Family

being flexible...

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IMG_6162 As you may have noticed on Instagram, I have four daughters in the Nutcracker this year.  FOUR!

It's been an incredible experience for my twins as they now get to do and be a part of everything they've watched their older sisters do.  Our first full week of rehearsals and performances is behind us and this week we prepare to move the ballet to the historic Hershey Theatre.

I always forget how busy life is in December with just a few kids in the Nutcracker so as you can imagine, four dancers has totally changed our December flow of activities.

For that reason, we've had to choose the most important things on our list of activities, how to use our non-Nutcracker time, and family time before Christmas.

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Being flexible.

It's a phrase that is so good for me to apply in my life but, simultaneously, is so difficult to accept being a recovering "perfectionist".  It's tempting to believe that if you are flexible, you've somehow given up on what you really want.  Succumbed to less than you deserve.

One of the books I love to listen to when I need a lift is [amazon_link id="0671791540" target="_blank" ]Awaken the Giant Within[/amazon_link] by Tony Robbins.  Tony says,

"Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach."

This past year I've tried really hard to live by this quotation.  When I apply this to my life in its many categories, amazing things happen.  I may try something different in my approach to a personal goal I have.  Remove the stress I feel towards a task by adjusting how to do it.  Simplify a task.  Completely remove a task or activity if necessary.  Overall, I stop being obsessed with the "perfect approach" and focus on the overall goal.  I then outline steps towards the goal on paper that are best based on my current situation or circumstances.  It's about pulling away from "the perfect way" to discover the "best way" based on my current  circumstances.

There are a million good things I could do with my 24 hours a day this time of year.  I've decided to keep my priorities of clean ballet clothes, packed dinners, hours to do girls' angel curls, down time for me and my kids to unwind between rehearsals, and most of all, NOT RUSHING to be the foremost on our list.  I feel more peaceful about the season then if I would make myself feel pressure to "do it all".  It is a conscious decision I have to make daily, often hourly.

 

This morning we will be doing some Christmas baking and getting ready for our Homeschooling Christmas party that's tomorrow.  It will be a very simple party as that's the name of the game this particular season.  And the things that are super important to me (like sewing something special for each of my kids for Christmas) is on hold for a bit.  I am choosing to be flexible with the timing.  I know that many things (like shopping) won't happen until days before Christmas (once Nutcracker is over).  And I'm choosing to be okay with that.  As my girls hear me say often, "Focus on one thing at a time."

 

How about you?  What goals/activities do you choose to be flexible in their approach, to maintain peacefulness?

the sleepy time gal

 

december

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"True love is a reflection of the Savior's love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit.

You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it."

Thomas S. Monson

This morning I started the early morning off with a long list of important things to do.  And then, after saying (an overwhelmed) prayer to see the most important things, decided just to follow my heart today, one moment at a time.  I've slowed down quite a bit, rethought a million little decisions about our day, and have begun to actually enjoy my day so much more.

December is the month that we prove to ourselves and those around us what really matters.  It is so tempting to put more on our plate.  Ironically though, the more we take off of our plate, the more we simplify, the more clearly we can hear--deep down inside of us--what really matters.  What truly makes us happy.  Peaceful.  And joyful.

This morning I have hushed the "rushed" voice in my head over and over and feel the reward that comes from this continual discipline: the calm satisfaction that everything is just right--imperfect--but just right.

Happy December 1st.  

the sleepy time gal

first thanksgiving at home...

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IMG_6091 IMG_6102 I'm so grateful for family and food and slow downing.  There were the usuals: homemade place cards + apple turkeys.  Firsts were hosting Thanksgiving dinner in our home, trying my hand at whole cranberry sauce and Bobby's incredible turkey roulade he slaved over to accompany his roasted turkey breast.

I loved having nieces and nephews here along with my dad.  Stuffing ourselves and taking a log walk in the cool air.  Family helping wash dishes and divvy up leftovers.  Serving up pie and seconds of pie.  Board games out after dark.  And watching all the kids chase after Olive just to get a glimpse of her.

 

I'm feeling very blessed with my life, my health, family, and freedom this week.  

 

Hoping you had a memorable week yourself, friends.

 

the sleepy time gal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the weekend

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{Revisiting the hand-print turkey cookies we made when the twins were babies--this time using this excellent almond flour (with a little cream cheese + almond extract) decorating cookies.}

 

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{Family pictures.  Somehow, with me behind the camera--never a delightful experience posing your own people, setting up the shot, and racing down the hill to "jump in".  But I love being the one to sit down to edit them after all is said and done .}

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{Always looking for ways to spice up the weekly breakfast yogurt bowls.  PB + jelly yogurt bowls were a hit with a heaping TBSP of low sugar strawberry jam + chopped, salted peanuts.  I add a little splash of half and half or milk to the kids' greek yogurt since its so thick.} IMG_5966

{What would the weekend be without this little one.  Finding new, warm places to sleep during the day, being carted around, and going crazy over the new house plant.  If only her claws didn't grasp so well into my long john PJs every single time she's in a playful mood... I'm telling myself this is the "kitty" phase.}

 

 

What did you do this weekend?  

Looking forward to Thanksgiving planning this week since it will be our first time ever hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Monday!

the sleepy time gal

3 ways we maintain order (and peace) daily

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IMG_3734 It definitely is a challenge maintaining order over a household of seven.  And when your kids are home most days, 3 meals x 7 people of dishes, our projects, shoes + coats, and stuff can easily build up everywhere.  

After putting my whole heart and summer into "tidying" our home the Marie Kondo approach ([amazon_link id="1607747308" target="_blank" ]The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing[/amazon_link]), I've been quite strict that we don't fall back into our "cluttered" ways.

I have 3 tricks that have worked in keeping that order in every room of our house.  And helps keep peace between parent and child, child and child, and the unspoken calm from living in an inspiring, orderly home.

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  1. Constantly remind all family members that everything has a home, a pre-established place to return all items after they have been used, played with, read, etc.

This simple reminder not only immediately gives the family members a visual of the location that the item needs to be returned to but doesn't require nagging.  It empowers the person to take responsibility to walk their book back over to the bookcase, put their shoes in the shoe closet, and put the yogurt back in the refrigerator.

This one concept resolves 80% of the clutter/untidiedness in our home.  My kids know very well that the more they are responsible for their items throughout the day, the less clean up there will be at the end of the day when they are responsible for one room in the house.

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2. Create charts for those household tasks that tend to a) wear you out or b) wear you out in routinely asking your kids to do them.

The functioning charts we have in our home currently are:

  • Dishwasher Days Chart (see below) where two kids are teamed up each morning to unload while the other two kids practice piano.
  • Daily Tidying Chart that simply outlines each child being responsible for the tidying (vacuuming + sweeping if necessary) of one main-level room each day.  Rooms are rotated weekly.
  • Chef of the Day + Kitchen Helper chart (in first image).  It is an extension of our chef for the day (one child that helps cook/bake that day with me) with the addition of wiping off the dining table after meals and helping with meal clean up that day too.

Charts give my kids and myself direction which is so important in building confidence and establishing lifelong routines of important work.

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3. Establish daily "rhythms" and routines for your kids and your family.

It took a little time, but now my kids know that breakfast is "ready" once their morning jobs are completed. (They each have a binder with these great responsibility pages from Modern Parents Messy Kids inside plastic page protectors so they can check them off each morning with a dry erase marker.)

Having everyone dressed, with beds made, kids' clean clothes from outside their door put away, dishwasher unloaded or piano practiced before breakfast has made life so much easier!  We can then all settle in for a morning spiritual thought and prayer before everyone splits off in different directions.

Why? Because we can get out the door faster right after breakfast and teeth brushed.  We can start into our own projects and play right after breakfast without the nagging.  (Realistically, there still is some of that. ;)) And, they know the routine and it gives them confidence knowing they are totally ready for the day.

 

Those are 3 of our tricks that really do allow for fun and creativity and learning during the day without feeling constantly overwhelmed by chaos.  My kids feel the difference when we've followed through with "maintaining" our home and I'm much more calm and helpful to my kids when there is peace and order.

Days are happier, more peaceful, and definitely smoother when we stay focused on maintaining the most important place for the kids and adults alike: the home.

 

the sleepy time gal

one simple question: do I want this?

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"The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity."

James Hightower

In recently sharing some of the changes taking place in our household lately, one significant change has been my daily schedule or plan for the day.

Usually I change up my daily schedule format when it begins to feel too restrictive.  Sometimes the change goes from maintaining my day/week's plan on my iPad calendar to keeping my plan/goals using a big legal notepad.

Lately, though, how I plan (or don't plan) and see my upcoming days and weeks has changed at a deeper, philosophical level.

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Let me back up.

I've recently come out of a "dark period" as I call it.  The past few months or so have been very intense with doubts, introspection, questions for myself--and God--about what really makes me happy, and what I deeply want for my life and our family's life.  And, most importantly, would I willing, confident, and strong enough to do what I feel strongly about--despite pressure to be someone I am not...

As this "dark period" (which has required unbelievable patience and faith) has recently come to a close with gradual light at the end of the tunnel, I have felt the clarity I've so desperately needed.  I've received just enough of that light and clarity to move forward with confidence and strong conviction towards my own personal direction.

And I see what I was intended to do in this life: live life with passion towards the most exciting goals for me + my family.

Needless to say, I've definitely shifted my approach, my focus, of each new day as my "bigger life picture" feels safe to chase.

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It all comes down to one simple question I ask myself when I write my (now shorter) task list each day and when I make many of the decisions my day:

"Do I really want to do this? " 

In other words,

"Is this getting me closer to my most important goals or just using up my precious time?

Am I doing this for someone else's agenda, because I feel pressure, guilt, etc.?"

 

If I'm courageous enough, I will only have the most important tasks, goals, and activities in my life.  That means constantly weeding out the "good things" for the "best things".  That means constantly asking myself, "Am I feeling peaceful, calm, happy, satisfied, excited for life, and passionate for my path today?"  If the answer is yes (and it is always an empowering, thrilling feeling when it is yes) then I move forward, shutting off the temptation to feel any ounce of doubt and fear.

If the answer is no, I either scratch it off my list/schedule or if it is larger than a scheduled event, begin making plans to remove it from my life, a little at a time if necessary.

 

I know after you've read this you may be feeling that tug on your heart, that unsettled feeling about at least one thing in your life right now.  Maybe something on your schedule today or this weekend.  Perhaps something that takes up your time weekly, monthly, that isn't giving you the return on investment like you'd hoped.

 

Be honest with yourself.  Take those uneasy feelings towards that one thing and make one change.  Lessen the frequency of an activity.  Politely decline from an activity/program/event and use that free time for something that truly gets you excited.  Look for an alternative--which may require a lot of creativity and brainstorming--towards something that gives you a better relationship with a spouse, your child, a parent.  Switch out what is getting you nowhere towards your deepest, personal family/individual goals for something that will give you everything you've ever wanted.

 

I promise the more you rethink the habits in your day/life that you do unthinkingly that aren't satisfying you over and beyond your ideal life, the more your mind will be open and susceptible to new ideas and creating your own path for an incredible life on your unique journey.

Make your life 100% yours.  No regrets.  Live it for you.

 

the sleepy time gal

being honest with change...

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"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

George Bernard Shaw

I've been experiencing quite a bit of change, that, to be honest with you, recently has scared me to death.

Each child growing up faster and faster.

Needing new parenting skills.

Wearing reading glasses for the first time.

New tablets for my kids.

Finding balance/trust with new tablets for my kids.

Intensity in our family's ballet schedule increasing.

Experimenting with new approaches to homeschooling.

Readjusting again our approach to homeschooling.

Shifting gears for a new blog/space.

Letting go of things that used to inspire more and pressing forward with the new.

The early morning routine--again.

Giving my kids more responsibilities and more freedoms...

 CHANGE.

I'm beginning to straighten my wobbly legs beneath me to hold on tightly to the progress that has come with much change and continue to readjust with the rest.  My, it takes courage to change.  Accept change.  And embrace it and label it "good".

Although I have been quieter in this space recently I am so very excited to be finalizing preparations for a new space online that will be launched soon.  The thing that is amazing about change and progress is that you have to look back at what you've become and the experiences you've had and thank them for the ride.  Then, with all the energy you can muster, focus dead ahead at the new.  The different.  And the future.

the sleepy time gal

 

olive, our little kitten

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{I embroidered this little black cat the day I knew we'd be surprising the kids and bringing the kitten home. And grabbed every black cat picture book the library had that day as well.  It all made sense to them that afternoon.}

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There comes a time when you realize that your kids are really growing up.  And fast.

 

I never ever expected to own a cat.  It was always, "when everyone's a bit bigger we'll get a dog".  And as life and persistent children (specifically one--Johanna) would have it, I found myself beginning to contemplate a kitten after watching my older girls cat sit this summer.  I saw how nurturing, loyal, and ready they were for a pet.  And thanks to my hairdresser-by-day and farmer-by-night friend, he found me a two month old farm kitten.

 

Olive is her name.  She is our first pet ever and doesn't disappoint.

She's small, playful, all black with one wisp of white on her chest, and very loved.  It was the biggest surprise my kids have had, seeing me and Bobby walk in one afternoon carrying a tiny kitten.  DIY toys have been made (so far a plastic bottle rattle, cardboard ball, and fleece bed) and perfect attention to Olive's every single need by the girls.  And Rowan is the hero that found her one afternoon (after a house search and family prayer) nestled in my narrow sewing drawer.  (Where do kittens come up with these hiding places??)

 

Olive is here at the perfect time for all of us.  She's nurtured all day long by the kids. She meows and scratches the basement door when she hears us adults clinking around in the kitchen early in the morning.  So I routinely open the door and she joins me on the couch briefly, explores the dark + quiet house, always returns to me, and waits for the real entertainment that comes when the kids wake.

I'm feeling quite blessed and lucky.

 

the sleepy time gal

the weekend...

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Our weekend can be summed up with lots of rain, indoor truck-crane play, chocolate cake, and watching General Conference.

Rain.

Yep, it was chilly and rainy all day Saturday so we postponed Rowan's outdoor gathering and exchanged it for a morning at Chocolate World in Hershey, PA for their ever-exciting free ride (and chocolate!) + then to Costco for all the magic that can be found there. ;)

The truck crane.

I'm so happy with Rowan's [amazon_link id="B00006IJHY" target="_blank" ]crane[/amazon_link]. (Thank you FB friends that helped me out.)  Super impressed by the German company Bruder for their well built, real life trucks!  Rowan and his Daddy spent much of the weekend with a plastic cup (tied to a hook) scooping up lentils from one bowl and then "unloading" them in another bowl.

The cake.

I was pleased with this Decadent Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake; it was very moist and rich.  The great thing about making a construction site cake is that it's good if it looks messy.  Which was helpful in pouring my already thin frosting over the cake.  Because I added a little xanthan gum to the frosting it set nicely on the outside of the cake (so I could build on it) but was still moist once you cut into the cake.

I couldn't get myself to buy Oreos for dirt so poured a bit of the frosting on a few spots and topped them with whatever I had on hand: shredded coconut and my homemade dark chocolate chunks. (Chocolate chunks recipe on my Instagram feed @nshiffler.) And Rowan was very excited to see his trucks in action on his cake.

 

General Conference.

I've got to tell you--I needed this recharging, recentering of my soul this weekend.  I haven't felt so inspired to be better, be more patient with myself, and invest in what really matters this intensely for a while.  Our family spent many hours this weekend watching and listening to our church's annual worldwide conference from home and it truly was the highlight of the weekend.

If you need a real pick me up, here's an incredible talk about mothers from this weekend.

 

the sleepy time gal

almost 3

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{Rowan--earlier this year.  Remember his Rice Construction Site?  He still loves it.}

 

This little boy turns 3 tomorrow.

 

He's definitely been one of my most tender, most cuddly and intense child.  He's a boy.  I'm his mommy.  He runs to me when I walk through the door in the morning with, "Mommy!" and wants me to scoop him up with a big hug.  He tries so hard to catch up with his sisters, their activities, and just wants to be big.

 

With fingers crossed because of this hurricane rain, we're hoping to have an outdoor birthday gathering tomorrow at a local orchard.  He's so excited that after the long year of watching his sisters and parents blow out the birthday candles it is finally his turn!

 

And so today will be filled with cake baking/decorating along with our "writing day" plans.

 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your family.  See you next week  with (hopeful) pictures from a outdoor celebration. ;)

 

 

the sleepy time gal