Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Dress Experiment

This week I did a little experiment.  I challenged myself to wear a dress or skirt every day.  I certainly am not into legalism, and would never say that women shouldn't wear pants...I just think femininity deserves a comeback. 

The first thing I noticed when I put on a dress was how I felt.  I felt pretty.  I walked with a little extra twirl in my step.  I felt feminine and beautiful.  I found that it made everyday chores a little more...wholesome.  I just felt like the women of old, full of grace and strength and dignity.  Am I being dramatic?  I don't think so.  Our clothes have a lot of power.  It is amazing to me how wearing something a little too short or tight can completely change my personality.  I feel insecure...suffocated.  But, in a well fitting and flowing skirt, I me. 

I then noticed my husband's reaction.  He told me I was beautiful every day.  Now, this is coming from a man who will say that after I've been through 16 hours of labor.  He says it on days of no make-up and no sleep.  But this was different.  His eyes lit up

My children would say, "Mommy looks so pretty today!".  They saw a softer side of me.  They still reached for me with sticky hands, they buried their faces in my lap and wiped their tears on my skirt...did it make me more approachable?

I went through my day just like every day.  I chased after the chickens that had escaped from their pen.  I cooked and cleaned and cared for my children.  I wasn't afraid of getting dirty.  Clothes aren't meant to last forever. 

This challenge was really good for me.  Every girl should feel pretty.  It wasn't that I put on a dress and all my insecurities just melted away...they were still there staring back at me in the mirror, but dressing up made the mundane feel a little more magical.

A Deliberate Life

"To know God and to enjoy Him. To celebrate His diversity and live in His unity. To eat with sinners and worship with Lovers. To paint with children, to learn with scholars. To rejoice in dance, to contemplate in prayer. To live dangerously, and give extravagantly. To study, to hear, and to wonder. To sing, to drum, to laugh, to shout, to run. To heal, to reconcile, to serve and to be sent. Joyful expectation, holy discontentment..."

I read this quote many years ago and just fell in love with it.  I put it on the front cover of my Bible but I haven't let those words really sink in in a while.  Then I read it again tonight and it stirred something in my heart.  It's deliberate living.  It's not just going through the motions and getting through the day.  It's about making every day, every moment, matter...because there is a purpose to every day.

These words remind me of my brother Matt.  It's been almost 3 years since he passed away.  He was only 16 years old when God called him Home.  He lived a deliberate life.  I think of him and all that he meant to so many people.  He had a servant heart way beyond his years.  He didn't judge.  He never spoke badly of anyone.  He gave and he gave.  He never held back. 

I miss him.  Oh, how I miss him!  But, more than anything I am inspired by him.  His life has challenged me to truly live with no regrets, with no wasted moments.

Friday, May 27, 2011

So...I gave in and made a facebook page for my blog.  I went back and forth about it for a long just seemed like another thing to do, and I am all about simplifying things...did I really need more in my life?  But...I do think it might be fun and I can keep up with all my readers in one place.  So, be sure to stop by and hit "like"!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Adventure

I wish I was a photographer.  There have been so many moments in my life that I wish I could freeze in time forever.  Those sweet seconds when life is truly beautiful.

Yesterday I was pushing our baby girl in the stroller.  I couldn't see her face, but from behind I watched her throw her hands in the air and let out a delighted squeal.  She was full of excitement and joy, like riding a roller coaster...and we were just taking a walk to the mailbox.

As I was watching her I just wanted to capture this moment and not let go.  I'm not sure what has made me so emotional these days...I guess I just see life running away from me.  My children are growing so fast and I can't hold them back.

But that's all part of the adventure.  Everyday is something new.  We are learning and growing together.  I guess that's why God gave us the gift of memories.  We can hold onto these moments without holding them back.

Motherhood is an adventure.  And not one for the weak or squeamish.  It is an adventure that has completely changed my life and every bit of who I am.  And I know it is just the beginning... 

Do I look to the coming days with fear and complaining, or do I throw my hands up and squeal with excitement and joy?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Simple Household Notebook

I'm a list maker.  I can't help it, I just love to write out everything and see my thoughts all neat and organized.  I've actually written out a to-do list with things I've already done, just so that I could have the satisfaction of crossing them off.  But, my lists were getting out of control.  A shopping list here, a Christmas list there, little scraps of paper with my precious reminders were getting lost in the shuffle of life.

Then I started to read some wonderful homemaking blogs, and all these supermoms had a household notebook.  They would share pictures of these pretty notebooks packed full of their cleaning schedules, menu plans, to-do lists and everything else a list-addicted girl like me could want.  Everything was typed out in cute fonts and printed on pretty paper with matching dividers. 

Surely this was the badge of an expert homemaker.

I had to make one.  I gathered all the supplies and then set to work printing all the forms.  I had daily and weekly schedules, monthly menu plans, calender pages, cleaning schedules, pantry and freezer inventories, budget went on and on.

I filed them all into a notebook and then had to smile at the organized beauty of it all.  "This will make my life so much easier!" 


The first thing I realized was that my meticulously planned cleaning schedules made no sense in this house full of kids.  Why would I be worried about dusting the ceiling fan when my 2 year old just poured a whole gallon of milk on the floor?  I had so many emergency messes to deal with during the day, I never had the time (or energy) to work on my daily assigned cleaning.

Then there were the inventories that I never remembered to update, the menu plans we didn't follow and the daily schedule that was completely unrealistic to my real life.

I was left with a notebook that made me feel like an unorganized mess...a failure as a homemaker.  So I tucked it away and went on with my life.

A few months ago I dug it out again.  I decided that I could make this work for me, if I made it for me.  I can't live on someone else's schedule.  This is my life and I need to keep it simple.  I ripped out all the pages and started over.  So here is my simple household notebook:


This is my main page that I use daily.  I printed it from Money Saving Mom.  I used the customized version of the Daily Docket.  I keep it in a page protector and I cross things off with a dry erase marker, at the end of the week, I just wipe it off and start over.

On the left column I keep a list of weekly cleaning projects (clean bathrooms, dust, vacuum bedrooms...)  When I finish one, I cross it off.  Then, when I have a few free moments I can look at my list and see what still needs to be done that week.  I do what I can fit into my day.  Some weeks, I get everything done gradually, other times they are all left for Saturday.

In the middle is my list of daily chores (laundry, dishes, make beds, dinner prep...)  It just helps to keep me on track.  There is also a space to check off how much water I drink, if I exercised and when I take my vitamins.  This has been so important in reminding me to take care of myself.

On the right column I have our weekly menu plan.  This is a list of dinner meals that I come up with during my grocery planning.  I don't always make everything on here, but it gives me ideas when I need to prep something in the morning.  I just cross it off after we have one.

Everything on this page is written in pencil (which kind of annoys me).  This is so that I can easily change things without having to print a new page all the time.

On the opposite side is a monthly/seasonal cleaning list.  I also printed this from Money Saving Mom.  Then I keep a few pages of notebook paper for my lists:

My Wish List
Yard work Projects
Sewing Projects
House Projects and Repairs


This section is where I keep paper to jot down menu ideas and new recipes to try.  I keep my grocery shopping list on the fridge so I can write things down as we run out of them.  Nothing fancy, but it works for me.


The first page in this section is a list of family birthdays.  I found it here.  I like it because I can see the whole year at a glance and plan accordingly.  Then I have pages for birthday and Christmas gift ideas, handmade projects, and supplies needed.


I have a list of our debts (It feels so good to cross those off!) and a list of large and small goals that we are saving up for.  I also have some budget pages in there, but they are still a work in progress.

And that's it.  It's pretty simple, but it works for me.  I hope it inspires you to find what works for you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I don't own a microwave...

When friends walk into my kitchen for the first time they usually take a look around and say, "Oh, you don't have a microwave?", "Don't you want one?", "How do you survive?"

Well, people have lived for thousands of years without one and have survived just fine.  And, no, I don't want one.  The funny thing is that all the microwaves that we have owned over the years were given to us by friends who saw that we didn't have one, felt sorry for us, and showed up with one at our doorstep.

As a child of the 80's, microwaves were just a normal part of life.  My grandparents lived with us and had their own kitchenette in their side of the house, so we actually had 2 of them.

So what has caused my micro-rebellion?

It first started during my pregnancies.  I found that I would push the start button and run for cover.  I felt that somehow if I stood too close to it I would hard-boil my baby.  Of course, I haven't found any scientific research to back that up (yet).

Then I thought about quality.  Has anyone ever really had a wonderful and memorable meal from a microwave?  No.  It's usually half-frozen, half-hot-as-lava.  Or, if you do get it cooked through it has turned to rubber.  What are we sacrificing for the sake of convenience? takes up space.  We didn't have one in our first apartment because there just wasn't any room.  Our next rental house came with one, but it took up half the counter space.  We had the option to hang one over our stove top in this kitchen, but then that just goes back to my fears that I will be microwaving my brain if I stand too close.  Plus, I would much rather look at something beautiful and inspiring while I cook.

"But it makes life so much easier!"  Does it really?  I have found that I can cook just about everything just as easily with my oven or stove top.  I want to simplify my life and no microwave means one less thing to clean.  there have been very few times where I have missed having one.  Like reheating my coffee, since it seems like I never get to sit still long enough to finish it before it's cold.

But I can live with that.

What is so wrong with our culture that we are afraid to slow down?  It used to be that if you had a question you had to drive to the library, dig through the card catalog, throw open the encyclopedia and search for the answer.  Now we just google it on our smart phones. 

I'm not saying that all our modern conveniences are wrong, but what are we missing because we are in such a hurry?

I could feed my family microwaved TV dinners every night and they would still be fed, but I would miss the process.  Cooking is an experience.  The aromas and sounds, all the colors and flavors...the chopping and stirring, the patience and anticipation.  The memories.  It's all part of the experience.  I'm nourishing my family and throwing in a little love into every dish.  Now doesn't that sound more appetizing?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the quiet...

My husband is away this week.  He took our two oldest boys on a Man-cation.  Camping, fishing and flatulence.  Manliness in all it's glory. 
I'm happy for them.  I am really proud of him as a father wanting to spend this time with his boys and I know they are making amazing memories.  But, it is hard to be left behind.  The house is quiet.  Too quiet.  It feels empty...I only have 3 kids here.  I just don't like it.  But, these quiet nights have been good for me too.

This time has been reminding me of when he worked the night shift.  We didn't have cable or Internet access.  I would tuck the kids into bed and just breathe in the quietness.  There were many nights when I was lonely, but it also gave me time to think and be creative.  I spent those nights painting, sewing, and crocheting.  I read a lot, played guitar and put words to paper.  I'm not really sure why I've given those things up.  Life just gets in the way sometimes, I guess.  But, these quiet nights have inspired me again. 

My boys will be home tomorrow and this house will fill up with joyful business again.  I don't want to forget this part of me. 

I believe that God puts these gifts in us for a purpose, whatever it is...these talents, desires and interests...they are who we are.  They are meant to be used.  To give, to serve, to worship God...they have a purpose.  So why do I push them to the side?  Why do I forget about them when life gets busy?  These things should be where I feel most at home...but sometimes in the quiet...I just don't know what to do with myself. 

It feels good to be inspired. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.  ~Mother Teresa

Monday, May 16, 2011

Learning Styles

As this school year is winding down I've been assessing what has worked for us and what hasn't.  I am making plans and am nervously excited for next year.  I think our 4 year old will be ready for kindergarten so this will be the first year where I am officially teaching 3 kids.  (Though I do believe we teach our children every day from the moment they are born just through living our lives together...but that's another post for another day...)

When I look at my kids, it still amazes me how different they all are.  They all have their own little personalities shining through.  They each excel in different things and struggle in their own ways.

One of the hardest things for me as a homeschooling mom is being "one-size-fits-all".  I am trying to teach each of them individually in a way that interests them.  I am trying to lean towards their strengths, but still challenge their weaknesses.  I am trying...

Ever year I learn more about my kids...and myself.

I am starting to understand their learning styles.  Our oldest is an auditory learner.  He loves to talk (sometimes too much), he loves to listen to me read or explain a lesson.  It always surprises me how much detail he will recite back to me.  But, you put a pencil in his hand...and he completely loses focus.  He can't sit still and becomes frustrated.  I've learned to adapt.  Sometimes when a page of math problems is too much for him, we will close the book and go through a set of flash cards.  Being able to yell out the answers is much more exciting to him than writing them down, and he usually ends up answering more than were originally on the page without even realizing it.

Our daughter is the complete opposite.  She is a visual learner.  She gets bored with listening to me read a long chapter, and when I ask her what I just read, she just shrugs her shoulders.  But, she is the first one to notice the details in the pictures in that book.  She loves to read things for herself.  She is incredible at puzzles and likes to have everything organized.  She is always drawing and thrives on workbooks.  I see so much of myself in her which is probably why she has been the easiest for me to teach (so far).

Then there is our 4 year old.  He is very much a hands-on learner.  Maybe this is just part of his age, and I know I will see much more in him when we officially start school.  He's very quiet.  He's a thinker.  He stores it all up and then he lets out his theories.  It's so cute to see the way his mind works.  When you put something in his hands like Legos or blocks he will work with such intensity.  He is so focused on what he is doing it is really hard to get his attention.  He will play with Play-doh for hours and then come out with the most incredible creations.  I think this could make for a really fun kindergarten year if I can let go and let him get his hands dirty.

I know there is no perfect curriculum, and what might be great for one child, could be torture for another.  And then there's me...I need to account for what I can do as a teacher.  I still have a toddler and a baby to chase around during the school day.  I can't be stressed out trying to fit our family into something that we just aren't.

This school year was our best.  Was it perfect?  No.  Did we do everything?  No.  We had our struggles, but we also had a lot of fun.  I think I learned more than the kids.  I've learned that sometimes you just have to close the books, take a step back and let your kids teach you.

My Wish List

Before we moved in I began a wish list of things we would need for the new house.  There were immediate needs, like a mailbox and shower curtain rods, and then things I just wanted, like paint for my kitchen.

Slowly, as our budget has allowed we've been picking up things here and there.  But, we are trying to be responsible and have committed to becoming debt free...and that meant that the needs would take top priority and the wants have moved further down the list.

This week a friend stopped by.  I have known her a very long time and she has truly become a Titus 2 Mother in my life.  I am always excited to receive an encouraging visit from her.  She stops at my door and says, "God gave me something for you.".

I followed her out to her car, and as she opened up the trunk I saw 3 beautiful bar stools.

She went on to tell me how a few days earlier her daughter just happened to mention that we haven't been able to buy stools for our kitchen yet.  Then, that day she passed by a yard sale and these were sitting at the end of someone's driveway.

As we brought them into the house and put them in place I was holding back tears.  They fit my breakfast bar and matched my kitchen...they were perfect.

Bar stools had moved so far down my wish list that I hadn't even thought about them in a long time.  It is so amazing to me that God orchestrated this whole thing without me having any idea.  He supplies all our needs, but sometimes He throws in our wants too, just to show us that He loves us.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Change of Heart

I was a young mom with 3 kids age 3 and under.  I was tired and overwhelmed.
  I loved my kids...but I was not a joyful mother.

At the time, my husband was working the night shift.  He would come home in the morning and sleep all day.  I would have to have dinner ready by 3pm so we could eat together as a family...and then he would leave for work again.  I was alone and exhausted.

I found myself becoming resentful towards him.  I was up all night with a baby and up all day trying to keep 2 little ones quiet.  It was too hard to leave the house with all of them in tow, and I had to give up everything I loved to do. It just didn't seem fair and life was becoming one big blur of diapers and laundry and needy children.

Then one night I was laying in bed, nursing the baby back to sleep.  The other two had both woken up and climbed into bed with me.  I had elbows poking me in the ribs and little feet kicking me from both sides.  I just let out an exhausted sigh.  I started complaining to God, "I've given up everything!  Now I have to give up my bed too?!"  Then God spoke to my heart words that were so gentle, but cut right through:
"Yes, you have given up a lot...but look at what I've replaced it with."

I looked at the little boy on my left and the little girl on my right and the sweet baby in my arms...and I was just overwhelmed with God's blessings.  My eyes filled with tears and I praised Him and thanked Him -
 truly thanked Him for these beautiful gifts.

I repented for all the wrong attitudes I had had about being a mother.  These children were not a burden!  They were a blessing! 

I was a believer.  I had God's hope and spirit in my life, but I wasn't living like it.  I had bought into the lie that I was just a stay at home mom.  That I was of less worth because I didn't have a career.  That I had given up on my dreams to be nothing more than an unpaid babysitter.
But, they were just that...lies.

God spoke to my heart.  He whispered in His words of Truth.  Children are a blessing from God.  He chose to give them to me.  What a holy responsibility!  I was humbled at the thought of it.

He also showed me how wrong I had been in my resentment toward my husband.  God had given him to me (and me to him) but somehow along the way I had forgotten that.  I now had new respect for him.  He worked so hard to provide for me, to provide for our children, to give me the gift of staying home with them.  But, that was his choice.  There are so many men who don't care, who walk away.

I had a man who would sacrifice everything for his family.  He loves God and he adores me.  He adores me in spite of me.  He listened to me complain every day and he never said a word.  He chose me.  He chose me to be his wife.  He chose me to be the mother of his children.  What had I done to be worthy of that?  I complained about his dirty socks being on the floor.

When he came home the next morning I just cried and cried and asked him to forgive me for not being the wife he deserved. 
God began a work in my heart that day...but He is far from being finished.

I struggle every day.  I lose my patience, I still complain...but I'm trying.  I see my family differently now.  These children are only mine for a little while.  God brought them into our lives and this is where their story begins.  I don't know what He has for them, but I am honored to be their mother. 
 I am humbled that God chose me and I am determined to make every moment count.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Atmosphere of Our Home

A little while ago my sister in law walked into my house.  She stopped in the doorway and said, "Awww, your house is so homey!"  I thought "homey" was just a nice way of saying "lived in", but then she went on...

"It's the atmosphere of your home.  You can feel that it's full of love."

I think this is one of the sweetest compliments I have ever recieved.  I've been dwelling on those words ever since.  She has too and you can read her beautiful blog about it here.

What makes a house feel like home?

Before our house was finished, we had stopped by to check on the construction.  It was an empty house with bare walls and no couch to curl up on, but as my children ran around laughing and playing hide-and-seek, this empty house was full of life and for the first felt like home.

I think that to truly experience something we use all of our senses. 

This is probably the first thing we think about in making a house a home.  We paint the walls, pick out the furniture and add our collections.  But sometimes it's not just what we add, but what we don't.  Clutter can add anxiety to a beautiful room.  It just feels chaotic and overwhelmed.

I have been working on clearing out all the clutter and only keeping what I love.  Beauty doesn't only come from matching furniture and the perfect accesories.  I love filling my home with things that tell a story, things that hold a memory.

Isn't it amazing how a scent can instantly take you back to a favorite moment?  I love when my house is infused with the smells of dinner simmering on the stove or fresh baked bread or cookies from the oven.  But even if you haven't been busy in the kitchen, you can freshen up your home.  Light a scented candle for no special occation or throw open the windows and let the smells of the season blow through.

We are blessed to live in the middle of the woods.  In the stillness of the morning I am awakened by birds singing and the occational wild turkey gobbling through the yard.  Then my children rise and our house is reenergized for the day.  Little feet running down the hall, cereal bowls and spoons delicately clinking.  The sweet sounds of a busy morning.

But there are many times in my day when the noise can be overwhelming.  The TV is on.  Video games beeping.  Kids are fighting.  The baby screaming.  I just need peace

We turn off everything and turn on worship music.  It is amazing how this calms my home.

Of course we think of homecooking and elaborate holiday feasts, but how good do these foods really taste when there is no one to share it with?

Our times at the dinner table are not just for nourishment, but for nurturing and reconnecting.  This is where our family is reunited and shares about our day. 

It is also a place for hospitality.  God has really been stretching me in this!  "Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality."  God doesn't ask us to be stressed out and host the perfect dinner party, He just wants an open door and an open heart.

So brew a pot of coffee and invite someone in!

I have flipped through so many magazines looking for decorating ideas...and at first glance these rooms are beautiful...but then I picture my family there and it just doesn't look comfortable.  Not just the furniture, but the museum feeling.  A room you can't touch.  I would be so scared that my kids would break or spill something.  I would constantly feel on edge.

I felt that way when we first moved in.  Brand new carpets and 5 kids...I was having an anxiety attack over it.  But, then the first spill happened, the house has been broken in and the world did not come to an end.

A friend shared with me that she lets her little girls have tea parties with her grandmother's cherished tea set.  She knows it would be safer locked up in the china cabinet, but who ever made memories while staring at a china cabinet?  Take a risk.  Let them touch.  Stuff is just stuff, but memories are cherished.

So today, I hope I encouraged you to take a look around, breathe in deeply, listen intently, savor every bite and grab hold of everything that makes your house a home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm Featured!

I'm so excited!  My Olive Garden breadsticks recipe was featured over at Don't Waste Your Homemaking!  Be sure to check it out!
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