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Toy Organization – Puzzles

Can you tell that we are plowing through our 2014 resolution to get s$it done and organized? I must say, it has been a really amazing feeling. This past Sunday, as we were waking up, my husband and I realized the household chores for us to do were minimal. I mean, there were huge things on our to do list, but nothing that was so urgent, that if we said, “let’s take a day off and do nothing,” our house would go into shambles. We had a relaxed, enjoyable day…went for a family adventure walk for a couple of hours on a nearby trail, made breakfast and dinner together, played board games in the afternoon, watched football, and all got to bed early.  It was a day that was truly a reward for busting our arses all week, and for putting in time and effort to be organized, and productive. As I mentioned the other week – this will all go down the toilet in a couple of months, but we are trying!  At times, things really important are being addressed – like ensuring if we are in an accident, my kids will be ok (check out last week’s post) – this week, the focus was toys. In a house with three kids – the toys are what can drive me absolutely bonkers. How do things that cause so much joy for children drive parents bonkers?? They are everywhere, slightly disorganized, and you know, deep down, your kids would probably be happy with half of what is in the house. So for now…we are up to toy organization – puzzles specifically.

My son (5) and daughter (2 1/2), are incredibly into puzzles. They will both sit at our kitchen table, forever, plowing through puzzle after puzzle.  They will do them individually, or together, or sometimes just give each other encouraging words across the table. I am loving this because they rarely argue while they are doing them (except sometimes, over who gets to put in the last piece), and I love seeing their building approaches to problem solving. My son is very into the 100 piece puzzles, and my daughter is loving the 24 piece puzzles. They both received a bunch of new puzzles for Christmas…so we now have about 600 new little pieces of puzzles hanging out around our house. This would be the one major downfall of this loved activity, for me mostly, because when a piece goes missing, well, all hell breaks loose. We are frantically searching for the pieces so that we can finish the puzzle…or the other side of it, we are cleaning up, and find one random piece. Where does it go!? AHHHH….

One of the puzzles that my daughter received for Christmas was a set of Disney Junior Puzzles:

She loved the puzzles, but I absolutely loved what I learned from these…on the back of each puzzle, there was an identifier. For example, on the Sofia puzzle, there was a princess crown, on the back of a Jake puzzle, there was a sword. Genius! This was the perfect way to make sure that we knew which piece went to which puzzle. At first, I thought I would write a letter, or number on the back of every puzzle. I then had a though, which falls nicely into my “encourage kids to be more independent and responsible” resolution (seriously – I have way too many resolutions over here). I pulled out stamps…

Toy Organization - Puzzles

and let them stamp away on the back of their puzzles.

Here is the example I showed them (they were a bit more overzealous in stamping theirs):

Toy Organization - Puzzles

I noticed that a lot of the puzzles were awkwardly shaped as well, and basically, a huge pain to put away on the shelves, taking up storage space. So I have also transferred them into the gallon zip lock bags, with a picture of them inside, and they fit nicely into a little tote in each of my children’s rooms.

Organizing Toys - Puzzles

When they want to do puzzles – they bring the tote downstairs, instead of lugging a bunch of boxes. With the stamps on the bags, we can also always find where a wayward puzzle piece belongs. I am loving this new organization, and especially that the kids played a big part in the organization:)

 

Next up is attacking my daughter’s baby dolls and dress up clothes. Both of these seem to be everywhere in our house…any ideas?

Do you struggle with toy overload? Any ideas to tackle with keeping it organized?

Meghan - January 13, 2014 - 2:59 pm

I LOVE this! Thank you, thank you for this fabulous idea!! Now if I could just take the time to do it! :)

Jess T - January 13, 2014 - 3:08 pm

LOVE this idea! what a great organization tip! we’ve used the bag holding method in the past but the stamps are brilliant – as is getting the kids to do it themselves :)

admin - January 13, 2014 - 6:00 pm

thats the beauty of it…the kids do the puzzle and the stamping – you just set up the ziploc bag!!! Minimal work for mom, but the reward of a cleaner house. Do it!!!

Angela Gilmore - January 14, 2014 - 10:07 am

What a genius idea! Jack just turned two and is not quite at the point where he wants to sit to assemble a puzzle. He mostly likes the picture on the outside of the box and he likes to take the puzzle apart as we assemble it for him. I was wary to even open the box at this point for fear of losing pieces. My biggest clutter, aside from clothes, is toys and we just recently bought one of those shelves with the cloth boxes. It has been great for keeping the clutter away but I think Jack has no idea his toys are in there. This goes with the whole, they’d be find with half the stuff theory.

Ellie {Musing Momma} - January 24, 2014 - 9:42 pm

AWESOME idea!!!

Posh - January 30, 2014 - 3:06 am

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! This idea will rescue this ADHD mama from puzzle piece madness (my daughter also has tons & got many more via xmas)! In return, a suggestion for your doll clothing containment issue… Have her store her “baby’s” clothes/accessories in diaper bag(s). The variety of sizing is helpful for finding one(s) for her amount of clothing. She will feel even more like a “mama” & BONUS less house clutter! Pick them up cheap @ thrift shops/yard sales (or ask friends/family for ones they’re done with)! Hope this helps!

admin - February 11, 2014 - 10:23 am

OH! I love the diaper bag idea!!!!! Then I can just hide the bags too :)

Organization of Family Photos

 

Family Photographs

Photo Credit: Half-Pint Photography

In my last post, I mentioned that 2014 is the year of getting stuff done. One of the items which has been on my to do list for the past, um 4 1/2 years, has been to better organization of family photos. I take millions of pictures. Between my fancy DSLR camera, my easy point and shoot that is in my diaper bag,my phone’s camera, and many sessions we have had with photographers, I have captured just a few occasions in my kids life. I have gotten better about printing out some of our favorites and hanging them in our home, but the other day when my son looked at a picture album with his baby pictures, he asked if he could see more. When I told him I could show him on my computer, we both realized that was not nearly as much fun!  Let’s be honest – when kids are grown up, are they really going to scroll through our Facebook or Instagram accounts to get their history? Even though everything is becoming paperless, isn’t it important to pick up a picture and look at it?

So, this is the year the pictures are going to switch from being on mommy’s computer (taking up oodles of space, I am sure), or in an online album (thank you, Snapfish for holding all of our memories so well) to real, physical albums that my children can thumb through. Now that we have gotten that far…I am in need of some help.

I need a happy medium of my current online system, and my own mother’s system of having perfectly detailed books for every year of our life, including the teeth I lost (yes, the actual teeth), hair from my head, etc. (I really do appreciate the detailed approach though, mom).  I have thrown around various ways of doing this – but would love some thoughts as well…especially from anyone who has an easy way to do this.

My plan of attack was to make family albums for each year, through a site like snapfish, capturing our vacations, day trips, family special moments, birthdays, and more. I could easily have 1 copy printed for us to look through and have as a copy for our home, and then could have 3 copies of each album printed for my children to have in the future, when they someday (very far far far) in the future, move out. I would then have a box of more personal pictures for them to hold onto. The other alternative is the old-fashioned way of printing pictures and putting them in albums for each individual child.

What do you think? Any great ideas out there on how to organize and save family photos?

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Elizabeth - January 9, 2014 - 6:28 am

http://beckyhiggins.com/about-project-life/
Love this simple way and also an online book version as well as a digital option. She has so many tips on kids drawings and how to incorporate.

Lauren - January 9, 2014 - 9:12 am

I am right there with you on trying to figure out the best approach with all of our pictures on our computer. My sister-in-law makes a photo book on Snapfish each year for both of her girls and has been diligent about doing this each year since they were born (if only I were that organized…sigh). I’m thinking this is the method I’m going to try even though it will take a while to gather up the past years for my boys, but hopefully going forward I will stay on top of them going forward.

Jen - January 9, 2014 - 9:20 am

Oh my, this post took the words right out if my mouth except I am 6 years, yes 6, behind. I am OVERWHELMED but I made this my new years resolution as well. I really do feel that the best approach is to make a photo book online for each year. This is my plan. I think I will include all 3 of my girls and family events like birthdays in each book. However, once I get started if this becomes too overwhelming to include it all in one book, I may lift certain things like vacations and Birthdays as small separate books. Big SIGH here. BIG BIG SIGH.

Polly - January 10, 2014 - 1:26 am

Dear MMB, I’ve been meaning to comment a number of times, since your post on new friends I think…thanks for this post, it is encouraging to hear we all share similar episodes…I agree 2014 will be a very productive year!

Regarding pictures one friend shared an interesting must do for her which was to document her children’s bdays. Which I’ve done too using picasa (picasaweb.google.com‎) and also printing them locally here in Singapore through a company similar to snapfish.

I’ve also started the classic family album as I love playing around with glue and stickers but I’m not there yet.

My husband has added to our shared calendar on our phones (we use simplyus) a monthly event called “monthly picture diary” at home with a glass of wine, we don’t always commit to it but when it appears I often think of a picture/s I liked that month and add it to our work in progress folder.

However what I find most helpful is uploading all my phone pictures and SLR pictures to a folder which I can have access to on my iphone and edit / delete pics when I’m traveling, in conference or in really boring meetings. Picasa is very helpful that way.

Finally we also have a “wall of shame” were we have room for about 25 frames and we are constantly changing the pictures on there, some classic and old ones never move but some more up to date like xmas ones do get changed…this gets us at least printing pictures.

Thanks and keep up the excellent work,

Polly

Ellie {Musing Momma} - January 10, 2014 - 10:06 pm

I am waaaaay behind on this, too. (Maybe blogging has consumed my on-line time? Maybe?) I think just getting standard prints and sticking them in an album is the FASTEST way to go, but I found when my kids were babies that I took SO many photos that the albums were filling the shelves fast. Creating an album with digital photos takes up a lot less space. I’ve experimented a lot and found that the easiest option is 1) to do a basic album with white or black pages and no captions – getting fancy with “stickers” and captions makes it take WAY longer and you can always use a scrapbook pen to handwrite your captions when the album arrives, 2) I make mine in Shutterfly and then wait to order when they have a 40% off sale. I used Blurb for a bit and liked their books, but they are pricey and never have sales. I try to do one for each season (yep, I take that many pictures!) and I’m about a year behind. Eek. I’m going to work on one right now – you’ve inspired me!

Child Identification Car Tags

2014…I have named this “the year of being productive” in my house. The year that I do everything I say I am going to do, and not put it off forever. When I have something to get done, an errand to run, or something similar, it is done within a week, as opposed to put off for a month or so. We’ll see what happens, but as of January 6th, well, it’s going AWESOME (note to self, check out this post in March).  This also means a raging return of Mommy’s Manic Monday’s and hopefully, some helpful tips! One thing that I have had on my “to do” list since November, is writing Child Identification Car Tags for each of my children to put on their car seats.

What are Child Identification Car Tags? Simple, yet critical information, about my children which would be necessary if we were ever in a car accident, and I was not in the position to speak for them.  I first saw this idea back in November while hanging out with baby girl in the middle of the night, and checking out Facebook. A couple of my friends had posted this tip, and I vowed that I had to do this immediately.  We are in the car all the time…this is an absolute no-brainer. As life would have it though, I forgot from from night til morning, and then vowed to do it another time, right after Homeland was over or I finished up the laundry, or, or, or…and we all know how that goes. Last night, my cousin posted another article, reminding friends to do this, and well, when a NICU nurse tells you how important something like this is, you pay attention:)So, I officially have this checked off my list!

I wrote out the information, and secured this on the car seats (and the car seat base for my daughter who is still in the infant bucket seat.  This took 10 minutes. We may never need the information, but, if we are in the place where we do need this – I know that those will probably be some of the most valuable 10 minutes I ever spent.

Here is the information I included:

Child’s name
DOB
Parent’s names & DOB
Parent’s cell phone and home numbers
Emergency contact
Child’s doctor
Medical issues

I hope this helps, and gives others a kick in the rear as well:) As in…get up from watching the Bachelor and go do this;)

 

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Angela Gilmore - January 7, 2014 - 10:18 am

I’ve never heard of doing this before. I am going to do it today and I’m going to share it with my mommy friends! Thanks for the idea!

And good luck on the new outlook for 2014, I have the same idea going. If I think about doing it, I’m just going to do it. No more I’ll do it later, or I have to get to that at some point. Aside form the dishes, it’s been going really well.
Angela Gilmore recently posted…I Have a Confession to MakeMy Profile

admin - January 7, 2014 - 11:56 am

I am so glad you found this to be helpful!
Dishes are going ok – its laundry that is a PITA for me :)

[…] but we are trying!  At times, things really important are being addressed – like ensuring if we are in an accident, my kids will be ok (check out last week’s post) – this week, the focus was toys. In a house with three kids – the toys are what can […]

A Stitch Fix Review

Disclosure: I am sharing my own honest views of the experience with Stitch Fix. I am not working together with the company, however, if you sign up through the links below , I do receive a referral credit to the Stitch Fix service (for which I would be extremely grateful…:))

Two months ago, a friend of mine shared a link on her Facebook page about a company called Stitch Fix. I was very intrigued, as she shared information – each month, she received a shipment of 5 pieces of clothes and accessories based upon her personal profile, and if she liked the items, she kept and paid for them, if she didn’t, she returned them within 3 days in a prestamped envelope.  I was intrigued…someone else taking the time to shop for me based on my preferences, I could try the items on in the comfort of my home, and return them if need be, just by dropping the envelope in a mailbox?  I kind of felt like it was like having a cooler sister doing shopping for me and sending me presents in the mail each month. Granted I would be paying for those presents, but you see the jist, right?  I can’t remember the last time that I went to the store to browse clothes…to just shop. I order clothes online in the same styles I have had in the past, and feel as though I lost that little pop in my wardrobe. My closet was a group of functional clothes as opposed to things I was excited about wearing.  I shared the information on my own Facebook page, and I had several friends who were curious. I promised them that I would give a Stitch Fix review on here as soon as I received my package.

So….off I went to the website, and signed up for my account. I answered questions about height/weight, fit of clothes, styles that I prefer, and price point that I was comfortable with…and then I waited.

 

The e-mail came sharing the news that my package shipped, and I did a little dance…and today – the package arrived!

First up, I opened up a little note from my stylist, Sarah. She shared how she looked at my pinterest board (seriously – I don’t even looked at my Pinterest boards!), and then shared the items included in the shipment, with recommendations on how to wear them.  Please forgive my inability to rotate this picture. I think you get the point though…clearly Sarah is overly helpful, and knows how much help I need.

Stitch Fix Review

So the clothes that came – first up the Claire Polka Dot Swing Skirt

Stitch Fix Review

The skirt was okay, but I don’t feel like it was work appropriate for my office, and it was above my price point (at $98) for casual wear. This one was getting returned.

Next up, the Hemmingway Tab-Sleeve Knit Shirt

Stitch Fix Review

I loved the pattern, loved the cut, but it was a little too big, so sadly, this one was heading back.

The third item I opened, I adored…the Thisbe Colorblocked Open Draped Cardigan. Comfortable, stylish, and perfect for both work or casual wear.

Stitch Fix Review

This is a keeper!

 

Next were the Just Black Adora Skinny Jeans in Green.

Stitch Fix Review

I must admit, if I was out shopping, I would probably never pick up these…but because they were in my house, I tried them on. I then did exactly what Sara said, and tried them on with a classic white button down and a statement necklace. Score! Perfection! These will be perfect for a date night, a casual outing, or a dress down day in the office. Also…it must be noted that it usually takes me about 40 pairs of pants at a store to find the perfect fit…and these just worked. It was kind of weird.

Lastly is the one item I am most upset about…the Collared Wrap Dress in black…

Stitch Fix Review

I tried it on – the style was awesome, the dress was so well made and you could tell that it was going to be the perfect mix of comfort and elegance…it was big as well, and a big wrapped dress is, well, a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. I could see the kids running under and pulling up the skirt, or the wind at the train station giving someone an extra view…

 

I kept 2 out of the 5 items from my package, but I returned to the website to give feedback on the items.  Sarah, my trusty stylist, asked for the feedback, so I figured that it would help make our second Fix a bigger winner. A couple more things about my profile…I have tons of jewelry, and am a bit of an addict with finding great pieces. I asked that I was not sent any jewelry in my Fixes. I also found that in my first fix, the price point of the items were all on the higher end of the price range I put in. I did adjust that for future shipments, so hopefully I can keep everything that is sent my way:)

 

Any other Stitch Fix customers out there? What are your experiences and reviews?

 

Cindy - December 16, 2013 - 10:35 pm

Too bad…. I loved that patterned shirt. Agree the polka dot skirt was a stretch for office wear. Love the jeans!!!

Christina - December 17, 2013 - 7:29 am

I too was very intrigued by Stitch Fix when I saw a friend in Virginia post about it and have huge success, so I signed up and received my first fix a couple of weeks ago. I too think the concept is genius – to have someone else do the shopping for me and end up with some different items that I probably would never pick out for myself, or just get out of the same ATLoft, Gap, Banana Republic clothes that I wear all the time. Unfortunately, none of the items worked for me, either I didn’t love them enough or they didn’t fit. I do think they missed the mark a bit on my “style” but I think the more feedback you give them the better they get on picking for you. In any case, I emailed the company and asked if they would waive the $20 styling fee for them to try again as I really really really want it to work and they did, so I am actually waiting for my second shipment, but it won’t arrive until January. Crossing my fingers!

admin - December 17, 2013 - 8:35 am

It looks like they are sending a bunch of shipments to our small town – ha! :)
One of my friends advised to do as much feedback as possible…otherwise, how would they know what you are looking for? I am also going to put some more stuff on my pinterest board since I know they are checking it out!

Thanks so much for the feedback!

Jen b - December 29, 2013 - 7:43 pm

I am constantly amazed by the things you’d up your toes into..

admin - January 7, 2014 - 11:55 am

HA! Thanks Jen :) I think I will take that as a compliment? :)

AliceL - January 14, 2014 - 3:05 pm

I’ve gotten two Stitch Fix boxes. The first was dead wrong on both style and fit. The clothes were ugly. I had asked for professional wear. I got 4 shirts and a pair of black pants. Three of the four shirts had horizontal stripes. Repeating patterns seems like a bad idea in the first place, in the second I am very busty. Horizontal stripes are not my friend. Beyond that, the tops had no tailoring and looked terrible on me. My second box got the fit much better, but the clothes were uninteresting. They looked like stuff I could have gotten at Macys.

Looking across the web, I see very little variation in the clothes given to different people. Their business model is to send out clothes they have on hand, not go on a shopping expedition just for one person. I haven’t seen any pictures of people receiving items that would fit the styles they say they cater to (ie. Edgy, Romantic, etc.) Every picture I’ve seen is of something that’s either preppy or classic.

In summary, this is a service for people who either hate to/can’t shop or find their personal style meshes well with the clothes other people have reported. Someone who loves clothes isn’t likely to find Stitch Fix able to match personal style or find unique pieces. For example, they have a tendency to send out staples even though these are easy to find. I wanted the service to send me things I couldn’t get; not things that I can easily buy.

admin - January 14, 2014 - 9:05 pm

Thanks so much for your feedback…I just received my second box and liked it a lot, but I did get a sweater similar to one of my friends. I am going to keep 3 out of 5 this time (sending one piece back because I didn’t like it, another because it was kind blah, as you said). I don’t get out shopping at all with three kids, and I am building up my wardrobe…but, if I get bored, well, I will definitely be canceling – I definitely don’t plan to spend money on things I don’t need or like. There is no room in the budget for that!

AliceL - January 15, 2014 - 9:10 am

Exactly, it’s great if shopping is a problem. I know I made the rounds of reading online reviews before I signed up and didn’t see too much out there from people who had a negative experience so I wanted to post my thoughts. In retrospect, I should have noticed how similar the clothes are. If you’re looking at the reviews and really like the stuff they sent other women, then sign up. If you don’t, I wouldn’t bother. You’re not likely to get stuff much different in my experience.

[…] last month, I shared my thoughts on Stitch Fix in this post.  I was very excited by my finds…or really, but what was sent to me, and was getting very […]

anonymous - April 11, 2014 - 4:40 pm

They ignored my style profile and price points. They sent me things way above my specified price points. And they still keep the $20 styling fee.

In Need of a A Deep Breath this December

I have no idea how we got here. When I had my baby girl back in August, my maternity leave, ending in December seemed like it was a million years away. I have no idea how the time came and went so quickly. Looking at my baby girl, I can see how fast it really is going as I have a smiley, gurgling, sweet girl (who is um, still not sleeping through the night), in front of me.

Things have been a little quiet on MMB in the last month. I was hoping this would slip by until one of my blogging buddies asked where my posts had been and reminded me that December is one of the biggest hits months (although apparently my past posts are doing ok and everyone who looks at my site is a lush, because my biggest post for this month, by multiples, is this Cookie martini post:))…and then I had some emails from readers asking if things were ok. Everything is ok (ok in the craziness!) sometimes mommas of three drop off the grid. Well, to everyone except the 3 little people.

This happened mainly because I had a list of things that I was hoping to do on my leave, and well…I kind of left them to do in the last month. I can finally say that all maternity clothes are packed up and out of the house, the bins and bins of outgrown kids clothes are gone, and some other house projects are complete. We also have been hit by all sorts of illnesses in the last two months - Croup, Stomach Bug, Ear Infections, and just plain colds. For a while, it seemed like we were in our pediatricians office weekly and much time was spent comforting kiddos and adults. Add in hosting Thanksgiving, preparing to host Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, running my first 5K, prepping for the holidays with every fun kid Christmas activity possible, oh and finally going live with a little business with one of my closest friends that we have planned forever (more to come on THAT in coming weeks!). With all of that, something had to give, and  when it came to my usual evening writing time, I chose sleep over writing. Oh or Modern Family, Greys Anatomy, or Homeland. Darn you readers who suggested Homeland. We are obsessed!  While I was always good on posting recipes, the cooking went too around our house. Thank goodness the freezer was stocked…although I think now we are just down to frozen breast milk, which really only helps one person in our house!

Everyone is fairly healthy at this point, Christmas prep is just about done, and life is on track (for now!?!). I have worked on putting all the thoughts in my notebook and random text messages to myself into some actual posts. So…MMB will be back in action soon (very soon)…for now though, I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday season:)