Monday, January 30, 2012

5 x 5 Update #4

Great news, friends.  We have completed Week Four of the 5 x 5 Challenge.  I know several of you are still hanging in there with me, and I have heard from even more people this week that you are organizing, simplifying, and de-cluttering even though you are not formally in "the Challenge."  That is great!  My goal is simple: Start 2012 by crossing some biggies off my list, make my living space less cluttered, give to those in need, and set up other parts of my life in a way that is more maximizing of both time and energy.

This last week Dave traveled to Des Moines for work Monday-Saturday.  Please know that this trip caused me a lot of anxiety.  I know lots of women who have husbands who travel regularly and let me just ask-- how do you do it???  I was the most nervous about the middle of the night, especially when I had to work the next day.  I was secondly worried about getting out the door and to work on time.  So my sweet friends came along side me and helped me out in incredible ways.  I only hope I can repay them in _some_ way someday.  Cari stayed with me Monday night and through the pre-work morning Monday night.  Aanna and Spencer stayed late after small group on Tuesday night and helped me get the boys to bed.  God was so gracious in that Tuckers best night was Tuesday night, the only night I was alone.  Wednesday and Thursday night Beth stayed with me, and helped me get to work Thursday morning.  Tucker was in rare form Wednesday night-- Beth and I literally got about 4 hours of fragmented sleep.  I'm still not sure what happened, but I will tell you that I had to apologize to Beth the next day and that my attitude and behavior in the middle of the night included a shower at 12:30.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Friday afternoon I went to my parents and got home in time for bedtime Saturday night.  But, in the background of all this I decided to pull off a "5x5 Surprise" to my husband.

Dave's birthday was almost totally neglected this year.  We had a 10 day old and ended up at Bergan Urgent Care.  Thankfully, my mom gave him a card because I didn't.  He had no presents under the tree at Christmas because I was just totally overwhelmed, sore, depressed, whatev-- you name it-- and I was struggling just to keep up with the family Christmas celebrations we went to, and to get a few gifts under the tree for Dekker on Christmas morning.  Did I tell you that we took Dekker to the toy store with us and bought his gifts right in front of him???  Hahahaha. Anyway, I wanted to do something extra special for him.  So I decided to give him the gift of "more time and less stress" and I finished the office in the basement.  It has been done, and we have occupied it, for some time now. But there were a few finishing touches that I knew were driving Dave nuts.  Like the trim wasn't all done, and the floor needed to be laid in the closet, and the new windows, doors, door frames and trim needed painted, and a bi-fold door over the water main needed to be hung.  And... we needed to pass the final inspection.... before the permit expired in July.

So Monday night, Cari and I, Beth and Derek cleaned out the office.  We kept Dave's desk all together and didn't unplug one thing.  I knew that he often remotely got into his computer, and I knew unplugging it would throw up all kinds of red flags, so Derek wisely advised me to just pull it away from the wall and drape it.  It was perfect.  We cleared the rest out.

This is kinda what it looked like "before."  A lot of the trim was
done, but not all of it. 
This is us "clearing the room."  It wasn't too big of a job.
I took a before pic of Dave's desk so I could put it back exactly as it was.

Tuesday the carpenter, Brian with Icon Home Improvements, came by and did the last carpentry work and then coated everything with primer.  I hosted small group, then spent some time in the evening researching a new desk chair for Dave.

Wednesday: Brian was back for a coat of paint.  I called the inspectors office.  This was so totally out of my league I am still surprised that I did it.  Thankfully, I found our permits on the fridge and scheduled the final inspection.  I just knew it would be easier when the room was cleared.  I had no idea what was going to happen, or when, but I knew it was worth a try.  That night Beth and I assembled Dave's new desk chair.  When I cleaned the room out, I was appalled by the state of his desk chair.  He sits in that thing for 8-10 hours a day, and it was so broken down.  He has never complained about his chair, but I knew it had to be awful.  I thought the new chair would be icing on the (birthday and Christmas) cake, so to speak.

Here is the "Tall Chair".  He is trying it out all week before deciding for
sure and says he likes it so far.
Thursday: Brian comes back for the final coat of paint.  The room is still a pretty big mess. The inspector calls me.  I agree to meet him at my house around lunch.  Are you kidding me?  I have no clue what is about to happen but he seems nice.  I warn him that the room is still a mess and sweetly tell him that if he can't do his job I "totally understand, Sir."  I make awkward jokes.  I try to act like I know something about what is going on.  Then he signs this little thingy and says "we're finished here."  I was so excited I threw up my arm for him to High Five me.  And he did!  He was pretty friendly and we talked about our extra huge garage for a moment and he left.  Suz came over after nap so I could paint, and later that night Beth and I finished painting the office walls.  Because nice Brian had over-sprayed the trim, windows, etc to his hearts desire and it was everywhere.  This was my only major shock to the project-- I did not expect to have to repaint so much.

With this much over-spray I can only guess he thought I was re-painting anyway.
These are new windows Dave and Steve installed.  They are terrific!
The space for the bi-fold door
Preserving the desk...
... and cords...
Heck Yes!!
Friday: Brian is back to hang the doors and "touch up."  He leaves and my friend JoLynn is holding the baby and playing with Dekker while I move everything back in.  It looks... great.

Dave's desk, complete with new chair.  And a foot rest I will promptly be returning.
Great looking bi-fold door hiding the water main.  Panted and hung.

These are pics Dave took with his camera.  I hope to get them framed to
hang in the space real soon.
Saturday: Dave came home late.  I was So Nervous.  I had really worked myself up that he was going to feel like I went behind his back, or that I had taken away from him a chance to complete his "hobby", blah blah.  He was just totally thrilled.  He said he was "floored" and "shocked" and I almost cried.  Then we laid in bed and talked about how I had done this crazy, sneaky thing until 1AM, which is not so smart when your baby gets up at 2 and 6.  Oh well.  It was a great ending to a great 5x5 Week!

On the journey,

PS I also finalized that Health Savings Account and Flex Savings Account for Daycare!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

5 x 5 Update #3

Lets put week 3 in the books, what do you say ladies and gentlemen?!?  How did you do?  How are you feeling and how is your space looking?  Big props to my friend Natalie, who is blogging her progress along with us here.  As always, I love hearing from you all and hope you are sticking with it, too.

I am thrilled at the progress I made this week, BUT I have a confession-- I did most of my challenge this week on Saturday.  I had a weird week and just couldn't get to much.  (Can I mention that I went back to the therapist?  She is wonderful.  I think one more session and I'll call it good for awhile.  So glad I went!  If you have ever considered seeing a counselor, I hope you will call someone.  I have referrals.  Let's get rid of #stigma and just take care of ourselves!) Plus, the projects I had slated for this week were more "all at once" projects that I thought were harder to break up into smaller ones.  I wasn't too keen on having the coat closet torn apart for three days, if you get my drift.

But, I do want to work on this, because often I don't clean and organize because it feels like "too big a project." I could have easily done the top of the coat closet one day, the organizer inside the door one day, and the coats one day-- but I kept putting it off until I had time to do it all.  And that, I think, has the potential to NEVER get done if I don't change my mindset.

To begin, please know that I FINALLY mailed that package on Wednesday.  Praise the Lord, I hope she hasn't already had that baby and it is off my kitchen counter.

Moving on... Dekker and I started out getting wonderful haircuts Saturday morning (he looks so BIG), went through Starbucks, then to the grocery store.  As I was unloading the groceries that freezer was KILLING me, so I just bit the bullet.  I took everything out, tossed what needed tossed, moved the breast milk to the deep freeze, and reorganized.  I found so much food I didn't know I had and I'm looking forward to working it into our menu over the next months and cleaning it out (and saving some $$) even more.  Then, I decided this was the time to clean the fridge.  Not a deep clean-- just a throw out all the expired stuff in the door and toss the moldy food-- clean.  I wiped the shelves down with a little Clorox Anywhere.  I felt amazed by the extra space that was freed up by getting rid of the expired condiments-- some seriously expired in 2005, and a lot expired in 2010.  I found some pickles from Dekker's FIRST birthday party.  So toss that out, move some stuff in it's place, and yahoo-- it looks and feels so much better.  The baby was happy and the toddler was occupied so I went ahead and cleaned out the pantry, too.  Organized, tossed, condensed-- and again I found food I forgot I had.

If you care enough to scrutinize what we have in the pantry...
just don't judge me.
THEN, just as Dave was about to kill me, I announced that it was time to clean the hall closet.  Our coats are forever thrown over our couch because hanging anything up in that closet is like a search and retrieve mission.  I could barely close the door, barely find a hanger-- and when I did I had to shove everything over and hope I found the rod.  I held up each coat and asked Dave, "Would you like to keep this coat you never wear-- or donate it to a man or woman who can't afford one, would otherwise be cold, and will wear it everyday?"  We each kept one dressy coat, one "snow" coat, and donated the other NINE in there.  One of my goals over the next two weeks will be to take a load to the Open Door Mission (remember the sock drawer?).  We also went through the hats and gloves and found several to donate, and condensed all the dog's stuff into one box in the top of the closet.  It looks and feels so much better, too.

This week I am hoping to get the HSA paperwork from the bank in the mail, so I can finalize that and the Flex Spending Account at work.  My other main goal this week is to sort the mail basket-- and actually file, shred, and pay up as I come across things.  These goals will easily fill my 5x5 time this week-- and it is going to be an extra busy week for me for reasons I will disclose next Sunday-- so stay tuned.

I'm already thinking ahead to week 5, and I really want to get our long-term savings organized and re-set up.  I need to call my "guy" this week and set something up so I can get that done.  Week Five is also week 12 (ish) of my sweet baby's life, which means the return of exercise-- so I hope to get my Nike+, iPod, and treadmill set up.  But that is getting ahead of myself.

Speaking of the sweet baby, here is an adorable picture...

Hello Friends!  I have been SPOILING my Mom
and Dad and sleeping very well the last two nights!!

On the journey,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just Had To Share...

.... As I mentioned in my last 5x5 Update, I am reorganizing our budget, which I do every year at this time.  This year is particularly interesting because we are switching a lot of things that we did automatically through Dave's checks to my checks, because his employer doesn't offer it.  For example, we are now pulling from my check to deposit automatically into savings and employer sponsored retirement, and we are getting things set up to also pull from my checks for our Health Savings Account and Flex Spending Account for daycare.  This means that Dave's checks look a lot "bigger", (and mine basically zero out, for real) and we are trying to arrange our spending so we save more of Dave's paychecks as a short term savings for things like car plates, oil changes, and life insurance-- which always comes due and I hate pulling from savings to pay for.  Anyway, I would be happy to explain our easy system to you sometime, but for now just know that I operate out of two checking accounts: one that Dave's paychecks are deposited into and pays bills and "holds" money for expected (and unexpected) bills, and one that we use for our "everyday expenses" like food, gas, eating out, formula, diapers, Target runs, gifts, clothing, etc.  When I pay bills, I act like our "everyday expenses" account is a "bill" to pay.  Yadadadada.  So I call the bank because I want debit cards for the "Pay Bills Checking".  The sweet lady on the phone starts talking to me, and can see my nicknames on my accounts.  "So you would like 2 debit cards for the "Pay Bills Checking" or for the "Everyday Expenses Checking?"  I suddenly felt RIDICULOUS having several accounts that I had nicknamed such obvious things-- but next time I think I will nickname them "Stripper Account", "Money Laundering Account" and "Drug Money" -- just to hear her read them back to me!
Baby just woke up!
On the journey,

5 x 5 Update #2

Hello Friends.
I know that the six people who read my blog are really upset that I didn't get an update posted last night, but fear not!  I have approximately 4 minutes between now and when the baby wakes up, so I want to give you a brief look at my 5 x 5 tasks this week-- hopefully to inspire you and challenge you to KEEP GOING.  How are you doing?  I do love the emails and texts, so if you are still plugging along this new year, let me know again.  Okay? Okay.
Monday: Took down the Christmas decor.  Because it's almost FEBRUARY.  Good grief.  The Evergreen is still up, in case you're wondering, but it's not decorated :)  I need to make space in the basement (ug) before I haul it all down there.  Dekker keeps pointing at the tree and saying "Christmas?"  No son.
Tuesday: Back to work.  As in lectured to students.  Oh my goodness this is going to be a long semester for mom.  Tuesday I also saw a therapist (great decision) and went to small group and then fell into my bed more exhausted than I have been on this journey yet.  Thankfully, Tucker got the memo and I woke up Wednesday feeling much better.  No 5x5 goals met, and I'm totally fine with that.
Wednesday: Set up HSA.  You can, too, at  Now I wait 10 days to get my packet in the mail, including my account number, and take it to the accounting/payroll office at my work.  I CAN do this and it WILL be so worth it.  I also have been re-organizing our budget, so while I had the bank on the phone I did a little of that mess.
Thursday: Work.  That night I cleaned the basket that sits at the end of our bar.  Dave was ready to shoot me, but it is very clean now and holds just the few things we need out, like our planner and a small notebook.  I could probably condense that into our "junk drawer" but then I wouldn't have baskets sitting all over my house to drop things in and later go back and clean.  And how fun would that be...
Friday: Called the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City to finalize the overnight trip I took there Saturday night with three friends.  It cost a total of $80, which included gas, a gorgeous room, two great meals, a hot tub, and great friends who love one another and Jesus.  Considering above mentioned therapist costs $96 and HOUR, I might need to consider more overnights!!  Thank you Dave for parenting alone, you are honestly the best.
Saturday: Cleaned out my purse and packaged a gift to mail.
Sunday: Cleaned the front of our fridge.

Here are a few things I'm kicking around for this week:
Finally mail that gift I have been talking about for two weeks.
Clean out the coat closet
Clean out the freezer.
MAYBE do round #2 on the mail basket.
The coat closet and freezer are just KILLING me (and both will take, legitimately, several steps).  Neither can hold another thing, and both have lots that need purged.  The contents of the coat closet in particular could be keeping some peeps warm at the Open Door Mission, and that alone is reason enough to clean it out ASAP.  Every time I open either of them, I shove it closed and pray nothing falls on top of me.

Here's to week THREE.

On the journey,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

5 x 5 Challenge Update 1

Well, week one of the "5 x 5 Challenge" is under our belts.  How are you doing?  Did You tackle a few things around the house and in your life that you otherwise might have put off for another week?  Did you have a little extra motivation to do something small and simple for your life, home or family?  I feel some motivation building and I am thrilled to start the year this way.  This is really needed in my life-- having an infant is so much work and so unpredictable-- so a few things here and there are really adding up. Goodness knows things have been sitting around here for the last seven weeks, plus the last few of my pregnancy if I'm honest.  (Hey, carrying that HUGE baby around was hard!)  One thing I am focusing on is consistency.  The hard part for me will be doing more than "normal things" such as laundry, picking up, dishes, etc for more than a few weeks.  I expect weeks four and five will be where I really start getting to things that I never would have without this challenge!

Here's my "tasks" this week, Week One:
Wednesday: Sock drawer.  Oh. My. Goodness I feel better.  Dear Underwear from 1999: Good-bye.  You don't fit right, you are worn out, you are too skimpy, and you are taking up space. I also cleaned out my magazine basket, it took all of 5 minutes and I could get everything out to recycling before trash night.  Finally, I returned the crock-pot to my sweet neighbor and had a terrific visit.  This was really too much for one day, but motivation was in motion and I felt good doing it, so why not.

Thursday: First day back to work!  Made some major progress on my Health Savings Account (HSA) inquiry (we're switching it from Dave's employer to mine) and talked about the possibility of a Flex Spending Account for our daycare expenses in 2012, since we'll have two in daycare and all.  I also did round one of cleaning on my "mail basket" which is major.  Doing so also cleaned all the mail off our counter.  That mail basket is tricky, because cleaning it also means filing things, shredding things, and paying bills.  Sigh.  I did NONE of those things, just cleaned out all the junk.

Friday: Finished research on the Flex Spending Account.  If you are interested, check out this link: <>  It offers pre-tax dollars to spend on childcare expenses.  However, it is a "use it or lose it" account-- different than an HSA-- so a person needs to estimate conservatively.  I was researching the tax implications of losing the "Dependent Care Tax Credit" and learned that the pre-tax savings of a FSA is still better, in case you're wondering.  If your employer offers this, and most do, I would highly suggest you check into it.  I also packaged a gift to mail this week and wrapped a birthday present.

Saturday: Elmo Live!  It was an absolute hoot.  I loved seeing Dekker's face light up, and I hope I have time for a dedicated post to this in the near future.  His double handed wave was the best-- true joy!  You know you are a parent when you can't wait to get up on Saturday so you can go to Sesame Street Live :)  Saturday night I really needed a magic marker to address and mail a gift and I couldn't find one, so I took that as my cue to clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen.  I basically throw stuff in there and then shove it closed several times a day.  A lot of the stuff went back in there, but I threw away a lot, too, and put a lot of other stuff away in a different home, and wiped it out.  It looks and feels great.

Sunday: Today has been a difficult day.  I don't feel great, the baby has been fussy, I wanted to watch the Broncos game in peace and quiet-- which won't happen around here until 2018-- yadadada.  In fact, as I type the baby is fussing in his bed and I am holding my breath and praying "please go back to sleep child...."  Anyway, I managed to give Dekker a bath today and while I did I cleaned out the cupboard above my toilet.  I merged fourteen plastic ziplocks holding random, but "I do wear it" make-up into one retro, cool bag my bestie Beth gave me for Christmas, threw out a lot of expired stuff and some boxes, moved some medicine to our medicine cabinet, etc etc and it, too, looks and feels great.  In fact, I have about a quarter of a cabinet empty.  Praise the Lord.

Here's to week number one-- done!  Honestly, I am glad that this coming week I have seven days to get five tasks done.  Without this challenge this week I am certain the sock drawer, junk drawer and bathroom cabinet would all still be in the same shape, and I might not have even made the progress in the other areas, either.  I have heard from several of you that you are doing the challenge in some way with me... and would love to hear how its going for you, too!

Do you like my new blog look?  Thanks, Beth, this was another part of her Christmas gift to me that I love.

On the journey,

Monday, January 2, 2012

5 x 5 Challenge

Just last week I had the wonderful opportunity to chill with my girls from McCook... the "four of us" were back together and it felt so... right!  How thankful am I that Sara and Mark moved to Bellevue (thank you Air Force), Jen and Mark live in WaHoo (thank you WaHoo Public Schools) and that Amanda's fantastic in-laws live in Lincoln.  Also, Amanda, we still need someone to visit with and an excuse to get together when we're in McCook, so thank you for not moving :)

Okay, I could go on about how they filled my car up with presents-- like a blanket, diapers, wipes, outfits, and even clothes for me-- and how they filled my heart with laughter and encouragement-- and how they filled my belly with Mexican food-- and how we scared Sara's husband off when we stripped down to our tank tops and started trying on Sara's "Goodwill Pile."  I could fill a page with how good it felt to hear them tell me my boy is adorable, and that I am not crazy.  I love that we don't have to pretend to be anything we are not.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, I love having people in my life who loved me back then, and who still love me today.  There is something irreplaceable about history.  It was _just_ what I needed.

Anyhow, Sara mentioned a blog she follows that shared about an organizing challenge, and I decided to take my own twist on it.  So this is not my original idea, but I thought it was great.

So may I introduce.... the 5 x 5 Challenge.

5 organizing tasks a week for 5 weeks.  Starting yesterday (no joke-- sorry for the "late notice").

What counts as an organizing task?  Anything that would make your life more organized, easier, cleaner, simpler or run smoother.  Here are a few that come to my mind for myself: Take down the Christmas tree (hold your comments please :), clean the space behind the short couch, organize the "junk drawer", clean the mail basket, clean the magazine basket, organize the "craft bin/basket/over-sized Hobby Lobby sack", take unused coats to the Mission, set up HSA, set up long term savings again, order a few pictures to fill some frames in Tuckers room, return a crock-pot to my neighbor, clean my sock drawer.

Here's what I want you to realize: These should be small tasks that you could easily do in just a few minutes in one day.  I hope that your five items will take place in five different days of the week, and take no more than 15 minutes.  If you really want a cleaner coat closet, for example, break that task up into several smaller ones and spread out the "fun."  For example, setting up my HSA might be my task for a few days as we both go to the bank and talk to my employer.  Or another example: I might clean the coats one day, the sock drawer one day, and drive to the Open Door Mission on a third day.  I really don't care, to be honest.  You can do 25 things in one day, I guess.  But that's not the spirit of the challenge (though you would probably still be glad you did it and feel great).  Think small, think simple, and try not to get burned out.  Think things around your house, stuff that has been bugging you, and other areas of your life that need organized.  You can even count things you might have done without the "challenge" if you need to-- like cleaning the kitchen counter.  I know you are busy.  But if we can give 15 minutes five days a week, we will start this year off feeling great.  Don't you think?

Here's to the 5 x 5 challenge.  If you want to participate, feel free to join me on Sunday nights sharing about our five things.  You can blog your own week and send me the link.  Or you can send me before and after pictures to my phone or email and I will even share them on here.  Or you can share what you accomplished in the comments. Or you can cheer me on.  However you want to participate, I'm thrilled.

On the journey,