The Secret Garden

So I told myself I was going to blog three times a week.  And now I’m telling you.  Maybe this will make me more apt to do it.  If it’s OUT THERE…

So my excuse this time is that I was sick.  It took me out for a few days.  Well, only for about 24 hours, but then the other few days had limited brain function.  Only having the capacity to think one thing at a time.  And only one thought an hour.  All of that was used up on parenting.  Basic level one survival parenting.

And then… My husband got sick.  He stayed sick for almost a whole week (er…continues to be sick).  So hence, little time for writing, once again.

But I was very proud.  This sickness (the same one) only took me down for pretty much an afternoon.  Fervent use of essential oils.  Vitamin C like candy.  Roar.  I beat it.  Strong me!

Whoops.  Pride goeth before a fall.  Friday afternoon.  Bam.  It hit me again.  And I had to fight it again.  But it’s on the way out.  For good, this time? 

Pride goeth before a fall.  Reminds me of my favorite movie as a child.  It’s pretty obscure, well at least the version I like.  Read: only VHS quality, even on the $30 DVD offered on Amazon.

The Secret Garden – The Hallmark Hall of Fame version.  I watched that over and over as a child.  It was my first (of many) movies to be able to quote.  And I believe it began my fondness for Colin Firth.


The main character Mary is very hardened and pious.  For reasons she is this way, I will let you see the movie – or read the book!!  Or both!!  In this movie, the gardener quotes that proverb to Mary.   So anytime I hear it, even in my own head, it’s in his voice!


That hat.  That coat.  Right?!  Anyway, I love the movie.  I guess you get that by now.  And my pride that I had beaten the sickness came indeed before my fall.  Back into snot and fever and exhaustion.

Ok, one more.  This face:  gennie

Seriously.  Hallmark movies are really the best.  Just enough cheese and lots of heart!!   More on my obsession with movies like this (aka my Christmas movies) later…

Running with scissors

So this year, as with many of the population, I’m setting resolutions.  But more than a “fizzle soon” resolution, it’s more of a time of setting goals for myself.  With the dawn of the new year, it’s time for a fresh start.  A natural place to take a look around and make some changes.

One of my main goals is to get fit.  Not really lose weight, but I think that will come.  More of just being healthy overall.  So I am starting that with what I put in and what I do (as far as exercise).

I’m taking a step by step journey into more natural beauty and health products.  I love the combination of creativity, science and health that this offers.

And I am trying to make better choices with my diet.  Still room for yummy stuff, though!  My main weakness is the mindless snacking out of the container.  Serving size?  What’s a serving size?  Oh, that.

So measuring out and just stopping to think is really my diet plan.  More of a real-life, real-time strategy.

And somehow last fall before my mindful resolutions started, I stopped drinking soda.  I will have one occasionally, but not 3-4 a day like I was doing.  How could this have stopped?  Well, it was not really my plan.  I had, of course, wanted to stop drinking soda – and I was I diet soda girl, more so for the less sugar than the less calories.  And then my soda of choice – I’m looking at you, Diet Pepsi – did it for me. They changed their formula.  And it was bad.  So much so that I quit.  Instantly.  And it wasn’t all in my head.  A fellow Diet Pepsi friend has also quit.  And she was a 5-6 canner a day.  Whoa.  If she said it was bad…   So soda – Goodbye.  I’m still drinking coffee – I need caffeine somehow!

I was reading a random magazine in a waiting room recently.  And saw an article about Tabata workouts.  Interesting.  The celeb was saying that she could do quick workouts with great results in her living room.  Uh huh.  Do you have 3 loud kids running around too?

I do love to run – I like to call myself a runner, because I enjoy it and can challenge myself to run faster, longer, harder.  But I’m not a “racer” – I will plug along, happy with my personal records and achievements.  It’s my sport of choice.  Mainly because it’s the only sport that does not require equipment.  Me + Equipment = Disaster that ends in injury (myself or others) or hysterical (how did you do that).

I ran in high school.  Not competitively on a team (at least not in high school).  But I ran for fun.  And some of you reading that…RUN for FUN?  Who is this crazy person?  My husband played tennis in high school.  And after taking me out to play a match or two, he understood the running/no equipment thing.

So, back to that Tabata.  I do love to run – but not having a treadmill at home, having LARGE dogs in our neighborhood with no fences, and me having a terrible fear of large dogs – my running takes place at the gym on the safe treadmill (my only exception for equipment).  And that takes a while.  A large chunk out of my already short day.

I had heard of HIIT workouts – but having only applied them to running.  And Tabata is a variation of that.  Working hard for a short amount of time.  You can do anything for 45 seconds.  Then a quick rest.  Like 10 seconds!  I found a few online and tried them – and now I’m hooked!  Now I have time to work in a workout, even if I don’t have time to go for a run.  I can do one that is 15 minutes, if that’s all I have.  And they are made to do in your living room.  Fast and fun!  And I’m even almost about to master my burpee.  Which I thought would never come…  But still, no equipment.

Make my own…

I am in the process of discovering coconut oil. I have read lots of articles like “101 uses for coconut oil” and “Can you believe you can do ___ with coconut oil?”  I’ve started using it in cooking – and now in other ways.  Those big lists are a little overwhelming.  So I’ve found that trying one new thing here and there is the best way… you know, moderation.

My first was toothpaste. I was having sensitive teeth – even with using a sensitive toothpaste. Cold was hurting so bad. Ugh. You better not make me give up my ice cream and my smoothies. So something had to be done. And so… an internet search.  I found several blogs and articles about how an all-natural toothpaste can help with sensitivity. Ok, I’ll give it a try.  My toothpaste is a mixture of coconut oil and baking soda – and a few drops of peppermint essential oil.  The first few times I used it…um, is this what it’s supposed to taste like?  And you have to get used to the non-foaming.  But the cleaning that coconut oil does is amazing.  It has antibacterial properties – so it’s killing germs.  And the slick, clean feeling it gives is pretty amazing.  It sounds weird to be brushing your teeth with oil.  But after a few weeks… no sensitive teeth!!!

My second endeavor was perfect for the winter. And for fun little gifts, too! Lip balm!  Equal parts coconut oil and beeswax – with a few Vitamin E drops.  And then my essential oil of choice.  I started with peppermint for a festive Christmas-time flavor.  Then I tried lavender.  I’m a sucker for lavender.  There are so many choices.  I’m enjoying using my simple and homemade lip balm!

My make my own discoveries are not just with coconut oil.  My new favorite make your own are packaged seasonings – like taco seasoning and dry onion soup mix.  Both have much more flavor than their packaged counterpart and have much more flexibility.  You make a batch and use what you need for each recipe.  You can find recipes for these online – my favorites come from a great blog at Don’t Waste the Crumbs.


What…are you waiting for

I have done a lot of waiting in my life. The main one was waiting for my children. Waiting through infertility. Waiting through adoption(s). So I’ve gotten pretty good at waiting. If it were an olympic sport, I probably wouldn’t be able to compete for my country, because I have achieved professional levels in my sport!

So I’m used to waiting. Waiting for something to happen.

Now…or later.  It’s either/or.  You can’t have both. Right?  You are either living in the now… Or putting everything off until later.  But when does later come?

So maybe it should be now or never. The time right now is the only time it will ever be here. So what am I waiting for?

Right now.  I don’t feel like I am living in the now.  I just muddle through the day and hope that later works itself out.   Yep, I’m a planner and an organizer.  But my piles of later just keep adding up.  The crazy, mundane, exciting, irregular rhythm of each day just doesn’t allow for me to get past the right now.  Contradictions.  Because each day is the same, but totally different.  And each day can be mundane, but nothing close to boring.  Plenty of time, but no time to do anything.

Right now.  How do I make the most of right now.  What am I doing with my time NOW?  Is it worth it?  Is it something that needs to be done?  Is it making a difference in my life or in the life of others?  Is it something that I’m going to want to do again – because that is one good test of if something is worth your time.  Just like I don’t want to waste calories or money – time is not something to be wasted.  But it feels that those other two have visible consequences. You can see the number on the scale or the number on the bank account.  But time is ever-replenishing.  But really now will never be here again.

Later.  So later sits and waits.  Waiting for what?  When I am going to get to the later?  I guess the answer is NOW! What am I waiting for?  I want to be more intentional and deliberate – in what I do and how I spend my time.  I want to spend this precious commodity of time wisely.

I feel like most days I’m just trying to make it through the day.  Either trying to just survive by kind of shutting my brain off.  Or the opposite… trying to get everything done – at all costs.  Neither are positive or what I want to be doing.   So what do I want to be doing?

I need to put the big rocks in, instead of filling the jar with the pebbles of distraction and busyness.  I want to see the things that are important and pursue them with fervor.  What am I waiting for?

Welcome to Vivacious Home

The blog that I have wanted to do is finally here. I’m getting it started in the new year. Maybe a few days later than the first of January… the traditional kick off to new year’s resolutions.

The word vivacious means happy, lively, joyous and energetic. That is what I want my home to epitomize. This is what I want all the areas of my life to be! So come with me as we make our homes more vivacious.

•  Organizing is an important part of my life – ideas, how-tos and my personal projects can be found in the Organized Home.  Organizing can be fun – and even a little joyous, especially that final product!
•  Being a stay at home mom is my full time job… And I want that part to be joyous.  And it needs lots of energy!  My thoughts, discoveries and journeys will be found in the Mommy at Home!
•  And a new challenge for myself is making my own products at home – instead of packaged, store-bought items.  This exploration is going to be slow.  And a little trial and error.  Well, a lot of trial and error.  This fun challenge (at least for me) will be found in the Healthy Home.  


I might need it one day

The two main reasons that most people don’t get rid of stuff are that they represent memories of treasured moments or that you might need it one day.  And I, too, do this so much of the time.  I have been going through tons of stuff recently.  Stuff in piles and piles…in the garage and basement…in closets…on the floor.

And what I’ve come to realize about the stuff that “I might need one day”  Sure, I might need it one day.  But why?  There are three breakdowns (at least with me) of the “might need” tendencies.  And identifying these will help me say goodbye to some of the stuff that keeps sticking around.

“I did need it”
I had the amazing towel holders for the bathroom.  It wasn’t a bar – it wasn’t a ring.  Those things are just too fussy for me (ha) – I don’t want to have to arrange a towel through something.  I know, lazy!!  But these were like a combo of those two things – just slide the towel on the side.  And they were about the only thing I liked about the bathroom at the time.  But then the tub got a crack – and 2 months later, we had a renovated bathroom. (started with the crack, then we just kept going)  A bathroom I designed and was so excited about.  Including new towel holding devices.  So why keep the old towel hooks?  I did love them and did need them.  And (apparently) I’m really picky about what I put towels on. I think it comes from not wanting to find that certain thing that worked… again (more with the lazy!)  I’m never going to put them in the “new” bathroom.  And I have towel holding apparatus in the other two bathrooms already.   Are the towel bars a treasured item?  No.  Bringing fond memories?  Um, no.  So why keep them?  I did need them.  I did enjoy them. They served their purpose.  And I’m not going to use them again.  Why hold on?  Goodbye towel hooks.  I wonder what else I have used and loved – that can go too?


“I want to need it”
This one is a tricky one.  It’s more of wanting to want something.  It’s that shirt that you thought you had to have, and it was on sale too.  But when you got it home, it just didn’t work.  Or when you find something and just settle and purchase it – instead of holding off until it’s the right time, place and price.  Many of these things you keep because of the guilt of the purchase.  Since you already paid for it, you just feel that you need to find purpose and life for this item.  Those shoes that I bought for a special occasion.  I had to have them – like they were required with the dress.   But I did not like them that much.  And they hurt.  And well, they really didn’t fit.  But I kept them to maybe use them again.  Did I?  No.  They just keep following me around, staring at me, waiting to have a new life on my feet.  But we both know (me and the shoes) that I’m never wearing them again.  It would have been nice to love them and use them.  Buying something – thinking it will infuse fun into your wardrobe or seeing how cute it looks on someone else.  But in reality it never happens.  When you see it in the closet, it just reminds you that you don’t love it.  It’s not you – and it just sits there.  Even if you really really WANT to love it, it’s never going to happen.  And it’s just taking up space. That book you really wanted to read (or thought you should read).  The  These items are usually easier for me to give up, because when I take that second look, I know that I’m never really going to like this item.  And that I probably never did.  I just wanted to.


“I might need it in the future”
This is a little different than those other two. This is the true “I might need it one day” – and it usually is the one that strikes most often.  The “OH NO, what if I need it in the future and I get rid of it now?!”  These are the things kept for that just in case moment – something that might happen in the future.  It has probably been used once or twice.  And now it just sits there – just in case.  I got rid of over half my cookbooks.  I love to cook.  I want to cook.  And yep, I need to cook.  But with the internet and limited time, the cookbooks aren’t realistic right now.  But getting rid of them was hard…  What if there was that ONE recipe that would change family dinners forever.  And I just gave the cookbook away!  What if I need that particular serving dish?  Or pair of jeans?  Or garden tool? And crazy things… like a washing machine adapter from 3 houses ago.  That fear of “what if I need this in the future and I have to buy it again” – I might as well hold onto it…  But doing that with a roomful of stuff just turns into a mess (just ask that corner in my basement).  And even if you have kept it, you probably won’t know where it is when you actually need it.  What is needed is prioritizing!  Realitizing! (sure, why not)  Then find what truly brings you passion.  And what you truly need.  This category is my toughest purge.  Items that had very limited usefulness – they haven’t fulfilled their entire purpose.  This one takes honesty.  What do I really need RIGHT NOW?   

What’s my style?

After doing a few trouble spots of organizing in the house, what is next?

What is my organizing style?  It may seem, by watching home improvement shows or reading magazine articles, that there is a right way to get organized.  But there are SO many different styles of getting through all the stuff and finding a system that works for you.

The most important thing is to find an organizing system that works for you is that it is easily maintained.  But here are a few basic principles to keep in mind:

  • Find a spot/home for everything – nothing lands and stays randomly
  • Keep surfaces mostly clear
  • Pair down enough so that things can “breathe” – aka you can see everything!
  • Group like-items together

You might not be a labeling person – and that’s ok!  You might love storage boxes or baskets.  You might like to hang things on the wall (going vertical is a great way to use space).  I love to label, and I like to contain things.  But you might like open shelving and easy access to items.   What you want to find…is all your stuff!

You want to find a system for you that you can maintain.  There will probably be an initial purge.  But after that, there needs to be a plan for things that enter the house.  And this can be for each area as you get to work on them – different plans for different areas of the house.  The plan will change over time.  And the plan will be forgotten.  And cleaning out will happen again.  But getting to know how this system works for you in YOUR house will help in the future.  It’s best to not just throw everything out (even though, some days, I just want to do that) – it’s going to be a slow-going and sometimes frustrating process.  Yikes!  Who want to start now?!  Yay?  But it’s like a diet – you need something that will work long term.  A crash diet will work short term, but it’s hard to maintain and there is major burn out quickly.  To be organized in the home is to find a “stuff diet” that works – and can keep working.

The goal should be that you are using your home and storage areas to have the things you need and know where it all is and have easy access to it when you need it.  I am going to be on this organizing journey too.  I like to do it – but sometimes it just NEEDS to get done!  Organizing is an ongoing project.  Things are always coming in the house and need a home.  And if the stuff that’s already here doesn’t have a home, where is the new stuff going to go?

So I am going to be tackling some big areas in the near future…  There’s a room in my house that has been catching stuff all summer (and for the past 4 years) – and there are so many things that I need in that room, that I think are in that room, and I have no clue where they are.  Or I have to move stuff out of the way to access them.  And it’s driving me crazy.  It wastes my time.  It results in duplicate stuff.   And the time is now… or at least very soon!

The to-do list

Now the big clean-out seems to be looming in the future – at least at my house.  It hasn’t happened yet.  I hope that it will soon.  But admitting that it needs to happen is the first step, right?  I have identified the problem.  And I know what I want it to look like.  But finding the time to get it started, let alone get it done – with all the other daily stuff that the house and people IN the house need – is a task in itself!


So I’m going to talk about another organizing tool – or torture devise – depending on how you see it!  The To Do list!  Some people love writing out lists and checking things off – and some people just keep the list in their head.  But however you do it, you’ve got a list.  Somewhere.  And as for me, I have a ton lists.  A daily list.  A long term list.  A weekly list.  Lots of lists!

So to those that do not like the list, here are some benefits to making to do lists – about anything, really – long term projects, daily tasks, things to get, things to do.  And some ways to use the list, once you have made it!

The Good:

Visualize – You get to see what needs to be done.  Sometimes the task seems so big, that when you write a list, it doesn’t seem so bad.  Or the flip side of that – the task seems simple, but when broken down, it is revealed to be more involved.

Prioritize – Having the tasks written out helps you see what needs to be done first, get you on the right track and keep you on the track!

Sorting and Grouping – The list will also help you sort and group items together – making things a little easier…

Delegate – This is a great way to get through the list faster.  Get some helper!

Remember – And yes, the list will help you remember what needs to be done.


However, there are some bad things to making lists.  Yes, I know, I just said that.  Unbelievable, right?  But this is where I am most of the time.


The Pitfalls:

Lose the list – Where did it go?  Now what?  I wrote it down to remember.

  • Go digital with backups.  Or store lists in a notebook or journal.

No action – You get caught in just making lists and nothing ever gets done.  Then the list keeps growing and overwhelms you.

Dreaming too big – Sometimes you add too much to the list or start getting too deep – instead of focusing on “first things”

  • For these two, start small and keep things focused on one topic or area

Making vague lists – Not being specific enough about what needs to be done can be immobilizing.

  • Instead of saying “clean room” say “fold clothes, make bed, etc”


So with those ideas in mind, let’s make some lists!!

Where to start?

So the weekend is almost here, fall routines are finally kicking in and the house still seems to be disorganized.  The relaxed and haphazard days of summer are long gone, but now the fall stuff is sitting on TOP of all the summer stuff in the house.  Those “summer” projects are still sitting there – that room, those shelves – that were going to get to before school started are still there.  And now things that have come in the house for school, for fall, for later – are now piled on top of those undone projects.  So how do you dig out of that?  How do you get motivated?  How do you get started, if NOW is the time to get organized?

Start Small.

Pick something small to start with – I suggest a drawer.  Now, which one?  Find a drawer (or even a small cabinet) that is just bugging you.  It could be a desk drawer, or one in your bedside table.  Maybe even a kitchen drawer, like the utensil drawer.  Here are my criteria on what to pick for that first “get you going” project:

  1. Pick a small area that can be started and completed within 30 minutes or less.
  2. Pick an area that is used often and would benefit from a quick emptying, purge and cleaning.
  3. Pick a spot that will give you high impact after it is done – this is good encouragement for your brain to continue the process and pick the next spot!
  4. Pick a place that is “neutral” – meaning no emotional items or hard choices need to be made.

One place you may have that you might want to start would be a “junk” drawer in the kitchen (or in my case, a junk spot).  My advice is save that one for a little later.  It could turn into an archeological dig that might stir up emotions and would probably take longer than you think.  This spot is usually the “save for later” spot.  There is a reason that so many things land here.  It’s where things go that have hard decisions with them.  Should I keep it or not?  Where should I keep it?   How about here for now…  Save this drawer for a little later in the process!!

A good place to start in the kitchen, if that is where you are motivated to be, is the pantry OR fridge.  Most items are easy to make decisions on.  Has it gone bad?  Are we going to eat this?  It’s a great way to clear out and make a huge impact!   Another one is the utensil drawer.  It’s pretty easy to do and just a clean and straighten can make opening that drawer more pleasant!


So once you decide your spot – and set aside your time to do it – get going.  Because this small accomplishment will get you motivated to attack that corner of your closet.  Or that junk drawer which might be next…

On the Move – organizing the car

Yet another comment this morning to me about how clean my car is.  Well, I guess it is, but I guess it’s just normal to me to have it that way.  Yes, I did take all the seats out a few weeks ago and vacuumed to make room for field trip goers that I was driving to and from.  But really, it usually is just that neat.

It’s interesting that I DON’T have a no eating rule in my car.  We do eat in there.  Maybe not super messy stuff – like Cheetos or powdered donuts!  But we have nuggets, goldfish, and the standard toddler snacking fare in the car many days.  So, how does it stay so neat, with three kids under 6 years old?  I’m not THAT neat?

Here are some of my tips that I have implemented over the past few years:

  1. Have a place for trash to go.  

If you accumulate LOTS of trash during a single day, think about getting a small bath trashcan and just putting it in the floor of your car.  Throw a plastic shopping bag in there (from Target or the grocery store… we all have those!) and then take the bag out every few days.  I have a small bag in my console that collects tissues, gum and wrappers.  I actually made it out of a few paper lunch bags (to give it a little heft).   You could use a bag, a plastic bin – they even sell vinyl bags for trash collecting specifically for the car.

  1. What comes TO the car goes back OUT of the car.  

I have a rule when we get home from school.  You take your own backpack up to the kitchen – so that mommy can unpack lunchboxes and get folders unpacked and organized.  And anything else come out of the car, what you TAKE to the car, you have to carry back in the house.  It’s kind of like hiking in the forest – Carry out what you carry in.

  1. Stock supplies in the car.  

I have small children – that always seem to get covered in stuff.  Or get stuff on ME!   So I have wipes in the car – not in a diaper bag – just accessible for any kind of wiping or cleaning needs.  I have used them for EVERYTHING!  First aid, muddy shoes, spilled coffee (oops mommy) and well, for the traditional use for wipes!  Also have pen and paper – just throw a notebook in the glove compartment with a pen clipped to it.  Also, a first aid kit:  this could be store bought it or just a baggie of band-aids.  Our family is, well, challenged with walking sometimes, so I have LOTS of band-aids, Neosporin, antibacterial spray and a few other things.   Also, think of specific needs your family might have – things that seem to always be needed when you are in the car.  We have a few books and toys for when we are waiting at various places.  Also, think of specific needs for each season such as bug spray & sunscreen for summer; maybe gloves or an ice scraper for winter.  And make sure they are all gathered in something.  Find nooks and crannies to store these things in your car.  Or get a caddy or a seat organizer.   Nothing is on the floor – nothing is flying around the car!  I have a couple of spot in my van where things can be stored – then I have a “kid kit” in a backseat organizer.

  1. Eating in the car.

Establish what rules you want for your car.  These will vary greatly depending on how much time you spend in the car and the eating habits & ages of your kids.  I mentioned our eating rules for our car.  We do sometimes eat lunches in the car.  I have divided lunch containers that I use if packing from home.  And I have emergency plastic cups and bowls that I use to divvy out chicken nuggets or some kind of food from a drive-thru when we are on the road.  This helps to decrease trash explosions and reduces spillage!

  1. Emergencies. 

Things will happen.  And a few things you can plan ahead – for those just in case moments.  Things like jumper cables.  Or extra clothes for your kids.  Or for YOU!  Most of these “emergency” supplies don’t come to the car until after you have the emergency and DON’T have the supply you need.  When you end up carrying home a pants-less child because of an accident.  I have extra clothes for my kids in the car (you can guess my emergency that I didn’t have supplies for).  Just think about who you guys are and where you go – and if there’s room, stick a few things in there.  You will hopefully never have to be glad you did.  But if you do, whew!!

Keeping things off the floor – while having what you need – is the trick to have a neat and highly functioning vehicle.  But that IS the trick, right?  Easier said than done?  Some days, it’s just not going to happen, but one rainy Saturday, clean out that car!  And you will be amazed how much space there is.  And you might even find that lost soccer sock or the missing chicken nugget…  Gross.