Friday, January 27, 2012

Organized Simplicity

I started reading Tsh's blog about a year ago, and I've appreciated her perspective on a variety of topics related to parenting and homemaking. So I was excited when Monica loaned me a copy of Tsh's book, Organized Simplicity.

The book is divided into 2 parts: the first is about living simply in the real world; the second is about taking ten days to create a more organized home. Though I read the book in its entirety, I did not participate in the organizing challenge. For one, I don't think my home really needs such a thorough approach right now. But I also don't feel like being that aggressive, either! I did, however, appreciate the philosophy behind the organizing challenges.

As Tsh encourages us to declutter our homes, she reminds us that what truly matters at the end of the day is "a family and a home at peace."

Tsh is a big proponent of writing a purpose statement that reflects your priorities, personality, and vision for your family. She wrote about it on her blog here. Once you have written a statement (and she gives questions to help guide that process), the aim is that "All the independent things in your life--the items you own, how you spend your time, the relationships you cultivate, and the books you read--ultimately benefit your life's purpose."

In addition, Tsh explains many of the tools she uses in her own home management, with copies at the back of the book so you can use them, too. I liked the idea of her daily docket ("a to-do list on steroids"as she calls it), though I don't think I need something that comprehensive at this time.

I liked Tsh's statement that "A peaceful home requires a change of attitude, a habit of regular maintenance, and a lifelong commitment to place higher priority on relationships and events than on things."

After reading the section on toy decluttering, I was inspired to clear out some of our collection. I had Nathan help me sort through many of our toys, and it was interesting to see what he thought what we should keep--and not!

I'm very interested in both organizing and simplicity, so I definitely enjoyed this book, and I would recommend both it and Tsh's blog. If you've read either, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fun with kids

I checked the drafts folder of my blog over the weekend, and found several posts I'd written but never published. I figured it was high time I *draft* them into active duty. =) So though the thoughts may not be current, hopefully they are still worthwhile. This post was written in May of 2010. Why didn't I post it sooner? I have no idea . . .

Recently, Eric knew our daily routine was feeling stale for me and that I was lacking inspiration for activities to do with my kids, particularly Nathan. Being the thoughtful husband he is, Eric surprised me by typing up a list that included the following suggestions:

*Go on a litter walk. We did this right before Earth Day, so it was a nice tie-in to explaining that we should keep God's world clean. My litter-obsessed son loved pointing out each scrap, and I picked them up with a glove. After going just 8 blocks, we filled a plastic grocery sack!

*Check out a kid's movie from the library to watch with Nathan, and have a special snack. I was overwhelmed with the many choices available at our library, so decided to see if they had a Thomas the Train movie since Nathan loves all things Thomas right now. I confess it was a bit painful for me to watch my selection (very hokey!), but Nathan was snuggly during the movie and leaned over several times to say how fun it was. Totally worth it!

*Take kids to a new park. Our small town has a handful of parks, and we go to three of them on a regular basis now that it's warmer out. At Eric's suggestion, we visited a park in a neighboring town, and I loved it! The equipment is the perfect size for my kids' ages, and we were the only ones there on the morning we went.

*Visit some elderly friends at the nursing home. A married couple whom we've known for many years moved into a nearby nursing home a couple of years ago. It's a difficult place to take a rambunctious three-year-old, so we don't stay long, but our visits always bring a smile to their faces.

If you're interested in educational activity ideas, I found these wonderful lists, which offer creative educational activities for pre-schoolers in the areas of reading, math, writing, speech and listening! I printed each of the "fun activities" sheets and highlighted the ideas I want to try.

Now, back to the present. With winter in full swing, we've been spending most of our time indoors. I am ecstatic that Nathan finally likes to color! I've heard for years about my nieces spending hours coloring, and I couldn't imagine Nathan sitting still for that activity. Well, the time has come, and I am grateful. He is also really into Legos, which we gave him for his birthday last month. Natalie's current favorite activities are looking at books with me, and playing Memory and Hullabaloo, a fun new acquisition. I would highly recommend this game, which is in the Cranium round-up. It encourages being active, following directions, and knowing shapes and colors.

What activities have your kids been up to?

*Note: I included the Hullabaloo link if you wanted to check it out, but the price listed here is ridiculous. Ours was purchased secondhand, and I actually just saw it at a thrift store for less than $5!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A spirit of fear

I have spent most of this pregnancy dealing with fear and anxiety. The beginning was uncertain, the middle has been uncertain, and what's ahead is definitely uncertain. We are facing more tests a week from Monday, and some moments I have found myself nearly paralyzed with fear of what the future holds.

This past week, I read these words in my Jesus Calling devotional:

"Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way! Instead, come to Me, and relax in My Peace. I will strengthen you and prepare you for this day, transforming your fear into confident trust."

How I needed that message. Rehearsing my troubles is exactly what I've been doing. Trying to guess at the answers, pondering the what-ifs, worrying over it all. I've been living with a spirit of fear, yet I am told in I Timothy 1:7 that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I am also reminded of Isaiah 26:3, which says "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Help me, Lord, to trust in You and not give in to fear and worry.

I will plan to post another update in a couple weeks. We are so grateful for your thoughts and prayers during this time!

A note about photos: Bless those of you who thought Tuesday's picture was an actual shot of my pantry, but it's just a nice picture I found on-line. The above picture, however, is definitely me, sending a little love to our baby girl.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pantry challenge update

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I am doing a January pantry challenge for the third yearLink in a row, and I wanted to post at the midway point. My goal is to spend just half of our usual monthly grocery budget, so it's forcing me to be creative and use what we have on hand.

The first step I took earlier this month is to make an inventory of random items we've accumulated or things that need to be used up. I've shared most of that list below with you so you can see what I'm working with. I don't list things like flour and sugar that I always have on hand; rather, most of these ingredients were given to us, acquired for free/very cheap, or are expiring soon.

As I'm planning our meals this month, these are the items I'm hoping to use in the process:

*apple pie filling
*Panko bread crumbs
*powdered creamer
*homemade yogurt (This was something I'd wanted to try for a long time--my result was super runny, so I've been using it in baking.)
*frozen shredded zucchini
*frozen rhubarb #
*frozen tilapia
*frozen green/yellow/red peppers
*soy flour #
*taco sauce #
*flavored mayo #
*Rice Krispies
*wild rice
*instant potato mixes
*Bisquick
*basmati rice

Quite the variety, huh?! If you have ideas for the items with a # next to them (other than rhubarb crisp/egg replacement/tacos/sandwiches, respectively), I'd love to hear them! (Italicized items have been used up by the writing of this post.)

I'm halfway through, and enjoying the added challenge. I'm right on track on terms of the amount I've spent, and I've tried to be especially ruthless when making my grocery list. I really enjoy coming up with a grocery plan that involves sales, matching ads, and coupons. And I was proud on Friday when the cashier told me what a great job I'd done saving money on my bill!

In addition to groceries, I'm also challenging myself to use up samples and half-full toiletry items before purchasing more. I was amazed when I went through our stash to see that some products have been in there for, um, years.

I'm still contemplating where to send the remaining grocery funds, but completing the challenge is extra rewarding knowing we can bless someone else with the surplus.

Photo credit

Friday, January 13, 2012

Homemade gifts

We received several neat homemade gifts this year and I wanted to share them.

Nursing cover made by Monica. I have several friends who have raved about these, and I figured the third time's the charm. =) The cute taggie blanket was made by my mom.Scrabble coasters made by my sister-in-law, Kendra. What a fun idea!Parking garage made by Eric's dad--isn't this amazing? I casually mentioned that Nathan had enjoyed playing with this when I made it, and Eric's dad ran with it. What a keepsake!
Hot cocoa mixes with marshmallow stirring sticks made by my friend Kelly. I think these are darling and delicious, and I totally want to do something similar for Nathan's teachers for Valentine's Day.
Baby shoes and crayon roll made by Monica's friend Grace. I won a giveaway Monica hosted, and had my pick of items from Grace's new Etsy shop. Super cute!
Did you receive anything homemade this year?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Update

Several of you have written to ask for an update regarding my pregnancy. Thank you so much for your concern for our family!

We received both good and bad news at yesterday's appointment. Thankfully, our little girl is doing quite well. It was amazing to see her moving around, and during the 3D portion of the ultrasound, we got a great look at her sweet face (surrounded by a variety of appendages--she was balled up most of the time!):
Isn't that miraculous?! Her movements and solid development are a comfort to me as we face additional tests and the potential news of more serious complications, in addition to the placenta previa I've already been diagnosed with.

We'll know more in a couple weeks after our next set of appointments, so I will plan to post additional details then. Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Michigan Christmas

We found these two girlies in a big box after all the gifts had been opened.
Nathan got to try downhill skiing for the first time! (It's not Colorado, of course, but probably a better bunny hill for him to learn on.)
We took our dog, Reggie, with us, and he found a cozy naptime spot.
What a goofy girl--taken at the local children's museum.
Grandma sure had her hands full! (And be assured, there were two other adults watching at all times.)
Love this Nathan smile.
We are thankful for the time we had together!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Redeemed

Last Sunday morning was a little hectic at my in-laws' house. Due to a pending snowstorm, our travel plans had to be adjusted, causing us to leave a day earlier than expected. Because of packing and saying goodbye to other relatives, it seemed that going to church was unlikely, but we decided to make it work.

I am so glad we went. What a unique approach to a New Year's Day service. The message was about redemption and our new life in Christ, with an emphasis on receiving individual communion. Due to the large size of the church, getting up to partake of communion took quite a long time, but as we waited we sang beautiful songs to prepare our hearts. I was in tears as we sang "The Old Rugged Cross"--not only are the words powerful, but it is one of my dad's favorite hymns and I think of him every time I hear it. It was during that song that our pew was motioned to make our way to a communion station.

The older gentleman who served the juice looked into my eyes, and said, "This is Christ's blood shed for you, and the little one, too." My tears flowed at that tender and true but unanticipated statement. Yes, Lord, you shed Your blood for me, and for this unborn child. What a gift. As I reflected on my life in Christ as well as the little life growing inside me, I burst into tears again when we sang the line "You are Lord of all." This pregnancy has not been an easy one, and I have definitely battled anxiety about the unknowns. And yet, I KNOW: He is Lord of ALL.

Next week, Eric and I will travel to a nearby bigger city to see a specialist and have a 3D ultrasound. We'd appreciate your prayers as we continue this journey, and I will share an update when we have one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Checking in

*Thank you for your comments on my book post. The winner of Jesus Calling is Sara! A couple people asked about my reading list for 2012. I don't have a formal list--just titles I hope to read written down in various places. My revised goal for this year is 24 books--two per month. I'm not expecting to read over 40 again with a newborn on the way! =)

*What a time to live in Iowa. Because of last night's caucus, we have been INUNDATED with political calls--24 to be exact! Glad for that to be over for awhile.

*I am super excited to implement my third annual pantry challenge, where I will aim to spend just half of our monthly grocery budget so that we can donate the other half to charity. I plan to make a list this week of pantry items that should be used up to aid me in my meal planning. I am really motivated to do this again!

*I'll be back soon with some pictures from the holiday. Happy new year!