Sunday, January 31, 2010

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - Candles

There's something lovely about a burning candle on a cold night with a hot cup of tea, a good book and the main houselights turned down low. I love the flicker of candles and the ambiance they impart to a day.
One of my favorite things to do on Tuesdays, when I work from home, is to light some candles, make a pot of tea and work on my work. It makes me feel cozy - even if I'm working on something I'm not particularly excited about.
Another of my favorite things is to have dinner by candlelight. Almost every night, I light the candles in the middle of the table, we turn out the houselights and sit down to dinner together. That flicker of light is conducive to a slower time, longer conversation and enjoying the meal. We eat, we talk and we simply enjoy each other's company. Could we do it without candles? Yes. But it simply wouldn't be as special and I truly believe we would rush through the meal far faster than we do with the candlelight.
John and I have also had date nights where we've placed a large plate of assorted candles in the middle of the coffee table and talked with all the other lights off.
There's just something about them that make things a little more special and invite slowing down and taking time. Time to talk to each other. Time to enjoy flickering light. Time to feel cozy, and content, and cared for.
Truly, candles are one of my favorite things!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Super Savings Saturday - Restocking the Meat!

We're up to $20 for groceries this week! Whoo hoo! I'm continuing the pantry challenge into February, though I've upped my monthly allotment from $50 to $80 for the month so we'd have some money to restock. Since we were over our 'regular' budget this pay period (thank you overtime and the co-worker who went on vacation so John had that overtime!), we decided to take an extra $20 on top of that from our 'miscellaneous' fund and do the 4/$19.99 meat deal at Cub this week.
All you see in the photo was roughly $36 total, plus I bought 2 gallons milk and a few oranges, a bunch of bananas, 5lb flour, 2 lb white sugar and 48 oz vegetable oil. Other than the $20 for part of the meat, we were at about $28 for this week's groceries (I haven't totaled it up yet but that's roughly what I spent) so that leaves us with about $50 for the rest of the month. Since I put my menus for February together from what we had in our cupboards, I just need to buy fruit and milk, an 8oz tub of sour cream and any screaming deals the rest of February.
Anyway, to make a long story short - here's the price breakdown for the stuff in the photo:

Cub Foods:
4 for $19.99 meat:
* Lemon Marinade Pork Loin (Regular $10.99)
* Non-Marinaded Pork Loin (Regular $10.99)
* 56 oz Chicken Leg (Regular $12.99)
* 1 lb frozen Walleye Fillets
Additional purchases:
* 20 oz Chicken Breasts 2.99 x 3 - (3x0.75) = 6.72
* Skippy Peanut Butter 10oz 2/$2 x 2 = $2 (Store Coupon)
* Quaker Oatmeal $1.99
* Breyer's Ice Cream 2/$4 x 2 = $4
Cub Foods Total: $34.70
Rainbow Foods:
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese $0.48x2 = $0.96
Total: $35.66
For more shopping inspiration see Money Saving Mom!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Frugal Friday - Why Live Frugally on Two Incomes?

I often get asked why we live so frugally on two incomes. That answer is simple: It's our idea of being responsible.

Let me explain.

Jobs can come and go, illnesses happen, people get divorced, injured or die. My mother's dad died when she was 14 years old, leaving her mother with 4 children at home and a farm to run by herself. My mother impressed upon me at an early age that each parent should have the education, skills and ability to make sure the family was taken care of financially and physically as well as emotionally and spiritually without assistance from another person in case such an event occurred. That did not necessarily mean that both parents always worked outside the home, but that they are able to.

It also means living at a financial level that won't have to change much if something does happen. Losing half or better of your income if something happens with one spouse is no fun. Similarly, employment can be volatile and 'life-time' jobs are no longer the norm. The economy goes up and down. It simply makes sense to live on one income and use any second income for 'extras.'

There are people who will certainly argue that it is necessary to have two incomes to afford the basics - food, housing, and clothes in a reasonable quantity and quality for your family. In some places that may be true. And it certainly does depend on what your wages are. If you both have low incomes and live in a high cost of living area that may be true.

However, most though certainly not all of us, spend most of that second income on the expenses that come with two people working - daycare, after and before school care, business wardrobes, uniforms, or other work clothes, car maintenance, licences, and the like, parking as well as convenience foods, parties for children at outside locations, cleaning people, dry cleaning, and all the things that seem to make our lives easier, but not necessarily better.

By living frugally on two incomes we have been able to pay graduate tuition with cash, preschool tuition with cash, take modest (car-trip/camping/visiting family) vacations with cash, and not have to worry about being able to afford our basic living expenses if one of us isn't working.

When we bought out house we bought at the bottom of our price range - both our real estate agent and the banker who set up our mortgage were really impressed that we wanted approval on only my husband's income at the time. My job was fluctuating and we weren't sure if I was going to have an income, so we wanted to make sure we could afford our house if that income was lost. We also informed our real estate agent that we only wanted to see homes priced up to a certain value and would switch agents if he didn't follow that. He did follow it - knowing he would get a sale if he did. We are so glad we did all of that!

We have also been able to pay medical bills - between the savings and our flex spend account - with cash. We have been able to pay for the majority of the remodeling and household upgrades we done with cash. Refinancing our mortgage 3 years ago to a lower fixed rate was a breeze. If we don't have the cash we most often wait. Not always, but we're working on that!

The best part about living frugally on a two-incomes? We don't have much to change if I'm not working. I've spent 3 of the 8 semesters I've been in school not working. That meant no tuition waver, and no 'added' income. Since we had placed my income into savings while I was working, we have a nice emergency fund, tuition dollars saved, and the ability to rest easy until the next assignment came along. I've always brought in some money - tutoring, selling on Craig's List, and other small amounts - but nothing 'big' during those months. And it was nice to just be able to focus on school rather than wondering and worrying.

Is is hard to see others with bigger houses, trips to Disney World, and fancy computers and phones? Yes. Is it hard to have people judge me by the neighborhood I live in (Oh, I thought you lived on this side of the highway.)? Yes. Is it hard to have family members consider us 'poor' because of the house and neighborhood we live in? Yes. I've even had one close family member be very upset that we hadn't bought a larger home when our children were born - until I showed that person our retirement account and savings account statements and explained what we are doing. That person is still not happy with it - and we're still 'poor' in their eyes - but they've at least stopped complaining!

Additionally, we are hoping to be debt-free by the time John graduates from Seminary. We are hoping to be able to go wherever God calls us without having to worry about finances. How freeing that will be! I'll post about our financial goals on Monday, but that's the grander plan.

Is it worth it? In my mind absolutely!

Do you have a second income? If so, what do you do with it?

For more Frugal Friday, check out Life As Mom!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - Those First Years of Marriage

This is part 4 in my faith and health story and it focuses on the first 2 years John and I were married.

Those First Years of Marriage

John and I moved to a new state when we got married. I had lived there for a year, attending a Master's Degree program while he was finishing up his Nuclear Medicine Degree. It was a 14 hour drive to visit his family and mine was another 16 hours on top of that! We were about 1 1/2 hours from my grandmother and an uncle, but other than that we had no family around.

We did have a faith community and they were the rock of our 'family' so to speak during those years.

Why? I had the advisor from you know where and had one of the worst - if not the worst - educational experiences I have ever had (and I've had a lot of educational experiences). I was teaching three labs, taking classes (3 a semester) and trying to work on research with little or no assistance from my advisor and with a non-existent research group. I later figured out that the lack of research group was due to my advisor rather than having a small-ish department but that wasn't until I was almost done. The second year I took a job teaching at a local tech college - loved the teaching, but I continued my teaching and schoolwork at the same pace I had before. How loud can you stay stress? And no sleep?

Were there good things? Oh yes. Being away from our families meant John and I only had each other to lean on. That really helped our relationship grow. I got to meet some incredible people. I got to work on some really neat projects and do some really fun and exciting outreach. And we had this incredible faith community to be part of. A very long-time friend of my parents was faculty at the school and I got to know him and his wife quite well too - which was a HUGE blessing and just plain fun. I walked a lot - we had one car and John needed it for work most of the time. We did buy another car - but not until right before we moved.

The bad things?

Oh my word, there were many!

I decided that John needed "fixing" - I didn't like the way he did so many things, and I felt that by hollering, nagging, constantly correcting, and otherwise badgering him I could 'fix' him. Yes, I did realize that many of the things that needed 'fixing' had never been on his radar screen to begin with much less listing as important but I didn't realize I needed to teach him about those things and be an example rather than being a general pain in the neck.

I took an extra year to graduate because my adviser wouldn't even look at my research. He finally did because the department chair told him to. Problem fixed in 5 minutes. Seriously. I had an extra number in my equation that no one else in the department would have known enough to understand that it shouldn't be there. The consequence of all of that was that I seriously began to doubt what I know - something I had never done before. Basic subject knowledge and technique was in question in my mind. What do you mean you can't find a simple math error? How stupid are you? And that kind of thing constantly ran through my head. I felt like God had deserted me and I seriously started to question whether I could do anything of any worth at all much less what I had always felt God had called me to do.

We also found out that I really can't take hormonal contraception. I had every side-effect symptom on the packet except blood clot, stroke and death (which I'm very grateful for) and not only had them, but had them severely. After talking to my mother, I found out that both of her sisters had had the same problems and that was why she had never taken them herself. I wish I'd asked her sooner. So, after having three doctors tell me it was stress and not the contraception, I quit taking them. Back to normal in one cycle. Sure, it wasn't the contraception. When we moved here and I told my doctor what had happened. She quickly gave me a list of non-hormonal alternatives and said "most people have symptoms, but only about 5% have them that severely." I was just relieved she believed me. Having three doctors tell me that it was stress and that I should practice stress release techniques, take up yoga and the like, I started to doubt my own mind even more. I felt like I was going crazy - that I didn't really understand my own body and that I was just making things up in my head for attention or something (which I actually had one doctor tell me).

By the time I graduated I was sick of school, sick of working, and just plain physically sick - which I didn't know was partly the result of poor health choices and bad (really bad) eating habits and partly the result of being a preemie.

All in all, I'm very surprised John stayed married to me. I have told him many times that if I had been married to me during those first years, I would have divorced me. :) He stuck with it and was eventually the catalyst in helping me get back to 'normal.'

I left that school and that state, angry at God, angry at myself and probably clinically depressed as well, even though I never officially got diagnosed. John found a job here in the Twin Cities and we moved. I decided that I was going to take a couple of classes and wait on a job for a while. But I also kept getting sicker and sicker...

I write more about that next week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Work, Home and Family - Trust

I wrote last week about childcare and school when Mom is outside of the home. This week I'm writing about an essential element of that whole puzzle: Trust.

Yes, yes, I know that in some places childcare of any quality at all is non-existent or two parents are working minimum wage jobs and can't afford childcare and need to rely on kind relatives or friends or working two different shifts. We are indeed fortunate that we have been able to find two same-age openings at a in-home daycare with a lovely woman who had been doing childcare for 30+ years because she enjoys it, not because she needs the money. This was also the cheapest option for childcare we found - we're paying less for 2 children per week than many of our friends are for single children - and for us was the best option. I realize that many aren't so fortunate. And I feel very blessed that we are.

I vividly remember being in childcare myself when I was in 3rd grade and my parents both needed to be at work early in the morning. They needed someone to watch me before I got on the school bus in the morning for about an hour and half. Unfortunately, none of the neighbors were available or willing, so I had to go elsewhere. The place I was at was an in-home daycare that was smelly, unclean, filled with rude and unruly children, and run by woman who truly didn't care what happened to the children in her care. Someone actually broke a leg while in her care and her own son got hit by a car and broke both arms! It was awful. Unfortunately, it was literally the only place available. Before and after school care at school, which is the norm here now was not available. I wasn't legally old enough to stay home by myself yet (12 is the age that happens at). So that was it. My parents quickly decided that one of them would always be home in the mornings after one terrible semester there. Cut in pay? Sometimes. Worth it? Definitely. And this woman came highly recommended by a friend too!

Other than that, I had three options.

I was fortunate enough to have an elderly neighbor that watched me. She was a retired school teacher and I have many fond memories of reading her books with her, writing creative stories, helping her husband by pulling weeds in their impressive flower beds, and cooking simple meals for them.

Another option was walking to my Dad's office on the college campus after class. I remember teaching myself how to type on his manual typewriter and how to take shorthand from a book on his desk. I remember enjoying powdered soap in the soap dispenser in the bathroom (something very different from home). I remember coloring with his highlighters on typing paper. All while he graded papers and prepared lesson plans. It was a very special treat to go to the candy booth in the Student Union and get Bazooka Bubble Gum - 3 pieces for 10 cents!

The third option? My parents wonderfully flexible schedules as college professors. My parents spent a lot of time grading papers and making lesson plans after I was in bed so that they could be home with me after school. Most of the classes met while I was in class, so that worked out great but other than that, they had the flexibility to complete their work while I was sleeping or otherwise occupied.

All things considered Trust is the most important thing when looking for childcare or schooling of any kind. For me, there are three areas of trust that I look for.

First, keeping the children safe. I trust my childcare person and my occasional evening babysitters to keep my children safe. Ditto for family or other friends who watch my kids occasionally. I have a relative who would love to 'watch' my children for me. However this woman let a 3 year old play outside unsupervised in a non-fenced yard and doesn't understand why a toddler needs to stay in a parent's view at all times. I won't let her watch my children. Period. Maybe when they're old enough to babysit other children, but not right now.

Second, keeping them healthy. My one SIL and I have 'discussions' about letting my MIL watch my children. My children only see my MIL and FIL a couple of times a year, so it really doesn't matter to me for those 3 days, twice a year if my MIL feeds them a diet of only ice cream, chicken nuggets, and french fries for those three days straight. Since my SIL lives right there and sees her on a regular basis, her daughter is not allowed to be fed by grandma more than once a week. I get that. If my children were there all the time, I wouldn't allow it either. Right now, the relationship with my MIL is more important than 6 days of junk food a year. If my daycare lady did this, I'd find a new one. But with my MIL for 6 days a year, I can live with it.

Third, morals and beliefs. My daycare lady lets us set the tone and type of this. She focuses on basic manners (please, thank you, helping, no hitting, sharing, etc.) and lets us dictate the rest. I don't expect my children to learn school skills there (that's what preschool is for in my opinion) and I don't expect her to teach my children the morals and religious beliefs that my husband and I have. That's our job. For you it might be different, perhaps you want a daycare with an academic curriculum or one who teachers certain religious beliefs. Look for that. If you're like me, it might be easier to find someplace you are comfortable with.

If you can't find someplace you trust, keep looking and asking. I have a rule that I don't send my kids to friends or family except as a "treat day". Why? I don't want to loose friendships or get in power struggles. It's not worth it. It's much easier, in my opinion, to gently ask someone with whom you have a business relationship to change their tactics than to tell grandma they're doing something you don't like. I've watched too many people destroy relationships with friends and family because of this. I won't do that. My daycare lady is a dear friend now, but she's my daycare lady first. It just makes it easier.

Where we live they recommend starting to look for daycare when you first become pregnant. In some places it's before that even (I have yet to figure that one out). We started looking in October, found our lady in March and had our children in May. They started attending in August.

I had weeks and months in there when I was convinced that God was calling me to stay home, not to mention a few panicky moments about what to do about my job - which I really felt I was supposed to return to. The openings we were finding were either something we were not comfortable with or cost far more than I would make. God provided the perfect person in His time and in His way through a random comment to a woman at church, who just happened to be on the licensing board for home daycare for our county. We didn't know that when John made the comment. For us, it is just one example of where God provides in His timing and not ours and provides abundantly.

If you're looking for childcare - whether you want to return to work or need to - I recommend you decide what areas of trust are important to you and look for those. Talk to everyone you know - whether they have children or not - because you never know who might know something that can be helpful!

What are your trust areas? And how did you choose your childcare/school?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kid Funny and Dad Funny Response

Last night Missy got done brushing her teeth before bedtime and John really didn't think she had brushed them.

So, he asked her:
"Which teeth did you brush?"
(Thinking she'd point to a couple.)

Her response:
"My own!"

He. He. :)

After John stopped laughing he replied:
"Good thing, too. I don't think the rest of us would let you brush ours!"

Gotta love it...
What more can I ask for?

Healthy Habits in 2010 - Update Jan 26th

Last week was pretty much a bust all the way around. I didn't use the pedometer and I only made it to Jazzercise one time last week thanks to the flu, though I did play at the indoor playground with the kids on Friday.

The part that did work? My food journal.

As I suspected, I do pretty good with meals and such (though I have to watch serving sizes again - I was starting to creep up!), snacking is my downfall. I eat way too much in the way of 'snack food' - mostly cereal (dry Cheerios or Mini-Wheats with the kids), unbuttered popcorn and if I have homemade cookies around, I eat them to no end. *SIGH* I suspected this but the journal just confirms it.

So, this week I'm targeting 3x at Jazzercise this week (if I can't make it to class, I'll do my DVD at home for that 3rd time) and cutting down on the snacks. I have a bunch of cut up carrots and celery for me to eat (I actually like that stuff believe it or not!) and I have yogurt to take to work with 2 tbsp of homemade granola for something that is more filling at about 3pm. It's yucky out - rainy, cold and blowing so I'm not sure if I'll up the pedometer steps but I'll at least aim to keep it steady. It's a good thing that my office is on the other side of the building from the ladies' room! :) And that I have a 6+ block walk from my parking lot to my office. If the weather gets nicer later this week, I'll do a 2 mile walk circuit at lunchtime that I used to do a year or so ago to up those step counts. I guess I could walk up the stairs on one side of the building go to the other side and walk down again a few times but what fun is that? I also need to up my water intake.

So for next week: Jazzercise 3x, cut back on snacking to 2x per day in controlled portions, up my water intake, and keep my number of steps at least where they currently are at.

How did you do this week? And what are you going to do for next week?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eating from the Pantry Update - Continuing into February

Well, we've done it! We spent $50.04 on groceries in January! Whoo hoo! Only 4 cents over my goal of $50 for the month! I'm excited about that! Yes, I can do this!

We didn't put much into savings (only $30) because the camera's been down at John's work which has meant unscheduled time off (at least he had plenty of time to study!) and a very low paycheck. We have "bare bones" budget and a "regular" budget and his last paycheck was about $100 below the "bare bones" version. Being able to just eliminate the $80 I had budgeted for groceries and planned to put into savings was nice. It meant I didn't have to 'tweak' things as much and borrow from here or there to make ends meet. Yes, it meant that that $80 didn't get put into savings either, but at least we didn't have a stretch and scrimp to get to balanced.

It's actually a little embarrassing because even though my 'stockpile' isn't very large (especially compared to some), I still have a ton of food in my house that I can eat from. I think my chest freezer holds more than I think it does!


I'm extending the challenge into February.

I am bumping up my monthly amount to $80 - half of what we usually spend - since I am running low on a few staples (like flour and sugar and oil) and there are a couple of killer deals on meat this week so we can restock our 'variety' of meat (fish and chicken is the plan). We have plenty of frozen vegetables, beef, pasta, and rice. This dollar amount gives me an average of $20 a week to spend, rather than the $12.50 I had in January, so more 'wiggle room' if you will!

I also have some recipes I'd like to try - pumpkin soup and spicy chicken salad for sandwiches for example - that I didn't get to in January. I'm hoping to 'mix things up' a bit, so to speak, with recipes in February. I have a list from my Cooking Light Magazines and we'll see how many of them we can work into the menus!

How did you do with the pantry challenge? Are you going to continue?

Goals Update - January 25th.

This week was a slow one for accomplishing anything. I had the flu Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and was home with the kids on Friday, so schoolwork was pretty much non-existent. I didn't get much done with the clean-out, craft/sewing side of stuff either. :P

I guess that's what happens when we set goals right?

We get on the wagon, ride for a while, fall off, chase after that wagon, climb back on and hopefully keep going.

John and I had a long talk last night about my frustration with myself and the mountain of things I'm trying to scale - many of which had been shoved to the side during the last two years of my battling my illnesses. That means I'm trying to do what needs to be done now and play catch-up with all these other things that I've been wanting and needing to do for the last two years. I don't think he realized how much I had in my head and on my to-do list and how many things I had to get out of the way just to get to the current stuff. I told him I feel like I'm just failing miserably since I don't feel like I'm making much progress on anything and my brain tends to jump from thing to thing rather than letting me concentrate on what I'm working on at the moment.

In the end? I'm trying something slightly new. A reduced to-do list for each week, rather than my usual over-ly ambitious mountain. John's going to try to keep me on track with everything at home and I get to police myself with the school stuff. :) We have a pretty quiet week this week, though my daycare lady has the flu today so I'm not sure how that's going to work out this week, if she's off all week long. I guess we'll find out! For today, I'm going to spend the morning with my munchkins and then spend naptime tackling some schoolwork.

For school this week my goals are:
Finish my essay for my written exam (due this Friday), finish reading and taking notes on a research methods book I borrowed from my advisor, and get all of the references I have stacking up on my computer into my bibliography.

For home:
Daily chores, Kid's Daily chores, finish cleaning out the living room (almost done!).

One baby quilt and filing the magazine pages I've torn out and just stacked rather than filing (the system is already set up I just have to put the stuff in there!). I need to get the magazine pages put away so I can actually get to and have space to work on my scrapbook stuff for the retreat coming up the end of February.

Finish a book that needs to go back to the library and Jazzercise at least 3x this week (I'd like 4 but I'll settle for 3!).

That's the plan anyway. I have it written down and posted on our 'message central' area in our house so John can see the progress I'm making too.

What are your goals for this week and how are you doing?

Menu Plan Monday - Pantry Challenge January 24th to January 31st

This is the last week of the Eating from the Pantry Challenge! Though, I've decided to extend it to February as well just to get rid of all the "stuff" I have lurking in my house - we have so much and it feels good to be able to tuck a little extra aside each month to boost the savings/debt repayment funds! Love that!

So, I spent the last of my $50 on Saturday and will start over again this weekend. What are we eating this week? Here goes:

Sunday, January 24th:
Brunch: Baked Eggs, Sausage, Blueberry Muffins, Orange Wedges
Dinner: Baked Salmon, Couscous, Steamed Green Beans, Apple-Orange-Banana Salad

Monday, January 25th:
Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Bananas, Carrot Sicks
Dinner: Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, Lettuce Salad, Apple-Orange-Banana Salad

Tuesday, January 26th:
Dinner: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Rolls, Orange Wedges

Wednesday, January 27th:
Dinner: Pulled BBQ Beef Sandwiches on Homemade Rolls, Homemade Vinegar Coleslaw, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Thursday, January 28th:
Dinner: Roasted Pork Loin, Rice, Steamed Corn on the Cob (from the freezer), Sliced Apples

Friday, January 29th:
Dinner: Leftovers or Homemade Calzones

Saturday, January 30th:
Breakfast and Lunch: Out for all
Dinner: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, Cantaloupe-Banana-Pear Salad

Sunday, January 31st:
Brunch: Pancakes with Strawberries and Slivered Almonds
Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Lettuce Salad, Orange Wedges

What are you eating this week? Go to I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - Buddy's Sleep Habits

Yes, yes, I know. It's weird to say that one of my favorite things is the way my son sleeps, but it's true!

He's one of those kids who will ask if he can go to bed when he's tired, change into his pajamas on his own, and then give you the sweetest, cuddliest hug ever. I love it.
He's also one of those kids who wakes up wide awake early on his own, figured out that pushing the red button on the TV remote turned the TV on, that pushing "Two fours" (his words) gets him Mickey Mouse and/or Handy Manny, and will either watch cartoons or play quietly until I wake up. LOVE THAT! (He also turns the TV off quick if he can't get 44 for some reason. Love that too!)

If I'm up first (which is most of the time), he runs pel-mel into my arms for a huge, cuddly hug and asks me if I had good dreams. How cool is that? I treasure it even more because I know one day he'll be 'too big' or 'too cool' to do that.
Not to mention his sleeping positions just plain crack me up.
He often slept in his crib turned toddler bed with his feet up the slats and his head hanging off the edge of the bed. I can't imagine why that was comfortable but I can't tell you how many times I went in and slipped his head back on the mattress.

Here's another example:

Yes, he's sleeping inside of a pop-up mesh clothes hamper - he'd emptied out the clothes and crawled in.
Here's a recent one:

He sleeps sideways on his bed (always has) in and on a mound of blankets. I thought that would change with the purchase of these new "big kid" beds after outgrowing the toddler beds. But, he's done this since he was a baby and I guess change is hard.
Watching him sleep is truly one of my favorite things.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Super Savings Saturday - $14.14 Budget

Today is the last day included in my January Eating from the Pantry Challenge budget. I had $14.14 left to spend to stay in by $50 for the month budget.

Did I make it?

Very close - I spent $14.18. :) Yes, I have the 4 cents extra! For a whole month I'd say that's pretty darn good. Especially since my $50 for the whole month is compared to the $160 that I normally spend.

I went to one store and here's what I spent:

Milk 2 Gallons @ $1.98 each
1 4lb Bag Oranges $2.99
1 lb Farmland Sausage $1
6lbs Bananas @ $0.39/lb
Kraft Shredded Cheddar Cheese $2
1 Dozen Medium Eggs $1.19
Broccoli $0.99

I still have lots in my pantry so I'm bumping my budget up to $20/wk for February instead of our usual $40. I'm going to see how long I can keep at that - I might bump it up to $25 for the long term again (and then I can put the extra $60/mo that I have budgeted in savings!).

We'll see how it goes! I update you all on the pantry challenge on Monday!

For more shopping inspiration see Money Saving Mom!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Frugal Friday - A "Not to Buy" List

We all have those moments when we get a serious case of the "I wants." I want that sofa. I want that phone. I want that iPod. I want that outfit. I want those plates, bowls, etc. Looking through magazines often makes me realize how much the stuff that I own, that I do like, isn't really in style anymore.

Couple all of this with the things we really do need to buy - like food, clothes for growing kids or to replace a well-worn article of our own, replacements for worn out items around our house that are used regularly, insurance, the stuff our cars need, and the like - and it can seriously feel like we are behind, broken down and in need of so much.

I have hit that point several times in the last few years. October was especially tough since we had furniture break, my surgery, the weather stripping come off the window on our van, and a whole host of little things that broke, ran out or otherwise were needed plus two tuition payments due. UGH.


I did something a while ago. Maybe it is my scrapbook crazy mind, but I decided that I was going to type up a list of things that we don't need to buy. Pretty colors and all that. And mount it in my scrapbook so that I can refer to it and remind myself how truly blessed I am and how much I truly don't need to buy.

Some of the things that are on the list?
* Socks for all of us
* T-shirts for all of us
* Pots and pans
* Bake ware
* Plates
* Silverware
* Drinking Glasses
* Coffee Mugs
* Books (Plus we have several libraries we can utilize!)
* Tote bags, backpacks and the like
* Winter coats, hats, mittens and boots for John and me
* Master Bedroom Furniture
* Dining room table with 2 leaves and 6 chairs
* Curtains (Although my bedroom curtains just fell apart last week when I washed them! Go figure!)
* Serving Bowls
* Towels
* Sheets
* Pants for John
* Skirts and Dresses for me and Missy
* Pens
* Pencils
* Paper
* A Filing cabinet
* A computer desk
* Computers (yes, plural - we have 3)
* Spiral Notebooks
* 3-ring binders
* Greeting cards
* Blank note cards
* Address labels
* Note pads
* Sticky notes (I think these multiply on their own!)
* A 7-passenger Van

And so much more!

I ended up with two type-written pages, single spaced, with each word or phrase separated by a symbol of some sort (swirl, square, etc.). Two FULL pages of stuff I don't have to buy. I stopped counting how many things when I hit 500. Some of them are little, like pencils, and some are far bigger, like furniture, computers and the van. But all are here, waiting and ready for me to use, use up or share with others. No, they're not all the latest style or work perfectly and some are very well 'loved.' But they're things that I have and don't need to buy.

How much of a blessing is that?

It's so easy to forget what we have and can use. When we focus on what we need or think we need, we can get burdened and overwhelmed.

I did this with a list of things I am grateful for too - few material possessions other than my home, clothes and food made it on the list. I was very surprised by that. It was filled with things like particular people, having a church home to worship in, my returning health, insurance, employment, access to good medical care, hot and cold running water and the like. That was another huge blessing to see.

Try writing your own list. You might just be surprised by how much you are blessed too!

For more Frugal Friday, check out Life As Mom!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - Meeting John

So last week I talked about my college years and the week before that my life growing up. This week? Meeting John. That happened while we were at college but there were some specific things that happened that I feel are important to share. So, here we go:

Meeting John

As I mentioned last week, I attend a campus ministry while I was at college. They served supper every Sunday evening, since the cafeterias at the dorms were closed. "Two bucks, two bucks, two bucks, unless you're first time and then it's free!" That was the Sunday night cry the whole time we were there. They had a special dinner the first Sunday of the semester to welcome people. John was a Peer Minister - one of two paid positions - and he was actually at home for most of the dinner. He arrived toward the end and talked about some of the things that were going to happen later that fall (a couple of retreats, and the like). I went back to my dorm, called a friend at another college and told her "There's this guy and he's SO HOT!" Yep. I was cool back then. :)

They had the kitchen/dining area (large room with a kitchen built across one end) where we could study and they always had coffee, hot cocoa, tea, etc. available for us to make. John and I and a number of other people studied there on a regular basis. We got to know each other by talking over our books, and studying for the classes we both had. He was dating someone else. I was bummed, but wasn't really looking for a boyfriend, so that was OK. About a month later the girl dumped him - the day he'd spent $150 he didn't have to see a show at the theater. He claims he then asked me to go with him, but he didn't because I would have said yes! (I have witnesses that said he never did too :) )

Then he asked me out. We went to "Casino Night" at his dorm room and then went back to his room to watch "Willow" on VHS taped off the TV at some point after we realized just about everyone there was drunk as skunks (loooong story!). Yes, we were technologically savvy - remember this was the early '90s! We didn't want to say goodnight so we walked along the river until about 330am. I remember giving him a hug at one point and my long hair getting caught in his shirt buttons.

About a month after that we were laying on the floor in my dorm room watching the musical "Into the Woods" (one of my all-time favorites) on PBS on my roommate's little black and white TV. He looked at me and said "Do you want to get married some day?" My reply? "Of course I want to get married some day." "No, no, no. I mean to me." Pause. "Yes." That was the start of this whole thing!

We told our Pastor and that was about it. We knew our parents wouldn't be that thrilled - mine would have been dead-set against us getting married before school was done anyway. But we started dating and planning and wishing and hoping. He left his Peer Minister job and I took it. We still studied together. He was a custodian/lock up/set up person at the church as well as working at food service in the dorm and as a lab prep person for his department. I worked as a research assistant for my department and as a peer minister. Plus we were full time students. Yes, sleep was at a premium. But those years were mostly good. We dated for 2 1/2 years and were engaged for 2 1/2 years before we actually got married. Why so long?

Over that first Christmas break, John got Mono really bad. It was a terribly severe case and since he was paying his own way through (in reality - the 'pretend' version was that his folks were paying), he didn't take the 4 weeks off his doctor told him he had to.

Two years later, John got really sick. REALLY SICK. As in can't eat sick. As in losing 40 lbs when you don't have any extra on you sick. As in counting ribs and sunken cheeks and can't keep water down sick. I remember him laying on my dorm room floor holding his abdomen and turning crayon yellow. His parents didn't want me to take him to the ER because their insurance would only cover their local hospital. Not that I had a car to take him there anyway. His Dad came and got him. They almost didn't make it home - 1 1/2 hours away - because John was so sick.

John was in the hospital for 2 weeks. They couldn't figure out what was wrong.

Finally they determined that the Epstein-Barr Virus had never left his body and was now attacking his liver. UGH. It took him 2 years and taking a year off from school to recover enough that he could have a glass of champagne at our wedding. Taking that year off meant we had to postpone our wedding for a year and had to live in two different states for year. Trust me - I will never, ever live in two different states again if I have any choice in the matter.

That all happened in a fall semester. Spring semester we got officially 'engaged' - ring, down on one knee, and stars up above. The whole works. We got married in 1998 with the big, white church wedding, dinner, dance and the whole works there too. It was all we'd ever hoped of.

I was young and stupid and didn't really understand that John didn't buy groceries for 3 months (literally) to pay the $300 for my tiny emerald engagement ring. Now I do. I didn't really understand that the traits that bothered me the most about him (the way he dressed, cut his hair, etc.) didn't really matter in the long run. Now I do. There are so many more things I could list here too.

Most importantly, I was young and stupid and didn't realize how much we had to learn about being in love, being married and being committed "Until Death Do Us Part" - which has always been and always will be the only option for us.

I'll write more about that next week.

How did you meet your spouse? Would you like to share?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Work, Home, and Family - Childcare and School

Yes, I've been missing for a few days courtesy of the flu! Ugh. Doesn't it seem that that's always the way it is? And right at the beginning of another semester too - go figure! :)

Today I'm writing on a rather touchy subject - childcare and/or schooling for children when Mom is working outside the home.

Why? Because I'm often asked about the 'guilt' I have about working outside of my home and leaving my children in the care of another.

My short answer to this is that the only time I have felt guilty about not being there was when I came back from class to find a sticky note stuck to my computer screen saying that my daughter had been taken to the ER. Do you know who was watching her at the time? My husband.

She had fallen down the stairs and broken her ankle. Poor kid. She was fine after getting it treated and a cast applied and John did a perfectly fine job taking her and Buddy to the hospital, etc. Was I irritated that I had just gotten a sticky note from my colleagues? Yes (to put it mildly).

Why don't I feel guilty leaving my children with someone?

Partly because they're not in childcare that terribly long each day - about 6-6 1/2 hours. John goes in early, so he gets off early. I drop them off about 730pm and he picks them about 230/3pm. They get an hour/hour and half nap while they're there in the afternoons so that means they get only about 5-5 1/2 hours of interactions with someone else.

Partly because between John and I we have enough time off and flexibility in our schedules that we can care for them at home on the days our daycare lady is not available.

Partly because there are children of all ages (infant through college age) that our children get to interact with on a daily basis. Yes, during the school year they are the "older" kids there until roughly the time John picks them up. On holidays and during school breaks they have the older siblings and our daycare lady's own children (ages 9 to adult) who are there as well. I really like that part!

Partly because they are at pre-school each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-Noon.

The biggest reason I don't have guilt?

Well, there are two.

First, I am doing what God has called me to do. And I trust that He will provide me with the appropriate childcare for my children while I do it. If this means that I work evenings and weekends while caring for my children during the day, then that's what I would do. If it means working from home, I would to that. God provided by literally dropping this dear woman who watches our children into our laps, so to speak, when we were quite sure I would be staying home full time - and I was concerned about that given what we believed God had called me to in our life. We are incredibly blessed to have our daycare lady and feel that God placed her in our lives for this season.

Second, and this ties into the first. I trust the person I leave my children with. I would never, ever leave my children with someone I don't trust. We had toured and seen many places that had openings but I would have never left my children there for a variety of reasons. This woman shares our spiritual beliefs, and teaches the children basic social interaction skills and manners. We work together. She immediately lets us know if something is wrong or if there is something going on or if she has any questions. We do the same. It works wonderfully well. I do this when we call a sitter to our house for the evening too - I need to trust them completely with the children before I will call them to come. Yes, 'trust' means different things in different contexts, but trusting your gut feeling is important and if I'm not comfortable or if John isn't comfortable, no way!

We're now starting to look for schooling options for our children. While we don't have to decide immediately, it's always good to know what our options are. I know I won't pick a situation where I don't feel comfortable or trust the school to be honest with me. I need to feel comfortable with the teacher(s).

I think that as we follow what God wants us to do and where He wants us to be, we need to remember that He will provide the right solutions in His time - not ours. I'll write more on that trust issue next week, but for now, that's my two cents!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Frugal Friday - Giving What You Have

Can I post a Frugal Friday post on Saturday? Yesterday ended up being crazy busy and I had a headache bordering on a migraine so sleep was a tidge more important when I finally had some spare time.

Anyway, back to the post! :)

With everything that's going on in Haiti I'm sure just about everyone has heard of the giving that is needed to help combat the devastation in the country. Giving is certainly something that is good to do and is something God asks us to do, no matter what our circumstances.

But sometimes it's hard to give. We look at our current budgets and think there's no way we can give. We look at our busy schedules and think that our time is too full to volunteer.

Really, we can do something. Really and truly.

What can we do? Here's a start:

  • Clean out and donate. Seriously. Most of us have way more than we need - extra clothes, household items, kids' toys (outgrown or underplayed with), even a couple of extra canned goods. There are many, many organizations that collect these things. The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, local thrift stores and food banks, and many other organizations take these items and some even pick up.
  • Give those extra 'sample' size toiletries to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Our church collects these items to assemble into packets. The free samples of toothpaste that you get from the dentist can go there. So can the bottles of shampoo and conditioner and min-sized bars of soap you pick up when you travel from your hotel rooms. Just make sure you don't open them.
  • Collect your spare change. Dump that change in a jar - even if it's just your pennies - and donate it to a ministry of your choice. There are great ones out there - Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, Heifer International, and one of my favorites, Feed My Starving Children. Another that is rarely mentioned is Operation Bootstrap Africa.
  • Spend an hour one time. Most of us really can find an hour of our time over the course of a month to spend time. Stock shelves, sort donations, fill food packets or baskets. Even if it's just once a year, really you can find the time to do it.
  • Use your talents. Can you sing or play an instrument? Donate time to teach a child or adult, or bring some joy to a nursing home or hospital. Can you do data entry? Donate an hour a month to a charity to keep their books. Can you clean, iron, or rake leaves? Find an elderly neighbor, new mom, or other person who needs some help. Can you make phone calls? Offer to call for volunteers even if you can go yourself. The possibilities are endless.
  • Pray. Even if you can't do anything else, you can pray. This is so important and God may even respond with more ideas to give of your time, money and talent.

Responding to the crisis in Haiti is important. But don't feel that you are useless if you can't respond. Respond to another need in your community. By doing so you not only meet a need at home, but you also free up resources to be used for global needs, like the crisis in Haiti. The incidence of crisis in this country and around the world will likely never end and being able to respond in a time of need, no matter what that need is, will make us all better citizens and disciples of Christ.

Yes, we can be frugal and charitable. Isn't that what living a frugal life and being good stewards of the bounty God has given us is about anyway?

For more Frugal Friday, see LifeasMom!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - My College Years and Getting my Faith Solidified

This is part 2 of my faith and health story. To read the first part, go here.

My College Years

Like many young people do, I graduated from High School and went away to college. Only I really went away - three states away to be exact. I chose the school I did for their top quality Physics and Astronomy program and the ability to do actual scientific research as an undergraduate, something that is rather commonplace now, but was rare 15+ years ago. I also knew that if I didn't really leave home, I never would. So I went somewhere I wouldn't be able to go home on weekends.

I attended the campus ministry our church had there. I visited because it was something I was looking for (a faith community to be part of) and I had received an advertising flier telling me about it before I left home (the staff were so pleased that direct mailing worked!). Campus ministry became a huge part of my life. Not only was it my peer group, so to speak, but it was also where I met John and where we had our wedding reception 5 years later (next week is that story!).

John was a peer minister at the campus ministry. I thought he was very handsome and very funny. We started dating a month after I arrived (he was a year ahead of me in school) and he informally asked me to marry him the next month. We told our Pastor. He smiled. That was about it. I think he really didn't think we were that committed, but we were. Again, I'll write more on that next week. :)

I had a lot of really amazing faith experiences there - my faith was shaken, grown, torn down, rebuilt and solidified there. I was amazed at how many Lutherans didn't have a clue about the theological founding of our church (John included). I first read Martin Luther's' works there (the ministry had the entire collection for loan in their library). I first read Here I Stand the biography of Martin Luther there as well. I began to realize that I was well and truly blessed by having the parents I do, who not only gave me a firm Christian upbringing but also the foundations of our faith. There were two things (other than meeting John) that stand out in my mind from this time, at least from a faith stand point:

First, I was able to study the philosophies of the other branches of the Christian church during this time. It solidified once and for all my Lutheran-ness (is that a word?) and the realization that I am a Lutheran Christian, and a rather liberal one at that. The theological beliefs of the other branches of the church don't agree with my personal relationship with God, so here I stand. As a Lutheran.

Second, John and I were taking a course on Roman civilization together to fulfill a general education requirement. There were several memorable things about the course (looong story!) but the one that stands out in my mind, was the last chapter of the book, about Christian Rome and the Holy Roman Empire. It was very clear that the author of the book thought that Christianity was a myth and that Jesus was a political zealot who was a political and historical figure rather than the Son of God. The author had some very not nice things to say about Jesus' actions from a political standpoint.

I was shocked. I hadn't heard anything about this before. It was the first time I had heard some of the arguments about why Christianity is a myth, and truly I was stumped. What if "they" are right? What if Jesus is just some great guy but nothing really special? What if...? Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to go to my Pastor. John went with me - he was angry, I was just dumbfounded.

My Pastor's response? So what. Literally, "So What?" So what if he was a political zealot. So what if he did all these political things. So what... Then he said "Does it change the fact that Jesus died, was buried and rose again three days later? No. That is the point. That Jesus died and rose from the grave to save us from sin. The rest points to that and nothing else."

Um. Duh.

But it was the first time I had experienced that. And it gave me a whole new way of looking at my faith.

Big, important stuff in deed.

This was only part of my college experience, of course. I spent much of my time studying with my Physics cohort and doing research (and publishing 5 papers!). I spent time at conferences. I spent time banging my head against homework problems and roommate issues. I spent a lot of time on and at school.

Still my faith was a big part of this and I came out of college realizing that God and my relationship with Him is the most important thing in my life. It was a time when I started wearing a cross necklace daily. It was time when I got more interested in participating in church activities and having a social circle based on the church/faith rather than on work and social aspects of my life.

Of course one of the biggest things that happened during this time was meeting John and getting engaged. I'll write about that next week.

Was there a time in your life when your faith was shaken and stirred?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Work, Home and Family - What's Your One 'Thing'?

Part of being a wife and mom working outside of my home is that some things just don't get done. Time to really clean out (purge the stuff en-mass) and clean (wash walls, polish furniture, etc.) is non-existent during the semesters for me. I spend my time either on family things or on school plus basic upkeep and daily chores (dishes, laundry, the bathroom, etc.).

I find that I'm usually pretty content with this if I take care of one thing: Keeping my large flat surfaces clear.

That means making the beds first thing in the morning and having the coffee table, kitchen table and my kitchen counter (all 11 ft 1 in of it!) clear when I go to bed at night. I can ignore the mess on the end table or the pile of books in the corner as long as the large surfaces my eyes land on are clean and clear.

One of the things that has helped me so much on my journey as a working outside of my home wife and mother is to pick what's important and let the rest go. Do I really care if the tops of my bookcases are dusty? No. Do I really care of my windows are spot free? No. Do I really care if there are books waiting to be read in a pile next to my favorite chair (or John's favorite chair)? No. As long as I can set my cup of coffee down or spread my papers out on the table or set the table and make dinner without having to clean up first, I'm fine with it 90% of the time.

Picking this one thing - having my flat surfaces clean and clear - and having that plus the daily maintenance ensures that my home is clean and comfortable enough for us on a daily basis and even drop in guests, without me wanting to shove them out the door as fast as possible. :) That takes a load off my mind and helps me to focus on the truly important stuff, like spending time with my children, finishing this PhD, and enjoying a meal together as a family.

Now, you may be different. Perhaps you have a magnificent view, and spotless windows are a must. Perhaps you have tiny children crawling around so a clean floor is the absolute. Perhaps you hate clutter and need everything put away behind closed doors. My advice is, no matter what you're trying to juggle, pick that one thing and focus on it until it's part of your routine. It will make your whole life more content!

So, what's your "One Thing"?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Healthy Habits in 2010 - Week 2 are your health habits going?

Mine are just okay this week. My goal for last week was to Jazzercise 3x, snack less and calibrate the pedometer. I did snack less and actually found the pedometer (trust me - that took some doing since I didn't wear it once since my surgery in September **blush**). I also made it Jazzercise twice - the two times I am a class coordinator.

The third time? Well, does moving furniture and washing walls and furniture count? I'm counting it! Especially since I was so sore this AM after 2 days last week and yesterday that I couldn't use my 5lb hand weights at Jazzercise! Plus, moving furniture and washing walls keeps me busy enough that I don't have time to think about snacking! :) Love that!

This week? It's back to work, which adds to my walking, and keeps me from snacking since I don't have ready access to food all day long. I think that's a good thing!

The goals?

Jazzercise 3x this week, though that might be tricky since John has his intensive class and is gone almost every evening this week. I did spend 3 hours moving furniture and washing walls yesterday, and I have a DVD so I might do that instead. We'll see!
Less snacking again.
And I need to actually wear that pedometer! I'm a little scared to see where I'm currently at with it.... I guess if I'm low, that just makes it easier to beat my previous daily total 4 days doesn't it?

How are you doing this January? Care to share?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pantry Challenge Update - End of Week One!

I almost forgot to update you all on my Pantry Challenge experience!

Saturday was the end of my first official "week". My goal for the month of January is to spend $50 total for groceries - saving us $$130 for the month. So far we've spent $3.56 and $10.66 for a total of $14.22, which is pretty much right on track.

This week is going to be harder. Why? Because we're going to have to buy 2 gallons of milk again, and it's not on sale this week. Thus, about half of our budget of $12.50 for the week will go to milk. I also need to buy flour, eggs, and fruit. It will be tight to get as much fruit as we usually eat, but I think we can do it. Chicken is on sale this week and I'm really tempted to buy one package or maybe two. We'll see. Potatoes are on huge sale, and I'd love to buy some too, but again it depends on how much I spend on everything else.

I'm finding that I have enough long-term type stuff that I might just bump our budget up to $20 for each week (half of our usually budgeted $40) for the month of February just to use up some of what we have in the freezer. I didn't realize we have so much - veggies and meat mostly. A few other 'special' things too - lots of chocolate chips (hmmm, I think cookies need to be forthcoming!) and a few frozen sweet breads ready for cooking. Buddy also won a frozen apple pie playing a Thanksgiving bingo game that we need to use at some point. I also have two turkeys that I will cook one this month and one in February.

I hadn't realized before how much flour we go through, though it did feel like I bought flour often, or how much fruit we go through in a week. We didn't freeze much fruit this summer since we prefer fresh and like just about anything, so whatever is in season works. I need to think about that some more.

So, I guess I am learning a few things though our eating hasn't changed. That's the point, isn't it?

How are you doing with the pantry challenge? Go here to Money Saving Mom to share.

Goals Update!

Well I've had some pretty ambitious goals for 2010!

So far, things have been pretty slow. Nothing to cross off on my sidebar yet.

Yet, things have been getting done.

Our bedroom is cleaned out except for John's dresser and nightstand. Since those are his areas, as far as I'm concerned, the bedroom is cleaned out! I have a pile of clothes that are getting donated and another couple of skirts and a dress that are too small currently (I can fit into them but I don't dare move!) that I love and want to keep that are going into our 'out of season' clothes closet. The piles and clutter are gone. I do have two new piles in the living room however, my 'roving' piles of stuff that don't have a home that I have to figure out what to do with. I officially have WAY too many hair elastics and socks. Don't need to buy those for a very long time! Our bedroom is feeling much bigger and cleaner - it's amazing how much bigger a room feels when 1/3 of the available floor space isn't taken up with clutter! I'm loving that.

I'm almost finished with the living room as well - walls and curtains washed, furniture polished, clutter cleaned out. I really want to rehang the artwork over the sofa and swap some things out for 'new' things. My MIL gave me a crocheted doily with our last name on it and I got that framed last summer. Since we didn't have a place to put it before, it's just been sitting between the desk and the wall on end. It's lovely, so I'd like to hang it. I also have a couple of photos of Buddy and Missy that are about 3 years old that should be replaced by something more current or taken down. I need to finish cleaning out the china hutch and the bookcases and polish the roll top desk. So that's on the agenda for today.

I've also finished a stitching project that I've been working on for a while - a pillowcase for Missy with Cinderella on it. I bought it on clearance about a year and a half ago and have been working on it in stolen moments, usually in the car when we are traveling. That means I work on it about 2 or 3 times a year! :) I needed something quiet to do yesterday for a short while and since I was almost done, I decided that I'd finish it. So that's done. And tucked away for my daughter's birthday this spring. Alas, it's not on my sidebar so I can't cross it off.

So, my goals for this week include getting two of those baby quilts done and maybe the chair protectors sewn, as well as the last of the living room clean out done. Also at home, I'd like to get my scrapbook stuff organized for the February retreat I attend and some work on the birthday gifts I'm making done (at least 4 gifts made!). My list also includes getting Bread and M&M cookies made (we got premade cookie dough as a Christmas gift, so that one is easy!).

For school/work I'd like to get final word on my written exam and my oral exam scheduled as well as my registration for this spring semester taken care of. I also need to get with the people for my seminar and get my ducks in a row for that.

John and I had a meeting on our budget and still have one more thing to hash out so I won't post on that now except to say that I'm pleased with how it's going. We had a lot to discuss and decide upon, but we're well on our way to a workable plan! And we're both happy with it - even better!

So, even though nothing is getting crossed off on my sidebar, progress is being made! I'm loving that!

Menu Plan Monday - January 11th

It's another week and we're actually above zero here! Whoo hoo! I was beginning to feel like I live in a deep freeze. :)

John's at an intensive class for Seminary this week and next week so the kids and I are on our own most of the week. I head back to work this week too after a week and half off - I go back on Wednesday. It will be nice to get back into a routine again but I'm going to miss having the extra time at home as well. Wednesday evening is super crazy with the kids having dance lessons and me having choir rehearsal, so we're keeping dinner super easy that night!

So what are we eating?

Sunday, January 10th:
Brunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup, Baking Powder Biscuits, Sliced Apples

Monday, January 11th:
Dinner: Waffles, Bananas and Sliced Apples

Tuesday, January 12th:
Dinner: Homemade Cheese Pizza (treat for the kids), Lettuce Salad, Orange Wedges

Wednesday, January 13th:
Dinner: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Sliced Apples, Celery and Carrot Sticks

Thursday, January 14th:
Dinner: Baked Salmon, Couscous, Lettuce Salad, Apple, Banana and Pear Salad

Friday, January 15th:
Dinner: Hamburger Gravy, Noodles, Lettuce Salad, Apple, Pear and Orange Salad

Saturday, January 16th:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Biscuits, Sliced Apples
Lunch: Salad with Salmon, Sliced Apples and Pears
Dinner: Cracker Baked Chicken, Rice, Steamed Carrots, Grapefruit and Orange Wedges

What are you eating this week? See I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu plan inspiration!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - My Christmas Tree

One of the favorite things for me to do this time of year is to spend my 10-minutes of morning quiet time for the day with my hot cup of coffee sitting in this rocking chair with the main lights off in the house and just the Christmas tree lights on. I just rock and think and drink my coffee, enjoying the lights and the quiet of the house.

There's something special about Christmas tree lights. I'm not sure what it is but for me they embody the magic and wonder of the season. There's such wonder in the birth of a tiny baby who would bring salvation to the world. There's magic in the idea that God would choose such an astounding way to come into the world. There's just something special about the whole thing.

We put up our tree late by most standards - on the third Sunday of Advent - and take it down late - the first Sunday in Epiphany (today). So today the tree comes down. And I'll miss my morning time quiet time with my Christmas tree lights. But, if they were there all year round, I wouldn't enjoy them as much, they wouldn't be as special.

Truly, it's one of my favorite things!

Super Savings Saturday - Posted on a Sunday!

Well, I'm a little behind on getting this posted. But, better late than never, right?

I made two trips to the store this week, one on Tuesday and sent John late on Thursday again rather than running like normal on Saturday.

So what did we get?

Tuesday: One gallon of milk and a 8oz chunk of Cheddar Cheese.

Thursday: Two gallons of milk, 1 3lb bag of yellow onions, 3lbs of Granny Smith Apples, 4.88lbs of bananas, and 1 bag of mixed salad.

Total spent on Tuesday: $3.56
Total spent on Thursday: $10.66

If you recall, I'm only trying to spend $50 total this month on groceries, so we're right no track. It was hard not taking advantage of the Progresso soup sales this last week but we have plenty of soup - both canned and homemade - and we didn't really need it. Since we're trying to eat from the pantry, I'm not going to buy anything we don't really need. I'm hoping this lasts me until until this coming Saturday! It should but you never know....

For more shopping inspiration, see Money Saving Mom.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Frugal Friday - Just Ask!

One of the things I started doing a couple of years ago was ask for things I 'needed' for occasions like Birthdays and Christmas. Things like lotion, body wash, candles, and a journal, which I use for my daily devotional time. Since I certainly don't need more 'things' it made sense to ask for things that I used regularly and were 'consumed', so to speak. This year I started something a little different in addition - talking to people about what we were going to purchase next.

In the picture you can see just some of the things we've gotten from others. Some were directly asked for, others freely given as a simple blessing.

The Hudson Bay blanket was given to us by a friend who was cleaning out her basement, is allergic to wool, and knew we were buying our kids 'big kid' beds this year. She had two single size blankets. They're now ours! They also gave us two paper shopping bags full of Disney VHS tapes and a VCR to play them on (we had had one, but it died!). The kids don't care if they're VHS tapes and I'm finding myself wondering why I ever thought VHS tapes were such a pain in the neck to use!

My SIL gave me the black sweater after I mentioned that I'd like to buy one. I was too big for her, but fits me perfectly.

The waffle iron, Missy's tights and Buddy's jeans were all Christmas gifts. Missy and Buddy certainly don't need more toys and the relative who bought the tights only has little boys at her house and the relative who bought the jeans only has girls. They were delighted to shop for clothes for the opposite gender!

I haven't had to buy lotion in about 3 years because I always receive some as gifts from family, co-workers, and even my Jazzercise instructors that I set up class for! I use a lot of lotion so that is a nice blessing. Ditto for the journals. I go through about 4 a year and they can add up. I usually get at least one for each Christmas and Birthday which cuts down that cost as well.

I've found that by just talking to people you can often meet a need in others (I gave some new shoes that didn't work for my aerobics class to my SIL who is now able to wear them to work and I was able to loan a kitchen booster seat to someone who needed it as well) or have a need met for you by others. I never would have asked around for blankets for our kids' beds, but received ones that were far nicer than I ever imagined just by talking about buying new beds. And our friends got them out of their house and know someone is using them!

We have friends who just adopted three sisters. Their bedroom furniture, car seats, and a whole host of other things were donated by friends who had outgrown the items. How cool is that? I often revel in giving our outgrown items to friends with new babies or in tough situations.

The next time you have a need or a purchase coming up in your life, mention it to someone else. If nothing else, they may have a tip for somewhere having a good sale!

For more Frugal Friday check out!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - The Beginning of My Journey

Since one of the purposes for this blog is to share my faith story, I'm actually dedicating Thursdays to writing about it. Here is part one - the beginning of my life and part of the background that sets me up for this refining process that I'm currently going through.

The Beginning

I was born to parents who had been married for more than 15 years, never used birth control and had been told they would never have children. They never intended to have many children, but instead were planning on probably 2, and had most likely expected them to come much sooner than we did. I am an identical twin - a real sock as my parents didn't know they were having twins until my sister was born. I was born second. We were same sack twins - which is how they knew we were identical and is a very rare things - and we were born at approximately 29 weeks gestation. I weighed 3 lbs. My sister contracted an infection and died a few days later. My parents were also in the middle of moving to a new state and it was a very stressful time for them with my Mom living out of a hotel room while my Dad moved to start work. My Mom and I came home several weeks later.

I was raised in the Lutheran faith - infant baptism while I was still in the hospital, Sunday school and weekly worship, first communion when I was about 6-years old, church activities. We became part of a mission (new) church when we moved and I remember my dad literally helping build the building. I remember following the procession with the banners and the altar service from the rented space we had to the building when it was finished in a car with 2 other small children and a baby (friends of ours at the time). My first job was as a custodian for the church when I was in High School. There were two of us HS girls who cleaned the building under the supervision of the other girls' dad once a week - and yes, we were paid very nicely to do it. When I was 14 I was Confirmed. I taught the Sunday school class for the 4-year-olds and Vacation Bible School to the 4-5-6-year-olds while I was in High School as well.

While I always knew God was in my life, I didn't really feel it until I was 16. I was teaching VBS and we were singing a song called "Fisherman Peter". It went like this: "Fisherman Peter, Out on the sea, drop your net now, and follow me." The song is sung repeatedly with each child's name replacing Peter in turn and they form a "train" behind the musician and dance around the room while people join the line. There was a family who had many kids (more than 7, but I don't remember the exact number) and dropped all of them off for VBS, even the 7-mo-old baby (it was supposed to be ages 4 and 10). I was holding the baby, sitting on the floor waiting for all of my kids (students) to be called. I thought that when the baby's name was called, I'd just take her around in the train. One of the older siblings grabbed her and took her around instead (the sibling was about 10/12). I thought I'd just wait until they were all done, but then my name was called. "What? No way. This is kids' stuff!" ran through my mind. "Really? Is it really?" A voice in my head replied. I got up and went.

Something clicked that day. I'm not sure what. But something clicked. It made a difference. A real difference in my life. I realized that faith and religion weren't checklists of things to do: Worship, Sunday school, teach, lead, sing, serve, etc. It was about having God in your heart and doing things in service to Him because you want to, not because you 'should' or 'need to.' It was about allowing God to work through you and not for you. It was about God being there and lifting you up when you need it - the type of carrying that is mentioned in Footprints (John's favorite poem, by the way). It wasn't about earning or 'doing' your way into heaven, it was about having a real relationship with God.

Amazingly, I won the "Most Patient" award from my band class my senior year in HS. I really have never ever thought of myself as patient and anyone who knows me well will say the same thing. I attribute this more patient me to the change that happened in me when I had this realization moment. (I also find it very ironic that my mother doesn't consider herself to be a patient person either, but I consider her to be the most patient person I know!)

Additionally, we had a Pastor, who upon leaving for another congregation said to me, "I hope you never lose your faith." I replied, "Of course I won't." Little did I realize how hard it would be to keep that statement true.

This was the first time I went through this type of renewal. I have gone through it several more times and probably will go through it many more. This was the start, the beginning.

Where did you start on your faith journey? Would you like to share?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Welcome to "In the Refiner's Fire!"

Since I'm 'officially public' now, I thought I'd write a little post introducing myself, my blog and random other things.

So first: Who am I?

I'm a wife of 11 1/2 years of my better half, John. He's a great guy, and an even better husband and Daddy. I love him more today than when I married him 11 1/2 years ago - really and no kidding!

I'm a mommy of a few years to twins - a boy and a girl, who I call Buddy and Missy on this blog. They were full term, no complications, and no c-section and a real miracle in my eyes. I love being a mom and enjoy spending time with these two munchkins. They're pre-schoolers now (where does that time go?) and are happy, bubbly mostly easy going little people. They do have their challenges, but that's par to parenthood, so I'll take it!

I'm a doctoral student. I've been a Physicist since I turned 18 an went off to college what seems like a million years ago now and am now studying for a PhD in a parallel field. I'm determined to finish this darn thing in 2010 after working on it for what seems like my entire adult life. I guess taking 6 years mostly off from school and changing fields does make things take longer but I really ready to be done!

I'm a part-time university faculty. I teach part-time for a couple different colleges in the Twin Cities area - some in person and some on line. It pays my tuition and keeps me in the classroom - which is something I enjoy immensely! The biggest compliment I ever received was someone telling me that they never knew that people could enjoy their jobs until they had a class with me and saw it first hand. I still get tingles every time I think about that!

I love doing things around and for my family and my home. I grew up with an incredible Mom who taught me to do all the things a 'homemaker' does and I consider it one of the many jobs I have. I love to bake, sew, embroider, read and garden. I don't particularly enjoy cooking or ironing/laundry but prefer my own cooking to eating out and know that the laundry does need to get done!

But before those things, I am first and foremost, a daughter of the King of Kings, Lord Jesus Christ. Our Christian faith is a HUGE part of our lives and helps direct us in everything we do on a daily basis. I have spent the better part of my adult life on a journey of refinement through the Lord and it is making me into the person I am today and hope to become in the future.

So, Why this blog?

Over the last year I have had the privilege of being part of an incredible journey and want to share. My faith has been strengthened in amazing ways and I have found that sharing my story with others had been a help and encouragement to them as well. So, I would like to do more of that with this blog.

Second, I often feel like I am the "odd duck out" so to speak, combining my vocation as an instructor and my life in home. I'm hoping to bring some of my perspective as a Christian wife and mom who works outside of my home to this blog as well.

You will notice that I have quite a few posts on this blog before it became "active" to the general public. Since I have a purpose for this blog, I wanted to ensure that I had time to upkeep this blog in the manner that I would like, so I decided to try blogging without interaction first. Please feel free to read these 'older' posts as well. I tried to keep those posts as though I was writing for the readers of this blog so you will see questions at the end of some entries.

Finally, Other Random Stuff!

Since we live a fairly public life, John and Lea Stormhammer are pseudonyms we use in the blogging/youtube/etc. sphere. This is not so much an effort to protect John and I but an effort to protect our children and those we mention (either namelessly or by initials or relationships) during our time in the Internet. It is the same reason you will not see photos of our faces or our children's faces here.

Lastly, this site is still under construction and most likely always will be. I realized that if I didn't put it out there, so to speak, it would never get there! So, if formats change, things move around and buttons get added, don't panic. It's just me hoping to get this thing looking and functioning the way I want it.

Thanks for stopping and I hope you enjoy your visit!

Work, Home and Family - Homemade Christmas Gifts

We had a lot of people we felt we should give something to this year - 7 teachers (team taught preschool and Sunday school), daycare, administrative type people, and friends. It seemed like the list went on forever this year. I didn't want to spend a lot and wanted to do something that wouldn't take up space in people's homes (anyone else in that boat with me?).

So, I made baked goodies, caramel corn, hot cocoa mix, chocolate dipped marshmallows and chocolate covered pretzels. The kids made homemade Christmas ornaments. Since it was the end of the semester and quite a bit crazy, we did this in shifts. Here's the results:

Chocolate Covered Pretzels (dipped in red and green sugar):

Red and Green Caramel Corn:
Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows (here's Missy dipping them in colored sugar for a special touch):

Homemade Christmas Ornaments (TP tubes, pipe cleaners and beads!)

The Final Product!

I got the baskets for 50 cents each at the thrift store, bought some food-safe gift bags on clearance sale at JoAnn's and got the candles for about 70 cents with coupons and a sale. I used tissue paper I already had. I did bake cookies and make hot cocoa mix too but for some reason missed getting photos of those. Oops.
What did you make for Christmas this year?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Health Habits in 2010 - Posting My Stats

So Jenn over at The Days of a Stay at Home Mom convinced me that I should post these if I'm going to have accountability from y'all.

She's right.

She's posting hers and asking others to do the same. So here I am.

Okay: Here's the deal.
Even though I'd love to drop the pesky 10 lbs I've gained since HS, I'm more concerned about being fit. About 5 years ago I dropped right around 40 lbs. I did that by editing my food choices and working out 5x a week. Then I got pregnant with my twins and had to put working out on hold. I gained 42lbs more at my heaviest with the pregnancy (that dropped to 32 more when I delivered - there gets to be a point where your stomach just can't hold enough when you are carrying twins!) and then was able to lose it back down to 175 due to birth (!), nursing twins, and getting back to eating well and exercising. I completely believe that part of the reason my twins were full term and healthy was because I was so healthy going into the pregnancy.

I miss being that healthy and want to get back there again. This is the first time in a LONG time I've had the energy to get back there so I'm going to do it. Really and truly, though I'd like to get back down to 165, it's more of a benchmark for how healthy I am. If I loose the jiggly fat stuff and don't drop an ounce I'll be perfectly happy with that. That's why I'm so careful about listing the inches here. So, here at the stats:

Starting Out: (yes, some of you are going to laugh.)

Weight: 175 lbs
Waist: 38"
1" below Waist: 42"
Traditional "Hip" Measurement: 45"
The Widest Part of Me (at the top of my thighs): 52"
Right Thigh Circumference: 25 1/2"
Left Thigh Circumference: 26 1/2" (yes, this is really correct and different than the right one)
Height: 5' 8"

No, I don't plan on changing the height. :)

Weight I'll be happy with: 170 lbs
Target Weight (the weight I'd really like to be at): 165 lbs
I also want to reduce all the inches below the waist, especially my thigh measurements. If the waist gets smaller too, I won't mind one bit but I'm really wanting to work on the rest of it.

Last time I blasted this I lost 3 inches off my waist and hip measurements and 4 1/2 inches off EACH of my thighs. I also had the beginning of washboard abs. I didn't really drop any weight but I'd love, love, LOVE to do that again.

So, what's the plan?

* This week: Jazzercise 3x, Reduce Snacking, Recalibrate my pedometer to make sure it's accurate
* Week of January 10th: Jazzercise 3x, Reduce Snacking, Beat my previous daily total on my pedometer 4 days of the week
* Week of January 17th: Jazzercise 4x, Food Journal, Beat my previous daily total on my pedometer 5 days of the week
* Week of January 24th: Ditto January 17th
* Week of January 31st: Jazzercise 4x, Edit food choices, Beat my previous daily total on my pedometer all 7 days of the week

What are your stats and what's your plan? Care to share?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Eating from the Pantry Part 1

Homemade Pizza, Breadsticks, Salad, and Fruit

Since I accepted Crystal and FishMama's Pantry challenge, I started my menu plan this week on January 1. Weird for me? Yes. It works anyway. :)

I did splurge and buy John crab legs for dinner last night since it was his birthday but since that comes out of our 'gifts' budget, I officially haven't spent any of my $50 monthly allotment yet. I do need to stop and buy a gallon of milk tomorrow but everything else can wait until our usual Saturday errands run.

So, here's the menus: January 1 to January 9, 2010.

January 1, Friday:
Brunch: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, Oranges, Grapefruit and Grapes
Dinner: Snacky dinner (fruit, crackers, etc.) for the kids, Out for the parents

January 2, Saturday:
Brunch: Out for all (Bible Study)
Dinner: Macaroni and Cheese with Sliced Apples for the kids, Leftover for the parents

January 3, Sunday:
Brunch: Waffles with Strawberries and Raspberries
Dinner: Crab Legs, Baked Butternut Squash, Mango, Orange and Banana Salad

January 4, Monday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade Chicken and Veggie Pizza, Homemade Bread sticks, Lettuce Salad, Grape, Apple and Pear Salad.

January 5, Tuesday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Sliced Apples
Bible Study Snack: Homemade Tortilla Chips and Homemade Salsa, Popcorn, Hot Cocoa

January 6, Wednesday:
Breakfast: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (Leftover and re-heated), Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Beef and Veggie Stir Fry, Rice, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

January 7, Thursday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Cracker Baked Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Eggplant and Carrots, Pear, Apple and Banana Salad

January 8, Friday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Leftovers or Salad with Baked Chicken Strips and Diced Apples

January 9, Saturday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Banana/Strawberry Smoothies
Lunch: Canned Vegetable Soup, Homemade Bread, Sliced Apples and Pears
Dinner: Broiled Beef Steaks, Baked Potatoes, Steamed Carrots, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

I'll need to buy 2 baking potatoes on Saturday but I have everything else on this menu.

What are you cooking from your pantry this week? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu inspiration!

My Goals for 2010

I have a lot of goals this year. A LOT of goals.

This is the second year now that John and I actually have a written list of goals for our family. About mid-way through the year we started writing the baby steps that get to the big goals. We kind of fell off the bandwagon at one point but we actually did accomplish a few of them!

For this year, I'm posting my top 10 goals here for all to see (and in my side bar). What are they? Here they are!

1. Finish my PhD.
I've been working toward this degree in one way or another since I was 16 years old. Got side-tracked a few times, shuffled off to a parallel field, worked half, full or 3/4 time during the process, had paperwork get lost (three times now!), had the world's worst advisor (not where I'm currently at!), and took 6 years off to work and have my kids in the middle. I went back when my kids were a year old. And I'm SOOOOOOO close now. I have my list of to-dos in my side bar so you can follow along. I had really hoped to be done by now. So, God willing, 2010 will be the year!
2. Reach my Target Weight!
I'll write more about this tomorrow in Healthy Habits 2010. I'm close - really. But not there.
3. Clean out my house.
This has been a loose goal for many years now - since we had the kids it's become more urgent. Now we're getting to the point where I'm getting distracted by all the "stuff". Most of our living spaces are clear but there's a couple of 'clutter corners' that are driving me crazy. I also have things to make/finish/create several projects that I haven't been able to tackle over the last couple of years because of my health that will empty a big chunk of stuff if I can finish those off. We also have all this stuff that comes along with the kids and have to put it somewhere. Since moving isn't an option right now, that means cleaning out!
4. Finish all my unfinished sewing projects.
This list is pretty long. 6 Baby quilts. 3 Quilts Made from Old Jeans. 1 Memory Quilt. 1 Denim Jumper. 1 Pair Pajamas. 1 Wool Winter Coat. 1 Silk Blazer. 1 Nightgown. 2 T-shirt dresses. 3 Quilt Top Comforter covers. 2 Skirts. 2 Busy Books. 1 Apron. 4 Tie Fleece Quilts. 1 Barbie Holder. 1 Christmas Padded Book. 1 Stuffed Dinosaur. 4 Window Toppers. 2 Chair Cushions. 4 Pillow Covers. 3 Table Cloths. 1 Christmas Tree Skirt. 4 Christmas Stockings. 2 chair protectors plus material to recover 6 dining room chairs. No you don't want to know how much fabric and how many patterns I have in my sewing area! (And I might actually have forgotten something as well - I hope not!) I posted this list in the sidebar and hopefully it will all be crossed off by the end of the year!
This year I'm also making glasses cases and contact care kits for John's family (I'll post on that under Frugal Friday one of these days!), doll clothes for Missy's birthday, and name pillows for our nieces and nephews. Yes, I'm trying to both save money and use up my fabric stash!
5. Meet 2 Savings Goals this year.
We have a list of savings goals as long as our arm this year (I'll post more on that after John and I have had a chance to sit down and hash out the details). I'd like to actually hit 2 of them! It seems like something always comes up that is more urgent than what we're saving for. I'm praying that we'll be able to hit at least 5 of them, but my goal is 2 so I'm not disappointed if we don't make it!
6. Finish 2 house projects this year.
We have a list of things to do including 2 big-cost items - one we'd like to do (and that has been on our remodeling the house plan since we bought the house!) and one that needs to be done. I'm hoping to get all of them done, but I'll setting for 2 again.
7. Refurbish my front flower bed.
I've been putting this off in part because it's going to be a ton of work and I haven't been physically able to do it these last few years. I need to haul out the gravel that had been put in, transplant a bunch of plants, and then put in mulch. This fall I will add daffodil bulbs (tulips don't last due to the bunnies) as well.
8. Catch up my kids' scrapbooks to 2009.
My kids' scrapbooks currently end when they were 4 months old. Can you say I'm a little behind? I love to scrapbook so I just need to make time for it. And sort through the mountains of 'stuff' that I've saved for the really important and good stuff. And...
9. Catch up all my family special topic scrapbooks.
I have several 'special topic' books that I'd like to catch up - our wedding and honeymoon (which fell apart and is halfway redone), my album with the photos from John's sibling's weddings (1 wedding to go!), the gaping holes in my Jr. high album, my high school album (senior year only), John's high school book, the second half of our college book, a year summary album (1 page per year to hit the high lights), the Christmas album and a book that I have that has all the professional pics from everyone in John's family in it. If I get these caught up and the kids' caught up, then I just have the family albums to catch up which will be my goal for 2011. :) You can follow along with this progress too!
10. Fill 6 Operation Christmas Child Boxes for $25.
Yes, yes, I know that many of you could fill them for less but this is MY goal. We fill one box for each gender and age group, so six boxes total. This includes $6 to buy plastic boxes rather than using actual cardboard shoe boxes. I like to fill these with school supplies (including a full geometry set for the oldest kids), crayons, some hard candy, socks, small toys, a hand towel, 2 wash clothes, toothpaste, toothbrush, and soap. This year I'm adding hats, mittens, and hopefully either t-shirts or flip flops or both. So, if I spend $6 on the boxes, that means I have $19 to fill the boxes! I'll keep a running total in my side bar for you to keep track with me.
I have a million little things I'd like to do to - things like remembering to write thank you notes within 72 hours of getting a gift, flossing regularly, and the like. But these are the biggies that take more than making a little change. They require planning and time and attention.
The biggest weapon I have in my arsenal with regard to accomplishing this is prayer. I'll pray over each of these tasks and ask God to help me along. And get me out of my frustration moments - like I was in today with cleaning off my dresser. As the year goes on, God may keep me from working on things at certain times and not others. I feel a pull right now to work on cleaning out my house. I believe that that is God guiding me to do the "prep work" first, so to speak, before tackling the nitty gritty (finishing all the individual projects that I have running around and take space to complete). And since all the extra 'stuff' is what's driving me crazy, it will give me more peace of mind too. I like that!
I'll keep you up-to-date as the year goes by and hopefully I'll be able to get some things crossed off my list! Watch the side-bar for progress... hopefully I'll be crossing things off soon!
So what are your goals for 2010?