Monday, November 29, 2010

5 kiddos and one swimming pool turned ball pit..

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to experience what my life would be like if I was mom to 5 kiddos...age 7 and under. Of course, my experience was only for an afternoon and I had Toy Story 3 and animal crackers in my corner as bargaining tools. :)

My sister is a proud mama to four kiddos--one girl (7), and three boys (5,3,&23 months). She had a few errands to run that day and since I was home with 6 loads of laundry, I volunteered my home and Lucy's toys to entertain her kiddos so she could experience kid-free errands for a day.

Now, my niece and nephews LOVE their cousin they were stoked to be spending the day at Aunt Rachel's (though they were more stoked when Uncle Jon came home from work...) They played all afternoon in the swimming pool turned ball pit, cooked up gourmet plastic meals at Lucy's kitchen, and watched the latest Toy Story while I folded those 6 loads of laundry.

They are an active bunch...but I totally love their energy and imagination. I see a lot of their outgoing personality traits in Lucy...and she becomes quite the daredevil herself when they're around. :)

My sister loved the time out and I enjoyed getting to have play mates for Lucy in which I didn't have to leave my home. Lucy was a fan of the attention (she thrives around other kiddos) & all in all it was a pretty good day.

My favorite part was when my brother in law (their dad) called to see if I had to call the cops/other emergency assistance yet....I knew he was kidding, but you really just never know with that bunch :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the holiday season rewind.

My husband and I were discussing the fact that, yes, there is indeed a baby growing inside of me and it's not just residual baby belly from Blessing #1 :)

Anyways, we talked about the upcoming holiday season and how at Christmas I'll be 27 weeks pregnant....and then we talked about the holiday season over the last four years. Now, if you know me in real life (or if you have taken the time to read my profile) you'll understand that our lives have changed a LOT since we rang in the new year in 2008.

Let's rewind a bit.

Holiday season 2007. I'm quite the single gal....with quite the crush on this one special guy. He's quite the single guy with quite the crush on this one special gal. We talk to each other over Christmas, several times in fact. But alas, we both celebrate Christmas 2007 solo.

Then, 5 days now husband asks me out :) So, at least we got to celebrate New Years Eve 2007 as a couple. We get engaged 3 months later and meet each other at the front of our church a little over four months after that.

Holiday season 2008, we are with in, my uterus is now home to Blessing #1. I'm 12 weeks pregnant....we're newlyweds....and I'm loving how God's plan is shaping up.

Holiday season 2009 we have a six-month old daughter! We play Santa, play in the snow, and stay in our jammies all day long!

And this Holiday season--2010? I will be 27 weeks pregnant with Blessing #2.

We don't have the "typical" story....or maybe we do?

Either way, I can say with complete confidence that we had nothing to do with it. Our God is faithful in ordaining time, situations and babies. Ok, so we had a little to do with that :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

one year devoted...

Last week my husband and I completed a journey we had been on for 365 days together.

One year ago we both were desiring some direction in our spiritual journey together. We needed to add something to our prayer time at night together and we were in a place were we needed to truly be focusing on our marriage.

Now, I've started many devotionals, reading plans & books...and I last usually 3-5 days on that plan. Maybe that's why the completion of this journey feels like such an accomplishment...maybe it's because our marriage relationship has been challenged and strengthened over the past year...maybe it's a little of both.

Last November we walked into the Christian bookstore with a goal in mind. Both fans of the movie Fireproof, our eyes and hearts were attracted to the Love Dare Devotional.

Of course I was ridiculously skeptical and I would be lying if I didn't say there weren't moments where this devotional was a bit...over the top? And no, it wasn't filled with theologically driven writings. It was basic. to the point. exactly what we needed at that point in life.

Either way, my husband and I committed to the task and added this nightly reading to our prayer time together. Each week there was an assigned dare...and while we purposed to do a few, most fell to the side. I don't think that ruined the experience.

With the exception of the night my best friend got married...and the night we were both so angry with each other we went to bed without speaking (yes, even cute couples like us have our moments...) we completed each night's reading.

We sat in bed last week discussing how far we've come individually and as a couple this past year. We talked about the highs and lows of our year and what we felt like God was doing in our lives presently. We dreamed out loud about the future and we smiled as we opened our Love Dare Devotional for the last time.

A year ago I was skeptical we'd make it through a week of this reading. Now I'm stoked to think with my husband what we'll tackle next.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas card

Love 2010 Christmas Card
Make a statement with Shutterfly Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My freezer is full, my Kitchen is clean, and I am satisfied...

We filled our freezer once again this weekend with meals, sides, and odds and ends. If you recall, we did this a few months back....and let me tell you, we were quite delighted with the results then. We've made mental notes about our last freezer cooking session..what worked, what didn't, meals that didn't turn out quite right (fries and breakfast sandwiches), meals we wanted to try this time (pancakes, BBQ Beef, Pizza Pockets) and I made a plan.

Throughout the month I've been mindful of what we have on hand and stocked up on staple items needed to cook with. And while we will end up about $100 over our typical grocery budget of $180 a month ($45/week), I'm still satisfied. The extra $100 came as a result of having no meat in our freezers. So, armed with several packages of chicken, a roast, hamburger meat, a turkey, and a ham...we went a bit over :) Granted, the turkey was free with the purchase of a Ham...but I digress.

So what's filling our freezers right now?

Chicken & Bacon Sub Sandwiches (ready to be grilled) x 3 meals worth
Taco Kits (Shells in the pantry, cooked meat/cheese in freezer) x 3 meals worth
Lasagna x1
Enchiladas (sauce in pantry, meal in freezer) x2
Shredded BBQ Beef (meat and buns in freezer, sides in pantry) x1 (Should have been x2, but we had this for dinner one night while cooking :)
Bacon-Cheeseburger Roll-up kit (Cooked bacon/meat/cheese in freezer, pizza crust in fridge) x1
Pizza Pockets x 3 meals worth
Bean and Chicken burritos x 6 meals worth

Pumpkin Pancakes x33
Blueberry Pancakes x13
Pop-Tarts x 8

Odds and Ends:
Cooked and Shredded Chicken for Lucy x 8 bags
Hashbrowns x 13 bags
Smoothies x7

That gives us 20 full meal options (granted, some of the pizza pockets and burritos will go with Jonathan to work, but still), plenty of quick breakfast items for Lucy, and Smoothies for me in the afternoon :)

Now I'll be the first to admit that we eat very simply around here...or are right now. I could prepare more elaborate dinner items--and likely will in the future, but life demands simplicity in regards to everything right if taco kits help simplify life a little more, count me in.

We also have the makings of 6 additional dinners in our pantry/fridge...So we'll be eating well for a good month or more (with left-overs in between)

The process seemed so stress-free this time..and dare I say, easy? Even with a sick baby who wasn't sleeping, a potential concussion from a head bang I endured while grocery shopping, and my husband I both having work responsibilities...the whole process was very smooth!

Three things I liked best this time:
1.) Jonathan cooked up all the meat and seasoned appropriately at the very start which helped me put together meals much more quickly than cooking meat as we needed it.
2.) We took our fact I just made and put the lasagna in the freezer yesterday
3.) We tried some new things! The pizza pockets were were the pancakes! I'm excited to keep trying new things each time so we have a great list of things to cook before the baby arrives!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Time to send out the Christmas Cards...

This item has been on my to-do list. Last year I managed to snag a deal for 50 free photo cards and I wrote a letter highlighting our past year. This year I'm trying to streamline the process---getting the photo + letter into one place :)

I've been browsing online for different designs and had spent a fair amount of time on Shutterfly browsing their collection for holiday cards. I didn't have our Christmas cards printed from there last year, and although I got the photo cards for free last year, I wish we would have sent out a more quality card for Lucy's first Christmas.

I have, however, ordered from Shutterfly before. We announced the birth of our beautiful daughter with a design from their Birth Announcement collection. And...I may have been browsing for the birth announcement for our next little one....

:) If it's another little girl, I'm thinking this is the ONE. I love the simplicity of the design...and the focus on the cute little baby

And if a boy is headed our way, THIS would be my choice. I love the colors---and feel like there is even a level of simpleness in it.

Anyways...back to Christmas cards! I'm having a tough time deciding...but one of my favorite designs is THIS. I love the brown and I love that I can incorporate our Christmas update into the card---saves me a step!

And..if you're looking for a last minute Christmas gift, consider a photo gift. I ordered Jonathan a photo calendar from Shutterfly last year to hang in his office and he's loved it! Plus, after the year is over we'll save the calendar as a keepsake.

Another reason I'm really digging Shutterfly this year? They're offering 50 free holiday cards to bloggers who blog about this promotion! Interested in getting 50 cards yourself? Fill out the submission form here. You will be emailed with further instructions and once you complete your blog post, you should receive a code to put in for your 50 free holiday cards!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chaotic Holidays

Thanksgiving is next week...what? Weren't we just dressing up to receive free candy and carving pumpkins? Wow. Typically the holidays sneak up in mad fashion but this year they just have completely caught me off guard.

Sadly, the three things I thought about while realizing the holiday season truly was "just around the corner", were...

1.) "I have no idea on earth where ANY of our decorations landed in the move."

2.) "Where on earth are we supposed to get extra money for gifts?"

3.) "I REALLY hope one year we'll make it through without feeling totally guilty."

Now, I'm not a grinch personality at all...I love the holidays, the changing seasons, the decor that corresponds, Black Friday, etc... But this year I have felt fatigue when thinking about the holidays--deciding what to do, buy, etc...has just really started taking the joy out of what we're really celebrating.

We received several pieces of advice before we were married about what to do when holiday season rolled around---one of the best pieces was to make sure we took time to create our own family traditions (ie: don't try to cram in a visit to every Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, etc.)

Each year our celebrations have looked a little different, but we have managed to keep Christmas morning as an intimate time with Mr. B and now our precious lil' gal. I love waking up knowing there is no rush to be anywhere, hanging out in our pajamas as we open gifts and eat breakfast while sipping something warm, I love resting and treasuring that time with my husband and daughter. And for reasons many people won't understand, I'm also very protective of that tradition. (Our one and only thus far...)

But I feel like it gets a little harder each year as we make decisions about how to spend the holidays...especially now that children are involved. I end up feeling guilty over things I shouldn't and I've been guilty of almost wishing we can rush through the season to avoid the unavoidable hurt feelings.

However, one of my favorite bloggers today posted about how they do holidays...and I felt, supported? Knowing I'm not the only one out there who favors intimate time (if even for a few hours) as a small family unit.

So I'm feeling better about this approaching season. I'm focusing on what this season is really about and letting go of any unneccessary guilt I feel.

After all, my new goal is experiencing True Rest....even at the holidays :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A return to coupons...

October was a vacation month. A vacation to Disneyworld, a vacation from work, a vacation from real life, and a vacation from couponing even. I think it's good to take a break even from coupon shopping every once in a while.

However, our linen closet isn't as stuffed as we're accustomed to, our pantry needs some re-stocking, and I really want to see both stuffed before this baby makes his/her debut. :) I make it a goal to keep several boxes of toothpaste, razors, shave gel, wipes, etc. in our closet so as to never have to make a "quick" trip to Wal-mart...because, those trips are never quick and they are NEVER cheap.

So, this week I emptied out my coupon album. Cut out hundreds of coupons and got pretty excited with what coupons had been available the last few weeks. I purchased 5 newspapers a few weeks back...(and yes, that cost $10 to do so...but I always buy more than one paper at the beginning of the month because the best coupon inserts are in there...and the coupons I cut out of there will easily save me $100 or more.)

One of my favorite coupon to find is one that leads to a free this one...$1.00 off ANY one size Tide.

Which leads to a bag in our linen closet like this..
Yup, I purchase travel size items for free...because they work the exact same! In fact on our recent vacation, I took several of these packets with us and did laundry for free in our condo. And, should I need laundry soap if I ever happen to run out--I have a good 30 packages ready to go in my linen closet.
I don't claim to be "cool"...I just claim to be frugal and creative. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thriving in Survival Mode.

Life has been....busy? hectic? stressful? hmmm...I just can't choose one word to describe it.

Between growing a baby in my belly, dealing with a fussy toddler, working from home, keeping our home running, outside activities, and spending time with my sweet husband, life has felt like survival best.

And yet, in the midst of this pretty rough week, I have felt like we are actually thriving. After some thought as to how I could arrive at such a conclusion after the lack of sleep we've been through and the incredible frustration of this never-ending balancing act, I realized the reason I've felt like we're actually thriving is because of some of the elements we've worked so hard to put into place the last few months.

Let's face it, when you're exhausted and you've spent the entire day trying to work and wrestle an exhausted and sick child, the last thing you want to do is cook a nice dinner. Enter meals from our freezer! A while back we spent a weekend filling our freezer and we have thoroughly enjoyed the reward--in fact, we've emptied almost everything we cooked and are planning another cooking session.

The second is our household routine schedule. I'm still tweaking this to get it the way I feel most benefits our family---but at the end of a crazy week, our house is clean, laundry is done, and I haven't felt stressed about it one bit. By having a schedule like this, I was able to look at the chores and decide what needed the most attention and what could be ignored a while longer...and, since we've stayed on top of things, picking up messes or dusting furniture is a fairly quick process.

The third is a three-part plus. I've started making some of our own household cleaners and laundry soap. Earlier this week, when I ran out of kitchen counter cleaner I just mixed up another batch instead of having to make a trip to the store.

Similarly, I keep a well-stocked linen closet with personal care products (though it's looking a bit sparse lately--more on that later.) Instead of having to make a weekly wal-mart run or an impromptu trip whenever we run out of toothpaste, I just shop in my closet and save us a trip, time, and money. Oh, and it helps that most of those products were free or nearly free. Also, we've been buying diapers on amazon lately as part of the free Amazon mom program and Parenting magazine coupons. When my husband pulled the last diaper out of a box this week, there was already a reserve box waiting to be used.

Now, before you think that I must have it all together or that I'm showing off--you should know I haven't put on make-up all week, I've only left the house once, and I'm currently wearing my husband's sweats and a bleach-stained t-shirt. Oh, and I also wore the same yoga pants/shirt combo three times in a row this week. But, looking awesome wasn't high on my priority list this week.

I'm excited to feel like we're making some head way in home management techniques that actually work in our home---the trick has been tweaking every suggestion I've come across to match OUR home and OUR unique needs. I'm thankful that we're seeing progress in this area and feeling like we can actually thrive, even in survival mode....because in five months we're going to have a newborn in this house demanding attention....and it's going to be survival mode for quite some time :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Frugal Fun...

When we returned home for our vacation last month, I was on the hunt for more age appropriate toys and activities for my active toddler. Toy keys and teething rings were just not entertaining the little girl the way they used to! :)

So, I pulled her inflatable baby pool out of the garage from this summer and skipped on over to Target to purchase a $15 bag of balls.

The results of our "homeade" ball pit have been very favorable...both with our little one and her four cousins that came to play this afternoon. The best part? It was WAY cheaper to make our own ball pit than spill the money towards a store bought one.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

He IS my Shepherd

Our chuch is teaching from Psalm 23 for the next several weeks and after one message, I'm feeling challenged...and based on conversations with my husband and others, I'm not the only one.

Oh to talk about true rest...not just a movie night, a long nap, or a day spent shopping alone....but that elusive "true rest." Well, let's just say there's a lot I'm wrestling with lately and this message couldn't have been more timely. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks as well.

To be honest, I've felt overwhelmed lately. I felt overwhelmed before our vacation and I felt overwhelmed upon returning. I have felt rushed, busy, overcommitted, exhausted, and just plain cranky. I feel it in my relationships with other...and I have felt it spiritually. I feel a sense of frustration that I can't keep up, pull it all off, or have it all together...whatever those things actually mean (because if we were all to be honest, none of us keeps up, pulls it all off, or has it all together...)

I'm sick of putting myself in competition with other moms..either in real life or via the blog world...because I have a feeling if I peeked inside their real life, I'd see just how rushed and unrested they felt as well.

And let's face it...I'm 5 months pregnant and chasing a toddler all day...that alone is a full time job! Toss in chuch commitments, outside activities, Lucy's social agenda, working 20+ hours a week from home, trying to keep house, maintain a budget, buy things at rock-bottom prices, grow my marriage, play with my daughter, plan a menu, bring snacks to various activities, keep up with friendships....etc, etc, etc....and eventually? SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE.

I'm not playing a comparison game. We all feel busy. We are all way too busy. We all pile too much on our plate. We all long for true rest.

So this week, I'm going to work on time management...and not as in "I got everything done I wanted to do so I'm good at time management!" Rather, I'm going to think about what needs to get done each week, what I want to get done each week, and realistically what my time looks like....because I'm guessing something has to go....even if just for a short while.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to reflect on Psalm 23, focus on quality time with my husband, and get down on the floor and play as much as I can with my crazy little toddler.

Crafts, cleaning, and deal shopping can wait.

He IS my Shepherd.

Monday, November 1, 2010

wrapping up October and diving into November

I promised a lot of great posts and photos upon returning from vacation and I haven't quite delivered..because, well, I came down with a case of exteme exhaustion..(Um, where exactly is that second trimester energy burst?!?!) Lucy ended up sick towards the end of the week and I also had to dive right back into my work from home routine. Finding 20 + hours a week to work from home is becomingly increasingly difficult. I'm hoping to wrap up some loose ends this afternoon---and then it's time to tackle some household chores.

I was thrilled to come home to a super clean house. My husband and I worked hard the last few days before leaving for vacation to ensure that cleaning would be the last thing we'd need to worry about. Right now remnants of our vacation are strewn from one side of the home to the other, but we'll get back into a routine.

Speaking of which, our goal for October was to put together a household schedule of chores, activities, priorities, and fun tasks. With prep for vacation and the actual vacation itself, it's hard to judge how much this actually helped--but I'm continuing on with the schedule through November to see what needs to be tweaked.

Also in November, my husband and I are doing some brainstorming (again) about cost-cutting and savings. We enjoyed our vacation so much...we've been inspired to start saving for another! Now, we have NO wiggle room in our budget--so saving might only be a couple of bucks a month, but we're determined to start somewhere!

We both are also committing to one another to be in the Word everyday. I'm in an incredible study at church that works through one book of the bible a week, so this isn't a hard challenge for me--but the hope is to keep me focused and going. Jonathan's also been doing a lot of reading as well, but we'd still love the added encouragement from one another!

Those are our goals for November--and I'm also working on some home projects as well...more on that later!