Monday, August 30, 2010

Goals Update - What I've Learned this Summer and a Panic Attack

See this little yellow guy?  We have had a host of them eating a banquet on the cone flower next to our back patio.  This picture was taken on the 4th of July this year.  It has seemed like almost every other morning, I look out the window and see this guy or one of his friends eating away.  I stood there for a long time this morning watching one of these little yellow friends having a feast, balanced carefully on top of a purple flower.

These last few weeks have been very, very painful and stressful for me.  I feel overwhelmed, exhausted and just plain scared.  We have so much going on starting this week. So much. 

So what's going on?
* Kindergarten x2
* New job for Lea (approx. 30 hr/wk)
* Dissertation work for Lea (approx 40hr/wk)
* Committee work at church for Lea (approx 5 hr/wk)
* 3 classes for John (approx 15 hr/wk)
* Full time work for John (50+ hr/wk)
* 15 hour/wk internship for John that includes teaching 2 adult and 1 youth class as well as preaching and ministering
* Swimming lessons for the kids
* Dance lessons for the kids
* Finishing cleaning out the house
* Redoing our budget, yet again
* Church choir for Lea
* Bible study for both Lea and John
* Sunday School for the kids
* And I'm sure I'm forgetting something else!


I had all that hit me full force on Wednesday afternoon, which resulted in a migraine and a panic attack on Thursday.  I haven't had either one of those in a couple of years and thought I was over them.  Ugh.

This morning I was thinking about the panic attack and migraine, and a conversation I had with a friend on Saturday morning over breakfast (we were the only two who showed up for Bible Study).  I realized that life takes balance - like that little yellow finch on my cone flower.  As long as he balances, he can have a wonderful feast.  If he doesn't, it's all over with.

God has continued to refine me this summer. I've learned a lot:
* I've learned to say no - even to things. that I desperately want to do.
* I've learned to slow down.
* I've learned to be more self-sacrificial, rather than just focusing on myself.
* I've learned that it really does take a village to raise a child (or two!).
* I've learned that relationships are irreplaceable.
* I've learned a lot about how I organize myself (or don't organize myself, as the case may be).
* I've learned that even if I screw up, my kids will be fine.

Most importantly, I've learned that God is in charge, not me.

I've known that all along.  But I keep snatching all those things back from Him and trying to do it all on my own.  With Him on the sideline rather than front and center.

I learned this week that it's time to change that yet again, put God back in the middle where He belongs and the rest will fall into place.  Easy to say, and hard to do? Of course.  But it makes it all worth while.  And restores that precious balance that I was teetering on the edge of losing, yet again. 

Nothing is too hard for God.

Not my children's schooling.
Not my many hours of commitment this fall.
Not my teaching.
Not my dissertation.
Not my husband's ridiculous schedule.
Not my husband's church or course work.
Not my children's activities, or my own.
Not my frustrating finances.
Not my cluttered house, or my meal plan, or the yard work.

And He is refining me until I know all that in the deepest part of my being and I lean solely on Him to complete those goals of mine.  Ultimately, they're His goals anyway.  And that's really the most important part!

Soli Deo Gloria.

P.S. Watch my sidebar for more updates this week - it's amazing what I can get done when I don't try to do things on my own!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of August 29th

Oh, my another week!  And the kids start Kindergarten this week!  I've had some tough moments this week with realizing that we won't be driving to our beloved daycare anymore and we won't be wearing the homemade clothes from grandma every day anymore.  *Sniff.*  I am excited and I will probably cry a few tear on Tuesday morning when we drop them off, but that's the way I am and I'm excited about it - as are they!

So what are we eating this week?

Sunday, August 29:
Breakfast: Cold Cereal
Lunch: Chicken Dinner Fundraiser at Church
Dinner: Wrap Sandwiches, Melon-Strawberry-Blueberry Salad

Monday, August 30:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Pecans
Dinner: Chicken Nuggets, Lettuce Salad, Grape-Blueberry-Strawberry Salad

Tuesday, August 31, First Day of School!
Breakfast: Doughnuts and Strawberries and Blueberries
Lunch: Out for Lunch at our Favorite Pizza Place (half day of school)
Dinner: Pork Chops, Roasted Potatoes, Beets, Grape-Peach-Strawberry Salad

Wednesday, September 1:
Breakfast: Oatmeal and Bananas and Pecans
Sack Lunch: Turkey Wrap Sandwiches, Mandarin Oranges or Applesauce, Goldfish Crackers, Cookie, Juice Boxes
Dinner: At Church (Bring Fruit)

Thursday, September 2:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Strawberries
Sack Lunch: Turkey Wrap Sandwiches, Orange Wedges, Goldfish Crackers, Cookie, Juice Box
Dinner: Chicken Flavored Rice with Peas, Squash and Mushrooms, Apple-Orange-Peach Salad

Friday, September 3:
Breakfast: Waffles with Blueberries and Almonds
Lunch: Macaroni and Cheese, Sliced Apples
Dinner: PB&J with Orange Wedges for kids, Out for Mom and Dad

Saturday, September 4:
Breakfast: Apple Braided Bread, Oranges
Lunch: Turkey Tortilla Soup, Lettuce Salad, Orange-Blueberry-Plum Salad
Dinner: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Fruit

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Coffee!

Oh, my, oh my! Do I love my coffee! 

I start my day with a hot cup just rocking in my living room rocking chair for about 10 minutes, enjoying the quiet and solitude.  In the summer, I might stand at my kitchen window enjoying the sunrise over the trees in my rear neighbor's yard and during the Christmas season, I sit with the houselights out and the tree lights on.  So very peaceful and it helps keep me grounded and gets my day off to a good start.

As much as I love the solitude and the quiet, the coffee is just as much a favorite thing for me.  I love a hot cup of coffee!  Almost anywhere or any time of the day, coffee is something I will enjoy.  Oh, I like hot tea too - and it's usually my choice when I need something decaffeinated, but coffee is definitely my first choice.

Oddly enough, I didn't start drinking coffee until I went to college.  I had a friend in high school who drank coffee all the time and continually talked about it's wonders. I thought it was too bitter - no matter how smooth and mild the flavor was.  In college I got hooked on the caffeine kick - something I needed working many hours a week and taking many classes.  And it stuck.

In fact, I love my coffee so much that the first thing I bought for camping was the coffee pot above!  A definite necessity in my book!

I love a good hot cup of coffee but my favorite times of drinking coffee are:
* in the morning in solitude, just basking in the goodness of all God has blessed us with
* out on a date with John over a decadent desert
* out for my once-a-month breakfast Bible study with some dear friends and good discussion
* out for coffee with my best friend, talking about life's problems and the joys as well
* a research discussion with my colleagues at a particular coffee shop near campus

Always good stuff, and good drink too!

What more can I ask for?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Frugal Friday - Making Your Own Flavored Coffee

I love my coffee !  Hmmm...that's one thing I haven't written about on These are a Few of My Favorite Things!  Anyway, I love, love, love my coffee.  I buy my own beans and grind my coffee.  We even have a line item in the budget for my coffee - I'm not sure if that's pitiful or just realistic! :)

I'm not a huge fancy coffee person - typically I just like regular old Joe, not the big fru-fru drinks from Starbucks or Caribou.  Though, the Caramel Machiatto is a really nice treat from time to time!  I think if I had one every day it would loose the 'special-ness' of it all.  I save it for coffee with a friend or a date night out with John. 

I especially love flavored coffee but it can be pricey - more than the 'regular' kind anyway, at least in the brands I favor.  I do buy it occasionally, but found that I could by regular Colombian less expensively.  But I didn't want to give up my flavored coffee completely!  So, a couple of years ago I started experimenting.  And found ways to make my own flavored coffee at home. I have a cheap, drip coffee maker, but I would imagine you can do this with a french press or percolator too.  Here's what I found:

Vanilla, Almond, or Amaretto Flavored Coffee: Add a drop of two of the flavoring (the real thing preferably) to your coffee grounds before brewing.  I've tried adding it to the already brewed coffee, and I don't like it as well, though I supposed that would work too, depending on your taste.

Cinnamon or Chocolate Flavored Coffee: Sprinkle a light dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder (type is your choice, though I prefer unsweetened, dark chocolate powder) to the bottom of the filter before adding grounds.  A little goes a long way here, so don't put in a ton.  I add it before the grounds because it tends to float to the top if I add it on top of the grounds and then clogs the machine and makes a mess.  It also doesn't provide as much flavor in the brewed coffee if I add it on top of the grounds.

Even though I don't particularly like the fru-fru drinks, a co-worker pointed me in the direction of a yummy concoction after I gave him a tub of really high-end cocoa mix for Christmas last year.  This is great on a cold winter night:  (The name is mine - he didn't have a name for it!)

Paul's Vanilla Cocoa Treat:   One or Two teaspoons of vanilla ice cream in a coffee mug, fill to about 1 inch of top with coffee, stir in 1-2 teaspoons of high quality cocoa mix (or you can make your own mix). Stir until ice cream is melted. Add coffee to fill rest of mug if any space remains.  Top with mini marshmallows and/or mini chocolate chips. 

I guess you could top that with whipped cream too, but I never have any so we don't use that.  Anyway, it's yummy!  I have only made this with real ice cream, I'm not sure how it would work with frozen yogurt or soft serve or something like that.

Even though these aren't the fancy treats from the coffee shop, they satisfy my taste for a 'treat' in terms of coffee.

Do you make coffee treats at home?  I'd love to hear how!

For more Frugal Friday, check out Life As Mom!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Work Home and Family - Simple Centerpieces and Setting a Lovely Table

I grew up with a Mom who always had a table cloth or place mats on the tablecloth.  It was just what I was used to, but I didn't really understand it.    For a while I had a really ugly yellow linoleum table that I pulled out of a dumpster that I would cover with a tablecloth just to get rid of the ugly!  Then John and I bought a nice wooden table with four (matching!) chairs!  At that point I basically quit using table clothes or place mats.

When our children turned 2, John and I realized that we needed a larger table.  The table we had would fit four - squished really tightly and with no room for serving bowls!  Since my parents spend about 3 months a year with us, that wasn't going to work and it especially wasn't going to work now with the kids moving out of their high chairs.  So we started looking for a larger table.

Yikes! We had gotten a great deal on a clearance sale for our last table and I had no idea how expensive tables were!  I also didn't realize that the make either itty-bitty little tables or great big tables.  There really isn't anything in between.  We were looking for something that would hold at least 6 comfortably and fit into our little kitchen too.  A leaf or two to add for company would be helpful as well.

We found our table at the estate sale of a neighbor that was moving into a senior center.  It's a lovely table, with 3 leaves and six chairs.  There was a matching china closet, but we already had a china closet.  We paid $120 for the whole kit and caboodle (minus the china closet!).

The thing that puzzled me was that it came with a padded table cover.  What is that about I wondered?  It fit with all three leaves in, so I wasn't going to use it any time soon.  I tucked it away and asked my mom about it when they came to visit the next time.  "It's to protect the table from hot dishes," my mom told me. 

And something dawned on me: The table clothes and place mats are there to protect the table!

Yeah - duh.  I should have guessed.  You put a coaster under a cup on a coffee or end table to protect the wood, why wouldn't you do that with a dining table?  We use stoneware dishes and cups and the bottoms are often rough.  Of course the place mat or tablecloth would keep the table from getting scratched.  They would act like a pot holder or a trivet for hot dishes.  And they soap up spills before they can stain or damage the wood. 

So, since then I've used a place mat or table cloth daily.  I keep the place mats handy next to the table so they can be easily changed.  I do have to iron and hang the tablecloths, but they don't get changed as often it seems.  They make my table look so much nicer!

The problem is, I think the table looks a bit weird with just a table cloth or place mats. I feel it needs a center piece too.  I don't have a lot of time and well, we put food on our table, so there isn't a ton of space. So simple centerpieces are a must!

The silver flower and candle holder at the top of this post I purchased at a garage sale for $2.  It's silver plate and does need to be polished occasionally, but makes for a lovely and easy centerpiece.  I have also used a single peonie or a small bouquet of sweet peas or roses for the flower center.  I'm going to try placing a small pumpkin or gourd there this fall (we'll see how dorky it looks!).

Other simple center pieces I've used include the following:

* Two taper candles, 1-3 floating candles in  a pretty bowl or a single pillar candle.  We eat dinner by candlelight every night and having even a single candle makes it possible.  So most of my centerpieces involve candles.  I use a glass cereal bowl to float the candles or the bottom half of a cut glass candy dish that now has a broken lid.  The glass reflects the light, requiring fewer candles.  Votives are nice too and can be added to just about anything else to make a simple centerpiece look spectacular! I have a couple of decorative votive holders a well (angel, Easter bunny, etc.) that make for a good simple centerpiece as well.

* A bouquet of flowers.  If you've read through my "These are a few of my favorite things" posts you know that I love flowers!  And a simple or elaborate bouquet in a vase, teapot, cup or even jar makes for a lovely and easy centerpiece.  I usually add a couple of tea lights around the base in simple glass votive or two tapers so we have our candle light, but they certainly aren't necessary.

* A bowl of fruit or nuts.  Fall usually finds a big crockery bowl of apples in the middle of our table.  I have also used oranges in a glass bowl in the middle of winter. One year I used a cereal bowl of mixed nuts. Again, I add candles, (usually two tapers in holders on either side), but they're not necessary.

* A single figurine.  I've used a stone rabbit for Easter, a wooden nutcracker or my wooden Nativity during Christmas, a pilgrim or wooden leaves during Thanksgiving.  Again, I add candles, but just the single figurine works well, especially if you have a lot of people and need space for food.

So many people are amazed that I set a 'fancy' table each night.  I don't see it as fancy at all - it's just something we do. And it makes mealtime special. 

If it protects the table and keeps it cleaner, those are just bonuses!

How do you set your table?  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Healthy Habits in 2010 - The "Uff Da" Edition

For those of you non-Midwestern, non-Scandinavians out there my favorite 'definition' of "Uff da" is this: Losing your gum in the chicken yard.   If that's a bit too obscure, it's akin to Charlie Browns' "Good Grief!"

I had hope this week I'd be able to write and tell you how well I'm doing with my 'alternative' exercise routine and how I had effectively cut back on portions and all that jazz.

No can do.

I have one a whole whopping 3 days worth of my 'exercises' but I haven't checked into swimming at one place yet (the other only has open swim from 630-8am - yikes! - and that doesn't fit into my schedule in any way), began walking regularly (much less with my pedometer) or decided what my 'official' plan is going to be.

I have also attended outside events or eaten out 4 times in the last week which meant I was eating things I don't normally eat and that means I had extra calories in my diet.

Additionally, I really overdid the walking and standing this weekend.  We attended a parade and had to walk a fair distance from our car and then we stood on uneven ground for almost 3 hours watching the parade. In addition to that, I spent 2 hours standing while skinning and slicing beets and snapping beans for blanching.  And, since my foot wasn't hurting much, I did a bunch of yard work and ran a number of errands.  Driving in particular puts pressure on the base of my toe - near the break itself - and makes my whole leg hurt after even just a short distance.  So today the toe is complaining - what on earth was I thinking!

I guess the good news is that I have cut back on my snacking a fair amount.  I also went through my magazine clipping file and pulled out the 'snacks under 100 calorie' articles I have and I'm slowing revamping the snacks I do eat to get the biggest bang for my calorie buck, so to speak. I'm hoping that counteracts the junk food I ate last week and the picnic and church dinner I have this week yet! :)

I guess the best news is that tomorrow is always a new day and I can start fresh with all of these things. 

Isn't that the best part? 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goals Update - Having a Plan!

One night last week I was so very frustrated with myself - after a terrific start to the week, in terms of productivity, I felt like I was losing my momentum again.  I started mindlessly reading through my old blog entries while wondering what in the world was so wrong with me that I kept losing my momentum on just about everything.  I have felt like I'm on a roller coaster this year - I get a lot done, then absolutely nothing, and then something done and then nothing again.  Ugh.  Not only that, but it was making me feel like I colossal failure since I couldn't keep being productive the way I wanted to.

I noticed something while reading those old entries:  Things get done when I have a plan.

Uh, duh.

Of course things get done when I have a plan!  Having a plan means that I plan to get things done, so then they get done.  It makes perfect sense (at least to me!).

Then the question becomes: Why do I derail so often, since I almost always have a plan?

I realized two things:
1) I usually have a plan, not a backup plan or a backup for the backup plan; and
2) I usually plan long-term - several days at a time- and then fail to adjust or leave the room to adjust as life happens in the meantime.

I decided that I needed to change that.

When I was getting ready to start my week this week, I wrote out my weekly to-do list.  This is my list of things that have to get done (things for deadlines this week), places we have to be and appointments we have, and things that need to get done to keep me on track with my longer-term goals.  I usually add a thing or two that I'd like to do but isn't necessary (like my embroidery) and something to bless John, each of the kids and one other person or group as well.  Usually, I don't get everything done on the list, but at least I can see at a glance what I need to do.

Typically, my next step is to plan my week, penciling each thing on the list onto my daily calendars in my planner.  My days are usually very busy (having a job, school, hubby and 2 kids does that!), and I would leave very little wiggle room to shift things around.  And I try to keep to my schedule, cramming more into the scheduled time in an effort to 'catch up' if I get behind.  It makes me frustrated and I definitely lose my momentum.

This week I didn't do that.  I took today and penciled in the things I would like to do on today only.  And I came up with a backup plan. 

Turns out, the whole thing was a good idea - both having a backup plan and only having one day planned. 

I ended up spending 2 more hours at a meeting for my new job than I had planned on today and it was too hot out to do the yard work.  I also overdid standing and walking this weekend, and my toe is not happy with me at the moment, so standing to do the ironing I had planned on doing tonight is not a good idea. Sitting with my foot up is a much better idea!

So, I am now able to move the schoolwork and yard work I had initially planned for today to a day later this week and have substituted some of the cleaning out I need to do and some other schoolwork for the yard work and the ironing.  Best of all, I don't feel like I've ended the day behind!  I love that!

So, I've learned it pays to have a flexible plan!

Do you try to plan? How are you doing at it?

Menu Plan Monday - August 22, 2010

Oh my, does that picture look good!  I might just have to put some more salads on next week's menu. Hmmm...

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, August 22:
Breakfast: Cereal and Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser

Monday, August 23:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Raisins
Dinner BLTs, Pasta Salad, Fruit

Tuesday, August 24:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Banana-Peanut Butter Smoothies
Dinner: Lion's Picnic (Bring Fruit)

Wednesday, August 25:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Bananas
Dinner: At Church (Bring Lettuce Salad)

Thursday, August 26:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Strawberries
Dinner: Taco Salad with Tortilla Chips, Grapes

Friday, August 27:
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Pancakes with Strawberry Jam
Dinner: Kielbasa, Rice, Green Beans, Melon

Saturday, August 28:
Breakfast: Out for All (Bible Studies)
Lunch: Lea's Work Potluck: Bring Lettuce Salad
Dinner: Turkey Tortilla Soup, Homemade Bread, Melon and Grapes

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

Sunday, August 22, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - My Husband

John and I have been married 12 whole years now!  Wow!  That sounds like a long time.

In some ways it has been a long time.

In 12 years we've lived in 2 different apartments, purchased a home, had two children, suffered through the deaths of 4 of our collective grandparents, welcomed John's youngest brother (who is now 11!), participated in the weddings of 3 of John's siblings, watched one of those siblings get divorced, and welcomed 3 nephews and one niece. 

Our house alone has given us quite the run for our money with a entire electrical overhaul, a yard overhaul (including installing an enormous patio ourselves), finishing off the basement, redoing the existing bathroom (including stripping it to the studs and replacing everything but the bathtub!), and installing a second bathroom.  We've painted, replaced carpeting and flooring, replaced curtains and light fixtures.

John has held 3 different jobs and is now attending Seminary to become a Hospital Chaplin in addition to working full time. At his current job, he's had 4 different immediate co-workers and 3 different bosses.  He's joined Lion's International and served three different levels of vice presidents, written the newsletter, ran the website, initiated the local Dictionary Project and filled and delivered more Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter baskets that he can count.  At church he's lead Bible studies, served for the Alpha course, been on church council, ran the stewardship program and now helps lead and minister to people as they need.

Personally, I've been diagnosed with 2 chronic illnesses, buried more relatives than I can count, took my cousin off life support, sewed many quilts, embroidered many wedding and baby plaques, had sinus surgery, spent 8 1/2 months on modified bed rest, re-recognized my faith (for the 3rd time!), got laid off  and went back to school. I've taught at 5 different colleges and universities, attended 7 conferences, sang in 3 church choirs, was the lead organizer for Alpha, served on church council, and lead Bible studies. 

Yes, it's been a long 12 years.

In other ways, its flown by. 

I think of all the things we'd have liked to do by now: redo the kitchen, fix the garage, visit the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore (among other places), moved out of our "starter" home and into our "dream" home, had a 3rd (and possibly 4th) child, finish this darn PhD degree, and send John go to medical school.  Not to mention all the less-tangible things like making sure our relatives and friends. know that we love them and how much they mean to us - for some of them we'll now be able to tell them. 

When I think of those things, the time has just flown by way too fast.

Through it all, John has stayed with me "to death do us part" and then some!  I am not an easy person to live with - I tend to over-react to many things and be rather nit-picky a times.  We come from very different backgrounds and that has made for rather loud fireworks at times.  Still, he's always there and always willing to help and listen and be my best friend.

I was talking with a friend about a mutual friend who was getting divorced.  These two friends had gotten married within weeks of each other and the friend I was talking with said, "I don't feel like I've been married long enough to get divorced."  She had been married for 7 years at the time.  The part of the conversation that followed was this:

"I guess if my relationship wasn't good, it would seem a lot longer than it has been."

Amen, my friend.

My relationship with John  is very, very good.

That's the biggest reason why 12 years seems like a minute.  And I love that. 

And I love him.

"Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken." 
 - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NKJV

John picks me up when I fall down and he keeps me warm from the cold storms of the world (and puts up with my cold feet in the night!). 

The thing that I love the most is his willingness to depend on the Lord and not on his own strength.  Before he preaches he always prays, "OK, God, I'll open my mouth, You talk."  And it works every time.

John is the most humblest, gentle, and loving man I've ever met and I am so blessed to have him as my husband.

What more can I ask for?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Frugal Friday - What Does 'Simple Life' Mean to You?

I have known for a long time now that my life needs to be simplified - I need less stuff, I need fewer commitments, I need to slow down and spend deliberate time on things rather than rushing from here to there.  As part of that, I realize that living simpler will impact my budget as well - not necessarily by lowering my expenses but by allowing me more control over my money and making me more content with my life.

The thing that disappoints me though is if you, say, Google "Simple Life" most of the links that come back have to do with working for yourself, growing all your own food, raising chickens and cows, churning your own butter, sewing your own clothes from feed sacks, learning how to navigate by the moon, ...oh, wait that one isn't in there!  :)   In any case, many of those links involve reverting back to life as it was 100 years ago or so perhaps with the addition of running water and a flush toilet.  Does living like this make life more frugal as well?  I'm sure it does - all these modern things and the stuff we have cost money.  Eliminating them will for sure reduce expenses.

The problem for me is this:

I have zero desire to have that type of life.

I do know how to garden, sew, cook and bake from scratch, and I could, if necessary, probably knit myself socks or a sweater (though the first few would look very strange, I guarantee!).  Oh, I do grow tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and squash as well as a few herbs.  I do sew a bit now and then (mostly quilts).  I do love to cook and bake from scratch and do so on a daily basis. I prefer embroidery over knitting and haven't picked up knitting needles in years. 

For me all of those things take time, and time is what I want to gain, not lose, by simplifying.  Time to spend with my family and friends. Time to put that extra evaluation into an assignment for my students to really help them get that concept. Time to curl up with a good book, or my embroidery, or a hot cup of tea and a family DVD with my son under one arm and my daughter on my lap.  Time to attend a conference for a much appreciated new viewpoint on something I'm doing in my classroom.

If I didn't have access to a good farmer's market with fabulous produce and prices, I'd be more inclined to grow more of our own food.  I am daily grateful that I don't have to rely on our backyard to feed us - quite frankly we'd either starve or be an awful lot thinner come spring! For me simple living in terms of food means cooking simple, wholesome meals that are delicious to eat, easy to prepare and at least somewhat pleasing to look at.  It does not mean grinding my own wheat, or growing all my own fruit or vegetables and canning, blanching, pickling, or otherwise preserving.  It certainly does not mean raising chickens or cows or pigs for meat, dairy and eggs.  If I do some of those things (which I do) it is because I have the time and enjoy them rather than because it's a necessity or part of living simply.

I do make some of the clothes I wear and my daughter wears.  If I have time and can make something for less than I would pay to buy it, then I make it.  Time is at a premium for me now, my mother loves to sew and does most of the sewing for me (she actually asks me what she can make each time I talk to her!), and many times I can get things cheaper at the store.  Sewing is something I enjoy in moderation when I have the time.  For me simple living in terms of clothing means knowing we have what we need and can either buy or make what we don't have but need as time and money allow.  It doesn't involve sewing every stitch of clothing we wear, knitting all our knitwear (or even some of it), or remaking all our old clothing into something else, so that no scrap of fabric is ever wasted.  I do make some of our clothing and I have remade clothing as well (in fact I'll be posting some pics of a couple projects in the next few weeks!), but I am very, very grateful that it isn't a necessity. Sewing is something I have always in enjoyed in fits and starts and always in moderation.  I am terribly grateful that I don't have to make all my own clothing! If I did, I'd probably have two outfits to wear and that would be it!

For my household, I do enjoy having my air conditioning, my central heat, my hot and cold running water, my flush toilet and the like. I certainly like being able to purchase soap of all kinds at the store, farmer's market or from a friend.  I like being able to go buy a chair rather than making one or purchase sheets for my bed rather than sewing them on my machine.  For me, in terms of my home, simple living means having a home I'm comfortable in and that others are comfortable in, where the chores are caught up and the place is filled with items that are useful and/or well loved.  It does not mean making my own soap, forgoing modern conveniences, cooking on a wood stove or hand brushing my carpeting clean. 

Additionally it does not mean filling my home with stuff just to have stuff.  This is the major reason I want to clean out my entire house this year - I bought into the 'stuff lie' for so long and my house is full of unwanted and non useful items.  That certainly isn't simple living and I'm through with it.

In terms of work, simple living means doing what God has called me to do, which is teach, primarily adults and science.  It does not mean running my own business, working from home or homeschooling my children.  It does not mean working 120 hours a week either! Or serving on dozens of committees and boards, or teaching dozens of Bible studies, extracurricular classes or other things like that.  I enjoy my teaching and feel that is what God has called me to do, especially since He has provided wonderful care and schooling opportunities for my children along the way.  If things were different, if I couldn't find that child care or schooling, I might change that.  For now, this is where I am and what simple living means.

Defining what simple living is for me is helping me to be frugal by allowing me to put my money where my mouth is, not necessarily put more into savings, buy groceries for $3 a month, or pay off my mortgage.  Those things are happening too - well, groceries at $160/month instead of three. :)  And it's because I'm not buying into the stuff thing any more and I am being more deliberate about where my money goes so I'm not disappointed later.

I've had people say to me that if I really wanted a simple life, I'd grow all my own produce.  If I really wanted a simple life, I'd sew all my own clothes.  If I really wanted a simple life, I'd make all my own soap and cleaning supplies.  If I really wanted a simple life, I'd stay home with my children rather than work outside my home.

I think the appeal of that form of simple living is that it requires people to slow down and be deliberate.  Isn't that what simple living is really about?  Being deliberate about what you're doing so that you are making the most of your life, not the life someone else wants you to live.  Slowing down means you can do that well, without losing your mind or your relationships to the frenzied pace of today's modern world.

Living Simply isn't about living on a farm, or making your own soap or clothes. It's about living the best life you can while making the most of what God has given you in terms of finances, energy, talents, and relationships.  Isn't that what living frugally is all about too?

How do you live simply (and frugally)? I'd love to hear!

For more Frugal Friday, check out Life as Mom!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - Mary vs. Martha

Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha? The story of the two sisters of Lazarus who welcomed Jesus and his disciples into their home with Mary sitting at Jesus feet to listen and Martha running around doing her best to outdo Martha Stewart? Ah, yes, that story.  Found in Luke 10:38-42 in the New Testament.

This story rings a bell with so many women for good reason.  Are we Martha's running around trying to do the things expected of us while neglecting our relationship with God?  Or are we building that relationship with God, as He would want? 

There's the other, more subtle angle here too - that of the complaint of Martha, "Lord, tell her to help me!" she cried.  If we are being Martha we may look with contempt on those who don't help out but sit and listen.  I even read a article on housekeeping that says God supposedly wants us to put our household chores above other things so that they aren't 'neglected'.  What a pat on the back for when we accomplish our housekeeping or volunteering or work to-do list! 

Isn't that also where that little and dangerous seed of self-righteousness comes in too?

Oh, yes, my house is spotless, I volunteer at the food shelf 3 hours a week, I sew quilts for the woman's shelter, I have homemade cookies waiting when my children get home from school, I serve on the PTA, and my husbands gets a back and foot rub each night!  And didn't I tell you I just got promoted to Senior Vice- President of Marketing with a corner office and my own secretary!  What's that? Bible time? Prayer time? Well, you do know that I have the Bible on my Blackberry and attend worship every Sunday.  Oh, yeah, and I give money whenever they have a mission drive.  Smile.  Nod.  Pat self on back.

It can work the other way too, though, can't it.

Sure my house is dusty, and the beds are unmade and we usually get fast food for dinner, but hey - I'm communing with the Lord.  I spend 4 hours a day reading the Bible.  And another 2 praying.  And I too serve the food shelf - but I serve 3 hours a day, not per week.  I have a Bible - both paper and electronic copies on my person at all times.  And if you see me with my eyes closed - dont' bug me. I'm praying (in addition to my 2 hours a day mentioned above). Never mind that I rarely talk to my husband, my children haven't had an after school snack in years, my house is a mess, I haven't been able to keep a full-time (or even part time) job and I don't have the time to serve on any other type of committee because I'm communing with my Lord and my relationship with Him is fabulous! Smile. Nod. Pat self on back.

Now, most of us certainly aren't as extreme as either case (though I do know people who fit both of these descriptions).  I think most of us fall into a more common trap: Worry and distraction with our daily lives.

What does Jesus say to Martha in the story, "You are worried and distracted by many things; Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

Mary had a chance to develop her relationship with her Living Lord - in the flesh - and it was not going to be taken from her.  Jesus was not going to tell her that cooking and cleaning and preparing the big meal that would be needed to feed Jesus and his disciples was more important than her relationship with Him. Mary doing what she did was unheard of!  Women did not kneel at the feet of a man and hear him teach, especially a man who was not their father or husband.  Being a woman, she most likely would not have even been allowed in the room!  This is how important the relationship with Jesus was - even the social customs and religious statutes of the day were thrown out the window so she could build that relationship.  Jesus also does not tell Martha that Mary will not or should not help her.  Just that her relationship with Him and the chance to build that relationship will not be taken away. 

He also tells Martha that she is worried and distracted about many things. He does not tell Martha that all those things don't need to be done or shouldn't be done. He tells her that she is distracted by them.  If Martha owned a home large enough to house everyone and wealthy enough for her family to be known around the city, then she probably had servants or slaves. They could do some of the preparation.  Perhaps Jesus was just expecting her put out what she had and she wanted to prepare a fancy feast.  Or perhaps Jesus had in mind teaching first and everyone pitching in to make dinner and find sleepign spaces after.  Who knows! It doesn't sound like He was worried at all about what they were going to have for dinner and where they were going to sleep.

I spent worship last night thinking about my to-do list instead of worshiping and I had no one visiting my home that evening. I can imagine Martha, faced with a large number of people (ranging somewhere from 13-40+) in her house, she would be thinking about the food to prepare, where they were going to sleep, if she needed to send a servant to the market for anything, if they had enough hot water for everyone to wash before bed, and the whole list of other things that would come with the occasion.  I can see her jumping from thing to thing to thing - and then grumbling that Mary isn't helping her.  Instead of focusing on Jesus and her relationship with Him, Martha is thinking about dinner, and dishes, and beds, and water, and errands.  Distracted indeed!

With the Lord physically in the house, I would hope I wouldn't be distracted by what to serve for dinner.

But aren't I?

How many times don't I invite someone over? Or fuss about the state of the house when my husband's Bible study comes over - is the bathroom clean enough, is the flower arrangement on the living room desk just so, do I have a snack that everyone will like, are the kids quiet enough while playing in the other room?  I'm not focusing on the people or my relationship with them or what they're here to do. I'm worried and distracted.

How many times do I not take the time to help someone or have that meaningful conversation because I'm distracted about the next thing on my to-do list - making dinner, picking someone up, cleaning my bathroom, typing that transcript, reading that article?  Or do I just not take that extra step to build relationships because I am worried about getting things done and distracted by other things.

Even my precious morning time with the Lord, in my Bible with my quiet house - reading and praying and communing with the Lord gets shoved aside with my worries and distractions.  While He isn't physically in the flesh in my house, He is here in Spirit waiting for me to talk to him and be with him.

And isn't that what He wants?  That bit of our time that our other relationship's need too - time to talk, and discuss, and learn. And I'm distracted.  Too distracted sometimes to make the time.
I often struggle between Mary and Martha.  I don't believe that God wants me to neglect things like the state of my house, meals, volunteering and the like.  Those physical and tangible ways we bless our family and others are important.  I do believe that He wants us to put Him first and our relationship with Him first and the rest will fall into place.

How do you struggle with Mary and Martha?  Who are you more like? I'd love to hear?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Work, Home and Family - Do the kids have space to play?

One of the problems of living in a small house is having space.  For anything.  Much less for boisterous children to run, play and make a mess. 

One of the reasons we bought this house was its huge and lovely backyard.  Well, it wasn't so lovely at the time, but now it's great.  And it contains a first class swing set, a fabulous patio, and enough lawn to run and play on for all of us.  We've played many games of kickball, tag, hide-n-seek, and a bunch of other things back there too.  We've hosted parties and planted plants.  The kids love it.  We do too.

The inside of our house is another story. When you have a 900 square foot footprint with 6 rooms and a stairwell in it, each of those rooms ends up small too!  That means little floor space to play in.  When our children were infants, that wasn't much of a problem.  Their crib or an equal size amount of space was perfect for playing.  Once they started walking - look out!  We quickly realized that we needed more space.

So, we finished off part of the basement - adding about 300 more square feet of space to our home.

But now that the kids are 5, it seemed like we still don't have enough floor space.

I had a bad mommy moment a few weeks ago, where I ended up just plain screaming at the kids about how mean they were to their toys and how naughty it was that they didn't take care of them.  In the midst of watching the proverbial smoke pour out of my Missy's ears and Buddy try to stoically to buck up under mommy's anger, I realized something. 

They didn't have enough floor space to play, and so everything ended up all jumbled together. 

Seriously, I was trying to have my two tall for their age 5-year-olds play in a space about 3 feet square! With all their toys!   What on earth was I thinking!

So, I calmed down and apologized and then asked for ideas from the kids as to what we could do to give them more space to play.  And, boy, did they have good ideas! 

Buddy's idea was really grand in terms of layout, but it totally wouldn't work with layout, cables, window placements, etc.  I was bummed, since it was a really awesome idea.

His second idea was good too - apparently he was unsure as to what went in what box and where the boxes went when full.  Put a label on both the box and the corresponding shelf. 

Missy had several ideas too, and we stuck two of them together.  Move the arts-crafts-coloring stuff away from the rest of the toys and hang up the dress up clothes on hangers so they can see what they have.  Missy loves to paint and color and she would get angry at her brother when his dinosaurs or action figures would walk across her pages - which happened often because they had to do everything in the same small space.  Either she had to quit painting or coloring or his dinosaurs didn't have a place to walk!

Now, lest you think our family room was a completely unorganized chaos before. It really wasn't.  It was just hard to play in.  There were several larger items that were placed to take up valuable floor space and several older, larger toy sets that were no longer played with, but also took up valuable space.

We moved some things around this weekend, cleared out the broken odds and ends that infiltrated the toy boxes, labeled almost everything (I still have 4 shelves to go!) and hung up those dress up clothes.

The kids are thrilled!  They can find everything, cleanup is much easier and, best of all, they now have two separate areas to play in - both bigger than the one they had before.

Who knew finding play space was as easy as cleaning out and rearranging the furniture?  And I didn't spend a dime!

How do you find play space for your kids in a small space?  I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Healthy Habits in 2010 - More Important Things to Realize

I wrote yesterday about how this broken toe has turned out to be a huge blessing in many ways - other than the fact that my toe is, well, broken.

First: I learned that I was really making excuses for what I wasn't getting done when in fact I just plain wasn't doing things.  I was being lazy.

Second: Guess what?  That goes for my weight loss and getting fit and healthy plans too. 

Oh, I made some strides this year alright.  I got both the early spring and summer promos at Jazzercise (and won a cute tote bag and a really cute pair of flip flops to boot!) - totally 45 classes in 3 months which means I was going to class somewhere between 3 and 4 classes a week those three months.  Whoo hoo!  And I realized that I was eating in part to fill in the gaps in spiritual and emotional intimacy in my relationship with John. That was a huge deal too.

I realized this weekend that a lot of the excuses I had in my head for not doing more in terms of exercise and watching what I eat were exactly that - excuses.  

I can't do Jazzercise for 4-6 weeks with my injured toe and I panicked.  I could see myself getting hideously fat (really Lea, in 6 weeks?) and then not being able to walk at all (yes, in my mind that was how fat I would get).   I saw all the 'hard work' I had put in over the last 7 1/2 months going down the drain.  Though my doctor did say I could do the arm and ab work and anything with my legs where I was laying on my back on the floor.  That's at least half the workout there (I get to try that out tomorrow AM by the way).

So I started looking for alternative options. 

I possibly have an option for swimming three times a week, though I'm not excited about it since I really dislike swimming (that's another story!) and never learned to swim properly because of that.  Hopefully I can write about that soon. 

I dug through some old magazine clippings and found several weight training type exercises for my arms and legs that I can do without putting weight on my foot.  I did those this morning.  4 sets of arm exercises, 2 legs and 2 abdominal exercises took me a whole whopping total of 30 minutes - done in 3 different sets of 6 to 14 minutes at a time.  Um duh.  There goes that excuse of 'not having the time to do it.'

I'm also hoping in 2 weeks, when I can put more weight on my foot, to start walking regularly.  I had been doing some already, but I quit wearing my new pedometer quite a while ago, and I really do need to get back to that again.  No, I won't be running any races or winning any speed awards, but I'll at least be moving. 

The biggest thing I realized is that I eat out of habit or boredom. 

I think this is what most people do each day.  I remember my Mom once commenting on my Aunt badgering my Grandmother until dinner was served right at 6pm - even though we'd just eaten a huge meal at 3pm.  Were any of us hungry? No.  Was my Aunt so used to having something to eat at 6pm that she 'needed' it.  Yep.  At the time I didn't pay much attention to the comment.  Now it holds a big clue to the mystery of why my Aunt is obese.

In the last 4 days I noticed I did that 18 times.  At least those were the times I noticed; I'm sure there were more than that.  One of my triggers is reading - curling up with a good book and something crunchy to eat.  Am I hungry? No.  Habit? Yes.  I also noticed that if I don't quite know what to do next, I'll eat something.

I also noticed that if I'm hungry, I'll make far more than I need.  Today, for example, I made the kids a bowl of popcorn for a snack while they played in our newly rearranged family room and I worked on some schoolwork.  I was hungry too and almost popped another whole bowl of popcorn just for me!  Yes, it was the low-fat variety, but I truly didn't need that much!  Especially since we were eating dinner in 2 hours!  I fed myself one Wasa cracker with a slice of really good cheddar cheese on top and made myself a cup of tea.  I was fine and my hunger more than satisfied. 

Big things? Maybe.
More like little things that make a big difference!

What have you realized on your journey to a healthier you?  Care to share?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Week of August 15, 2010

It's Monday again, and that means posting our menu. I've been slacking on posting these last few weeks. My apologies.  Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, August 15:
    Breakfast: Cold Cereal
    Lunch: Baked Eggs, Bacon, Oatmeal Muffins, Melon-Blueberry-Strawberry Salad
    Dinner: Steak, Couscous, Steamed Carrots, Grapes

Monday, August 16:
    Breakfast: Waffles with Pecans and Strawberries
    Dinner: Veggie Calzones, Grape-Peach-Strawberry Salad

Tuesday, August 17:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Bananas
   Dinner: Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice, Grapes

Wednesday, August 18:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Peaches
   Dinner: At Church (Bring Lettuce Salad)

Thursday, August 19:
   Breakfast: Banana-Oatmeal Bake
   Dinner: Chicken Flavored Rice, Veggie Saute, Melon-Grape-Peach Salad

Friday, August 20:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Peaches
   Dinner: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, Lettuce Salad, Melon-Peach-Apple Salad

Saturday, August 21:
   Breakfast: Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Peaches
   Lunch: Steak Wrap Sandwiches, Melon
   Dinner: Salmon, Roasted or Grilled Potatoes, Lettuce Salad, Melon-Grape-Apple Salad

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more inspiration.

Goals Update - A Realization

For months now I have been beating myself up about not getting things done in the time frame that I want them done in. I've told myself that I have set my expectations too high and should be happy with any progress, whatsoever.  I have told myself that "life happens" and things aren't necessarily going to get done in the time frame that I want them to.

Last week I broke my little toe on my right foot. 

And, man, did it hurt!  When I initially hurt it, I screamed and then I cried. My son graciously put his hands over his ears and then told me I was "too loud."  I told myself it was just a stubbed toe and continued to do what I was doing.

An hour later I knew it was not a stubbed toe.  My foot was swelling and my toe was turning black and blue and walking, well, hurt.

By the time I had spent a fitful night sleeping and then called the clinic first thing when they opened, I had this idea in my head that I was going to have to have surgery on my toe, that I would be in a cast for weeks, if not months, and that I wouldn't be able to walk or drive a car for that amount of time.  Such is how my imagination runs away with me when I'm in panic mode. 

My lovely husband tried to reassure me that it was probably just a sprain.  That just made me mad! "What are we going to do?", I wailed (literally) at him in the van on the way to my doctor's appointment.

It really was broken.  Getting my shoe on was almost impossible.  And walking really hurt.  Did I say really loud enough?

The good news was that the break was clean, the toe wasn't in any way out of alignment and it should heal very nicely.  If I kept it up and iced regularly over the weekend I could get back to driving my car by Monday or Tuesday and regular non-impact activity by Wednesday (although, no Jazzercise or running for 4-6 weeks).  They didn't even need to splint or 'buddy tape' it.  Whew.

I was relieved but still frustrated.  How on earth was I going to get done everything I needed to accomplish by September 17th (my next deadline) and how were we going to run the kids around as needed with only one driver? 

Add into this that my car has been quitting on my at unexpected moments and the mechanics can't figure out what is going on and that my son fell, sliced his lip open and chipped a tooth as we were on our way out the door to our anniversary 'weekend', and I was seriously feeling overwhelmed and definitely sorry for myself.

As I lay on the couch with my foot up and a bag of frozen peas camped out on top of it, I decided to write up a list of things that I could do that didn't require standing, first, and that didn't require much motion, second. 

Um, guess what. 

Most of the things I needed to do fell on that list.  Reading? Yep. Scheduling appointments? Yep. Transcript work? Yep.  Sorting and filing? Yep. Ironing? Yep, though not right away.  Filling out paperwork? Yep.  Paper writing? Yep. Course planning? Yep.  Sewing two quilt tops for Lutheran World Relief? Yep, though, again, not right away.  Running my kids places? Yep, though not right away.  Play some games, watch a movie, read to and sign with my kids? Yep.


I realized that I had so very much to be thankful for - no missed work without pay because of my injury, my children and husband will not starve, or go naked, or have a lack of clean water because I can't walk for a couple days, and I really have an awful lot I can do.  So I started making a list of what I was going to do this week. 

I also realized something else.

That something else is this: When I don't get things done, I rarely have anyone or anything to blame but myself.  Or conversely, I'm just being lazy.

I've been suffering from such an "I don't wanna" attitude for so long now that I didn't even realize it until now.  Looking at what I can do rather than what I can't made the difference.

I tend to get overwhelmed by the volume of things I have to do.  I tend to over analyze things rather than actually do them - convinced that I just have to find the best way of doing it first.  I've convinced myself that I just need to take a little break and read a book, read the same blog entry yet again, or that I need another snack or drink before I can continue.  And I don't get things done. 

I put all that behind me and looked at what I can do rather than what I can't do or don't know how to do (yet!). 

And boy has it made the difference in what I've gotten done since Saturday!  I've cleaned out 2 1/2 rooms, gotten my course materials for the course I'm teaching this fall put together, finishing going through one more transcript (the longest one yet!), spent time reading and playing board games with my kids, completely rearranged the family room (with help from John and the kids), sent what seems like a million emails, worshiped, sung songs, read 2 books, made 10 meals, and had an at-home date with John. 

And you know what? It feels great.  I even revamped my exercise routine for this 4-6 weeks as well - and I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Yes, I realize it's too soon to know if it will last permanently.  But I think it will.

Looking at what I can do rather than what I can't made all the difference.

What more can I ask for?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Super Savings Saturday - $70 restock

I have another three picture stock up run to show you today! Even more impressive - John took the kids and did this himself! Since I have this darn broken toe and it still needs to be elevated and iced, John had to brave the stores with kiddos in tow by himself. He did a great job!

A couple of the deals weren't the greatest, but we were out (oatmeal for one example) and I felt we
needed to get some in spite of no sale or not good sales. We did up the stock on meat and bought laundry detergent, milk, and juice. My plan is to put together menus for 2 weeks from this and what we have and then only buy milk and fill in some fruit on the $10 we have for the second week.

Here's what we bought:

Store #1: Total spent: $6.06
3 boxes Kraft Mac & Cheese @ $0.69 = $2.07
2 lbs green grapes $4.99 - $1 coupon = $3.99
Total Saved at store #1: $1

Store #2: Total Spent: $37.44
1 Betty Crocker Whipped Frosting $1
1 Betty Crocker White Cake Mix $0.75 - $0.75 coupon = Free
Cascadian Farms Cereal $3 - $0.75 = $2.25
2 Arm and Hammer Laundry detergent @ 2.99 ea = $5.98 - $1 coupon = $4.98
6 Progresso World Recipe Canned Soups @ $1 ea = $6 - $1.50 in coupons = $4.50
2 1lb Land O' Frost Sliced Lunch Meat BOGO @ $4.99 - $1 coupon = $3.99
1 Gold n' Plumb 56oz Chicken Thighs $3.99 - $1 coupon = $2.99
2 1lb No Name Bacon BOGO @4.99 = $4.99
3.44lb Peaches @ $0.98/lb = $3.37
1 large Cantaloupe $1.50
2 Bags Fresh Express Salad @ $1.50ea = $3
1 bag Frigo Swirl String Cheese $2.99 - $0.50 coupon = $2.49
Yoplait Delights Chocolate Strawberry 4pack yogurt $2 - $0.50 = $1.50
Total saved: $24.11

Store #3: Total Spent: $25.41
2 64oz Store Brand 100% Apple Juice BOGO @ $2.69 = $2.69
Store Brand Baking Powder $1.56
Quaker Quick Cook Oatmeal (the large box) $3.57
Ronzoni Smart Taste Spaghetti $1.25 - $1 coupon = $0.25
2 approx 2lb Hormel Pork Fillets BOGO @ $10.42 = $10.42 - $1 coupon = $9.42
Grape Tomatoes $1.50
1 lb Strawberries $1.50
Smart Balance Spread $2.79
1 gallon Kemps Skim Milk $3.79
Total Saved: $18.48

Not too bad, I think. I spent $68.91 and saved $43.59.

I think we're set for meat for a while now too since we had chicken and shrimp in our freezer
from before and Mom and Dad bought us fish and beef. Check out our menu plan on Monday to see what we're eating this week.

For more shopping inspiration see Money Saving Mom!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life Happens

So I had all these fabulous posts planned - and some even half-written - about making memories rather than buying things and how to do a couple of things and a couple of projects I'd started on.

We were out of town from Saturday evening until Tuesday night (and had a wonderful time, I might add!) and then I spent Wednesday and yesterday trying to frantically do a couple of things for school so that I can meet the next deadline.

Fortunately, I got those school things done.

Why? Because yesterday evening I walked smack into the runner for our very large, very old, very heavy, wooden rocking chair in our living room.

And broke my toe and sprained a good chunk of my right foot.

Don't ask me how. It makes no sense to me because I was just walking.

So now I'm stuck at home, unable to drive my car, walk any distance or climb stairs for about a week. UGH.

Well, life happens.

And I did want some time to do some concentrated reading for school.
And go through a bunch of old papers that I had in the filing cabinet.
And read with my kids this weekend.

Since I can't do the other things I had planned to do this weekend, I guess I have that time to do those.

So I'll sit here with my foot propped up on pillows with ice on it, read my book and try to not be so frustrated with my life in general.

And be very grateful that my children are 5 years old and can basically take care of themselves. And that I don't absolutely have to do anything in particular this weekend.

What more can I ask for?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kid Funny

The kids were playing in our family room downstairs and I was in the kitchen at the top of the stairs when I heard this shouted at the top of the lungs:

"We're almost there, Dinosaur!"

How often do you hear that?

What more can I ask for?

Work Home and Family - Deliberately Slow Moments

One of the things that really hit me during our vacation a couple weeks ago was that we rarely take time to slow down and just be.

So, I decided to do something about that!

With John and I both in school and working it's challenging. And I means I have to be deliberate about things more than some other people who's lives are more relaxed to begin with. I've been reading a blog that chronicles people's daily lives and I'm amazed at how little people seem to do. Of course, if I wrote down what I do all day, it would seem less than I actually do as well, so I'm sure their days are more full than they seem on paper. It still made me think that maybe, just maybe, I'm doing too much.

Part of me responds to that by saying "Duh! Of course you are doing too much!" And part of me just cringes at the thought.

You see, I'm a bit of a type A personality - always on the go, needing people and activities to keep my mind focused and interested. I always have goals to reach and things to strive for. On top of that I was taught from the time I was little that you don't want to be idle - that idleness leads to bad influences and then bad decisions and behaviors. Don't worry, I'm not saying I can't read a book (heaven knows I read a lot) or spend time simply enjoying my children (that's a necessity!). It does mean that just watching a TV show each week just to watch it isn't really something I feel comfortable doing. Same thing with random net surfing (Swagbucks is frustrating for me since it takes literally months to mass enough to get a $5 Amazon gift card!).

Slowing down however and taking the time to be in the moment, something we did a lot of when I was growing up, is something I (and our whole family) have gotten out of the habit of doing.

I made some changes at work and school. Work on one project at a time. Only 3 email checks per day (that's the hard one!). I also met with my advisor and wrote out a timeline and a priority list. I only have two 'priority' projects on my list between now and August 13. That feels like such a relief! And it gives me wiggle room if something 'urgent' comes up. It struck me while reading about other people's lives on that blog I mentioned earlier that each of them seem to have one or two bigger things per day they work on and that's it. It's helping me be more productive and relaxed at the same time! I love it.

The other day I took a few minutes and wrote out a list of free things to do that are more 'in the moment' than what I usually do with the kids and with John. John and I are pretty good about taking our half hour each evening to be together and talk as well as making our weekly date night (mostly at home dates) a priority. The kids are another story!

Here's a couple of the things on the list for John:
* house hunt on line and dream (we're 4+ years away from a new home, but it's still fun!)
* look at our wedding album, our college albums or something like that. Giggle.
* read a book out loud together
* play a long board game (like Trivial Pursuit) together and talk
* sit by the fire pit and watch the sparks, hold hands and talk (this one's my favorite)

Here's a couple of things on the list for the kids:
* make a blanket tent and read books inside together
* play a long game of hide and seek
* have a picnic on a blanket in the back yard
* find bugs with the bug finder and count how many legs they have
* follow a rainbow
* take a walk together at the park (we have one a block from our house with a lovely walking path and a pond and a small foot bridge - oh, and lots of ducks!)
* feed the ducks and giggle at their antics
* take silly pictures of each other and email them to Grandma and Grandpa
An my favorite on the kids' list: eat a Popsicle together on the front steps and watch the traffic go by.

We've done a lot of eating Popsicles with the weather being hot and sticky here the last few days. And I've loved every minute of it. Especially hearing the things the kids think about! And exclamations like "Look Mom! An orange car! Can we get a orange car?" It's a hoot.

And I come away feeling excited about my life and refreshed in general.

And it really doesn't take that much time. I have found that 15 minutes slowing down and spending mindful, deliberate time, just begin with my family is worth its weight in gold and then some.

How do you deliberately slow down? I'd love to hear.