Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WIN in Survival Mode

I was trying to determine why I don't write like I used to.  I can remember posting almost daily and now I barely make it by here.  I was thinking about that and wondering what happened exactly.

I figured it out.

I'm in survival mode.  

You know the mode you go into when there's more for you to do than you could possibly get done, when there are a lot of people depending on you for lots of different things, when emotional pain grips your heart and tries to take over, when you are overwhelmed, under-nourished, and sleep deprived?  That's the one.

I wonder if I should share or spare the details of how I got here?  I wonder if you are here (or ever have been) too.  

Maybe today's topic won't be as cozy as some but I want to chat anyway.  

It's not unusual for moms to go through difficult times.  Who said everything would always be peachy??  That nonsense about "God won't put more on you than you can handle" - not true.  All of life is way more than we can handle.  We need Him and His grace!  How would we recognize our own depravity if we "handled" life just fine on our own?

My husband has this little acronym he brought home from work and uses often.  It has become a huge help to me.  He's been saying it for a while (I think it's on his desk somewhere) but it has proven to be very helpful to me recently.  Maybe it will help you as well.  

W.I.N. - What's important now.

Have I shared this with you before?  If so, it means more to me now than it ever has.  

Allow me to explain...

You can't do everything.  You can't do a million things and do them all well.  Right now if you are feeling like things are spiraling out of control, stop and determine what is important and focus only on that.  Can you do it?  {Yes!}

I've had to determine the most important things and put my focus on them.  I've had to let some other things go for a little while.  This is not easy for me but it is what had to be done.  There is a relationship that is painful and drags me down.  I finally had to let it go.  There were a jillion household projects I wanted to accomplish.  I had to put them aside for now.  There were a lot of things vying for my attention and I had to decide what's important now and take care of it.  You won't be able to get things under control until you decide what's important right now and focus on that.  

If you are dealing with a child's sinful behavior and trying to homeschool - quit the homeschooling, work on the behavior, then resume teaching.  What's important now?  Math or the child's heart?  Learning to spell or learning to obey?  W.I.N.

If you have run yourself completely out of energy and you are experiencing health issues - stop everything, get yourself healthy, then add back the important things one at a time.  (Notice I said important things!)  What's important now?  Right now? 

If your husband is feeling neglected fix that right away.  If you're yelling at your children - stop and re-focus.  What's important now?  Clean windows or a happy marriage?  Gourmet meals or children eating grilled cheese sandwiches knowing they are loved - a lot!  

I hope this is helping you because the WIN idea has really helped me.  

Knowing what's most important right now and focusing on that has saved me from almost losing my sanity.

Trim away the extra, let go of some perfectionism, re-write the to-do list, simplify, cancel, let go, whatever you have to do, and focus on what's important now.

Start here:

(1) Your relationship with God - spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
(2) Your husband
(3) Your children

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Weekend Re-cap (and a Wife's Prayer for Her Husband)

Hi, everybody!  How was your weekend?

Ours was marvelous. (and I survived all the work!)  I'm so thankful to be able to celebrate our Risen Savior, and to celebrate with the ones I love.

Here's a little re-cap of our weekend, although there are a lot of parts I just didn't get pictures of.  I can't do it all.  ~smile~

Friday night we attended our church's Good Friday Communion Service.  It was a very special time.  

Saturday morning we enjoyed an egg hunt with our neighbors we dearly love.  

We colored some eggs Saturday night.  

This was after the kids had gotten their baths which is why you see them pictured in their pajamas.  

When the coloring eggstravaganza was over I got to work on our Sunday meal.  I cooked and cooked and cooked until around midnight when I started stuffing Easter baskets. 

Sunday morning we went to church for a beautiful Resurrection Service.  It was a wonderful day.  Jesus is risen!!

After we got home from church we snapped a few pictures.  It's always a challenge to get a good shot of everybody.  We do what we can.  Haha!

While I put the finishing touches on our lunch our oldest son showed the Resurrection eggs to the younger kids.  This made my heart smile.  It doesn't seem like that long ago I was sitting with him talking about those same things.

We enjoyed a big meal, and yes, I wish I had a picture of our Easter table I decorated, but like I said earlier I just didn't get all the pictures I wanted.  It's really okay.  

 After the (group effort) clean-up we took a short little rest and then met friends at the park and spent the evening playing.  It was so much fun. 

 {{Here's a funny story about stuffing my baskets - I was tired and a little foggy brained Saturday night when I was putting together the baskets.  This is one job I really can't do ahead of time.  The kids would surely see their baskets before Easter.  After all, it's not like I would need a place to hide two or three baskets.  I made seven.  I did one for each child and then fixed up one for my honey.  I used to make him one every Easter but I had not done that in several years so I decided to do one this year and surprise him. 

 I kept thinking as I was stuffing each child's basket that there had to be more.  I knew I had bought more.  But...there was everything spread out in front of me - that was it.  I blamed the sparse look of their baskets on the fact that I had no Easter grass (there was a shortage of Easter grass in the Chattanooga area - no joke - I went to seven or eight different stores over the course of several days and every. single. place. was sold out of Easter grass).  

Wouldn't you know it, Sunday night my honey finds a big bag of Easter stuff in my closet!  Ah!  There are the goodies I knew I had.  I'd been picking things up for baskets for weeks and hiding it all away in my closet.  There were bubbles, and tubes of chapstick, and candy, and more.  So -  the kids had round two of their Easter baskets.  I just handed them the stuff straight out of the bag this time.}}

I went to bed exhausted and happy and thankful for God's love.

*There's one more thing I wanted to show you before I let you go.  I've been hanging on to this link for weeks meaning to add it to a post but the timing never seemed right.  Perhaps this post isn't a great fit either but before I forget I want to share this with you.  I don't even remember how I came across this prayer but I think it's great.  If there's one area I need to improve most on in my marriage it is praying for my husband.  Read this prayer and see what you think.

Happy Monday, friends!  Here's hoping you're enjoying a cozy day.  :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eli's 13th Birthday!

As of last week our youngest boy is now a teenager.  

I've got just a few pictures of the birthday party we threw for him.  Our poor little guy had been sick with a nasty throat virus right up to the day of his birthday.  I thought we might have to postpone our celebrating for a few days but he started to feel better on his special day and made a request for a favorite meal.  It was good to see him laughing and smiling and enjoying the festivities.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saving Time

It's a tad bit funny that I would write a post about ~saving time~ during this season of my life when I feel like I never have enough time for all I have to do.  Most days it seems I'm adding more to my to-do list than I'm marking off.  

There is so much work for moms to do isn't there?  Cleaning the house is work, and teaching school lessons is work, and cooking meals is work, and laundry is work, and then there's training and correction, and hugs and kisses, and giving baths, and reading stories and more!

There's no magic formula to homemaking.  It requires organization and self discipline.  It helps me to remember that God is totally trustworthy in every part of our lives.  He cares about your sink full of dishes and hamper full of dirty clothes, but more than anything He cares about YOU.  We should run to him when our burden is heavy.  Spending quiet time with Him is the best thing we can do for ourselves, our husbands, our children, and our homes. 

There are lots of things one can do to streamline chores, work faster, and make the household run a little smoother.  Today, I'm going to brainstorm a few ideas with you.  Comment your time saving ideas, please.  I would love to hear them.  

  • Cook two meals at once.  There are a couple of different ways you can do this.  Prepare two of the meal you are making and freeze one, or cook lunch and dinner at the same time.  Some days while I'm making the kids' lunch I will go ahead and cook dinner.  We get all of the clean-up done at one time and it feels great knowing dinner is ready to go.  Likewise, if you are already making a Lasagna or Shepherd's Pie you might as well make two and freeze one for a future meal.  The time it takes to double a recipe is not significant, but the time you will save on dinner preparation on a future evening is.

  • Triple buy at the grocery store.  If the budget allows it can be a great time saver to buy three of each of the things on your shopping list.  For instance, if my family makes a special request - say Cheesy Potatoes, or Peanut Butter Pie, I make a list of the ingredients needed for their special request.  When I go to the store I buy three of each of the items on the list.  I'm then able to make the requested dish plus I have the ingredients to make this item a couple more times in the future.  The needed ingredients will already be on hand.  Less time running to the store = time saved.  

  • Freezer cook.  Along the lines of the previous ideas, cooking meals and freezing them for the future is a huge time saver.  Choose a day to cook several meals.  Package them up, label, and freeze.  I've heard of women getting up to 30 meals ready in an all day cooking extravaganza.  I've not tried it, but it sounds like fun - especially if you could team up with a friend.  Having several dinners prepared ahead of time means major time savings in your future.

  • Clean the shower while you're in it.  Cleaning the bathrooms is a major chore (at least for me) and takes an enormous amount of time.  One of my favorite shortcuts is to clean the shower while I'm in it.  You might not believe it but it really does take tons of time off of cleaning the bathroom.  

  • Group errands and do them all on one day.  Running errands requires a good deal of time, usually.  Many years ago my husband and I lived in a small town and errand running wasn't too time consuming.  Everything was pretty close in proximity.  For the last 10+ years we have lived in larger cities where things are spread out and my errands can seem to take forever.  An easy way I have found to save time is to run all of my errands on one day and to make a plan for each stop in order of location.  If you can run all of your errands on one particular day (I know this doesn't always work out) it will save you major time.  

  • Give some small jobs to the little kids. Giving the kids a bit of the workload is good for them and good for you.  When my 3 (almost 4) year old asks to watch a movie I sometimes ask her to match up socks from our {gigantic} sock basket while she watches.   

  • Use wait times to do desk work.  Make yourself a portable desk and work while you wait on kids at soccer practice, piano lessons, etc.  What do you need for a portable desk?  Well, that's up to you and depends on what kind of work you want to do.  I like to carry a clipboard, notebook, pen, some stamps, calculator, etc.  You can use wait times to balance the checkbook, write out the bills, make a menu plan or shopping list, write a thank you note, and various other things.  

  • If at all possible don't shop when everyone else does.  I kick myself every time I shop on a Saturday.  I just did this recently and it was a great reminder why I should never, ever do that.  Lines are longer, aisles are more crowded, parking lots are full.  Shop early in the morning when other people are sleeping.  Shop during the week during the day.  Shop when most people don't and you will find you save a lot of time.  I know there are times when it can't be helped (believe me I know!) but as often as possible avoid the grocery store when everyone is leaving school/work and avoid the mall (and Target!) on Saturdays.  

  • Double up on some of your chores.  Clean the toilet while the kids play in the bath.  Give a spelling test at the kitchen counter while you are cooking dinner.  If there's a chapter of a book you are needing to read to the younger kids, read to them while they are soaking and playing in the tub.  They're getting clean and you can check that chapter off your to-do list.  Tidy the laundry room while you are waiting for the washer to fill up.  Pull weeds in your flower bed while you are on the phone.  Make a grocery list on your phone while you walk the dog.  Clean the garage while the kids are playing in the yard.  Sweep the kitchen floor while the kids eat breakfast.

  • Shop online.  This, for me, is a huge time saver (and occasionally a money saver too). Shopping online means avoiding lines and crowds, finding exactly what you need, saving gas, and more.  You can shop in your pajamas too!

  • Get organized.  Being organized saves a ton of time.  Have a place for everything and teach your children to put things where they belong.  Keep your car keys always in only one place.  Make a menu plan for your week.  Make a schedule for your day.  Anything you can do to be organized with your homemaking and homeschooling will save you time.  The more organized you are the more time you will save, and the easier life will be.  

  • Beware of the time wasters...TV, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.  Do you want to save time?  Limit how much time you spend on any of these (and others like them).  

  • Don't sleep too little and don't sleep too much.  Either way you will waste time.  

  • Pack lunches while you are doing dinner clean-up.  This is easy to do when you are already cleaning up leftovers anyway and saves a lot of time in your morning.  Go ahead and set the table for breakfast before you go to bed.  I realize that may sound like a little thing but you would be surprised how much time you save in the morning if you wake up to a clean kitchen with the table ready for breakfast.

Okay, those are some of my ideas.  What are your favorite ways to save time?  

Friday, March 6, 2015

Saving Space

Not that you need a bunch of excuses as to why I haven't posted in almost two weeks, but just so you know, I've got some good ones...

Two sons with a stomach virus a week apart, a bunch of doctor appointments for various members of my family, a lot of cooking recently and a ton of extra laundry -- due to the fact that we got SNOW!

 I know those of you reading from up north are not impressed, but boy were we.  We just barely ever see snow and it's a big, exciting event when we do.  For those of you sick of snow, please forgive my enthusiasm.  Good news - Spring is on the way!!!  2 weeks!!

Today I want to get back to our Saving Series.  We've already talked about saving money so today I thought we would chat about saving space.  I'll give you a few of my ideas for saving space in the home if you promise to share yours.  Deal??

*My number one way to save space is to get rid of clutter.  The less stuff you have the less space you need to keep it.  If you really want to make your home more spacious and peaceful get rid of as much junk as you possibly can.  Donate things your family doesn't need.  Make a run through the house with a garbage bag and get every bit of trash out of your home.  Eliminate the piles of junk mail, stacks of school papers, newspaper, magazines and other space stealing items.  Keep only what you need in your closets, cabinets, and drawers.  If you have two of something, give one away.

*A fun way I like to save space in my children's rooms is to put a shoe storage hanger on the back of their doors for little toys and cards and trinkets.  No matter how hard you try kids will have little things they want to hang on to.  Instead of piling them up here and there, hang them on the back of the door.  This is perfect for Barbies, or Ninja Turtles, or anything really.  My boys used to keep all of their super heroes hanging on the back of their door along with Hot Wheel cars and other such items.  My girls have one now that holds some dolls, stuffed animals, card games, and the like.  These shoe holders keep stuff up off the floor and the clear pockets make it easy for them to find what they are 
looking for.  

*I saw this picture of some bookshelves behind the door the other day and loved it.  This is a great space saving idea.  I'm always looking for creative ways to save space in kids' rooms, especially since our kids share rooms.

From here -

*Another way I like to save space in the kids' rooms is to hang clothing instead of having a large chest of drawers.  Some of the kids do have a chest in their room but we keep very little in those (and they're small).  By only keeping a few necessities in each drawer we are able to keep the drawers tidy.  Not having a huge dresser or chest of drawers in their rooms allows for some extra space as those pieces of furniture typically take up a fair amount of room.  We hang everything - pajamas, jeans, t-shirts...everything!  Hanging things in the closet frees up some very important floor space.  

For saving space in your kitchen I like this idea from clickypix.  Putting cork on the inside of your cabinet door is genius!  You can tack recipes and notes up and keep those things off your counters.  You can keep your measuring items (like pictured here) and free up some space in your drawer - plus it is so easy to put your hands on the one you need.  I love this! 

I also like this idea for gift wrap storage from -  I have a similar set up in the master bedroom closet.  If you need a place to keep tissue paper, bows, and gift bags that is tidy and easily accessible, this is perfect!  Everything is corralled in one place -  plus you can see what you have and easily get to what you need.   

I adore these storage containers that slide nicely under the bed.  They're perfect for extra sheets and blankets and comforters if you don't have a linen closet.  They're also perfect for out-of-season clothes, beach towels, and 100 other things.  

The space under your bed is perfect for a little bit of out of sight storage.  Just don't crazy and start sticking everything under your bed.  

Here are a few more ideas.  

  • Buy a coffee table that opens up for storage and keep board games inside.
  • Get a big basket to place in the floor of your coat closet for gloves, scarves, and hats in the winter and flip flops in the summer.
  • Hang shelves in the garage to increase your floor space.  Hang bikes too.
  • Stack all of your Tupperware containers into one large container so they all take up less space in your cabinet.
  • Keep one basket on your kitchen counter to catch the incoming mail.  Empty it frequently.
  • Hang an extra shelf above the highest shelf in your closet for extra storage. 
  •  Take pictures of the kids' extra special craft projects.  It's easier to keep the picture than it is to store the project. 
  • Be very particular about anything you bring into the house.  When stuff comes in, stuff goes out.  New shoes?  Donate some old ones.  The kids get a new stuffed animal?  Choose an older one to give away.
  •  Hang some shelves or baskets on the wall above your toilet.  This is a great place to keep towels and other bathroom items.

Okay, now it's your turn.  What are your favorite ways to save space in your home?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Smooth Weekend

I'm stepping away from the Saving Series for just a minute to share with you a blog I'm beginning to love.  

A friend served me a most delicious smoothie while I was at her house recently and it sparked a discussion, a discussion which led right to    

Since finding this great place I've been enjoying looking and learning.  I thought some of my readers just might want to know about it too. 

For the past several days I've been making the same smoothie my friend served me for my honey and kids (and myself, of course).  We are loving it!  It's a perfect little treat that packs a healthy punch.  

Here's the recipe if you should want to whip one up for yourself.  

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened non dairy milk (I've been using coconut milk.)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 5 large strawberries
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add all the ingredients to a blender.  Start on low speed and slowly increase to high.  Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.  

The smoothie you see pictured is a little more purple because I added blueberries and raspberries.  I found organic berries at Costco for a great price, as well as organic honey.  My husband has been asking me to make him one each day to drink on his drive to work.  I'm more than happy to do it.  

My smoothie serving friend had a lot of good things to say about Green Plate Rule and especially the Ginger Butternut Squash Soup.  Her 13 year daughter was also part of our conversation and she was nodding her head in hearty agreement when her mom said this soup is delicious.  I'm going to be trying it next.

If you head over to Green Plate Rule and you're looking for a place to start, I would say, HERE.  I've been thinking a lot about bread lately and this post is most helpful. 

I hope you are having a cozy weekend.  Ours is pretty smooth.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Saving Money - Part Two {Guest Post!!}

         I'm very excited to introduce you to my pal, Stephanie Ramsey.  (I call her "Ramsey" for obvious reasons.)  She is an amazing wife, loving mother to three boys (15, 12, and 9), and super talented nurse - not to mention a great friend!  She is wise in many areas, and since one of her specialties is saving dough I was thrilled when she offered to write a guest post here.  I think you are going to really enjoy reading her advice. 

Here she is with her beautiful family.  Thank you so much, Ramsey!  

 My friend Stephanie has graciously allowed me to share some thoughts on her blog, so today I’d like to share some more practical ideas and tips for spending less and saving more for your family. Costs seem to be creeping up on just about everything these days, and for most families, that means tightening up and paring down. It seems that our family has been in a perpetual state of trimming the fat, and as a result, I’ve picked up some ideas along the way that have worked well for us.

Date Nights and Family Time
          Okay, this is a big one in our house. My husband and I absolutely cherish any time we get alone together, but lack of childcare and concern about expense often take first priority. We’ve gotten creative to make sure that we have this necessary time as a couple, just to talk and recharge. One thing we like to do is set aside a special  “date night”, even if we aren’t leaving the house. We both put the date in our calendars, and after the kids have gone to bed, we’ll pop a bag of microwave popcorn and watch a $1.29 movie from the Redbox. This is a great way to stay in touch, have one on one time with my love, and NOT break the bank.
 We also plan for movie nights with the kids, and even though the routine is the same after all these years, they never tire of a $5 pizza and a free family flick from the library on Friday evenings. Our family also tries to take advantage of fun freebies around town. We’ve participated in lots of kids workshops at Michael’s stores, as well as Home Depot and Lowe’s. A great place to find info for free upcoming events is the weekend section in your local paper.

Restaurant Savings
          Eating out in our family is an occasional treat. With three starving boys, it can get pricey in a hurry. Factor in soft drinks for a family of five, and that’s a huge chunk of my grocery budget spent on a single meal! One way we’ve been able to enjoy a splurge every now and then is to use coupons for dining out and we take advantage of any special offers the restaurants offer. For example, most of our favorite places offer email deals just for signing up, and even free birthday treats and meals. We’ve gotten freebies for an entire birthday month, just for signing up with places like Panera, Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s, and Applebee’s.  I always make sure to also check the website for any savings offers before we head out to dine. Our family recently ate at Chili’s for dinner, and our check totaled $13.80. It was all thanks to a pair of free kids’ meal coupons, a free appetizer text I’d gotten on my phone, and our family’s willingness to skip expensive soft drinks in favor of water.

Grocery Savings
          Here’s the biggie where you will really be able to see tangible savings adding up quickly. The obvious way to save on groceries is coupons. There are great resources for printable coupons, as well as the trusted old standby, the Sunday paper. Try to pair sale items with your coupons, and if possible, a grocery store who doubles coupons, to maximize your savings. I recently had a receipt showing savings of nearly $4,000 in a single year by matching sales with coupons that were doubled. But you’re probably wondering how to save on things that you never really see coupons for, right?  Items like produce, or meat. Well, there are even ways to save on those things too. Aldi is fabulous for purchasing produce. They stock a respectable amount of organic fruits and veggies, but their weekly produce special prices simply can’t be beat. It isn’t often that you can pick up a whole bag of baby carrots for 49 cents, or a 3-pound bag of navel oranges for $1.99! As it gets closer to spring and summer, plan a visit to your local farmer’s market or produce stand to take advantage on excellent prices on in season produce. You’d be surprised at how much higher the quality is, and how much lower the price!

          It’s even possible to save money on your meat purchases, too. One way is to purchase meat in large bulk packs at warehouse clubs. If you have a large family, or a freezer to store items, you can take advantage of some real savings by buying the extra large family packs and dividing them into smaller bags. Meat at my local Sam’s Club or Costco is high quality, and often the price is dollars less per pound than the regular grocery store since the packages are so much larger. You can also find sales on meats that can be processed into a different cut for free by the meat department. I found top sirloin steaks at a great price at Publix recently, and had them ground (for free!) into ground sirloin for hamburgers and meatloaf.  I also like to purchase items like bread, buns and tortillas at the bakery thrift store and freeze them. These are expensive to buy in the grocery store, and a recent purchase for me included 3 loaves of whole wheat bread, 4 packs of tortillas, and 2 12-packs of sesame seed hamburger buns for $8. That’s a steal, folks!

          I’ll leave you with one last idea for saving money. My hubby and I decided a couple of years ago that in addition to the “emergency fund” we’ve managed to sock away in savings, it would be comforting to have a cash “rainy day fund” on hand. I found a great idea on Pinterest for a 52-week savings challenge. We got a small plastic shoe box, printed out the challenge, and taped it on the side. It is a savings plan, where you deposit incrementally, for each week of the year. For example, on week 1, you would deposit $1. Week 2’s deposit would be $2, and so on. The maximum weekly deposit is the last week, when you will deposit $52. At the end of the 52 weeks, you will have saved $1378 cash! We both participated last year, adding in our weekly amounts, as well as any pocket change or random money we found in the dryer.  By November, we had enough to pay almost every penny of a week long family trip to Disney World!



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