I mean completely, as in "can't see the carpet") submerged in stuff that had no other place to go.  He was having to crawl into bed anyway since the walkway was unwalkable; putting it up by the wall just made sense.

We did a bit of purging but mostly it was just Allen's brilliant Tetris-master rearranging skills that came into play.  You may be thinking, "Hmm, their closet still has kind of a lot of stuff in it besides clothes."  And you would be right.  But remember: our bedroom closet and the kids' bedroom closets are the only closets in the house.  There is no shed, no attic, no basement, no hall closet, no pantry, no nothing.  We have a storage bench outside and that's about it.  So we stuff as much as we can into the closets…and under our beds. Allen built and designed our bed frame so that it is about 2 feet off the ground and there are lots of totes and other things underneath.

Wherever you are, I hope you'll join me in raising your glass/coffee mug/sippy cup/whatever you've got to my husband, Allen Cook, and his amazing organizational skills and devotion to his wife's blog work.  Cheers!
I didn't take video of the kids' bedroom closet after organizing it, but here are pictures of it:
Clothes are actually hanging on hangers instead of being stuffed into boxes and bags

Toys (not currently in rotation) picked through, sorted, and rearranged

That girl has a million dresses…almost all hand-me-downs from someone or other! 

On another day I'll go through some of the "outgrown clothes" and purge some excess...

There you have it…both closets organized to the best of our limited ability.  How satisfying!
I got some delicious honey whole wheat bread from our local produce store, Spicer Bros, and look what a cheery sight awaited me one morning while making some toast for breakfast!
Now that's what I call a Happy Meal!

Another adorable picture I can't help but share…a certain little someone fits into the giraffe suit we got for Ruby when she was this age.  Here's a little comparison: can you guess which baby is which?

Sadly, it appears that we never got a picture of Max in this outfit…what a pity!  It is so cute!

On a more serious note, there comes a time in a mom's life when she has to make the tough decisions.

  • Homeschool, public school, private school?  
  • Spanking, time-outs, revoking privileges?  
  • Vaccinations, delayed vaccinations,  or none?  
I faced one of the hardest today:  

Fanny pack or no fanny pack?

Look, I'm a child of the 80s and 90s, and fanny packs used to be so rad.  And then, suddenly, they became something that only moms wore (and not-so-hip moms at that).  I didn't really think about it again, until recently when I bought a used ergo which came with a matching fanny pack.  

"Yeah, like I'll ever use that," I chortled.  (Pride goeth before a fall.)

Then today I took all the kids to OMSI (our science center).  I would have Ben in the carrier, Max in the umbrella stroller, Ruby walking beside me, and the diaper bag/backpack on my back.  The purse portion of my diaper bag was not easily accessible with that load.  I remembered the fanny pack.  

Should I?  Do I dare disturb the universe?  

I dared.  And it was extremely practical. 

I won't win style points for it, but sometimes a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do. 

I have more to say about assorted other things, but my youngest is hungry and everyone else is getting antsy, so this mommy blogger is signing off for now!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

8 Ways to Spin Straw into Gold

Linking up with Gina at Someday Saints for...

I suppose I should clarify my title a little bit.  I'm speaking of the fairy tale character's ability to turn straw into gold, not to intimidate frightened mothers into giving up their firstborn children.

You've all heard it said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  It's not just an empty cliche, folks, it is true and I'm going to share with you some things that we do to make some extra bling bling around here.

None of these, by themselves, could probably sustain a family of five as a full time job.  But I can tell you that doing all of them in combination have gotten us through two or three months of my husband being unemployed and me making a pretty small (about $1100 take home pay) monthly paycheck.

Some of them may not be applicable in your state; you'll have to do your homework.  And some may just make you shake your head and say, "No way I'm gonna do THAT."  Take what you like and leave the rest!

These are all things that I've learned from my fine, fine hubby, Allen.  Some are things that he learned from his family, and others are just things he's found out on his own.  This is one of the reasons why my man is an awesome husband: he does what it takes to provide.  Nothing is too unworthy a job (well, nothing legal and morally permissible…he's not making money as a Chippendale because that's just wrong).  He has a great work ethic and he tirelessly brings home money for the family.  He is our resident Rumplestiltskin (again, in the non-creepy way), able to spin straw into gold.  Here are some ways that you can too!

1. Metal Recycling (AKA Scrapping)

 Other people leave washers, dryers, broken dishwashers, whatever it is out on their curb to get taken away by the trash truck, but if Allen gets to it first, it is going in the bed of his truck by hook or by crook!  Before he got his truck, it got strapped to the top of our Echo.  This is one reason why that poor car is dented and dinged, but you'd be impressed by the things he has managed to haul to the scrap yard on it (hint: an oven.)  One time he dragged a bag of golf clubs behind the car (it was a very short drive, don't worry).  You know the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way?"  Yeah, that's his motto.

It's not a huge money-maker per load, and not something we could live on.  He makes maybe $25 per load on average…but there are occasions when he makes several runs to the scrap yard in a day.  It adds up, and it is all stuff that otherwise would have gotten pitched into a landfill!

2.  Can and bottle recycling
Another bit of "junk" that can be redeemed (in our state, anyway) are cans and bottles.  In Oregon, aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, and beer bottles are worth 5 cents each.  You pay a 5 cent deposit per bottle/can whenever you buy them and you can get that 5 cents back when you take them to a bottle recycling center (for us, it is Bottle Drop).
A lot of people, though, don't want to deal with the (minor) inconvenience and just throw the things away or put them in the recycling.  Once again, this is a great chance to take someone else's trash and take it to the bottle drop.  We specifically use all of the money we make on other people's cans and bottles (we rarely buy them for ourselves) for our anniversary fund.  Since our last anniversary (August 8th), we're now up to around $100, and we still have half a year to go of collecting and adding to the fund!  Woohoo!

One of our huge "tools of the trade" here are websites like the Free section of Craigslist and Freecycle.  The free section of Craigslist has some real humdingers, to be sure (free sawdust, anyone?) but Allen has found tens of thousands of pounds worth of scrap metal, all of it free for the taking.  We've gotten free clothes, free food, free furniture, free books, free tools, free toys, free arts and crafts stuff…if you're willing to take the time to look through it (and spend the time to go fetch it), you'll find a lot of great stuff amidst the things you don't want.  The following tips can all be used with things you might find for free, either on curbs, at garage sales, or on Craigslist and the like. 

3.  Book Reselling
Another fun and easy way to make some spare change is  They buy up books to resell, and you never know what they'll take.  They specialize in buying back textbooks, but they will take far more than that.  They'll also take books in less than mint condition, too, so if your books have some notes or highlighting don't count them out.

What we do is to look for free books at garage sales, on the curbsides, or on the free section of Craigslist.  We snap them up, and then enter the ISBN codes into the bookfinder website.  The website then runs it through several book-buying websites and tells you which (if any) will give you money for it.  To be honest, most of the books that are being given away aren't worth anything to a book-buying website, but sometimes you strike it rich (assuming your definition of rich is a few dollars).

Then again, sometimes you can make upwards of $30 on one book…you just never know.  It's not a huge use of time to go through the pile and enter ISBN numbers, and you might come up with some cash doing it.  Also, often will buy back books in exchange for Amazon credit, and that's nearly always useful.

But what about shipping, you may ask.  If you have a printer, paper, boxes, and packing tape already (which most of us do, I'd venture to say), you won't have to spend any money. You print up the packing slip and label, pack it all up, and leave it on your doorstep.  The nice folks at USPS will take it and you don't have to pay shipping.  Now that's a bargain!

4. Getting store credit by resale
I have had some success with reselling some of the kids' clothes and baby gear and I usually go with the store credit option (usually because stores will give you a larger percentage of the value of the merchandise than if you're just trying to cash it out.)

Besides kids stuff, don't forget about sporting goods stores.  We have one in Portland called Next Adventure which buys lots of used sporting equipment of all kinds.  Allen has earned over $200 in store credit there just by finding unwanted sporting equipment on the curb or Craigslist.  We have outfitted our kids in high quality winter coats and boots thanks to this store credit.  And since people often give away old skis or snowboard shoes or whatever it is when their interest wanes or they get a new one, there are usually some to find for free if you are keeping your eyes open.  And hey, if the store won't buy it, maybe you can scrap it (if there's any metal on it, that is).  

5. Selling on Craigslist (or eBay)

We have never tried using eBay to sell things, although my brother in law has had some success with it.  We have sold things on Craigslist.  I wouldn't say it has been hugely successful but it has happened.  Another thing to think about is if a relative, friend, or acquaintance is complaining about all their crap that they want sold, you can offer to sell it for them on commission or splitting the profit.

6.  Selling to antique stores

Allen has made some decent money developing relationships with some local antique dealers in town and has sold some items to them.  He gets them from his grandpa and they split the profit.  But again, keep your eyes on CL.

7.  Pawn shops
We haven't done this a lot, but it definitely pays to build up relationships with local pawn shop owners and dealers if you think you have goods to offer.  Word to the wise, though: don't even bother trying to make money on VHS tapes.  Nobody wants 'em.  Maybe in 50 years the antique stores will take them??

I think you're sensing the pattern here!  Find stuff that nobody else wants and squeeze every last penny out of it.  The last thing I'll present is one of those "desperate times call for desperate measures" type of scenarios, and Allen doesn't often resort to it…but in times of trouble, it is an option.  

8. Plasma donation
Yes, you can make money donating the plasma from your blood.  There are plasma banks and they will pay you to be a donor.  Not a ton, mind you, and there are health restrictions surrounding it (you can only donate every three days, should be in good health, etc.), but it is something.  It can take a lot of waiting around.  Not something that most people do just for the fun of it, but when times are tough, it could be the extra $100-200 a month you need.  

I hope you enjoyed this rather random list of ways to turn trash into treasure.  It takes patience, time, and some effort and ingenuity, but it can reap rewards.  What do you do to augment your family's income?  Tricks and tips always appreciated!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I found my jam...

…and its name is Jazzercise.

And I am not ashamed.

Well, maybe I would be if I still had to wear this ensemble

I'm on day two of doing a morning Jazzercise workout at the community center near my house.  They have childcare to the tune of a buck per child (more reasonable than hiring a babysitter for an hour) and it's all of five minutes from my house.  

For the record, our instructor did not wear this outfit
I had never done it before yesterday.  In fact, I had been skeptical that it would be any fun at all.  But my desperation to get some form of exercise nearby drove me to look at the website and watch a few videos of the kinds of moves they have in their routines.  

We didn't get to this one yet…perhaps it is advanced
I guessed that not only could I handle the basic assortment of moves (jazz squares, skips, kick-ball-changes, plies, etc.), I liked the fact that it was all set to music and that it was always getting changed up and there would be other people in the group I could watch and learn from.  

Yesterday morning, off I went.  And boy, did I get sweaty fast.  I don't think I've had that level of aerobic exercise in years; probably not since college.  I had forgotten:
  •  how good it can feel to work up a sweat in physical activity
  • to push right up to my physical limitations and try to do just one little increment better
  • to know that with every session I attend, the easier it will get and the more I'll be able to do. 
I don't think I would ever have signed up for a class like this 10-15 years ago.  I would have been too self-conscious, too afraid of messing up and looking foolish in front of other people.  Now, I don't care that much if I do.  For one thing, it's all women, and most look to be somewhere between 30 and 50 and moms. That's my demographic, baby.  

This guy hasn't shown up yet
There were even a few ladies who looked like they were over 60, and they were kicking butt and taking names.  I'd like to be in that kind of shape at that age (and now)!  

The point is that I'm really excited to have found something that is nearby, kid-friendly, fun, challenging, a whole body workout, and involves dancing (which I love to do, anyway).  It's good for me, it releases endorphins, and it gives me an energy boost for my day. What's not to love?

I could almost feel the rainbows emanating from me while I jazzed it up today!
(And no, I'm not a paid shill for Jazzercise.  Just happy to find something that works for me. I'm not cool like all you runners and yogis out there.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Great Purse Purge of '14

(NB: Usually Tuesdays on this blog are reserved for Tribute Tuesday, but I'm switching it up this week to take part in Kendra's Purse Dump Link-Up…because apparently having to organize my bedroom closets this week for Real Housekeeping isn't ENOUGH organization!)

I don't currently use a purse.  I have a huge black one that I got from Goodwill for job interviews and such, but I don't really like it for the mommy life, and I don't like carrying a purse separate from a diaper bag.  This, therefore, is my "purse":
That's right, an old Eddie Bauer backpack we picked up in the Bargain Basement of Next Adventure (great outdoor gear shop in Portland).  I like a backpack because when I carry a purse on one shoulder, I can only do it on my right side (it always slips off my left shoulder) and I'm such a spaz that I always knock it into something when I'm putting on or taking off an "across the body" type of messenger bag.  Hopeless.  So, backpack it is.  

Let's look at the contents (100% unrigged).

The dump: the hot pink wallet is where I keep my money and cards and such
 A lot of the big stuff in here needs to be in here because it's a diaper bag. But of course, there's always some detritus that settles to the bottom like so much un-useful sediment.  Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Oh, and I'm not as smart as some people and didn't think to put a towel or a sheet down for these photos, so you get a look at my beautiful (j/k, it's opposite day!) tile floor.

First up, we have some free swag that a pharmacy gave me.  A fridge magnet, chapstick, two things that I think are mints but I'm not sure, and a packet of sunscreen.  Scout's honor.  It is not another thing that comes in a packet that size.  It is sunscreen (which was leaking, by the way).

Next, some toys which have made their way into the bag.  The red truck (which is a puzzle piece) and two plastic horses.  Probably the most majestic of the items in this diaper bag.

Some random health and hygiene products…who knows how old they are? Not me.

Kid entertainment things (along with cookie cutters…because you never know when the need will arise to bake sugar cookies!)

Ziploc bags containing extra outfits for each child

Diaper necessities…oops, got down to one baby sized diaper and no toddler sized diapers…better fix that!

Feeding essentials (although I never bother to put the bib on Ben, I keep it around in case one day I'll remember that it's hidden in the bottom of the bag)

A recent gift from my mother-in-law: old calendars for collaging and coupons that I might want to clip

Of course, no purse/diaper bag is complete without receipts, old bags, and other trash.  

So, there you have it.  Not very exciting, especially when compared with some Mary Poppinsesque people out there .  But it was a good chance to take out the things that didn't need to be there.

  1. My favorite thing in here is…probably the nearly full can of Similac and bottle, because a fed baby is a happy baby, and a happy baby is a happy mommy, therefore, etc.
  2. Wow, I really have a lot of…coupons that, upon inspection, I will not use.
  3. I've been looking for…that red truck puzzle piece.
  4. Huh.  That shouldn't be in there…the cookie cutters, pharmaswag, and calendars (and they were duly removed.)
Thanks for inspiring some clean up, Kendra!  Maybe one of these days I'll graduate to having a diaper bag/purse that doesn't make me look like a wayward college student.

(Also, please forgive the excessive use of ellipses in this post.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Our Children's Names

I know this pic is probably from Game of Thrones, but I'mma pretend it's Boromir from LOTR.

Jen has asked the impossible highly challenging of herself and any others who wish to take up the challenge: 7 posts in 7 days, starting today.

I think I'll start today by writing about how we chose our children's names. It was an idea provided by Team Whitaker and I am just such a sucker for talking about and dreaming up baby names, and I always have been.

When I was about seven or eight, I received two dolls for Christmas, a boy and a girl. My parents asked what I would name them, and I puzzled over it for most of the day. Finally, I decided that I would give the dolls new names everyday, because I just couldn't settle on only two that I liked!

For me, the best part of playing dolls, Barbies, house, even Legos was coming up with the names of the characters involved.  As a child I told and then wrote many, many, MANY stories.  From my earliest times (like age two, I think) I would tell stories.  Before I could write for myself, I dictated them to my mom for her to write.  When I could write, I spent many hours on paper and then on the computer working on stories.  Some stories were nothing more than a list of names (first, middle, and last) of characters in the story.  

One time, when I was 19 or so, I was on a babysitting gig.  The kids were in bed and I was chillin' on the couch.  The parents had left to go to a family wedding, and it got me thinking about attending the weddings of my siblings someday.  I wrote down on a scrap of paper what I imagined my siblings' spouses would be named and what they'd name their kids, and when they would get married.  (Boy, have I been wrong on that one!)  I was also wrong about when I would get married (I was gunning for 22).

All of that to say that I love names and the act of naming is probably one of the most beautiful things about bringing a child into the world.  Names are significant; they are not to be wasted.  They have something to do with the act of creating; God spoke the world into being, and he invited Adam to be a co-creator in two ways:  in the ability to father children, and before that, by naming the animals and even naming his wife!  

Without further ado, here are the stories behind our children's names:

Ruby Rose 
May 24, 2010

Ruby's full name came to us long before she did.  We came up with the name Ruby on a road trip to St. Louis, back in June of 2009 when we were engaged.  To pass the time in the car, one of the things we did was to compare baby names we liked.  It seemed that we had little agreement, especially for girl names.  We started going through names by type: names based on calendar months, names based on flowers, names based on precious stones and gems. When we came to Ruby, we both remarked that we liked it.  

"So, what about a middle name that goes with Ruby?" one of us asked.  I don't think it took long for us to come up with Rose, which is Allen's mom's middle name.  We liked the alliteration of it, and I like to joke that with a name like Ruby Rose, we've set her up perfectly for  a career in country music or writing romance novels.

Of course, we didn't realize that only 11 months after our conversation about that name that we'd actually get to put it into use!

Max-Pascal James 
March 25, 2012

Max had not been a name on our radar initially.  Before we knew that Ruby was a girl, we were going to go with Benjamin Wade if the baby were a boy.  But when I found out that I was carrying a little brother for Ruby, I couldn't help but consider the name Max.  You know…

Although to be fair, I knew them from the books; I'd never seen the TV show before Max was born.
Allen was agreeable to the name, so Max it was.  But as you might know, Max is usually short for something: Maxwell, Maximilian, Maximus, Maxim, etc.  We weren't sold on any other those long form names, so we decided just to stick to Max as a first name. 

Well!  That was just not okay with some people who pointed out that a person might want a name that didn't sound like a nickname for their whole life.  The no-nickname lobby was strong, so we started to consider what Max could be short for.  We tried making up some names: Maxelo (Allen's suggestion based on basketball player Danilo Gallinari) or Maxlowe (an homage to my maiden name).  They didn't seem quite right, though.  

Finally, at the 11th hour, I suggested Max-Pascal for two reasons. First, because his birthday was supposed to fall within the Easter season, and Pascal means "associated with Passover" (and by Christian extension, with Easter).  Second, I wanted to give a nod to one of my favorite philosophers from my St. John's Days, Blaise Pascal.  As to why we did a hyphenated first name instead of having Pascal as his middle name, now we could officially say that Max is short for something: Max-Pascal.  And it left the middle name slot open for James, which is both his dad's middle name and my dad's first name.  

I will say that a hyphenated first name is a big pain in the bureaucratic butt, as I suspected it might be.  Lots of computer programs don't like hyphens for first names.  But it hasn't been a huge problem.  I did overestimate the number of people who would know how to pronounce Pascal (pass-CAL).  Many the pediatrician and nurse who has called out, "Max…Paskul?" (rhymes with rascal).  Oh well.  

Benjamin Augustine
October 4, 2013

As I said before, the name Benjamin was always in the running, so when we found out that we were having another boy, it seemed the natural choice.  Neither of us is related to a Benjamin but we like the name and its nicknames Ben and Benji.  

His middle name is for St. Augustine, another of my favorite philosophers/theologians.  It is also in honor of Allen's grandpa's middle name, which is August.  We thought about doing Benjamin August, but I lobbied hard for Augustine because it contained August in it and was a wonderful saint's name.  And Mommy always gets her way in the end when it comes to names…so far, at least!

Funnily enough, Ben has developed a nickname that neither Allen nor I came up with.  Ruby has called him "Benna" for most of his four months, and I say it a lot too.  Allen's not so wild about it but I think it is sweet.  

So, there you have it: Ruby Rose, Max-Pascal James, and Benjamin Augustine.  Our wonderful kids and their wonderful names!  And--not intentionally--they all happen to be named after literary rabbits: Max and Ruby Bunny from the Rosemary Wells books and Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter.  I guess if we have another son we'll just have to name him Peter?  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

On Community (and Chickens)

This post will likely be a quick one, because there's all kinds of lunchtime clean up to do (note to self: feeding Cream of Wheat to the kids is an invitation to washing the floor, table, and their clothes afterwards.)

This morning a dear friend invited me out to some fellowship time with several people I didn't know, had never met, and with whom I had little in common.  The introvert in me, of course, was hesitant to go. But the prospect of spending time with my friend Kelly (not to mention treating her to an overdue birthday cup of coffee) was certainly reason enough to spend an hour with folks I didn't know.

I'm so glad I went.  It was lovely to see Kelly, but it was also so healthful and refreshing to be in community, even if it was a community that to which I had no particular affinity.

The lead pastor at Imago Dei, where I used to attend church and which was a great spiritual home for several years, once preached about how too often we choose our acquaintances and friends based only on having affinity with them, or something in common.  This was why, he said, at Imago they had decided to organize the home communities (small groups meeting weekly in people's homes) by geographical location rather than by type (singles, young families, retirees, etc.)

There's nothing wrong with hanging out with people who share your interest or station in life. In fact, it's a huge blessing, because you have so much to share and communicate to each other.  I like spending time around other moms of young kids; we get it.  I think it is why most of the blogs I follow are blogs of moms who have at least one (or maybe more) little ones running around the place, and the moms themselves are all around my age, give or take 5 years in either direction.  

The danger of only doing affinity groups, though, is that you miss out on the important offerings of those who are different than you.  Maybe they are from a different income bracket; maybe a different age; different upbringing, location, or calling in life: yet there is always something I gain from being around others.

The group today was nearly entirely comprised of people who are over 60 (besides Kelly, although she is also older than I am). They were so pleased to see a little baby and doted on Ben, and shared reminiscences of their own children's youth and stories about their great-grandkids.  They spoke of where they had lived in their lives.  They just made small talk of an entirely different kind than the small talk you hear among moms of young ones.  It was nice, getting outside of myself and my experience.

Getting outside of myself: isn't that the daily call of a Christian?  To get outside of my ego (which I've heard referred to humorously as standing for Easing God Out) and step into fellowship with others; to put aside the "old man" and put on Christ, being a new creation.  The old is past, the new is come.

And, for something entirely different, here's some other community we enjoy on a daily basis.
 This is the view outside of our window right now:
Security chickens checking in (or should I say "chicken in?")
All is fair around here, nothing fowl.  (yuk yuk yuk…cluck cluck cluck)
Okay, I'll stop with the bad puns now, I promise.  Don't want to drive away my readership.

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 QT: The Entry Way is no longer scary, Interwebz musings, and GIFs aplenty

I know that you've all been waiting with 'bated breath to see how the cleaning and organizing of my entry way went. Well, now you will find out! Get ready to look like this:

First, you might want to refamiliarize yourself with what sad shape my entry way was in…

I realize that the trailer was a little bit "Blair Witch Project" in terms of the roaming flashlight and semi-darkness.  Here are a few still shots of the "Before":

Another thing you should know is that even this is better than what it was originally, because before we did not have that neat metal black shelfy thing from the Container Store.  Then my mom took pity on our pathetic entry way and got us one.  Thanks Mom!

Well, on Thursday night, the kids went to bed early (being sick and non-napping and all).  My husband stepped out to do some shopping, and I decided to tackle the entry way.  I put on my headlamp and got to work.  I definitely armed myself with our little vacuum cleaner, because I HATE spiders and there were plenty of dark corners where they could have been lurking.  Fortunately for me (and them, I suppose), I did not see any, though I did vacuum up several cobwebs.  <Shudder>

After an hour or so of organizing and dejunking, I'm pleased to show you the "After" pictures:
 <angels singing>

I put Ruby's art work up over the useless burglar alarm panel.  

Lesser used boots/shoes up top

More frequently used boots/shoes and winter gear 

Ruby's other car seat (on top of Allen's soccer stuff, which is not being gotten into much right now) and the diaper bag on top of the car seat.

Mickey Mouse bag contains other cloth bags…maybe I'll actually remember to bring them to the grocery store and get a 5 cent discount now.

<more angels singing>

So much better!  And it did not cost anything!  I snagged some other containers from elsewhere in the house.  I also made liberal use of white towels, which I know is not very classy but that's just how it is.  You have a lot of something, you use it.  That is the Cook way.  Thanks, Real Housekeeping, for forcing me yet again to clean up my act…literally.

It took me a while after I was done cleaning to remember to remove my headlamp...
It's a good look for me, don't you think?  Dazzling!

--- 4 ---
I want to reflect a bit further on the Cook way that I mentioned in take #2.  I really should say "the Haas way" because it is a value that my husband chiefly derived from his mom and her parents.  I've mentioned before how Allen's grandparents (and by extension his mom and his brother, too) are astonishingly well-versed in making do and repurposing.  They were repurposing things wayyyy before it was cool or trendy, and they continue to do it to an extent that is far surpassing counter-cultural.  

Now, I don't want to imply that I come from a family that doesn't do those things, because I certainly do.  But I'm not sure that my family takes the same glee in it.  

Case in point: last week when it was snowy [don't hate me for writing that, all you midwesterner/northerners], Allen and his brother Andy made plans to go sledding.  Allen mentioned something about being able to build a sled for Andy but then decided against it; too much work and probably lacking all the right materials. This left Andy temporarily sledless, and he was pondering what to do.  

Allen suggested that he just go buy one at a store.  "Where's the fun in that?" Andy wanted to know.  To him, things are literally not as fun if you have to spend money.  It's so much more satisfying to find way to do something for free or at least for dirt cheap.  Andy ended up remembering that he had an inner tube (which I think he scored for free from a distant relative of his wife's that they met in North Dakota this summer) and used that, and I bet he derived great satisfaction from the thought, "I did not spend any money to have this fun."  

And you have to admit, that's a radical way of looking at things in our culture, and especially for a 24 year old guy.  I tend much more towards the "if you need something, go out and buy it" approach, but after being married to Allen and being around his family and their ways of doing things, I've become more creative in repurposing things, so I believe that's a change for the better (although I don't ever think I will get to Andy-levels of gleefulness about not spending money.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the interwebz this week…

Someone got their knickers in a twist about how self-serving and obnoxious most Facebook status updates are.  Read it if you like, but the author's thesis statement can be summed up as follows:
1.  Facebook status updates are annoying if they serve only their author's purpose (usually self-promotion of some type) and add nothing positive to the overall FB landscape.
2. Facebook statuses are benign if they are informative and/or funny, because--to quote the author of the jeremiad article--"these do something for me, the reader.  They make my day a little better." (Italics original to the author, not my own)
To which I can only respond:

I joined Twitter…and it was pretty uneventful.  I have a feeling I'm going to be one of the lamest tweeters out there. The truth is that I just don't have the right kind of phone to be a true tweeter. I have a non-smart phone, so I log in to Twitter via a website, and I just don't want to do that all the time.  Twitter seems to exist for sharing spur of the moment thoughts, repartees, and anything else that is 140 characters or fewer (the FB status hater mentioned in take #5 must REALLY hate Twitter).  A smart phone seems to be the correct medium for taking such actions.  

Same with Instagram.  I could just take pictures on my digital camera, upload them to iPhoto, and then share them on Instagram, but that hardly seems like a justifiable way to spend my time.  I guess for now I'll just have to bore people with my blog and Facebook and the occasional bush-league tweet.  

In a smaller subset of the interwebz, there was great excitement over a certain Edel Gathering.  It sounds like basically a fun party time in Texas for the who's who of the Catholic blogosphere and 175 lucky ticket holders.  Upon finding out about it, I immediately emailed Rhonda and begged her to go with me.  Fortunately for my bank account, she reminded me that it costs a lot of money to fly to Austin and stay in a hotel and all of that, so I guess it's not meant to be this year.  
It made me think about why I would even want to go, anyway.  I think it is because I sometimes wish I could just get together with all the ladies whose blogs I read and just have a good old fashion cawfee tawk:

But maybe it's for the best that I'm not going.  Because it would probably turn out a lot more like this, with me being the Aidy Bryant character (on the left, natch) and all the cool bloggers (Haley, Grace, Jennifer, Dwija, and the rest of 'em) being the Cecily Strong character (on the right):
I am hip! I am with it!
And with that lovely image, I bid you a Happy Friday. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!