You Are Now Entering….The Quiet Zone!

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When it comes to teaching our kids the important things in life, we all try to do the basics of making sure they are good people, get a great education and eat as healthy as possible, etc. But one thing I know I want to add to that list is to teach my children the importance of taking quiet time during the week.

The society we live in seems to push on us to constantly be moving, multi-tasking, filling every last moment of every day with something and often stretching us far beyond what we can physically and emotionally handle. What’s wrong with allowing ourselves to slow things down a little and actually just enjoy things a bit? Nothing, nothing at all.

I was struck with a sickness last year that left me incredibly fatigued. It was to the point where I’d get up, get the kids to school and almost need to go back to bed when I got home. It lasted for weeks. While I still needed to keep up with daily tasks,  it was during this time that I learned to stop midday everyday and take some quiet time. I didn’t allow myself TV, cell phones, computers, etc. Just some time to sit, relax and enjoy a cup of hot tea. I didn’t let myself think about any responsibilities – you know how we get, creating to-do lists in our head, stressing over things bothering us, etc. No, this was just a time to be still. If I had extra time, I’d allow myself to read a book for little bit.

You know what I discovered? Just sitting briefly for 5 to 10 minutes helped me really recharge for the rest of the day. My energy almost seemed to double and I was able to get through the day.

That sickness is long gone but I have kept those practices in place. It may not be everyday but at least several times a week.

And a few months ago, this was on my mind when I stumbled upon creating a “Quiet Zone” in our house. Our Christmas tree was packed up leaving a huge gapping space in our living room. I resisted the urge to fill up that space with anything as the openness felt like a breath of fresh air. One day when I was out shopping, I just happened to find the fuzziest rug that I knew the kids would love and that matched several pillows we had that we weren’t using. When the kids came home from school, they were surprised to find “The Quiet Zone.”

Initially I figured this would be a temporary thing but if I were to remove it now, it would cause the biggest uproar in our household. lol. You see, the kids have come to treasure this area of the house. I figured it would be a spot for “chillin'” and reading books and such but here’s what I’ve noticed–they love to just lay there and do nothing at times. Kids—they are far smarter than us so often! They’ve already realized that sometimes, we just need quiet.

What’s wonderful is that the family has all been respectful when they see someone in The Quiet Zone. We do our best to keep quiet if we are also in the room or to go elsewhere for a bit. And I had to laugh one day when I realized we weren’t the only ones who thought this was valuable real estate in the house….

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It was amusing as the kids were all, “Shhh, someone’s in the Quiet Zone!”

I just wanted to share this with all of you as I think you’ll find out what I have—that those times of quiet will get you through the day more than once. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on it either. Just carve out some space and make it special somehow.

I hope that you find great peace by taking time to just stop and shut out all the noise of the world for a bit each week.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman….Out of a POM Juice Bottle?

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A few years back our Jewel had the POM Wonderful juice on a crazy sale so I bought up a ton of their juice. The bottles have such a great shape and I wanted to keep them to re-purpose them. That’s when it hit me that the bottles looked like an unfinished snowman.

So I wanted to share this post with you in case you had one of their bottles, or wanted to try the POM juice, and then turn it into a craft for you and the kids to do together. They are fairly easy to make. Here’s what you’ll need:

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~POM Wonderful Bottle (empty and clean)
~Foam Ball
~White Paint
~Brush (Foam brushes work great!)
~Container for paint (We used a Dixie Cup.)
~Velcro Dots
~Pipe Cleaners (thin and thick)
~Sharpie Marker (optional)

The Velcro dots can be found at most stores that have a craft section. I was able to pick mine up at Walmart and I’ve used them for several projects. As far as the foam brush, I found ours at Lowe’s for around $.99 in the paint dept. Most dollar stores will sell the foam balls and pipe cleaners. Dig around in those art supply boxes you have at home and you might find something there you can use, too. Get creative!

Before you get started on painting the POM Wonderful bottle, I recommend you get the foam ball scooped out for the head. Otherwise you might get foam pieces on any areas that may still have tacky paint on them. Here’s how to fit the foam ball:

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Take the lid of the POM Wonderful bottle. Using the “grippy” side, twist it on top of the foam ball as this will be a great way to get the perfect size hole that you’ll need. Once you get it twisted to the point where you can scoop out part of the foam, you can stop and just use another tool to dig the hole deep enough until it’s the right size. I think I used a small screw driver to scrape ours out. I do recommend that you stop every so often to check to see how close you are getting the proper fit.

NOTE: For the first one I made, I used a styrofoam ball and it was too fragile and crumbled a bit. It was also difficult to add the facial features. Overall, I thought the foam balls ended up looking more like snow, too.

After you have finished that part, it’s then time to paint. I liked the look of the heart on the bottle (as did the kids) so we covered it with a Velcro dot before we started. After they painted the bottles white, we peeled off the Velcro dot and carefully painted as close to the heart as we could without covering it. The kids got a big kick out of their snowman having its own heart!

Once the paint has dried, put the foam head on and it’s now time to decorate!! It’s at this point that the kids (or yourself) will have to decide what type of snowman they want to make. My daughter picked Olaf (of course!), my son wanted a simple one with a blue hat and scarf and then they decided they wanted to make one that looked like Mikey from TMNT for their Daddy!

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As far as making the Olaf snowman, we decided to squish in the sides of the bottle to look more like him. It was a little tricky but overall not too complicated. We did this after it was painted and had to touch up part of the paint. So you may want to consider pushing in the sides before painting.

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For Olaf’s arms, we just twisted and bent the ends of a brown pipe cleaner. We did the same thing for his tuft of “hair.” I carefully made a small hole in the sides and top of the bottle to slide the pipe cleaners into. (Please be careful when doing this!!)

For other decorations on the snowmen:
~Small piece of orange pipe cleaner for nose
~Velcro dots for eyes and buttons
~Small piece of bent pipe cleaner for mouth
~Fluffy pipe cleaners for scarves
~Middles cut out of Velcro dots for the Ninja eyes
~Sharpie marker for drawing on eyebrows
~Wrap pipe cleaners around each other for a hat

And there you have it. Cute decor for the house and a really fun activity for the kids. It’s a great way to re-purpose those POM Wonderful bottles. And if you haven’t tried their pomegranate juice yet, it’s a wonderful way to taste test it. I like to pour some of mine into smoothies for a bit of flavor.

I hope you have a fun time creating these with your kids if you try it!!

What I Learned From a Game App!

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It’s amazing sometimes when you get those moments of clarity in life when things just suddenly make sense. They can come from the most unexpected places, can’t they? My latest one was from a game app!

My kids love playing an App called Hay Day. I don’t mind them playing it because I think it has a lot to teach them about responsibility, money management, multi-tasking, etc. They enjoyed it so much that I decided to download it myself and we often sit and help each other manage our farms. If they are getting low on wheat to make chicken feed, then I might sell them a few at a low price. Later on, they might help me out with an apple pie for my farmstand.

The game starts off fairly simple and you just have a few things to maintain. But as you “level up” you get more responsibilities. More animals to feed. More crops to grow. More people to take care of via boat, train, farmstand, truck deliveries, etc. And then begins the juggling act. And it’s at this point where I was feeling like it was one more thing to have to squeeze into my schedule. My husband would often say, “It’s suppose to be fun!” But no, there I’d be having to make sure every animal was fed and all my crops were at a reasonable stockpile.

I would have things I’d want to achieve like purchasing a pie oven or a pet cat. Or upgrading my barn to hold more things. (Always a stockpiler, even in a fantasy world!) And I tried to do it all. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the money or the time or the resources. And I began to feel like I was failing at everything as nothing was properly being taken care of. And it was at that moment that I had one of those moments of clarity: By trying to do it all, I’m not getting anywhere.

So I decided to set one goal and just maintain what I could beyond that. OK, so I’m going to save for that pie oven. I sold all my resources I didn’t need. I didn’t save up anything for the barn, train or boat. And I only spent time on what I could. And what do you know, I bought that pie oven FAST! My animals didn’t die. And I was having a bit of fun again.

I took this new found “knowledge” and started applying it to my every-day real life. Instead of trying to get 10 things done at home each day, I focus on one major thing I’d like to accomplish. And maybe I won’t finish it in one day but I keep putting my time into it until it’s done. Maybe the laundry isn’t 100% caught up or there may be a spattering of rinsed but not washed dishes in the sink. It was OK. I didn’t need to stress about it. And here’s what I discovered: I got my goals done FAST!

I cleaned out and inventoried my pantry. I came up with a great deep freezer organization solution (sharing with you soon!). My bathroom cabinets were back to a state of organization again. And our closets are out of their previous state of chaos. And with each task I finish, I’m getting closer to the life I want to be able to lead. I won’t be wasting time trying to find things and can use that time for my end goal: getting back to more homemade and healthy cooking for my family. And quite honestly, I know I can’t get everything done on my own. That is truly the hardest part. But I’m slowly realizing that it’s OK to ask for help. That my family doesn’t mind doing a few odd tasks if it means more time together in the end. They are loving how the house is looking and I see them doing what they can to help keep it that way.

I am also applying this “wisdom” to my blog. I have so many wonderful things to share with all of you but I’m trying to wrap up a few things I’ve already begun. All energy focused on one goal to achieve a bigger goal in the end.

I wanted to share this with all of you because I have a feeling several of you are in the same situation I was in. You are spreading yourself too thin. Taking on too much and only able to put bits and pieces of yourself into each one. And in the end, you are feeling like you are failing at everything. You’re not. But you need to change your path before you are in too deep. Life is to be enjoyed. Sometimes, you need to say, “No” to people when you are truly overloaded and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you are weak. Not at all. It just means you are wise and know that you deserve to feel like things are fun again.

So take a little “me time” this week and see if you can have your own moment of clarity. I’m hoping you find your way back to the fun you once felt, too!

Re-Cap for Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses Series

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

I wanted to take a minute and re-cap the Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses Series so you can easily access any that you may have missed. There are a total of 20.

I’m hoping that you are enjoying the series and finding some tips to help you reduce some stresses in your life, too!

1) Laundry
2) Email & Mail
3) Spending Less
4) Exercise
5) Fridge/Freezer
6) School Lunches & Schedules
7) Meal Planning
8) Work/Parent Time
9) Dishes
10) Clutter Spots
11) Healthier Meals & Snacks
12) Finding Friend Time
13) Finding Family Time
14) Keeping the Bathroom Clean
15) Morning/Evening Routine
16) Saving and Smarter Shopping
17) Keeping a Clean Car
18) Having Necessities on Hand
19) Reducing Food Waste
20) Time to Myself to Recharge

Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Finding Friend and Family Time

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

It seems that the older I get the more I realize just how fast time truly does fly by. As time goes by, we seem to add more and more things to our daily schedule which leaves little time for anything else. But what I’m hoping you all are finding is this – we need to make time for the things that are important and that includes our family and our friends. It can be easy to get caught up in the rush of this or that and before you know it, it’s been months since you’ve talked to your closest friends, seen your parents or had an entire day devoted to just your kids.

Here are some ways that I’ve brainstormed to help me find time to spend with friends and family:

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FRIENDS

1) Plan ahead and lock in dates throughout the year for “girls’ night out.”

2) Make sure and find time to call at least one friend each week to catch-up on life. While Facebook can be nice for quick chats or seeing random updates, nothing compares to hearing a friend’s voice and sharing in some laughs.

3) Swap time with spouse so we each get at least one day a month to hang out with a friend – even if it’s just a quick lunch together on a Saturday afternoon.

4) Invite friends over with their kids to a dinner at my house. Who needs a birthday to all get together–random dinner nights can be a lot of fun! My friends and I used to do this awhile back calling it the “Dinner Club” and we’d each take turns hosting one.

5) Try to plan at least one major event a year with my friends to do things together like a concert or a 5K race, etc.

6) Go out together with our kids to places such as the zoo or the movies.

7) Get out of the frame of mind that “meet-ups” have to be long periods of time and just find a place to meet randomly for a cup of coffee and a quick chat.

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FAMILY

1) Set up one day a month that is “our day” and nothing else. No housework. No work. No outside obligations. Just a whole day devoted to whatever the kids want to do.

2) Include the kids in my workout sessions. This helps me squeeze in fitness time and spend time with the kids. And to be honest, they always have the best ideas on how to stay active and have fun! Add to this things like hiking, biking and scavenger hunts together.

3) Set one day a month where the kids cook us a meal. Of course, this would be a supervised event as my kids are still little. This helps us spend time together and get dinner on the table!

4) Quarterly overnight trips somewhere. These won’t be big trips but just somewhere that we can enjoy a full day’s activities and enjoy an overnight stay in a hotel.

5) Surprises! Oh how my kids love surprises! Try to get in a fun activity every once in awhile after school. Simple things like a movie day or ice cream store visit, etc.

6) Weekly Library Visits – A free activity and some new books to make each week a new adventure! Continue to find new chapter books that interest the kids.

7) Continue to check our local area for free activities to do together and get them scheduled on the calendar so the day doesn’t get filled up with other things.

8) Take the family fruit-picking when in season. So far we’ve done blueberries, apples and strawberries. It’s a fun thing to do together and I get to freeze the extras for smoothies and treats later.

9) Playdates – Take turns with friends having a short playdate together at each other’s houses. Just make sure time is spent with the kids and the focus doesn’t turn into friend chit-chat.

10) Themed Days – Find themes that I can turn into week-long fun by finding meals, books and crafts that relate to that week’s theme.

11) Power Cleaning Sessions together followed by a treat. We’ve done this a few times over a weekend. We set a timer for 30-60 minutes and everyone helps out cleaning parts of the house. When the timer goes off, we sit down and have a treat together and a fun chat.

12) Make sure something is scheduled on the calendar each month for family time with parents and/or siblings. We usually have luck with this just with birthday parties and holidays. Plan a Crockpot Night when the weather gets worse so we can still feel we are doing something together.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve brainstormed to find more time for family and friends. In what ways have you found that help you stay in touch with friends and spend time with family throughout the month?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming tomorrow on another “stresser.”