Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our Little Middle One... growing up...

They say time flies, to savor each moment when they are young, that they'll be gone before you know it.  My little, middle one turned six last week and I can't believe where the past six years have gone.  It's tough being the middle child (or so I've heard) and then to have a December birthday on top of that (I understand...).  

So this year, we made it special.  Our girls get to have "real" parties on their first, fourth, sixth, eighth.... and we'll see from there.  I wish I were more creative, but my creative juices seem to be waning the older I get.  She did get her homemade double-decker butterfly cake and a small pajama party (no sleepovers yet, that's the eighth birthday).  Getting her haircut was the highlight though!  She has wanted her hair cut short for two years and Mommy finally agreed.  

Being in the middle of two sisters, it has given her a new sense of identity. She's still our shy, quiet (in front of others), and reserved child, but how I love her laugh!  She has the best sense of humor once you get to know her and is one of the biggest wiggle worms you'll meet.  She loves to snuggle and give hugs.  She's our adventurous one who will surprise us when we least expect it.  Often when she sees a need in others, she is quick to give whether it be a card or handmade gift from her room. 

Her birthday was on December 14, the same day that so many parents lost their precious six year olds.  It's impossible to understand why, yet still possible to trust.  Needless to say, I held her a little tighter and a little longer this past week.  When the stresses of her birthday party arose on Saturday, the thoughts were still fresh how many parents would love to be giving their sweet babies their parties.  Let me not take for granted the children He has entrusted me to care for.  How blessed I am!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Happy" Holidays?

In a little less than two weeks, one of the most anticipated days in the life of a child will be here.... at least for my children.  We count down the days.  I pray that everything will be bought, sewn, and wrapped in time.  Every year I desire for a stress-free Christmas, yet I still want to do all the activities and ideas that I find on Pinterest that make me think we have to experience in order to have the "perfect" Christmas.  Once again, this "peaceful" season has been anything but full of peace.  

It amazes me how much our children sense in our tones and reactions in life.  Sophie's favorite question these days is "Mommy, you happy?"  Of course, I try to answer yes.  Sometimes, it's more like, "I'd be happier if you'd eat your supper. or I'm happy to be in the car... finally!"  But her question has really caused me to think.  I've been so busy going to Christmas functions, shopping, trying to make Christmas crafts to go along with our advent, trying to do random acts of kindness for others, in hopes that it might teach my girls something about the real meaning of Christmas.  But I'm tired...  With the warm weather and running around ragged, I've yet to sit back and enjoy the moment.  So, today... I choose to let it go.  There will still be moments of stress and times that I lose my temper, but I want to enjoy these next two weeks with my family.  I want to read for the fun of it and give to others because we truly desire to, not just because a list.  

Happy Moments of Christmas...
  • my sweet mama sewing Christmas skirts with my littlest
  • coloring or crafting 5 out of 12 days of our advent ornaments
  • bonfire & Christmas cookies
  • seeing Christmas lights as a family 
  • walking through our neighborhood with friends 
  • being blessed at the mall by someone else's random act of kindness of quarter's & masking tape on bubble gum machines
  • visiting grandparents
  • the first Christmas presents under the tree wrapped by my oldest
  • meeting neighbors over cookies

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tomorrow is another day...

Tomorrow is another day....  Praise the Lord!!  May tomorrow be spent more at home than out running errands for seven hours rather the two or three planned (in which bathroom breaks are taken at EVERY SINGLE store and sometimes more than once in a store).  May tomorrow have less arguing among sisters and more love (or least quiet glares).  May tomorrow involve a somewhat cleaner house or least the breakfast dishes washed before bedtime.  May tomorrow be more about the peace-giver and less about the presents.  Tomorrow is another day....

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Grace...

Naomi decorating her tree

Over this past year, "Grace" has been the theme of many of the books I've been reading.  This has not been intentional, but yet is not a coincidence either.  Grace is more than a small prayer before meals. W.E. Vine defines grace as "the divine quality of goodwill, friendliness, favorable regard, and extravagant loving kindness."  In my devotional this morning, the author, Selwyn Hughes describes grace as "the strength God gives us to live as His Son lived when He was here upon the earth."  

So, as I sit on the eve of December 1, when the hustle and bustle really begins, I pray for grace:  

 - grace for myself to not become overwhelmed by my expectations of what Christmas should or shouldn't be, 

 - grace for the times of rushing and running late, 

 - grace for my children that they will see in me such extravagant loving kindness.

Sophie indulging in the first of the Peppermint Joe Joe's

Chloe's turn to put the star on the tree

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grumbly Hateful or Humbly Grateful...

Growing up, on one of the many cassette tapes we listened to was a song that went something like this, "Are you Grumbly Hateful or Humbly Grateful?  What's your attitude?  Do you grumble and groan or let it be known you're grateful for all God's done for you?"  To be honest, I've been more of the grumbly hateful this week and I'm disgusted in myself when I'm like that.  Why can't I put a smile on, not out of pretense, but out of a truly grateful heart for all that God has done for me?

I have three precious little girls who love to do things like put raisin smiley faces on gingerbread snowmen, who smile over going to our favorite bakery, and who indulge me in leaf taking pictures.  In the wee hours of the morning, one of them woke up with a bad dream.  But when I entered their room, my sweet middle daughter was comforting the youngest from her bed.  "It's ok, Sophie.  It's ok.  God is with you, Sophie.  It's ok."  My heart melted...  I am thankful this morning for cries in the monitor and for the strength to get up.  Otherwise, I would have missed such precious words.

God, give me a heart that is humbly grateful...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

The year before we had our first child, I heard a radio program with Dennis & Barbara Rainey concerning the holiday of Thanksgiving.  It inspired me to want to teach my children the values, hardships, and blessings found in our nation's history.  I realized how little I knew about the first Thanksgiving with it's rich heritage of freedom and faith.  I immediately bought Barbara Rainey's book, Thanksgiving:  A Time to Remember.  (It also comes with a lovely CD of Thanksgiving music - a rarity!)

It can be read in it's entirety in one sitting, or divided into the days before Thanksgiving, or even just the bold portions read if little ones are present and not able to sit for long.  This has been our main Thanksgiving tradition since our oldest was a baby.  We read through the book in one of those three ways mentioned and write three things as a family for which we are thankful for each year in the back of the book.  There have been years when we read it  around a breakfast of french toast or cinnamon rolls, while other years we read it in the car on our way to my grandma's house.  

Slowly, I am learning that it really doesn't matter how we celebrate each holiday, but instead with what attitude are we celebrating.  I can easily become consumed with expectations (that I have put upon myself) of having the perfect breakfast and spending time everyday before Thanksgiving having my children write notes of gratitude on a perfect little Thanksgiving tree, banner, or whatever else I've stumbled upon on Pinterest.  Please don't get me wrong.  All of these things have the right intentions behind them.  But if I don't have time to do them, and all we accomplish is read books from the library on Thanksgiving, then it's ok.  There are different seasons in life...

Here are a few of our favorite Thanksgiving books; some we've collected, some from the library.  (Thanks again to my sweet husband for putting together these rain gutter bookshelves in our littlest girls' room.)

  • Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra
  • T'was the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey (one of our favorites!) - Click on the title to watch a video of the story
  • An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott - classic!
  • A Pioneer Thanksgiving by Barbara Greenwood
  • The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene
  • Saying Grace: A Prayer of Thanksgiving by Virginia Kroll 
  • The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George - beautiful illustrations!
  • Over the River and Through the Woods by Lydia Child - a modern day view.
  • The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern

There really are some incredible ideas out there to help guide our families to have the right perspective for Thanksgiving.  We've done of few of these in the past and may do others in the future.  Once again, I believe the key is having the attitude that Thanksgiving is all about what God has done in the past, what He is doing now, and choosing to be thankful for the blessings He's given us.  

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thanksgiving ideas:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Season of Thanksgiving

After blogging every day for month, it was nice to take a break and reevaluate why I did so and try to actually put into practice some of the ideas that I found through this journey.  Still much to learn... But moving on.  The month of November naturally permeates the sights and smells of fall.  Pumpkins, cinnamon, apple cider, and wood burning does the heart good!  This truly is my favorite season of the year.  But what I love most is the holiday of Thanksgiving.  To me, it is the one holiday that commercialism has not infiltrated.  There are not excessive decorations, candy, costumes, and presents attached to this one day.  Thanksgiving... the day says it all.  It's a day when we can stop, gather with family, (eat way too much food!), and remember all that God has done for us.  Our little family has added a few Thanksgiving traditions over the years.  Over the next week, I hope to share those, our favorite Thanksgiving books, and a few other ideas to help us once again come to a place of gratitude.

Three of my greatest blessings!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 31 - Saying no

After 31 days of blogging, I'm not sure if I am more sane than I was in September.  I have struggled with much.  I have learned a lot and have much to learn.  The last topic I dare to address is something that will take me a while to learn.  Saying no...  As a recovering "good girl," I have spent my entire life, saying "yes."  If someone needed help with a project, they could count on me.  If someone needed to drop off their children for an appointment, they would call me.  If someone had a baby or a family member who was sick, I felt obligated to bring a meal because I couldn't be sure that others would.  It all depended on me.  Right? 

All of these needs and acts of service are good, but not always necessarily my responsibility.  Being a youth pastor's wife, I have felt since the beginning that I needed to help with every meal or youth function.  Before children, this was possible and enjoyable.  But with each addition of a child, I have also added another layer of guilt over not being to help or be involved in my husband's ministry.  Notice that I said, "I" added the guilt.  My amazing husband has never pressured me to do more.  In fact, he has done more of the opposite.  He encourages me to stay home, to let others who are in a different season of life take the responsibility when I can't, and he shows such sweet appreciate for just "taking care of the girls."  

All of this to say, I hope to say "yes" to only the things that God has called me to do in this exact season that I am in.  As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3, 

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 30 - Preparing for sickness

Stress can come from a multitude of areas, but one of the main areas revolves around our bodies and how we take care of them.  I’ve already addressed the topics of sleep, exercise, well-balanced meals, and spiritual renewal.  So I now tread very cautiously on the topic of supplements/vitamins.  I am not a doctor nor have any background in the medical field.  But the flu season is on our doorstep, and with the weather fluctuating as it is here in North Carolina, one can never be too prepared in building up the immune system of their family.  What I share is from our family’s experience, so take it or leave it.  


Vitamin C – The girls take a daily vitamin which includes Vitamin C, and it’s also included in my Vitamin B Complex that I take daily.  My husband and I have both taken Airborne (chewable) and Emergen-C when we feel a cold coming on or one of us has already gotten sick.  

Honey – We try to buy local honey due to the benefits it can have with allergies.  I grew up drinking hot water with lemon & honey whenever I had a sore throat and it is very soothing.  Honey can also help with coughs.

Elderberry syrup – I buy much of our supplements from, which always has a straight $4.99 shipping fee, but often has codes for cheaper shipping.  (I also buy my essential oils from them.)  They carry the Eldertussin Sugar Free Elderberry Syrup (that you can also buy at Whole Foods, for more).  This is what we give the girls during the flu season due to its immune system support.  They also have this in capsule form for adults.

Eucalyptus Oil – a few drops in the water of a humidifier seems to help my little ones breath better when they have a cold.

Children's Echinacea - tasty drops for building children's immune systems.  Drops given according to weight of child.

Vick’s Rub – We rub this on our girls (and my) feet for coughs.  Put socks on after rubbing to keep the Vick’s from getting on sheets.

Chestal Honey (Boiron) – This is my girls’ favorite cough syrup.  This company carries a lot of different supplements that we’ve found beneficial.

When having a cold, we try to drink more green smoothies and carrot juice and cut way back on the sugar-intake, as the sugar will only breed the cold germs.

Stomach Problems

Papaya Enzyme – This was introduced me while pregnant with my second or third child as a replacement for Tums.  They are also chewable and have a orange flavor.  Papaya Enzyme helps with heart burn and other stomach issues.

Aloe Vera Juice – “The juice is said to be one of the finest body cleansers, cleaning morbid matter from the stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, bladder, and is considered the finest, known colon cleanser. Studies have shown that it is healing and soothing in the relief of indigestion, stomach distress and ulcers.” – We have used this off and on for a few years.  I’ve also read that it can gently assist with constipation in children.  

Activated Charcoal – This is probably our most used supplement of everything.  I have been taking charcoal as needed since I was twelve.  The most common use for our family is for stomach viruses.  As soon as one family member gets sick, the rest of us and most definitely, the sick one, drink charcoal in water as often as possible.  They come in capsule form, but can be opened and emptied into water for children to drink.  I usually give my girls half a capsule.  We have used charcoal for sore throats, sinus infections (not fun), jelly fish stings, spider bites, and of course stomach issues.  Don’t take it with other medicines, mainly for the reason that the charcoal will adsorb (not absorb) the medicines as well as the toxins in your body, which just nullifies the other medicines.  I usually order ours through Swanson, but it can also be purchased at Whole Foods, GNC, and other pharmacies.  

I hope that this has been beneficial.  There are so many other remedies that I could touch on from peroxide to onions.  But these are the main ones we use in our family.  Please share any remedies, supplements, or ideas you have in this area of building one’s immune system.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions if something I said was confusing or incorrect.  

     - Stocking Your Natural Herbal Medicine Cabinet - Fabulous post!!!

     - Podcast - Help For Depleted Moms - Plethora of ideas that I hope to incorporate this year. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29 - Silence

There are days when the only way to get away from the chaos within my mind is to stop and "be still."  

There are days when my words only echo back to me and hypocrisy stares me in the face.  

There are days when the only way to move from the madly insanity is to stop talking and listen.  

Day 29... 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 28 - Blessings...

Canada Mission Trip - 2008

If you would have asked me when Marty and I were dating, if I could have imagined my life the way it is now, I probably would have at least chuckled.  I guess I thought we would both be teachers, living happily ever after with a household of boys…  Ha!  Ha!  Seriously, growing up as a tom-boy, I really thought I’d have boys.  I would have never guessed to have all girls and be married to a youth-pastor.  How glad I am that God had better plans!  Since I was twelve, my life verse has been Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

Growing up as a MK (missionary kid) and then a PK (pastor’s kid), I knew a little of what ministry was like.  Family time was not always a guarantee because you never knew when someone was going to die, and a funeral would need to be planned.  Your life was an open book for everyone in your church to see.  Gypsy blood began to creep into my veins at a young age as we moved time and time again.  Marty and I have now lived in the same area for over seven years, and what an amazing feeling that is!  

As in every job, there are the harder moments, but there are always more joys that outweigh them.  Today was one of those days…  As a youth pastor’s wife, I see the hours of counseling, the ball games, the studying, the planning, and greatest of all, young lives changed for Christ.  We have been blessed to be a part of a church that we don’t deserve to be serving in.  When we were called to come seven years ago, we were  overwhelmed by God's provision of such a plan for our lives.  With each year, our church has blessed us over and over.  To have 30 men help us move from one house to another last year, to receive anonymous gifts when things were so tight, and the countless meals we’ve shared through their generosity.  Today, they outdid themselves again.  Words cannot express!  

Sometimes ministry can seem insane.  It’s moments like today that bring sanity.  Day 28…

Senior Beach Trip - 2009
Youth Ski Retreat - 2009
My Sunday School class a few years ago

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 27 - Organizing my "home away from home"

Today has been a day of getting a few things accomplished that I’ve had on my to-do list for too long.  The two main tasks were putting up my “wall of daily do’s” and organizing my car.  We were blown away last Sunday by an incredible group of friends who blessed us by detailing my van, inside and out.  Thank you again to the Fescoe Life Group!  So, already I had a good start to my endeavor. I saw an idea on pinterest (which I’ll link to) that totally inspired me to organize my car.  So here is my copycat of the pinterest idea…

The mesh pocket organizer is from IKEA and cost only $3.99!  It comes in orange or blue/green.  I also bought carabineers (snap hooks) from the Dollar Store to hook the organizer to the headrests.  The pockets contain #1) cough drops, #2) hair accessories, brush, feminine items, #3) office supplies (note cards, note pad, pens, sharpie, tape, and scissors), #4) first aid kit, big band-aids, hand sanitizer, #5) tissues & wipes, & #6) picnic supplies (napkins, plastic utensils, straws, & matches).

In the floor board, I have a portable potty (very important since we are potty training our youngest!), extra towels for wiping off slides & other playground equipment, & picnic blanket.

In the stackable plastic bins, the bottom bin contains, extra clothes for each girl, paper towels, baby wipes, extra diapers, and trash bags.  The open bin contains jackets for each girl, just in case they forget one walking out the door.

For any men who are worried, on the left hand side, I have a set of jumper cables in the van cubbie.  In the front of the van, there is a trash can & the glove compartment has all important insurance info as well as a flashlight, more band-aids, and peppermint sticks from Cracker Barrel (a must in each vehicle!)

There are more things I’d like to add, but forgot about today, such as umbrellas, car activities (coloring, books, etc), & non-perishable snacks.  Here are some other ideas for organizing your car…

     - The Castro family - Junk in the Trunk (original idea from Pinterest)
     - Simply Kierste - a place for everything
     - SC Johnson - 8 Tips to an Organized Car 

Our Wall of Daily Do’s 

I wrote about this back on Day 12, and have finally (almost) completed it today.  The only thing I need to do is print off a 5 x 7 picture of our family to put in the small frame in the middle.  One day, I’ll fix our daily schedule board to look a little straighter/cleaner, but for now, it will do.  Our schedule is written on the plastic part with dry erase markers, so we can erase and reuse it week after week.  The small frame on the bottom has my weekly cleaning schedule (which was not well done this week).  The chalk board has the girls’ monthly verses that we are working on for Sunday School.  The top red frame contains a print of family rules that I hope our family will incorporate into our daily lives.

Not a very exciting post… but I hope that each of these areas will help me even in small ways to go from insanity to sanity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26 - "Stylin' for Sanity"

I am just about blogged out…  five more days.  Today was one of those days that you just want to “call it a day,” check it off in the homeschool book, and be done with it.  Nothing special…  Remember the days as a new mom when one of the items on your to-do list was “get dressed.”  (Others of mine included “do the dishes,” “exercise,” and “shower.”)  I needed to be able to check off the little things in order to feel like I was accomplishing something…  anything!  Even though I am no longer a “new mom,” I still need those moments of affirmation (or the occasional kick-in-the-pants to get me out of bed in the morning).

Proverbs 31:25 says “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”  I laugh at the days to come (especially at the thought of three teenage girls at one time), but probably not in the same way the Proverbs 31 woman did.  In all seriousness, the way that I dress in the morning plays a big part in how I approach my day.  If I’m still in my t-shirt and shorts from the night before, I move so much slower and accomplish less for the most part.  But if I get up early, spend time in God’s word, exercise, & shower before breakfast, I am more apt to be ready to take on the day.  Now there still is a difference in just putting on my yoga pants & t-shirt, and taking the time to pick an outfit a little more put-together.  

I love my yoga pants!  Don’t get me wrong.  But when I take the time to dress like I care about the body God gave me, it puts me in a productive and confident frame of mind, rather than ho-hum and lackadaisical.  As King David reminds us in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  This is easy to say and not as easy to do.  I have found a few blogs that give some great ideas for “stylin’ for sanity.”

o Passionate Homemaking – Start your day by getting dressed! – great perspective!!
o The Tiny Twig – 31 Day to a No-Brainer Wardrobe – great tips for knowing your style & choosing your wardrobe on a budget
o Dear Abby LeighDress for the Day – I love her mantra for this!
o The Pleated Poppy – What I Wore Wednesday – gives great ideas for clothes match-up’s and where they were bought.

Day 26 of 31 days from Insanity to Sanity…

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 25 - Simplifying Christmas

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you probably already know that my hubbie and I were given a last minute opportunity for a date night.  What a blessing it was!  Our girls were thrilled, and we were able to enjoy some delicious Japanese food in peace, and even get a jump start on our Christmas shopping.  So it was actually my husband, Marty, who gave me the idea for this post to share a little bit of what we do to prepare and simplify Christmas.  

One idea (inspired by my friend, April) that has really helped me to stay organized and a little less stressed in preparing for Christmas is to have a gift journal (not sure if that is the right name, but it’s the only thing I can come up with at 9 pm).  She showed me hers back in 2006 and I have loved it!  It’s simply a small 5 x 7 scrapbook/art pad with a little Christmas paper on the front and divided into four sections.  

- Our Family
- The Miller’s (my family)
- The Middleton’s (Marty’s family)
- Friends (neighbors, teachers, coworkers, etc)

Each section begins with the year we began and lists the family (or friends) names who we desire to give gifts to.  For example:

Christmas 2006
Marty:  frisbee, marshmallow shooter, Worship CD, Pirates of the Caribbean DVD, bedroom slippers, Handyman magazine
Amy:  scrapbook idea magazine, earrings, novel, strainer      
Chloe:  train set, Little People barn/farm set, Veggie Tales DVD, Esther, books    
Naomi:  farm yard toy, soft book, rattle toy

Maybe too simple for some, but be mindful that we were in the middle of seminary at this time.  (Still more than Laura and Mary got in Little House on the Prairie.)  After each Christmas, I’ll write down what Marty and the girls gave me for Christmas, and this has proved to be helpful to them as well to be able to look back and remember what they gave and to get ideas again.  This is also helpful throughout the year when an idea comes for a gift for someone, there is now a central location for me to keep all these ideas.  When buying gifts much earlier in the year, I love being able to write them down in order to avoid overbuying or completely forgetting about the gift altogether.  I try to write down our birthday gifts as well, but that has not been as successful in getting down on paper.    

If this sounds confusing, I’ll be happy to try to clarify.  I’ve seen some amazing Christmas organizers out there, which include the gift lists.  But I love being able to carry my little Christmas gift journal in my purse when I need to, as I did tonight.  (We bought four Christmas gifts and one December birthday gift tonight!  So excited!)  Just wanted to share something that has helped to relieve a little stress in our family as the season of Christmas soon approaches.  

This is a sneak peak for November as I hope to share more Christmas ideas from our family and from other families who seek to simply Christmas and put our Savior in His rightful place.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 24 - Goodbye to the good girl

Some of my posts come from a pre-made schedule, while others can only come from the Lord.  Yesterday, my back would not stop hurting, I was tired, and the checkbook was waiting for me, yet the words came.  Today as I sit in the comforts of my favorite coffee shop, listening to Fernando Ortega sing “Give me Jesus” over Pandora, I read my newest book, Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily Freeman.  I fell in love with Emily’s style of writing from her blog, Chatting at the sky, a few months ago.  I knew we led similar lives, but as I read chapter 3 this morning, I realized one of my greatest sources of stress.  

I am a good girl…  

She writes, “We are the daughters of pastors and missionaries, we support the ‘right’ candidates in the polls, we attended Bible college.  We homeschool our children or we send them to private Christian schools or we are the presidents of the public school PTA.  We marry pastors, we lead Bible studies, we sing in the choir, we volunteer in the nursery.  And sometimes we do those things in response to Jesus’ leading.  But sometimes, we do them to maintain our good reputation.”  Do you know how many of these things describe me?  Almost all of them.  I am not saying this as something I’m proud of or ashamed to be.  

Paul writes, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew to the Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.  But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.”  Philippians 3:4b-11

It’s hard work being a good girl.  As Emily writes, there is little of living free, but more of living safe.  I have much more reading, searching, and praying to do concerning this.  I am nervous, yet eager to see where the Lord leads.  I am tired of “failing to live up to my own standard of good, labeling myself a failure, lacking motivation, becoming indifferent, entertaining anxiety, and snapping at my children.”  

“As good girls, we subconsciously label ourselves as the strong ones, the responsible ones, the sweet ones, or the right ones.  But Jesus is calling us to a deeper, truer, freer identity.  All He wants is simply you – minus your good works, minus your perfect attendance, minus your politeness.  When you really believe that, you may discover that all you want is Jesus, simply Jesus.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 23 - Cleaning

Cleaning!  Ugh!  This is one area that really, really causes me stress (anxiety, nervous tension, constant worry)!  Ok, maybe not that bad.  At least I never lose sleep at night because of it.  Some people clean for fun (and for that I truly admire them).  I only clean when company comes over.  Seriously!  On the occasional day when I clean just for the fun of it, my girls usually ask who is coming over for dinner.  No one!  Can’t a mama clean for her sanity sake?

When we first got married in 2000, we lived on my college campus while I finished my degree.  We had the best corner apartment in the married couples building, and I had it spick and span.  Of course, it was only about 600 square feet (I think?).  Then, we bought our first home, a cute little 3 bed/2 bath ranch about 1200 square feet.  Even then, I spent every Saturday cleaning each room in our sweet starter home.  Still not too hard… With each house, they’ve gotten a little larger though (besides our townhouse in seminary).  

Now, as a home school mother of three, cleaning is not my priority, and why should it be?  I’ll spend hours cleaning and organizing a room and two days later, it looks like a tornado went through it.  In all seriousness though, I really want to do a better job at keeping a tidy (and a little cleaner) home for my family.  It’s amazing how much better I feel when my house is picked up and not full of clutter.  

I have searched other blogs, talked to other wives and mothers, pinned pins to try to find a cleaning schedule that will work for me to make my life a little easier (and cleaner).  Here is what I hope to try:

     Monday - Laundry (change sheets, wash & dry)
     Tuesday - Fold & put away laundry
     Wednesday - Vacuum & dust
     Thursday - Kitchen: floors, fridge & microwave
     Friday - Bathrooms
     Saturday - Work outside, garage, clean out cars.

This obviously doesn’t include everything, but it’s a start.  

I’ve compiled a list of other women who have it a little more together when it comes to cleaning.  

o Iheartorganizing – lists for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and             annual cleaning (I love her site for organizing too!)
o Designfinch – lots of weekly cleaning printables (and other                         printables too!)
o Macheesmo – 4 basic homemade cleaners, recipes easy to read and           understand
o Passionatehomemaking – Cleaning your home in 30 minutes a day
o Keeper of the Home – 10 homemade kitchen cleaners (non-toxic)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 22 - Shopping with kids!

My oldest is going to love this picture...

When I decided to write on this topic of going from insanity to sanity, I spent several days in September making a list of all the things that overwhelm, stress, and almost drive me to the point of insanity.  It honestly wasn’t very hard to come up with a list of 31 topics.  One day after shopping at far too many stores in a too little amount of time, I knew that shopping with children would be a perfect topic.

Going grocery shopping with kids is not one of those top 10 things that moms enjoy doing.  We could all share horror stories of shopping trips in the past.  The momentous ones for us include watching pee flow like a waterfall down one of the giant Kroger buggies after a potty trainer couldn’t hold it any longer, or the time that a preschooler was helping mommy hold a bag of rice at Whole Foods and thought the little hole in it should be a little bigger.  There are days of whining children and car buggies (which I firmly believe are invented by men without children) sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.  The list could go on…

Even though this is a not a task for the faint of heart, there have been many days that shopping with my girls has truly been a treat.  To see such joy on my littlest one's face when she gets to push a “little buggy” at Trader Joe's can only make me smile.  Cookies at Harris Teeter & Kroger are truly a blessing not only to my girls, but also to this weary mama.  There are good shopping moments too.

In my couponing days, I would attack up to four or five stores in an errand run, which does save on gas, but not on my sanity.  If we do visit more than two or three stores, I’ll “try” to plan in time for a treat as well, whether it’s a visit to the pet store, a trip to the park, and an ice cream cone close by.  This helps everyone endure, enjoy the shopping experience more.  

Advice that we all may know, but may not necessarily adhere to…

- Shop when moods are at their best.  Nap time is not the best time to do the bulk of shopping.  When this cannot be avoided, extra grace needs to be extended to the sleepy ones.

- Never shop on an empty stomach (moms and children).  We tend to buy more and be more irritable.  I love Whole Foods for this reason.  They have a kid’s wagon at the front of the store which contains organic raisins, fruit, and healthier lollipops.  This has helped me on many occasions to keep little mouths quiet.

- Have a list.  When I don’t take the time to write down what I need, I end up circling the store more than necessary and taking longer than planned.

- Try to involve your children.  All three of my girls love to put things in the shopping cart or pick out which bananas look the best.  This involves a little more patience, but can be beneficial in the long run.

I love to see what other moms do while out and about.  I’ve seen a mother have all her children holding the sides of the cart to keep everyone together.  Wow! was all I can say.  Another mom played red light, green light with her kids to keep them from going too far, but kept the shopping trip fun.  If anyone else has some ideas that have worked for them, please feel free to share.

My big helper

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 21 - Rest time

Rest… Nap time… Siesta… All of those words make me want to take a deep breath and just sigh with pleasure.  Right now, I am experiencing such pleasure.  My girls are all in their rooms, the monitor is quiet, and all is well.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, rest time is mandatory in our family if we are home.  There are times when errand running goes late, naps get overlooked, and then I just look forward to early bedtimes.  But for the most part, everyone (including my 8 year old) knows that soon after lunch, everyone will have some down time.  

Rest time is important to us for these reasons:

1. Mama needs it!!  Everyone else may say they don’t need it, but I do!  No matter what I do during this time, it is important to get a break and refresh myself to be the mom & wife I desire to be for the rest of the day.
2. Children of all ages need time to let their bodies rest.  I spent my elementary years at a boarding school and learned so much during that time.  Part of our daily schedule was resting after lunch in which we could sleep or read.  My 8 year old never sleeps now, but is allowed to read, color, or do another quiet activity.  
3. It gives opportunity to read.  Most days, I’ll read to my younger two before they lay down, but then they enjoy looking at books as well until they fall asleep.  My five year old doesn’t fall asleep as much as she used to, but she will often play quietly with her dolls until it’s time to get up.  

Tips for Rest time:

o One idea that has helped my girls when they were at the difficult age of not sleeping as much (but still restless) was to allow them to listen to books on tape, music, or Adventures in Odyssey to help the time go by.
o Be firm.  Nap time is not optional.  There have been seasons in which I have had to lay down with a child till she falls asleep.  Be consistent though.  
o Have busy boxes for children who may need something tangible to do, but can sit still.  Here are some great ideas from another mom.  "What to do when naptime ceases"

Day 21…     10 days to go…

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 20 - Grocery Budgeting

Believe it or not, I watched for the first time last night, the show, Extreme Couponing.  Several years ago, I considered myself to be quite the couponer, and even taught a couple of classes.  I wasn’t a shelf clearer or cereal hoarder, but we always had a good enough stock pile to provide for our family.  Then, I had baby #3 and started homeschooling.  So for the past year at least, I’ve done very little couponing due to lack of time, stress, and our desire to eat more wholesome foods.  I have many friends who have even more children, homeschool or work full-time, and are still able to coupon.  I would love to start incorporating it more into our budget again because I know the benefits are worth it.

Over this last year, I’ve read of different moms who are able to provide healthy food for their families without breaking the bank.  They budget a certain amount per month, plan a menu that allows them to stay within that budget, and shop accordingly.  This has not been as easy as they make it look.  We budget $335 in our budget for groceries (this includes toiletries and paper goods), but it’s often closer to $375 - $400 when the month is over.  When I couponed, it was easier to keep it closer to $300.  

We are a primarily vegetarian family (my hubbie eats meats when we eat out), which saves us from having to buy meat.  We do purchase fish to eat once a week, but sometimes it is just canned tuna.  We try to eat as much organic as possible.  We’ve bought organic milk for a few years (due to medical reasons for our girls), and have slowly tried to transition to organic yogurt, hormone-free cheese, free-range eggs, etc.  Obviously when we eat away from home, we are not so choosy.  Right now, I primarily shop at Aldi, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Harris Teeter.  My desire is to one day have my shopping list taken directly from my menu to help me shop less during the month.  One thing that has helped us to stay closer to our budgeted amount is to take out cash at the beginning of the month.  By allotting myself only a certain amount when I go the grocery store helps me to not splurge as much as when I just pull out a card to swipe.  

Here are a few examples of healthy grocery budgeting:

Passionate Homemaking – “A peak at our real food budget”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 19 - Finances

Money… Studies show one of the greatest areas of conflict in marriages concerns a couple's finances.  Usually one person is the saver, while the other is the spender.  Obviously, this can cause some tension in the home, if communication (another area of conflict) is not flowing in friendly fashion.  We have had our share of high wired Monday night budget nights.  I strongly believe though, that one of the keys to staying on the same page concerning your family’s finances is to have a budget.  You either feel goosebumps of excitement over that word “budget” or you are experiencing your lunch returning at the thought.  

We are definitely blessed to have been carefully guided by my parents in this area.  Debt has never been an option for us (except for a house payment).  My dad told Marty soon after we started dating that if he even considered marrying me that he needed to go ahead and pay off his debts.  He did so promptly, for which I am so thankful.  There may be times in the future in which we will need to get a loan of some kind, but only in extreme circumstances.  

I’ll not bore you for much longer, but I just wanted to give a glimpse of the categories we use in our family budget.  We have gleaned these from Crown Financial Ministries, Dave Ramsey, and other friends who have shared from their years of budgeting.

o Tithe (10% of our income given to God through our local church)
o Utilities (water, electricity, gas for our home)
o Phone (cell phones & internet)
o Auto Insurance (we pay yearly, but budget an amount once a                 month so it’s there when it’s time to pay)
o Gas (for our two vehicles)
o Auto Maintenance (oil changes, car repair, etc)
o Groceries (I hope to write about this area tomorrow.)
o Recreation (eating out, Redbox movies, Netflix, etc)
o Clothing (for our whole family)
o Medical/Dental (doctor bills, prescriptions, medicines from Whole         Foods)
o Mortgage (our monthly payment & our neighborhood fees)
o Missionaries (Right now, we support two families minimally and           hope to add another family soon.  This portion is to be given in                   addition to our tithe.)
o Savings 
o Vacation (We feel that getting away even for a night or two is so             important as a family, so we make this a priority in our budget, even         if it’s just a little bit.)
o Christmas (We set aside $50 a month toward Christmas and by               the time Christmas comes, we can enjoy the blessings of giving debt-         free.)
o Gifts (birthdays, graduations, baby showers, etc)
o Blow money (Marty & I have a small amount allotted each month         to spend as we please.  From this money, I enjoy my scones &                   coffee each week, and any craft items I want to buy.)
o Home school (We budget a certain amount for the year and use             this money for books & supplies, extra-curricular activities, our                 home school co-op, and field trips.)
o House Maintenance
o Miscellaneous (stamps, batteries, etc)
o Retirement
o Insurance

Hopefully, this wasn’t too boring.  I wanted to address this subject because I feel so strongly about it, and also to encourage me to be more diligent in keeping up with our own budget.  Our “plan” is to look over our budget on a weekly basis as a couple, adding receipts to the checkbook, deducting from the budget, and staying on tract together in our family’s spending.  Still an area that I need to work on…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 18 - Savor each season

Today I was supposed to write about finances and the stress that can bring to a family.  But I really don’t feel like writing about that.  Instead I want to share some pictures of our day, and savor the memories of the season, for sometimes it’s simply enjoying the fun moments of a family that bring the most sanity.  We were probably crazy to attempt the State Fair & the pumpkin patch in one day, but we did it anyway, and it would have been picture perfect if were not for my boots.  Fashion hurts!  It’s pretty sad that by lunch time I’m drooling over every pair of tennis shoes, flip flops, and Tom’s (even though I’ve never even tried them.)  Lessons learned…  

I learned today that maple cotton candy is better than honey cotton candy.  I learned that my middle child is fearless on rides, but will not milk a cow.  I learned that if tired enough my little one will fall asleep strolling through the midway full of rides.  I learned that after a day full of rides, food, and cow milking, my oldest finds her excitement in running in the rain through a pumpkin patch.

Savor each season… Day 18.