Monday, May 31, 2010

Breaking It Down...Jenni Style

Having a home of my very own is a huge blessing and I am super grateful for it's ability to keep me and my family dry, safe and warm but enjoying it's beauty and charm can only happen if I am keeping up on the mountains of work that go into creating that pleasant cozy atmosphere.  Having a spotless home while taking care of little people and trying to cook meals, teach lessons, be around for a husband, fulfill callings, be there for neighbors, and find some time for myself can be pretty overwhelming sometimes.  After living here for a year now I believe I am beginning to get the hang of being okay with a little mess and learning to use my time better.
I use to be able to clean my entire apartment, top to bottom, in just 3 hours.  Now, I am lucky to get a room done in that time. Especially with kids wanting to be played with and interruptions from the computer.

Tonight I have broken it down for you cute readers.  Here are 3 lists for you to keep on your fridge.Whether you have a minute to do a little something or you have an hour or two, you will be surprised at how little time it can take to keep a semi orderly home.

A minute or less to complete:

Wipe crumbs off the kitchen table 
Water your plants
Empty a few trash cans
Wipe spots off a mirror
Clean a toilet
Sweep off the front porch
Dust a small room
Vacuum a rug
Clean out your kitchen trash can
Put your shoes away
Put a load of laundry in
Make a bed
Put the couch back together
Wipe down the bathroom sink
Open your fridge and remove gross things
Wipe down your counters
Open your blinds
Collect the dirty clothes
Throw out the junk mail
Shake out the welcome mat
Start the dishwasher
Get something on other then your cutest jammies (I add this because sometimes I put this one off)
Clean off a highchair or toddler's chair 

If you have 10-20 minutes you can do something like this:

Clean a bathroom floor
Dust the bookshelves
Wipe the spots on your couch
Unload the dishwasher
Sweep your hard floor surfaces
Clean your microwave
Wash the window above your kitchen sink inside and out
Clean your dripper pans
Get rid of the stuff hanging out in your couch.
Wipe down dining room chairs
Vacuum the stairs
Pick up all the toys
Clean the tub
File your stack of papers that you know you have sitting on your kitchen counter
Load the dishwasher
Go dump all the trash in your car.
Clear off your bathroom counter and wipe down the sink
Fold a load of laundry and put it away

An hour or more:

Spot clean some carpet
Organize a closet
Wash windows inside and out
Organize the pantry
Write up a menu and shoping list for the week
Give your car a nice shine
Weed the front and back yard
Mow the lawn
Deep clean a bedroom
If it's anything like my shower it will take at least an hour
Wipe some walls down
Go through the toy box and put things back together
Clear up everything
Go through everyone's clothing and make a donate pile
Take a bath (that's cleaning right?)

This is obviously not everything that needs to be done around a house but it is a good indication of what you can get done in the time you have.  It may feel choppy and out of order but it keeps me from sitting on the couch and watching something dumb. If I only have a precious 30 minutes to spare I know I have enough time to make the room I am in more enjoyable.  Try it out and let me know how it goes.  Happy cleaning!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Favorite...Boynton, Meyer, Berenstain Love

This week had been filled with the sharing of good books! Hooray! I am very excited to get to the library and check out some of the ones that we haven't read at our house yet. So finally, here are a few that we love and which will probably always be included in the stack to read at bedtime. I think I love them the most because I can remember them from my childhood. They are the "oldies but goodies" that might, among so many new favorites, get overlooked. I am also beginning to see the brilliance in how they are written now that my oldest is beginning to read along. The words are simple, the sentence structure is simple, and there is purpose behind each line. All of these things are helping her love to read.

Each Berenstain Bear book has a message that teaches something valuable. There are tons of them, and it is fun to follow the family as they learn and grow together. These are the kind of books that help parents and kids have conversations about things that might be a problem. Having a reliable and trusted storybook character that the child can relate to helps teach correct behavior without using discouraging discipline in the heat of a situation.

Mercer Mayer's Little Critters are so much fun! I love the relationship between the brother and sister and the reality of each situation. Whether it is shopping with their mom or cleaning the bedroom, the characters in these books are true to life and entertaining. However, I wish I could determine what kind of "little critter" they are. Do any of you know?

And finally, I have come to LOVE Sandra Boynton. Her board books are perfect for little people. These are the ones that I started reading to my oldest when she was an infant and we are still reading them together now that she is four. They have cute illustrations and almost always implement some form of humor that the children love--and we do too!

Here is a video of me and my daughter reading one of our favorite books. It is a song--I'm not really sure how the tune is supposed to go, but the way we sing it is the way I have been singing it for years now...

A few more Sandra Boynton books to check out are:
This last one is a silly teaching tool that makes my one-and-a-half-year-old giggle because she can read along as the silly turkey discovers how to dress properly. It teaches colors and is a simple way to involve even the youngest child in the reading process.

What are your "oldie-but-goodie" favorites? What books have you found to be the best teaching tools?


Thursday, May 27, 2010

We love the Library!

I love the library, it's my favorite place.
Rows of books in every case.
Fat books, thin books,
From wall to wall.
If I read and read, I'll read them all.
So we have been doing children's books this week, but seriously, my list of favorites is very long! How do you choose! So instead of giving you a list, I want to promote using the library.

Growing up, my family did not use the library much, if at all. Seriously. Then I married a guy who loves to read, and who can't pass up free and wholesome family friendly activities. Well almost free, we pay our taxes so we may as well use the services we pay for. Our library system here in King County is AWESOME! There are story times by age group, free concerts for kids, adults, and families, free classes, etc. We love story time. Even if they only read a few stories, songs and rhymes one of the earliest forms of literacy. So seriously, look into your local library, where ever you are.

We go almost every Tuesday night here. My daughter knows that on the days she has "preschool" we go to the library. Last week she was so disappointed when I told her there was no story time due to the library gearing up for there summer programs. Even if there is no story time we go so my daughter can get three new books to check out. It is cheaper then buying them. Especially when it might look really cute, but be a bust in the end. It is a great way to preview books, CD's, movies, etc. We have found some awesome stories at the library. Some that we will be checking out again, or renewed till we could not renew any more. So I guess I do have a list after all, books we have found at the library that we loved.
"I'm Dirty"and "I Stink"
Kate McMullen
These books are just silly.


Scott E Franson

There are no words, just pictures so you make your own story. It is one we will probably buy someday.

"What if instead of an umbrella you had an UN-brella? Imagine that when this unbrella was opened it suddenly made the world around you change in exciting ways. Open up this book to find out how one little girl’s unbrella changes her world." The Foggy Foggy Forest

Nick Sharratt

"What can this be in the foggy, foggy forest?" That's the question on every spread of this clever book, each depicting the black-and-white silhouette of a fairy-tale figure or scene. Readers may take a guess and turn the page to see if they’re right — the answering image appears in full color (often sporting a funny twist). A unicorn playing a horn? An ogre doing yoga? They're just two of the characters lurking in The Foggy, Foggy Forest, a clear winner for curious kids."

So I encourage you all to find your local library and see what they have. They are AWESOME!

Here is the link to ours

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Fairy tales are terrific,
Dr. Seuss stories make us say "yahoo!"
We especially love rhyming books,
And we think you should too!

OK, so we have some favorite books that cleverly tell a story or teach a lesson through verses of rhyme and perfect poetic rhythm. I think it helps pre-readers start to recognize words because they can guess what the rhyming word is at the end of the sentence. Some don't tell a story OR teach a lesson, but they're simply silly and fun with made up words, like this one:

Other favorites ar our house are:

(how to be creative with what you have)


("Rule number one is don't be disgusting" and when the horse says "botheration!" are favorite parts of this one)


(Non-veggie-loving kids will have fun with this one.)


(Sometimes it's the one that's different than all the rest that's the best one in the end.)


(It's OK to not be able to do everything perfectly.)


We're always on the lookout for more rhyme-o-rama action. What are some of your favorites?

A Crocodile In Your Bedroom

 photo by Wonderlane

Head on over to SteadyMom to read my latest post on organiziation... it's a good reminder on keeping the right perspective and not being too hard on yourself. Not only that, but it's a cute little fable about a crocodile--very fitting for a week of posts about childrens' books! Enjoy!

Hope you have a great day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Tales

I recently overheard an exchange between my three-year-old son and one of my five-year-old daughter's friends, in which he asked her if she was afraid of monsters in her room at night. She replied, "No, because monsters don't exist!" And this may sound strange, but my mama instinct was to go cover his ears and tell him not to listen. Because, especially for little kids, monsters do exist ... those fears are so very real to them, and as much as I love to find the hope and the good in people, as adults they will find that there are actual monsters in the world, too - hateful people, natural disasters, broken hearts and unrealized goals. I feel strongly that one of my jobs as a parent is to help them deal with those monsters head-on. And I believe that one of the best tools I have to teach them while they're young, is to read them fairy tales. Here are two of my favorites.

“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
~ G. K. Chesterton, writer

That quote appears at the front of a book by one of my very favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, who writes for adults, teens and - hooray! - kids. The Wolves in the Walls is one of my favorite modern dragon-beating stories. Lucy can't convince her family that there are wolves living in the walls of their house until it's too late, and the wolves come out and party: wearing the humans' clothes, playing wolfish songs on her father's tuba, beating her little brother's video game high scores and eating up all her mom's homemade jam, while the family is stuck out in the garden in the cold. The family discusses running away, but in the end Lucy steps up and finds a braver, more effective solution. The story is well-told, and Dave McKean's pictures are amazing. A few other Gaiman favorites for children: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, and Blueberry Girl.

This book, Brundibar by Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner, was given to me by a friend for my 26th birthday, a year and a half before my first child was born. I have loved it since then, and have loved sharing this story with my kids when they came along. It's based on the opera of the same name, written by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krasa and performed by children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where Krasa was also being held, in 1943. The children in the story are on a mission to get milk for their ill mother, but they have to navigate the world of grown-ups and defeat a bully - but not without the help of their friends! There's a little surprise twist at the very end that I love every single time, and always starts a conversation about not ever giving up. I'm not a student of the opera, but the way this book is written just feels operatic to me, and yet the language is exactly suited for children - I have no doubt that this story was just waiting for Tony Kushner to come along and transform it into a form more accessible to modern children. Maurice Sendak, of course, works his magic with the illustrations. I don't know of any other children's books by Kushner, but here are some of our other Sendak favorites: Chicken Soup With Rice, Alligators All Around, One Was Johnny, and In the Night Kitchen.

Of course, there are many many many other stories that my children and I love to read together, I could seriously go on and on and on ... But that conversation about monsters rekindled something, I think, and I will definitely be on the lookout for other great modern fairy tales. Any suggestions?

Our Top Five!

We love books at our house and you will find me pouring over and loving a stack of good children's books more often then a classic novel. I guess being a kid at heart keeps me this way and lately with a new little reader in our home I get to indulge myself even more often. 

I personally love to take my kids book shopping!  I'll admit that the covers draw me in very first but it's the content and the message that begs me to buy them.  Although the new ones always become most interesting at first it's the favorites that keep coming back at bedtime.  Even little Sadie has her opinion and somehow we all seem to agree on these five.

 We love Mo Willems and as soon as I saw that he had a pop up book I grabbed it and wrapped it up for Christmas.  This is a cute little story about a frog who is so big that he doesn't even fit in this book.  With the help of his little friends they seem to solve his dilemma. This book is simple and really fun to look at.  Although this one stays up on a high shelf, away from curious destructive fingers, it never gets dusty and forgotten.  This book is going to be loved my my grandkids someday.

"Little Boy" by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds was a gift from one of our favorite families to Payton on his 3rd birthday.  I remember reading it in the park the day we got it and trying not to cry.  the story is darling and thoughtful with the most descriptive illustrations and simple words. It's a sweet little reminder of how my "little boy reminds me how so much depends on days made of now".

This was a library find with tears the day we needed to return it so I knew that this one needed to be owned by our family. After we brought it home from the book store he plopped himself down on his bed and began to "read" or recite it to me.  I am so glad we bought this book.  Now it reminds me of my Sadie and her little bunny she carts around.  I love watching him read this one to her and telling her that the little girl in this book is you.  Some books are just plain CUTE!

A boy book.  A boy book for a boy who loves dogs and will do anything to get one.  I adore this one for it's illustrations and for the fun of it all.  Imagination is essential and this story helps instill it into the reader plus it makes you want a dog...not a dragon.

And finally "Birthday Fish".  We bought this one before Sadie was born but after we knew she was going to be a girl.  This little girl wants a pony for her fact all she's ever wanted is a pony but instead she gets a gold fish.  The entire book is about her taking her gold fish, whom she named Marigold, back to the lake...but on the way there something happens....dun dun dun!!!  Are you curious?  You should go find this book.  It's another great feel good book with a neat message.

I could add on 50 more awesome books but we'll keep it at 5 for this post. 

Now, I want do some more book shopping so what are some of your favorites?  Where is your favorite book store?  Do you own a specific author's everything?  Now I'm curious. Tell me Tell me...


Saturday, May 22, 2010

A few years ago I found a salon and a hair stylist that I really love. I love knowing that I'll get a great cut every time I go. I love seeing the familiar and welcoming face of my stylist. I love the refreshing adult conversations we have. I love walking out confidently with a fresh new look. But just a few days ago, I found one more reason to love it all...

It was Tuesday and I was so excited. It was the first time I have braved the whole salon experience alone with both kids in-tow. Usually my younger sister comes and we take turns getting our hair cut and tending my two girls. But this time she had to work, so I brought plenty of snacks, a handful of toys, and my youngest daughter's booster seat to strap her down.  Both Sophia and I were getting our hair done. Soph was going in for a new layered style--which, makes her look very sophisticated for a four year old--and I was going shorter and sassier than ever.

I was trying to be confident--the mom who can be stylish and take care of her kids with finesse under any circumstance, right? Well, everything went well while Sophia got her hair cut. Naomi was happy to sit on my lap and snack and play  and watch what was going on. But after I strapped her into her seat for my haircut, and the snacks and toys began to be scattered in a radius expanding out from my salon chair, I began to feel like I had turned this nice salon into what appeared more like a day-care facility. Anxious to be done and pick up our mess before anymore clients came in, Naomi began to fuss and cry.

Sophia tried to help, and I did what I could from my chair, but as soon as my stylist began blow drying and styling my hair, I let Naomi sit on my lap to try and soothe her cries and give my nerves some relief.

She was warm--too warm. And her crying began to include small phrases of "Owie. Owie, Mommy, Owie." This was not good. Not good at all.

Suddenly her cries grew silent, and then came the sound of a splatter. Before I could look down, I felt it--the warm, slimy reality of grape juice, fruit snacks and peanuts swimming in my daughter's vomit--smelly and unwelcome, but absolutely unstoppable and absolutely all over the two of us. We were all in a moment of shock before I started the mad dash to clean up as best I could and get out of there as fast as I could.

But I didn't have to rush. No body seemed grossed-out or upset. My stylist brought me towels and then took Sophia to play with the receptionist while she helped me gather my things. She wouldn't let me clean up the floor, but insisted that she would take care of it. And that is one more reason I love our salon and stylist. And I still love getting my hair cut there. I think if it were any other place or any other people, I may have never gone back from sheer embarrassment. But it's guaranteed--I will be a customer there for life!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cutting for a Cause

I am not one who gets a haircut on a regular basis. Why, because I am cheap. Yeah, I'll admit it. I actually just paid for my firs hair cut in over four years a few months ago. How do I do it you ask? I donate it. And most of the time, when you donate your hair, you get a free cut to go with it. (Call your salon and ask.) I have donated my hair three times to Locks of Love. It makes real hair wigs for children under the age of 21, suffering with long term hair loss. The majority of them suffer from alopecia. All you need is 10 inches
Me, October 2007, Before the Locks of Love Cut

The first time I donated was right after I graduated high school in 2003. That was the longest donation with 12 inches. I donated again in 2005,then again in 2007. I am about due for another donation. All together I have donated a little over 32 inches. That is almost 3 feet!

So you don't have 10 inches but still want to donate it to a good cause. How about Beautiful Lengths. Your hair goes to make real hair wigs for women fighting cancer. Especially those fighting Breast Cancer. You only need 8 inches of hair for this cause.

So you just want a trim. That is all you can do, well how about this one, Matter of Trust. The hair they receive goes to create booms to collect oil from oil spills, especially the one in the Gulf Coast. All they need is your hair, any length. This is what their website says, "Why should millions of pounds of absorbent, natural, renewable fiber go to waste every day? We shampoo because hair collects oil."

After the Cut, October 2007
10 Inches Baby!
So hey, now you have a reason to get your hair cut or trimmed. There are some good causes out there just looking for your hair. So go, indulge in a trip to your salon and know it is for a good cause.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hair Cutting for Boys 101

With Summer quickly approaching (yay!), that means keeping my boy's head air-conditioned and looking good. I've improved over the last few cuts, so I thought I'd share my method for trimming those cute locks, so you can try it too! Don't be afraid if you've never done it before. As my husband told me after my first time, "The difference between a bad hair cut and a good hair cut is two weeks." I know, he's so smart.

1. Trim sides and back. Use a #2 extention on the clippers and cut from the bottom of his head to the top. Always cut in the opposite direction than the hair grows. And, no my little guy isn't protecting his identity...he just hates hair in his face.

2. Trim top and front. Switch to a #3 extension on the clippers, just so it's not too too short. Buzz off what's left on top and the front.

My little guy has a swirly cow lick on the back of his head, so I just move the clippers all around it, always making sure to cut against the hair growth.

3. Clean up the sides. I use scissors to trim around his ears like so. Look how still he's sitting - such a good boy.

4. Clean up the back. Use the bare clippers without an extension, and turn them around so the blades are perpendicular to his neck. Gently scrape downward in small motions along the bottom to make a straight line trim.

You're done! Everyone's happy and Mr. Cutie gets a bonus treat. Try it for yourself and let me know how it goes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

To 'Poo or Not to 'Poo

That's my hair in December, about halfway in on my "no-'poo" experiment.
(I'm trying to put pomade in my son's hair for our annual family photo shoot. In case you were wondering.)

I sort of can't believe I'm about to announce this to the world ... but for six months, from last October until recently, I did not use shampoo on my hair.

Not that I didn't wash my hair, I just didn't do it with store-bought shampoo.

When I first heard of the anti-shampoo movement over at Simple Mom, my curiosity was definitely piqued, eventually enough to try it myself. And I have to say, the whole experience was surprisingly ... normal. About once a week, I'd mix up some baking soda and water in one of those water bottles with the squirt top, and then every few days I'd wash my hair with it. I noticed a few differences in the way my hair behaved: it was a bit more flyaway than usual, and it actually felt less oily; nothing that anybody except me would have noticed.

I went back to using shampoo a couple weeks ago, mostly because store-bought shampoo is easier, and I can find great deals on organics at our local Grocery Outlet. But once in a while, I'll still get the itch to go homemade on my hair, so here are a few simple recipes in case you want to try it too!

Egg and Honey Shampoo:
Mix two egg yolks with some honey. Apply to hair and rinse with cool water.

Castille Shampoo:
Mix one part liquid castille soap with one part water.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse:
Mix one part apple cider vinegar with five parts water. Apply to ends of hair and rinse after a minute or two.

For deep conditioning: avocado mixed with mayonnaise or coconut milk.

Have you tried going all natural with your hair?
What are your favorite kitchen ingredients for your hair?

And the WINNER of our Giveaway is...


Tara if you'll email us at with your address and the two bibs you would like then I'll get that sent to you right away.  (heart, star, ball or cupcake???)  Congratulations!

Thanks to everyone else who made such sweet comments.  I wish I had the time to make you all one of these bibs.  I would love to see your mentioned projects when you get them finished though.  Take pictures and email us or link to them in a comment.  Happy creating everybody!

To Be a Girl and To Have a Girl

If you have a girl or if you love being a girl then your hair probably plays a pretty big role in your life.  It somehow is the one thing that can make us feel pretty or make us feel well...less then pretty.  The time that can be spent on it is endless and the fact that it needs to be done everyday can be daunting sometimes.  So let's see if we can spice it up this week!  Throw in a flower or a headband or even a scarf and see if it brightens your outlook on your day.  I am not much of an accessory girl myself but I think, in honor of hair week here on Praiseworthy, I might try to add something fun and see if I change my mind.  Why not right? 

Will you do it with me?
Oh,and  let's doll up our little girls too. They're not going to let us do this forever so let's be sure to do it now.  Because my little munchkin doesn't have a whole lot of these luscious locks on her sweet little head I tend to make sure people know that she is a girl by adding something everyday.  Here are a few tutorials I love.  Make something special for you or your bug this week and see how easy and fun it is.  It's spring...the perfect time to let your style bloom.