Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where I've been...

I’ve been…absent.
Truth be told, it’s been an interesting and life-changing few months.  While I desperately wanted to blog and share our journey, the right words never seem to fit.  You’ll remember this post when I shared how we were translating the “love others” message into our own lives.  Shortly thereafter we received a call.  We were not ready to be called (quite literally---we hadn’t finished our paperwork even & our spare room was still very much a storage closet)  Yet, three days later we welcomed a new friend into our home & became parents to a 17 year old, a few months away from being out on her own.  It felt crazy…I’m sure it appears crazy…and yet, it also felt like this is EXACTLY what we were supposed to be doing. 
“The room isn’t ready, we don’t have a mattress, our bank account is already empty, she’s seventeen, I don’t feel well…”
(I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that I found out I was pregnant the morning we picked our new friend up. )

But, we still said yes.  We rented a storage unit and emptied her room in rapid speed.  We had a mattress within hours of posting the need on facebook.  We stepped out in faith.
With a preschooler & toddler at home & a baby in the belly---we’ve been on the fastest learning curve ever for raising a teenager.  We navigated school, relationship issues, behaviors, planning for the future—and have moved on to helping her find an apartment, furnish it & enroll in college.  To say it’s been a whirlwind few months is an understatement.  To say it’s been easy & fun would be a lie.

She has been a great addition to our family---our children adore her and she is sweet & kind.  And yet, there are frustrations, and differences in personalities & history that we didn’t create & cannot fix.  There is a future we must help prepare her for & so little time to feel like we can adequately equip her the way we were equipped by our parents.  And so again, we step out in faith…and pray a lot.  At the end of the day, we have to trust that somewhere down the road something we have said will have stuck---and not because they are words of our mouth, but that they are God’s truth. 
I’m a parent of 2 (almost 3) & yet I feel like I’ve “grown up” in the last few months.  A few years ago I was touring apartments & learning about lease terms & deposits with my mom by my side and now I’m in the driver’s seat at these appointments asking the questions a parent asks.  And it stings.  Things are not as they ought to be.

And yet, in the midst of the pain & frustration we have seen beauty like never before.  Our church community and friends have blessed us (really our new friend) in ways that have humbled me and brought me to tears.  When I mentioned a need for clothing we had bags of nice clothing immediately brought to us.  When I put out a request to help furnish an apartment, many came forward with items they no longer needed.  When a friend asked me in a parking lot one night how things were going---she blessed me in a way I don’t think she even could have realized…allowing me to share what it has really been like.  When my husband’s car bit the dust for good, a family in our church loaned us a car as we work to make other arrangements.  And when we had a new family member, they were greeted as if they had always been a part of our family….and that was perhaps the biggest blessing of all.
As I mentioned earlier, we discovered we were pregnant a few hours before we met our new friend.  I’ve been sick, tired, moody x 3.  Part of it is third pregnancy, part of it is added stress, part of it is no real time to rest with two little ones and a bigger kiddo with a full schedule.  We are about out of the first trimester and I’m hoping to feel much better in a few weeks.  I’m taking B-6 3x a day & Zofran as a back-up.  Things could be much worse & we are so thankful for this sweet baby that we will meet in June.

There have been many times in the last few months that I have questioned why God would bring this opportunity before us.  And then I ask why things continue to go wrong (broken car, dryer, messed up bills, etc..)   Why?  Why now?  Why us?  I don’t have answers…though some of it is pretty straightforward.  Kids need homes.  While we don’t have excess income & each month is a bit of a struggle---we DO have an extra bedroom & the knowledge to care for another child.  Why now?  Because there is never going to be a perfect time--we will likely never have “enough” money, “enough” time, “enough” energy.  The “why us?”---I’ll never have an answer there.  I feel so ill-equipped to be a parent and handle raising my biological children that I will never understand why we feel so strongly that God has asked us to do this right now.  All I know is there is no way we would have made it this far if operating under our own strength.
There can be beauty in the brokenness…. And if our new friend only leaves with learning one thing from us, I hope that is it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

preschool at home?

We're busy.  Just like everyone else out there.  I'm gearing up for the start of MOPS, amongst other activities we are involved in.  We're plugging away to prepare our home for the final step in the process of receiving our license to do foster care.  Oh yeah....and we're rasising two active kids.

And for one of those kiddos, we'll be "officially" starting preschool at home in less than two weeks.  I say officially because, really, we've been doing a lot of activities that would fall into "preschool at home"---we're just going to be even more intentional in a few weeks. 

She is humming into the water bottle
while banging the pop bottles together
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the International MOPS Convention in Dallas, TX.  I left feeling so rejuvenated & so excited to be more purposeful in my time with my children.  The days are looooooooooong, but the years are short.  A mentor mom shared this a few years back when I just had one baby---and I felt in over my head at that point.  "yeah, the days ARE long," I thought to myself.  Now there are two precious kiddos making messes in our home---and I see just how true that is.  Whoa, I have a three year old?

Doing preschool at home really wasn't my first choice, I'll be honest.  Due to a series of events--preschool or Parent's day out options, were just not...options. I found myself in the position of wanting to be really purposeful in my time at home with both my kids, but especially with Lucy.  She has such a curious personality & creative imagination.  I want to help her explore that.  I want to provide opportunities for her to ask questions, figure out her world & develop new skills---all while learning her abc's and 123's.  (which, she already knows...some in spanish... thanks to a spunky little girl with an adorable backpack ;)

picking tomatoes in a
ballet costume
  We are using the "Before Five in a Row" model. Lucy has become such a lover of books---and I want to embrace that and encourage it as MUCH as I can. I love that this isn't a "typical" way to do pre-school...and I love that it's all about laying the foundation for a love of learning. There are so many ideas online to go with each of the books they suggest and it has helped me think outside of the box in terms of other books we read and how to integrate fun activities with them.   I plan to do a lot more hands on activities with her because it suits her style of learning so much better. 

We are setting some goals to help us have some good direction (like, we want to read 50 new books between now and the end of the 2012, we want to officially potty-train, we want to finish the first book in the "Little House" series, etc..we have about 15 on our list for these first few months)

The point is, I'm trying to tap into the way SHE learns. I want it to be FUN. She's three, so if we're not feeling a particular activity that day, we'll move on. And I think the Before Five in a Row---along with lots of other activities and some parks & rec activities, will make for a really fun year of "preschool at home"

I hope to blog about our journey, but I'm not so good at keeping promises in that department.  we'll see...

shopping at wal-mart

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

a dog balloon, of course!

We've been testing the potty-training waters for a few months now.  Lucy is a trooper.  When we first tested her for readiness, she did really awesome.  Then I came down sick and the hard work went out the window.  Rinse & repeat circumstances for the subsequent months, only replace the situation with "Jack came down sick", "husband started new job", "daughter developed strong will".

I've never been one to be too concerned about it, honestly.  As my mother in law would say, "she won't go to Kindergarten in diapers."  Anyways, while we have mostly mastered #1, #2 is elusive...it seeems.  We've tried offering every type of reward known...and I do mean EVERYTHING.  Last I checked we were working on earning a princess watch---next thing I knew, she really wanted a "doggy balloon".  Sure, who doesn't?

So, while out shopping with my mom and sister yesterday, an excited little girl got to call me "mommy!  I poo-poo in potty!  Get me doggy balloon?????"  Sure, kid....we've all earned it.

don't tell Lucy, we've told her the balloon says "congrats on going poo-poo in the potty like a big girl!"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The First Four Years.

"there are several newlyweds headed off for their honeymoon here today."

I smiled. 

"that was us almost four years ago."

we both smiled.

I had just returned home from a weekend away in Dallas.  My husband with our two kids in tow was anxiously awaiting my arrival---complete with "Welcome Home Mommy" signs.  I bolted off the plane, just as anxious to see the two kids I had left---and perhaps moreso---the husband I hadn't spent more than a night apart from in four years.

Four years ago we were one of those starry-eyed couples preparing for our departure to our honeymoon destination.  Now here he was picking me up with two children....and we were the ones noticing the enormous amounts of couples departing to the many tropical locations, dreaming big of their future to come.

Four years.  FOUR YEARS.  We spent our anniversary night strolling around a school supply store and the library (don't worry, we'll celebrate when we have a babysitter this weekend)---four years.

Two babies, a new home, new job, new struggles, new successes...

We aren't the starry-eyed couple we were that day in the airport.  We're aware of struggle, hardship & what it means to make marriage work... (to the extent that we can at our young marriage age...)  But I am more in love with the man that God blessed me with than I was that day I committed myself to him forever.  (And, for the record I always thought that was so cliche....and now....now I know better). 

This weekend when I was away I was reminded of just how thankful I am for my husband.  It feels rare in this day to hear women share positive stories of their husbands and I count myself lucky to be able to be one of those women. 

Happy Anniversary, my love.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We are nesting again...

I’m a planner.  You likely wouldn’t assume this about me if you spent the day in my home and felt the level of disorganization going on that I have felt recently, but, I am a planner.  In my two pregnancies I managed to “nest” almost the entire duration.  There were needs to anticipate, closets to organize, things to label, walls to be washed & laundry room floors that needed to be mopped….again and again.

I’m nesting again.  Only, I’m not pregnant…..but we are expecting a child/children.

When I was in the 6th grade, my parents opened up their home and took in 3 of our relatives for a short time.  I’ve always admired that my mom willingly took on three more children (pre-teens/teens at that!) when she already had 3 pre-teen/teens to raise.  I shared my bedroom and my parent’s attention.  And while I’m sure we all fought…often…I have really fond memories from that year. 

Fast forward to about five years ago when I started working at a private foster care agency in their admissions department….where I also met my husband.  For 2 ½ years I spent every day calling foster homes in search of placement for children that were brand new to custody or just in need of a new foster home.  It was always a mixture of somber and wonderful feelings all at the same time.  Here I was working to locate placements for children out of their home---and at the same time talking with some wonderful foster families who willingly took extra children into their home.

My husband and I have known that foster care and (possibly) adoption would be a part of our future families...before we were even a family. For my husband, he would have been ready the day after we said "I do," but while I wanted to do this---I needed to make the choice to do this. I always would say things like "someday we want to do foster care/adopt/help kids in need...when our kids are older/out of the home/less need...when we have more money/a bigger home/a larger car/a set schedule"

 A new job has allowed for a little extra money in the budget, but the other “when we_______’s” are still there.  So why now?  Because I believe that Jesus was serious when He told us to love our neighbors, care for orphans (even temporary ones), to love others….and all that stuff on mercy/justice/and grace…..you get the idea.  We have an extra bedroom and space in both our home and heart to do this.  And while we could wait for a bigger home/more money/when our kids are older….I think we’d be missing the point.  I think we’re all called to care about children in foster care & orphans….this is the way we feel led to “answer” this call in our lives.

We are about halfway through our training and we anticipate receiving our license as early as mid-September!  In the meantime, we are “nesting”.  We are purging our closets (& our hearts), praying, anticipating needs, stalking every thrift store in a 30- mile radius to find really nice furniture & misc supplies and purchasing loads of school supplies at cheap prices….in the event we take in a child in October and all of a sudden notebooks that were .17 in July are about $100 more than that.  We are preparing our home to pass an inspection…which means fixing that silly handrail on the steps that lead to our garage, locking up all of our medicines and cleaning supplies & finding a way to store our ammunition separate from our guns.  (kidding, no guns in this home!!)

Some people I’m sure think we are a little crazy…I feel a little crazy!  But I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would rather be dubbed “crazy” than “complacent.”

 Please don’t get the wrong idea about these children!  They are not damaged….they are fearfully and wonderfully made.  And while some of them may be coming from the terrible situations you hear on the news---I’d say many of them just need a temporary place to stay while their parents receive some support to get things back on track.  We want to be that temporary place of shelter….and that support that encourages both sides.  Also, please know that we don’t consider ourselves special…quite the opposite actually.  We merely feel like we are taking a step of obedience.

I share this with all of you because we would love it if you would pray with us, for us & for the potential children and families we will have the privilege of working with.  I’d also like to share some of our “anticipated needs” in the event that you might have a “friend of a friend of a friend who is trying to sell her kitchen table”----I’ve been camping out at consignment stores like it’s my job and have managed to take care of some of these items---but it can’t hurt to spread the word!

Our needed wishlist:

-our most pressing need is for a minivan.  Our car can hold maybe one more person?  But certainly not if that person is needing to occupy a carseat.  Our SUV is paid off and we have been on the hunt for a reasonably priced minivan that can get us all from point a to point b…reliably. 

-twin beds, dressers (you know, the type of furniture you would need if a child 0-18 came to live with you) We have the usual baby items---and an extra crib at our disposal.

-sheet sets & bedding items (those spiderman sheets your son is no longer interested in?  maybe we might have use for them!) 

-clothing (this is one obviously can’t be worked with ahead of time)

-a kitchen table  (ours currently seats 3, we are on the hunt for a table that will seat at least 6)

-books, games, puzzles (items that span various age ranges)

-advice.  I KNOW there will be points where we have a child and I’m all of a sudden “oh my stars, what on earth do teenagers like to read/eat/watch?” or “I all of a sudden have a child who is totally into twilight---someone give me cliff notes, stat!”  be prepared J

Sunday, July 22, 2012


"Where have I substituted the American Dream for God's Kingdom?"--Jen Hatmaker, "7"

A little over two years ago my husband and I packed our belongings and moved into our cozy "new" home. At 1200 sq feet, it looks and sounds smaller than most homes in our area.  But looks can be deceiving and as you step inside you'll quickly notice there is more space than what that curb appeal first led you to believe.  There are three bedrooms (4 if you count the finished attic space that we've filled with our junk in the past two years).  There is a garage that isn't big enough to accomodate a car, but it holds our oversized chest freezer & ride-on toys quite nicely.  There is no basement, no over-sized laundry room, no walk-in closets that should be bedrooms themselves & no "extra" storage.  The grass is dead because we're in a drought and I refuse to spend money watering my lawn when I'm being asked to conserve water.

Two years ago there was PLENTY of space for us.  When all the boxes had landed we couldn't believe how much space we had!  (You should know we were moving from an 800 sq foot apartment at the time and had just one child).  Things feel a little cramped these days with the addition of another child and enough children's clothes to outfit an entire village filling up our attic.  This leads me to wanting more.  more storage.  more bedrooms.  more space.  And as a result, more stuff to fill all that extra space.

It is a vicious cycle.  It's gross. 

What happens when I have more?  If the past serves as a good indicator...I'll probably just want more.

I live in a country that tells me by certain standards (and federal poverty guidelines) that I am "somewhat poor".  The sickening part is that I actually believe it.  And in the meantime I can load my children into our SUV and drive to the doctor where they will receive the proper immunizations.  We'll head to the store where I will be able to purchase food to cook for dinner that night.  We will enter our home that is cooled to a nice 72 degrees and has indoor plumbing.  We'll drink water straight from the tap because it's safe & bathe our children in warm water.  We'll go to our individual bedrooms at the end of the night after watching TV and we'll sleep in wonderfully comfortable beds....with the only real danger of going through life so unaware that we don't recognize just how rich we are.

We've been slowly taking steps in our lives to make intentional changes, to take intentional steps on how we live & how we love others.  Last weekend we loaded up 7 trashbags full of our adult-sized clothes and dropped them off at a local thrift store.  This was HUGE....and yet it barefully scratched the surface at the same time.  We're in the process of "making room" in our home for some things I'll share later (no, not pregnant!) & there is no choice but to reduce.  After appreciating the fact that our home had a master bedroom with two closets for the past two years, we simply decided we didn't need our own closets full of clothing & shoes, most of which probably were not worn that often anyway.  So we reduced.  we combined. 

Right now we live in this "in-between."  We want so desperately to rebel against these lies we are told day after day & engage in a radically different lifestyle.  One that is content to live in a 1200 sq ft home & still fill it up with the wonderful sound of children.  We want to reduce, reduce, reduce so that there is actually room in our heart and in our home for the Gospel to truly take hold of our hearts and really bear fruit in our lives. 

Purging our closets is symbolic to the deeper purging we must do in our hearts on a continual basis.  What thoughts, attitudes, actions or behaviors are not of the Lord?  Purge them.  Where am I substituting my attitude of "I'm owed this for all my___________"  Purge it.  Where have I allowed anger and resentment to clog the communication lines in a relationship?  Where has discontentment robbed me from recognizing what God desires for me right now? Where am I allowing selfishness to keep me from loving others the way Jesus instructed us to do?  Where am I allowing my own thoughts to water down the message and instruction of the Gospel?  Where have I become so blind in my "first world problems", that I fail to see real problems all around me?  Purge, purge, purge it all.....

"I have simply said, "Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk & more of You and Your Kingdom."  I will reduce, so He can increase."-Jen Hatmaker, "7"


*****side note---I wrote this post last weekend and continued to digest all of these thoughts.  There's a balancing act we all must carefully walk & figure out when less is more....and when it truly is just not enough.  We are making some radical changes in our lives in which having a larger space/more bedrooms/etc could be of great value---and not just for pure consumption.  There are other times when I want that "new, bigger, more expensive" item....just because.  I want to recognize need vs want and teach my kids the proper relationship as well.  I want to model behavior that teaches responsible spending---and that just because I can afford something, doesn't mean I need it.  It's a tight-rope walk that I haven't even come close to mastering.  I'm not even sure most days I know HOW.  But I'm open to the discussion of it---to the continual analysis of my heart in relationship to material items, my home & my bank acocunt.  All I can pray for is a teachable spirit.*****

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

and so it ends...

On Sunday I handwashed my last load of flats and covers as part of the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge.

Two things I now know...

1.  I never want to have to handwash another load of any type of clothing...

2.  But, if I had to for the safety and health of my children & to make sure we could put food on our table, I totally would!

The problem I see is that there is little awareness out there about cloth diapers.  There is no major media coverage showcasing what used to be such a natural way of life.  Whether it be the modern style of cloth diapering and the super cute brands like Bum Genius or what I just challenged myself to last week with the "old style" of flats and modern covers, we need to get more awareness.  People of all income levels need to know that this IS a way they could diaper their child and it's not gross and scary like many think.  Frankly, while handwashing wasn't fun---I'd almost rather do that then load my two children under the age of three in the car to head to Wal-Mart, to unload them into a cart at the store, to purchase an overpriced package of diapers that will just be thrown away, to load them back into the car....you get the idea. 

Last week was tough.  Handwashing is hard.  This challenge took it to the extreme to show that this could be a viable option for those really struggling with no access to a washing machine.  To try and get more into what that would be like, I experimented with using old receiving blankets and flour sack towels from wal-mart.  Both worked just fine, though I do prefer my Diaper Rite flats (which if purchased on sale, are only a few cents more).

This challenge made me realize I could handwash, but made me thankful that I have a choice.  Everytime I worked on figuring out a new fold, I wished that there was a wealth of cloth diaper knowledge being passed down to me.  My mother cloth-diapered and when we first showed my parents modern cloth diapers, they were both a little shocked.  But, after giving my dad a flat, he remembered how to fold one in no time!  But, I wish I knew how my grandmothers & even great-grandmothers did it.  I didn't grow up knowing my grandmothers as both had passed away long before I was out of diapers---but I'd like to think if they were around, they'd be showing me how to fold them and telling me stories of how they used to do it.  Moments like these make me realize I'm missing a bit of that legacy....did they bake homemade bread like I'm attempting to learn how to do?  Handwash their clothing?  Make their own baby food?  I'm not sure I'll ever know---and that makes me a little sad.  My mother is full of wisdom and has passed down much of that to me, but how neat would it be to show my 90 year old grandmother cloth diapers with prints of them?  Monkeys on a diaper?!  What a hoot!  :)

Today my washing machine is running and I will be washing my "easy" pocket diapers and all-in-ones that I have come to appreciate more post-challenge.  The plunger and bucket have been retired to the garage for now and a new set of flats is on its way to me---because I've always loved flats, but I have a newfound appreciation for their simplicity.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You're doing what?

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry. For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all. You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting Dirty Diaper Laundry's original announcement post.

And after I answer that question...


(I'm a little behind in blogging, but if you visit the above links--you'll find out why this challenge was originally born)

So yes, for 7 days I have committed to using flat cloth diapers (think one giant square piece of fabric, what our grandparents likely used) AND I'm washing them all by hand.  Why am I doing this?  Well, for all the reasons that Dirty Diaper Laundry mentioned...and a few more.

I believe there are choices we get to make as parents.  How we will diaper our children is fortunately one of them.  I've spoke before about our decision to plunge into the cloth diaper world when our youngest was 6 weeks old and we had two in diapers--but for us, the decision was purely financial.  My work-at-home job had recently ended and my husband had not started his part time position.  Thankfully we had a stockpile of disposables, because there was NO money to spare.  We had two children in diapers, little food in the fridge & bills that were running a bit behind.  We bought some flour sack towels from Wal-Mart, a few prefolds & covers and our journey into cloth diapering began.

Today things look better for us, but we are still running a TIGHT budget.  We use many other types of diapers and have slowly built up a pretty fun and eclectic stash over the year.  Not having to shell out a ton of money on disposable diapers has eased that burden greatly.  Bottom line, I know what it is like to face not being able to purchase disposable diapers and wondering what you'll put on your baby. 

Taking this challenge puts me in the position of gratitude.  As I scrub each diaper, I'm gaining perspective.  As I hang each diaper on the line, I'm growing in gratitude.  As I work to figure out a new fold, I'm becoming more resourceful.

I'm taking this challenge to show that there is another way. Yes, it's extreme...but by handwashing the diapers, I'm showing that even those without access to a washing machine COULD cloth diaper. 

I'm also taking this challenge to raise awareness about all the modern cloth diapers available today!  Yes, I'm only using flats---the most simple and cheapest way to cloth diaper----but, there are a variety of very user-friendly cloth diapers on the market.  The longer we cloth diaper, the more thankful I am that we made the switch.  We are saving money, dealing with fewer rashes, supporting small businesses & are putting out FAR less trash.

My little "helper"
For this challenge, we are using Diaper Rite flats, Swaddlebees flats, Hemp Babies doublers (at night), FLIP covers, Palm Tree Covers, Econobum covers, cloth wipes & a "washing machine" made out of a 5 gallon bucket and plunger. We are diapering our 1 year old son full-time & our 2 1/2 year old daughter at naps/nights.

We are three days in and I am so far really enjoying this challenge.  Washing isn't nearly as hard as I imagined it would be and I have a great deal of satisfaction as I hang the diapers to dry on the line. 

Stay tuned to hear more!

Monday, May 21, 2012

oh hi there...

over two months?  that must be a new record for be in the area of being silent.

to sum up the last two months: we're still living on a budget, my kids are still cute/ornery/growing/saying cute things, we are still using cloth diapers/sometimes coupons/price matching/working on being "green". 

but none of those things are things I want to talk about.

here's the thing...sometimes we just need to shut our mouths.

sometimes we need to be quiet enough to allow ourselves an opportunity to invite the wisdom of others into our lives.

sometimes we need to be silent to make room to hear & engage in the stories around us.....especially those painful stories that need more light than my stories of saving money/everyday life does.

These talented women capture what I want to say far better than I ever could.  If you get a chance, get your hands on a copy of "7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" & "Kisses from Katie".

"We aren't called to save the world, not even to save on person; Jesus does that.  We are just called to love with abandon.  We are called to enter into our neighbors' sufferings and love them right there."
-Kisses from Katie

"As I reduce, He is enough.  As I simplify, He is enough.  He is my portion where clothes and comfort fall woefully short.  He can heal me from greed and excess, materialism and pride, selfishness and envy."

"Heaven is coming fast, and we live in that thin space where faith and obedience have relevance.  We have this one life to offer; there is no second chance, no Plan B for the good news.  We get one shot at living to expand the kingdom, fighting for justice.  We'll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us.  We'll have one moment to say, "This is how I lived.""

"I am commissioned to be a light, but I can't illuminate this world while competing with the light of others...when one of us shines it is a community victory.  If we all lived radiantly we simply couldn't be hidden andy longer.  This is not about individual wattage; our power is communal, or it is meaningless."
-Jen Hatmaker, "7"

Well put, ladies, well put.  If I could legally copy and paste the entire books here, I would....they are being THAT transformational in our lives. 

We're gaining perspective...or continuing to gain perspective.  We're listening more.  We're desiring to be agents of change.  We are taking radical steps of obedience. We want to right some major wrongs. We want to step outside our comfort zones.  We want to stop complaining about our petty problems.  We want to "walk the walk".  We want to share our lives with others.  We want to go against the grain.  We're recognizing again and again just how much it's "not about us". We  want to open up our homes and hearts and love like we were told to do.

And we want to encourage others to do the same.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


whoa?  March?  already?

*cough* not prepared for time to go by this quickly *cough*.

Here's a brief check-in of what last month held for me:

The habit I worked on was stickin' with an all cash budget

The "new" thing I set out to do was homemade marinara sauce.  Didn't accomplish this one, but I did manage to make my own bodywash, try a new laundry detergent recipe & make granola bars from scratch.

The organizational projects: Went through our bookshelf and cleaned that up, cleaned out under our bathroom sink and started on the massive upstairs project---this project is massive and...ongoing.  I spent an entire weekend sorting and packing away all of our outgrown children's clothes...which amounted to 18 totes.  yup.  EIGHTEEN!

The books: Finished "Loving the Little Years" & "Eat that Frog".  Working my way through "7:an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess"

So...March is here!  Which means planning a first birthday party for my sweet lil' guy.  We're also attempting to potty train our super stubborn sweet daughter.

The habit I'm working on for March: My husband and I are both seeking to cultivate a more purposeful prayer life.  I'm doing the 31 days of Praying for your husband & we are working in other areas to really bring much more intentionality to our prayer lives

The "new" things to try: homemade marinara sauce, homemade whole wheat bread & homemade refried beans (did this last week--yum!)

The organizational projects: Finish the dormer....and work on our closets, freezers & pantry

The books: Finish "7: an experimental mutiny against excess", re-start "Sacred Marriage" with the husband.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The cash bandwagon

We operated an all cash budget this past summer for groceries and household expenses.  At the time, we had a well stocked pantry, freezer & personal care items closet.  We had several meals stocked up in our freezer, we weren't in need of disposable diapers, wipes or formula.  So, we challenged ourselves to $50 a week for all grocery/household items.  We were rather successful.

We fell off the cash bandwagon for a few months and while we still watched our spending, we didn't feel quite as disciplined as we had in the past.  If we ran out of cash at check-out, we'd swipe our debit card and be on our merry way.  For the month of February, we jumped back on the cash bandwagon.  Armed with a $280 budget for the month (cash only) we set out to purchase all grocery/household items we would need and be able to use couponing as a means to bless others.  The month for us is over, and I'm happy to report we only went over budget by $40.  Yes, we did swipe that debit card the last few days---but $280 was ambitious for us from the start.

Some things to mention:
-We did not have a well-stocked freezer (of extra meat, chicken, etc) and we had NO extra meals in our freezer
-We needed to buy disposable diapers/wipes as we had ran out of our stockpile from the summer
-We are purchasing formula now for our little guy
-We make many of our own cleaning supplies & have started to explore making some of our personal care items that we cannot get free or very cheap with sales/coupons
-When you see many (say the photo with 19 packs of razors)--it's safe to assume the items were free after coupons and many of these items are going to be donated.
-Wal-Mart is not our preferred place to shop, but since we can price match there and save ourselves trips running around town, we exercised that option a lot this month
***I should mention as well that we do cloth diaper, so our diapering costs are significantly less except for the rare times we do have to buy disposables. We make all of our own baby food. Our children are also on WIC and as such receive a small amount of milk, cheese, cereal, formula, baby food & fruit.  Those items provided through WIC are not pictured.***

Going forward...

Starting in March we are taking our budget to $300 a month.  I still think it's a challenging amount for us.  We are seeking to transition our family away from processed foods---a gradual (and more expensive) transition.  I will count the cost of extra coupons this month towards our budget (I spent about $8 for the month of February on extra coupons that provided us with items for ourselves and to donate to others).  I will continue to research how to "DIY" many of the items we make in order to cross them off our shopping lists.  We will hopefully begin to decrease the $300/month grocery/household budget as we become more and more disciplined.  But, we feel for our family at the present time, $300 is a good target to aim for.

I tried taking photos of each trip to document where our money was going, but I only managed to get a few and here arethe few that I did capture!  we ate much more than what is pictured as we had a well-stocked pantry & freezer---and since I didn't capture every trip, just imagine that most of these photos are "filler items" and we had many other ingredients already.  Also, if I earned a money reward towards my next purchase, that is noted.  The amount listed (ex, the toothpaste at .48 is what I actually paid out of pocket that day)

#1 CVS- .48 (earned $4)

#2- Dillons--$24.43, Wal-Mart (3 lotions and gum)=.42

#3-CVS (6 deodorant, 3 air freshners)=$5.38 (earned $10 towards next purchase)
     Target=free cat food, (.52 tax)---picked up for a friend
     Price Chopper/Hy-Vee=$39

#4- Hen House--(8 deodorant)=$1.64, Wal-Mart (razors, milk)=$6.76


#8-CVS (all shampoo)=$3.35 (earned $4 to use next time),
Hen House (deodorants & Yo Crunch)=.94, Hy-Vee=$21.65

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pinterest inspired....

So yeah, once a week I suppose will be the best I can do.  I want to be an all-star blogger, but honestly, I've been stepping back more and more from being "plugged" in.....and secretly, I'm really loving it.  I took a "media fast" last week and what it revealed to me was startling.  I need to unplug more.  Engage with my children & husband more.  pray more.  read stellar non-fiction books more. dig deep in God's word more. 

That being said, blogging...well, if I have a free moment....you'll find me knee deep in this book at the moment.

But, I had wanted to share these recipes....both pinterest inspired!

First: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent.  I used an assortment of recipes to create our own.  Having had a terrible experience with liquid homemade dishwasher detergent, I have been thrilled with this powder recipe!  I used both lemi-shine powder and the lemonade packets (it's the citric acid)---but our rinse aid compartment is broken, so I added the lemi-shine for good measure.  But, if you need a rinse aid---try vinegar.  You'll need to mix it occassionally to break up clumps from the citric acid. We re-purposed a formula container

I used:
1 C Borax
1c Washing Soda
1/2 c salt
2 packets non-sugar Lemon Kool-aid
1/3 c lemi-shine (powder)

The second: Homemade Bodywash.  I followed this recipe off pinterest---there are many to choose from, but I chose one that did not use vegetable glycerin.  We re-purposed an old ketchup bottle :)

A few notes:
-It took about a week to thicken up and lather just like commercial bodywash.  Worked fine before, but it does thicken a bit overtime.
-If I were to make handsoap, I would probably add glycerin to help thicken it up.
-I tend to use a bit more of the homemade than I do of the commercial.  Even still, if I went through a full bottle each month (not likely) I could make 12 bottles for the price of one store-bought bottle...
-I LOVE this stuff!  Tried Irish Spring and it did not work well.  Dove worked awesome and I'm hopeful I can find a good soap to make bodywash for the kids

I never pay more than .50/bar of soap after sales and coupons...and often less than that.  We figured that one bar of soap produced around 26oz of bodywash.  24oz of Dove Bodywash is nearly $6 at Wal-Mart.....that's over a $5 savings!

Monday, February 13, 2012

LOVED "Loving the Little Years"

I know I said I would update on that whole “all cash budget” thing….and why part of our home is overrun with “hoarders material”-----but I finished my way through a book this week that I just cannot keep from sharing with every mother of young children that I know.

This book has been so thought provoking, challenging, convicting, encouraging, etc.  My husband and I have been wrestling through some parenting thoughts lately and this book articulated what I desire for our approach….and SO much more.

It’s fabulous.  I don’t gain anything from saying it.  But it is…it’s fabulous.

There are a few negative reviews on Amazon…. likely the typical “I don’t like feeling preached at” or “this book makes me feel bad about myself”

Give me a moment to jump on my "it's-my-blog-so-i-can-say-this" soapbox....ahem.  I (sometimes) hear arguments from people (or read them on reviews of books) that just really make me scratch my head.  Generally, aside from times when a book may be in obvious disharmony with the Gospel, I think if I’m feeling “guilty” after reading a book, it’s a fairly good indication that either a.) I’m being far too sensitive or b.) there’s something that I need to be a changin’.  Sure, there are a few things in this book I may not be in agreement with the author on (like how frequently they spank in their home), but overall---those are just very insignificant differences in opinion that do not impair the message of the book.  This book doesn't speak much to her struggles---and so I can totally understand why some have felt that it can feel a bit like a sermon at times....but, I didn't feel that way. 

So, do yourself a favor and give this book a chance. 

You need to be pointing them to His law as you explain yours.  God said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” so Mama says, “you may not hit one another.””

“….We are laying the foundation.  Keep an eye on the time when they will be free of your law-you want them to have learned to love God’s.”

“as you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first.  This is what it looks like and feels like to walk with God as a mother.”

Monday, February 6, 2012

keepin' up when the appeal wears off...

January was a good month.  I felt more fruitful, productive, relaxed, thankful, etc----and I really focused on enjoying my husband and wild   perfectly obedient children.  I had hit the ground running in goal setting, priority re-focusing and organizational overhaul.

And then February first was upon us---and I was delighted to have stayed on track a month....but the appeal....well, let's just say it's easy to get in a bit of a slump.  I have still been in the Word every day---but I find my mind wandering more often.  I'm still keeping a tidy home, but I find myself wanting to continually put things off.  I'm still enjoying my husband and children, but I find that somedays it requires a great deal of effort to be truly purposeful with them. 

In short, the shiny appeal of the New Year is gone---and now it's time to buck up and decide if these priorities, goals, resolutions....whatever name you put to them....if these will stick.  I'm still sticking.  Yes, it's meant jumping up and down in place a few times to work up the energy to load the dishwasher before I go to bed at night.  Yes, it's meant re-reading the same passage of scripture over and over to make up for the moments my mind is wandering.  Yes, it's meant apologizing to my kids...and sometimes my husband....when my patience wears thin.

But I'm sticking.

God is cultivating the discipline in my life to work through these bumps, to press on & to not throw my hands up in the air when the going gets tough.

So, for February...here's the breakdown of intentional goals...

The Habit: My husband and I are getting back on the "all cash" bandwagon when it comes to groceries/household expenses  More to come---and my first week back on that wagon---

The New thing: Homemade spaghetti sauce...and possibly a new laundry detergent recipe

Organizational project(s):  Undecided.  Most likely our bedroom closets & large bookshelf.  But hopefully I can muster up the will power to take on the finished part of our attic.  It's for real a scene straight out of Hoarders.

The Books: Working my way through Loving the Little Years right now.  Not sure if another one will make it's way on the list as we are wrapping up a discipleship group this month that requires extra reading as well.

What about you?  Are you "sticking"?  Any new years goals that you're struggling with?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

a wrap-up of January

As we were all recovering the end of December/beginning of January from various illnesses, I shared about how I'm seeking to be more intentional, purposeful & fruitful in my home & other areas of life.  I identified my priorities and decided that to keep those in check, goals and plans needed to fit into one of those areas....and if it didn't, then it wasn't for me---at least right now.

We are one month in and I am so excited to be making headway in these areas!  There have certainly been growing pains---and will be many more I presume along the way.  I'm thankful for God's grace, for the discipline He is cultivating in my life & for what He is teaching me through this process.  I'm excited about what He is doing in me....and for the first time (in a long time), I don't feel trapped into comparing myself to other women in my life.  This process has been humbling, rewarding & quite refreshing!  Additionally, I feel like God's been revealing a LOT to us about His intentions for my husband and I as parents.  More to come on that when my thoughts are more organized. 

Sharing here provides such great accountability for me---and I love having a record of how God was working on our lives, goals I was accomplishing & books I was reading.

So, for January:

The habit I wanted to cultivate was being in God's word everyday, and not just when I "found time"-----I started January 3rd, and by His grace, I spent every morning for the rest of the month reading His word.  My hope is that by cultivating one habit at a time, they'll stick!  I'm hoping to finish a full read through of the Bible this year---so this habit will for sure be sticking!

The "new" thing I wanted to try-----I made homemade dishwasher detergent.  I've done this in the past and the recipe was a HUGE failure.  Thanks to Pinterest, I combined a few elements of a few different recipes and I've been using it for over a week now.  LOVE it.  Smells great...works great....and is so much cheaper than anything else on the market. I'm still working on a few recent "kinks"  Recipe and photos to come later...

The organizational projects----the guest bathroom under sink cabinets, the linen closet that contains our large stockpile, the coupon binder & setting up a new household notebook.  Didn't get as much done in this area as I would have liked, but illnesses definitely were a set back this month. 

Books read---again, with illness in our home, I ended up reading quite a bit/finishing books.  I've also added and removed books from my book list.  My goal is to read at least 12 non-fiction books this year.
-Love times three: Joe Darger
-Five Smooth Stones: Tom Nelson (this was a re-read for a discipleship group at church)
-Rising to the Call: Os Guinness

Goals for February, our first week back on the "all cash" wagon & why you probably want to report me to Hoarders Anonymous.... coming....soon?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cultivating good habits & trying new things

Last year when I set goals, I created a list of twelve new things I wanted to try.  It was an epic failure, because as I've mentioned---my goal setting for last year was far too ambitious and lacked any real direction on how to go about accomplishing my goals.

We are only 25 days into the new year, but going through the process of setting goals according to my priorities has been transformational.  Each week, in addition to working through my to-do list & my cleaning checklist, I've been sitting down with a sheet that has a space for all 8 of my priorities.  I've been setting one or two goals underneath each priority for that week.  For example, this week under my "Work to maintain a clean home and organized life" my goals were to clean out the linen closet & under the guest bathroom sink.  By accomplishing that goal, I worked through another goal of filling a box of items to donate from my stockpile under my priority of "Serve others"---cleaning out those two spaces also meant I got to check them off of my "Areas that need to be cleaned out and organized" list!  :)

While I am getting "stuff done"----I think the better way to sum up how I feel is "I'm being more fruitful with my time, I'm accomplishing my goals & I'm keeping my priorities in check."

In addition to the goals, I'm really striving to cultivate some new habits for myself and the kiddos and I'm wanting to get back to the "try 12 new things".

This month, the habit I'm working to cultivate is spending time in God's word everyday.  One of my goals for the year is to read through the entire Bible using the ESV chronological plan.  By the grace of God, I've managed to spend time every day this month in His word.  While reading the Bible isn't a new habit, reading the Bible every day is.  I'm striving to cultivate this habit & make this a regular discipline in my life.  As I've said before, if I have time to check facebook, I have time to be in His word.

As for the new thing?  This month I made homemade dishwasher detergent!  I have tried this in the past and hated it.  This time I'm using a powder recipe that is a collection of other recipes.  The first few rounds have gone well---I'm going to keep using it, and if I'm still happy with it in the next ten days, I'll post the recipe I've put together from other recipes online.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

book it!

One of my priorities in 2012 is to "seek to provide a healthy lifestyle for myself & family."

A focus area I identified was "developing my mind"--and thus, setting a goal to read at least 12 books happened.

I enjoy reading---and, I tend to read quickly when I set to it.  I'm not a fan of fiction and I enjoy reading things that may not line up with how I choose to live my life---simply because it challenges me in ways I wouldn't be otherwise.  However, I also find it really important to read books that also challenge me to develop new skills, habits & sharpen old ones in my roles.  I know many are put off by marriage and parenting books, but while I don't take everything they say to heart---I think there are often some good things to gain from reading extra books.

My book list for 2012

(I've already finished three books since we've been sick and relaxing a lot around here!)

A Love that Multiplies
Sacred Marriage (reading this with the husband--we are halfway through it from last year)
Love and Logic for Early Childhood
The Help
Wrestling Prayer
Satisfy my Thirsty Soul
Choosing to See
What Women Fear
Love Times Three
Loving the Little Years
Decision Points

I have many other books I might add to this list or change out---but I'm hopeful to finish at least 12 books by the end of the year!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

getting priorities straight---aka, a really long post about goal setting.

We're all still battling various illnesses here. It has slowed us wayyyyyyy down in the last few weeks. As I jokingly told my husband, we are well on our way to meeting our deductible for 2012---thanks to an ER visit, two doctor's visits & three prescriptions for our little family of four.

 Goodness.  Honestly, being forced to slow down has been good for us. We've had time to read, reflect &; REALLY plan for 2012.

A few months ago I set out to "goal set" with a prayerful heart. I had been telling my husband for weeks that I didn't want to set goals according to my own agenda this year---but that I wanted to set goals with my most important roles in mind.  I have the temptation to see what someone else is doing and want to jump on that bandwagon….and when my attempts to “match” don’t work out, I get down on myself & my skills. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in playing the comparison game.

With a few months of prayerful processing, journaling & the planning sheets from Moneysaving mom, I've put pen to paper on what is really on my heart for 2012. Instead of setting out with grand ideas of what I want to do, I first put in writing what my priorities are (or ought to be). Truthfully, if you were to glance into my life even a month ago you would think my priorities were facebook & reality TV.

Starting first with my priorities and listening to what God has laid on my heart led me to set goals---and put meaning behind them. I think it's also helped put pure intentions behind my goals & actions recently. I don’t feel like I’m playing a comparison game or working to be someone I’m not---I feel really excited about what God has laid on my heart & actions I’m taking to be fruitful in these areas.

My Priorities....

-Having a growing and authentic relationship with the Lord

-Continuing to nurture and deepen my relationship with my husband

-Nurturing, loving, teaching & enjoying my children with lots of patience & grace

-Continuing to live a frugal lifestyle

-Seeking to provide a healthy lifestyle for myself and family

-Working to maintain a clean home and organized life

-Serving others and being faithful and fruitful in areas of service

-Developing new skills and sharpening others as a homemaker

Using the formula provided by Money Saving Mom, I first identified my priorities—then focus areas within those priorities---and then smaller goals to fit in those focus areas.  Sounds tedious, but what a wonderful exercise this has been!

For instance, my relationship with the Lord holds its place as my first priority.  Nurturing that relationship in my opinion requires time in God’s word, a devoted prayer life, reading additional books to challenge my heart and mind, etc.  One of my smaller goals that fit under these focus areas is reading through the Bible this year following a chronological plan.

I have done this process for each of my priorities—listing “focus” areas & then creating many smaller goals off of that.  Hopefully I’ll be able to share more about that throughout the year!

Do I expect to meet all my goals?  Maybe not. I’m still a mom of two little ones & a wife to a husband whose schedule requires more flexibility & patience on my part than I’m generally willing to give.  I’m only guaranteed one evening a week at home with him & thus plans (meals, projects, dates, etc) change…all the time!  But I’m thankful to have some sense of direction & a plan to achieve and sharpen myself in some areas.