Tuesday, March 30, 2010



While I’m nursing, I spend a lot of time reading blogs.  Normally blogs make me feel guilty, and like I’m not a good enough mom.  I decide after reading some blogs to make a change… only to struggle making that change… I live my life feeling guilty… so the blogs just help heighten that guilt.  BUT, I do enjoy learning about things and finding new things to try, so I continue.  Plus, there’s only so much I can do while I’m nursing 10-12 times a day :). 

Recently, I came across the blog Messy Canvas

Last year, Mandy at Messy Canvas decided to make her word for the year “imperfection.”  She learned so much and shared what she learned through her blog.  It is VERY refreshing to read about this.  If you’re interested, these two posts stuck out to me the most: 

My ‘Imperfect’ Decision
"Revisiting IMPERFECTion

Why is it that so many people (women especially) put on this view of perfection, when perfection is impossible?  Why don’t we just all show who we really are?  It would be much easier to live each day if we did… I try to always show this, but I don’t really think I do show who I really am… I also live life constantly trying to improve myself… Why do I try knowing that I can’t do it in my own power?  And most of the changes that I try to make aren’t really that important…

From her post “Revisiting IMPERFECTion…”

We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. – Galatians 2:16…

…I was baffled to read we don’t please God by our self-improvement. I mean, that’s what the Christian walk is all about, isn’t it? Getting better and better? But Galatians says this doesn’t please God. It is our faith in Him that please God (Hebrews 11:6). A simple childlike faith that says God is bigger than our imperfections, our awkward situations, our mistakes, failures, pride, hurts and habits.

Instead of spending my whole time thinking about what others thought of me and how I could better myself, I should have been trusting in God and letting Him do the work of bettering me…

… Being “myself” often means being “imperfect.” I have to be okay with that…

Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20”

One thing that I realized recently about myself, is that if I take the pressure off to do everything perfectly and a certain way, I do things out of love rather than out of obligation… isn’t God more pleased with that anyway?  Isn’t it about our heart?

I can tell you right now… I am an IMPERFECT person…

The post that Mandy wrote when she decided to make her word for the year IMPERFECT, could have been written by me…

Much of the time, if the house is messy or things seem out of control, my first reaction is to yell.  If I feel like I can’t control my children’s behavior, I yell.  If I feel like my husband isn’t doing what I want him to, I get frustrated and often manipulative. 

I get frustrated when I’m trying to clean, cook, or blog, and people get in my way…

I don’t enjoy playing with my kids as much as I would like…  I always have an excuse as to why I need to stop (after playing for maybe just 15 or 20 minutes). 

I drink a few sodas a week… knowing that they have HFCS in them… because I LIKE them…

I let my kids eat more sugar than I should…

We don’t eat enough fruit and veggies (by far!)…

We eat out too much…

We’re not the greatest with money…

I sometimes spend too much time online (although, I really am better about this!)…

We don’t have a perfect routine… Every day looks a little different…

I haven’t cleaned our bathrooms in a LONG time (or mopped our floor!)…

I’ve actually gained weight in the past several weeks instead of losing it (doesn’t breastfeeding mean that I should be losing weight??)…

My husband loves me anyway.  My kids love me anyway.  Jesus loves me anyway. 

What I do or don’t do does not change that! 

I want to spend some time embracing imperfection and the unconditional love of Jesus. 

One thing that I think this will help me do is love others better.  If I don’t focus so much on myself being imperfect, then it will help me to stop expecting that of others too!

Now… I’m not saying that it’s okay to go out sin on purpose because of the unconditional love of Jesus.  I’m just saying that it’s important to just embrace myself as I am and stop focusing in on these things that I think are bad or wrong and focus on Jesus changing and transforming me instead of trying to do it myself.  And, as I do this, I start to see what truly does need to change (sin), and what doesn’t (the little things like a clean house). 

Will you join me??

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Personal Blog

For those of you who have access to my personal blog, I have actually written on it, so check it out if you would like.  If you don't have access, just ask me :).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Finding Balance

I have just had all of these things swimming around in my head, and I had a quiet moment this afternoon, so I thought I would share :).  I, apparently, don’t know how to stay away from blogging :).  It’s just such a release for me… but, this is different than what I normally write about.
I shared a wonderful blog titled “Chasing Imperfection” a few days ago, and the next day, I read one titled Your Expectations of You: Something’s Got to Give.”  I think maybe God was trying to tell me something. 
The next day, I got myself dressed and got my kids dressed and we spent the entire morning outside.  It was amazing.  I didn’t worry about the house.  I didn’t worry about making meals from scratch.  We just spent time together.  It was wonderful, care-free, and NOT stressful.  BUT, the next morning I woke up to a really messy house, and that stressed me out :).  So, through all that I have read, the experiences that I’ve had this week, and through praying through things, I have come to many conclusions. 
As important as eating healthy and living naturally is, it’s really not high on the priority list because it’s not eternal!  It’s important to take care of our bodies, but to put it above loving Jesus and making Him known, loving on my family, and loving on people that God has placed in my life, is to make it a higher priority than it should be.
But, I don’t want to just let go of eating healthy all together because I want my kids (and myself and Robert) to feel good each day and have the energy to enjoy this life.  I also don’t want to have a disgusting house because that’s hard to live in.  Plus, we need clean clothes and dishes :). 
I am still on a quest to find balance.  In this season of life, if I don’t find balance, I may regret it later.  I don’t want to look back on my time home with my little ones and wish that I would have done everything differently.  I don’t want to look back and see stress and turmoil.  I want to look back and see joy.
I’m not saying that I’m always stressed… because really, my anxiety is way better than it used to be.  I DO enjoy this life that the Lord has blessed me with.  It’s just that (as I’ve shared MANY times), since I put so much pressure on myself, when I can’t live up to the perfection that I try to achieve, it just makes me frustrated.  I don’t want to be frustrated!!
So, I’ve decided to ask myself some questions (mostly from the Life As Mom post):
What are my goals for this season of life (because each season I will have different goals)?  What is non-negotiable and what can wiggle?  Does what I’m doing fit this season of life? 
My goals are:
  • To spend time with Jesus however I can so that I grow in Him and His love.  Does that mean that I have to get up an hour before everyone else so that I can read and pray for an hour?  Not necessarily.  I would LOVE to get back to that.  But, right now it’s too difficult because I don’t get much sleep at night.  What I’ve been doing is spending time with Him while I’m nursing Levi (a little here, a little there), and that seems to be working pretty well :).  Plus, I’m learning a lot about praying continually.  I don’t have to sit and have a “quiet time” to spend time with Him!!
  • To love on and spend quality time with Robert and the kids.  This means putting the broom down and going outside to play.  This means getting off of the computer when the kids are asleep and have quality time with Robert.  This means stopping a little bit each day to focus in on what my husband and children need from me.  I’ve been doing better and better with this… still have a ways to go!
  • To love on and build relationships with my family, camp family, and church family (and whoever else God puts into my life!). 
  • To keep nursing as long as I can and as much as I can.  I have noticed, though, that the more pressure I put on myself to stop supplementing, the lower my supply is.  I had a day in which I went a full 24 hours without supplementing… I shared that on my Facebook status, and that very night I had to give six ounces of formula (which is a little more than a normal day.  I need to just supplement when I need to, and not worry about it.  I would LOVE to breastfeed exclusively, but it’s too hard for my body.  I might be able to if I pumped after every feeding, drank 10 glasses of water a day, took more herbs, etc, but I just don’t have time to worry about it.  If I could nurse exclusively without tons of extra work, I SO would… but have to just do what I can do.  Again, the more pressure I put on myself, the worse things go.  On average, he takes about 4-5 ounces of formula a day (usually a little mid-day and a little in the evening).  NOT bad. :)
  • To keep the house cleaned up enough that it’s not stressful for me or the kids.  Also, it’s important to make sure that we have clean clothes to wear and clean dishes to use/eat from!  BUT, I don’t need to make this a focus at all.  My goal is to just pick up the house before nap and before bed… that way I don’t worry about it the rest of the day!
  • To do my best to watch our spending.  I do a pretty good job of this, but I could do better.  BUT, I don’t want this to become an area in which I am focused on all the time and make it an idol.  Our goal is to not spend much on anything but necessities and try to give more away!  We don’t really need anything anyway!!
  • To eat as healthy as possible (in this season of life).  I have been buying more and more “convenience foods,” but I still try to read the labels and not buy things that are heavily processed.  Yesterday I went to Costco and bought things like pita chips and hummus, Annie’s crackers, bread (made in Austin- it only has a few ingredients!), etc.  I also have some things here that the kids like a lot (raisins, dried cranberries, grapes, apples, bananas, avocadoes, packages of carrots, cheese, etc).  Another thing about this area is that I am not going to (try to) avoid the dining hall here at camp anymore (in this season of life, at least!).  I haven’t been avoiding it like I keep say I’m going to because the food is free, I don’t have to cook it, I don’t have to clean up after it, and it is a great time to spend with Robert and my camp family.  I will just continue to do my best to make wise choices.
  • To keep a flexible routine.  Routine is very important for kids (and for me!).  I can’t NOT have routine (nap times, meal times, etc)… but I need to be flexible.  Being here at camp, life is different every day.  Robert never has the same days off each week, and with each group that is here, brings a new schedule and activity.  So, we will just go with the flow!  One thing that I do love about being home is that when he’s off, we’re all together.  When I worked, he watched the kids on his days off.  I also love that we can be involved in this ministry together.  This weekend we have a Family Camp, and we have camp fire tonight.  It’ll be fun!!
  • To slowly get rid of things around the house.  This isn’t necessary, but I feel that it will help relieve stress and bring simplicity to life.  Plus, I desire to teach Karis about giving our things to people who truly need them.  I want to just do this a little at a time and not make it a focus.  That doesn’t bring a life of simplicity…
  • To blog about things that I am learning about in life.  To be honest, I’m not sure how much of my “natural homemaker” self will be coming out for a while.  I do like blogging, and I do like sharing what I learn about natural living and learning new ways to manage my home, but it has become way too much of a focus and I want to put that on the backburner for a while.  I hope you’ll stick with me in my journey!!  I’m not saying that these things won’t be blogged about (because I love it!), but it's just not going to be a focus for a while.  Who knows what the next season of life will bring (I at least need to get out of this newborn stage with Levi!).
I’m so thankful for my life, for my husband, my kids, my family, our camp family, our friends, and even our amazing home.  I want to just enjoy this life!  I don’t want it to be focused on what other people are doing or not doing, what I wish I could be doing or stop doing, etc. 
Galatians 1:10- “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chasing Imperfection

I realize I just said that I wasn't going to write for a while, but I had to share a blog post that really speaks volumes about what God is teaching me right now.  It is written by Valerie Hunter (she wrote a guest post on this blog)... she has three kids with the same names as mine :)- Karis, Ethan, and Levi!  Anyway... the whole blog that she wrote this guest post on is amazing... it's a whole blog about how we are imperfect people and that we should try to stop chasing perfection.  Great to read at this time in my life!!

Anyway, here is the post:
Chasing Imperfection

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Taking a Break

Robert and I were talking tonight about how much pressure I constantly put on myself. He says that I often seem like I feel like I'm going to "get in trouble" for doing things that I say I don't do. I have such a high expectation for myself and when I can't live up to it, I get stressed and/or frustrated. Then, I began to think about the post that I wrote about living the simple life, and I decided to go back and read it. Many of the inward and outward expressions of living a life of simplicity give people the freedom from anxiety. I want to stop worrying about not doing things perfectly all the time. A few things that stick out to me are- "Reject anything that is producing an addiction" and "shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God."

I have to say that if I write about it on my blog and I can't live up to it, it stresses me out. I feel as though if I can't live up to it, then I'm being a hypocrite and lying. As I've said before… I'm a black and white person. Just when I think I've learned balance, I start to focus too much on "natural living" and on my blog, and I start to become very black and white again.

Natural living and blogging then becomes an addiction, takes too much of my time, and distracts me from seeking first the kingdom of God and taking care of my family to the best of my ability. I want to just live life… live it naturally, but without all the pressure to do what I say I'm going to do on my blog (if that makes any sense!!).

Because of all this inward turmoil that I have, Robert and I have decided that it would be best for me to take a break from blogging for a while. I don't know how long that will be… it could be a week or two, it could be a few months. I may still update on how things are going in life in general… we'll see.

I'm NOT saying that natural living is bad… because it's good. But anything that becomes an idol (whether it be "good" or not), becomes bad.

I enjoy blogging… I enjoy researching natural living, nutrition, etc… but I want to enjoy my family more than those things. I want to enjoy spending time in the word more than those things… I want to just enjoy life and stop worrying about doing everything perfectly. All those things don't really matter compared to knowing Jesus, making Him known, and loving my family.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm So Blessed... and Pictures of Our Wonderful Home

Enough about my struggles... on to the positive :).  The last several days God has really been showing me just how blessed I am.  I have gone through a lot in the past several months... the death of my brother being the hardest, but also just a lot of new things such as moving, lots of family over for the holidays, quitting work, and having a new baby.  Even though there have been many hard times, I'm still blessed.  I have grown so much, but I still have a long way to go.  God knows exactly what I need, sustains me when I think I can't go on any longer, and even gives me the desires of my heart.  We aren't exactly "rolling in the dough," but financially we're doing better than we have in a long time (thanks to using large income tax refunds to pay off debt!).  I'm able to stay home with my babies, and be the mom and wife I have always desired to be.  It's not an easy "job," but it's right.  It's where I'm supposed to be.  And, I have a lot to learn, but don't we all? :)  Among the blessings of a relationship with my creator, an amazing husband, and beautiful children, he has given us a house that I could never have imagined living in (thanks to the camp!).  I realized the other day that I never showed updated pictures on here (only on facebook because I didn't have time to spend uploading to both places).  So, here are some pictures (I took them on a very sunny day, so the picture quality isn't the greatest!):

Now, as much as I love my home, I would be completely content with a smaller home.  I've learned since living here that my "dream house" doesn't make life any easier or better... it's the blessings that I mentioned above that really matter :).  But, I won't complain about the good things that God gives us (or allows us to take care of). 
Another thing that I'm trying to be careful with is continuing to live simply despite all the room we have to fill up.  My goal has been to not try to fill it up, but just enjoy the extra space for the kids to run around and for it to not feel cluttered.  So far so good.  As you can see in Karis' closet, I still have a lot of things to get rid of :).

Struggling with breastfeeding today...

Well, after I wrote all about how great breastfeeding was going, I had a really rough morning with it.  I nursed pretty much all morning (about 4 hours straight), and he was still so hungry.  After a little while I didn't hear him swallowing and I didn't feel a let down any more... He was extremely fussy (which isn't like him) and just acted starving... so I supplemented.  And he was happy after that.

I realized pretty quickly that I have put too much pressure on myself again... that's why I struggled in the past.  So, here I am, letting go, and just going with the flow.  If I have to supplement to get him fed, I do.  If not, then wonderful!  It's my goal to not have to supplement anymore, but he needs to be fed so I can't allow my desire to breastfeed exclusively come between him and what he needs! 

Just a little background on my breastfeeding problems:

With the last two babies, I started breastfeeding exclusively, only to have my babies lose too much weight, get dehydrated, and stop peeing and pooping.  I would nurse for four and five hours at a time, with a thirty minute break, then back to nursing for hours again.  And, they were screaming all the time.  They were hungry!!  The minute I started supplementing, they starting peeing and pooping, gaining weight, and wouldn't scream so much any more.  The last two times I went down the slippery slope of it being "easier" to just feed with a bottle, so I ended up stopping.  I also didn't know much about breastfeeding so I thought there was no way to increase my supply, so I figured there was no reason to try.
Before I had Levi, I did TONS of research, talked a lot with my midwife about it, and visited with a lactation consultant.  Through some research, I found that there's a good possibility that I have insufficient glandular tissue.  Women with this, much of the time, can't breastfeed exclusively.  With Levi, everything started out great, then after about a week, we decided that I should start supplementing some because he wasn't peeing and pooping much, he wasn't gaining weight, and he was nursing non stop (just like my last two) and was VERY unhappy all the time.  I was heart broken.  I cried a lot because I thought that meant I would end up formula feeding... But, I am more determined this time and I decided that even if I have to do both, I will continue breastfeeding because even 50% is better than nothing!  So, here I am, giving him more then 50%, but not 100%.  I have to be okay with that if I can't give 100%.  I nurse often (and he empties both sides every time), and if he goes more than 2-3 hours, I pump.  I don't usually get a whole lot out, but the point is to stimulate... even if I don't get much out.  I also take herbal tinctures (as I have mentioned before).  I need to up my water intake because I know that affects things as well.

Anyway... just thought I would share my struggles.  Tomorrow is a new day.  I will try again to avoid supplementing... and if I have to, I have to.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Things that I do that I Never Imagined I would do

A few days ago I read a post titled Confessions of an Earth Club Dropout, on smallnotebook.org.  It inspired me to think about how far I've come in the past several years.

Things that I'm doing that I never thought I would be doing:

 I have had two homebirths... I always thought people who did this were crazy.  I would never change a thing about those births.  They were amazing, beautiful, and empowering.

I am an advocate for natural childbirth, and have done it twice... I used to wonder why people would go through that pain if they didn't have to... after having done it twice, I understand why!

I'm currently working really hard to breastfeed even though I have low supply issues (I stopped with the last two because it was difficult and won't do that again!).  I use herbal tinctures to help with this issue.

I wear Levi often (and I wore Ethan)... I love my sleepy wrap and I can't wait until I can use my Ergo carrier (when he gets bigger).

I cloth diaper Ethan, and will start cloth diapering Levi very soon.  I'm just waiting until he's big enough to fit in them :).

I grind my own flour (using hard white winter wheat berries!) and bake most of my own breads, biscuits, muffins, etc. (and I plan to start making my own tortillas, crackers, etc again soon).

I make most foods from scratch, and what I don't make from scratch, I read the labels carefully.

I avoid hormones and antibiotics in meats and dairy.  I try to only buy from local farmers when possible.

I make homemade yogurt.

I buy raw milk when I can, and buy most of my meat from a farm.

I use mostly natural sweeteners such as sucanat, agave, maple, raw honey, etc.

I use coconut oil and real butter because I have found that they are actually healthy.

I'm selective and delayed on vaccines.

I no longer use hormonal birth control.

I use natural and/or homemade personal care products, cleaners, and detergents (I'm working on improving in this area).

I rarely wear makeup or any other products (including nail polish).

I use reusable bags at the grocery store.

I plan to homeschool our kiddos (never thought I would be able to stay home... and I thought homeschooling was crazy).

I actually enjoy menu planning and grocery shopping.

Robert and I are talking and praying about adoption in a few years to add to our family and to give an orphan a home.

We now only have an antenna for t.v.... and we hardly watch it!

Some things that I plan to do eventually... and some goals that I have:

I will eventually have chickens in my backyard for eggs (and maybe enough one day for meat).

I would love to have goats for milk (and if you ask Karis, she wants goats too!).

I want to get to a place in which I make everything from scratch, eat in the dining hall much less (go back to only lunch... that will never change because I think it's important for the kids to be with their daddy), drink no soda (right now I drink one as a treat every once in a while), and don't eat out at all except for date nights (we've gotten much better, but still have a long way to go).

I want to try homemade deodorant, soap, and toothpaste.

I want to get back to making all of my cleaners and detergents. 

Get back to doing lessons/activities for Karis, and start doing some for Ethan.

What things do you do that you never would have imagined doing?  What are some things that you would like to start doing or plan to start doing?  What are some personal goals that you have?

Breastfeeding Update

I just have to say WOW.  A few weeks ago I never would have thought that I would be where I am with breastfeeding.  I'm so excited and proud.  I am almost breastfeeding exclusively now.  The only time I really supplement now is in the evenings (after he has nursed for a long time and still seems starving).  I rarely supplement during the day anymore (a small amount every other day or so), and during the night is almost unheard of.  I can hardly believe it!  My goal is to try to get to where the only time I give formula is if I have to be away from him for some reason, like a date night (and only if I can't pump enough... which pumping is still a little iffy). I love the pump that I have (the Playtex Embrace Double Electric Breastpump)... it's real comfortable, but I still don't pump a whole lot out at a time... 2 ounces at the most usually, and that's when I'm real full (of course that's better than with my old pump :).. 
But, even if I always have to give a supplement in the evening, that's not too bad.

About a week ago I was talking to my midwife and she told me something that totally changed my outlook on breastfeeding.  I told her that it's very tempting that when we're in public to just feed him a bottle because it's easier.  She reminded me "remember you're a breastfeeding mama, not a formula feeding mama."  Since then, if I'm tempted to use a bottle when I don't need to, I remind myself of that.  I only use the bottle if absolutely necessary, and it has made a huge difference.  I had to remind myself that just because he's hungry 30 minutes to an hour after a feeding doesn't mean that he needs a bottle... especially since it doesn't happen all the time.  At night, he can go 3-4 hours without needing a feeding (sometimes less), and that's ONLY on breastmilk (most of the time)...and he's only 5 1/2 weeks old.  So, that's not bad at all!  During the day he goes on average about 2 hours... sometimes an hour, sometimes 4 hours... it just depends.  I would say that we're doing pretty well!!  I really just can't believe it!

I'm still taking herbs, which I think is helping, and I plan to continue taking them for a while.  I have been taking Motherlove More Milk Special Blend and Fenugreek tinctures.  I used to hate the taste, but I've gotten used to it.  I put the drops in a small glass and add a tiny bit (maybe a tablespoon) of apple juice.  It's not bad really.  

All it took was some determination and desire to continue no matter what (and patience!), and here we are, almost 6 weeks later, doing really well.  So, anyone who has struggled with supply in the past, it can be done... you just have to keep trying.  I have had a low supply with all of mine, and after sticking it out, I am almost breastfeeding exclusively now (only about 4-5 oz of formula a day now... hopefully none in a few weeks!).

I also have to say thank you to my wonderful midwife, Kristen, who has been very supportive this whole time.  I'm not sure I would have stuck it out without her support (and Robert's of course!). 

One more piece of advice that I can give... in the past, I have had a lot of pain (which made me want to quit also).  It had nothing to do with my babies' latch because I have been told every time that the latch is great.  This time, I started having pain, but I figured out how to get rid of it.  Lanolin actually works if you use it constantly!  After every feeding I applied a generous amount.  I also make sure to change my breastpads often (which, I just switched to cotton reusable ones, and I don't leak much anymore so I won't have to change them as often), and I don't wear a bra at night so they can air out.  I now don't have any pain.  I never got to that point the last two times.

I'm so excited that I can call myself a breastfeeding mama :). That's a huge deal to me!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Meal Planning Made Simple

In my attempts to make life more simple, I recently decided that my household notebook was making life more complicated.  So, I decided to ditch it.  I really hardly used it anymore anyway... I have a calendar on my phone, my routines are memorized, I clean when it's needed, and all my common recipes are on my blog, typed somewhere, or memorized.  I just write my to do list on a piece of paper.  And, I have made changes to my meal planning to make it easier and less complicated.  I don't have time for complicated (most people don't!).

Here are some tips for easy meal planning:
  • Look at what you already have and base meals around that.
  • Keep a master list of your family's favorite meals (20-25 at least).  Update this every few months.
  • Come up with 5 meals for the week using your master list.  Have one night for leftovers.  Have one night to try a new meal.
  • Use meal ingredients more than once.  For example, if you have roasted chicken one night, the next night use the leftover chicken in a meal.  If you make a pot of beans one night for rice and beans, have a taco salad or chili the next night using those beans.  
  • Keep it simple.  Healthy doesn't mean extravagant.
  • Make your grocery list based on your meal plan.  Only buy what's on the list.
Here's our plan:
  • My master meal list is located on google documents.  This eliminates the need to have it written on paper (and need a place to put it).  Most of the meals listed here contain ingredients that I keep on hand regularly.
  • I write my weekly meal plan on my marker board in my kitchen.  This helps Robert too because he likes to see what's coming up (he cooks sometimes!).
  • I buy groceries every Wednesday, so my meal week starts on Wednesday (it's just easier that way for me).  I go to Newflower Farmer's Market on that day because it's their "double ad day."  I don't usually buy much each week because I do my "big shopping trip" once a month.  This is when I go to Costco.  I am now trying to limit my farm visits to every other month.  The once a month shopping trip is where I stock up on my common items (see my Whole Foods Pantry list).  These are items that I almost always have on hand.
  • I don't include breakfasts on here because I tend to stick with the same things mostly... and I just decide that morning.  I've tried to include breakfasts only to NEVER stick with the plan.

How do you plan meals for your family?  What are some ways you can simplify planning in your life?

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Living a Life of Simplicity

Several days ago, Robert pulled my non-maternity clothes down from the attic.  As I looked through the THREE tubs of clothes (this doesn’t include all of my t-shirts, etc that are in my drawers), I realized, I have WAY more clothes than I need.  On top of that, we have so many clothes that are dirty or clean but needing to be folded and put away.  I keep complaining about how I can’t keep up with it all.  I get frustrated when Karis and Ethan drag their fifty million toys into the living room.  I get frustrated when I’m constantly having to wash the large amount of dishes and put them away when they’re clean.  Ethan is constantly pulling out the massive amount of shoes that Karis owns (and wearing them, which is cute).  I quickly came to the realization that stuff brings stress and frustration.  Where did my “life of simplicity” go?  This certainly isn’t it. 
Then, I came across this blog: Living, Learning, and Living Simply.  Everything from March 8th through today says exactly what I’ve been thinking, and she discusses a way to overcome this feeling of frustration with stuff.  She has this video on her blog, and I thought I would share it here too:

Stuff brings frustration, JESUS and relationships with OTHERS brings joy.  Wow.  I have a lot to learn. 
So, I am joining Aimee in her quest to find joy in my relationship with Jesus and the people He has placed in my life to love, and to rid my life of the frustration of stuff.

The way I plan to do this: Starting on April 1st, Robert and I will be doing something similar to Aimee… have a “No Spend Month.”  This includes eating out, clothing, books, music, anything except what is necessary… some groceries (we have a lot already!) and gas (plan to cut down driving so hopefully we won’t need much).  That. Is. It.  Nothing. Else. 

As we learn to stop focusing on buying and spending, my hope is to start getting rid of things.  Giving things away.  Finding ways to give more of our money since we won’t be spending it.  And, hopefully, we will just begin living our lives this way.  I don’t want it to just last a month and then forget what we’ve learned… but for this to be a lifestyle change.

I want to learn to enjoy the quietness of the morning and spend that time with Jesus.  I want to learn to enjoy the beautiful weather and go for hikes as a family.  I want to learn to enjoy playing games as a family (like Robert and I did when we first got married!).  I want to learn to enjoy fun times with friends.  I want to enjoy my kids… not just be frustrated by the constant messes that they make with their stuff.  I don’t want to be constantly bogged down with the massive piles of laundry that need to be done, but to be able to keep up with it because there’s not a whole lot to keep up with.  I don’t want my whole day to be dedicated to housework, but to my family.  I want to enjoy things that are free… the library, picnics, going to the zoo (we were given zoo passes from my parents for Christmas!!).  I want to rid my life of the stress that we have brought on ourselves, and live a life of peace and joy.

In Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, he states “As Jesus made clear in our central passage (Matthew 6:25-33), freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking first the kingdom of God.  The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions.”
In his book, he talks about how inward realities of simplicity produce outward realities (naturally).

The inward realities are:
1) To receive what we have as a gift from God
2) To know that it is God’s business, and not ours, to care for what we have
3) To have our goods available to others

The outward realities are:
1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status (and using them until they are worn out!).
2) Reject anything that is producing an addiction.
3) Develop a habit of giving things away.
4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry (I was sucked into this one when I bought my iPhone after I said I would never buy one… of course I got it really cheap, but that is not the point :).
5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
6) Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.
7) Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes. 
8) Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.”
9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
10) Shun ANYTHING that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

Will you join me in my quest for living a simple life??

Monday, March 15, 2010

Getting Back to "Normal" Life and Routines

Life is getting back to normal around here... at least a new normal.  It's a wonderful feeling and definitely makes me feel much better about things!

A week ago I would never have thought that Levi would be sleeping as well as he is now.  I guess moving him into his own room makes all the difference.  Each night he sleeps better and better.  Last night he actually went to bed at 9:45, woke up three times during the night, and didn't get up until about 9:00 this morning (and the other kids didn't get up until about 8:30).  So, we got a GREAT amount of sleep.  I don't even feel the need to take a nap right now :). 
Our goal this week is to get him into bed by 9:30 each night, and have him at least take an afternoon nap when the kids do (which he already does most days).  I think things are going to level out soon.  We'll see how it goes!!

I think I've figured out the connection between my supply being low and it being a little higher.  On Saturday, I was super stressed (just trying to get things ready for the party, etc.).  My supply was awful.  He was taking a ton of formula, and I was really worried that I had lost it.  I also didn't take my vitamins or my herbs at all that day.  Over night that night my supply was pretty low as well.  The next day, it started picking back up again.  And last night, I only supplemented maybe a total of two ounces between his feeding before bed and this morning. 
So, the connection is this: the more stressed I am, the less I produce.  If I keep on top of my vitamins and herbs, it also helps with production.  And, I'm not even sure if this helps or not, but I've been trying to keep a bottle of water with me at all times.  The less formula that I have to give Levi the better!!  I'm hoping to be able to cut formula out completely when I start him on cereal/food.  We'll see what happens :).

So I've talked a lot about how I am itching to get back into a routine... it helps me to feel less stressed about things.  And, it helps the kids.  Well, I think this week it's going to happen.  I'm going to start a few new things, and continue with the routines that we've already established.  Some new things that I'm going to start are taking a weekly planning and evaluation "retreat" (something similar to what Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking does), having one day a week in which I do all of my shopping (and running to the farm if necessary) without the older two kids (my mom will be here), giving the kids a bath every other night (Levi, then Karis & Ethan), getting everything ready for the next morning at night before bed, planning some alone time with each child (at least once a week), focusing on only one or two housekeeping items a day, and going to the library on Thursdays or Fridays (haven't decided yet) for story time.  Now, I'm not going to assume that all of these will go perfectly right away, this week, but I'm going to at least try :). 

Budgeting (yes, random, I know)
Well, I have previously written posts about using the "cash flow" way of budgeting... and we've tried it yet again with no success.  A few days ago I was searching for applications for my iPhone, and I came across a budgeting app from mint.com.  I went to the actual website to check it out, and I am thoroughly impressed.  It is FREE and from the makers of quicken.  It is VERY easy to set up and it is something that I think will really be helpful.  As transactions come up on my bank account, I have to put it in a category (that's in my budget).  It continually shows you how much you have left in each category for the month (continually).  I'm pretty excited about it and think it will really help us keep our budget in check!!

Personal Goals
I've already mentioned that I plan to keep a bottle of water with me at all times.  My goal is to drink at least three of these bottles of water every day, which would be 9 cups.
I have many vitamins, supplements, and herbs that I'm currently taking for different reasons (prenatals, fish oil, and probiotics just to name a few), and I've been having a hard time keeping up with them.  So, my goal is to take them with breakfast and with dinner so that I remember (taking them with meals certainly helps!). 
We have all been eating too much sugar lately... so I plan to cut down on this as well (I already told Karis that after her birthday, I wouldn't be giving her many sweet foods any more).  She's been having a hard time going to sleep and I feel that this may contribute to that.  We'll see what happens when I cut down. 
And last but not least, I want to get back to my routine of getting up early and having time with Jesus before the kids get up.  I think Levi is in a normal enough sleep schedule that this is possible.  I need to at least try every day!!

It officially took me about 3 hours to write this post... between the kids waking up, feeding, etc.  :)  I guess this is the new normal!! :)

Karis' 4 Year Birthday Party

Karis' party was on Saturday, and it was a lot of fun :).  We ended up having about 40 people here because we invited everyone that was here over the weekend (staff and volunteers).  We had hamburgers, hot dogs, cake, cookie cake, and ice cream.  Karis had a LOT of presents to open, and despite her not having a nap that day, she had fun.  Here are some pictures:



Cake (I'm NOT a cake decorator... and we planned to take the cake out of the glass pan, but it was STUCK)

Some of the guests

Princess Karis

Princess Ethan (in his jammies and Karis' crown and shoes- not an uncommon occurrence in our house)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Eat from the Pantry and Freezer Month(s)

Between the food that I bought to stock up on before I had Levi, and the "meal starters" that I made a few weeks before he was born, we have a LOT of food.  My goal for the rest of the month, and the month of April is to eat from the pantry and freezer (and only buy a few items here and there).  So, I will be coming up with meals based on what I have in my pantry and freezer.  Stay tuned for a list of meals and some recipes for my eat from the pantry and freezer month(s)!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just a Quick Update

Sleeping Arrangements
Things seem to be smoothing out in a lot of ways the past few days.  We decided to move Levi into his own room a few days ago, and it has been much better for all of us.  We ALL sleep better.  Robert and I both have a hard time with our babies sleeping in the same room as us... we have every time.  We would always wake up when the baby makes a sound.  Levi has been sleeping in 2-2 1/2 hour chunks now, which is long for him!  Another thing that it did for us was help us to have more normalcy again with having our bedroom back to ourselves.  It helps things a lot.

This is pretty much the same as the last time I posted.  Some days it seems like I could exclusively breastfeed because he takes very little supplement, and some days it seems like he takes a lot of supplement.  I pretty much just try to take it one day at at time right now.  We'll see how things go :).  I was able to pump out about 1 1/2 oz yesterday which is a lot for me :).  So, that's a good sign!  I plan to start pumping more regularly and save the milk that I pump out so that I can feed that to him and not give him as much formula.
His gas seems to have subsided greatly because we changed formulas, but I know it would go away even more if I hardly gave him any formula. 

The Older Kids
Except for yesterday being a rough day, they seem to be doing better and getting used to things.  My goal lately is to try to spend some one on one time with them as often as I can. 
Today, Karis started throwing a fit and I gave her a spanking and put her in her room.  Within just a couple of minutes she stopped.  I went into her room, and she said "I want to say I'm sorry," and "I want to tell Ethan I'm sorry" (she accidentally hit his cheek when she started her fit).  She did that all on her own!  So, I am finally seeing that the way we're disciplining is working... it just takes a while.  Plus, just spending that extra time with each one helps. 

I'll try to write some more soon!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tough Moments and Looking Forward

This has been the longest, coldest winter here in this part of Texas in a long time (not that it's all that cold compared to other parts of the U.S., but for here, it's cold!).  Usually by now it is in the upper 70's and sunny every day.  We actually got snow a few weeks ago (several inches)!  That is VERY unusual, period, let alone at the end of February.  I am ready for spring.  We get a glimpse of it every few days, then we have a nasty day like today.  Cool and raining.  Of course, I guess I shouldn't complain because last summer we were in a horrible drought with 115 degree temperatures and no rain.  
The hard part about dreary weather is that it makes me feel dreary.  With all the stress in my life right now, I could definitely use some sun.  It would also help to be able to let the kids play outside!

Kids Behavior, update
So, I wrote last week about how much better my kids' behavior has been... then Friday happened, and it has been downhill since.  Thursday night, Levi was awake the majority of the night.  I probably got about 2 hours of sleep total.  So, I was easily frustrated, I yelled more than I should, and my kids could see a difference in me, therefore; they acted out more.  It has been that way all weekend.  I have decided that I need to lighten up on myself a little bit. All of this started because I cared too much about what everyone else thought... Some comments that someone made had me feeling like I was a bad parent and I needed to come up with some kind of method to deal with it... And I know that the comments weren't even necessarily toward me or about me... I just took it personally.  I know that my kids aren't "bad," and that they are just being kids that have undergone a lot of changes in the past few months.  I need to just take things as they come and deal with them the best way I can at the moment.  It's very difficult to be as consistent as I would like and need to be when I'm nursing constantly and exhausted.  I'm not saying that it's okay for my kids to throw tantrums or not do things that I tell them to do, but much of the times their tantrums start because I get mad at them for something that really doesn't matter... like Ethan getting into the plastic cup drawer for the fifteenth time.  I need to just lighten up and let the kids be kids.  I need to choose my battles and correct them when their heart isn't in the right place or if they're doing something dangerous.  I think that will make things a lot less stressful around here.  My good friend, Sandy (who has four kids, two grown), has told me many times to always ask myself "is it going to matter in two weeks?"  If Ethan gets into the plastic cups and gets them all over the house... is that going to matter in two weeks?  No.  If Karis talks to me disrespectfully or yells at me, is that going to matter in two weeks?  Yes.  So, again, I'm going back to this way of choosing my battles :).  By the way, a friend of mine watched Karis over night Friday night, and she agrees that she is very strong willed... which actually makes me feel better. :)  It's not just in my head!

I have attempted to create some routine around here and one day I'll do well, then the next day is tough because I got less sleep the night before.  I'm going to try every day, but I have to lighten up on myself in this area too.  So, I didn't get to the dishes or laundry today... but my kids are dressed, fed, and taken care of.  I've done all that I need to for that day.  I do feel, though, that routine for the kids is very important at this time in their life, so I am focusing on that.  Mornings are rough, but we definitely have their nap time and bed time routines down :).

Baby Wearing
I LOVE my Sleepy Wrap.  I'm so glad that I bought it.  It takes a little bit to get it on, but once it's on, it's super comfortable and Levi loves it.  If I can't get him to stop fussing other ways, I put him in the Sleepy Wrap, and he's asleep :).  The only thing that is tough is I can't really lift Ethan when I'm wearing Levi.  So, if I need to change his diaper or something, it's a bit of a challenge.  I'm sure I'll get it figured out.  Here's a  close up picture that I took with my phone:

Looking forward...
These past few weeks have been rough, and I know that things aren't going to get "easy" anytime soon, but I am looking forward to some "normalcy" :).  
I'm excited that Karis will be turning 4 on March 15th, and we are having a birthday party for her on Saturday, the 13th.  She is going to have a blast!  For her present, Robert is building her a little play house to put in the back yard.  I can't wait until she sees it.  It will definitely come in handy in the coming months as it gets warmer.  I plan to have a daily time of outside play every morning for the kids.  I can't wait until it's warmer!
I'm looking forward to having true routine again.  I miss getting up at 6 am, having quiet time with Jesus before the kids get up, being able to get things done throughout the day, meal planning, grocery shopping, and lots of cooking and baking.  I have made a few things from scratch since Levi was born, but we have definitely been relying heavily on the dining hall here at camp and convenience foods (well, and food that people have brought us!).  
I am looking forward to being able to take the kids to the library, park, zoo, museums, etc.  I plan to start doing those things in the next few weeks (at least try!).  I think it's important for them to be able to do things outside of the house, but it just isn't happening yet.  I have only taken them out all together once by myself... so it's going to take a little bit more time before I feel comfortable doing that more often.  I don't think it'll be much longer, though.  They do pretty well when we're out, but it's still a challenge.  

Here are some recent pictures:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update- 3 weeks later

More on life with a newborn…

Wow. That's all I can say. For some reason, I had forgotten how difficult it is to have a newborn… I'm trying to find a balance and some routine. It's tough.

The night before last we had a pretty good night. We put rails up on our bed and decided to try co-sleeping again (we tried it for a few nights and I couldn't sleep, so we stopped). Well, co-sleeping went well that night… in fact, Levi probably would have only woken up once or so to eat had I not woken him up (because I was worried if I didn't my supply would start dwindling more). Of course, the power went out in our house and Karis came to our room because her night light wasn't on (and that became a few hour ordeal…). So, I still lost sleep… BUT, it was still better. Last night was just rough again. Very little sleep. And, I woke up dizzy (every time I woke up). So, this morning was rough. All I can say is I don't know what I would do without family and friends… My friend Kari came over (early!) to watch the kids so I could take a nap this morning. Then, my mom came and allowed me to take a nap this afternoon and she cleaned up my house. I was also able to run to the store real quick by myself. So, now I feel like someone hit the "reset" button and I feel refreshed.

Something that I'm learning through the struggle…

One thing that I am learning is that I have to learn to rely on others through this. I can't do it alone. There's no way. If I tried, I definitely wouldn't make it! A friend of mine wrote "God didn't intend for us to do it alone" on my facebook today. That's so true. I always struggle with others helping me, but I have learned that I have to let them. First because I need the help, and second because this is a way for God to use people to bless others. So, I am taking any help that I can get :). I will say that I am completely blessed with amazing friends and family who are SO willing to help. Actually, they're not just willing, but they want to help. They ask me or just decide to help me and not even give me a chance to deny them the opportunity.


Some days I feel like I'm producing almost enough for him without supplementing… then some days I feel like I have to supplement a lot. I haven't figured out the connection yet. I try to drink lots of water and feed on demand… I take my herbs (although I haven't been as consistent as I should be… I end up getting three doses most days… I'm supposed to take them four times a day and can't have liquids for 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after, so it's difficult). The one thing that I haven't been doing that I really need to be doing is pumping consistently. I need to probably set up a schedule or something in order to be more consistent. It's just tough to find the time… between feeding often already (breastfeeding and bottle feeding), to taking care of the other kids, I just don't have a lot of time. Hopefully I'll get it figured out. It would be nice to not have to supplement as much! But, no matter what, I'm thankful and blessed to be able to breastfeed at all, and I hope to continue for a long time… even if it's not 100%!

On a positive note…

Karis and Ethan's behavior has improved greatly over the past few days. Through consistency, spending more time with them, and not yelling, their fits have reduced significantly; and, when they do throw them, they end much quicker. Karis' attitude has improved as well. This definitely helps things around here!! We still have more work ahead of us in this department, but it's great to see improvement this quickly.

Some other tough things…

I have been missing my brother a lot lately. I think about him a lot, dream about him, etc. It's becoming more real, and I'm so sad that he will never meet Levi. I wish things didn't have to be this way… but God is in control…

I haven't had time to just sit down and have quiet time with Jesus on a daily basis like I used to. Before Levi was born, Robert and I got up at 6:00 and had a good hour to read our Bibles and pray, and now we sleep as late as we can since we're missing out on sleep during the night. I know this will eventually get better, but it's just hard to find time now. I still pray through the day, but it's just not the same.

Some random side notes…

We have been to the farm twice since Levi was born to buy raw milk, and after those two trips, we have decided that it's just not going to work to go as regularly as we have been going. From it taking well over an hour one way (about an hour and twenty minutes!), to the fact that the kids fight the whole time, etc; it's just too hard right now. If I could go once a month, it wouldn't be as difficult, but every other week just isn't going to happen. I will probably still go once a month or every other month because they now not only sell beef real cheap, they also sell pork and chicken! They sell eggs, organic beans, popcorn, raw honey, and even kefir starter cultures! So, I won't stop going there, just not as often to buy milk as regularly.

One exciting thing is that the majority of my grocery shopping is now going to be done in one town!! The day that Levi was born, a store called Newflower Farmer's Market opened up across the street from the HEB that I go to. They have great prices on natural meat (when I need to buy it from somewhere other than the farm), produce, and an amazing selection of bulk items such as beans, rice, pasta, sweeteners, nuts and seeds, coffee, etc. They also have great sales! I went today to buy Levi's formula, and I bought some Probiotics and magnesium. I went to HEB afterward and found that these were more expensive at HEB than at Newflower (they are even more expensive online!). So, I will be buying many things there! I will probably rarely go to Whole Foods or Sun Harvest any more because I don't have to. So besides my once a month or every other month trip to the farm and to Costco, most of my shopping will be done 25 minutes away instead of having to go all the way into Austin (which is closer to 45 minutes away). That makes my life so much more simple!! Anything that will simplify my life right now is definitely a plus :).


I think that is all… I have just had a lot of things swimming around in my head and wanted to write about them :).