Sunday, June 28, 2015

Surviving Mass With A Young Toddler

 Going to Mass since The Minion became mobile has been a challenge to say the least. Sometimes, especially when Mr. Crunch is gone, I seriously consider staying home. If I'm being honest, I have stayed home a few times because just thinking about going is overwhelming and stressful.

The Minion is 20 months old on Tuesday and I think we are finally through the hardest time. Not to say it's easy now, but I no longer feel like bursting into tears halfway through Mass, today I didn't have to leave the pew and stand in the back with her, NOT ONCE! I am absolutely sure I just jinxed myself, but at least I have hope.

Did my daughter magically become an angel child? (No way, as evidenced by the grapes all over my dining room floor). Is 20 months a magic age? (No, some kids are never this hard, and some are worse for longer). So what happened? Time and consistency. We have been going to church almost every Sunday since she was 4 days old. Plus she is finally getting old enough to understand the limits of the pew.

First, let me say, this is my only child. I am by no means an expert. This is all compiled from advice that was given to me, things I've tried, and things that I've seen other parents do.

What to bring:

Cheerios or Goldfish in a snack cup are great options. I've seen parents with crackers, popcorn, fruit loops, pretty much anything that is dry and easy to sweep up. Tip from one of my mom friends: fruit gummies are nearly impossible to get out of a carpet when they have been stepped on, don't bring them to Mass.
Oh, and don't forget a drink, water is easy clean-up.

Prayer books are always good, but really, any book that doesn't roar, sing, chirp, or make other loud (embarrassing) noises during the consecration.

Same rules apply as books. Pretty much anything that doesn't make noise. I try for soft or rubber toys because they aren't as loud when they get banged on a pew or thrown on the floor, but whatever keeps the kid happy. Happy kid noises don't bother people nearly as much as unhappy ones.

Crayons/Pencils and Paper
Bring at your own risk. This has worked for us though.

Now What?

1. Pick a Mass time that works for your schedule.
Before The Minion was born and when she was little, we usually went to the noon Mass at our church in town. We enjoyed staying in bed, eating a big breakfast, and basically just lazing around before Mass. The problem now is that we usually eat lunch around 12:30, then naptime is around 1:30. Expecting a toddler to be contained from noon to 1(:15) when she is tired and hungry is a recipe for disaster. I recently discovered that waking her up and taking her to Mass at 8am works really well, she is still sleepy for the majority of Mass and mostly cuddles, nurses, or plays quietly. But 8am doesn't work for Mr. Crunch's work/sleep schedule. So when he is home, we try to go to 10am Mass in the next town over. The short drive is worth it for a happy toddler, plus they have more space in the back of the church for kids to wander.

2a. Let your child pack their own church bag
I only figured this out today. I let my Minion pick her own books, and toys. Then I had her put them in her bag along with her cup and goldfish. For the first time ever, she was actually interested in reading her books instead of precariously flipping through the church song books (Why has nobody figured out that those pages need to not rip so easily??).
Remember that too many choices can be hard for toddlers, so let her pick from just a couple of her favorite books and toys.

2b. Have designated toys and books for church
Keep a bag by the door or in the car with a few toys, books, and snacks that are specifically for Mass. Don't let her play with anything in the bag unless you are at church.

3. Find ways to prevent a morning rush
Obviously this isn't always possible. But if it's a problem for you, maybe try picking a different Mass time. When we go to 8am Mass, I try to make sure I'm totally ready before waking The Minion up. Then I tell her that we are going to church, let her pick a dress, let her pack her bag, and generally just take our time. (I try to do this with all our outside activities, not just church.)

4. Be consistent
It may seem like the easy way out, but the less often you go to Mass, the harder it will be for your toddler. Kids need consistency and routine in order to thrive. If going to Mass isn't familiar to them, there is a higher chance of meltdowns and they will have a much harder time staying in the pew.

5. Engage your child in the Mass
It's ok to talk a little (in a soft whisper of course) to teach your little one what The Mass is all about. Start with the practical aspects: "Listen to the pretty music." Do you see Mr. Smith? He is reading us a story about God."
My daughter's favorite part is when the bells ring during consecration and I tell her "Jesus is here now!"

6. Remember...
Just because you have walked into church doesn't make your toddler any less of a toddler. She still can't sit still, he still hasn't learned to whisper, she still hates shoes, he still loves to talk to every person he encounters. All of that is OK. Really.
The little old lady sitting behind you loves interacting with toddlers because she misses having them.
The teenager doesn't care because he is looking for every excuse not to pay attention to Mass.
The young couple can't wait until they have a toddler of their own.
The other parents aren't paying any attention to your kids because they have their own to worry about.

If your child is yelling, running around, or has a tantrum, remove them temporarily. That is simply respectful of those around you. But a bit of whining or normal toddler exploration is no reason to leave. You getting up every 5 minutes is probably more disturbing than a little noise.

My Minion likes to sit on the floor just outside the pew. She doesn't wander off or bother anyone, she just plays at the opening to our seats. This would only be a problem during communion, and she is very much occupied by other things during that time, so it doesn't matter. She will learn to sit quietly with us in time, as we teach her.

Someone got annoyed at your toddler? Say a prayer for them. Maybe they are having a hard day/week/year. Maybe they just can't see how much joy a toddler has. Whatever their reason, that you don't know, say a prayer. Then sit near someone else next week.

7. Read this post
and remember that bringing your children to church MATTERS.

*images from Google search

Chime in: Do you have trouble with your toddler in church too? What tips do you have for us parents in the trenches?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Harry Potter Closet

We have this wonderful closet under our stairs, we call it our Harry Potter Closet (for obvious reasons).

This is the perfect place to store seasonal items that we aren't using, Winter coats go there in the summer and flip flops in the winter. We also keep gallons of paint and paint supplies in the very back since the closet is wonderfully deep.

It also happens to be a convenient place to shove things that don't really have a home. Like unused carseats (one of which was crashed and can't be used anymore!)


Got rid of the crashed seat, stored the other one in the nursery for now.
Several of my shoes are from my days as the office manager at a local opera house. I had to dress up regularly and wore heels a lot. All of those fancy heels went in the yard sale pile, along with many other pairs of shoes that I don't wear anymore, and haven't worn in a very long time.
Army backpacks went in the closet with my husband's other Army gear (go figure!)
Maternity clothes that were given to me, but are either ugly or way too big, went in the yard sale pile.
Hat on the door went upstairs with my other hats.
Yoga mat.... I used it once, the day after I bought it.... probably 3 years ago.... Yard sale.
Outdated phone books - recycle bin. (who even uses phone books anymore?)
A big pile of manuals and various notes left by the previous home-owner has yet to find a home. I am working through our 'filing' boxes today though. They will soon have a proper (and useful) place.

Embarrassing story time:
This winter we got a leak in the ceiling of the playroom. It was caused by an ice dam in the upstairs porch, which was caused by too much snow on the roof above it. We hired someone to come clear the snow and the leak went away.
While cleaning out this closet, I re-discovered all the notes that the previous homeowner left us. Right on top was a note telling us to clear the snow off that roof because it will cause leaks.
Homeowner Fail.

That is what poor organizational skills and clutter will do to you.

Aaaaaaanyways, I know you are ready for that after picture now!

We actually wear all those coats at various times throughout the year. Darn New Hampshire weather.
The 2 pairs of heels/wedges that I actually wear. Plus a pair of flats (my other 2 pairs of flats joined them)
Our flip-flops hadn't come out for the year yet.
2 bags stayed on the door because they have winter hats and mittens in them (one bag for my stuff and one for the kid stuff)
Basket of winter boots and maternity sneakers. Mr. Crunch's winter boots don't fit in the basket.
A single backpack (far right) that Mr. Crunch actually uses pretty regularly.
Paint and supplies in the back are actually accessible now!!

All in all, this turned out to be a super successful project.

Chime in!  Leave your decluttering victories (or failures) for this week in the comments.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Homemade Orange Cleaner, with a bonus superpower!

Every frugal homemaker has come across the idea to use vinegar as a cleaner. But I don't like the smell of vinegar on its own, I'm also not sure I trust its supposed disinfectant qualities. So instead, I make an orange infused vinegar cleaner. 

Orange peels have lots of great qualities that make them perfect for cleaning. These qualities include being anti-microbial and anti-fungal source 

To make the cleaner, you will need
2-4 Large Oranges
White Vinegar
A Large, Clear Jar (Approximately Quart Size)

Start by eating a couple oranges. Feed them to your kids, your husband, or some random person on the street. SAVE THE PEELS. 

I let her play with her food when I need cute pictures.

I'm told that orange peels will stay good in the fridge for several days, but I've never needed to try that because we can easily eat 3 or 4 oranges in one sitting.

Stuff the peels into a large, clear jar. I use a quart size mason jar. My oranges were big, so I only used 2. Loosely filled the jar about 2/3 full.

Fill the jar with white vinegar and cover with a plastic lid or plastic wrap. 
Vinegar can corrode metal, so avoid metal lids. 

Place your jar in a bright, warm place to aid the infusion process. Also, so you don't forget its there.

Mine goes on the cookbook shelf in my kitchen. Nice and high where the Minion can't reach it, but out in the open where I can keep an eye on it.

Let the infusion work for about 2 weeks. I check it every couple of days to make sure that none of the orange peel is sticking out of the vinegar. It has the potential to turn moldy if it sits above the vinegar for too long. Just push it back down and stir it in every so often. 

Another tip is to write the strain date on your calendar. I never remember when I started it, so if I don't write dates down somewhere, it ends up sitting for a month. Not a big deal with this infusion, but it turns out a nasty apple cider vinegar. 

It's also a good idea to label your jar. I sometimes have a couple different infusions or fermentations going, so its nice to know exactly which is which.

After straining the vinegar, put it back into the glass jar.
To use: for everyday cleaning, dilute it about 50/50 with water. For more intense cleaning, you can dilute it less. It won't hurt anything to use it straight.

I promised to share the bonus superpower of Orange Vinegar. 

It Repels Ants!!!!

I don't know if that is as exciting for you as it is for me. We have an ant colony living  under our driveway, so they are bad. I haven't had a single ant on my counter since I started cleaning with this orange vinegar. I scrubbed the playroom with it, and no more ants. I will have to do that room again I'm sure, but that's only because I don't already use the cleaner in there on a daily basis like I do in the kitchen and dining room.

That's about it! Super easy. I'm going to try an infusion with Thyme and Lavender soon too. I heard that it smells amazing.

Chime in!! Do you use a homemade cleaner in your home? What else do you make yourself?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Perfect Cinnamon Pancakes

I know, I know, everyone claims their recipe is the one and only perfect recipe. So I will just say that these are perfect for my family. We can't get enough of these when I make them.

Yes, we sometimes sit on the floor to mix pancakes.

Since we don't eat them often, I splurge and use all white flour instead of half wheat flour like I do with every other baked good. Although I have tried using half wheat flour and they are still very yummy.

The secret is the melted butter. That is irreplaceable. If you are one of those people who thinks butter is evil, I recommend reading up on healthy fats and then adding some real butter into your diet. I promise, you won't regret it!

Mickey Mouse pancakes are hard....

One more thing, I ALWAYS double this recipe. Even if I'm just cooking for myself and The Minion. These freeze really well and I love having homemade grab and go foods on hand. I just throw them in the toaster to defrost and reheat, Mr. Crunch microwaves them, either way works.

It annoys me when people type up a huge blog post and all I want is the darn recipe, so I will get to it.

Perfect Cinnamon Pancakes
Adapted from this recipe.

1 and ½ cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 and ¼ cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Add milk, egg, butter, and vanilla to dry ingredients.
3. Whisk until a smooth batter forms. Heat a skillet over medium heat.
4. Pour ¼ cup batter into circles.
5. Flip once bubbles appear and sides are lightly golden.

These are also really good with fruit in them. Blueberries, strawberries, apples, whatever!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Fixing the Printer

Sometimes all it takes is to sit down and mess with settings.

Our printer wouldn't connect to my husband's laptop (which is currently the only one we own). Turns out we needed to send documents to the printer marked as Samsung, rather than the one marked as Samsung Copy 1. Simple fix, no clue how it happened.

I've been printing things at my parents house for 6 months because I didn't take the time to declutter the desk, which is what turned a 5 minute problem solving task into a 30 minute cleaning task.

Now I have a working printer AND space to use it!!


Also, don't forget to check the printer when you have toddlers around....

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Before and After, Bookshelf Declutter

I am FINALLY getting around to some of the decluttering projects I've been meaning to do. 
Today's was fairly simple. The bookshelf next to my work desk. You know, the work desk that is covered in all the junk that *should* be on the bookshelf...

Here is the before:

Consolidated some things, got rid of a stack of magazines, moved another stack to a more useful place, threw out a couple scrapbooks from years ago that have no relevance to me now, and found a lot of trash....
All in all, a lot easier than I expected!

Aaaand, here is how it looks now!

Plenty of space for the rest of the stuff hanging around the house that belongs here. But I also expect that this bookshelf will appear here again, that's still good bit of stuff.

Chime in: What have you decluttered this week?