Amy Beth

Monday, October 5, 2015

31 Projects: A Year-Long Goal

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I’ve heard it said before that goals are dreams with deadlines.* I’ve been really good in my life at dreaming, but not so great at accomplishing goals. I’ve come to realize that a lot of this is due to a lack of deadlines. I do just fine at getting things done when there is some sort of external pressure. I did just fine at work. I was great at school. But when it comes to my own personal life I often feel like I’m not accomplishing very much. In the past I’ve balked at placing an arbitrary deadline on myself. I guess I figured that if the deadline is coming from me, then I can just as easily change it. And then it’s not really a deadline, it’s just procrastination. But after all that reasoning I still don’t really get anywhere.

So, to commemorate my 31st birthday this past week, I’ve decided to make this a Year of Accomplishing Things. I’ve made it my goal to complete 31 projects before my next birthday. October 1st, 2016 is the deadline. And since it’s my birthday I can’t change it. No procrastinating on this one! I’ll either meet my goal or I won’t, but at least it won’t just languish out there for all eternity while I wonder if I’ll ever get around to it or not. I feel like this will be good for me.

So what do I mean by 31 Projects? It’s pretty open-ended really. The purpose is to take all the many many many many ideas I come up with throughout the year and turn at least some of them into reality. Some of them will likely be craft projects. Some will probably be home projects (decorating, organizing, and the like.) Some may be projects for the kids. Hopefully all of them will bring about some sort of personal fulfillment, either by being a creative outlet or improving my life in some way.

I have dedicated a page in my planner for keeping track of my projects and have already started jotting down ideas. A few are already in progress. You can also expect a lot of 31 Project related blog posts. 31 of them, hopefully.

Project page

My project tracking page in my Get To Work Book

When I do the math, it looks like I need to complete a project every one and a half weeks. This is a pretty lofty goal. So if you know me in real life, feel free to ask about what projects I’m working on. I have a feeling I’m going to need a little motivation to get this done. :)

*Pinterest tells me that was said by someone named Napoleon Hill.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Peek at my Planner – Get to Work Book

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent much of my adult life searching for THE ONE. The one that can help me achieve my dreams. Be a better person. Support me through stressful times and forgive me when I just can’t do it all. The one that I can pour my life into and receive clarity and purpose in return. I’m talking, of course, of the perfect planner.


As I’ve grown though, I’ve slowly become more accepting of the fact that I can’t expect the planner to fulfill my every need. I have to be willing to do the work to get the most out of the relationship. I need to be willing to commit. To buckle down and work out our issues and see what good can come out on the other side rather than just run off to a newer, prettier planner at the first sign of trouble. As you can see, planners are a very personal issue for me.

So when one of my favorite bloggers and people on the internet that I most admire in terms of her “get it done-ness” launched a new business that sells planners I decided to give it a try. I had been without a long-term planner for a while. I’d just been casually flirting with different lists and notebooks but I could feel it was time for me to settle down. So I bought it. It’s charming and unassuming. It gives me guidance and focus when I need it, but it never pushes. It allows me space to be me. It’s a planner, and I’m going to stop with this extended metaphor now.

The planner is called the Get to Work Book and it is made by Elise at The next edition of the planners for the 2016 calendar year is available for pre-order now, so I thought it would be a good time to give a little peek at how I’ve used mine for the past few months. You can check out the Get to Work Book website for photos and videos that show each of the different page designs in more detail.

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As a reminder that I want to be more creative and crafty in my daily life, I decorated the cover page with some watercolor. It turns out decorating planners is a thing that people really get into, and this planner is the perfect blank canvas for some serious artistic flair. Just take a look at the Get to Work Book instagram or search on pinterest for “planner decorating” and you’ll see what I mean. Like Whoa.

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brainstorming space decorated with washi tape
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project planning page

One of the things I love about this planner is the amount of brainstorming space that is included. I’m a person who thinks and plans best on paper, but other planners I’ve had have never really included a lot of space for this. I always had to find other notebooks or scraps of paper which inevitably got lost or forgotten. This planner allows me to keep all of my ideas and brainstorms right there with the nitty gritty details of the day. It has several sheets of blank graph paper before each monthly spread and more in the back of the book. It also has some handy project planning sheets for those projects that need to be broken down and given a bit more structure.

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weekly spread

I also like how open ended the weekly spreads feel. If you wanted to write out a schedule for the day, you could do that. If you wanted to just make a big to-do list for each day you could do that too. Or you could be like me and combine a few tasks with a shopping list with a note with details about an upcoming event with an inventory of the fridge for meal planning. The grayscale design gives enough structure to help you keep things organized but is subtle enough to ignore if you need the space.

The fact that I have used this planner for three months and haven’t yet thought about switching it up and trying something new is a big deal, as my husband will attest. Maybe it’s the planner. Or maybe it’s just me finally being ready to commit. But I feel like even if I come up with new ways to organize or categorize my life, this planner will be flexible enough to change with me. We’ll see. But I think maybe, just maybe, I’ve found the one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So, my baby has Down Syndrome

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My baby came into the world as most do. Amid anticipation and pain, a flurry of excitement, exhaustion, relief, happiness, smiles, cuddles and kisses. I like to think that I am capable of being objective and realistic when it comes to my children, so I don’t mean to offend anyone else when I say that I’m pretty sure she was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. Our time in the hospital was fairly lovely, as far as hospital visits go. She caught on to nursing quickly and stayed peaceful and content. I loved to just sit and stare at her cute little face. I made note of a tiny pinprick of a dent next to her ear just in case the hospital’s obsessive identification band checking should fail us and they hand me the wrong baby. Not that we were separated that often. Aside from the morning doctor’s visit in the nursery and a few extra visits to the warmer because she had a bit of trouble keeping her temperature up, little Penelope stayed by my side.

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Chris and I woke up on the last morning in the hospital ready to get home and settle into our life as a family of four. Determined to be home for lunch, we packed up bags and filled out paperwork at a level of efficiency that we haven’t been able to match since. As we were finishing up breakfast the doctor came by to give us a report of his morning checkup. It was then that we heard the news. The doctor had observed several physical characteristics that indicated that our baby could have Down Syndrome. He rattled off a list of indicators. Chris and I asked a few questions I think. We were told that we could get the blood test at her first checkup the next day and would hopefully have an official diagnosis within a week. He was positive and kind and promised to follow up with us. We thanked him and were left to absorb the news over what was left of our dry toast and eggs.

It’s taken me eight months to write this post. I’m not sure why, exactly. I think I just wanted to make sure I gave an accurate and true representation of what this diagnosis means to us. I also want to make sure that it’s a source of encouragement and hope to anyone who may come across it who is faced with a similar situation. A source of encouragement and hope without discounting the wide range of emotions a parent might feel when they find out their child has Down syndrome. I’ve read many posts like this one. The parents in these posts have felt many things: disbelief, shock, anger, fear, bitterness, guilt, grief. But in the end there’s always acceptance, gratitude, resolve, and of course, love.

That’s not exactly my story though. My process of wading through these emotions has felt much gentler than anything else I’ve read. It’s been surrounded by an overall feeling of peace. Maybe it’s my personality. More than likely it’s my God.

Once the doctor left I think I cried a bit. But then Penelope came back from the nursery and it was time for me to be a mama and get her dressed for the trip home. Chris and I didn’t really talk about it again until we were safely in the car. Then I think I cried some more. About what, I’m not sure. Some of it was fear of the unknown. Much of it was adjusting to a new vision for my daughter’s future than the one I had previously had. I think most of all I worried that her life was going to be so much more difficult than what I wanted for her.

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And Chris, who I’m sure was feeling much of these same things but didn’t have the postpartum hormones to deal with and also had to keep his eyes dry so he could drive, said the most steadying thing. He said, “She’s still the same baby. We may have some new information about her, but she hasn’t changed.”

Maybe this subtle shift in perception doesn’t feel as profound to you. But to me, that was just what I need to hear right then.

My mom and sister were at home with Charlie waiting for us. I had dried my tears by then and turned my focus to settling in and helping Charlie adjust to a new sister in the family. Chris got the task of breaking the news to my mom and sister because, as stated above, he didn’t have postpartum hormones. It’s times like these that I’m thankful to have an introverted family. Big news is generally received politely and without a lot of comment. And since no one says much until all the thoughts and emotions have had time to settle down and organize themselves inside the thinker’s head, there is much less chance of anyone saying anything stupid or upsetting. So we told them and they said “Oh. Ok.” and we moved on.

Later that day we sent out an email to a few close friends asking for prayer. We still weren’t sure what to do with this information and were just trying not to freak out. She may not have it after all, we kept telling ourselves. But I think those prayers are what made all the difference. I’d heard before of the “peace that passes understanding” but had never really thought about what those words meant. But as we moved through the next couple of days and weeks, that’s what I experienced. Even though there were lots of reasons to be stressed or to worry or to feel emotionally distraught, I didn’t. I still had my moments where I mourned for the vision of the future I had had for her. But they were brief and cathartic and left me feeling more accepting of the future that God obviously had for her. When people would ask how we were doing I could honestly say that we were doing well.

In the week or so between hearing from the doctor that he thought she might have Down syndrome and getting the results of the genetic test back, I spent a lot of time staring at my baby, trying to decide if I thought it was true or not. The doctor sounded so certain. But every time I looked at her I would just think, I don’t see it. I don’t see anything wrong with her.

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And God must have been there with me because he spoke to me. He said something that I think I will remember and carry with me for the rest of my life.

He said — It’s a doctor’s job to see the things that might be wrong. But you are not her doctor. You’re her mother. It’s your job to see her.

Since then I’ve realized that that is probably the most important thing I can give her. That I can give all my children. The world may look at her as if something is wrong with her. That she’s at a disadvantage. That she is someone to feel sorry for. But I have determined that I will not see her the way the world sees her. I will see her for who she really is. For who God made her to be. I will see all the wonderful, unique, made-that-way-on-purpose qualities that God has given her and celebrate those things. I’m her mother. That’s my job.

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Now at eight months out, Down syndrome often doesn’t feel like a big deal. We’ve been blessed with a very healthy child. None of the extra test or checkups have revealed any health problems to be concerned with. Her development is lagging somewhat behind other children her age, but she’s making steady progress and we have weekly therapy appointments to help build up those muscles. She’s a girl who lets people know what she wants and seems to have a fairly determined personality, so I don’t think she’s going to let too much get in her way in life. She loves her family and has the best smile. She and Charlie are best friends, a fact that routinely makes my heart melt.

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Some might think that it would be reasonable to wish she didn’t have Down syndrome. But that wouldn’t be true. That would be like wishing I had a different child.

It’s not like God made this amazing person and then slapped on a disability. He just made an amazing person who, just like my brown hair and short stature, Down syndrome is just a part of the equation. It is literally at the very core of who she is. It is within every cell in her body. Before she was even conceived, there was an extra chromosome, hanging out, waiting to become a part of our little girl.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A summer capsule wardrobe attempt

Capsule wardrobe title

I know it’s September and school has started and Labor Day has passed and everyone is now in full on Fall mode. But we’ve had a week of 90 degree weather in these parts and my summer wardrobe is still very much in use. So I’m going to pretend that this post isn’t desperately behind the times.

So, have you jumped on the capsule wardrobe craze? I kind of feel silly explaining it here because it seems like every blogger ever has already done so, but just in case you’re out of the loop, here’s the low down:

A capsule wardrobe is basically a pared down wardrobe made up of items that can be mixed and matched in many different ways. Some people will stick to just 40 items in their closet, others go with 37, some work it all the way down to 25. The ultimate goal is to have a closet made up of only items that you love and can be worn with anything else so you don’t have those mornings of staring at your stuffed closet thinking you have nothing to wear. You could essentially grab any top and any bottom and throw them on and look great.

Doesn’t that sound like a dream?

Or like every man’s wardrobe. Anyway…

I’ve been intrigued by this idea for quite some time and this summer was the first season that I wasn’t in maternity clothes or rapidly changing size. I purged and edited until I got down to 24 items. I got rid of everything that didn’t fit, wasn’t flattering, or wasn’t comfortable. Then I pulled out some of the things that didn’t really seem to go with anything else and was left with what you see below.

Capsule wardrobe

As you can see, my wardrobe is pretty casual. It is built on a base of gray and navy with pops of berry, teal, and green thrown in. If I had an office job I would probably need a different assortment of items, but for now this collection takes care of what I need. I can’t say that I love all the items, but it’s been a good exercise to see how little I can get by with. For the fall I think I’m going to try taking a more deliberate approach and perhaps invest in a few basics that I’m currently lacking.

And it really has been easier to pick out clothes each day. I haven’t been faced with a “I don’t have anything to wear!” feeling all summer. It’s definitely an experiment that I’m willing and excited to try again.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cloth Diapering Changing Table

Changing table setup for cloth diapers

Back when I was first learning about cloth diapering (and caring for a baby in general) I found the changing table to be an endlessly interesting topic. Funny, the things that are interesting before they become a part of your daily life. But I loved to see how people set up the changing table and the systems they used to make cloth diapering quick and easy. Now that I change diapers several times a day, I no longer find changing tables to be that interesting. However, I know there are some people out there looking for ideas and inspiration and now that I’ve been using the same setup for over 2 years I feel like I might have a thing or two to share. Aside from a few upgrades we added to the setup for baby #2, our changing table has pretty much remained the same since Charlie was a wee lad (pun intended).

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First we have the dresser. I like to have a lot of space when changing a diaper so a nice long dresser works well as a surface. This Ikea dresser has worked well for us (although it seems they may no longer sell it.) We’re a short family so I could see how some may want a taller surface to work on, but for most this would be comfortable. It provides plenty of storage so we keep all of Poppy’s clothes and blankets and extra diaper supplies in the drawers.

Changing Pad: You need something to put the baby on. I like having a soft minky cover with a diaper insert laid out where the actual diaper changing is going to take place. That way if any of the mess leaks out I can just toss the insert in the diaper pail without having to change and wash the whole cover every time.

Lamp: I like to have a lamp nearby for those late night changes.

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Wipes container: all you need for this is some kind of plastic container that fits your wipes. We use cloth wipes (the cheapest wipes I could find without making my own) that we just wet with plain water. We wash diapers every two or three days and find that the wipes stay wet but still free of mildew when we change them out that often as well.

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Basket When we get a fresh load of diapers out of the wash, I go ahead and stuff all our covers with inserts. They just sit in a basket ready for me to grab at a moment’s notice. The basket also holds any diaper creams we may need. I frequently use Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion spray to help clean an especially messy bum and sooth sensitive skin.

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Drying rack: the Applecheeks diapers we use allow you to reuse covers once or twice before washing them. I got this little dish towel drying rack to hang up our diapers to air out after they are used. It’s a great little compact way to keep them nearby.

Diaper pail: for cloth diapers I recommend getting a simple trash can with a lid you can open with one hand and Kissaluvs diaper pail liners. Get two liners so you have one to use while the other is in the wash. Our liners have held up really well for us through hundreds of washes.

Hamper. Diaper changes and outfit changes often happen at the same time, so I like to have the hamper nearby.

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Extra Inserts: I store extra inserts in the top drawer so they are easy to access if I’ve run out of stuffed covers and need to put one together quickly.

And there you have it. Our diaper changing station! It is severely lacking in cuteness; I need to add some artwork on the wall above it. But as far as function goes this set up is pretty solid. I hope this helps anyone trying to set up a nursery for the first time!

For more baby and kid room inspiration, be sure to check out my Pinterest board!

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