w.u.w.: 'whew' edition.

Whew.  Just... whew.

This week has kicked my butt and then some.  I had previously been riding on a high horse, all like, "Oh, look at me!  I'm untouchable!  I'm patient with my kids lately, I feel like I have a handle on my life.  Ho, ho.  UNTOUCHABLE." 

I have since learned the error of my ways.

So, I told you about how last Friday night, Todd and I ducked out for an overnight to celebrate my birthday, right?  And how, by the time we got home the next morning, Rocco had started some kind of barfing shenanigans?  The actual vomiting was limited to a few hours that day, and by Sunday, though he was running a fever and was super cuddly/clingy, he seemed to be on the mend.

I figured it was just another stomach bug going through (our third in the past six weeks, mind you), and therefore I figured the other kids wouldn't likely come out unscathed.  I was right, and by Monday afternoon, all four of the other kids were out for the count.  Everyone was dealing with digestive pyrotechnics, one kiddo even trying to aim both ends of their stomach activity into the toilet at the same time.  It was a dismal failure, as I'm sure you could have guessed, and it required a follow-up discussion on where, exactly, to barf if you're already pooping.  (Into the tub, if you needed that clarification yourself.) 

The biggest three spent the day alternating between barfing and sleeping.  Laurelai sidestepped the GI issues until late afternoon, at which point her "illness" button switched to "ON: VERY ON" and she was puking every ten or fifteen minutes for the next twelve hours.

But then it didn't go away.  Rocco was still sick, and even more lethargic, on Tuesday.  He slept about 23 of those 24 hours, was awake long enough to cry about being tired and refuse a bottle, and then he would go right back to sleep.  I was getting seriously concerned for him, as well as Laurelai, who developed a deep chest cough and high fever that kept her up all night.  I was worried it might turn into pneumonia.

By Wednesday morning, Finneas couldn't control his bowels at all, Rocco woke up in a puddle of his own puke, and Laurelai's fever was so high she wouldn't even sit up in bed.  I called Todd and asked him to come home and cover for me so I could take the little two to urgent care.  I'm glad I called for backup because the visit took two and a half hours - after first being turned away by one clinic because they didn't take our insurance, I drove to another one, where they did all kinds of swabs and waited for lab results and did chest xrays and had the doctor come in multiple times, etc etc etc.  Both kids fell asleep in the exam room in the middle of it all, which tells you how sick they were.  At the end of it all, strep, influenza, pneumonia and RSV were all ruled out, with some suspicion that we're dealing with Rotavirus.  (It would have taken a stool sample to know for sure, so I was positive I didn't want to even attempt knowing for sure).  Blech.

Yesterday was more of the same: explosive diarrhea everywhere, tons of laundry, lots of naps.  Although Rocco did start eating and drinking a bit, which was the first time in days he would touch anything.  He ate some rice and a couple of bananas throughout the day, and while he adamantly shunned both water and apple juice, he would outright chug chicken broth from a bottle. 

By last night, I was just so mentally and physically spent that I asked Todd if I could run to the library for a bit, just to get out of the house.  If you know me at all, you know I am a total homebody, and leaving the house is never an appealing idea, regardless of circumstances.  However, I hit that point last night, and just sat on the floor of the library, in the architecture aisle, in the quiet, under the ambient lighting, and texted with my sister.  That's all I did.  Because I just needed to.   

Which brings us to today.  I have limited hope that things will be much better yet, since Finneas started throwing up again last night, and Atticus started running a fever.  BUT.  I did at least get all this week's horrible, dirty laundry done AND folded AND put away (a feat that only took about three hours, NBD), so I'm at least ahead of the game there.

And while there wasn't a huge amount of 'non-illness' news, there were at least a couple items of note.

I turned 31, and spent the day reading Harry Potter snuggled up to one of my favorite reading pals.

Finneas, before he got sick, was really riding the tuck pretty hard for some major fashion glory.

Also, he spent time nature journaling and I DIED AT THE CUTENESS.

And I'm now 28 weeks pregnant, and starting to realize that the time is flying.  I'm in full-on panic mode.

Aaaaannnnd that was our week.  Whew.

what a difference eight years makes. kind of.

I was searching for something in old blog posts the other day, and came across this photo, taken at 27 weeks with Atticus.

Compare that with this photo, taken a couple weeks ago with the newest baby.

There are some very noticeable differences. (In the first photo, I look so young! And thin!  And tan!  And my front tooth hadn't yet died and turned yellow from when Atticus eventually head-butted me in the face.  And I've gotten better at decorating.)  But there are also some very noticeable similarities.  Namely, the fact that I'm basically still pregnant.  Not pregnant again, just 'still pregnant.'  At least, that's what it feels like sometimes.

It's true what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I will say, I wish I could say my muscle tone had stayed a little more the same, though I am glad my eyebrows have changed for the better.

fighting a losing battle.

Well, it has happened yet again.  The stomach bug has hit our house.  And I, for one, am a little annoyed.

If you were to ask me any other year about the state of our family's health, I'd be all, "Oh, we're pretty healthy.  We usually get hit by a cold virus once or twice throughout the year, and a stomach bug every couple of years."  But this year, it seems like it's thing after thing after thing, and we can't even heal from one sickness before the next one comes calling.  In my tenure as a mother, I have never, ever seen a season of illness like this.  I have to admit, my pride has taken a hit this year.

So here we are again.  After missing two weeks of church because of a respiratory virus (that they are still recovering from, mind you), we had to miss church this week because Rocco had started throwing up Saturday morning.  By Sunday, the barfs had stopped, but he was running a relatively high fever.  Even now, he still has no appetite and has diarrhea.  And yesterday, the rest of the kids also fell in the battle.

We started the day at 7:00, with Finneas running into our room to yell that Atticus had thrown up in his bed.  I got his sheets changed and moved him to the guest bed with a bucket.  Shortly thereafter, Finneas started up.  Shortly thereafter, Penelope started complaining of a bellyache.

So I served chicken soup for breakfast, then we skipped school and watched Netflix all day.  The kids spent HOURS sleeping.  Laurelai woke up halfway through nap because it was her turn to start the whole process. 

As of last night, all of the kids have at least been hit, but I have no idea how long the bug will take to run its course.  Rocco is still sick four days in, so we may be hunkering down for quite a while as we wait for this to run its course.

Here's to crossing our fingers that Todd and I don't get it.  (And that Lauren and Austin don't either, as they spent the whole weekend here and were both barfed on by Rocco.)  UGH.  I am so ready for Spring, and a fresh start, and recovered immune systems!  Who's with me?!

how we celebrated my birthday.

Well, I can officially say that turning thirty-one doesn't kill a person.  I could have deduced it from the number of over-31-year-olds I've met in my life, but I'd never personally put the theory to the test.  Now I have, and as I'm still standing, I can tell you it doesn't appear to be fatal. 

My sister and her husband came down for the weekend to watch the kids overnight on Friday so Todd and I could duck out to celebrate.  And can I just say... It. Was. Awesome.

I ate high-end steak and lobster mashed potatoes.  I got serenaded by our waiter (mostly because we were his only table and I suspect he had nothing better to do with his time and he was already wearing a bowtie, so... why not?).  I ate crème brule cheesecake in bed while we watched HGTV.  I sat in molten-lava-hot bath in a jetted tub until I looked like a pregnant Craisin.  And I slept.

Like, I really slept.

In a comfortable bed, on a comfortable pillow, with a comfortable blanket, in a hotel room that didn't have that damp "hotel room" vibe.  And I didn't have kids coming out of their rooms for various 'justifiable' reasons every twenty minutes starting at the crack of dawn.  (I later learned that Laurelai started Saturday morning at 5:00.  And I got to obliviously sleep through it.)

And then we alternatingly watched Flip or Flop and the ESPN cheerleading championships while we ate breakfast in our jammies until we had to check out.

Apparently it doesn't take much to win the heart of a 31-year-old.  My 21-year-old self would probably not have believed that this is all I really wanted for my birthday at this point in life: to sleep and take a bath and eat a steak.  (Or, if I'm being a little more honest about how boring I was, even as a 21-year-old, I have to say I probably would have delighted in this even then.)

It was so restful and needed... especially because we got a text the next morning that Rocco was at home, barfing all over his doting babysitters and my new rug.  So I was glad to have gotten in a great intermission before jumping back into the fray of real life.

It's a good thing my real life is so good or I might feel a little sad.

'what's up' weekly.

This week has like zero photos.  Part of that is because I already showed you photos from our trip to the fire station, and that was basically the only photo-worthy event happening this week, and part of that is because I was busy and tired and over it this week, so the camera hardly ever came out.  So I guess you'll have to just read my writing.  (Or just honestly assess things now as a TL;DR kind of situation.)

Last Friday, we grabbed a picnic lunch and took it over to the gardens at Todd's office building to spend some time with him over his lunch break.  It was beautiful out, the kids had a blast, and I'm really hoping we can start doing that more often.  (Of course I forgot the camera.)

That night, Todd went on a men's retreat with our church, so he was basically gone from the time he left for work Friday morning until around 9:30 Saturday night, and I was on my own with the kids.  I spent Friday afternoon with one of my discipleship gals, and a friend from church dropped by unexpectedly for a while, and we actually got a full day of school in, so by Friday night I was totally wiped out and I just caved and ordered Jimmy John's delivery for dinner. 

On Saturday, some of our really good friends from Cedar Falls came down for a visit, and the girls took me out for lunch.  (And the guys paid my babysitters so I could go out with their wives, so it was amazing.)  It was so good to just be around friends who know me - I'm not sure I realized how much I'd missed that, or even realized how very hard this transition has been over the last year, until given the opportunity to just sit face-to-face with girls who know church planting, and know ministry, and know me, and just talk about what it's been like.  It was so good for me.

They dropped me off at home after lunch, but then both couples came back over in the evening after the kids were in bed so that we could all hang out together once Todd got home from the retreat.  It was so great, just laughing about stupid movie quotes, and talking about serious stuff, and telling dumb jokes, and just being with people who are like us.  Who just 'get' us.  You know what I mean?

On Sunday, the kids still had a cough, so we had to stay home from church, which stunk, since one of our friends was actually teaching that morning.  So I was extra grateful we'd gotten to spend the time together the night before.  The rest of the day was spent laying low.

Monday, we went to the fire station and I vacuumed out the van, which shouldn't warrant its own mention, but it was DISGUSTING and it no longer is, so I feel like bragging rights are earned.

Tuesday was spent getting ready for Connection Group, which was actually combined with two college groups that night, so there were like 25 people crammajammed into our living room.  It was an adventure.  My white rug got christened with a blob of melted chocolate and a near-miss with a full cup of coffee, but I didn't have a stroke about it, and Folex came to the complete rescue.  Thank the good Lord for everything Folex has done in my life.

Wednesday, we went to the Amish and I got together with a new discipleship girl.  And Todd finally had enough of the smell wafting through our house from the milky, wet, rotting carpet on our stairs, so he ripped the carpet out.  We are lining up the basement recarpeting project as we speak, and I wish I could fill you in on all the ways God has been just absolutely astonishing in his provision for all of this.  It's really incredible.

Thursday, we had friends from church over for dinner.

Which brings us to today - and I am so stoked.  My sister and her husband are coming down for the weekend, and they're watching the kids overnight tonight so Todd and I can get a night away for my birthday.  (I will be thirty-one tomorrow and I need a little time away to mourn.) 


BUT.  We'll be eating at an amazing steak place for dinner, and staying in a room with a fireplace, and renting a movie and eating dessert in our pajamas.  Maybe it means we've become those boring people that look forward to eating cheesecake and watching Netflix and going to bed at ten like it's the apex of life, but I'm okay with being those people.  So maybe becoming an old hag has its perks.


spring cleaning.

Years (lifetimes?) ago, I was a Spring Cleaner.  Like, hardcore.  I liked spring cleaning so much I did it twice a year, because only doing it in spring just wasn't enough for me.  I'd pull everything out of everywhere - closets, cupboards, shelves - sort things, scrub things, organize things.  I had lists for every room that started up at the top with the light fixtures and ended with the floors, baseboards and air vents.  And then I'd put everything all back in order and feel so good about the state of my life.  Like, if the depths of my house were clean, the depths of my soul felt clean.

That is so far removed from the current state of my life, it's laughable.  I mean, I still 'spring clean,' but the meaning has drastically changed.  Because it's spring, the kids are playing outside more.  Because the kids are playing outside more, they are getting dirtier.  And because they're getting dirtier, my house is a constant pit.

On the bright side, items do stay picked up longer, since the kids aren't inside creating chaos all day, but dang.  We're at the point where I have to take a magic eraser to the streak of grime running down the hallway walls twice a week.  I am that weird lady who magic erasers her walls twice a week.  I mop at least once a week, I scrub the bottom of the tub a few times a week.  I even have to wash the shower curtain on regular basis because it gets MUDDY.  (Not the liner, the actual outside, decorative one.)  HOW DOES A SHOWER CURTAIN GET MUDDY, I ASK YOU.  I'm surprised there's any dirt still left in the yard for them to bring in - it feels like it's already all been brought.

And to clean any of it up feels like that part of The Cat In The Hat Comes Back where they're trying to clean up the pink ring from inside the tub, and then it just transfers itself to the mom's dress, to the walls, to the rug, to the bed, to the snow.  It doesn't go away, it just dirties up the next thing.  I AM the kid in The Cat In the Hat, all panic-stricken and overwhelmed, like WHY WON'T THIS JUST GO AWAY I DON'T UNDERSTAND HELP ME.

So, all that to say, I do not regularly do the classic 'spring clean' anymore.  I'm too busy keeping my house from looking like a scene from a movie about the Dust Bowl to care about scrubbing the contact paper lining my kitchen shelves.  Priorities.

Now.  Off to scrub the same walls again.

our trip to the fire station.

Recently, we made some new friends at church, one of whom is a fire fighter here in town.  I think you can imagine the boys' excitement when they found out that a real, live fireman was going to be coming to our house for dinner.  And I think you can also imagine the mania that ensued when he invited us to drop by the fire station so he could show us around.  UM, OKAY!

We were going to go last Thursday, but everyone here was sick.  So we rescheduled for yesterday morning, but Lance texted and said he had something unexpected come up and was hoping we could push it back until the afternoon.  So, by 1:00 p.m. yesterday, after having to wait years and years and years to get to see the station, the kids were basically frothing at the mouth as we loaded into the van.

Then, to complicate matters, I first went to the wrong station.  (There are nine in town, and I thought he'd said to go to Station 3, but I was really supposed to have gone to Station 1.)  So that made us even MORE late.  Gah.  Mothers.  They ruin everything.

But, finally, we arrived!  And the kids had a blast.

In addition to the ladder truck, we got to see a foam truck and the fire boat.  Atticus thought he'd died and gone to heaven.  The only problem is that now he just absolutely can't decide on his longterm career path: Soldier (where you can't know for sure what vehicle you'll be assigned to man), or Fire Fighter (where you might have the opportunity to man multiple vehicles on any given day).  Real crossroads kind of stuff here.

Finneas clearly found his new hero.  (I should also mention that Lance spends his free time skydiving and SCUBAing.  Finneas could not be more in awe.)

Doesn't Finn look just like his new bestie?

Lolo wasn't so sure the hat went with her outfit.

And, as a great way to end the visit, Lance even offered to take a photo of me WITH THE KIDS.  And Rocco showed his face and everything!  This is a miracle photo.

And that was our time at the fire station - the kids are already devising the plan regarding when to go see each of the other stations in town.  So, if they have anything to do with it, this blog will soon morph into simply a 'fire station home tours' interiors blog.  Brace yourself.

it's time for the weekly 'what's up'!

Well, my positive attitude from yesterday was short-lived.  I'm just going to shoot you straight. 

The carpet cleaning guy came to assess the situation with the stairs, and was basically like, "Yeah, I'll clean the carpet, but there is SO MUCH MILK in there that the carpet pad and probably the subfloor under that is entirely saturated.  I can make it look better, but it will definitely smell terrible indefinitely.  You're going to have to replace it."  So, silver lining, he cleaned the rest of the basement carpet for free because he felt so bad about the stairs.  But brown lining, the milk is starting to dry and our whole house is starting to smell of rotting milk, wet carpet, mold and synthetic cleaning chemicals.  Yum.

And to top it all off, my morning sickness seems to be back in full swing, and the smell is just doing me in.  I've had the windows open all day and it's still all I can smell. 

So, to summarize: I have a virus AND scent-aggravated morning sickness.  We are now on the hook for paying the hundreds-to-thousands of dollars to replace the carpet on the stairs (and possibly the whole family room - the watershed at the base of the stairs extends pretty far).  And I'm finding out about myself that, when all is said and done, I'm not actually some hyper-spiritual, deeply positive, mature Christian woman, but rather a fickle girl-toddler in a great big body.  So I'm growing grouchier by the minute about the state of things.  Lest you think yesterday's post was static.

So, let's reminisce about the good times, shall we?  The days before the Fateful Milk Spill?  Okay, let's.

Last Friday, we wrapped up our second trimester of school, which felt fantastic.  The kids would agree.

(And on a funny note, can you guess whose watercolors are whose?  Opened on the same day, used with the same frequency, but clearly owned by two distinctly different kiddos.)

On Saturday, my parents came down to help us celebrate Finn's birthday in style.  Ninja style.

Five year olds sleep hard.  Cuddling their blankies and sucking their fingers.  In case you were wondering, five year olds are the best nappers.

Todd's boss gave the boys these old military-issue hats of her husband's.  The boys were thrilled (I mean, real-life, actually thrilled, not the kind of thrilled this picture would convey).

On Sunday, we missed church because Atticus had come down with some major hacking and snotting the night before.  I was apparently coming down with it as well, since I couldn't keep my eyes open.  We frequently take pregnancy photos on Sundays, since it's the one day of the week I can guarantee I'll get dressed and ready during daylight hours, but this Sunday found me looking slightly more typical.  Todd did not hesitate to get a glowing pregnancy shot anyway.

I had planned to lay low this week, since I have planning and prep to do for our final trimester, plus portfolio organization to do of last term's work, so I don't get too far behind.  But then I was sick, and Monday was spent miserable, and Tuesday was spent miserable and gearing up for Connection Group, and Wednesday was spent going to the Amish and cleaning up the stairs, and yesterday was spent lining up the carpet cleaner and scrambling to get something - anything - accomplished in homeschool planning and.... here we are.  Friday again.  Rocco is here to summarize how I feel at this point (and, honestly, how I dress at this point, too).

On the plus side, because I did that FB live chat on grocery shopping on Monday night, I actually got dressed and put on makeup, so I was able to redeem my pregnancy photo, despite the low lighting.

i'm literally not crying over spilled milk.

I'm not going to lie to you guys, I'm in rough shape.  Last week, I completely overbooked myself and stretched myself way thin.  I remember thinking, "I'm going to make myself sick if I keep this up."  And here we are.

First of all, the whole family has come down with yet another bug.  We are seriously almost never sick, but this late winter has been brutal.  I feel like it's just one thing after another.  Is anyone else feeling this?  I have been so sick this week - fever, painful chest congestion, sinus headaches.  Add on top of that the fact that I'm approaching the third trimester, and I'm getting huge, and sore, and tired, and still dealing with morning sickness and pregnancy headaches (which get much worse with overexertion), I'm just kind of... in rough shape.

And then there was yesterday.  I was already exhausted from our trip to the Amish.  Call me a pansy, but Wednesdays just wear me out - being gone from home so long, driving so long, carrying SO MUCH heavy milk in heavy glass bottles.  By the time we got home, I was absolutely drained.  So I rested the afternoon away. 

When Todd got home, he went to carry the outrageously heavy cooler to the basement to unload the milk into the downstairs fridge.  While he was on the stairs, the handle on the cooler broke off under the weight, and our glass bottles of milk went tumbling down the stairs.  Five glass bottles shattered into tiny shards all over the stairs, and two and a half gallons of milk saturated the carpet.  And my whole insides went quiet.

It is a strange thing - that's apparently what I needed to snap myself out of the funk.  Even as I was hauling my giant, sore, exhausted body up and down the stairs with the Shop-Vac, I couldn't help but kind of laugh.  I mean...

- "once we get new bottles, I'll have a few extra lids left over from the broken ones, which will save me the stress of having to account for every single lid at every single moment, because I can't afford to ever misplace one."

- "we will definitely need to have the carpet cleaned so the place doesn't reek of milk, and we weren't planning on that expense.  But this came right as we're expecting a tax return, and honestly the carpet could have used a good scrubbing, even without the milk.  It's nice to have a pressing reason to do what needed to be done."

- "I normally vacuum the basement stairs on Tuesdays, but didn't get to it this week, so it's not like I'm redo-ing work that I just did yesterday."

- "only five of our fourteen bottles broke, so we saved a large majority of the milk."

- "I only pay $2.25 a gallon for our milk, and $2.50 a piece for our bottles, so all things considered, it wasn't a huge cost."

- "I'm constantly surprised to see situations arise that would have, in previous years, made me lose my ever-loving mind that now really are just like, 'Oh, that figures.'  This life of raising tons of kids, and dealing with constant surprises, and constant opportunities for unanticipated work and interruptions, has tempered me.  It's nice to see the evidence of that."

So, while I'm still tired, and still sick, and still giant, at least the milk spilled everywhere.

rotating and organizing kids' toys (and books): pt 2.

Yesterday, I gave you a glimpse of our kids' (sad, yet-to-be-decorated) rooms and the toys they keep in there.  Today, I'd like to show you the rest of what we have, how it's organized, and on what occasions it comes out of hiding.

We have two closets in the house that are filled to varying capacities with out-of-rotation toys.  The boys' closet is where we house board games, small bins of different 'kinds' of toys, and my craft supplies.  Here's what toys are currently in there, and out of daily rotation:

(each * indicates a single tub or bin):
*small plastic animals and My Little Ponies
*a few items of dress up to rotate in and out
*trucks and cars
*Barbies and action figures
*toy tool set
*pirate ships (you have to have two of these, or who will a lone ship battle?!)
*wooden castle and accoutrements
*army men, soldiers, knights
*puppets and puppet theater
*train tracks and trains

The bigger items, like the trains, castle and pirate ships, are toys that I'll pull out for a day or so, to give the kids something novel to play with.  They're really great for when friends come to play, since everyone gets really into playing with an unusual toy, so they all stay really occupied and don't fight a ton.  The smaller bins will come out occasionally to either join or replace the more semi-permanent bins the kids already have in their rooms.

Rocco's room also houses toys, but these are more of the 'puzzles and activities' sort that come out to be used at the dining room table, under varying degrees of supervision, depending on the kid.

(Yes, it's a hard closet to photograph, since it has a mirrored bifold door, and yes, if you're trying to count at home, we own three - count 'em, three - pack and plays.  And have a huge stash of diapers, clearly.)

To some, it may seem like a lot, and to others it might not seem like much, but it's a manageable amount for me.  I feel like it's enough to keep the kids' interest without overwhelming them - or me - with outrageous toy chaos.  I simply try to limit the space I'm willing to give anything - a certain number of shelves for books, a certain number of tubs for toys, a certain amount of space in the closet, etc.  Once it outgrows its space, I start chucking stuff.  It's one efficient way I've found to keep our things from outgrowing its welcome and/or ruling over us.

As for kids' books:  I am very, very picky about what kids' books we own, especially board books.  We love Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle, and almost anything else is kind of open to the chop, should I so choose.  For picture books for the younger set, I keep anything with stellar illustrations or stellar writing, and once the dedicated shelves are full, anything else is at risk of the chop.  We have an excellent public library here, so I have felt less and less need to 'own' throughout the years, since we have basically any title we'd ever want available to us.  And I have noticed that, with fewer but better books on our personal shelves, it gives the kids the opportunity to fall deeply in love with a few excellent books instead of just showing mild interest in a lot of mediocre books, if that makes sense.

The lower two shelves of that wider brown bookshelf on the left are where I keep the kids' books: picture books on the lower shelf, chapter books on that divided upper shelf.   Those are all the kids' books we own that the kids have free access to.  We use the library heavily, and there are many classic titles that are kept on upper 'school literature' shelves, so these are their free reads.  Everything else you're seeing is either books for school, or books belonging to me and Todd.

I lean heavily on the Ambleside Online booklists, and the 1000 Good Books list to guide what I keep.  Honey For A Child's Heart is another great resource for finding high quality literature for children of all ages.  I don't religiously follow these, but they really do offer great insight on the authors and titles that will feed the minds of our kids in the long run, and help me discern whether a book is a keeper or a tosser if I have to start weeding things out.

And that is how we keep our kids' stuff organized, limited, and easily accessed when we need it!

rotating and organizing kids' toys.

I would like to take a moment to announce that, now that we've lived here for ten months, our toys are now fully unpacked and organized.  It took me this long because none of the closets had shelving systems, so I needed to get those installed before unpacking the toys that are currently out of rotation and stored in the closet.  (I'm kind of a slow unpacker.  I am pretty high strung when it comes to organization, and I would rather leave something packed until I find the most logical, helpful spot for it, than unpack it and stuff it in a closet somewhere, all willy-nilly.  And since not every closet or cupboard is already set up for efficient organization, and since we're on a budget, I often wait.  And wait.  And wait.)

So all that to say, our closets are now organized, and while the room toys have been unpacked for a while, all the closet toys now have a home as well.  If you haven't gathered already, we have separate 'room' toys and 'closet' toys, which is a system that has worked really well for a variety of reasons, so I thought I'd walk you through what all we have and how I keep it organized.

Today, let me show you how I organize the toys that we keep in the kids' rooms.

Each bedroom has a limited set of toys that all the kids have free rein of throughout the day.  All kids are welcome to play in any bedroom they feel like, with any toys they feel like - there is no 'territory' beyond their special blankies and snugglies.  The boys' room has dress up and Duplos.  (My boys play with dress up way more often than my girls.)  As it is a very sad, windowless, undecorated room, I will spare you many photos, but you get the point:

Dress up is in that laundry basket.  The bin on top of the dresser is full of Lego instructions.

The Duplos bin slides under the bed when not in use.  And I hope it's apparent that the boys made their own beds, and this is not the work of a grown up (meaning, me).

The girls' room houses baby dolls, Little People/peg dolls/small dolls, and kitchen toys.  Rocco is the most frequent patron of this room's toy boxes.  (Again, not fully decorated, but at least it has windows, which is a definite step in the right direction.)

Look, it's Baby Todd!

Why, yes, that IS a tiny plastic Jesus from the Dollar Store that I just couldn't pass up.  Doesn't everyone have one?

Rocco's room has the baby toys and the board books.  The boys play in here more than anyone else. 

There is also an area in our basement where we keep the Lego table and the bookshelves.

You might have noticed that everything is separated by 'kind.'  This helps keep things really simple: When there are too many toys of a kind to fit in a single box, there are probably too many toys of that kind.  It's time to start weeding.  Secondly, it helps eliminate those stupid 'nowhere' toys, like Happy Meal trinkets and rando plastic bits.  If there's no logical place for a specific item to 'belong,' it might be an indicator that the toy doesn't really belong in your house at all.  And thirdly, it helps the kids immensely when it is clean up time.  They know where everything goes, and how to quickly get it there.  And for the littler kids, who have a hard time with broad instructions like "Clean up your room," it makes it really easy to narrow it down for them.  ("Lolo, go find all the baby dolls and put them in their box.  All the babies - Go!")

Now, we have a lot of toys that aren't out all the time, too, such as toys that we get out every so often, just for the day, or bins of toys that I will switch with the current room bins to keep things interesting.  Tomorrow, I can walk you through what all I keep back, how it's organized, and how I rotate it through.

See you tomorrow!

And for anyone that's interested, I will be live on Facebook again tonight at 8:00 CST, this time talking about groceries: budgeting (including what our budget looks like), menu planning, and shopping efficiently without losing your mind.  Join me over there!