Thursday, November 29, 2012

THESE days and THESE kids.

Around 12:40 yesterday my youngest, at all of 18 months old, fell onto our wooden baseboard and gashed her forehead open. The scene was not pretty. Bloody toddler head, terrified older sister watching, crying momma trying so hard to pull it all together. I have already been feeling neck deep in life. Our home feels like chaos - with toys and Christmas decor and dirty things here and there. We got home from our T-giving trip on Sunday, hubs preached that night, and it's been non stop since. My head is spinning. And now the gashed baby forehead.

So, little one and I spent the next 3 hours driving from home to Urgent Care to ER and then back home. 3 stitches later... she'll be just fine. {I'm still kissing her a million times after watching all of that} Now I have to clean it twice a day and make sure she keeps her band aid on. Lovely. Because that is so easy with toddlers. :) I am praising the Lord that although it was scary, it was just a laceration. Passing the other ER rooms caused my heart to feel heavy as I watched momma after momma holding very sick and injured children. Kiss and hug your babies today! Praise God for healthy kids!

Buried. Yes, that's an adequate description of how I am feeling.

More to do in a day then there's time for, more needs then I can deal with. And sometimes that's just how life goes. And that's when we lean heavy on the arms of Jesus. When we cry in the shower and tell our God just exactly how much we need Him. He already knows and always meets me where I am. This morning it was in a phone call from my husband, just calling to say he loved me and had been praying for me.
Because I need prayer. My attitude and love levels are low. Self control and patience are hiding in a corner somewhere, probably buried beneath toys and half put up Christmas decorations. And I keep needing a "break", but what I am even doing that causes me to feel like I need a break?!

It dawned on me over lunch that this temptation to freak out and become the grinch hits me every year at this time. My inward desire to make everything "perfect" and the reality of an imperfect, sin cursed world, collide.  Leaving me longing for perfection and disappointed at reality. And to be honest - I have a pretty great reality here in our home. It's just these kids need so much... and these days are so difficult, sometimes.

And the baby forehead was just the straw that broke the camels back.

But, ya know...
I realize how quickly the days pass. And I know I have a choice to make each moment. Rejoice and give thanks or furrow the brow and make everyone else miserable. And only one of those honors God - and it's not the latter. So today as I tidy up and scrub one more dish and sweep the floor for the eleventy-millionth time - I will be thankful and I will be aware that the temptation to freak out is real, but,  that I have a choice in the matter.

That is all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

4 days left in Nov.

{kitchen decor this year}
Ah, nap time. My girls are down, and Harry Connick Jr and I are sitting here taking a quick break. And of course by that I mean... thank you Spotify for such a great variety of Christmas music! :) I recommend this one - though, admittedly, it is cheesy and not totally focused on the TRUE meaning of this season. But still, it's Harry. What a voice. :)
And, since I'm recommending things. I'll also throw this idea out there. I've been listening to it regularly and pretending I live in the country, in a big ol' log cabin {without the work}, complete with snow outside. 
I was able to put out more Christmas decorations yesterday - and get a lot of our laundry done. Still more to do, of course, but several stacks put away! Woot! I'm sitting here looking at the calendar and I cannot believe it's the last week of November. Why is life going so fast?  Our lives are so full of so many good things and I wouldn't change a thing - but, part of me feels a little sad to see my babies bigger, my face older, the days passing. 

But enough of that. 4 days left. Spend them wisely. :) 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unpacking Thanksgiving

You know those golden moments in motherhood where you just seem to have it all together, everyone is on time, you remember everything you were supposed to, life just seems smooth as silk? That was NOT how my Monday began. {grin}I had high hopes of getting our morning errands done, a quick 18 month well child visit for the Augs, and then coming home to light my Christmas candle, get this place cleaned up and just enjoy a calm Monday post-traveling. This was not to be. {grin again...}

The girls and I got out of the house an hour before we needed to be at the Peds for Auggie's appointment. I was feeling impressed with myself, to be honest. Everyone was happy and dressed and basically content. I turned off the van in the Target parking lot, got the girls out, locked the doors, and then closed them. Only then did I realize that A) I left my purse in the van B) The purse held my keys and C) My phone was there on the seat, near the purse which held the keys. THANK THE LORD I GOT MY CHILDREN OUT FIRST! We went inside where I asked to use a public phone, and was told Target didn't have a public phone. So I pleaded my case and the lovely customer service rep was a great help and let me use the non-public phone. :) In a weird turn of events... my hubby just happened to be working at the Starbucks IN the Target we were at. I had no idea! He was able to help me out and get us all unlocked, etc. So thankful for that. Our hour was quickly passing now so I quick grabbed what we needed and back out the door we went. I don't know where time seems to go in these moments...but, we ended up only getting two of our errands done before we needed to go.

August had her 18 month appointment today. She is still completely shrimpy short in the whopping 21st percentile for height. Her weight seems to have leveled out in the 60-ish percentile and her head wins the trophy at 98%! Little big head :) After one shot, a finger prick lead check, and two band aids later - we made it out. Now I have two children in bed and an entire house that needs some sort of work. Mounds {literally} of laundry, piles of papers to sort, a calendar to straighten out, and finish putting up Christmas decor. All this said - it's GOOD to be home!

We had a great time in Michigan visiting with our dear family. Instead of going through every detail I'll share a few photo highlights from the week. We already miss everyone and feel especially blessed to know what a great family we have.

Some crazy fog on the way to MI. I guess Davenport, IA had 0% visibility in some places. Yikes!
The view we had every day while at our home for the week - Miracle Camp! 
Woody and Spider girl - just being cousins. :) They were loving time together. 
Tub time in the camp sink. 
Freezing at the zip line. It was snowing!!! And, if you didn't read my post about it - our crazy 3 year old did it by herself TWICE!
The HUGE double-decker carousel at the Mall was tons of fun for the kids! 

We celebrated J's soon to be 3rd birthday and A's soon to 4th birthday on our last night together.
We truly do give thanks for traveling safety, wonderful family, and just the everyday blessings that life brings us from the Lord!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Letting go.

Here we are in the state of Michigan visiting with family and enjoying some good ol' downtime. It has been lovely and we are blessed to be related to such wonderful people. :)

Yesterday was zip line day. All the teens and adults who wanted a turn harnessed up and waited in line. It was then that my 3 year old began to beg for her turn. "are you kidding me?" I thought to myself and began to look at the man running the show for him to say no. This would be our out. I'm sorry,  Honey, the man says you are too little...maybe another year. And then, that same man looks at her and says, "did you want to try it?". Gasp! But...but...she's only 3 you see. Granted, she looks older and is bigger - but, still 3.

So she got harnessed in and we were sent up the tower. In my mind I just kept thinking that of course she would freak out at the top and change her mind. She is only 3. But we kept going up and up, another level and then another. And then we made it to the top.
The man asked me to help hook her up to the line - and I kind of felt sick. I kept asking if she changed her mind, did she want to head back down? Are you sure?! She was fearless. She had no expression and even said a "moooom" when I kept asking if she was ok.
Once all was ready the man asked me to let go of her. LET GO. I couldn't do it. I kept hold of that harness and he just about had to pry it out of my hand - and then she smiled, and jumped out. And...she's 3 and my heart is racing and I'm watching her go. She's smiling the whole way, as if she's been zip lining her entire life. I mumbled some nervous one liner about how "momma has a lot to learn about letting go..." and the man acknowledged what a feat this must have been... for me. {blush}

She made it down. And after I hugged her and checked her out...she asked to go again. And I think I looked at her with total confusion. And then... I let her go. And my momma heart learned more then one thing that day. But, that's a whole other post.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday - Thanksgiving Week!

It's the week of Thanksgiving! Are we ready fellow homemakers? :) I have it easy {again} this year - we are traveling and most of the meal will be prepared by my mother in law. I hope to help out, but, I've still never made my own entire Thanksgiving meal. Have never baked a turkey. A very sweet lady from church offered to teach me sometime... and I just might take her up on that post-holiday time :) 
We have a busy day today getting everything ready to go for our 7 1/2 hour drive north east tomorrow. Hubs is working on the oil change in his car, I'm packing suitcases, pack n' plays, etc. We can't wait to hug family and spend time together. 

The Weather:::
It's seriously back in the 60's here. Bizarre. A friend on FB commented this morning, "Feels like the first day of Spring outside." When we get back from traveling... I'm dreamin' of a white winter! 

Right now I am:::
Sipping the rest of my cuppa Blonde roast with peppermint mocha creamer. 

How is this house always so messy right before a big trip?! 
And, what am I forgetting to pack?

On my reading pile:::
-Finishing up my "The Wisdom of God" by Nancy Guthrie for tomorrows last bible study. Song of Solomon.
-Will start the "God's and Kings" series this week while on break. 
-Christmas cook books

On my TV:::
Girls are watching Daniel Tiger for 30 minutes.
Hallmark Christmas movies have been on - and I've been enjoying this mushy, sappy, Hallmark-ness. 

On the menu this week:::
Tonight we'll have whatever I can whip up from the freezer/cupboards. Then, THANKSGIVING food all week :) 

On my to do list:::
-Put Christmas decor back in bins {my girls were going crazy - see yesterdays post!}
-make lists! 

What I am creating:::
Spent most of the afternoon working on a dining room centerpiece for Christmas. It's a mish-mash of things homemade and bought. Maybe I'll share a pic next month :) Basically, all creativity is being focused on how to decorate. I'm learning. 

Homemaking tips:::
I keep hearing how amazing the Dawn dish soap/vinegar shower cleaning recipe is. Anyone tried it? It was on pinterest and I have heard one lady after another rave about it. Need to try it out! It's half vinegar, half dish soap mixed into one of those scrub wands for dishes. Sounds easy, cheap and thorough! 
Keep one in the shower filled with a mixture of half vinegar and half Dawn dishsoap. Use it to wipe down the shower while you are in there and your shower will always be clean.  Must try this!

Looking around the house:::
Much to do. Let's just say that. 

From the camera:::
My slug bug. This little one is just a cuddly, laid back, sack of potatoes most mornings. I love it. 

On my prayer list:::
Safety while traveling in hubbys car tomorrow. Our family van needs 4 new tires and some general maintenance so we are going this route. Admittedly, I'm nervous. No DVD player, squished insides, small vehicle. We'll see. Praying! 

Bible verse, Devotional:::
Need to finish my chapter on Song of Solomon...but, loving the reminder of how God intended us to enjoy our spouses. Amen! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Decorating with Children.

First, disclaimer! If you are looking for a practical, helpful, well worded, blog post on how to incorporate your young children in decorating for the Christmas season... SKIP THIS ONE.

I had the brilliant idea of using our time this weekend to pull out the Christmas decor and begin setting things out, beautifying our home, and teaching my small, dear, ones the TRUE meaning of it all. Doesn't that sound lovely and perfectly domestic?! :) There's something precious about watching a baby's reaction to their first exposure to twinkling lights, or a 3 year old girls curiosity in the Nativity. Priceless! So, up came the bins from the basement, off came the lids, and out came... well, I'll just let you see what has happened in the span of one day.

And, from another angle...
 Lastly, to include even more of the true disaster...

Needless to say - Christmas decorating has turned into...something else entirely. At one point my big girl had Nativity characters, the Nutcracker, and her baby dolls all lined up together for a jolly good time, I'm sure. The one year old thinks the basket of shiny ornaments are for her personal pitching practice. On the upside, her aim is getting better ;) When she's not chucking "balls" all over the place, she's grabbing the things from the autumn decor bins and mixing them in with the Christmas stuff. I'm sure in her mind she's helping.

Some good did come from the experience.
I got the stockings hung! And, some porch lights put out to sparkle at all of 4:30pm when it's pitch black here. I was able to whip up a center piece for the dining room and got most of the autumn decor pulled down from all over.
In all seriousness. It's complete chaos in my living room, as you saw. But the thing is - and maybe it's the most important - it has been so much FUN with my children. They are laughing, smiling and having amazing pretend. "Mommy, this pine cone is the daddy." {in the "family" of pine cones}

Ava is watching as I plan and place things around the house. She was given the task of decorating our small, plastic, tree in the dining room - and she's taking that very seriously. Every bulb has to be perfectly placed. I'm impressed at her attentiveness to it! A few times I've heard her echo things I had said to her earlier about "taking care" or "being very gentle".  August, well, she's 18 months old and just a whirlwind right now. But she's loving all the color and her sisters excitement. :) And this is what it's all about. We prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior and King, Jesus! That is something to get excited about every year.

So, maybe this was a good idea, after all ;)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oh Goodness, Goodwill. Sweet finds on a Saturday.

Saturday. Our morning started with pancakes, cups of milk, hot coffee and yummy peppermint mocha creamer {which, Aldi now carries!}. What a sweet time these days are. So much noise. So much urgency. Still, so sweet. 

I'm minutes away from pulling out my Christmas bins from the basement. Hubs gave the green light to decorate before we leave on our Thanksgiving trip, so the house will be all ready when we get home. :) This is new, and exciting! I'm still not entirely sure what direction I'm going in each room - but, I'm looking forward to going through each bin and just savoring the memories. My girls should make this process super interesting, too.

This morning included a quick trip to my local Goodwill. I was hoping to score a basket that I noticed last time I was there - but, skipped. It was gone today :( of course. But, I did find a few others jewels - which I will be sharing with you today.
Item #1 - wooden toolbox {handmade with Carpenters Union stamp on the bottom}
I have wanted one of these for a very long time. There are so many cute things you can do with them... and I love the "old timey" look of a wooden toolbox. I dunno, a metal craftsman box just doesn't have the same effect. ;) Pinterest had a few ideas on what to do with it - but, I'm thinking of spray painting it black, then red, then distressing it so the black cracks through a bit. Then I'll fill it with Christmas bulbs, pine cones, or something festive. :) Woot! Oh, and, it's was $2!

Item(s) #2 - Noritake saucers
Next month, as I've mentioned, I'm decorating a table for our ladies Christmas event at church. I already had my 8 white/silver plates and mugs - but could not find affordable saucers to go with. I happened to stumble across these guys at .79/piece. Didn't realize they were NORITAKE until I got home. The website shows them being about $33/piece. {cough, cough} Seriously. Good find. Might need to find some money from the girls piggy banks and go get the rest of the set.

Item(s) #3 - Clothes.
I still get a little silly about second hand clothes. If it smells funny, it's out. If it hangs weird, out. Etc. But I have been so surprised to find amazing clothing lately at the Goodwill. And for $3ish a piece, it's a deal. I found these two today.
The cardigan is brand new. Merona brand and will look great (I hope) with one of my cream scarves and jeans for a casual look. The gray shirt {Mossimo}, which I loved, bummed me out by being a little too small. Ok, a lot. Apparently I really cannot pull off the "skinny" look. {blush} I did some major underestimating on myself today while at the store. So, anyone need an adorable gray and white striped shirt? I'll gladly give it to you :) And then stare at you every time you wear it. Kidding!

That was the Goodwill trip. I could tell you about the other zillion things I saw that made me say, "oh, that's cute", or along those lines. But, I'll let you check it out yourself.

My ending thought is -
I hate dieting. I hate watching what I eat. It's so boring. And since I had to end my WW membership {to save $} I have not been doing well with weight stuff. That said - THIS magazine has been encouraging lately. I started a free subscription {for taking a survey online} and the recipes are fun, the ideas are fun, it's just fun! Maybe if I heeded some of the articles and workouts that gray shirt wouldn't be a problem. Ugh.
Good day, all!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a mommy who needed a time out. Right at the very moments that her children needed her the most... she was impatient, rough, and voicing frustration. You know, the very things she had been training her children NOT to do that very morning. Upon putting her babes down for a very quick nap, after a very disastrous few minutes, she sat back and realized how very dependent she was on the Lord's Grace, Mercy and Love in her life. And how she has some forgiveness to ask for when the babes wake.

True story. My day thus far. :(

6:30 my littlest girl woke up and needed some cuddle time. We snuggled in my bed until the sun came up and she just enjoys laying right near me, cozy, warm, with her momma. Tho, I think I love it a little more then she. :) Once we made our way downstairs the rest of the family joined us the chaos began. Breakfast, make coffee, check the planner {did I miss paying a bill, again?!}, get everyone dressed, get ready, get set, go. Play date time! But, before we even make it out the door I hear crying from another room. Daddy's birthday balloon had been used as a weapon and upon entering the room I see the older guilty party looking at me, mouth gaping, with the knowing she was in trouble. After dealing with the situation - I really didn't understand why the little was reacting this way to a silly helium balloon bouncing on her head. It is just a light, little, balloon. On and on she wept - rubbing her eye - and the tears just fell. My mom mind took this as an up too late night before, teething 18 month old, ending a cold... over dramatic. Right?

We load into the van and everyone is now excited about our play time at a friends house. Oldest reminds me of all the toys her friend has to play with, and little one, though still rubbing her eye, seems to be enjoying the Christmas music playing on the radio. We'd be OK. A few minutes into our play time - and half a cup of coffee finished - the tears start to fall again from my babe. She's just rubbing the eye and snotting and crying. I look at the eye and it's a little puffy, a little tear filled, goopy maybe. The tears turn into screaming and she appears to be angry or in pain - but because she can't tell me... I'm bouncing, shushing, rocking, and trying to distract. Nothing is working.

She needs me to know what she wants. And all I can think of is... I was really looking forward to having a conversation with my friends today. {hmph}

A call to the pediatrician and further inspection of the eye show that she might have a cut on it, from the balloon string. Which, infuriates me, and makes me frown at my 3 year old. She knows better! And why do they always wait until we are out of the room to pull these shenanigans?! Then came the melt down and screaming when it was time to leave. Even though we talked about this before we got there. She rehearsed the lines, " I promise I will not scream when you say its time to go". Lies. 3 year old lies. So we scramble and tidy up and load up children, gulp down the last drink of now cold coffee, forget the shoes... just get to the van! And inside I'm pouting about my missed conversation time, my needy children, and this cut in the eye that must be seen by a doctor right at 1:40 - the middle of nap time. So we drive home and the van is quiet because I won't let anyone talk, and by now I'm mad. I'm mad about screaming disobedience, balloon strings cutting baby eyes, and even more mad at how selfish I feel at this moment. In my children's moments of greatest need - I fail. I can't pull up the patience. I can't find the well of humility and tenderness. Even when my big girl is saying, "but I'm sorry Mommy". I nod and say "I forgive you", but still feel grumpy.

In 20 minutes I'll wake them both back up. A measly hour nap for the littlest {normally 3 to 4}, and.. yep, the oldest is still over there awake in her bed. So, no nap for her. I already dread the drive, the waiting room, the doctor prodding into the 18 month old eye.

And yet, strangely, I wouldn't change this for anything. I have so much to learn. And these children are part of my refining. They were made for me. I can choose to have joy, and keep on giving, and have a good attitude and fish up more mercy... because it's already been given to me. And this selfish ache in my heart is a choice. I can focus on myself or I can focus on Christ, on truth, on the need of the now. So I'm trying. I'm fighting for it and I won't give up - because these babies are worth it and ultimately my savior is worth it. So I  fight. Not with a sword but with my heart - it's deceitful and it thinks today is all about me.

On days like today I'm so thankful that I know this story of life has a happy ending, for those who know Him. In the meantime... pray for my wee one, her eye, and that some miraculous healing happened during her puny little nap?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

{ All things Autumn }

(picture courtesy of
My favorite season continues on here in our home. We still have our fall decor out, lots of reds and oranges and browns everywhere. My burlap candy corn garland hangs in the dining room and we have a basket of mini pumpkins on the kitchen table. It's my favorite season - and we always squeeze every moment out of it. This weekend we will begin to tear some things down and switch out to... Christmas. I'm not one to like to start this early, but, with a trip to Michigan nearly all next week - it will be nice to come home to an already Christmasy home. :) {except for our REAL tree..that will come later}

This morning the girls and I kept busy doing all things in the kitchen. Mind you, this was not my first intention. To be perfectly honestly I was very tempted to pop on some cartoons, let them veg out, and I would get to work on my endless amount of kitchen cleaning, etc. I have many things I hope to get done before we leave next week - and, having 2 underfoot was not going smoothly. Biggest girl was whining and melting down every time her baby Cinderella doll's tiara came off, littlest was definitely antagonizing and getting into everything, I was going crazy and feeling like a preschool teacher in my own home. {blah} And then, like always, it dawned on me - "You dummy! This is what it's all about!". I'm always looking for ways to teach and train my little girls, so how do I always miss the obvious!?

So, I brought in our largest pumpkin from the front porch. My big girl and I cut it open and I scooped out all the seeds. She was infatuated with watching me. I just giggled as I listened to her comments about the smell, how it looked, etc. Such a girly! I taught her about soaking the seeds in salt water, and how tomorrow we'll bake up a treat with them. And now the anticipation is there. While we were working on pumpkin harvesting {grin}, my little was busy stacking plastic cups on the floor. She was happy and so were we. The Nutcracker was playing in the background. :) After the pumpkin was done I got the big girl working on some "school". We haven't officially started preschool yet {that will be in Jan.} but she is so eager. A little too eager. So, I grabbed a special black marker and one of our Dollar Tree preschool workbooks and she plugged away on tracing her numbers. FLEW through it. I was amazed at how quietly she sat and how focused she was the entire time. She is brilliant and I can't wait to start the real deal the first of the year!

While she worked I roasted some acorn squash for my lunch, and got out all of our Thanksgiving cookie cutters for our afternoon activity. The rest of our morning went so smoothly and I had to remind myself of how much joy and calm my children find in organization and involvement. I love being home with these girls, they inspire me and teach me so much. So thankful for these crazy days with my young children.

All things Autumn here :) 
And loving these special days of making our house a home. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday

I woke early this morning and made my way downstairs for some quiet time in the Word. It was still dark and our furnace was running - otherwise, there were no sounds. Lovely. I was surprised to find my husband asleep on our couch... that never happens. He mumbled something about our big girl having a bad dream and then he fell back to sleep. Weird. I didn't hear anything. Thankful for a hubby who wakes to care for our children and let's momma rest even if its just for a little while. :)

This weekend was jam packed full and I'm actually looking forward to a laid back Monday. Sure, I have loads of laundry and housework to do - but, that's why I'm home. :) Friday afternoon I headed up to Rochester, MN for the "Hearts at Home" conference with several ladies from church. It was a refreshing and really enjoyable time! While there I got to sit under the teaching of several amazing women of God - Michelle Duggar, probably being my favorite. I just love that family, and, now that I've met them... they are LEGIT! The real deal. I'm hoping to do a specific post about the things I learned later...They love Jesus and their family - and it is so apparent. I returned from the conference very late Saturday night - and then Sunday was my hubby's 29th birthday. So between morning and evening church services, birthday shopping, and a birthday party for him after our evening service... I was exhausted. {and, I may have watched a few minutes of the Breaking Amish reunion...weird.}

It's 8:08 and my entire clan is still asleep - so, let's see if I can get my whole post on :)

The weather:::
 It was 28 last night :) And I'm not sure what today holds, but, I saw SNOW flakes at one point yesterday. Very exciting for this lady!

Right now I am:::
Sitting on the couch watching a cute hubby sleep. This is rare and I'm savoring it.

 I'd really like some coffee - but, I'm afraid to move, it might wake someone up :)
Also, still just so thankful for all of the practical things I learned this weekend at the Hearts at Home conf.

On my reading pile:::
Bible study in Ecclesiastes.
And... just downloaded for FREE on my nook, "Gods and Kings" book one. Really eager to jump in! It's a historical fiction based on the OT kings. Here's what Amazon says, "Gods and Kings is the story of King Hezekiah, heir to the throne of King David. When his evil father plots to sacrifice him, Hezekiah's mother, Abijah, searches frantically for a way to save him. But only two men can help her, and neither of them seems trustworthy. In a time and place engulfed by violence, treachery, and infidelity to Yahweh, Abijah and her son must discover the one true Source of strength if they are to save themselves and their country. Book 1 of Chronicles of the Kings."

On my TV:::
Off. It's quiet. :)
When the girls wake up we'll probably watch a few cartoons.

On the menu for this week:::
Monday - Taco soup {leftover from bday party}or...put that in a tortilla = burritos!
For the rest of the week I'm thinking of trying another "survivor week" and just using up what we have around the kitchen. Trying to save $ for our Thanksgiving trip!

On my to do list:::
-Sign up for the "No More Perfect Moms" challenge that starts in January!
-mop kitchen floor
-make beds
-dust bedrooms
-vacuum living room
-relist some things on Craigslist

What I am creating:::
In the process of bookmarking ideas for Christmas gifts. Thinking of doing a lot of gifts in a jar and other things similar. :)
This weekend my biggest girl and I will be making foam place mats for the cousins @ Thanksgiving dinner! Michael's has large foam rectangles and adorable T-giving themed foam stickers.. she is going to LOVE that craft!

Homemaking Tips:::
WHEN I stick to it - having a written out cleaning schedule really helps. I have specifics for each day, a daily list, a monthly list and a weekly list. For example: Daily would include - make beds, tidy bedrooms, bathroom, empty/load dishwasher. Monthly has - wipe down light switches, organize linen closet, etc. Weekly has - wipe down woodwork, empty upstairs trash cans. :) It hits all the things I can't remember regularly. My specific days of the week look like this:
Monday - Dust bedrooms, Laundry, vacuum bedrooms and hall
Tuesday - Bath tub, organize closets
Wednesday - Vacuum downstairs & couch, organize paperwork
Thursday - Wipe down windows and TV, dust downstairs, mop linoleum
Friday - Clean fridge, home inventory {what do we need around here?}
Saturday - Tidy outdoor spaces, lay out sunday clothes, sunday dinner prep
*some days will have more work then others, especially when things align and I'm doing bath tub scrubbing, linen closet organizing, wood work cleaning and my dailies on the same day :/ But, it makes the next day just as wonderful with a lighter load.

Looking around the house:::
It's afternoon now. Kiddos are asleep and I have Christmas music playing :) My bedroom needs some attention -  but the sunshine {although its freezing out} and remaining pot of coffee are distracting me :)

From the Camera:::
Photo: Wonderful people :) So glad to have finally met them!
Yep! I met them! A wonderful, godly couple who are earnestly seeking to put the Lord first in life - and love on their children :) I'm completely blown away by how personal and real they are. Thankful for the chance to meet them. {gush gush gush} And, never mind how totally exhausted I was {and looked!}after waiting 2 hours in line! You are loved, Duggars!

On my prayer list:::
At the Hearts at Home conference I picked up a Mom's prayer journal and began using it today. It has a section for husband, children, self, friends, pastors/leaders, etc. Praying for my hubby, children, and two friends today - new pregnancy for one {yay!} and family issues for the other. I love the "answers" section in the back of the journal - and looking forward to recording what God does in each situation.

Bible Verse, devotional:::
In Prov. 12 today and being reminded the value of our words. Each one counts! And some even bring gladness - Vs. 25: "Anxiety in the heart of man brings depression, but a good word makes it glad!".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hearts at Home... {squeal}

Hearts at Home - Bloomington, IL
Yeeeeeee! Tomorrow is the day! Myself, along with several other women from church are loading up a van and heading to MN for the Hearts at Home conference. :) I've never been able to go and have always wanted to. SUCH a treat for this Momma! I applied and got the scholarship, which was a huge blessing, and now I can't wait to just sit and drink it all in.

Perhaps I'm most excited about sitting under this gals wisdom, even for just a session or so. :)
I'm a fan of their show and just really value the bits and pieces that I have heard her speak on, about raising children, and the value of capturing your children's hearts. I have much to learn! 

And, let's be honest...
A van ride, a hotel stay, and a conference all with friends. I'm practically giddy for some girl time :) 
Here's to a fantastic weekend, challenged hearts, and memories made! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

.Think happy thoughts.

Happy Tuesday from Iowa. November 6th. Election day here in America. The children and I went to the polls after bible study this morning and it was quick and painless! Feels good to be a part of something that men & women long ago {and currently} gave their lives for. Now we wait to see what happens... and honestly, I don't know if it's just because I'm not a politics buff or what - but, I'm not concerned. The Lord reigns and He knows exactly what He's doing. Rest in that friends. Do your part, then rest. :)

It's a happy type of day around here. Most days are I suppose - but, I'm feeling so thankful and happy to be home and enjoying life. I took a few minutes earlier just to walk around our home and just be THANKFUL. Above is one of my smile makers. This spot by my kitchen sink - a fave verse framed. Owl craft made by my little girl. Fall flowers from my hubby. :) It's in the simple times and moments when I'm washed over by just how fortunate and loved I am by my God. And even if all these pretty things weren't here... I am still loved.

Our cable tv has a Christmas music station, so I have that going and it's been a peaceful afternoon. Hot mug of Colombian coffee with Peppermint Mocha creamer sits here with me. The girls are napping and the laundry is washing and so I snagged a few minutes to look at ideas on Pinterest. We have a ladies event coming up at church called REJOICE. It's a wonderful night of music, good food, fellowship and great encouragement about what Christmas is all about. This will be my 3rd year decorating a table for the event - and, I couldn't be more excited! {which, is thrilling considering my lack of decorating skill} You laugh...

I have two ideas running in my brain. Since I may need to do two tables - this is a good thing. However, being the gal that I am - my ideas are total opposites. Table 1 would be classic or rustic Christmas. Reds, greens and nature type things. Table 2... heirloom china, pink roses, lace and pearls. See what a maniac I am!?! So as I was browsing the boards of people all over the world I found one good idea after another. :) Whoever invented Pinterest is a GENIUS. Jus sayin'.

I have this antique set, and it's precious. It was given to me by my grandmother and I will cherish it forever! It's so pretty - and it has a gold trim all around it. :) Very feminine, very classy. So now I'm searching and searching for just what to do around it. Centerpieces and all of that jazz.
I stumbled upon this idea - 

SERIOUSLY! The plate shown is almost identical to what I own. How easy is that!? Anyway, I love the idea of a pearl garland sweeping over a lace runner. {have I mentioned this is not exactly my style?} But, I'm hoping it will be a beautiful blessing to the ladies of our church. I'm secretly hoping the precious, older ladies sit at this one and just feel so loved and spoiled by all things pearls, lace, and roses. :) Sort of a tribute to my amazing Grandma.

And about the other table. I just wanna have fun :)
Here are some things that have caught my attention...
Holiday Decorating Ideas - Country Christmas Decorations - Country Living.  yarn theme? wrap everything?
Thinking this yarn ball wreath might look cute as a centerpiece. Throw a big ol' white candle in the middle - low key, and pretty.
But then I see things like this...

Easy-to-Make Christmas Centerpieces
Still easy. But, a little more of a statement. :)

Ultimately, I keep going back to this... as I've looked at my pin boards and have it re-posted {in different pictures} at least 5 times. What is it with me and old boxes with greens and candles?! :) Hmmmm.
Mason Jar Christmas Centerpiece

A Country Christmas

another idea

Happy thoughts. :) Just enjoying my quiet few minutes with beautiful pictures and visions of the JOY of the season! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Meal Plan

Before I delve into 30 days of recipes and meals... let me be honest.

I don't know everything. I'm not a spectacular cook. My frugality still needs MUCH improvement. I love fast food. No really... McD's, Wendys, Pizza - still so easy. But I also really enjoy menu planning, attempting to save as much money as possible, feeding my family WELL, blessing others with meals, learning more cooking technique, and using meal time as a ministry to my family. And yes, I know, I know... fast food is so so bad. Which is why for the month of November I'm sticking to my guns and we will eat home made for every meal. {...I haven't mentioned this to my husband, but, I just know he'll be a-ok with it.}Even on ministry nights when things are rushed and crazy - I WILL plan ahead. We WILL not be drive through queens or cave and grab another frozen pizza.{grin}But back to my honesty - sharing this with you is only to encourage. I don't have all the answers or know how. I have been asked time and again how I do my menu planning. How I can at times spend under $100 for two weeks of meals? I have! So today I'm sharing my monthly menu plan and it's sources in hopes to spur you on to try new things, see ways you can save, and use your "shopping time" in a different way once its all done, early.

First, here are some of things I do to save money and time:
-Not every casserole needs a meat. Beans or other items like bulky grains, pastas, etc. are great and MUCH cheaper.
-That said, canned meat and frozen meat are both cheaper then fresh packaged - and still have great value and taste. If you aren't familiar with canned meats and all you can imagine is SPAM... go look again. It's 2012 people, the options have changed. :)
-If veggies are going bad {or herbs} - freeze those dudes! Chop up green onions, broccoli, and sliver carrots for a ready to go stir fry mix already ready already.
-I almost always freeze leftover broth, or any liquid from a crock pot meal - unless its swimming around grease or fatty nastiness. That can be used again for soup. And, makes unique flavor combos!
-As far as actually choosing recipes and meals: I grab a cookbook or handful of my written out cards and fill in my blank wall calendar. I don't plan for Wednesdays, but do plug something else in for every other day of the week. That said...if I'm making a big soup or casserole - I pencil in "left overs" at some point during that same week. There are also nights where we'll do homemade pancakes, scrambled eggs or just whip up whatever we find in the house instead. Flexibility is key!
-I now only plan dinners. Lunches are usually leftovers or something small. Breakfast usually oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, eggs or something baked. :) Tried to plan and buy stuff for lunches...not worth it.
-I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi. It's down the street from us and has become almost a one stop shop. Their quality has gone up, and their options have grown. Whole milk is $2.59/gallon right now!  Occasionally I still need to hit another grocery or Walmart for a few items {specific meats, seasonal items, cheeses}
-As for sides - I just make whatever I think would go well with it - or, whatever the cookbook picture shows next to it. For example, below in week 3, the turkey cutlets had pictures of potatoes and veggies next to it - easy!
-Also, swap meats. If something calls for ground beef but ground chicken would be cheaper - try it! I own a meat grinder attachment for my stand mixer and can grind just about any type of meat. Wonderful!
And now to the good stuff! Anything in a different color is a link to the recipe.

Week 1: 1st - 3rd (Random sources for these recipes, so all are linked)
-BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and chinese cabbage salad
-Chicken & potato hand pies w/ roasted Brussel Sprouts
-Raspberry balsamic glazed meatballs over noodles

Week 2: 4th-10th (most of these from here on are from Quick Cooking cookbook, 2011. Search them all on Taste of Home)
-Baked Cavatelli & salad
-Cheesburger Stuffed potatoes
-Pesto Chicken Penne Casserole {MAKES TWO - Freeze one}
-Southwest Chicken Wraps
-Taco Soup
-Cider Pork Chops

Week 3: 11th-17th {Hubs birthday week, so we will go out at least once, oops!}
-Chicken Marinara over pasta
-Salsa sloppy Joes & ranch pasta salad
-Chili Mac & pepperoni salad
-Turkey cutlets, Italian style mixed veggies & crunchy mashed potatoes

Week 4: 18th-24th {Thanksgiving week, we'll be traveling}
-Ham with green beans and rolls {already have all of this in my freezer}
-Parmesan crusted tilapia & mixed veggies
-Beef & Broccoli w/ baked pear halves {my girls think this is a HUGE treat... just pears, halved, and baked til they are oozy}

Week 5: 25th-30th
-Maple pork chops & carrots
-Bacon Cheeseburger Roll ups
-Chicken Fajitas
-Ham Carbonara
-Inside out Stuffed cabbage

And there we have it. A month of meals all planned out, linked, and ready to be made. I shop for about 2 weeks worth at a time and only buy ingredients needed. No extras! I may throw in a dessert or two later in the month and grab those ingredients separately. Otherwise, we are set to go!

I would love to hear if this helped you out or if if gave you some ideas for your own family. Have a fun time being creative and serving in your home :) If you have any questions or tips for me - I'd love to hear them!