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!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Control is a Mask of Pride

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

I've never really thought of myself as prideful. I wouldn't have gone so far as to say I was humble, but I felt I was more in the middle. This week though, God has shown me that my effort to control the events in my life is pride.

It's been a hard week so far, friends. It's been busy and I haven't even had my usual respite during nap-time due to babysitting, having my sister over, or skipped naps. I don't do well under these circumstances. I like predictability, routine, and, mainly, having things go my way.

When things don't go my way, I get frustrated. When I'm frustrated, I am impatient with my daughter or husband, and then I feel like a failure as a mother and a wife. I get bent out of shape when things are out of sync or they simply don't go how I had imagined or prefer.

This week I have been gripping my ideals and hopes with clenched fists and it has squeezed all of God's grace from my life. He cannot help me if I am not open. I cannot be gracious when things are hard if He is not in me.

At the start of the week, I went to confession about this control/frustration cycle. My father confessor enlightened me that this is ultimately my pride. It is saying I know better than God how things should be. That the way I think or want things is the most important thing - more important than others, more important than God's plan. Pride is more than being puffed up with one's self. It is simply self-love.

I went into this week newly aware of this illness of my heart. I vowed to be better. But my frustration has only doubled at my inability to let go of control. God is showing me this week how prideful I really am. I am so very aware of this weakness - it is exposed. This is what Lent is for, peeling away our layers - rip by painful rip. I see my weakness. My selfishness. My pride. It is good to realize this, so I can ask God for His mercy and help... His healing. My priest also told me that this is not something we can fix ourselves; we must ask Christ to help up. (That is so true with everything!) Each and every morning, I have to give up my control over myself. I must open up these fists strangling my life. Open them up so He can fill them with strength, joy, and love. And in turn, pour those on others selflessly.

May each day I rise willing to live a life open to God and His plan, and accept with grace, given by Him, whatever happens.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Money Monday: God's Standards

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

With this being the season of Lent, and the focus being on spiritual things more so now, I began to wonder how necessary thinking about money and spending really is to the Christian life. Maybe I'm just wanting to learn about finances and all because I'm obsessed with living comfortably and having all that I want some day. While that may be true (And God help me let go!), my initial thoughts about the need to be a good steward of our money were confirmed this morning.

I was looking at an Orthodox overview of the ten commandments - a tool for preparing for confession. It asks various questions in relation to each commandment. For the eighth commandment, "You shall not steal." there were some questions that made God's standards obvious to me: Have I paid my debts? Was I living within my income, and not wastefully and extravagantly? Have I given to charitable causes in proportion to my means?

These points validate what I had already thought about God's standards with money. This article also gave some good points. Below are the standards I want to adopt for our family:

1. Everything is God's and from God. We need to hold our money and possessions with open hands, accepting and letting go as God brings or takes away.
2. God wants us to live debt-free. I will have a whole post on this next week.
3. We need to live within our means. Just because we want something doesn't mean we should buy it, even if we have the money. Maybe we can't really afford to spend that money on a "want" rather than a "need." Also, maybe we won't have the money for the costs related to the wanted object (like higher insurance with a new car).
4. We need to be giving with our money. This one is tricky because then one asks, "How much?" I will explore this in another post - it is something that I often ponder about.
5. Make careful decisions with how money is used. It's important to pray about financial matters, big purchases, or business endeavors. It's important to not be impulsive or indulgent (although I feel there can be some (planned) room for this. I know sometimes I feel suffocated by all the "don'ts/can'ts".)

The conclusion of the article I mentioned above summarizes the goal:

"He [God] has clear ideas of how He wants His people to function and to make use of His possessions—ideas that result in financial freedom for His people, if they are followed step by step."

To have financial freedom is what my husband and I want for us and our family... the ability to have and use money in a way that does not control us, but simply provides for us and others in a way that glorifies God.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Homemaking Saturday: My Homemade Bag

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

The birthday present to myself and from my husband was this homemade bag. He bought the fabric (that I picked out) and I made it. I could not find a bag that I liked in the stores, so I made one! I spent a lot of time looking for an online tutorial for a bag that fit my ideal and one I could understand being a sewing novice. Finally, I combined and modified these two: A Simple Six-Pocket Bag and this Market Tote.

I searched for fabric at and found the floral fabric, which had to be ordered online. Once I got that, we went to Joann's and I picked out the other materials to go with it. It has twelve pockets, six on the outside and six on the inside. I wanted a pocket for everything so I didn't have to dig, dig, dig around for something.

I also made a wristlet to go with it so that I can have my cards, keys, and phone on me if I just need to run in somewhere.

It's definitely not perfect, but it was fun, it's purposeful and hopefully it'll last a while!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: My "Me Binder"

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

I've had several binders and notebooks over the years, some just for organizing household chores and tasks, and some full of lists of books to read, movies to watch, and other random things. And when I think about it, everything was kind of scattered... I'd have scraps of paper with random ideas stuffed in my household binder or in my inbox waiting to be sorted someday.

One Saturday, maybe a month ago, I stumbled upon this post on Passionate Homemaking, a blog I like but don't check regularly. The post was about making a binder to organize all your tasks, something I've had different versions of for a few years now. But the example the woman gave of her own was more about her whole life, the sections divided by her different roles, rather than one aspect of her life - keeping up a home. This was like a light bulb going off in my head! I made mine that day.

Mine has eight categories for me to keep ideas, inspiration, lists, etc. in for the different roles I play in life. Here's my list with a brief explanation for each:

1. Hannah/Wife - This is where I have a list of my personal and spiritual goals, my wishful to do list, books to read, music to look into, and my ideal wardrobe list (which I hope to expound upon in a different post).
2. Mother - Here I have notes from an Orthodox book on child rearing as well as goals I have for my daughter (things to work on with her) and goals for myself as a mother.
3. Homemaker - I have a list of things I'd like to learn about homemaking, other goals, and general ideas for our home.
4. Friend - I made a chart with all my closest friends to keep track of things going on in their lives and things I want to ask them or talk to them about. 
5. Writer - I keep my post ideas here as well as other ideas for my blogs. However, now I've started a planner where I'm keeping ideas, so I probably won't be keeping blog things here. I will keep the category though because I have other writing ideas that I've had over the years.
6.Creator - This is my craft/sewing section where I keep ideas. It also has a pocket folder to keep current project plans or notes in.
7. Gardener - I have my garden plan here and I hope to add notes about my first gardening experience so I can remember my mistakes and (hopefully!) not make them again. 
8. Shopper - I keep a list of things we need/want and a list of gifts to buy as well as ideas for the future. In a folder pocket I keep monthly cash and a planner with birthdays.

I don't use this binder every day (I have a different system for chore and activity planning), but it's nice to have a place to put that idea that pops into my head and a place to find it when I want to come back to it (but can't quite remember the details!). As I made it, I cleared out two notebooks full of random lists and ideas! It felt so good to consolidate things! This probably sounds weird, but it makes my life, my brain and thoughts, feel more organized and structured! So, if you feel like your thoughts are all over the place and spilling out of your head, maybe you'd enjoy making a "Me Binder" too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Money Monday: Money Goals

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

During the first four years of our marriage, my husband and I weren't really able to get a good grasp on our money situation because our living situations were always changing. During the spring and summer, he'd be making minor league player salary (it's not a lot, trust me!), and maybe I'd be able to bring in money too. In the fall, we always had different jobs. Where we lived varied and therefore, our expenses somewhat. Plus, we were kind of clueless. Not totally because we did try to live on a budget, but it wasn't until the third of fourth year of marriage that we were more purposeful with any extra money that came in.

Now we have a steady (although still small) income that we are trying to use more wisely. He is on a new career path that we both feel is promising. In a few years, he very well may have a job that pays double or triple what we are used to living on! Our hope is to be prepared to use the money wisely instead of going on shopping sprees, which I'm sure I'd be inclined to do!

So we've been talking a lot about money and our needs and hopes for the future. We are realizing our need to learn more about how to use money wisely. To us that means staying debt-free, saving better and spending better.  Also, for me, I'm looking into possibilities of me bringing in some money, while continuing to stay home. Overall, we want to be good stewards of the money God gives us. These are the things I want to learn about, and share on here, each week. Next week I will be exploring the topic of what it means to be a good steward in the eyes of God and what the Bible says about using money wisely.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Adding Structure to the Blog

I've been doing a lot of thinking (again) about this blog. What is it I really want to say? Share? Well, a lot actually. Not my whole life, oh no. But I do want to share what I'm learning and how I'm growing. And I'm learning and growing in a lot of different ways.

My posting has been sporadic, only happening when I have the time and something to write about. Mostly time has been the issue, but also lack of structure. I thrive within structure. (Ask my husband. When something is off our routine or what I expected, it takes me a bit to adjust.) And so with this blog, I have a list of ideas on paper (at least I'm doing that!), but no designated time to write them, so they don't get written!

So after some praying and thinking, my goal now is to have regular posts. Three a week and two others each month. At least; maybe more!

I'm really excited about these "topics" because they are focused yet broad enough that you may be surprised by what I write about, and I have room to be creative!

I just wrote about the different roles that I'm really focusing on right now in my life. In general, I am going to stick to writing about these roles. The topics are umbrellas for the different areas that fall under those roles. Okay, okay, what are they already!?!


Money Monday - This may sound strange, but it's related to being an economical homemaker. Things are tight for us right now, and I'm really motivated to learn about how to make, save, and wisely spend money. So, while I'm on this learning streak, I'm going to share my thoughts and lessons with you all. So, this topic may only be around for a while, but be sure it'll be replaced by whatever I decide to learn about next!

Thoughtful Thursday - This is where I share my thoughts about how I'm working to improve myself as a woman, wife and mother. 

Homemaking Saturday - You guessed it! It's about homemaking. It will include all my many home interests such as making home products myself, food, sewing, organizing, and on and on!


Review/Preview - You've seen this before - where I share how the previous month was, and what I have planned for the upcoming month.

Sharing the Faith with Kids - Once a month I hope to do a simple Sunday School lesson with the kids at our church. I'll share here what that will be!

My plan is to start next week. My best friend is coming tomorrow to spend the week with me while hubby is in Texas (lucky guy!) with the team. So I'll be enjoying her company. Check back next Monday!

Defining My Roles

We all have multiple roles in our life. Some are more important than others. For me, the roles of being a godly woman, wife, mother, and homemaker are most important. These are connected directly with my relationships with the most important people in my life: Jesus Christ, my husband, and my children. Of course, extended family members and friends are very important too, but they are secondary. Most of my time is spent caring for my husband, children and our home. This is what I think about and the areas I strive to grow in the most.

This is how I define these roles for myself personally:

Godly Woman: to be constantly striving to serve God in my capacity as a woman and who I am personally; to seek His grace and strength at all times; the give thanks for everything; to always be learning and developing my talents.

Godly Wife: to serve with love and unselfishness; to be forgiving; to be a safe haven for my husband to come to and sort out his thoughts, struggles and dreams; to listen support and give without keeping a tally of how much I receive; to support, respect and love my husband.

Godly Mother: to serve with love and unselfishness; to consistently and lovingly discipline; to be a teacher; to be a safe haven.

Godly Homemaker: to work unselfishly at making a comfortable home; make the home a calm place; be a good steward of our resources and possessions; provide nutrition and health.

My hope is to share with you what I learn along this continual journey. I hope you enjoy it and maybe my lessons can encourage you as well!