Friday, December 21, 2012

13 new skills in 2013

Recently I began listening to a podcast a friend recommended to me known as The Survivalist Podcast by Jack Spirko. In one of the first episodes I listened to he mentioned his idea of having a group of families that worked on developing 13 skills in 2013. This idea stuck with me, perhaps because it lines up with our family theme for the year--Excelsior.

The goal with this list of 13 things is to drastically develop your personal skills on an individual and a family level. These things must challenge you to grow as a person. Anything can be added to the list, from learning a new programming language to becoming a beekeeper. It doesn't have to be a new skill either, if it drastically grows an existing skill. The sky is the limit! The important thing is that these skills must be things that will actually used. It shouldn't just be a checklist--this project should change or improve your quality of life, and that of your family and those around you.

 Some of the areas I've chosen to focus on are newer things, others are walking in the ancient paths. Both are good. Ancient skills are important to learn because they are being lost. If we don't make a conscious effort to go out of our way to learn these skills they will be lost forever. But it is possible to be so focused on the past that we don't take advantage of modern advancements. I want to have a skill set that  reflects both ancient wisdom and modern learning.

 At this point my husband and I are planning on completing this challenge as a family--13 goals between the two of us. Many of the areas overlap, but we have our own personal goals within each area. Here are the areas we are planning on working on--my personal goals are in pink, his are in blue, and goals we share are in purple.

1. Nutrition--I want to move our family to more local, grassfed, and/or organic foods. This is not a specific diet or eating plan, but instead a shift to more healthy choices. By the end of the year I want to have phased out most conventional foods.

2. Fitness--I want to complete the couch to 5K program. Once the program is complete I want to run two or three 5Ks each week to stay in good shape. I may add other fitness goals after I accomplish this one, but (for a girl who has never run a mile in her life) just running 5K seems impossibly huge.


3. Writing--I want to improve in both quality and quantity, particularly in the area of creative writing. I'm going to start by spending a month writing off an assigned writing prompt every day for 15 minutes. Once I've done that I'll evaluate the changes and work from there.

4. Painting--I have zero experience in this area, but plan to take a week of acrylic from my grandmother, MamaDoll. She is quite a skilled painter, and I'm really excited to expose myself to a new skill!

5. Photojournalism--I am starting a LifeJournal album, and document the year for our family. This includes both taking pictures and journaling about our life. A second skill I'm hoping to add in this category is a smartphone photography class. I'm not even sure if such a thing exists, but if it doesn't it should.

6. Fishing--One of hubby's hand-print goals.

7. Sewing--Sewing in one skill I'm already quite proficient in, however I would like to add diaper making to my repertoire. We have switched to almost entirely cloth diapering, but those babies are expensive! I want to learn how to sew my own, although there is a fee for the sewing class. While I could just purchase already made diapers instead of paying a class fee, developing a skill will be something I can use for the rest of my life. It will allow me to be independent and is therefore a more effective use of our money than purchasing an already made product. I will also be learning how to design my own patterns.


 Training in this area will be non optional for all of my children. However, I can't expect my children to be required to learn a skillset that their mother isn't familiar with herself. That is why "self defense" is a category rather than a single skill for me this year--there are several areas that I feel need work. 

8. Hand-to-hand--This will be striking, boxing, Krav or something along those lines. Self defense when I don't have access to a traditional weapon. I will be taking at least three months of training, starting in January.

9. Handgun--This is a prime example of different goals for my hubby and me within the same skillset. By the end of the year he hopes to be the first certified Combat Focus Shooting Instructor in the state of Texas. I want to have a basic understanding of terminology, be comfortable with a handful of different handguns, and have a high level of competency with my (one) self-defense weapon of choice.

10. knife fighting--This is one of hubby's goals. I may join him, but I'm only highlighting the skills I'm committing to do this year. If I add this skill to my own list it won't be till later in the year.

11. Holster making--I'm excited hubby is going to be learning this skill! It could come in super handy considering the difficulty I've had in finding a holster that works for me.


While we trust the Lord as the one who will guard and defend us, we also believe that it is our responsibility to look to the future and be prepared for what may come. “A prudent man forseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3)

12. first aid--I have never taken a first aid class, and this is a hole in my skill set that needs to be filled. I want to have a good understanding of first aid in general, with a strong focus in any skills likely to be needed for children and in emergency situations.

13. Meals-in-a-jar--We have food storage, that's worked into the budget. Now I want to learn some practical ways to store the ingredients (as meals), and work them into our regular food rotation.  I am already proficient in freezer cooking, but I want another option that does not require electricity for storage. 

Many of these skills will allow us to be more self reliant--whether in creating our own items instead of buying them, being more confident of our own abilities in an emergency situation, or being able to survive longer without being dependent on the grocery store. This independence is important not only for our own family, but also so that when a crisis comes we will be in a position to aid others as well as ourselves.

These are not the ONLY goals that I have for the new year. There are other things I'll be working on as a wife, a mother, and a Christian that don't fall into the above categories. However, the things above will enable me to become more independent, more self-sufficient, and more competent at all my roles. By purposefully developing myself I will be a better, more skillful woman and that will help me be a better wife and mother.

If you are interested in joining me in this journey to greater self sufficiency, I'd encourage you to check out the website, My profile can be found here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


This is a time of year when many of us are choosing to both review the previous year and look forward to the future. It is important to look back, because it is in the looking back that we can see our growth and progress. We remember where we came from, and evaluate whether the course we have set is the course we want to remain on.

 The last two years of marriage my husband and I have made some pretty big accomplishments in every area. We have met some major financial goals, we have become parents, we have grown as people and spouses. We have also set some major long-term goals that are going to take us years to accomplish.  We're dreaming big, but we're also taking each one of those small steps to make those dreams more than just a castle in the sky.

Looking back, however, isn't the first thing that comes to mind in a new year. Looking forward is what is most natural. We want to consider what changes to make in the new year, set goals, chooe a new direction--or simply make slight course adjustments. That is what has been on my mind.

This coming year is going to be a big year for our family. In the last year we've set our course, but this coming year will be when we begin taking measurable steps toward making those goals reality. Not all the steps are going to be fun or convenient, but we have to move forward anyway. We have set a good foundation so far--now it is time to build on it.

A word that keeps coming up is Excelsior. It is a Latin word that  means "higher." Excelsior means that we are ever striving to move forward, to improve on the past. We are setting the bar ever higher. It is making a conscious choice to not rest on the laurels of yesterday, but to make new accomplishments today. Recently a sister asked me what my goal was for the coming year--I told her it was Excelsior. In every area of my life I wish to become a better, more rounded person. Last year was not a bad year--but this year I want to improve.

What kind of a parent do I want to be?
What kind of a wife do I want to be?
What kind of woman?
What kind of Christian?

By the grace of God, a better one.


In the next few days I hope to share some more specific goals I have for the coming year, but first I wanted to share the overarching theme. While specific steps are necessary, if I can look back on 2013 and say I improved on 2012, I will have accomplished my goal--even if the steps I take to get there end up being a bit different than the ones planned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

23 things I love about you

Today is my husband's birthday, and in honor of his special day here are 23 things I love about him (in no particular order).

I love: 

1.Your sense of humor--our home is a home of laughter and joy
2. Your strength
3. Your sense of responsibility--you are a father, a husband, a man, a Christian, and you live these parts every day, not secretly wishing for a "day off"
4. That you live love daily in hundreds of ways.
5.  that I've never seen you angry, not when we were friends, engaged, or now after more than two years of marriage.

6. Your wide variety of interests--seriously. I've never met ANYONE with as many interests as you! Life will never, ever be boring around here.
7. how romantic you are. You often surprise me with something sweet and unexpected.
8. Your balance--for a man with so many interests, hobbies and passions you do a remarkable job of keeping your priorities in order (God, family, other stuff)
9. Your steaks. Yum!
10. Your wisdom--I know when I ask counsel you will have valuable input

11. Your height. I love me my tall man.
12. Your passion for the Lord
13. That even after marriage you're involved with your family and seamlessly a part of mine. Extended family still has a place in our hearts.
14. The amazing letters you write me.
15. That you are an awesome daddy. You are so in love with your little girl, and it warms my heart to see you interact together.

16. Your ability as a provider. I know as long as you are physically able to put food on the table you will be our breadwinner.
 17. Your ability to put things in perspective when I DON'T have ANY perspective. Nuff said.
18. That you are a dreamer, and you never dream halfway.
19. that wherever you are you are ALL THERE.

20. That you are a writer. The bookworm in me fell in love with the writer in you many years ago.
21. our weekly dates to the range
22. that you practice what you preach.
23. That your highest priority is our immediate family. Even though you have so many interests and demands on your time, you protect your time with your wife and daughter.

**Picture credit: Lexi Quinn

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 days of thanks--day 12-16

Monday--day 12:
I'm thankful for our church. It's a fairly small church, the smallest I've been a part of. Most Sundays we have over 100 people, but there have been weeks over the summer when people are traveling that we haven't made the 100 mark. But this is a case where the saying "good things come in small packages" is very true. We're a family. This has become even more clear in my mind in the last month or so.

First there was Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Our church graciously includes my husband and I in Pastor Appreciation Sunday each year--my husband does help quite a bit wherever he is needed, but he is not one of the two pastors. But each year we are graciously included and it reminds me of why we are here, why we are doing what we are doing, and how very, VERY important it is for me to daily choose Christ. If I'm not making those daily small decisions to draw closer to Christ I will not be able to be the woman I need to be to support my husband and encourage the young ladies around me.

The other way I've been reminded of the community in our church is the way we rally around those who are hurting. At one time, when I lost my first child, it was me and my husband who were struggling. Now there are others who need our help. When things like that come up, we pull together and it makes a huge difference. Many hands make a light burden--it's family. My church is such a blessing to me.

Tuesday--Day 13
I'm thankful for my husband. He's a wonderful, amazing, and generally awesome hubby. He's the sort of guy that makes the dashing hero of a romance seem boring and single dimensional. With his unusually varied list of interests he makes every day an adventure.

Wednesday--day 14
I'm thankful for my Keepers at Home girls. We had a small class this week, but they have been working so quickly on their project! They are so much fun to work with, and have done fantastic work this semester. They are a joy to me.

Thursday, day 15
A sister who lives close enough to house-swap for an afternoon. She likes cleaning, and I like picking up and organizing. So we traded houses, and both got to do the chores we like best and skip the ones we like least. It worked like a charm--and I'm glad every time I see the parts that Amanda scrubbed for me (and just a little proud of the work I did in her apartment also).

Friday, day 16
I'm thankful for my daughter. She's the light of my eyes, the joy of my heart. Crawling isn't very far away, so I'm enjoying my last few days of a (semi) stationary baby. Every day is a new day of growth, development, and experimentation for her--which provides endless entertainment for me. This afternoon she rediscovered her tongue, and to the great amusement of her parents, stuck it out and wiggled it around all evening. I wish I had a picture, she was quite the sight.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

30 days of thanks--day 8-10

Thursday (day 8)--I'm thankful for my sourdough!! I didn't know 2 weeks ago that my next skill to learn was sourdough breadmaking. Then I got a coupon for a free starter from a specialized company. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I finally picked out my favorite one (they had 16 options!) and ordered it. I haven't made my first loaf yet, but I it is now happily bubbling away on the counter and I anticipate a fresh loaf in the next day or two (I even bought cream to turn into butter, because if I'm going to have my very own sourdough bread, it seems like it OUGHT to have homemade butter melting on top).

Friday (day 9)--I'm thankful for my family. We spent the evening with my folks--had dinner and played some games. We then watched a Sylvester Stallone comedy that had us all in stitches (yes, apparently before he was Rocky he was a comedy actor--learn something new every day). It's so wonderful to have family that we are close to in more than just geography.

Saturday (day 10)--I'm thankful for a shower gone well. My SIL Amanda is due in three weeks, and I threw a small family shower for her this afternoon. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. We made all sorts of awesome onsies for the newest little addition.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

30 days of Thanks days 6-7

I'm a little behind--Tuesday and Wednesday have been whirlwind days. I expect the weekend will be more of the same. It's nice to have a slow day in the middle to take a breath!

Tuesday, Day 6: I'm thankful for a country in which every 4 years there is a peaceful, people driven, change of power (or not a change, depending on what happens). I learned a lot this election--my third presidential election. I've realized over the past 12 years my politics have changed--in a good way. I'm a different person, and it is good that I'm growing and changing. I'm thankful I live in a country where I have the freedom to cast my vote. (also, adorable baby girl is getting a VERY young start. :-P)

Wednesday, Day 7: I'm thankful for my sweet mama's helper who came over for the first time today! This has been on my wishlist for soooo long, and it was such a big help to have an extra pair of hands. She lives quite a bit away, but I'm hoping we can make this a regular thing. Yay!

Monday, November 5, 2012

30 days of Thanks--day 5

It's November, and this month I'm going to make a conscious effort to write my thanks every day. I often think of things I am grateful for and thank the Lord for them throughout the day. This is good. But when I actually pause to write those things down, they become a testimony of the Lord's grace in my life--a gift that keeps on giving every time I read and remember.

I am not committing to making a list of a certain number of things each day. Some days I may only write one thing I'm thankful for, other days I may write several. Perhaps sometimes list the same thing twice (I daily thank the Lord for my wonderful husband and daughter!). There are no rules to this--except that every day for the next 30 days I will GIVE THANKS. Would you care to join me?

470. I'm thankful that my hubby and I are a team. Not just roommates, or living in the same house with our own little worlds--but actual partners. We become what our spouse needs most--whether it's someone to laugh with, a shoulder to cry on, a nurse, a playmate, a steady hand, or a companion.We work together toward the same goals, even when that means setting personal desires aside (or at least postponing them a bit). The sacrifices aren't one sided, and because we work together so well they rarely even feel like sacrifices.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

30 days of Thanks--Day 4

469. Counting gifts great and small... I'm thankful for my new humidifier. Not only has it allowed me to breathe the last few days with a minimal amount of discomfort, but it also has provided a fair amount of entertainment as I watch the swirls and "clouds" of cool mist rising from it's top.

(and yes, I can still get delight out of tiny things like that. I'm looking forward to Tirza getting older, that way I can pretend I'm staring at humidifier mist, tiny bugs, baking soda risen batter, and other commonplace wonders for her benefit. Until then I'll keep pretending like I'm a grown up and used to these things).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

30 days of thanks--Day 3

468. My crazy awesome neighbors/brother and SIL/besties: Yep--they're all of that. We live in the same apartment complex, and get together at least once a week besides church and other regularly scheduled things. We've done all sorts of crazy things together, and spur of the moment is the norm. The past few months we've been playing a lot of unusual card games/ board games as that is an interest of my hubby's. I think now they're just as (or more) addicted to unusual  games as we are (mwahaha).

Friday, November 2, 2012

30 days of thanks--day 2

It's November, and this month I'm going to make a conscious effort to write my thanks every day. I often think of things I am grateful for and thank the Lord for them throughout the day. This is good. But when I actually pause to write those things down, they become a testimony of the Lord's grace in my life--a gift that keeps on giving every time I read and remember. 

I am not committing to making a list of a certain number of things each day. Some days I may only write one thing I'm thankful for, other days I may write several. Perhaps sometimes list the same thing twice (I daily thank the Lord for my wonderful husband and daughter!). There are no rules to this--except that every day for the next 30 days I will GIVE THANKS. Would you care to join me?

463. The limp weight of Tirza after her early morning feeding, right before I put her back to bed. The most warm, cuddly thing on earth--a sleeping baby

464. A second humidifier that came in the mail, just in time

465. A short nap with my baby snuggled on top of me

466. Tirza being sweet and quiet all day, while I was not feeling well (she'd be lying beside me so sweet and quiet that I would wonder if she was feeling sick--as soon as I checked her she'd grin as if to say, "Oh, I'm so glad you're here--I've just been looking all around. The world is such an interesting place!" Thank the Lord for a baby that can entertain herself sometimes.)

467. My hubby taking most of the day to look after me

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 days of Thanks--Day 1

It's November, and this month I'm going to make a conscious effort to write my thanks every day. I often think of things I am grateful for and thank the Lord for them throughout the day. This is good. But when I actually pause to write those things down, they become a testimony of the Lord's grace in my life--a gift that keeps on giving every time I read and remember.

I am not committing to making a list of a certain number of things each day. Some days I may only write one thing I'm thankful for, other days I may write several. Perhaps sometimes list the same thing twice (I daily thank the Lord for my wonderful husband and daughter!). There are no rules to this--except that every day for the next 30 days I will GIVE THANKS. Would you care to join me?


456. A wonderful Reformation Day
"Junker George" on the L, The playwrite/narrator/director (Brenden) on the R
This year was the first year in over a decade that I have not helped to plan our reformation day celebration at church (it was a good thing, because I was sick that night and wouldn't have been able to do much anyway). I was excited about being an observer, because in the past I've been involved to the point that I couldn't get a good feel for what it was like to simply enjoy the evening. The highlight this year was a play written and directed by one of the young men at the church. It was absolutely fantastic (and just a tad bit crazy!). If I can I'll post the video of it, but in the meantime, here are a few pictures:

My hubby was Martin, and had a good time getting into the spirit of the play

Two sisters--Grace and Hope--playing Kathryn Von Bora (L) and random nun companion (R)

457. Hubby reading to Tirza a poem he wrote himself
458. Tirza being willing to snuggle when that's all the energy I had time for
459. Spending (most) of the day without a sore throat
460. Energy to do some housework!
461. A whole case of scrapbooking things to go through--treasure hunting!
462. Hubby doing the dishes for me after dinner

Friday, September 21, 2012

An ordinary day

I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor--my usual sewing posture--as I turn an edge of the fabric and iron the hem down. In the background an audiobook is playing. It's a book I've wanted to read for awhile--and now I'm finally getting to it. Piles of fabric cuttings are around me, piles of girly, flowerdy lovliness. I've been at it for days now. I've barely touched a sewing machine since I was married, and now I'm knee deep in four projects at once. One for church, and then three dresses for three little girls.

Tirza is on the bed, happily amusing herself--she has been for awhile now. The world is such a facinating place to her that she doesn't have any difficulty entertaining herself. I glance up as she starts talking in her baby language. I stretch my legs as I stand, and think at some point in the near future I'll have to start sewing at a table like a normal person. Tirza's talking in a loud, happy voice, and that tells me she'll need to take her nap soon. She gets more talkative when she's sleepy. But for the next few minutes it's playtime.

I scoop her up and she gins in delight. I grin back--it's impossible not to smile at that gummy grin that is all for me. How did I never know that this is what it's like to be a mother? I talk back to her, imitating the baby sounds she's making at me. I ask her if she knows the sounds a frog makes--I don't think we've done animal sounds before. I work through all of them I can think of--moos, baas, meows, all of it-- to her delight.

We move to the nursery so I can change her diaper. The cloth are in the wash, so I grab a disposable. I sing her favorite song while I work, and think that she really IS My Sunshine. I kiss her tummy when we're done, and she laughs. There is nothing she delights in more than mommy or daddy time. I swing her up and around--more delighted coos.

I roll back on the floor and put her on my chest, tiny feet dangling on either side of my head as she laughs down in my face. She knows what's coming next. I playfully nip at her toes, like I'm a fish, and her toes are the fishing line. She laughs in delight as I nibble at her other foot. She loves this game. Is it my imagination, or is she actually wiggling her toes this time to try to "catch" me?

A few more minutes and she's getting sleepy. She dosen't laugh quite as much, her eyes are tired, she's starting to fuss just a little bit. Yes, it's naptime. I cuddle her close in a hug, and say a prayer over her. I put her gently down in her basinnet--the one she's almost outgrown--and pat her back a couple times. She fusses for just a minute or two, more on principle than out of genuine upset--and is asleep.

I feel sadness. This is such a  perfect, happy moment. I'm in love. My baby is perfect. And I'm the only one who will ever remember it. This moment, these days--one play day after another, strung together like a string of exquisite pearls--and she won't be able to remember. I want her to remember. I want her to remember all the fun we've had. I know there will be more wonderful moments--but THIS one. I want her to remember this one.

So, before taking up a needle and returning to the flowerdy girl fabric, I tiptoe to my computer to write out what just happened. It's just an ordinary moment. One that has happened many times over. But it's so beautiful, so special, so perfect. She's too young to remember our fun times, but maybe, if I write it out, she can remember them through my eyes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Enchanted Nursery Giveaway winners!

The Enchanted Nursery giveaway is over and the winners are:

Wendy R (hiwendyhi@)


Jennifer B (jenny9675309@)

Congratulations! Each of you should have received an email with further instructions on claiming your prize.

For those of you who did not win this giveaway--remember that Amanda still has a fantastic sale on her bows till next Saturday! With the coupon code bows4me you can get 30% off your purchase from Enchanted Nursery!!

Friday, September 14, 2012


Joining Lisa-Jo and others this morning for Five Minute Friday, where we cut the words loose for just five minutes, and see where they fall. No editing, just encouraging the others who play along. The topic today is Focus.

Good. She's smiling. I grab my camera quick, and wiggle my tongue at her. She laughs--I snap the picture. I look at the viewer screen and adjust the settings. Grin at her and she grins back at me. I snap the picture again. 

I'm focused on her. All focused on her. I've never been so happy in my life, and I've never known how to love this much--that little girl that is the personification of love. I'm focused on her.

She plays happily on her own and doesn't complain--but when mommy is all-there? When mommy is looking at her, and grinning at her, and not doing anything but loving her only? That's when the party begins. We two have parties every day it seems. She's focused on me. 

Our first party today--most days now--was after she got up for the day. I pulled out my Bible and turned to the Psalms. I read one to her--today Psalm 100--and she giggled in delight. She loves it when mommy talks to her. Maybe she doesn't understand the words yet, but who's to say when a soul starts to understand? Before the mind does, I'm sure. So I read. I want her to understand this. Mommy has learned the only way to keep life in focus is to keep focused on the One who gave us life. So every morning? We focus on Him. 

I giggle at her and she laughs out loud. I laugh again at her funny little baby laugh as I a snap another picture. This time it's in perfect focus.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Joining Lisa-Jo and others this morning for Five Minute Friday, where we cut the words loose for just five minutes, and see where they fall. No editing, just encouraging the others who play along. The topic today is Graceful.

The word Graceful makes me think of a ballerina, twirling and leaping across the stage. It makes me think of a woman with her dance partner, gliding across the dance floor. It makes me think of beauty. Grace, physically speaking, is taking power and bringing it beautifully under control just like those dancers have brought their strength under control.

But graceful is more than just the appearance of beauty on the outside--it is being full of grace on the inside. It is having the power to choose to give grace--forgiveness and mercy--to those around us instead of giving what has been justly earned. It is choosing love over hate, choosing mercy over justice, choosing beauty over ugliness.

Choosing to be full of grace is much more difficult than choosing to be full of what we WANT do say (or do). But is is a battle worth fighting. Choosing love, mercy, and grace may be the harder choice, but it is always the best choice.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Today we are picking back up with our Lessons From Mama series after a long baby-related break. Lessons from mama is a weekly guest post from my mother, sharing different lessons on homemaking she has learned over the years. This was inspired after I interviewed her for the series "Teachers of Good Things."  You can head over to her interview to see a more complete list of the topics we will be covering (it is under the 5th question, What would you have done differently as a single woman to prepare for this?). 
I’ll make a disclaimer up front. House cleaning is not my area of expertise. My favorite way to learn housecleaning is from . She teaches how to declutter and each week gives daily assignments that usually take about 15 minutes. I can’t say enough good things about FlyLady. Check her out!
The best tip for keeping the house picked up is to get rid of as much stuff as you possibly can. Be brutal with the decluttering.
What to declutter? Things to ask yourself as you get rid of your clutter: Do I love this item? Have I used it in the past year? Is it really garbage? Do I have another one that is better? Should I really keep two? Does it have sentimental value that causes me to love it? Or does it give me guilt and make me sad when I see the item? Cleanse this room of everything that does not make you SMILE.
My most important tool in cleaning the house is my timer! J You would be amazed at how much stuff you can get done in 15 minutes. Your timer is your friend.
Flylady divides your house into 5 zones. Each week you clean in 1 zone and each month you will go through all the zones.
Zone 1: Entrance, Porch, Dining Rm
Zone 2: Kitchen
Zone 3: Bathroom & Extra Room
Zone 4: Master Bedroom
Zone 5: Living Room
Another way to break up the house work is to assign yourself a different task for each day.
Make yourself a schedule that is comprised of one hour and one task each day. Your schedule may look something like this:
            Monday: Decluttering
            Tuesday: Dusting
            Wednesday: Vacuuming
            Thursday: Scrubbing
            Friday: Organizing and Rearranging
            Saturday: Laundering
            Sunday: Decorating
Then, spend one hour each day doing your assigned task  for each room, throughout your house.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Enchanted Nursery Giveaway

September is a special month for me. The last few years it seems like we've always had something extra special happen in the month. Last year at this time we found our new apartment, that has been a wonderful home for us. Two years ago hubby and I got married. This year I'm looking forward to enjoying all the new developments with my little girl (My little girl may seem like a silly "extra special" for September this year, because she has been my "extra special" for June, July, and August... but every day with my girl is a day worth celebrating!).

With this being such a wonderful month to me, I wanted my readers to enjoy something "Extra special" also--so I'm hosting my very first ever giveaway!

Enchanted Nursery

My sister-in-law, Amanda, recently started a shop, Enchanted Nursery,  where she sells hair-bows. I don't just mean regular, normal bows, though she has those also. I mean ribbon sculptures. Truly, they are amazing. I had no idea a person could make those things with ribbon! And they are incredibly cute.

She has seasonal bows like this Pumpkin and turkey...

And "just for fun" bows like this octopus and pony....

(If I'd had this pony when I was 5 I would have worn it every single day. My favorite colors, pink and purple, put together with my very favorite animal? Heaven for a little girl!)

She also has more "normal" bows for just getting dressed up. All of the bows can be made to a custom color at no extra charge, so if you want something for a specific event, holiday, or outfit that's easy.

I'm sure you are wondering how you can get a couple of these bows for free! We will have two prizes, and each winner will receive one ribbon sculpture of their choice and one hair bow of their choice. Just specify which two you would choose as a comment on this post for your first entry! Shipping is to the US only.

This giveaway is over at 12:01am on Saturday, September 14th. Enjoy!

For those of you who can't wait to purchase your own bow, Amanda is offering a coupon code for 30% off her already great prices. Just use the coupon code: bows4me. This coupon code will expire one week after the giveaway, on Saturday, September 22.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 31, 2012

Whole 30 Review

I mentioned in my 10 things post that I have been on a diet called the Whole30 for the last month. I finished my 30 days on Thursday, and here is my take on the Whole30.

Introduction: After having my little girl our diet pretty much went out the window. I was exhausted with the new mommy responsibilities, and cooking our meals from scratch just wasn't on the radar for awhile. We ate out a lot and had a number of meals given to us. I didn't even go grocery shopping in the first month. My primary goal was to eat plenty and establish a good milk supply. I was not cleared to exercise until 8 weeks postpartum, as my body needed time to recover. I'd gained 40 lbs of baby weight (50 if you count the fact that I lost 10lbs in the first trimester, and the got that back plus the 40lbs), and was in the worst shape physically that I've ever been. When I realized 6 weeks post-partum that I was struggling just to climb the stairs to our apartment I knew it was time to start focusing on health.

It was about this time that I heard of the Whole30. It reminded me a lot of the GAPS diet, which had been good for both hubby and me, and so I ordered the book It Starts with Food. After reading the book I discussed it with hubby, and he was on board. We started August 1.

Methods: For 30 days I eliminated dairy (except ghee, which has milk solids removed), processed foods, grains, legumes (including peanuts, soy, and soy products), alcohol, and all forms of sweeteners. Instead I focused on good amounts of protein in the form of eggs, meat, poultry and seafood; healthy fats (coconut oil, avacado, nuts, olive oil); lots of veggies (I used the higher carb veggies--such as sweet potato--sparingly), and fruit. I was 99% compliant (I did have a few pieces of bacon mid-month that I found out afterwards were cured with sugar. Also some nuts that I later realized were prepared with soybean oil. Other than that I was completely compliant).

I added exercise--gentle walking the first week until I was tired (first exercise since Tirza came, so I wanted to ease into it). About a mile each day. Second week I was up to two miles and jogging some. Third and fourth week I used a cardio exercise DVD that was VERY challenging.  (and if we're talking calories burned here, nursing did help)

Results: In 30 days I lost 10.7lbs (5 lbs the first week, and about 2lbs each following week). I no longer crave sweets, have learned new and healthier recipes, changed my tastes and became fat adapted. I lost at least one dress size (I don't really know because I'm not sure what size I was to begin with--it's been a year since I've been the same size for more than 6 consecutive weeks. But I know some things that were FAR from fitting in the waist/hip area at the beginning of the month, now are fitting pretty comfortably).

Discussion: I'm really impressed with the Whole30. Weight-loss was on-par with GAPS, but I feel like the 4 weeks I spent on Whole30 was more effective than the 6 weeks we spent on GAPS (I believe this had more to do with how we applied the diets, rather than the diets themselves. GAPS was good--just not as effective for us). I learned new recipes, and now think of salads in a completely different way. Sugar cravings are completely gone. I was surprised to realize a couple days ago that as I was browsing tasty and beautiful dessert recipes on Pintrest, I wanted to make the food more for the artistic experience than the culinary experience. Who makes a pretty cake just to give it away??? I totally could now. I've found that natural fruit tastes much sweeter than it ever has before--a favorite "occasional" dessert this month was plain coconut milk (which is semi-solid when cold) with some berries and freeze dried mango bits mixed in.

What's next: I've really enjoyed the food this month, and definitely will be keeping many of the recipes. Overall I'd like to continue this way of eating. There are some things that I've really been looking forward to eating once the month is passed, but now I'm not so sure. I've found a good system now, and I don't have cravings that are driving me to change it. On one hand I'm not sure the foods I'm thinking of will even taste as good as I remember. On the other hand, I'm afraid if I start too far down the "re-introduction" road it will be difficult to get back to where I am now. Is it worth it? I haven't decided. There are some things I plan to reintroduce, but I am going to do it gradually and evaluate as I go.

Specifics on reintroduction:
legumes: We don't use beans very often in our house, and in fact, our last meal before starting the Whole30 involved beans and both my hubby and I felt bloated and sick afterwords. Keeping these at a minimum will be neither challenging nor much of a sacrifice.  
Alcohol: We don't drink alcohol (my first glass of wine was when I was in labor-and I didn't like it :P). We occasionally use cooking wines. As that adds up to once or twice a month, we'll probably keep that as is. Use is minimal.  
Processed foods: I'm not going to go crazy reading labels, but I'm also going to avoid processed foods in general. Nearly all our meals are cooked at home from scratch, so this won't be a huge change. I kinda don't think processed foods will taste as good now anyway. 
Grains: This will be re-introduced, as I happen to be very fond of grains and am just not ready to give them up for the rest of my life. BUT they will be special-occasion only, especially while I'm still losing baby weight (I can't loose weight and eat lots of breads. It doesn't work). The only exception is I'm really hoping I can do granola in the mornings and still loose weight. I'll start experimenting with that in a couple weeks. I'm sick of eggs... :P 
Dairy: I will be reintroducing dairy, and hoping it goes well. We'll see. :-)

Final analysis: I'm pretty impressed. The Whole30 is an achievable cleansing diet that really does reshape eating patterns. I will probably make it a regular thing to do a Whole30 following the birth of a child, starting somewhere between 6-8 weeks (whenever I feel up to it). It's also an effective way to break sugar cravings, and to get a jump-start on a healthy lifestyle.


**Note for nursing moms: My only concerns in starting the Whole30 was whether it would cause an unhealthy detox (which would be passed on to Tirza) or effect my milk supply.The only time I noticed a drop in milk supply was when I didn't eat enough. The diet itself didn't seem to have any effect on supply. Tirza never seemed unhappy with the taste of the milk, or have any stomach-aches resulting from my diet. **

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Books I've been reading

I originally heard about The Vow because I was interested in the movie (by the same name) that came out a few months ago. When I learned that the movie not only came from a book, but was based on a true story, I knew I had to check it out.

This story is about two young people who fall in love, get married, and 8 weeks later endure a terrible car accident. The husband is badly injured, and his wife sustains head trauma that results in a complete loss of 5 years worth of memories. This includes all her memories of meeting him, falling in love, and getting married.

The road they travel is a rough one. They take life day by day as they depend on their stalwart faith in Christ, the support of their family, and their commitment to a vow that only one of them remembers. This is a fantastic story about the power of God in difficult circumstances, and I highly recommend it. Why read a fictional romance, when there's a true story better than anything on the fiction shelf?

I started this book with some misconceptions based on other's reviews of it. I expected it to be a harsh version of childrearing that involved a lot of "crying it out" and forcing the baby to conform to the needs of the family, without regard to the baby's own needs. I was definitely wrong.

Babywise emphasizes Parent Directed Feeding. The basic idea is that as humans we thrive on flexible routines and schedules. Babies are the same. A baby will be healthiest and happiest if they have a set routine and learn to live life in context of the rest of the family.

This does NOT mean that the  baby's needs are ignored. One of the most repeated phrases in the book is, "If your baby is hungry, FEED him!" Regardless of where you are in the routine. The routine is merely a set of guidelines, there to be a help, not a burden.

I found this book to be very useful, and referenced it often in the first two months following Tirza's birth.

Similar in content to Babywise, Baby Whisperer is my favorite baby book. A British nanny, Tracy Hogg seemed to work magic with babies earning her the title of "the baby whisperer." In this book she passes her lessons on to her readers.

Tracy emphasizes showing your baby respect and treating them like a "human being." In other words, your baby has feelings and opinions also, and they count. She points out that all humans do best when on some sort of a routine, and strongly encourages parents to provide their babies with an orderly environment and routine.

In several places she has charts which are very helpful. I found the charts describing various baby cries to be particularly useful, and referenced them many times in the first few weeks after my girl was born. If I could only recommend one book to a new mother this would be the book I'd recommend. If I could recommend two I'd pass on this one and BabyWise, as the two are generally complementary.

I picked this book up because I'd heard John Medina's original Brain Rules. I enjoyed this book as well. Medina had some interesting suggestions that I never would have thought of doing with my little girl. He also had some wonderful insights into the developing brain of a baby from conception through toddlerhood. This book is definitely worth a read, before birth if possible. If your baby is already older, though, that's fine. All parents of littles will find this useful--even if your little is a little bit older.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

10 Things

Here are a few things that have been going on in my Mommy Nest the last little while:

1. Baby Girl
 Tirza is almost 3 months. How can that be?? It seems like she's been here forever, but at the same time it's hard to believe it's been three months. We officially started using cloth diapers last month, which has gone well. I've had to work on cradle cap a couple times, which has been funny (see picture). I think we've seen the last of it now, but we'll see.  She's lying here beside me on the bed as I type, absolutely fascinated by the sounds and colors and shapes of the world. She's getting to be such a "big" girl!
Her hair has always been crazy, but it's even crazier when
I'm using coconut oil to work on cradlecap!
2. Exercise
 I've started officially exercising again. At first I was climbing up and down my apartment stairs or going on long walks with Tirza. When I  made it to 2 mile walks I switched and now am exercising to a workout program on my computer. It whips me every single time, and I'm doing the easiest possible level! It is good to "finally" be able to handle "real" exercise, though. It seemed to take forever postpartum for my body to be ready for a challenge.

3. Diet
 I started a Whole30 at the beginning of August. Essentially the Whole30 eliminates dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, sweeteners, and all processed foods for 30 days. Instead it focuses on healthy amounts of veggies, protein, fruit and good fats (think avacado and coconut oil). At the end of the 30 days the eliminated food groups are re-introduced one at a time (or not. It's up to you).

I'm on day 23 today. Yes, it's been 23 days since I've had any form of sugar other than fruit. Yes, it has been hard, and I've had quite a few food fantasies (visions of cream topped waffles, granola in milk, hamburgers with a bun, and pizza have danced through my head). But I've stuck with it, and am seeing the results!


4. Weight Loss
 As a result of 2 and 3, I've started loosing the baby weight, finally! In the last three weeks (since the 1st of the month) I've taken off 8 lbs. I have 19 left to go before I'm at my goal. My target weight is a little more than my "pre-pregnancy" weight, but I think this is reasonable as I've always leaned to the "too-low" end of the spectrum. Also,  I'm nursing, which means I'll naturally need just a little more weight. In a couple non-scale victories, a skirt I bought a month ago is now too big. Also, the pair of maternity pants I've practically lived in for the last 6 months (and which were starting to get VERY snug), are now fitting quite loosely. Hurray!
My "Pounds lost/pounds to go" jars. Each 1/2 lb gets a pink or clear stone,
every 5 lbs gets a red one. As I loose weight I move the stones from
one jar to the other. As you can see, I'm about half-way. I always thought
these were cute, now I have a reason to use it! :-P  
5. Home-making
 I've been doing "spring" cleaning in August. The house is far from perfect, but I'm quite pleased with the progress. I walk through the house and see different "battlegrounds" where I've had "victory" over the clutter dragon. It's very satisfying, although I have plenty of work left to do.
You should have seen "before." (I forgot to take a picture)
Hubby added shelves for me, and now it looks awesome!
6. Nursery
 I'm getting the nursery together. What, you ask? Didn't I just say my baby is nearly 3 months old? Well, yes. She is. But I decided not to focus on the nursery pre-birth, because I figured we had enough baby things we needed, and she'd be in with us anyway. But now it's time. She's outgrowing her bassinet, and it's time for the crib. I've had a TON of fun planning the nursery. I originally wanted to do gender neutral  so I could use it for all my children, but I just couldn't resist all the wonderful girl things. So it's going to be an over-the-top curly-girly nursery. But that's okay. When I have sons, they will have a knight nursery, and it will be just as awesome.

7. Fun stuff (Pintrest!)
 I discovered Pintrest. And have been generally inspired in every area of creativity, but especially around the home. It's been great. Creativity is oozing out of my pores, and I evaluate nearly everything with the thought: "I bet I could make something neat with that!!" I'm planning a several around the house projects, you will be seeing how-to posts as my projects are accomplished.

8. Just us girlies
 Hubby went on his first out-of-town(state) business trip last week. It was just overnight, but we missed him!! He brought back a cute monkey for Tirza--her very first stuffed animal (or doll). We weren't sure if she would appreciate it or not, but as soon as she saw it she struck up an animated (grinning) conversation. Too cute!

9. Back to the "grindstone"
 The baby-moon has been amazing, but real-life is starting up again. Keepers is starting. Church ministries are starting. School is starting. I'm planning a couple different parties, and already thinking about Christmas. It feels like a lot (it IS a lot) but I'm feeling ready for it. We won't ever go at the breakneck pace we had pre-baby (she's got her own schedule, and bedtimes, and to a certain extent that keeps mommy and daddy's pace reasonable), but I'm finally feeling ready to tackle "life" again.

10. Weather
The weather. It's been AMAZING!  We've had a cool-spell in Texas in August. And when I say cool-spell I don't mean that tongue-in-cheek way that Texan's often do. You know, "Yeah, we've been having a cool spell. Only 110 degrees outside--I'm gonna need to bring a jacket!" No, I don't mean that. I mean, Tuesday it didn't break 80. EIGHTY.  In Texas in August! I hope someone had an outdoor wedding that day. It would be a shame to waste such perfect weather. `