Monday, July 30, 2012

Christmas {Organizing} in July

Two of my FAVORITE subjects in one post: Christmas and Organizing.

It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside :-)

Just today, my friends Amanda and Nina BOTH texted me about Christmas. Nina pointed out that we only have 147 days until the big day, and Amanda sang me a little "Deck the Halls". I know if I called my cousin Krissy right now or my friend Marie...they too would join in on the fun.

Now, if I were to call my friend Joe or my sister-in-law Meagan and start talking about Christmas in July, one or both of them would throat punch me.

And I understand. 

I know some people like to keep Christmas in the back of their minds until they've had their turkey. They say they like to celebrate one holiday at a time and trust me...so do I! I love the first days of autumn, I love taking trips to the pumpkin patch, I love decorating my house for Halloween and taking the kids trick-or-treating in their costumes. And I LOVE Thanksgiving and everything that holiday stands for. But when all that's done and it's finally acceptable to put up the tree...I like to be ORGANIZED and ready so that I can fully enjoy the season.

Because after all...Christmas is my favorite time of year :-)

Plus, who wants to be running around at the last minute buying gifts, cleaning and organizing their house, trying to get holiday cards out, planning parties, etc. when there is so much fun to be had?!! Not me!!

Which is why I have become a big fan of several Christmas planning sites over the last few years. My favorite, of course, is OrganizedChristmas.com, which is a part of OrganizedHome.com. If you don't follow them on Facebook or Twitter yet...you need to.

I think what I love most about the Organized Home and Organized Christmas websites is that ALL of their materials are FREE!!! Last year I followed along with their Holiday Grand Plan, which basically sets you up with a weekly cleaning/planning/organizing schedule to get you through the holidays. They provide you with every list, calendar and schedule you need to set up your own Christmas Binder.
{Christmas Grand Plan Starts August 26th}

I can't say that I followed EVERY week and accomplished EVERY task, but it definitely kept me on track and I was in a much better place when Christmas finally came. 

And in addition to following Organized Christmas, I also followed along with the 100 Days to Christmas ebook! This book was SO MUCH fun and in addition to getting you totally organized, it also gave you fun tips and ideas for enjoying the holidays and building traditions with your family. I LOVED it and I will definitely follow along again this year.
{100 Days to Christmas Starts September 16th}

Now...because I have read and/or followed almost every early Christmas planning website out there...I have complied a list of my top 5 tips for a great jumpstart on the holiday season. I can't really take credit for these, since I read them all somewhere at some point, but they have proven to be incredibly helpful for me and I thought it was only fair that I share :-)

1. Shop Summer Clearance

Another fantastic website I follow is Baby Cheapskate because they are AWESOME about sharing all of the great baby and children's deals on the internet. They post multiple times every day and if there is a coupon code or sale to be found...they've posted about it. Stalk them like I do and you will always know where to find the bargains. And speaking of bargains, don't forget to fill up your stash of stocking stuffers and other small gift items this time of year because you can't beat the prices come fall.

2. Take Advantage of Back-to-School Sales

This is another fabulous tip I found from both Baby Cheapskate and Organized Christmas. Apparently, back to school is the BEST time to stock up on art supplies AND wrapping supplies! I'm sure you won't find much holiday wrapping paper this time of year, but you can stock up on tape, envelopes, mailing supplies and other wrapping essentials. I go through a TON of card stock at Christmas and you can find all that on sale with back-to-school too.

3. Start De-cluttering NOW!

It's still garage and yard sale season so now is the best time to clear out some of those old toys, holiday decor, clothing and other items you know will get replaced come December. I did this on two different occasions last year and it was SO much easier bringing new toys into the house when there was actually room for them. And if you don't want to sell your items, you can set them aside for some great toy and clothing donations this holiday season. I am really looking forward to doing that with the kids again this year.

4. Fill Your Calendar

If you already know of any travel dates or other holiday commitments that will fall in the month of December, start putting them in your calendar now. If you think you may host a holiday party this year, start thinking about dates. I know it's early...but anticipating some of these things now will save you some headache later, especially if travel is involved. And when the season gets a little closer, don't forget to fill out an Advent List of all the fun activities you want to make time for this season.

5. Start a Christmas Binder

Or make a holiday board on Pinterest, grab a new notebook, add a tab to your Home Management binder, jot some things in your planner, whatever!! Just dedicate a place or space where you can start collecting all of your holiday lists and ideas. Pinterest is already exploding with great holiday crafts, recipes, gift ideas, etc. Pin them now so you aren't searching frantically for them later. Even if you are still a little reluctant to plan for Christmas this early...at least get your binder/notebook/pinboard together so that you have things in place when you are ready.

And once you get that binder together, I have 3 fabulous printables to share with you today!!!!



I created these to fit my needs when it comes to holiday planning. Because I like to buy some gifts early, I often forget what I bought and/or where I hid the items by the time December comes! So my SANTA'S SECRET GIFT LIST has a column for who the gift is for, what it is, and where I hid it. Ha! No more late night scavenger hunts and surprise gifts in March.

And because I am also busy stocking up on supplies, decor and smaller items like stocking stuffers, I also have a SANTA'S SUPPLY INVENTORY list. This just helps me keep track of the items I bought at the end of the season last year and the items I am picking up on sale now so that I'm not overbuying when the holidays get here.

And finally, who doesn't need a cute blank DECEMBER CALENDAR? This is where you can start jotting down all those dates that are already rattling around in your head :-)

I hope to make a few printables as the season gets closer, but I thought these three would help you get started for now :-)

Happy Christmas Organizing in July everyone!!! And be sure to share any great early holiday tips you might have!!

***

{Please note that all printables can be downloaded from our shop site at www.ThePolkaDotPosie.com}

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our Weekend in a Nutshell: Sickies and Family Time

The plans that Eric and I have had for this weekend have changed a lot over the last month. 

First, this weekend was supposed to be an overnight girls weekend with my BF Tara and her friend Rikki. We were going to shop till we dropped, eat until we had to unbutton our pants and drink wine until the last girl standing.

But then...Eric's work schedule got complicated, and it looked like this may be one of the last weekends we would be able to camp this summer. So I had to bail on my girlfriends in exchange for one last summer trip in the camper. We had our hearts set on Michigan and hoped to stay right on the beach in one of the state parks. Well, apparently every other person in the midwest had the same idea because everything was booked solid. It didn't really matter in the end because Eric's work schedule just got crazier.

So it was decided...no vacation. No girls weekend. And then to make matters worse, my poor baby girl woke up with the sickies on Thursday night. She had a fever of 102 and threw up a few times. I felt so bad for her...I HATE when my kiddies are sick. It breaks my heart. But in the morning, I gave Addie a glass of 7-Up to calm her tummy and she just thought it was the best treat EVER to have 7-Up for breakfast. At least she was in good spirits :-)


So the kids and I took it pretty easy on Friday and did lots of resting. I thought peanut was actually on the mend by the time she went to bed that night, but when she woke up in the morning with another fever...I got worried. So off to the doc we went and as it turns out...Addie had strep throat! SO random. I had no idea that two of the biggest symptoms of strep in little kids is fever and vomiting. The doc said strep is going around like crazy right now so I am PRAYING that Blake stays healthy through all this. Fingers crossed!!!

But after 24 hours on her antibiotic and lots more rest, peanut was back to her old self today. She even voluntarily got our of her PJs and put on a little dress.


The kids were both itching to "Go bye bye" so we decided to take them to one of their most favorite places...Bass Pro Shop.


I honestly don't know what it is about this place, but I know my friend Barb and my cousin Krissy's kids beg to come here. I guess it is pretty fun to ride on boats...


Check out some fish...



Hug a bear...



And day dream about what we could do with an extra $50,000. Hahaha!


But instead of buying a boat...we just took a few quick pictures in them.




Poor eric has been working such crazy hours lately, I know he really appreciated being off today and getting out as a family. We also took the kids to lunch and then came home to do some more relaxing.

It's back to reality tomorrow though and I can't WAIT for some of the fun posts I finally have planned for this week. I've been wanting to do a "Christmas {Organizing} in July" post and since I literally have 2 days left to do that...I better get on it. We've also got a great new item from The Polka Dot Posie to launch so stay tuned friends!!

I hope you all had a great weekend!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

One of the Best Parts of Summer

If there is one thing I am so grateful for every summer, it's the chance to spend time with friends and family that we don't get to see very often. My BFF Tara and I are separated by only a 2.5 hour drive, but with all of our crazy schedules, it's hard to make time to get together. 

Luckily, Tara had some vacation days to use up this week so we were FINALLY able to get our kiddies together for a playdate. Addie hasn't seen Connor since their big birthday date in March, and we haven't seen these two beauties since their birthday in OCTOBER!! I just can't get over how much they have grown.


Cora and Brynn are seriously two of the CUTEST peanuts I have ever seen. They hold each other's hands wherever they go and they play together so well. I loved watching them at the splash pad. 


Of course, Blake loved watching them too...but only to make sure they didn't steal his cars. Ha!


We all know Blake's only true loves right now are McQueen, Mater and Finn.


Last year, Tara and I discovered this fabulous park near the zoo in Bloomington, IL. It is a perfect mid-way meeting spot for the two of us and even though it was a little too hot for the zoo on Monday, the kids didn't care. They were all about the playground and this fabulous splash pad. I am seriously considering putting in one of these "froggy car washes" in our backyard.


 The kids all loved these sprayers too, but they didn't love sharing them.

"Hey DUDE! That's MY monkey!!!"


While Blake was off talking trash to a bunch of 8-year-olds, Addie was busy running around trying to get Connor's attention. She would play the damsel in distress...


The silly girl...


The super model...


Whatever it took to make Connor blush.


And even though he tried his hardest to resist, Addie still got her smooch in the end :-)


We finished up our fun playdate with lunch at Culver's and I thought it was the most peaceful meal we have ever had with all 5 kids. They were SO GOOD!!


I actually hate that our playdate has already come and gone, but I hope that we can get another one on the calendar very soon.

Thanks for a great day Aunt Tara!! Kiss the kiddies for us! xoxo

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I'm Running ANOTHER Half Marathon

run

Satisfaction.

That is a feeling I have been struggling with since I crossed the finish line on Sunday.

In fact, I think all 3 of us are struggling with the same thing. On Sunday afternoon, Joe texted me and said, "I think our Nike sensor was off during training. That race felt way too long"

And then I would talk to Dana and she would say, "We should have done more weekday runs."

And then I would say, "I think it was that damn lobster bisque soup we had the night before."

We were all making excuses to explain why we were missing that very important feeling. WHY didn't we feel satisfied?

We all set out to reach this goal with very little expectations about time or pace. All we wanted to do was FINISH

And we did.

The average time for this race was over 3 hours, which means that we technically finished with an above average time. Reading that did make me feel better about the day. Even with all of the struggles...we finished above average. What an amazing accomplishment!!!

Heck Yeah!!
We DID kick ass and I AM so very proud of us. I am still crossing off that line on my bucket list and I will forever cherish the medal we earned.

BUT...

There is still a bit of disappointment inside me. I know it's stupid and ridiculous...but it's there and I just can't ignore it. 

None of us can ignore it.

For days now, the three of us of have been analyzing our race trying to figure out why it was so much harder than we expected. How could we run 12 miles with such ease only a week before, and struggle so badly just to get to mile 9? It's been hot all summer, so why did the heat effect me so much more that day? How could I laugh and carry on full conversations while running during training, and not be able to muster more than a whimper on race day? We've come up with a million different excuses (some of which are totally valid :-) but in the end, we know that nerves, lack of experience and stupid heat are the major causes.

 But no matter the reasons for our less than perfect run, I guess we are just disappointed that the run wasn't more fun. We knew it would be hard and we would have to work our asses off, but we thought we would enjoy that pain the way we have on all of our other long runs. But this race was anything but fun. Joe ran alone, I ran on the verge of heat stroke and Dana ran like a nurse and a trainer...taking care of me and pushing me instead of worrying about herself. It just wasn't how we pictured the race would go.

But it's over now and we all have our medals hanging on the wall. All of our friends and family are SO PROUD of our accomplishment and we are too. So what do we do? Consider it a job well done and move on? Or quit crying like a bunch of babies and just give it another go?

Well because the three of us are stubborn as hell and a little crazy, we've decided...

We are giving it another go.

In just 3 months, we are all going to hit the streets of Chicago for another 13.1 miles. We are going to run the Monster Dash Half Marathon because if you can't have FUN running while dressed in costume, when can you?


The race is October 21st so it will be nice and cool :-) That also gives us 3 more months to train and build our strength. I can't guarantee that our time will be any better, but if we can run this one and ENJOY the experience...I will be totally and completely satisfied.

At least for now :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stop & Smell the Roses {Week 20} What WE are Loving This Week

Happy Wednesday friends! It's good to be back linking up with House of Rose for week 20 of 


I apologize for my very last minute vlog today. The past 4 days have been sheer CRAZINESS around here. But I've seen people uploading their videos all week and I feel like such a slacker!! I really wanted to plan something more fun and creative for today but that's okay. I ended up having two little helpers for my vlog so that was nice :-)


Oh the chaos!!! Blake was so sad that I turned the camera off. He screamed for another 10 minutes. Ahh....kids :-)

And speaking of kids, I was actually supposed to be kidless today shopping WITH MANDY while she is in Chicago, but some babysitting plans fell through and well...I won't be meeting my girl after all. Boo!! Mandy was so great and tried encouraging me to bring the kids along but i think ALL of us mommas know that taking two active kids to the mall is no easy task. When you do that, you really don't get to shop or eat or chat so I just wanted to let Mandy fly solo today and get something done. But I have to be honest...I am SO JEALOUS right now thinking of her shopping alone. MISS YOU GIRLFRIEND!!! Hope to catch you on the next trip!

Well before I go, I just wanted to make sure I share links to all the goodies we talked about today.


Have a great day everyone!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reunited and it Feels so Good!

On my Mom's side of the family, I have two aunts, two uncles and 3 cousins. A small, happy little clan.

And then there's my Dad's side of the family, where I have 13 Uncles (2 of which are looking down on us from heaven), 13 Aunts, and 31 first cousins. And of course, let's not forget all of my cousin's spouses and children (and the ones left to come). We are just one BIG happy clan.


I really wish my Grandma and Grandpa Mueller, my Uncle Wally and My Uncle Bobby could be here to see all this, but I know they are all in heaven looking down on us together. I'm sure it fills their heart with happiness when they see all 2 million of us finding ways to still be together...even if it means renting banquet halls and churches :-)

And that's just what we did for this reunion. If you can believe it, my Dad also comes from a rather large family with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins who all had large families of their own. So the Lakota Family Reunion has grown quite a bit over the years!!! It was just a sea of green shirts on Sunday.


A LOT of planning goes into our reunions and it's always so much fun. 

There's always a bounce house...


And cute game areas to keep the kiddies occupied.



There's always a TON TON TON of food.


And plenty of beer :-) Us Mueller's know how to keep it classy.


And we go through a lot of kegs :-)


But the best part of any reunion is getting to spend time with the people we love.




And here's one of our brides-to-be! My cousin Liz is tying the knot in December.


And the other bride-to-be, my cousin Julie (on the right) is getting married next year.


The reunion brought in so many of my out-town-cousins this year and I LOVED getting to see everyone. Here is my cousin-in-law Bill and baby Logan from St. Louis...


My cousin Richie from Minnesota...


And his adorable kids...


And my cousin Jeff, who doesn't live out of town, but has to travel CONSTANTLY. It was so nice getting to see him too. Blake was like his little shadow for a while.




Too cute.

Now...the one and ONLY part of the reunion that gets hard and stressful is picture time. Rounding all those people up and pulling them away from conversation, food and beer is damn near impossible. Ha! And no matter how hard everyone tries to be organized...it's just mass chaos.


Even the boys were like, "WTF is going on?!!"


And speaking of my boys, my heart just about burst watching Blake and Owen interact and play together for the firs time. My little Owen is getting so big and I LOVE seeing him and Blake form their own little friendship now. Cousin love :-)


The two hung out in this wagon FOREVER!


And Nana did a great job pulling them around :-)


Despite all the chaos of picture time, we really did get some wonderful shots of the day. This is a picture of my dad and all of his brothers and sisters, which we call "The Originals"


And then there are the 13 spouses, which everyone calls "The Out-Laws". This is their silly frown face picture. My Uncle Jerry in the front totally nailed it.


And here is their happy face picture :-)


Even though my legs were about to fall off at the reunion, I wouldn't have missed it for ANYTHING in the world. I am so lucky to have such a big, wonderful family and I am already looking forward to seeing them again at Christmas :-)

Thanks for a GREAT REUNION all you party planners!! We had a wonderful time. xoxo