Overstuffed: May 2014 Overstuffed

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Easy DIY Library Book Bag

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

Four summers ago, we made some fun, personalized tote-bags to take to the library. I was looking at them the other day and realized that they've been very well-used, plus the girls would probably be embarrassed to be seen with them now because of the designs they had chosen back then. Bria,then 9, chose Tinkerbell and Jasmine. Chloe, then 7, chose Littlest Pet Shops, and Sophia, age 3, had chosen My Little Pony.

It was time to make new, updated, library bags. They're very easy and inexpensive to make, so we decided to get it going last night, even though it was a school night.


First, we gathered our supplies. You'll need some T-Shirt transfer paper, an iron, a pillowcase, plain canvas tote-bags (easily found at any craft store--we got ours in the craft aisle at WalMart), fabric markers or paint, a computer printer, and lots of creativity and fun.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Reading Incentives for Kids (Free Printable)

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

I love to read. And I want my kids to love reading, too. I also want to keep their minds sharp during their summer vacation. One of the best ways to accomplish both things is to get them reading as much as possible over the summer, though that can be easier said than done.

My girls--like most children--are eager to have summer. They want to go to the beach and play outside and watch as much television as they possibly can. Reading is not often at the very top of their lists, though all of them enjoy reading. So I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep them motivated to read, and once they're into a book I usually don't have to remind them.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Summer Tulips

Two of my tulips and one daffodil finally bloomed today! I was starting to worry that they might not show up until June. Even so, spring seems to have passed us right on by and we have been blessed with some lovely HOT weather. And hot to me is 75 degrees, by the way. In fact, 75 degrees is almost unbearably hot (says the girl who used to live in Phoenix where 75 degrees is actually a little cold). 
I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I got a sunburn sitting out on the deck with my friend MaryFran the other day and it was the best thing that happened to me all week. I love my sunburn.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Say "No" Graciously

The entire reason my life is Overstuffed is because I am terrible at saying no. I don't think I'm super woman or anything, I simply hate to ever shut doors on opportunity and I never want to let people down. Then, once I've taken all of these things on, I realize that I'm going to have to find a super suit somewhere, because little old me is never going to be able to keep all of these commitments on my own.

Thankfully, in my life I have a super suit of sorts: family and friends who are willing to help me when things get too overwhelming. However, even with a lot of external support, I have dropped many, many balls in my life and disappointed many people in the process. I am finally mature enough to understand that if you are just honest with yourself and others from the very beginning, there will be a lot less disappointment.

About two years ago I finally gave myself the permission to say no. Am I perfect at it? NO! (Look how well I can say it, though!) I still have a lot to learn in this area, and it basically took a couple of nervous breakdowns, but I'm definitely learning.

Here are the biggest lessons I've learned so far and strive to apply (but man, the application can be hard!):

Recognize your limitations

Don't be like me and just mindlessly say yes to everything asked of you. Stop and think about it. Can you really do what is being asked? Do you have the skills to do it? More importantly, do you have the time?

About five years ago, as we were getting ready to move across the country, a friend asked me if I could help her with a photography project for her brother's business. I did not stop to think about the fact that I was in the middle of a very stressful time in my life and that my time was more stretched than usual. Nor did I stop and think about the fact that my photography expertise lies in photographing people, not merchandise.  I picked up the box of things she needed photographed and it sat in my garage for a few weeks and made me feel incredibly guilty every time I looked at it. But I was so busy that I couldn't get to it yet.

Finally, I brought the box into the house, fashioned a homemade light box, and tried my hand at photographing the merchandise.  I was an epic failure. I quickly realized that I did not have the right equipment or know-how for such a job. No matter what I tried, the photos looked terrible! After I spent way too much time trying to fix them in Photoshop, I finally threw in the towel.

Even though the reason I said yes to begin with was to help her out, in the end I completely disappointed a good friend, not to mention myself, because I failed to recognize my limitations.

Nowadays I do think through this. I am much more realistic about my time constraints (even though I could use an even bigger dose of reality now and again), and I don't hesitate to tell people if something does not lie in my skill set.

If I do have both the time and the skill, I am happy to help and I say yes every time.

Be honest

I know that "No." is a complete sentence. I hear that all the time in regards to learning to turn things down. But to me it just seems rude and ungracious. I think it's perfectly okay to say no and not give a reason, but I also think it's possible to give reasons without sounding like you're just making an excuse.

Besides not having the time or the skill, there are many reasons why you might need to say no to something. It could be as simple as "I'll be out of town that weekend," or "I have to work," but I understand that some reasons are much more complicated.

But rather than just saying "no" and leaving it at that, kindly tell the asker that you are unable to help because you have other commitments. It's true in pretty much any situation. If you are having family issues that you need to focus on, that is another commitment. If you are pressed, it is okay to say that it is a personal commitment you'd rather not discuss.

Help to find solutions

A couple months ago I received an email asking me to prepare a children's choir for a local celebration. I'm sort of always in the throes of craziness, and the old me would have said yes, and then tried to make it work while making myself sick and ignoring my family. No bueno!

The person asking me was asking many months in advance (in fact, this event is still four months away) but I knew it wouldn't be wise of me to take this on. Luckily, I will be out of town at stake conference that weekend, so, thankfully, I had a reason besides "if I take this on I will most likely be shipped to the funny farm when it is over, so no thank you."  (Phewsh!)

While I think it's fine to say no and leave it at that, if you have the means (time, resources, connections) to help find someone who can do the job, it adds an extra helping of gracious to your refusal. In the case of the children's choir, the person asking me was not very connected to the local music scene. It would have been very difficult for her to find someone else without having to do a lot of legwork. I do have those connections, so I was able to give her a name. It's an added courtesy to actually talk to the person you are considering to do the job--I asked, and that person was very excited to take on the children's choir, so I knew I could give her name without getting in trouble.

In the case of my friend and my big photography fail, I took it upon myself to find someone else to do it rather than hand her back the box and apologize. And it ended up that the first person I asked couldn't do it either, so I found yet another. It was all I could do to make up for the fact that I should have just said no to begin with.


All of this said, I'm still a yes-woman. I probably always will be, but I've become much more wise about when to say it. Saying yes has actually brought me a lot of wonderful opportunities and forced me to learn new things--I'm a better person for saying yes. But I have also learned that it is more than okay, and sometimes absolutely necessary to say no. Good luck in your own journey of figuring it out--I will be right there with you, because I am always learning!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Name is Not Maria Von Trapp

We had another family recital this past weekend. And by family recital, I mean it was a recital set up by the girls' Suzuki Association for family groups to perform together. Last year, preparing for this recital made me want to pull out my hair. I don't know why I thought it would be any different this year.

Oh wait. It was different. This year I didn't want to pull out my hair, I wanted to shoot myself in the head.

The girls preparing for last year's recital. I only took this photo because they were being featured in our music association's newsletter that month as well. No photo from this year. Sorry!

First, here is a lovely iPhone video of how it went. Just to remind myself that my labors are not without fruit, and that perhaps it was a good thing that I didn't succumb to the desire to shoot myself in the head. And to show off my beautiful, talented, and brilliant daughters, of course.

Oh wait. My videography skills are so bad that I thought I pressed record. And then I didn't. And when I thought I pressed the button to stop recording, I started recording. So I recorded the applause. And my pants. And random moments of the rest of the recital that are not my children.

But if I *did* have a video of the actual performance, it would be good. Because they performed wonderfully.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Four Ideas for Summer Chores

It's true. I've tried several different reward systems and gimmicks to get my girls to do their chores. What I've learned is that most of them work for a little while, and then the kids either get bored with it, or I am not consistent enough with using the system and it sort of falls apart.

I find that summer is a great time to introduce a new way to do chores, and I think that changing things up a little bit makes the children more responsive. That has been my experience, but I am certainly not known for my consistency with things like this, either (all or nothing, anyone?). And sometimes things work better for younger kids than they do for older ones, and vice versa. It's all about finding what works for your kids right now, and not being afraid to make changes and improvements when things stop working well.

Here are four things that I have tried at various times in my parenting, and all worked really well.

Four Ideas for Summer Chores




This is the first chore system I ever used that was more elaborate than a sticker chart. At the time, Bria and Chloe were ages 5 and 7 (Sophia was 2 and was not included in this system). I think this is a great one for younger kids as it not only emphasizes doing work, but the rewards are also tied to their behavior.

I used jars filled with pompoms to count the points. They earned points by doing both required and optional chores, they lost points through negative behavior, and they could purchase either activities or items with earned points. (If I were to do it again, I would probably have them earn extra points through positive behavior as well.)  You can read more about it HERE, there is also a printable there of exactly which criteria I used for chores, behavior, and rewards.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Six Things I'd Like to Point Out...

IMG_8089 Sunday Photo web


The first thing I would like to point out is that the color green has found its way into my backyard. Just three weeks ago, there was still so much snow that you couldn't see the "grass," and the deck only had a little corner uncovered. I think, but I'm not certain, that spring just might be here.

The second thing I would like to point out is Sophia's wisdom stick. Yesterday, both of her sisters were gone doing various things so The Maestro and I spent some time with just her. We went on a walk with Puccini, and then we did some yard work. At some point, she asked what her name meant, and I told her that Sophia is Greek for wisdom/wise one. She immediately found the stick and began being wise. "Oh young one, you have much to learn" and other such wisecracks came out of her mouth steadily for the rest of the day. Oh, and also during the taking of today's photo.

The third thing I would like to point out is that Chloe has a thing about not smiling in photos lately. She brought her class picture home the other day and all of her class is happy and smiling, but Chloe looks like a convict. How can I make my very happy girl show that she is actually very happy in photos? Not a fan of this phase. Especially since she is getting her braces put on tomorrow and I am fairly sure that she will smile even less once they're on.

The fourth thing I would like to point out is Sophia's purple hat. Made out of wool. I know it isn't super warm yet, but I wouldn't be wanting to wear a woolen hat on a 60 degree day. If you're wondering why she wore it, it is simply because it matched the sash on her dress.

The fifth thing I would like to point out is that Bria always looks perfect in pictures even though she is highly annoyed at me for even taking them. It gives me hope that Chloe will also get to that point. I guess it's the point where she'll care about how she looks in photos? Bria might possibly care too much. In fact, she will be mad that I am posting the below photo because she clearly didn't know I was ready to press the shutter button. (Mostly I just wanted to get Sophia and her wisdom gun stick.)

IMG_8086 Sunday Photo web


The sixth thing I would like to point out is that I am in love with all three of these girlies, despite their quirkiness. Actually, probably because of their quirkiness.

Happy Sunday!!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Beauty Box Five Review: May 2014



"Fresh and Focused" is Beauty Box Five's theme for May 2014. We are looking at "pretty pick-me-ups" that will help us look fresh and stay focused on what really matters.

MaskerAide Hydrating Facial Sheet Mask (retail $5.99): I have a bit of an obsession with using beauty masques. I have several tubes of various muds and other concoctions in my bathroom closet. This one was different than any other I'd ever used, though. I have to say it felt awesome on, and my skin was incredibly soft once I took it off. The mask itself is 100% biodegradable, so you don't have to worry about it being unhealthy for the planet. Warning: It will make you look like Freddy Krueger and scare both your dog and your children when you wear it. But it will be worth it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Maestro and Me in NYC

This summer, The Maestro and I will be celebrating not one, but THREE momentous occasions. In June, we will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. That's the most important. But we both have summer birthdays, too, and this year we are both turning "The Big 4-0." (I don't really know what's up with that, by the way, because I definitely do not feel 40.)

Anyway, a little over a year ago we decided we wanted to do something really cool together to celebrate. We've never actually been on a "just-us" trip that was more than a 3-day weekend since our honeymoon and we had a lot of fun planning this one. And, as it turned out, this last academic year has perhaps been the most difficult we've ever dealt with, for so many reasons. By the time this last semester was over we were completely depleted and needed a break in the same way we need oxygen. So we flew our nearly-dead selves out of Michigan and had a heck of a rejuvenation in NYC.

The selfie model didn't evolve completely until about Day 3, but since this trip was totally about us, we thought it would be funny. So, for your reading enjoyment, 30 (yes, THIRTY) selfies of our fabulous vacation (or, as my friend DeNae put it on Facebook, our We'll Sleep When We're Dead Vacation). Real photos may or may not be forthcoming. You all know how I am with vacations (still not caught up posting the Epic Vacation of 2012), so we'll just be honest and say that they probably won't, but I might surprise you.

Joel and Lara do New York
A Study in 30 Selfies

These selfies are not in any particular order (that would just be too difficult), nor do I promise that they are flattering pictures of us. In fact, some of them are most decidedly UN-flattering, but the nice ones make up for it. Besides, we had so much fun, we didn't even care if our pictures were good or not. And, also, we may or may not have been heard saying, "First, lemme take a selfie" all over the great city of New York.

NYC Selfie Green BayNYC Selfie American Girl

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Grateful in Any Circumstances (May 2014 Visiting Teaching Printable)

First of all, I would like to apologize for never getting an April printable up. I was so entrenched in opera rehearsals and performances that I barely had time to breathe and blogging took a back seat. Also, I did not do my own visiting teaching in April, so...yeah.

It's May now, and though it's already the 14th (I left on May 1 for ten lovely days of vacation!), I do finally have a printable ready to go.

For Visiting Teaching in May, we are to choose a message from any of the April General Conference talks. The talk I chose is Dieter F. Uchtdorf's Grateful in Any Circumstances. This was one talk I desperately needed to hear, especially when it was given in April. I was in the throes of winter, stress, and insanity and I was completely forgetting to be grateful for all the awesome things in my life. And I was especially forgetting to be grateful in my current circumstances, or for them.

President Uchtdorf's talk began to change my entire outlook. Gratitude is important.

Here is the printable I came up with for Visiting Teaching:

Printable Quote: How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain? President Uchtdorf
CLICK HERE to download a .PDF

It is sized at 5x7 so if you have been using the photo frame idea, it will fit into the frame.

And here is the same quote in Spanish:

Dieter F Uchtdorf quote Spanish
Click the image to download from Flickr. Instructions for downloading images from Flickr are HERE.
CLICK HERE to download a .PDF

I have also made a few other printables from the April Conference:

Obedience Makes Us Strong
Spiritual Help Wanted Signs

Happy Visiting Teaching!

Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Have the Best Beach Day Ever!

This post is brought to you by Curél® and BlogHer.

Can I tell you how excited I am for summer to finally arrive? The past two wintersprings (because that's what they've been) have really taken a toll on me. I'm crossing my fingers that Lake Superior will actually melt and that we will have many days that are warm enough for beaching it. Because I'm all set to beach bum it again this summer!

Since this will officially be our fifth summer here, I think we finally know how to do beaches. Living right on Lake Superior, we have plenty of gorgeous beaches to pick from. There are a couple within a few minutes of our house, but we usually go there when we only have a little time in the afternoon since they tend to be more crowded. When we have an actual all day sort of beach day, though, we tend to make the 45-minute or so drive to one of the nicer beaches. They're really no different than a beach in Hawaii or California, so the following beach tips will apply pretty universally. Still, if you get a chance, you should totally come visit me and I'll take you to a beach on Lake Superior, because they are the best.


Most of the photos in this post come from what was truly one of our best beach days ever!

How to Have the Best Beach Day Ever!


Don't Forget the Essentials


I'm not going to insult your intelligence here. We all know that spending all day in the sun and in the water is going to require certain things: sunscreen, beach towels, beach blankets, camping chairs, hats, sunglasses, bug spray... the basics. It's just that those basics tend to get strewn all over the house when we're not at the beach. We use the sunscreen for gardening, and the beach towels get washed, and I can never find anyone's sunglasses. It's nice if you can have "beach only" versions of these items and a place where all the beach stuff is kept, but if you can't, make sure you do a thorough check of your bag before you go. It's miserable when you forget an essential item. Not having sunscreen with you can ruin a beach day in five seconds flat. Especially if you just drove an hour to get there!

Bring Sports Equipment


The Maestro will tell you this is the most important thing to have at the beach. He usually comes with a good Frisbee and a couple different balls, minimum. The girls love standing in the water and throwing a ball around with him--it's great fun because you never know when you're going to have to swim to get it or if Dad is going to come dunk you. We also like to bring badminton, and I think this year I'm going to buy a good volleyball net. Bria was on the volleyball team this year and really loved it. Besides, beach volleyball is really fun--I would even get up off of my sunbathing butt to do that!

Bring Something to Read


The Maestro likes to throw things around at the beach, but my absolute favorite thing to do at the beach is lie under the umbrella and read my book. That is basically what heaven is like for me. I do recommend you bring an actual book to the beach, and not something electronic. I brought my Kindle once and it got sand in it somehow, so it had issues turning on and off forever after (I've since gotten a new one). Catching up on magazine reading is another thing I like to do. Sometimes that's easier, anyway, when you've got kids interrupting you every second! I don't read as much if we go to the beach with friends, because then I like to chit-chat. But I very rarely go into the water, and my friends usually do (Lake Superior is not warm enough for me!), so I still get plenty of reading done while I am being anti-swimming.

Sand-proof Your Food


Sand is lots of fun to play in, but it is no fun to eat! If you're going to be spending the whole day at the beach, you're obviously going to need to bring food along. For snacks, individually wrapped items are best: granola bars, fruit snacks, bananas. That way they are protected from sand until they are actually being eaten. After that, there are no guarantees--how many times have my girls dropped their food in the sand? Too many to count. Another way to make sure sand stays out of your food is to bring paper plates and pour things like chips onto them. Do not let people stick their sandy hands into the Doritos bag! As soon as one person does it, the rest of you will be eating gritty chips. We also prefer to keep food inside plastic containers instead of using baggies. The containers keep the sand out more effectively.

Don't forget to sand-proof your water containers, too! Water bottles with the pop-up spouts tend to get sand in them easily. Instead, choose bottles with actual lids you have to unscrew. We also bring a big old water thermos and paper cups--sometimes this is just easier than dealing with water bottles.

Finally, try to convince the kids to eat on the blanket or a towel. It might help a little when they inevitably drop their apple, but it will still probably get some sand on it.

Bring Plenty of Beach Toys


My girls will play for hours and hours in the sand and the water. They love to swim, but when they aren't in the water they don't want to just lie around and sun bathe or read (seriously, what is wrong with them? RELAX PEOPLE!). So they build sand castles, bury each other in the sand, dig really deep holes... those kinds of things. We have two big laundry baskets full of various beach toys that mostly just stay in the back of the mini-van during the summer months. Every year we break a few of these toys and lose track of more than a few. The dollar store is always a great place to find new ones.

Last year, even my teenager and her best friend spent many hours working on sand castles. The toys are a must for a fun beach day for the kids. Toys you can play with in the water are awesome, too. We bring squirt guns, pool noodles, and boogie board/floaty rings.


Here's a fun picture of what one of our beach days might look like--you can see our baskets of toys, blankets, water thermos, and the best part is all the children having a wonderful time! (I was playing with the panoramic option on my iPhone--we do not have any headless children in our circle of friends, nor is Chloe's arm detachable, I assure you!) What you can't see is me lounging on my chair under the umbrella soaking up the goodness. Beach days are pretty much my favorite thing ever.

Take Care of Your Skin


Sunscreen is important for protecting your skin while you are at the beach, but how can you continue to protect it once you get home? My family is extremely prone to eczema and sometimes swimming or being out in the sun is just no fun when you know the misery you will face later. Curél® Itch Defense® Lotion is going to change that for us this summer. This is a lotion that is specially formulated to soothe eczema prone skin. It instantly relieves dry and itchy skin and rebalances it to control future exzema flare-ups. It is fragrance-free--no harsh fragrance chemicals to further irritate your skin--and has received the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. We've been using it this spring (winterspring, that is) and I find it has done a great job of controlling my eczema spots, which often flare up during the cold weather as well. It's available at drugstores nationwide--I easily found some at my local WalMart.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!


Happy Mother's Day!

We got back from our A-MAZ-ING trip to the Big Apple yesterday, and while I'm exhausted, it's been a wonderful Mother's Day.

Number one, because my own Mama is here (we flew her out to watch the kids while we were gone) and I don't think I've spent a Mother's Day with her in about ten years. So that's been nice. And, also, I don't think I've taken a picture with just the two of us since my brother's wedding 5 years ago! And that one turned out blurry, so it's nice to have this photo.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Baby Coupons

A good friend of mine recently asked me if I would make some coupons for her young daughter to give to a friend who was having twin babies. Her cute daughter wanted to have some coupons to give her for things like babysitting or helping the new mom around the house. I thought it was such a fabulous idea, and was happy to help!



I think it would be great to use these coupons to give with a baby shower gift--there are so many things I could think of that a new mother would appreciate!

This coupon good for:

One night of babysitting so mom and dad can go on a date.
One homemade dinner.
One hour of help around the house.
One batch of chocolate brownies.
One girl's night out.
One newborn photoshoot (if you are a photographer)
Etc.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Eleven Candles

IMG_7680 Chloe's birthday web

So, back in March, Chloe turned 11.

Did you read that right? Yes. ELEVEN. I put almost an entire package of birthday candles on her cake this year.


She's starting middle school next year, people. How has my life come to this?

Lucky for me, she is just an absolute delight. She is as creative as ever and is constantly doing new and surprising creative things. Most recently she's been in the kitchen doing some experiments with her Easter candy. She melted down her Cadbury egg in the microwave and then stirred it all together and spread it on toast.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Selfies

I have 15 minutes to finish this post before it isn't Sunday anymore....

The Maestro and I have been having an amazing time in NYC for the past few days (don't worry, full recap later)(maybe)(you all know how unreliable I am with travel posts). My mom is staying at our house with the girls, so I told her to take a Sunday photo.

She sent me these selfies:



Untitled


And, just for good measure, here's a Sunday selfie of The Maestro and me in front of the temple/church here in Manhattan (we attended a sacrament meeting, which was lovely).

Untitled


Happy Sunday (whatever's left of it)!!!