Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Letter to My Readers

My dear friends,

I wish I could have each of you over every week to chat with you over a cup of tea about what I'm learning and doing. Because I just don't have the time to tell you on here. I've thought long and hard about this blog and what to do with it. My decision: to stop... for now. I don't know about the future.

Until then, I will be folding laundry, cooking meals, washing dishes, making potty runs, changing diapers, and... oh yeah - snuggling with my little ones, napping and spending time with my man.

I also plan to keep learning about making a home, cooking nutritious food, and drawing inspiration from a few of my favorite blogs: Chatting at the Sky, Simple Mom, and Close to Home, as well as the Bible and (hopefully!) other books.

I hope to work on living more intentionally each day, praying more, and simply learning - about myself and others, God and life.

This is my season - learning and caring for little ones. Maybe one day I'll have the time to share what I've learned and be able to share it better too. Or maybe not. Either way, this is where I am now and now is where I'm gong to be!

Love to you all and thank you for reading!

Love, Hannah

P.S. I will be updating once a month on our family blog.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Here's Our Boy!

Cute Collage Boy Baby Announcements
Announcements for all occasions: graduation, a new baby, or wedding.
View the entire collection of cards.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


"Have you ever stared up in the starry sky? Lying on your back, you're asking 'Why? What's the purpose? Tell me, who am I?'" - Brandie Carlile, Have You Ever (song)

"Do you ever want to be more than a wife and mother?" I asked her over a lunch of leftovers as the kids fought over the baby's blanket.

"Yes." she said, and it felt good to not be alone.

It started when I read a blog post about finding your "element" rather than wishing for someone else's talent. Your element being "where your passions and skills collide."

And I thought about it that night, yearning to know what my special "element" is, and drawing a blank. I knew it really wasn't good timing to hone out some genius, but I desired to know what it is God intends for me. What are my talents that He wants me to invest in this life and reap benefits from - for His glory? I asked Him that, and prayed He would show me or give me patience until He decides to.

It grew stronger when I heard the line from above as I set out to jog a whole half mile. Yes, isn't there more to me? Yes, I am wife and mother... but aren't I more? I am not saying that I am disappointed with my life or positions. I love being a wife and the man I am wife to. I love being a mother and the children I am a mother too. I do not at all want to change that. I simply feel an aspect of my life is missing. That there is more to me than I know. Like John Mayer says, "There's more to me than my body gives me credit for."

I was running these thoughts through my head as I was running on the track, trying to sort it out. Okay, most importantly, I am a child of God. Secondly, I am a wife and mother. Why do I feel it is not enough to be the best at these things as I can be? Well, because everyone is a child of God. And most women are wives and mothers. I want to be unique. I want to be good at something only I am good at. I want to have an original idea. To have something that stands me out. But is this really a good thing?

It is true we are all created different. We all have our unique gifts and talents. Is it necessary we know what these are? I suppose so if we are to develop them to the glory of God. But not to the glory of ourselves. Or perhaps by simply seeking after Christ in all we do, we will develop our talents without even realizing it.

I feel as if I am a pie - there are several pieces to me. All of them are vital and important, but one is blank. That would be my "element". My creative outlet that is more than "fun" and is something I am actually good at. I have a lot of interests, but I'm not really good at any of them.

I wonder if my mother or grandmothers felt this way. How many women before me have felt this way? Many, or just the ones who did stand out? Do I feel a desire to do something big and grand because I am in some way extraordinary, or just because I'm human? Do all humans feel this way? A desire to breakout, to grow, to stretch beyond one's small frame?

I think any human who is truly striving to live must feel this way. When we slow down enough to recognize our heart beating and lower the noise to actually hear it, I think it would only be natural long for something beyond this life and beyond ourselves. I'm often reminded that this earth and life are not really "home." That should long and strive for the Kingdom of Heaven. But I wonder how much I really believe it.

And if I want to be more than who I am now, I have plenty of opportunities to do that. To not scream when my toddler ignores me, to not get frustrated when the baby cries, to not judge, to say hi to the stranger, to deny myself over and over and over and over. That matters more than playing the piano or painting a materpiece. That is being bigger than this sinful, fallen body my soul is contained in. That is what God will notice and what will glorify Him. That is what matters for eternity.

The arts, hobbies, and all other things we label as talents are still important. They bring beauty and joy to our world. They reflect the beauty of God. But there are skills and talents that are not included in our (or at least my) usual list. Maybe I don't have any on that list. Maybe I do. But discovering that should not be my focus. Seeking to deny myself and serve God will lead me to whatever else He chooses for me to do. And for this time in my life, I know that is exactly where I'm at. Serving the husband and children He's given me with love, patience, and joy. He will make time for me to take care of myself too. To explore my interests. And maybe someday one of them will grow into what I'm longing for. But for now, I will try to grow bigger in my soul through service and discipline. Lord knows there are plenty of opportunities for that!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ready and Waiting... Part 2

A week later, and still waiting... I was feeling pretty discouraged last night and stressed about the timing. But God, in His graciousness, gave me a peace. And not just an unexplainable peace, but also some rationalization, which He knows I need. So I am feeling better, but I still have moments when I think, "I wish this would just happen already!" Then I try to think, "I trust You Lord. Help me to enjoy the time."

For, really, there's no rush. Coach is home a lot, so he helps with Sweet Girl if I need a break (which I do often!). He goes up and down the stairs putting the laundry in the washer or dryer and brings it back up again. He does the dishes. He rubs my feet at night. It's great to spend so much time with him!

And Sweet Girl... it was her birthday yesterday and we celebrated by having some friends over in the morning and going to the park (her favorite) in the evening. So besides trying to enjoy my time with them, here and now, I am trying to just keep going as if I wasn't waiting for something big to happen any moment.

I started another book, Little Women.  I read it in junior high, but I don't remember much of it at all. I didn't start a book for a couple days because I was "sure" I wouldn't have time to finish it. But, obviously, I've had more time than I thought and reading is so relaxing (and distracting!).

I started a year-long "research project". Basically I want to learn more about real food and traditional ways of preparing it. Next I want to plan ways to implement all I learn into our lives. The goal is at the end of the year to have a timeline of changes to slowly make in regards to what food I buy and how I prepare it. I have eleven goals (so far) of things I want to learn or plan during this time. I hope to have this as my sole focus for the short times I get to myself. We'll see how it goes. I was planning on starting a month or two after the baby's born, but since I had extra time on my hands, I went ahead and made my goals and I'll do what I can until then.

Mostly I will do my research online. To organize all the information I find, without writing a ton of notes, I downloaded the program Evernote. I heard about it awhile ago here, but since we were using Coach's work laptop, I didn't want to download it on there. Now we have a new computer (which I love!), so I did it. I think it will be very handy and I'm really excited.

That brings me to thoughts about this blog. I'm not sure what I'll want to do here after the dust settles with the baby. It might be a random, when-I-have-thoughts-blog again. After all, I'm sure I'll have much less time. But maybe I'll want to do something structured again, just not as much. Maybe I will want to share all I'm learning in my research project. I would like some opinion from my few readers (I knew there are a couple out there...). At least so I can give it some consideration. I do enjoy blogging, but it does take time and effort. I may not miss it so much once I'm busier... Just not sure what direction I'll go.

Please keep us in your prayers during this time! It's certainly a trial of patience and trust.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ready and Waiting

My bag is packed. It has been packed. And so is Sweet Girl's, who will stay at  my parents' when the awaited time comes. The massive to-do list is done. We're just waiting.

Although my emotions have fluctuated the past couple weeks, I feel my body has been gearing up and has been ready. And although my emotions are settling down, impatience lingers.

I feel like I have been "nesting," as they call it, this week. Mainly in the kitchen. I really want there to be food to eat (especially easy snacking). Tuesday at the store I stocked up on things and organized the freezer and cabinets in order to make room. Thursday I made pretzel bites for snacking (an idea I got from a friend), cut up carrots and celery, and cleaned and organized the refrigerator (which has been on the list for about a month). Today I cleaned the sink and Sweet Girl's chair and mopped. (All things I try to do weekly, but don't always get done.)

And so I feel the time is coming. But I've felt that way for a couple weeks now. I don't know how long my body is going to gear up before it actually starts the real process. And so I'm waiting.

I just finished my first Wendell Berry book. I've long wanted to read his works since several people I admire refer to him often and read his books. And so I read Hannah Coulter. It's a fictional book where Hannah reflects on her almost fully lived life of being a farmer's wife and mother (to put it simply). The farm life and community described in the book struck a cord of longing with me.

And now my mind is "nesting" with ideas of the future. The future for my husband and me, the future of our children. And part of it is centered around food. I'm learning more about what is truly real food, looking beyond organic, and realizing I can't find most of what I need at the store. And a lot of it I can't even find locally. What I can find, I can't afford.

Yet, as we gave thanks for our food this evening, I was reminded to be thankful for food at all, even if it isn't as nutritious as it could be. And I was reminded that, although we have a responsibility to care for our bodies as best we can, our spiritual health is what is most important. I have hope that in the future we can provide our food for ourselves more, or get it from friends and neighbors. But mostly I have a hope that I can instill a balance in my children - to seek good health, enjoyment, and a quality life - but more importantly to seek Christ in all, putting Him above everything else.

So these are my thoughts today as I wait.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Growth and Lists

Swollen hands: check
Swollen feet: when I'm hot
Big belly: double check

After a week of traveling (as in driving every day!) and then a string of events at home, things are finally settling down. Although, it won't stay that way for long. I'm almost 37 weeks (considered full-term) so really, the baby could come at any time. He's really growing.

He's not the only one growing around here (and I'm not referring to my body...). I feel awed and blessed at how my husband has stepped things up around the home, without me having even wished he would. I'll go to dry the dishes after dinner while he washes, and he tells me to go sit down. I don't even pretend to object. Last night he did the mopping, before I got off the couch to do it. He'll randomly rub my feet and even my back. He's making sure I drink my water. It is so different than last time I was pregnant when one night I had to tell him, "You know, pretty soon I'm not going to be able to do ____ (it was something simple an adult can do for themselves) for you!" And when our daughter came, he surely did step it up. So much so that I fell madly in love all over again. But this time, he's ahead of the game and I am falling deeper in love. It's amazing to see the growth and maturity in him, not only as a husband, but as a wonderful father.

Sweet Girl is growing too. So much. She's singing now! First song: Ring Around the Rosies. Second: Happy Birthday. Third: an adapted line from a song I made up for her. Now, she's only singing the first line over and over, but it's singing! More about that third song... I sing "Oh how I love, oh how I love, oh how I love my sweet, sweet girl" (very original, I know). Yesterday I was holding her on my lap and she was hugging me over and over (yes, wonderful!) and then she sang, "Oh how I love... my Mama!" I can't tell you how that makes me feel. If you're a mama, I'm sure you can relate.

But that brings this post to me. And my growth. Or rather shrinking it feels. It's been really hard for me to sort out my emotions. I feel like my big belly is squishing my brain and heart like it's squishing my bladder and stomach and they just can't function normally. I only stay "with it" and productive through lists and lists. Remember that traveling and busi-ness I mentioned? Before that was all over, I was extremely stressed by these lists. And I knew that I needed to trust God. Not trust Him that I would get everything done before the baby comes (and that labor would be smooth and fast, baby would be healthy and nurse great, and all those other things I was worried about), but to simply trust Him that everything would be okay regardless of the state of my to do lists, or body, or baby. But I just couldn't.

And I didn't. Yet, because God is as gracious as He is, I felt better. I felt better because He blessed me with a calm day that was as productive as I would have liked, where Sweet Girl added an hour to her nap in which I simply relaxed, and Coach was home unexpectedly early. Things I wanted to pray for, but knew weren't the solution. Yet, He gave them because I think he knows how weak I am right now, and how hard it is to sort through trust issues and muster up spiritual strength.

After feeling nourished by some extra time, help, and a lighter checklist, I do trust Him... mostly. I still struggle. Last night I went to bed wondering what in the world I'm doing by having a baby! How did I expect to get through labor... nurse through the night... and raise another soul? I felt despondent. Partly because I was exhausted, partly because those are my fears right now. And my answer to it all came this morning in a quote that stopped me mid-cat and cowing:

"One must never, for any reason, become despondent, for we are carried in the hands of God's Providence. Our concern is to be true to the Lord." ~ St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Our concern is to be true to the Lord. Not easy, but simple. I can digest that, even with my squished brain and heart. I am trying, trying... to move past my lists (and expectations) and simply do and be for God. My lists serve a purpose - they are tools - but they should not rule my life or my sense of worth or contentment.

And as I do so, which slowly I've been better at these past few days, I am able to relish the growth of my family and cherish them how we are now, before we change even more drastically when the baby comes. These truly are sweet days. And I thank God for reminding me of that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Less Room

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I experienced a change that no one told me would happen and I didn't read about in the books. As my belly grew bigger with this new life in me, the room in my life for other people and things got smaller. Not only was my body growing this new life, but my heart was changing too - mostly unconsciously. Friends whom I cared about and wanted to keep up with (but who didn't exactly reciprocate) had to be cut out. Learning and any deep thinking was pushed to the side. My whole mind, heart and body was focused on this precious one inside.

This time around, I felt that some in the beginning, mostly from being so tired. It's not as big of a jump this time around, having been through it before. But I'm starting to feel that crowding again. That need to par down in order to not feel overwhelmed.

I haven't been writing lately because things have be rough from switching Sweet Girl to her new bed. And although I have things to share, ideas jotted down, I don't feel too compelled to write. I don't really miss it. It simply takes too much energy and brain power - things I'm having less of these days.

I was expecting to take a long pause in writing, especially after he's born, but I didn't expect it to be this soon. I intend to write once a week, if I have something to share. However, I might not. Overall, I'm feeling less room for creating, sharing. It's getting close to time to hibernate again. To stick to the basics, the needs, the essentials. And I may have to stay this way for some time yet.

Blogging is a luxury for me, an extra. Now, when the baby comes, and until I feel balanced again, blogging will be way, way on the back burner. Part of me wants to share all I'm trying to accomplish, things I'm learning, and other thoughts in my head, but most of me simply wants to rest. And rest I will. I'm not going to be completely absent, but you will see less of me.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Out of Town

We are out of town today through Monday, visiting the in-laws! I'll see you back here on Thursday! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: What God Taught Me About Sleep

I could probably write several posts about our experience the past few weeks with switching Sweet Girl into her "big girl" bed. And the journey is not even over. But, for your sake and mine, I think I will just write this one and share with you an important lesson I've learned, and hope to keep with me.

We are now going into our third week of this, each week having it's own difficulties. What I learned during the first week, probably the hardest so far, is what I want to share today. I'm not going to go into details, just some background information you need to understand how my lesson came about. Basically that is that we were all up at all hours of the night, every night.

Sleep is very important to me. When Sweet Girl was younger, I'd add up how many hours I got (or didn't get). I'd do the same for her. I'd analyze. "If she sleeps x more hours then that's y for her and z for me." Fortunately, this time, I was able to refrain. That was helpful, but it didn't completely keep me agonizing about the lack of sleep and dread the coming day with all its activities and challenges. As hard as it was to get Sweet Girl back to sleep, I then had to get in bed and put myself back to sleep. And instead of drifting back off, I'd lay awake - alert and anxious - and pray and pray to be able to fall asleep.

When morning came, I'd beg for grace and strength for the day. And you know what? I got it. Not only did I not feel exhausted, crabby or frustrated, but neither did Sweet Girl - at least it seemed. She was her normal, perky self (most of the time) and I was a joyful, grace-filled version of myself (most of the time). All week little things had helped me try to keep things in perspective. Things like:  "At least she's healthy." and "Christ rose from the dead, He can surely get a tired, pregnant mama through the day."

Finally on Sunday morning, after putting her back to sleep, once again, around 6:00 (you know, when the sun is rising and birds are chirping), I tried to go back to sleep. By now I had noticed that no matter how hard the nights were, the days were fairly normal and enjoyable. So as I began my rounds of, "Lord, help me get a couple more hours!", a thought came to me: "If God is giving you strength through the day, why worry about how much sleep you get?" I realized that all my frustration from Sweet Girl's lack of peaceful sleep is from my desire to get the sleep I think I need. Yet God had proven to me all week that I don't need sleep. I need Him.

All week I had been praying for sleep, which in my mind was strength, when instead God was choosing to strengthen me in a different way. While I was praying for the miracle of her (and me) sleeping through the night, he was giving me a different miracle of grace and joy during the days.

In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus performs many miracles, then sleeps through storm on a boat. His disciples panic (um, that would be me!), and He stops the storm. Then when He heals two demon possessed men by letting the demons go into pigs, the people ask Him to leave. That would be me again. I didn't want God's strength, I wanted the security of a good night's sleep. But that is no security. Only God's grace and love is secure. I accept that now, and I pray I can apply it to all parts of my life.

What I learned can be summarized in this quote, one I try to remind myself of often:

"Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be strong people.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.
Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle."
~ Phillips

Monday, May 14, 2012

Money Monday: Saving, Part Two Revised

On Money Monday I share ways I'm learning to save, make, and/or spend money wisely.

I basically need to take back most of what I said about our savings last time I wrote! What I learned and hope to do remains the same, but not only was I wrong about how we are currently saving, but we have revised our savings plan.

I checked out the Simple Mom blog a couple weeks ago, like I do sometimes. She had just posted about how they bought a house without any credit (because they don't use credit cards). I found it interesting and in it she commented about how the lady at Money Saving Mom bought their house in cash, which is what we hope to do one day with God's help.

While she has an extensive series dedicated to sharing how her and her husband saved enough to buy a house, most of the content was relevant to them and their situations. I was hoping for some pointers, but there was really only one thing I could take from it for us. That was the idea to set a time frame and amount goal. For us, we were saving some money for a house and a second car, but we didn't have an idea of how much we wanted to save or when we would want to have it saved by. That is because we don't know where we are going next and when we will want to buy these things - and even less of an idea what a realistic time frame is! And while these things are still true (and really, how can one ever really know), I thought it would be a good idea for us to at least set some goals, for motivation purposes if nothing else. If we didn't reach them, then at least we tried and we can set a new one. When there is no finish line, motivation is lacking.

So Coach and I sat down and talked about it. He didn't really like the idea for the house and car because it just seemed impossible when you really put a number on it. But the discussion led us to look at our current saving practice and the list of short term goals that we have - smaller big purchases we want in to near future (like a new computer). We set a number goal and date goal for our new computer. After that we realized the other things on we wanted really weren't practical since we'll be moving next year, so we scratched those off. Then, instead of working on house or car savings, we decided to focus on building up our emergency fund. Since Coach will need a new job next year (He's doing a two year program right now.), we thought it would be wise to save enough money for a few months' expenses in case he doesn't find a job right away. If he does, then we will probably need the money for moving expenses, or at least some of it. If we don't either way, than we have a solid emergency fund for when we do need it. God willing, his next job will pay better and we can simply save more while still living frugally.

It was too overwhelming for us right now to really make a goal for a house or a second car. I still think about owning a home, but it really isn't in our near future. There are other things we need to focus on right now, so we are trying to take baby steps. Hopefully, with God's help, we will soon be in a position to save, save, save for our own home. For now, we're focused on what's right in front of us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Continuing the Pause

Alas, this transition is taking longer, and is much more difficult, than I had anticipated. Therefore, I'm going to stop posting indefinitely until we are all adjusted and recovered from this. Hopefully that means just another week, but it's really hard to tell. Be sure you can anticipate a reflective post once we have passed through this "storm".

Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Pause for the Blog

Due to transitioning Sweet Girl to her big bed, I will not be posting this week. I anticipated it taking time to help her fall asleep, but after a short half hour nap today, I realize now it might be more than just that. To make things simpler for me, I'm just going to take a break for the week. Who knows what the nights will be like, and I've learned over and over that Sweet Girl needs lots of time to adjust. If I free up myself to help her, then I have more patience. So, hopefully, I'll see you all back here next Monday!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Homemaking Saturday: Review/Preview

On Homemaking Saturday I share something I'm doing or learning to make my home a better place.

I think I will make it a habit to write my Review/Preview on the last Saturday of the month. It's just simpler and it does make sense. I want to update you on a couple things I've written about on Saturdays this month, so it just seemed natural.

I got almost everything accomplished in April that I had hoped to! I did have to slow down before and after Pascha, but lately I haven't needed naps in the afternoon, which I'm so grateful for! I know the days are limited so I'm trying to make the most of them!

I finally ordered new glasses for myself, Sweet Girl has an appointment for the dentist this Wednesday, and all the photos I have are organized in photo albums. I have pictures waiting to be ordered (when there's a special!). That last one especially feels good to be done. I hadn't bothered to order pictures (except of Sweet Girl) since we've been married! When you move around so much, you don't have a place for photo albums. However, now we do and it feels good to have that set.

Zinnia and Lettuce
I planted seeds the middle week of April and there are sprouts already in most of them. I think I will need to replant a few things or start them indoors like I did with the basil. I'm so excited to see growth, I just hope I don't kill them somehow! It will be so wonderful to have real plants! Sweet Girl is just as excited. She loves to water them and always talks about them when we see them as we leave the house.

And those curtains I mentioned last week? I finished them Sunday afternoon. They really make the room darker. I made them out of coat lining material I found at the thrift store. Four yards for $4! It's lightweight, yet non-transparent. It blocks those security lights too, which helps at night. I had to add some fabric at the top as it wasn't quite long enough. It's still not as long as I'd like, but it will do. It's temporary, really, as we won't be in this house much more than another year. I bought a cheap curtain rod at Dollar General. It's stretched to its maximum length and if we tried to open the curtains, it probably would come apart. So we just won't.

Here's my list for May:
1. Get more soil as well as tomato and broccoli plants. Plant.
2. Plan gifts and household needs through October and start shopping.
3. Start buying things for the baby.
4. Move Sweet Girl into her big bed and rearrange her room. Decorate it too.
5. Make dish soap.
6. Make a food plan with Coach. (Meals he feels comfortable cooking once in awhile after the baby's here.)
7. Get a curtain for the front door.
8. Make a cardboard kitchen for Sweet Girl.
9. Reorganize areas of the kitchen.
10. Reorganize storage boxes.

In my mind, it's really getting down the wire. I'm getting big. I'm going to be tired. I don't want to have a lot on my plate after this month. My list for June is small and I hope to keep it that way!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Developing a Sleep Plan

On Thoughtful Thursday I share thoughts on ways I'm working to improve myself as a woman, wife and mother.

About forty minutes ago, I finished the nap routine with my daughter and left her room. She was still awake and about five minutes later, she was sleeping peaceful. Ahh, so easy.

Well, it hasn't always been that way. In fact, only in the past four months has it been that easy, with big bumps interspersed in those four months (whenever something big happens, things get hard). And it's only been that long that she's slept through the night.

So with a second baby on the way, I'm hoping things will be a little easier this time around. But I'm not just hoping, I'm educating myself. I feel like I've learned a lot along the way, with my daughter, but I know there's more to know. And I want to have a plan (and a back-up plan or two). I know I can't be prepared 100% - who knows what this baby will be like - but I can try to be as prepared as possible.

I read/skimmed two books this week: Sleep Deprived No More and The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I'll give you a brief review of each, then share with you my thought process as I read them, and finally, my plan!

I only picked up Sleep Deprived No More at the library because I was looking for the other book and happened to see it. It was a super easy read; I skipped a lot. It probably had good information for those who specifically have sleep problems while pregnant (like restless leg syndrome), but I don't so I didn't read a lot of that. Also, for each trimester and after birth, she gave basically the same 10-12 tips, which were mostly common sense things that I already do. She had some helpful comments about getting sleep with a newborn, but mostly talked about how hard it really is and ways to cope. So, I didn't learn too much (except some about sleep patterns) there.

I read The No-Cry Sleep Solution before when Sweet Girl was three or four months. It really has a lot of great ideas! I wanted to review it mainly to refresh my memory about how much sleep a baby really needs at different stages. I was also curious as to what she said about the newborn-four month stage. I remembered she said that during that time babies just sleep when they are tired. I can't say I agree with that, but really the whole book is great! She's an advocate of co-sleeping, but doesn't make you feel like an unloving parent if you don't (which we don't, except for the first month or two). She has a lot of great tips and ideas and information I hadn't read in any other books.

With Sweet Girl, my whole approach was very rigid and structured (thanks to taking The Baby Whisperer to the extreme). I was trying to put a newborn on a schedule! I didn't think of it that way (it was a routine), but I was. I stressed if she didn't fall asleep on time or sleep long enough and I was NOT going to let her nurse to sleep (except at night).

This time around, I plan to have a totally different approach. One thing I learned from both books is that from newborn to three (or four) months, the biological clock (which regulates our sleep) is really not developed. In fact, it doesn't totally develop until close to 10 months! But, these first three months are really a time of adjustment. My sister-in-law said she heard of it as the "fourth trimester". I plan to be much more relaxed, especially in the beginning. I will still try to implement routine, but I will give it time and I will be more flexible!

Before I read the books, I decided I would just plan on nursing the baby to sleep. After all, it's the most natural, simplest way. I don't mind being the only one to put the baby to sleep for a while (this is my job), and the baby won't be crying, which is what I want to avoid (for me as much as for the baby!).

While reading Sleep Deprived No More, she said it is best to have a Eat-Play-Sleep routine (just like The Baby Whisperer says). She said if a baby learns to fall asleep while nursing, then when they have brief awakenings at night (which are common and normal for everyone), the baby will not be able to go back to sleep unless nursing again (or having a bottle or pacifier). Yikes! I also want to avoid waking up every couple hours with an older baby, like I was with my daughter. The way to put the baby to bed, she said, was to have a routine and put the baby in the bed while he is awake but drowsy and let him self-soothe to sleep. I remember getting this advice from a nurse and pediatrician with my daughter. It didn't work. (Granted, we didn't try it but a few times, but knowing her, I doubt it would have.) But the author made it sound so simple, I decided this would be my plan A.

Then, as I was reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution, she was talking about how natural and special it is to nurse a baby to sleep. And how quickly the baby stage goes... And I thought, "Yeah, I don't really want to put my 3 month old down for a nap and let him fend for himself. I want him to need me; it's natural for him to need me. He won't forever, why start so early?" So I was back on the nursing-to-sleep plan. But how was I to do that and help him learn to sleep on his own too - gently and slowly? Ah, she had that answer too! She too suggested putting the baby down when not totally asleep. To take the baby off from nursing before he's completely out. And if it doesn't work, then try again another time. This helped me to look at it as a process, not a one week training boot camp.

She has a great plan outlined in the back of the book for this newborn-four months stage. Here's what I came up with:

1. RELAX for the first six weeks. Let a pattern happen.
2. Around six weeks or so, lay him down almost asleep or very sleepy. If it doesn't work, try next time.
3. As baby gets older, try to do more and more. Sleep train over time!
4. Be sure to always swaddle! (We stopped early on with our daughter and I think it would have helped a lot if we'd stuck with it.)

Of course, I plan to do the things I have already learned: have a nap/bedtime routine, have a basic day routine, make the room dark (and we will have a sound machine too!), don't let him sleep too long during the day, do not change the diaper every single time he wakes up at night (yeah, I did that!), and to wait when I hear a noise to see if he's really waking up or just making sleep noises.

My plan B and C? Well, I'm not sure yet, but I could always try putting him down awake and see if he's one of those rare babies that prefers that or I could try rocking or "shh" him to sleep. My last resort would be to wear him in a wrap like I did with my daughter for the first three months.  I put her to sleep about three different ways over time, so I will most likely pick the one I think will work best and try that.

Maybe I'm being too presumptuous to have a plan, but I don't want to be scrambling when I'm sleep deprived with a crying baby (and toddler) and hormones all over the place! My main goal is to be flexible and take the time to step back and make clear decisions. And if I make a bad decision, to let it go. Over all, I really want to STRESS LESS!

And now I need to go - she's up! Short nap, but what can you do??

Monday, April 23, 2012

Money Monday: Saving, Part Two

As I was trying to fit the books my husband got for Easter on the bookshelf, I came across the book The Sound Mind Investing Handbook by Austin Pryor. My mother had given it to us a few years ago for Christmas or birthdays... can't remember. It was long enough ago that when I started to read it, I felt overwhelmed at our inability to even begin thinking about saving, more less investing!

Moving every six months and having your income and spending change that often too makes it very difficult to get a grip on finances, more so saving. Really, it felt like we were just spinning our wheels. The engine was running, but we weren't getting anywhere. I am so thankful our needs were always met and only once did we go in debt from an unexpected expense.

Now though, things are different. They are more stable; at least for this year they have been. We have been able, and are able, to save. At least some.

So I decided to take that book off the shelf to make room for the new books, and review the money book. He starts out the book answering the question, "What's my purpose in investing?" He says, "For the Christian, the answer is two fold: 1) to provide financially for the needs of your household, and 2) to increase your assets in order to serve God more fully." I'm on board with that.

I skipped to his chapter titled "Do You Have Adequate Savings?". The answer for us: no. So what do we do? Well, here's what I gleaned from the chapter, for us personally:

1) He recommends having a minimum of three months worth of living expenses and more ideally, six months. He said some people say $10,000. This money would be your contingency fund, as he called it. I prefer to call it emergency fund, like Dave Ramsey, because, currently, "contingency" is not really in my vocabulary. (I know, I'm no scholar!)

We have had a so-called emergency fund since we've been married and I read Dave Ramsey's book. He recommends starting with a $1000 and build as you are able. We have never really been over $1000 because something has always come up. This is a more realistic goal for us than $10,000, but we don't plan on stopping at $1000, of course. So there is one area we are, and need to continue, working on.

2) Austin Pryor suggests those in the 20's save 5-10% of their earnings. Check. I believe we are doing that. Our income is small, so it's not much, but we do believe it's better to save little than none. However, we are  not putting all our savings into our emergency fund. From what we are able to save, and whatever extra we have for whatever reason, we split three ways: 50% to emergency fund, 25% to a second car fund, and 25% to a house fund. Since we are hopeful to buy a second car and home upfront, I felt very strongly that we should start saving now, before we even have a foreseeable need. And if we can't pay in full when the time comes, we at least have some to put down upfront.

3) He suggests putting your emergency fund in an account that where the money is immediately accessible and completely safe. Four places you can do that are banks, credit unions, money markets, and US Treasury Bills. Now a days, you get hardly any interest in a bank savings accounts, and even money markets are low. We had a money market for a few years, but our balance got so low they closed our account! Now, I think we would be able to maintain it (God willing!), but I'm not sure we have enough yet to open an account. Right now we have a Silver Savers account, since my brother got my husband into buying silver. I'm not sure how I feel about it, especially now that I know about the importance of it being safe. Silver is really something to invest in, but maybe not so good for savings, as its value can fluctuate a lot.

4) He also mentioned having an accumulation fund for major expenses such as a new car, furniture, or a remodeling project. This is money you can save for more than a year before you actually need it. He mentioned that investments would be a good way to go with this so maybe our car and house savings would be fine in a silver account, but our emergency fund in something safer.

So steps I want us to take in our savings:
1) Continue saving!
2) Look into a money market for safer savings.
3) Keep accumulation funds (car, house) in silver account to earn interest.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemaking Saturday: A Couple Cleaning Tips

On Homemaking Saturday I share something I'm doing or learning to make my home a better place to live.

These tips are new to me, which may show my lack of cleaning skills, but I want to share them because I feel enlightened and excited... hey, maybe you will too!

1) How to clean a hair brush. I humbly admit it... I have never truly cleaned a hair brush before. I would pick out the gunk, run it under hot water, or just get a new one (after a few years). It wasn't until I saw in a Real Simple magazine a link to instructions that I even realized there's an effective way to clean a hair brush! Here it is:

  • Fill a container with 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 20 drops of tea tree essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil or lavender essential oil.
  • Soak brush for 20 minutes. 
  • Rinse in clear water and air dry. 
Sooooo simple AND it worked! I used a tall plastic cup Sweet Girl plays with in the tub (something we don't drink out of). The only thing was that around the top of the handle (where it met the water), a ring of paint came off. But, I'd rather have a clean brush! 

2) Cleaning a porcelain sink with baking soda. I know baking soda can do amazing things cleaning, but I'm always skeptical and think of it last. I've been cleaning our porcelain sink with Comet, but a ran out a few weeks ago. I really wanted to find something different. So when I went to clean it, I decided to check my Green Clean book (which I should have done when we first moved here!). It said to wet a sponge with baking soda. I thought, "Yeah, right." But it worked! It might not be as bright white, but it was noticeably cleaner, and bright enough for me. I put the baking soda in a narrow glass jar, since the box had gotten wet, and put my wet rag over the opening, shook some onto the rag and just repeated when I needed to. Ahh, a safe and cheap way to have a clean white sink! (Just so you know, that's not my sink pictured above. If only...)

And, I apologize for only two (I was going to try to find a third), but I'm anxious to work on some curtains for the bedroom before Sweet Girl wakes up! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Pascha Memories

Note: In the Eastern Orthodox Church we call Easter, Pascha. We follow a different calendar so we usually celebrate on a different date. We celebrate it late Saturday night, instead of Sunday morning.

I have mentioned before that since my husband and I have been married, we haven't celebrated Pascha twice in the same place. As we were reminiscing one night, it occurred to me that it's kind of nice now because each Pascha has distinct memories. They don't all blend together, like they do for my childhood.

Sweet Girl's "basket"
Our first year we were in South Carolina. The service was to start at 11:00 pm, which meant we'd have to rush home after the game, change, and rush to church. However, that night there was a rain delay. The game started, but then it began to rain. They never canceled the game, just waited... about two hours, if I remember correctly. So we were about two hours late to church, but we still had a good hour to attend, so we didn't miss everything. Fortunately, there was no game the next day so we basically slept all day!

The next year we were in Virginia. That April was especially hard on us financially. We started out renting an apartment and I wasn't able to find a job. I literally didn't know how I was going to buy food for us. Easter was a few weeks before Pascha that year, and after a game Will handed me a $100 gift card for Wal-mart. It said, "To the married baseball couple." (We were the only married ones.) It was truly a miracle!

For Pascha, the team was on the road in Maryland. So on Saturday I drove out so we could attend a Greek church together. It was unique enough for us to experience Pascha in mostly Greek, but the feast afterwards was quite a culture shock! The first thing on the buffet was this good looking soup and we both got a big bowl. But after one bite, we knew we could eat no more. We were told later it was Lamb Brain Soup - a delicacy to Greeks, but I'm quite American and I felt very bad letting it go to waste. We will always remember that one!

Opening a present from Grandma and Grandpa
 Our third Pascha we celebrated in Florida at the tail end of Spring Training. We left for Virginia on Pascha (after been up half the night!). We were attending a Greek church, so the service was more familiar to us having attended one the previous year. There was no feast at the church, so we went to Perkins and dug into some awesome breakfast. On our drive up to Virginia (where we had been the year before), through a relay of phone calls (but not initiated by us), it was determined that we could stay rent-free in a brand new condo just minutes from the field! Not only had we not known where we would live before we got to a place, but this situation was the best one so far! We felt the spirit of Pascha all around us!

First egg hunt!
 Last year we were in Maine. Since we had moved their shortly before and were trying to get Sweet Girl on a different sleep schedule (which resulted in much less sleep for both of us while she was still adjusting), we decided that her and I would not go to the midnight service. That year, Easter and Pascha were on the same Sunday, and there was no baseball game! So during the day we celebrated with our wonderful host parents and went to the afternoon service (Agape Vespers) as a family. It was a wonderful day of fellowship!

She took it quite seriously.
This year was a whirlwind. Early Saturday evening I tried to stop and pray that I would be able savor the moments. Even as I tried, it went by so fast! Sweet Girl did not get to sleep until 2:00 am, but she was great. She sat with my mother most of the time and seemed to be in awe of the joyful service with all it's different things happening. As for me, I was tired at times, but I could feel the joy as well, touching my hard, sinful heart, and lifting it up, if just a little. It is a hard thing to comprehend, the Resurrection of our Lord. Hard to even try. But God graciously let me see a glimmer a time or two during that awesome celebration.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter/Pascha as well! 

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Christ is Risen from the dead!
Trampling down death by death!
And to those in the tombs,
bestowing Life!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time for the Little Surprise!

The surprise is... we are having a BOY!!! 

Are you surprised? I was! I thought for sure we were having a girl, but we learned otherwise pretty quickly. As the lady was getting set up she asked us if we wanted to know and we said yes. She commented that she's seen a lot of girls lately and as soon as she put the wand on my belly, she then added, "Oh, not today!"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just a Couple Notes

Happy Easter to all those celebrating Easter today. For those who are Orthodox, may you have a blessed Holy Week!

I wanted to let you know I will not be posting for a week and a half. Not only am I going to try to be more focused spiritually this week, but, practically speaking, it is a packed week and weekend and I really need take care of myself and the one inside and rest as much as I possibly can. That means naps instead of posts!

I will, however, be posting a little surprise tomorrow, so be sure to check back in! After that, I will see you on Thursday the 19th. I'll be sharing some Easter memories.

A blessed Easter/Pascha to you all! Glory be to our risen Lord!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Homemaking Saturday: Gardening

On Homemaking Saturday, I share something I'm doing or learning to make my home a better place to live.

I have never gardened before unless you count when I was a child and weeding was a chore that I despised. Now that I see the value in growing your own produce, and I am finally in a position to, I am going to attempt it this spring and summer.

I am going to do container gardening since this is not our property. Around February we started composting in a container. I don't know how it's doing except things are rotting. Again, a new venture in which I don't know what I'm doing. So, I may or may not end up using some. I really need to look into it.

For containers I will be using the bottoms of milk and juice jugs (for herbs, flowers, and smaller plants) and five gallon buckets (for bigger plants). Glamorous, I know... My goal this year is not to make a pretty garden, but to grow produce.

I ordered seeds from Fedco, a company my former-CSA-farmer brother recommended. They should come some time next week. I will buy some seedlings next month.

For April I hope to start:

  • lettuce
  • peas
  • parsley
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • dill
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • flowers

In May I'll get tomato plants and start green beans and cucumber as well.

I have sort of a giddy, but anxious, excitement about this venture. I feel like a child, excited about the possibility and adventure, in awe of growth. But my rational adult side feels fear and dread at utter and total failure. Because, friends, I really don't have a clue what I'm doing! I've compiled information from books and my brother, but I'm getting the sense that this is something one must learn on one's own and only by experience. Kind of like having a baby.

So we shall see. Fortunately, I haven't spent that much money so if nothing works out, it wasn't a huge investment to begin with. And no matter what amount of produce I get, I hope to can at least learn and have some value from that. 

Are you planning on gardening this year? Any tips for newbies? Happy growing!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Healing from a lost dream

On Thoughtful Thursday I share thoughts on ways I'm working to improve myself as a woman, wife and mother. 

This week I learned that a player my husband played with, who's wife I was friends with, was chosen as a starter for the major league team we were affiliated with. You'd think I would have been excited to hear this; happy for them. I should have been. Instead, I felt jealous, disappointed. It simply revisited a site of healing that I don't visit often. 

In our new world here, of "normal life", with our family and circle of friends, and the new venture of coaching, we don't think about it much. That loss of the dream. The dream of playing in the majors one day. A dream my husband had since he was a child. A dream I shared with him from the beginning of our relationship. One we spent four years pursuing. And now is the birth of new dreams and ideas, but the old still lingers. 

I think it would be much like losing a business. You have hopes and dreams, ideas and plans. You invest time and money, energy and brain power. And it just doesn't work out. God doesn't always tell us why something can seem so right, even over a period of time, and then be revealed as not so. 

I know we were following His will in our pursuit of that dream. I'm thankful for all the unique experiences we were able to experience, the people we got to meet, and all the lessons we learned, bringing us closer to God and each other. And I know that now that we are right where He wants us. 

I'm not sure if I can explain it, but for us, and others I've talked to, the baseball world is a totally different mindset. While we were home for the winter in the off-season, we felt comfortable and almost as if we could let go of the dream and live normally. But when we were in the middle of it - Spring Training, the games, stats, promotions, etc. - the dream was brought back to life and the desire rekindled. 

I know we have healed a lot because this recent news wasn't disruptive or depressing, but just rocked the boat a little. It showed that we still have some healing to do, but that doesn't surprise me. I know we are both happier where we are now, but sometimes we long for that dream and miss that life a little too. As these things come up, I try to welcome them as a time to think about it and let a little more healing happen. 

As I thought about this briefly this morning, I remembered a thought I had last March toward the end of Spring Training. I was blessed during that month to write in my journal almost every day. Reading back in it I'm able to see the progression from being anxious about my husband making a team to the peace God gave me if he didn't. Here's an excerpt that I was reminded of this morning:

"Last night at prayers I was sort of involuntarily praying for him to make it. I don't want him to 'fail' - I want him to make it. But then a thought came to me, "Then what? Would it just be like last year? Him struggling? Being unhappy about it? Wondering if he should keep playing?" 

"What if," came the thought, "baseball ended and he found something else he loves? Something he'd be excited about; he'd come home happy from... Wouldn't that be better than him 'making it' out of Spring Training?"

And although he did make a team, it was clear to us later that it was time to move on. We didn't know it at the time, but the beginning of the season was simply a bridge of comfort and employment before his current job opened up. And I am over joyed to say that, these days, my husband has found something else he loves. Something he's excited about and comes home happy from. That, my friends, is healing. Glory be to God who knows all things and cares for us in the way only He can!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Money Monday: Saving, Part One

On Money Monday I share ways I'm learning to save, make or spend money wisely.

There are two ways I think about saving money. One is saving through the purchases I make or don't make. The other is setting aside money for something in particular or just in case. This week I want to write about saving through purchases. 

"To everyone who is careful there is an abundance, but he who is pleasure-taking and slothful shall be in want." Proverbs 14:24

I feel like most of the tips I read in magazines, or even on sites designed for money saving tips, really still promote buying. While we all have to buy things, I think our culture makes us think we need more than we do. So one way I'm trying to save money is simply buying less. When I think of something we "need", I try to reconsider. I wrote about some ways I'm doing this a couple Saturdays ago. Usually a "need" gets put on a list and sits there for a while until I have money. By then I might realize that we really don't need it. 

When I do decide to buy something, I try to buy wisely. For me this means buying something that might cost more, but has a higher quality value too, so it will last longer. This is especially important the bigger the purchase. If it's something that just doesn't have a long life no matter what, I usually go the inexpensive route. 

Before I buy something big, I try to do my research. I might ask around, but usually I search the internet. Amazon usually has good reviews on everything and I weigh the opinions. Another way I try to buy wisely is to, as above, wait before I buy. Not only does this weed out the unnecessary things, but also allows me to really think about what is important to me when buying the product, therefore being happier with it and keeping it longer in the end.

I try to shop at thrift stores before I buy new, if it's something I don't mind having used. I really liked this post about thrift store shopping. (It's mainly about clothes, but I think the points can be applied to most things.) I am lucky that we have three great, yet varied, thrift stores in my town to shop at. Still, it is tricky to find just what you need, by the time you need it, and it be a quality product you will want to keep. 

When I need something new or specific that I haven't found, I often buy from Amazon. This past fall, I signed up for Amazon Mom and got a free trial of Amazon Prime, which gives me free shipping on most items. When I bought some things from their "baby store", they extended it. And since we've had baby things to buy lately, I have it until the end of May. The free shipping is good on other things, not just baby. So if you're in my situation, you could look into that. (And no, they are not paying me to say this, though I wish they were!)

Another thing I do when I know I'm going to buy something at a store is check out RetailMeNot.com. When I bought fabric for my bag, I printed off a coupon for Joann's from that site. Sometimes it's helpful, sometimes not.

I'm always looking for ways to save money either by buying less or buying more wisely, and therefore saving in the future. Have any tips to share?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homemaking Saturday: Review/Preview

On Homemaking Saturday I share something I'm doing or learning to make my home a better place.

I'm going to cheat a little and do my Review/Preview post for my Homemaking Saturday. After all, it is the last day of the month and Saturday, and all things are related anyway.

I feel like I didn't get much done around the house this month. However, it was still a very good month - it was a visiting month. The first week my best friend came with her two boys for most of the week while hubby was in Texas with the team for Spring Break. On the second weekend of the month, my in-laws and brother-in-law were here. And there were plenty of baseball games to go to each week, I did a lot of babysitting (that's done for now), and other visiting with friends. In addition to that, here's some other things that went on:

1. We bought our first mattress! We were previously using a set my parent's own. It was a full; this is a queen. (Ahh.. more room!) I'm proud to say we bought it locally and the owner of the store and his brother delivered and installed it. How cool is that?
2. We also bought Sweet Girl a mattress. We're using an old bed frame from my parents. It's all set up, but she's not sleeping in it yet... just getting used to it. I'm waiting for a "good time" for this transition.
3. I researched and bought cloth diapers and covers for the baby. Right now, and in the past, we've used my sister-in-law's cloth diapers. However, she's due in October so I figured it would just be easier for us invest in some ourselves, now that I understand what it's all about!
4. I was able to clean each zone at least somewhat each week, like I talked about here.
5. I organized various sore spots in the house such as the spice drawer, electronic accessories, and storage boxes.

Although I still feel very well physically, I can feel myself slowing down some. I will start my third trimester mid-April. I am a mix of ambition, "nesting", and panic, as well as wanting to retreat and only read or rest (like I was during the first trimester) at times. I know I'm going to have to slow down before too long. In my mind, I want to get "everything" done in April and May, so in June and July I can just relax and take care of any final details. So here are some of  my ambitions for April:

1. Take Sweet Girl to the dentist.
2. Buy new glasses for me.
3. Get gardening supplies and start gardening! (I hope to post about this next week.)
4. Organize photos into photo albums.
5. Make laundry soap. (Maybe a couple batches.)
6. Organize fabric.
7. Decorate Mia's room a bit.
8. Put coats and winter things away. (I'm finally convinced spring is here to stay!)
9. Get my coat cleaned.
10. Make dark curtains for our room. (For when the baby's here! Right now we have only a sheer curtain over a picture window. It can be pretty bright.)
11. If possible, do things on May's list!!!

Phew! Does that make you tired? Well, oddly enough it energizes me and I feel I could do all of them right now before Sweet Girl wakes up! I'm sure it's from some strange pregnancy hormone fogging my perception of reality. But, God willing, by the end of April I will get all those things done. Thankfully, I already have my Easter/Pascha gifts for Coach and Sweet Girl. We are so excited to celebrate Easter with my family and our church community. We have celebrated at a different church every year since we've been married. It will be nice to be somewhere so familiar and comfortable. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter and month of April!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: On Being a Coach's Wife

Saturday at church a lady asked me, "Do you feel like a single mother now that baseball season has started?" I laughed and said, "Yes, but it's harder because I still have to feed him when he gets home!"

I had been reflecting on this new development in my life and how it's been different than I had imagined. Although I didn't really put too much thought into what it might be like, my main thought was that it would be way easier than pro-ball life because he wouldn't be gone for 4-8 days at a time at frequent intervals. While I am glad he's not going on long road trips, it still has taken some adjustment and it is still a lot of work, just different.

Instead he's working 10-11 hour days, most days. Sometimes he comes home for lunch, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he's home by 7:00, sometimes later (and occasionally, earlier). Sometimes he stops by at random times during the day. Anyone who knows me can see why this alone would be hard on me. I like routine!

However, it hasn't been too bad. I've actually been fairly flexible. It helps that I can have an idea of what the week will look like before it starts. Also, four years of pro-ball has broken me in somewhat... I've had to learn to be flexible! It does kind of stretch me in less noticeable ways. It's just much more calm and comfortable when things are fairly the same from day to day and week to week. And, obviously, it's harder being the parent most of the time.

One thing that is a little difficult, as it was with pro-ball, is, not the leaving of the husband, but the return. Yes, he's missed when he's gone, but it's also easier. Smaller meals to fix and all of nap and night time to myself. And lets not forget the whole bed to myself! Ha ha! But seriously, by the time he gets back, I'm used to doing everything myself, the way I like it done. Just like living with him for the first time took adjustment, it takes time once he's back to readjust. These are good opportunities to be patient and understanding (and let go of control), but I am usually so excited to have him back that I forget that these trials come up, so they take me by surprise and I usually lack that patience and understanding. Fortunately, we're back in sync fairly quickly.

Going to games has been fun. It's nice that the field is only a five minute walk from our house, and the weather has been gorgeous. But, it's yet another thing that wears me down a bit. Packing snacks, being presentable, regulating Sweet Girl, disciplining subtly (because people are watching!), and finally the walk home. It really is fun, don't get me wrong, but it's work too.

Then there's the publicity aspect. I never really liked it that fans, complete strangers to me, knew who I was and who I was married to. And now, it's parents. Not as creepy, but still catches me off guard when a mom chats with me in the bathroom about my daughter or my husband. I mean, what's your name again? I know they all mean well, I'm just a privacy snob. And I haven't been there enough (or been able to people watch enough) to see who's there every time and make note of who cheers specifically for whom, etc. I mean, I'm just trying to keep my daughter happy most of the time! I'm lucky if I get to watch the game some too.

I've enjoyed the memories it brings back to me of when my husband and I were dating. It was his senior year of college. I spent every weekend at his games. I got to know the moms... and baseball. I liked how people yelled, "Let's go 1-2!" for the player with the number 12. The players were right there. The crowds were small; it was intimate. It felt safe. After pro-ball, this is a welcome relief. People are at the games because they are invested in the players or college in some way. Not because they are fanatics about the team or want a ball signed by a maybe-celebrity-someday. Although I would say the majority of the people at professional games are there just for a good ball game, which I am all for, I saw a lot of crazy things too. I'm happy to be somewhere low-key again.

And finally, what makes me happiest is knowing my husband is loving his job. I don't get to see him in action much because he's the pitching coach. He stays in the dugout unless a pitcher is struggling. I'm sorry for the pitcher, but I get excited when I see him walk out and I get to see him "in action." (All he does is give the pitcher a pep talk.) We sit on the opponents side so we can see him in the dugout and sometimes he'll wave to us. And although he's adjusting to this new role too, and some things are hard for him, I know he's happier in this role, and excited to continue and develop as a coach. I feel the same about being a coach's wife.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Money Monday: Living Debt-Free

On Money Monday I share ways I'm learning to save, make and or spend money wisely.

One of the standards I outlined for us as a family was to live debt-free. In our society today, it is so easy to have whatever we want, when we want it. If we don't have the money, just use a credit card! Need a new car, take out a loan. Want that big house, get a mortgage!

We are finally debt-free for the first time in our marriage and you know what? It feels great! And it's daunting to think about the need to buy another car in the future, and a house someday, and not borrow a money to do so. But God is big. If He is willing to honor our desire to be debt-free, He can. If not, I pray He'll give us the discernment to go ahead and take out a loan or mortgage. 

Why do we want to live debt-free? It says in Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is a slave to the lender." There are many other verses that make it clear it is important to live debt-free. Also, if we do not have to borrow money to buy something, most likely we are living within our means, not our wants. A book my husband and I were able look at briefly, Men's Manual, Vol. 2, said that if you do not have the money to buy something, it is God's way of saying you either don't need it or you need to wait. Usually, when I want something, I don't want to wait and I certainly don't want to just accept the fact that I don't really need it.

As Christians, though, this is a good way for us to practice denying ourselves of our will and allowing God to work in our lives. God does not promise we will have everything we want, but He does promise us He will provide what we need. I have been very blessed to see this truth several times in my life. I am sure God will come through for us time and time again. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Homemaking Saturday: Ways to Save Money Around the House (and create less waste!)

On Homemaking Saturday I share something I'm doing or learning to make my home a better place to live.

My friend Rachel over at Mighty Violet inspired me to share some ideas I had a few weeks ago. These ideas struck me as I was adding to our household shopping list, even though the household fund was empty for the month. Then I thought, "How can I stop buying things that I just use up?" These were things like q-tips, toilet paper, plastic wrap, etc. And my head was spinning the rest of the day until I could get my ideas down on paper (in my helpful "Me Binder"). While Rachel's focus is on reducing waste (which is important to me also), my main focus is on saving money. That's where we're at.

So today I'd like to share a few ways we already save money (and prevent waste), new ways I have just implemented or want to soon, and a few of my dream ideas for the future (maybe way in the future!). After all, green seems to been the theme this March.

Ways We Already Save
1. We don't buy trash bags. Buying trash bags seems exceptionally ironic to me. You pay for something that's only use is throwing away? We use plastic grocery bags in the kitchen, produce bags in the bathroom and no bags in the living room and bed room. These last two usually only get paper and the like in them, which I sort each week into recycling or actual trash.
2. I make our own laundry detergent and household cleaner. I really don't even give a second thought to how  much we save because I've been doing it for a few years now.
3. We use rags. A lot. I have paper towels, but they are rarely used and then only for special purposes.
4. We use cloth napkins. I have two sets of four from our wedding and we'll use them for a few days, then they get washed with the towels.
5. I reuse foil. Over and over. Until it's too ripped, messy or crumbly, I reuse it!

Things I've Just Started or Hope To
1. Using hankies instead of tissue. Rachel mentions this in her post. I need to get some hankies, then we'll start!
2. Give up plastic wrap. I didn't use it often anyway, and since I ran out a few weeks ago, I haven't missed it. I just use foil if I need to, but most of my containers have lids.
3. Use a small baby washcloth over a q-tip to clean out my ears. Then wash the washcloth with the towels. I  admit, it doesn't feel as great, but it's a little pleasure I can give up. I tried it on Sweet Girl though, and it was too bulky for her little ears. So I will probably still have to buy more, but at least they will last longer!
4. Make my own dish soap. I need to do some research, but there has got to be a simple recipe out there. In fact, if you have one and already do this, please share!
5. Use cloth baby wipes instead of toilet paper. (Just for pee!) I left this for last because, well, it's pretty odd. But logically, if they are fine to wipe my baby's bottom, I can use them too! I just toss them in the diaper pail and wash them along with the diapers. I just bought a new package of toilet paper and I hope it lasts to the end of the year! (Um, well, at least longer than usual!)

Dreams for the Future
1. Make our own lotion. I really, really want to do this. We use a lot of lotion, and we buy an all natural kind which runs about $6 a bottle. It is great, but the first ingredient is canola oil, which I choose not to eat, and would rather not put on my skin. It's the best thing for us right now, but I want to make something perfect.
2. Make our own toothpaste. This will not be hard, it's just getting motivated to do it. Honestly, I like "normal" toothpaste, but Tom's is close to $4 a tube.
3. Make our own shampoo and body wash. I have a few bottles for now, but once I get close to running out, my goal is to not buy, but make!
4. Make my own lip balm. I have paid good money (okay, $4 or $5) for good lip balm, and ones that individuals made themselves. I know it can be done. I want to try this kind.
5. Try an alternative to using tampons. I joked with my husband that I should just be either pregnant or postpartum until I hit menopause that way I'll save money and the environment by having less cycles, ha ha! But maybe I'll just look into Rachel's way.

I know there are people out there doing more than this, and I hope to learn even more as we mature and someday have a house of our own (and hopefully land to garden and raise animals!). Until then, I will try to do what I can and continue to learn. I want to check out a website Rachel recommends called The Zero Waste Home. Sounds like a high standard, but one I'd like to try to reach.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sharing the Faith with Kids: Annunciation

Sunday is the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of God. Now I will say upfront, I am not going to share anything original. It's been a crazy week, and I want to give you a quality post tomorrow, so this will simply be referring you to another blog and sharing what I'm using from it.

The blog is Charming the Birds from the Trees. It's written by the wife of a priest and mother of three. I do not know her, but I like her blog because she posts simple ideas about homemaking, teaching children about Orthodoxy (she has what she calls "Learning Baskets), and occasional bits of news or interest. She has a Learning Basket on the Annunciation, and on Saturday night, after Vespers, I am going to use a few simple ideas from it for the children at church.

1) Read to the children "The Angel Visits Mary" from The Children's Bible Reader.
2) Have them color an icon of The Annunciation (scroll down to find the right picture)
3) Encourage them to wear blue on Sunday. (That is the Church's color for the Virgin Mary.)

I hope you all have a blessed day Sunday. It's so good to remember the Theotokos' humble and willing spirit!