Back To The Basics | Less Toys = Life With More

So, it’s been a little over two months since the lightbulb went off. That is about 10 weeks of increased sanity, increased time, and increased love of my home. I’ve tackled several areas of my home thus far, but my happiest is our toy collection. It is my belief that no matter if you have one or 10 children, you loathe toys. Am I right? They are everywhere. No matter if you are diligent about picking up said toys, they seems to appear in every spot besides the spots that you designated: sock drawers, your bag for work, the fridge… I was ready to declutter this part of our lives. R.E.A.D.Y.

I should set the stage. We have a very small home compared the American average. Please don’t ask me the square footage, because I have never been able to understand why we talk in square footage when it comes to homes. But, either way, trust me – it’s pretty compact for a family of five. I love that it is small. Small house payment. Small surface area to clean. We are on top of each other – and I like for my family to always be in my line of sight or within an earshot. – sorry for the tangent – OK, so our toys lived in every part of our house: the kids rooms, our rooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the den, and even outside! Seriously. Every room.

I decided I was going to confine the toys to three areas: my oldest daughter’s room, the twins’ room and our den. Then, I used the KonMari method and dumped everything into the floor of my den and started sorting. I found the easiest to get rid of where all the miscellaneous piecy kind of toys that had missing parts or were bound to have missing parts in the near future. DONE. The hardest to get rid of were books. We have been given so many beautiful children’s books over the years that I found the memories of people giving them to us made it difficult to part with them. I then resorted to a max number of books allowed and reminded myself of our fantastic library and the experiences we have had going to the library to pick books out. DStorage Container for decluttering toysONE. I purchased a clear box with a handle similar to this for a small collection of toys for the twins room. I also left a toy castle in their room between their cribs. Because my oldest daughter is at the age that she is able to play by herself, we allowed a few more toy options for her room. She houses all of the children’s books in the house as well as most of the stuffed animals. The stuffed animals now live in a pop up tent/castle that does an excellent job at concealing the large collection of stuffed animals that she was not able to part with. She also had a small(er) collection of Barbie and Barbie accessories in her room. All toys are now contained in similar clear boxes in her storage unit from target. The third place that houses toys is in our den. We have another cube storage unit that we store the following in: music toys, puzzles, blocks, plastic toy animals, and dress up accessories. We also have a basket with our balls and then a small kids table for the girls to sit at and play. The toy kitchen and kitchen accessories are also down there. Our arts and crafts are housed in a small fabric box on top of our tv and the games are right next to it in a plastic storage bin.

So, we no longer have toys in our line of sight no matter where we walk in our home. It takes me – MAYBE – 15 minutes to pick up the worst tornado that is possible. Yes, 15 minutes. I have control back. My kids are starting to play in concentrated areas instead of at my feet while I cook. I am happy. My husband is happy. And my kids hardly miss the HUGE AMOUNT that we donated to the Salvation Army.

If you are struggling to find a place to start in your home – try the toys. Everyone is happy to see those go!

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How to Survive a Beach Trip With Babies

emma backYes, a beach trip with babies and toddlers is completely doable. When my parents approached me a year ago about my thoughts on “spending a week at the beach” next summer, my only response (in thought of course) was “Are you flipping crazy?”.

Here is why:

1. I only get ONE PAID WEEK of vacation a year – and you want me to spend it all at one time?

2. Three kids ages 4 and under?

3. No pool?

4. A FULL WEEK? What will happen to my desk at work? It will take me 3 weeks to recover!

Ok. Ok. Once the automatic “No.” was decided upon, my husband sat me down and made me think about it. How often will we get the opportunity to spend the week at the beach? AND paid for?

So… we decided to go. And because it was not last minute (nothing with my family is unplanned), we had the chance to prepare the Dave Ramsey way. We saved a little each week for a year so that we wouldn’t have to worry about spending money while we were down there.

We are notorious for believing we are millionaires while on vacation.

So, my point here is to show those scared mothers and fathers that a beach trip is totally doable. AND, with proper planning, it should not break your piggy bank either.

SOME TIPS:
  • Plan to cook your meals at the beach. Not only is this a piggy bank saver, but a trip saver. We turned into so-called “beachbums” that week. We woke up bright and early for those inspiring sunrises (and because we usually had a kid screaming), ate our breakfast, then headed to the beach. We did not leave the sand until it was time to head in for supper. Cooking our meals allowed us to savor each moment in the beach breeze.
  • Don’t stay at a place with a pool. I was downright frightened about this lack ofbeachbums amenity. Our daughter has been on sand before (not during the summer) but we had never spent anytime at the beach in our 4-year parenthood journey. I have always heard horror stories about kids hating the sand / afraid of the ocean / stung by a jellyfish… what was I going to do with three young kids at the beach for an entire week if they hated the ocean and sand? So – my answer to this is to not give them the option to hate it! My oldest now looks like she is of a south-of-the-border ethnicity (I guess she already is a 1/4 Italian though) and could be a certified beachbum for the rest of her life.
  • Don’t overpack. Wow – you should have seen our van. I am now regretting not having a photo to hang in my house to remind me never to overpack again! Because I didn’t realize my family would turn into beachbums, we had enough clothing and toiletries to dad and twinslast us at least a month in our normal lives in Birmingham. If we were not in swimsuits, we were in swimsuits with coverups. The fancy outfits I brought to clothe my children in for the quintessential beach photo opps remained in our Vera Bradley bags for the entire week. I only remembered I packed them when I was repacking everyone on the last day. Geez. I can be very silly sometimes. I guess the saying down at the beach is true, “No shoes. No shirt. No problem.”.In that same vein – you don’t need $100 worth of toys and beach accessories to keep the kids happy. My four-year-old literally spent an entire day sitting on the edge of the water while scooping and pouring sand over her legs. The buckets and nets and frisbees and kites and sand tools all remained under our ez up with the adults and babes.
  • Don’t overplan. I know. I know. I just finished saying how important “proper planning” was… What I mean here is that you don’t have to have a slue of activities planned to occupy your crew. I mean, it costs a small fortune to head to the coast anyway. Jet-skiing, parasailing, deep sea fishing, etc. will not make the trip any better if you are hopping from one activity to another. My best takeaway from our trip is that my brain went to Jell-O for 7 days. Thank you Jesus for such a great blessing!
  • Swimsuits not required! haha… no, I am not an aspiring nudist. BUT, my babies – thetwins real babies (14 months) – did not, I repeat, did not need the 5 sets of swimsuits I bought and brought with me for this trip. They also did not, I repeat, did not need the swim diapers. They wore regular old Pampers for the duration of the trip. I did put them in a t-shirt at bedtime, but they were semi-nudist for a week. And they loved it. And the pictures are adorable because of it.

All in all, the trip was better than I could have ever imagined it. For a woman who works full-time, I was slightly frightened at how my system would react to being around all three of my kids 24/7. I did MUCH better than how I imagined myself – not that I don’t believe myself to be a good Mom, but I am definitely not accustomed to hearing my name five million times in a day. 😉

sandcastlessand hillemma sandcastle

So, if you are on the fence about a beach vacation with your youngin’s, I am here to witness that a parent can survive and make memories. Best of luck to all of you parents, grandparents and guardians out there. Summer of 2015: I am looking at you with eyes wide open. You better be ready for the Romano crew!

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Prayers For Rain On Your Wedding Day

78_526597033435_7508_nYes, you heard me correctly. Rain on a wedding day is such a blessing. I remember counting down the days to my wedding day back in ’07. I was obsessed with checking weather.com for updates on a daily basis. April weather in Alabama is so unpredictable. I take that back. Weather in Alabama is so unpredictable. It really does not matter the time of year – you never know what you are going to get.

All of the planning and expectations could not have prepared me for the actual day. The beautiful, bright floral arrangements – because it was SPRING after all! The dogwoods were blooming. The azalea bushes were exploding with color. My wedding day pictures were going to be perfect. Perfect.

All week the forecast had been warning me of rain for Saturday. But, it was Alabama after all – so I believed in the forecast about 50%. The weather the night before our wedding was beautiful. 65 degrees. Zero humidity. The cute, cropped sweater I bought to go along with my dress would have been totally optional. I thought to myself, “self – we may get through this with rainbows! Oh, rainbows – what a magical touch for those flawless, colorful outdoor photos. Right.

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At our rehearsal dinner.

I woke up on my wedding day around 5am. My two best friends from college had spent the night with me and were going to help me get to the hotel where I would be getting made into the bride who was going to look amazing in front of those blooming azalea bushes and dogwood trees. We dodged the sprinkles as we loaded up my friend’s car with all of my bags, wedding dress, veil and shoes. It was gray and dreary. I wanted to cry. My friends kept assuring me it would probably clear up by my 3pm wedding and not to worry. I worried anyway.

I can’t remember if it was that morning or later that day that I received a text message from my soon-to-be-partner-for-life. He had done some research regarding superstitions of rain on your wedding day. He said he found that the Hindu believe that rain is a good sign as a “wet knot is harder to unravel than a dry knot”.

So, for all of you brides-to-be out there fretting about rain on your wedding day. Here are some other thoughts to help ease your worries. And, if you don’t get the wedding photos with the blooming trees and bright azalea bushes – it is not the end of the world. I would much rather have the luck of rain bring me 80+ years of a committed marriage.108_518339776045_3174_n

OH RAIN… How I love thee. Let me Count the Ways!

Rain renews. It feeds and brings new life. It hydrates our Earth. How can a life-giving and life-sustaining thing be bad?

Fertility. There are some who believe rain on your wedding day is a symbol of fertility. Well, my three tiny blessings are living proof of this theory/superstition/belief.

Fresh Start. Most religions believe that rain is symbolic for a new beginning. I am Roman Catholic. I baptized all three of my munchkins shortly after birth. The Holy Water was used to cleanse my little ones at baptism for their fresh start in the Catholic Faith. Also, if you have ever lived in a place where blooming trees and bushes paint the sides of streets and fronts of houses every spring, you also know how welcome rain is to wash away all of the pollen that is making you and the rest of your house ill from allergies. 😉 Rain washes away the impurities and allows for the air you breathe to be fresh.

God bless you rain.

10253801_10102192903685505_2461846037452914752_n (1)So, as you can see, rain on your wedding day can bring so many blessings to you and your significant other. It is raining, once again, on my 7th wedding anniversary. I feel just as blessed today as I did 7 years ago. Our knot is strong because it started off drenched with rain.

Happy Monday everyone!

-Cissy

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