{ A Place For Everything }

I can still remember some of my childhood homes quite clearly. I can picture the backyards, the bedrooms, the common areas-especially the kitchen of our first house. I loved that house. I can remember almost exactly what was in each and every cupboard and drawer. I remember the lower cabinets where the cereal and the big white Tupperware container of sugar was kept. It was so cool because it was located on a peninsula and it could be accessed from cupboards on both sides. I knew where the baggies were kept for school lunches and the silverware drawer that was overflowing with lots of spoons and forks. I remember the cupboard above the microwave where the smaller Tupperware containers were and at the very top where my mom used to hide the Christmas candy we would use to decorate gingerbread houses.

It’s funny how time doesn’t diminish those things that have become familiar to us. My parents live in a house now that wasn’t one I grew up in. Every time I go visit I feel like I fumble around in the kitchen looking for what I need-not because it isn’t organized well or where it needs to be, but because it isn’t familiar to me. There is a lot of comfort in familiar. It helps a house feel more like a home when we can count on where things are. It makes it feel like ours. Those little memories of where the sugar bowl sat or that the good silverware was kept in the top drawer of the buffet in the dining room, has made me grateful for that time when that house and all around me were at the forefront of my mind, so much so that those memories still have a place there now.

My mom used to have a little saying that she would tell to us, “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”. I don’t know at the time that I fully appreciated that wisdom of hers, but I sure do now. I love organizing. I love having a place for everything. I love carving out little spaces that become the familiar for my family.

We don’t always have the neatest house (we do have 10 people living here you know), but I do love it when it is organized. The hardest part for me is that we sometimes get lazy in keeping it organized, and often I have a hard time with others seeing my vision for how fantastic organized things can be. I’m sure they are just not fully appreciating my great wisdom that my mom passed onto me. Luckily, I have a few kids that see my vision and love to organize as much as I do, so they are my little cheerleaders when it comes to organizing our spaces.

One of the first little projects I did when we moved into our house 3 years ago, was pretty up some of my drawers in the kitchen and get them organized and super efficient.  It was fun to see who noticed first that I had organized the drawer. I must say that even if organizing isn’t everyone’s thing around here, most sure did notice it quickly. It made me see that they already were forming those familiar spaces in their hearts. It also gave me some hope for their future organizing endeavors-a girl can dream right?

It’s nice when the rest of the house is in complete chaos to open at least one drawer and see a nice tidy space. Wouldn’t it be nice to open that drawer and have the rest of the house be magically cleaned-now that’s a magic wand I want tucked into my Christmas stocking! This drawer in our island is one of the most used-beside our silverware drawer and the kids drawers where we keep the plastic bowls and cups. I knew that a space this used needed to be organized very well so that things could be found and put away easily. The kids help by unstacking the dishwasher quite frequently, so I wanted them to be able to find where things go quickly. If it takes too long, they won’t do it.

I lined the drawer with some gray and white chevron patterned vinyl that I found at TJ Maxx. I love that something extra that it adds to an otherwise ordinary drawer. I also love that it protects the drawers. You can see some spots in the picture below where part of the vinyl has worn from one of the plastic organizers shifting around. It makes me happy to know that that could be my drawer bottom all scuffed up-not the end of the world by any means, but it’s nice to keep the drawers looking as new as we can for as long as we can.

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I found some smaller turquoise containers in the dollar section of Target, and the clear ones in the bathroom section there too. I wanted some of the space where I could see the chevron pattern peaking through, and the clear containers were a perfect fit. I attached Velcro to the bottom of the organizers to keep them in place when the drawer is opened and closed. At first I had only used Velcro on the middle one, which stayed in place the best, and I tried using First Command Velcro strips on the bottom of the others. I love the First Command Velcro strips for other things, but they didn’t work great here. I ended up added some more Velcro to the other clear container and the top turquoise one. The other turquoise ones didn’t need it, as long as the top one was firmly in place.

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The drawer holds our most used items-rolling pins, measuring cups, can opener, apple slicer, pizza cutter, and ice cream scoop. There was also a little more room for our cake decorating tips and plastic bags that we use to make gingerbread houses at Christmas. All of our other spatulas and bigger spoons are in pots near the stove for easy access while we cook.

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I love being able to open this drawer and see all of our stuff nice and neat. I love having these things within arms reach, when I need them, and I don’t have to waste time searching around the kitchen for that lost item I wasn’t quite sure where I put last. I love that even Ryan can go to this drawer and get out the ice cream scoop or the pizza cutter when we ask him. He knows where it is… he knows the familiar.

I think back to when I was little and how I used our kitchen. I got my breakfast each morning from that same cereal cabinet. I climbed up to that Tupperware cupboard to sneak gingerbread house candy. I set the table nice with the fancy silverware and crystal glasses when we had company over. I used that kitchen, and that’s how I remembered and love it so much. There are days when I watch my own kids get out their bowls and spoons, find the cereal they love from the pantry, and have breakfast all on their own. They know where the things are that they need-the day to day routines are becoming the memories they will remember. It warms my heart to know that they are making this house a home filled with memories of the familiar.


{ Ryan’s 4th Birthday }

We seem to have two seasons of birthdays here-A spring/early summer session, and a fall/winter session. Okay, that basically covers every part of the calendar year, but it really does seem to come in two clumps. A couple weeks ago Ryan and Erika had their birthdays one day apart, my birthday was last weekend, Scott’s is the first week of December, and Aaron’s is in January. That’s a lot of birthday cake, and a lot of fun around here.

I have been talking with Ryan for quite a while asking him what kind of birthday he wanted this year. I love making a big deal out of their birthdays. It’s just one of my things I guess. Ever since Brianna and Austin were little we have had fun celebrating that special passage from one year to the next. We rarely have friend birthdays, but we make it big and special as if the whole town was invited. The kids love it. And I love it too.

This year for Ryan’s birthday he decided on a Wild Kratts birthday. Wild Kratts is an animal show on PBS Kids that both Ryan and Scott are crazy in love with right now. The Kratt brothers-Chris and Martin are our two boys. One has brown hair and wears the color green, the other has blond hair and wears the color blue. They are the grown up versions of our two boys. Scott claims he is the “green one” as I call him, I can never remember which is which, and Ryan is the “blue one”.

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I found the cute paw prints wrapping paper and some little animals at the dollar store, and suddenly Ryan got super excited about his birthday. He was excited before, but had a hard time really understanding when his birthday was-it just seemed like this far away fun time that would get here eventually. Those little animals were a game changer for him. He suddenly wanted to know everyday how many more days it was until his birthday. He was also super excited to find out that those animals he and Scott had been toting around where going to be the special guests at his party and the best part… they would come bearing gifts. I love the card that Scott make for Ryan! It has a picture of the two of them being the “Wild Kratts” with their creature power suits on. It was really sweet.

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No birthday would be complete without cake, and Ryan’s cake was about as good as it could get for him. A few years ago, my friend Lisa sent be a birthday package from Germany where they were currently living. I remembered tasting these hippos that were so good. I am pretty sure that I gobbled them up before anyone even knew  a package had come-they were that good. I have been looking for them here, and finally came across them a couple months ago at the commissary. We are now all addicted to them. Those Happy Hippos made by Kinders…yes they make us all very happy!

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When I told Ryan my idea to have hippos on his cake, his eyes got real big and then there was lots of cheering and happiness to be found. By all of us I think. We love those hippos!

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Ryan helped me make the cupcakes, licked out the chocolate bowl, and waited and waited for those things to cool. I finally gave him the thumbs up for frosting. We added chocolate sprinkles for the muddy edge of the shore, and a stripe of blue frosting for the water that our yummy hippo would be hiding in. Ryan unwrapped all of the hippos and helped put them right on top. The hardest part for both of us was waiting for everyone to get home so we could eat them!

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Ryan happily assigned himself the official hippo watcher until we were ready. He kept telling me about all the funny faces that the hippos were making. He thought that the middle one looked scared, and the bottom one was angry. We both thought that none of them looked too happy for being called happy hippos-so the only logical explanation is that they are happy hippos because they make us so happy when we eat them!

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Ryan’s birthday book for this year was Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It is not only a favorite from growing up and fit the theme quite well, but a book that I realized most of my kids had never read before. What? How did I fail them? It made me all the more happy to now have it in our book collection.

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Fitting for the theme as well as our little Ryan’s personality. Wild thing? Yes indeed.

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It was really cute to watch him look through the book. He would carefully turn page after page looking at each picture as he tried to figure out what the story was actually about. We kept with our tradition of reading it that night for our bedtime story.

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It was so interesting for me to watch Ryan open his presents this year. He was certainly old enough to do it on his own, and all of the other kids were getting a little too worked up that Scott wanted to be right there helping him, but it really was the sweetest thing for me to see and capture on camera. I don’t think there could have been a better way to see their own little personalities at this time in their life and the sweet relationship they have with each other. I think it’s extra special for me to see especially because with Scott going to kindergarten this year Ryan has really missed his play mate during the day. As much as Ryan likes to be quite independent and do his own thing sometimes, he really looks to Scott to be the leader when they play. He takes his 5 year wisdom to heart and most days does whatever Scott wants him to do.

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Ryan’s big present was a wooden safari set to play Wild Kratts with. I love wooden toys, and this set was a great version of the girl’s “dollhouse” for the little boys.

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Funny/notsofunny story about the little gifts that our animals so kindly brought with them to the party. I had wrapped them up the day before-one little package on each of the five animals little backs. Notice that there are now only two that actually made it to party time. One of the packages had a mini pack of Double Stuf Oreos in it, and the others were Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter cups-both are Ryan’s favorite. That night our dog Simon snatched one of them off of the table where we had all of the presents sitting. Nice. Chocolate for dogs is a no-no. He is a pretty big dog (close to 90 lbs.) so I hoped that one little pack of chocolate wouldn’t hurt him. We watched him that night, and he looked okay. I was a bit ticked off, but not so much as when I found out the next morning that he has snuck two more of the presents! I was hot! That dog will be the death of me I think! We watched him carefully again, and luckily he didn’t get sick. It is so frustrating at times-we put up food (especially food that we know could hurt him), even have it wrapped up and out of reach (so we thought) and he still is ruthless when it comes to food. The irony is that Ryan is pretty much the exact same way. We try hiding Oreos up high in the pantry, in our tallest cupboard, and any other hiding spot we can think of, and that kid still gets to them! Those two can sniff out those treats anywhere.

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Despite the fact that there were three missing presents, Ryan was still happy as can be when he discovered what was in those little packages. Reese’s are enough to make this kid happy any day of the week.

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4 Things We Love About Ryan at 4

  • That missing tooth smile of his. A story all it’s own that needs to be told, but for now I’ll just say that I am loving those cute spaces I see every time he smiles.
  • His excitement to learn. He loves learning his letters and numbers at preschool and then practice writing them at home for his “homework”. He is so smart that we really have to be on our toes to keep him occupied. Mischief is a true sign of boredom for him.
  • He loves music and can remember the words to songs SO good. We used to play Brianna’s Taylor Swift Red CD in the van while we were driving around town and he could sing the words to a couple of the songs better than the rest of us. Slow Motion was the funniest one to watch him sing-he could belt that thing out loud! Lately I will catch him singing Primary songs from church. It has been such a testimony to me about how influenced kids (and all of us really) are by music-for good or bad. Those sweet little melodies with the important words keep coming back to his mind all through the week. I love it!
  • His willingness to do a job for us when we ask him. He is my great dishwasher unstacker and helps Scott carry up both of their laundry baskets from the mudroom on Saturday to put away their clothes.