Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Thankfuls

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations.

-Psalm 100

A week ago my heart was heavy. I was in the middle of a storm of life - I felt waves crashing over me on every side. Almost every aspect of my life was under some sort of stress or worry. My jaw was perpetually aching and I was popping Tylenol daily. My chest was always tight and I sometimes found myself gasping for breath or having to consciously take gulps of air in order to combat the feeling that I couldn't breathe. I was holding back tears all day long and laying awake most of the night.

How different this week feels!

Every one of my worries, every stress, every situation I lost sleep over has been resolved. My jaw is not longer aching and my chest has lost the feeling of tightness. I slept well last night for the first time in several weeks. 

My heart feels light; my attitude is positive and my soul is singing. 

Part of me also feels foolish. Why did I worry? When will I learn to place my trust completely in my Heavenly Father and leave my burdens at the cross instead of continually picking them back up again? He answered each one of my prayers and He took care of all the situations that I laid at His feet. So why did I lose sleep over them when He had it all under control? Why was my jaw aching and why did my dentist say I have ground my back teeth down significantly in the last 6 months? 

Because I don't fully trust. I have gotten better at running to my Heavenly Father with my worries and my needs. I have learned to cast my cares, give my burdens up to Him and to turn to His Word as a source of comfort. But I haven't learned yet how to STAY in that place. How to rest in His peace when everything around me is falling apart. I keep going back to that cross and picking up my worries and trying to carry them on my own shoulders - thinking that I know better than God. Believing that He doesn't have my back, that He isn't going to come through so I'd better take matters into my own hands.

And all it does is leave me with worn down teeth, an aching jaw, a sick stomach and severely sleep deprived. When will I learn that I cannot do for myself what my Heavenly Father can? It's so hard to remember that His timing is not ours and that just because things aren't sorted out when I think they should be that He is still on His throne.

So today my spirit soars, and my soul is singing praises of thanksgiving. And I hope that next time the storm rages, I will be able to lay down my burdens at the cross and leave them there. He has it all under control, and there is no need for me to fight a battle that has already been won.

For this I am thankful.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thankfuls

- The sound of my husband stacking firewood outside my window. I love the fact that he is home during the day and that he is working hard around the house.

-For quiet time. Today all the stars aligned and every. single. one. of the children here today are either sleeping or quietly looking at books. I am taking advantage of a few quiet minutes and soaking them in, so that I can power through the rest of what will be a very busy day.

-A word from God. For a while now I have been feeling like God is silent in my life, and my prayer life has been stagnant, my Bible reading has been flat. This morning I clearly heard from God and although it wasn't what I was expecting to hear, I am so thankful that He spoke and that I was able to hear in those 10 stolen minutes at the breakfast table this morning when I opened my Bible.

-For tea lattes. I make them often now and there is just something about that foamy topping on a mug of my favorite David's Tea that makes it seem like a treat. (I totally cheat and just shake my milk until it foams and then microwave it, but it tastes great to me!)

-For a high end washer and dryer. When we moved into this house it came with a brand new washer and dryer. Today alone I have washed and dried diapers, a load of clothes, and two sets of soaking wet pants and socks and one pair of soaking wet shoes. Boo for everything being soaking wet outside all the time - I can't keep the babies out of the puddles that collect on all the toys and equipment and they always end up drenched. But yay for a dryer that dries those wet clothes quickly and sings me a little song when it's done!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Currently . . .

Listening to : a sermon series called Starting Point from North Point Community Church. You can find them here

Reading :   I am really enjoying the second book in the Sword and The Staff trilogy called The Hero's Lot 

Waiting For : some BIG life changes coming around the bend. More on that in the future.

 Excited About : Fall. It's my favorite season and I am really enjoying being outside in the cooler weather as the heat and I do not get along. We have had a few fires in the back yard and there is nothing better to me than drinking coffee out of a thermos while roasting marshmallows around a nice fire. I am excited to start making comfort food for dinner again; lasagne soup, roast in the crockpot, squash and sweet potatoes, stew and biscuits. Mmmm.

Trying : To get myself back into the habit of doing devotions every morning. I had gotten out of the habit because sleep seemed to be more of a priority for a while, but God has decided to help me with that by having Emma decide to wake up at 5 am every single morning now. At first I was really annoyed, but I have started to take advantage of the time and spend 30 minutes with God every morning after I tend to Emma and I have to say, it's definitely worth the sleep loss.

I remember hearing something once, I think it was Beth Moore who said that God just can't WAIT for you to get up in the morning to talk to you. She said she encourages people to think about God, anxiously waiting for them as if He is a child on Christmas morning, to get up and spend time with Him. It is definitely a helpful mental picture to have when you are tempted to hit the snooze button. "I can't sleep in, God's waiting for me!"

Working On : Some fall decor for the shop. A cute lantern, some candlestick cloches.

Enjoying: My "Leaves" candle from Bath and Bodyworks.

Wearing: This necklace that I got when I hosted a Lia Sophia party . . . it seems to go with everything and I love a good long necklace!

Planning: My Christmas shopping. I've already started, but I would like to finish our gifts for the girls in October so that when the Christmas panic sets in, we at least have them taken care of already. We decided to try following the Want, Need, Wear, Read idea this year and so far we are loving it. In case you aren't familiar with it - each child receives 4 presents; something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I am finding having some guidelines is very helpful, and I feel like we are much more purposeful in our choices rather than "This crappy plastic toy looks neat, lets get it!"

Starting: I have been slowly working my way around the house, scrubbing floors by hand. I mop regularly but nothing is quite like a good hands and knees scrub! This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but I have a kneecap that dislocates frequently, which means that I am not allowed to actually get down on my hands and knees. Ever. So I scrub floors bending over at the waist, which as you can imagine is pretty hard on your back! It's tough to do, but it feels good to finally give my floors a good deep down clean.

Wishing :  I could be sure of God's will in a certain area of my life. I have been praying and seeking His will for several months now over a particular decision I have to make and I feel as though He is silent about it.

Doing : A lot of working! I currently work about 50 hours a week running my daycare if you include all of my hours cleaning, shopping, and preparing. And I also work 12-18 hours a month at a small local shop where I sell things I have refinished or created. Another 5-10 hours a month are spent actually creating those things, and I am about to get a lot busier with it so those hours are going to expand. I am very grateful that the majority of those hours are still spent at home with my girls!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"What are you doing in there?"

I keep a journal. Not very well, but I do keep it. I go for weeks without writing anything, and other days I furiously scribble half a dozen pages. Whenever I feel like I have something on my heart that I want to remember or that I need to work out, I write it. Writing it out makes things that I want to remember "stick" better, and it helps me sort out my feelings and thoughts when they seem like nothing but a jumbled mess.

Yesterday I flipped through the last few months of writings.

I don't know how I missed it all this time. Every single entry had a common thread. Every single page was speaking to me about the same thing. Every quote I had copied down, every verse I wrote out, every note from every sermon I listened to.

All of it, read together in one continuous stream was such a powerful message FROM myself TO myself that I actually had to stop reading and take a break because my brain was on overload.

How many times I have complained that I felt like God was silent in my life lately. Like this is a season of nothing but waiting, learning to be content in my present circumstances.

And I was so wrong.

All this time, God has been whispering the same message to me over and over again and I have been missing it. Well, I partially heard I guess. Enough to think "that's interesting" and write it down, but I never actually GOT what God was saying to me.

I'm going to try to share what I found in the pages of my journal. Forgive me if it is a bit rambly and doesn't make sense. It makes sense to me and that's what matters most.

God is calling me out.

For so long, I have felt depressed and sad. Stuck. Stuck is the perfect word.  Stuck in a phase of life that is hard. The days are long. Spinning my wheels in several different areas of my life where I WANT to move forward, make progress, and CHANGE. But I felt like God was telling me to wait and be patient.

Why did I think that? He was clearly telling me otherwise.

I was listening to a sermon this morning that summed it up beautifully. When life gets overwhelming, we always run. Sometimes we run into the arms of our heavenly Father and other times we retreat into our cave.

I've been hiding in my cave, and God has been standing at the entrance calling me out.

Elijah did it in 1 Kings chapter 19.

"There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah?"

Earlier in the chapter we learn that Elijah was afraid for his life. He ran and hid in a cave. He didn't trust his God to keep him safe, and instead went running deep into a cave. Until God came and stood at the mouth of the cave and asked him "What are you doing here?" and called him out.

David hid in a cave too. 1 Samuel chapter 22

"David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam."

David was running scared from King Saul. He didn't trust God to keep him safe or to guide his steps, so instead he hid. And when he left the cave he only did so he could hide in the stronghold of Mizpeh. Only when the prophet Gad said "Do not remain in the stronghold; depart" did he finally get up the courage to come out of hiding.

Your cave is probably different than my cave, but we all have them. Your cave might be some form of addiction. It might be an attitude you carry around like a backpack. Your cave is whatever you run to when you are not OK. It's your substitute for God - whether it's that brownie you stuff into your mouth after a stressful phone call or that impulse you have to pull into the nearest shopping mall when you have a bad day. A shopping mall can be a cave. Alcohol can be a cave. Food can be a cave.

I've been in a cave, of sorts, for a long time. And God has been standing at the entrance saying "Why are you hiding in there? Why are you afraid? Don't you know I've got this? Come to me, my arms are where you need to run. Don't run farther away from me when life get hard, run TO me. I'm out here waiting for you but you have to come out of the cave first."

My journal is evidence of what God has been trying to tell me. Telling me to stop hiding and trust him, run to my heavenly Father who is ON MY SIDE.

Here are some snippets. . .

-God has good plans for me and my future. He is faithful even when I'm not

-So we can say with confidence, the Lord is my help. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:6

-The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in You, for You O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

-It is God's very nature to give to His children. Do nott doubt for a moment that He is a giving God with a heart that looks to bless, encourage, empower, and love you.

-Shake off complacency. God wants to lead and guide you. He wants to prompt you about what to do and what not to do (quote from Joyce Meyer)

-Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

-Don't mistake God's patience for His absence. His timing is perfect and His presence is constant.

It goes on and on. God was repeatedly drawing my attention to the same message . . . turn to Him. Stop running, stop hiding and just turn to Him. Step out of the cave and be bold. Throw off complacency and start moving forward. Be bold! Quit running into the shadows and step into the light.

So this week I am committing to stop just writing down verses and nodding my head in agreement to powerful sermons. this week I am grabbing hold of His promises with both hands and stepping out of the cave.

It might be a little bit scary. Our cave is what we like to fall back on when life gets rough. Without our cave we lose our coping mechanism, our security blanket. But I know I am replacing my security blanket with something much better.

I'm stepping out of my cave.

And into the arms of my Father.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My "Being OK" story . . .

7 months ago, I would have said I was fine. Not GREAT, but fine. Life was busy and sometimes stressful, but overall I was enjoying life. I was OK with where I was.

7 months ago, we welcomed our second daughter into the world. And she was perfect, and I loved her fiercely from the first second I laid eyes on her. She has been an absolute joy ever since.

But along with that amazing little bundle, came a flood of hormones and emotions that weren't so amazing.

The first weeks after Emma was born I was very emotional. I remember one night when she was a few weeks old, my husband came home from work and we were having a conversation about how his day was. Tears began to roll onto my cheeks, unbidden. I kept reassuring him that "No, no, I am fine. I'm not even sad I just can't stop crying!"

The random crying jags came to an end, but the crazy hormonal roller coaster only accelerated. I went back to work running a busy daycare in the lower level of our home when Emma was not quite 8 weeks old and the added stress and pressure of suddenly working 9-10 hour days combined with my already fragile emotional state brought me to my breaking point.

There wasn't one particular thing that was awful. Work, although very busy and demanding of me, was going well and I was getting to spend my days with my daughters. My husband was home on parental leave lending a hand and helping with Emma during the night so I could get some sleep. My older daughter had adjusted well to the new baby and Emma was proving to be a very contented happy little thing.

So what was it? I don't know exactly. I think it was just too much of everything. Adjusting to being a mom of 2, instead of 1. Having a husband suddenly around and underfoot, messing with my routine and my quiet during the day. Going back to work before I was ready because I felt pressured to. Working too many hours on too little sleep. Doing all of the cleaning and housework after becoming accustomed to a weekly housekeeper that we could no longer afford, because of the husband's parental leave. Taking on a second job on the weekends so that we can afford a bathroom renovation.

All I know is, I suddenly found myself sobbing behind the wheel of my car in the driveway late at night so no one would hear me. Crying myself to sleep at night. Struggling to get up in the mornings because I was dreading the day ahead. Slogging my way through each day, losing my temper, having a bad attitude, and feeling incredibly sorry for myself all the while.

I had added 29 Lincoln Avenue to my blog reader, after reading "Hope For The Weary Mom" earlier this year and one morning I was scrolling through my blog reader when I saw "How To Be OK With Where You Are" in big letters.

 I froze.

 I stared at the screen for a minute and then clicked.

Every Monday in the weeks that followed I went to my computer and read Stacey's posts. Really read them. Digested them. Took notes, copied quotes into my prayer journal.

And I prayed.

It took me a few weeks but one night I finally admitted to my husband and, in a way, to myself that I was not ok. And I admitted it to God. Like Stacey said, He already knows - you can't surprise God! Even if He wasn't surprised, there is a freedom in admitting it to Him that comes with humbling yourself enough to look, truly look, at yourself. He looks down and sees us, buried up to our neck in our mess, and yet so many times we just dress it up and pretend it's not really there.

It's only when we finally acknowledge just what a fine mess we are in that He can rescue us.

And He is doing just that. As I work through removing my veil of fine and giving it up to the One who knows anyway, I am finding release. I would be lying if I said I sit here, totally ok and happy with where I am. I'm not. Not yet.

But God isn't finished with me yet. He's still working. And I am inching my way out of this mess . . . some days clinging, rather than standing on the promises. Some days the comparison monster rears it ugly head and I find myself fighting insane jealousy toward my true "stay at home mom" friends who don't work 2 jobs. Some days I fail miserably at everything and I go to bed feeling like a total failure and I am not even sure where I am going to find the energy to face the morning.

But He is always faithful. I may be stumbling and taking steps in the wrong direction half the time, but He is leading me out of this.

You can buy Stacey's new book on Amazon!

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up. God is our salvation.

 -Psalm 68:19

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Currently Burning

Currently I am burning this jar candle I found at Target.

It's Island Moonlight by Illume. It's a soy candle that contains notes of ruby cassis, valencia orange and sandalwood, and it smells exactly like walking into an Anthropologie store, or at least it does to me!

I chose it because I loved the scent, but to be honest I have not been that impressed. The scent throw is not very good at all - I don't like my candles to be too strong smelling because I can get headaches from overpowering scents, but this one was even too wimpy for my liking. It barely scented the living room, when usually the entire upper floor of our home will be filled with scent when I have something burning . . . sometimes even downstairs!

It also is not melting evenly. I hate it when a candle "tunnels" down the middle and doesn't burn evenly to the edges of the jar because it really shortens the life of the candle and so much wax is wasted.

It does smell just as wonderful when it is burning as it did when I first sniffed it in the store, but overall, I'm not loving it. I won't be repurchasing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Things Motherhood Has Taught Me #1

That my kitchen sink will overflow almost exactly 20 minutes after I walk away from running the dishwater.

Apparently I should not just "Run up and grab the baby because she's crying" without turning off the water first. Thank goodness my sink was designed to overflow into the second basin first before sloshing onto the floor because after I grabbed the baby, I also changed a diaper and sat down to watch the last 15 minutes of Land Before Time with Brook . . . I didn't remember that I had started running the dishwater until I was walking down the hallway and heard the sound of water dripping.

Actually, I didn't remember then either. I had no idea where the sound was coming from and I checked the garage first; it wasn't until I walked into the kitchen and saw the bubbles floating over the edge of the counter and down my cabinets that I remembered.

Now I know.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thrift Store Finds

This afternoon I got to indulge in one of my favorite past-times - thrift store shopping!

My thrift store options are pretty limited, but we do have one store that I always seem to find great stuff at; too bad it's also the one with the highest prices. But I remind myself that the money goes to charity and I still regularly find amazing deals, I just keep in mind that certain departments or types of items are way overpriced and try not to let the thrill of thrifting cause me to throw those overpriced items into my cart. Today I found some silver trays priced at $19.99 and a Gap toddler dress for $12.99! Seriously? If I had $20 to drop on a tray the first place I would shop would NOT be the local thrift store. What happened to $2.99?

Anyway. . .

I also found some affordable things that DID make it into my cart. And just before I headed to the front to check out, a lovely lady approached me and said "Excuse me, do you want my coupon? I didn't find anything I wanted today." I can imagine what she thought when she saw me standing there browsing the women's jeans while rolling my cart back and forth with one hand as Emma fussed in her carseat and I tried to balance a mountain of clothes, VHS kids movies, a pair of Cinderella shoes for Brook, and some random decor items that were draped over the handle. I had my diaper bag over one shoulder and I was clutching my keys with the same hand that was rocking the cart because I am a chronic key loser and I've learned that when I am out shopping the safest bet is to keep them in my hand at all times. I can imagine what a stressed out mess I must have looked like and she was probably taking pity on me!

The coupon was for 30% off my entire purchase which was a nice surprise! I was very grateful for the lovely stranger who made my day.

Brook needed some bottoms for summer, and I found a pair of capris, a pair of Old Navy shorts and an Old Navy jean skirt. With the coupon, these all came to just over $8!

I also found a Gap sundress for Brook and a tiny white Baby Gap top for Emma that looks like it has never been worn

With the discount these were only $4.88!

I also got the above mentioned plastic princess shoes, and 5 VHS movies. Yes, I admit I still have a VHS player! I keep it in the daycare for our movie days - the kids love watching classic Disney movies and I can pick them up for around a dollar each which makes me happy! 

I also got this embroidery hoop which I plan on making something crafty with to add to Brook's wall collage above her bed. I will share a post when it's completed!

A Saturday afternoon spent browsing my favorite store was the perfect way to kick off my weekend! The only thing that could make it better would be some time to get crafty and finish some DIY projects - hopefully tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chalkboard Paint Tips

Chalkboards are a big thing in the DIY world lately, largely due to Pinterest and the fact that most paint brands now carry cans of chalkboard paint; some brands like Benjamin Moore are even tinting them every colour in their paint line!

I've made a lot of chalkboards, and a few friends have asked me why their homemade chalkboards didn't turn out like mine, or why the writing doesn't seem to erase fully. They blame it on being a homemade chalkboard but really it's just that they didn't know a few tips and tricks of working with chalkboard paint. If done correctly, a homemade chalkboard looks and works just as well as one from a store!

Here are my top tips for DIY'ing with chalkboard paint.

1. Stir carefully.

Chalkboard paint can "break" just like a delicate sauce you cook on the stovetop. There is no need for vigirous shaking or stirring, just gently stir with a paint stir stick until it looks smooth.

2. Prep your surface.

If your surface is not smooth, your chalkboard won't be either. If you are painting a chalkboard wall I recommend you give it a light sanding and wipe with a damp cloth before painting. If you are wanting to create a chalkboard, choose a surface that is perfectly smooth. I like to use thin sheets of hardboard that are finished on one side, but I have also painted on glass (perfect for making chalkboard frames because you can just paint the glass insert in a photo frame).

3. Just like regular paint, it's better to do several thin coats than one thick, gloppy coat.

I find using a dense foam roller is the best way to avoid visible lines and get the smoothest finish. Chalkboard paint is thicker than most paint, so it's very easy to over apply it. I like to do 3-4 very thin coats for a nice smooth finish, making long straight strokes with the foam roller rather than just rolling it on all willy nilly or in the "W" shape that is recommended when using regular paint.

3. Resist the urge to try it out right away.

Give your new chalkboard at least 2 days to fully cure before whipping out the chalk

4. Season your surface

The first thing you should do when your chalkboard is ready to use, is to rub a piece of chalk all over the surface. Wipe it off with a dry cloth, and you are left with a slightly dirty looking chalkboard. NOW it's ready to decorate! If you draw or write on a freshly painted chalkboard surface without seasoning it first, you will always see what you first created no matter how many times you erase it. Chalkboard paint is dimpled and textured like the pores on your face. Filling them all in evenly with chalk dust ensures that your surface will always look even and future creations will wipe off easily.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tried It Tuesday - Polishing Brass

A few months ago I picked up an old dresser, complete with brass plated hardware that I knew would be beautiful, once it got shined up a little.

I know I could have bought some brass polish and be done with it, but the DIY'er in me wanted to see if I could polish it up with something I already had on hand, rather than buying a big container of Brasso that I would have no further use for.

So, Pinterest to the rescue.

After removing the hardware, I tried soaking it in lemon juice and then scrubbing with a soft cloth.

No change. Or if there was, it wasn't noticable to me.

Next up - a paste made from vinegar, salt, and flour.

I mixed it all up together according to the directions, and slathered it all over the hardware.

 30 minutes later, I washed them off and they didn't look any different.

Now I was getting frustrated.

I decided to wing it and pulled out some S.O.S. pads I had kicking around under the sink.  I was nervous it might scratch the finish, but honestly it was already scratched and even worn completely off in some places ( which is fine with me ) so I figured I had nothing to lose.

It worked! A quick scrub with the S.O.S. pad and a rinse under some warm water and they were shiny once more! They still have a worn look to them, as they are only brass plated and the finish has worn off in spots and is still dark in all of the grooves - perfect for a shabby chic lover like me!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Baby Essentials

I hesitated to call this list "Essentials", because what is essential to one person may not be for someone else. In fact, I found that some of my favorite things when Brooklyn was a baby have been all but ignored this time around. Different babies = different needs. For example when Brook was a baby, I loved the sleepers that had the little fold-over sleeves because she was forever scratching herself with her long fingernails. Emma hasn't even needed a single clipping of her nails yet, and has never scratched herself so I've only folded her hands into the little sleeves a few times, usually at night when her hands get cold because she hates having them swaddled.

So consider this a roundup of my favorite items for the newborn stage - you decide for yourself which ones are essential or not!

1. Receiving blankets/burp cloths.

When I was pregnant with Brooklyn, my mom sewed us about a dozen huge receiving blankets, and she made us another set when Emma was born! On any given day, you will find these strewn all about the house; we use them for E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

 - To tuck under her chin when she eats; she's a messy eater and gets milk all over her clothes otherwise

 - To lay over my shoulder when I burp her, or when she's sick and her nose is running. Keeps my clothes clean :)

 - We have a receiving blanket rolled up inside her carseat. The infant head support is still too large for her, so this helps fill in the gap and makes sure she fits nice and snug inside.

 - We also use a second receiving blanket to tuck her into her carseat. She tends to be quite warm, and using a heavy blanket means that she just gets overheated and fussy.

 - When Brooklyn was a baby, her lamp was too bright and we used to drape a receiving blanket over the shade for middle of the night diaper changes. Not sure I'd recommend that, as it could be a fire hazard but in our sleep deprivation it seemed to do the trick.

 - I also lay one down on her change pad if I expect that it's going to be a particularly messy diaper change. We have two removable change pad covers that are washable, but it seems like in those first few weeks we were spending more time changing and washing those covers and they were rarely ever on the change pad for diaper changes because they were always in the wash. A receiving blanket is easy to lay down first and much easier in my opinion to toss in the wash. Keeps my fancy covers clean and looking cute :)

 - Who needs expensive swaddle blankets? Ask the nurse at the hospital to give you a quick tutorial on how to get a tight wrap, and a receiving blanket works quite nicely.

 - The large receiving blankets make perfect nursing covers!

 I could go on all day, but let's just say we find them very useful and I would recommend having a lot of them, especially the really large ones.

2. Cloth wipes.


Even if you choose not to use cloth diapers, having a few cloth wipes on hand is a really good idea. If baby gets a diaper rash, a soft damp cloth is so much gentler on their sore bottom than a chemical filled, scented cold disposable wipe.

I have also learned that they get the job done so much faster. One cloth wipe ( I just use baby washcloths, but any soft material cut into squares will work) can do the job of 3 or 4 disposable wipes. They really do clean up messes much faster and easier!

3. Fisher Price Cradle N Swing

We have most of the typical baby gear . . . a vibrating bouncy chair, a jolly jumper, a bumbo chair, a playmat. But the place where both my girls have spent the most time is definitely this swing. In fact, the first two weeks Emma slept in her swing all night long. She seemed to need to be snuggled, and if she wasn't in our arms she would just cry. Laying her down, even swaddled, in a flat bassinet or crib just wasn't cutting it for her. Our swing is contoured on the sides and has an infant head support, so she feels like she is being held when she lays in it. Those first weeks when she was so teeny and new, the swing seemed to be the only place she felt safe. Everywhere else she would throw up her little arms in alarm as if she felt like she were falling.

I love this swing specifically because it plugs in. Swings that only run on batteries can cost a lot of money if you are constantly needing to buy replacements, as most of them use 4 D batteries at one time! We love that we don't have to keep purchasing batteries, but we have the option to use batteries if we need to (it's great when the power goes out!) I also love that it has the option to swing in two different directions and it comes with tons of options for sound effects and music.

4. A sling or wrap.

I have a Peanut Shell  classic sling and I highly recommend it simply because it's easy. No tying and wrapping, no adjusting of any straps or anything. Just fold it in half, slip it on and baby goes right inside. Easy peasy.

 When you have a new baby you will find yourself saying things like "I can never get anything done around here" and "I didn't get anything done today".

 Well, this sling is how you get "anything done".

 Even at her fussiest, I can pop Emma in here and she calms right down. I also really like that I can get in my snuggle time and watch her WHILE I get things done; sometimes I feel guilty if she lays in her swing for too long because she's all alone. The sling lets me have my hands free but we are still getting in some good bonding time as well. Win win!

5.Gumdrops pacifiers


Brooklyn wasn't too picky with her pacifiers; we had several different styles and she took anything. Emma was much more particular. We had bought a package of these and she used them a few times during her first few weeks. I bought another package of Gerber pacifiers that had a contoured nipple and she would choke and gag whenever we offered her one. I tried a Nuk, and she had the same reaction. Instant gagging and choking. Back to the rounded Gumdrop pacifier, and she latched on happily. They are the clear winner for this little girl!

6. Live Clean Baby products


I've tried it all, from Burt's Bees to fancy organic lines to Aveeno to Johnson's. And this stuff beats them all hands down. It's super gentle, smells great - SO MANY baby products smell like great grandma's perfume, why is that? and is natural. Best of all, it's very inexpensive - I get mine at Walmart and it's reguarly on sale too!

7. A good stroller

When Brook was born, we were given a hand me down travel system. It was fine, honestly, but I really wanted a stroller with big tires. Our little town has a lot of rough curbs and big pot holes and I also did a lot of walking on gravel and muddy roads and the travel system really struggled. It was also gosh darn ugly to boot. When a neighborhood cat decided to start peeing on it, that was the end for me. I could not get the cat pee smell out, so we bought a used sit and stand stroller. I loved it, but again it had tiny wheels and was so long that it was really awkward to steer, especially in the mall or a store.

I also had a double jogger stroller that was given to me 3rd or 4th hand. Last summer I finally just sold all three strollers, and bought a used Phil and Teds E3 with a doubles kit. It was almost $400 used, which seemed so silly to me for a stroller. But honestly, it was worth it. Every time I use it, I say "Thank GOD we finally have a good stroller." What a difference in how it pushes and steers!

I've talked to several other moms who have had similar experiences. They wasted hundreds of dollars buying different strollers trying to save money but never finding a good one. Then finally they bite the bullet and splurged on a high end stroller. In the long run, it would have been cheaper to just buy a high end stroller to begin with!

I highly recommend splurging on a good stroller, whether it is Phil and Ted's or not. I am a huge fan of buying used and making do with what you have, and with all the other baby gear (play pen, high chair, jolly jumper, toys, and clothes) aside from carseats. I still say that you get the most bang for your buck by purchasing gently used. But don't waste your breath on that $80 bargain stroller from Walmart - find a high end stroller on Craigslist or Kijiji and get it! You won't regret it, and you can re-sell it down the road for a good portion of what you paid for it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An Ombre' Dresser

Remember when I gave myself a deadline to finish 3 projects that had been lingering in the garage for way too long?

Well, I'm happy to report that I finished one! The dresser is finally out of the garage and in Brook's room where it belongs.

Last week I dug out my paint swatches, spread them out across Brook's bed and chose one that matched perfectly to the pink in her bedspread. A quick trip to the paint store while the Mister gave the dresser a light sanding and a coat of primer, and we were in business!

I painted the bottom drawer first, and then poured some paint into a paint tray and added a splash of white. A quick stir and I painted the next drawer. Another splash of white paint, stir, and repeat.

It's not perfect, but I am pretty pleased with how it turned out! It was a good way to step outside of my comfort zone, which is white, white, and more white.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Organizing Baby Things, Part 1

Babies come with a lot of stuff.

And they grow so fast - meaning almost as soon as you've organized one size of clothing, diapers, shoes, and hats suddenly overnight they have outgrown it and you are packing those things away and bringing out larger ones. It's a constant cycle.

And it's not only clothes! Babies go from swings and bouncy chairs to jolly jumpers and walkers. A highchair to a booster chair. Bottles to sippy cups, milk to solids . . . their first years seem to be a constant rotation of supplies and gear to meet their ever changing needs.

I thought I would do a series of posts sharing how I organize and store all of our baby things, and give you all of the little tips and tricks I have learned along the way!

Our first stop is Emma's dresser.

We opted for a long dresser instead of a changing table. I am still so grateful that we made that decision when buying our furniture during my first pregnancy four years ago: it has served us so well! A changing table is so limited in its use - before you know it, your toddler has become potty trained and suddenly your changing table has become a useless piece of expensive furniture and you now need to find a new place to store all of the things you had once stashed on its shelves.

Not so with a dresser. This piece can grow with Emma for the rest of her years growing up, or it can be repurposed somewhere else in our home down the line. It would make a great tv stand in our family room, or a buffet style server in the dining room. It could even function in the entryway as a place to store hats and scarves and drop our keys.

We topped the dresser with an inexpensive changing pad, and all of our diaper changing supplies are kept in the top left drawer so we can easily access everything we need without having a lot of clutter all over the top.

This drawer holds all of her diapers ( we use disposables until she can fit into our cloth diapers, more on that later) and anything else she might need during a diaper change or getting ready for the day. I keep Vaseline, a pair of baby nail scissors, baby lotions and diaper cream along with a pack of Scentsy Newborn Nursery wax that I use in her Scentsy warmer - it smells just like baby powder! There is also a stack of baby wash cloths that I get wet and use in place of disposable baby wipes. Much softer on her sensitive little tushie and cheap too!

The other top drawer holds all of her onesies on the far right. In the middle I have all of the hats that currently fit her at the back, and a stack of bibs at the front. It's never too early for bibs - I've learned they work great to protect her clothes from all of the dribbles and spills during feedings so I spend less time scrubbing out stains from around the neck of all of her outfits. On the left are some teeny tiny tights at the back, and in the front I cut down an instant oatmeal box to contain her tiny baby socks. Maybe not the prettiest storage solution, but I love cutting down empty food boxes to create my own drawer organizers because it's free and I am usually the only person to see the inside of my drawers anyway!

Below her diapers I store all of her clothes, which right now consists of about a dozen newborn size sleepers and two teeny tiny newborn dresses that she wears to church on Sundays. I cannot wait until she grows big enough for pants!!!

Underneath her clothes are the receiving blankets. A whole drawer full of receiving blankets? Yes ma'am! These puppies are essential to me, especially during the first few months. I use them to swaddle her when she sleeps, to tuck around her in the carseat when we go out and a heavy blanket would be too warm, to drape over the carseat to keep the sun out, to lay down on the change pad to protect my white covers when I know she's had a big blowout. They make the perfect nursing covers too!

On the right side, I keep our cloth diapers. Emma is still so small that these diapers go up to her armpits, so we are using disposables until she grows a little more. I have a mix of Fuzzibunz and Bumgenius and I cannot say enough about how much we love our cloth diapers; I will do a post in the future all about them.

Below that is a drawer full of blankets. I also keep her crib sheets and spare change pad covers at the back.

Stay tuned for more posts on organizing all of that baby gear! Up next - the diaper bag!

Tiny Baby, TONS of Stuff

Meet baby Emma! She graced us with an early arrival on February 11th, and we have been enjoying some much needed family time for the last few weeks. Our little peanut has been a very easy baby so far and I am enjoying being a momma to a newborn once again!

Along with a new baby though, comes new stuff. A LOT of new stuff.

Which is fun! I mean, who doesn't like opening presents? And getting out all of Brook's old baby things and reminiscing has been really special. I love having pink and purple take over my house!

But I am not a clutter person folks. I have a serious aversion to too much stuff. I am famous for walking around the house with a giant garbage bag and not stopping until it is full. We regularly take truckloads of things to our local thrift store and re-use shed at the local dump. My rule is, if I haven't used it in the last 6 months or I don't LOVE it - it goes. I am pretty ruthless in the clutter department.

So to have a constant stream of gift bags, dishes full of food, cards, and flowers comes along with a wee bit of anxiety for me. I appreciate each and every gift, don't get me wrong! But I cannot believe how much "Stuff" has moved into our house along with this tiny little 6 pound bundle.

The baby swing sitting in the middle of our living room, I can handle. The playpen taking up every square inch of free space in our bedroom, it's ok. The carseat and stroller now filling my entryway, whatever. But the stack of three dozen gift bags and the mountain of tissue paper - ACK! The row of empty casserole dishes and tupperware waiting to be given back to their generous owners - drives me nuts. The piles of special momentoes that I don't have a box to put in yet...eek!

Receiving blankets and pacifiers seem to be laying on every suface in the entire house, the laundry baskets are stuffed with tiny puke stained outfits, and the garbage cans are constantly overflowing between the diapers and all of the packaging and wrapping that has come into the house along with all of the new baby gear. Add in a giant  stack of thank you notes that permanently lives on my dining room table so that I can work on them whenever I get a spare minute, and a LOT more mess and clutter from the husband who is home on parental leave and I am ready to have a heart attack wherever I look.

I crave organization in a  bad way. A few days ago I even broke down into tears over how stressed out all this extra clutter was making me. My wonderful husband knew what I needed - not a nap or a massage. Just to clean.

He took the baby from me and kept Brook entertained while I had almost two glorious hours to myself, armed with Mrs. Meyers and a broom. I cleaned my kitchen, folded laundry, and took out the garbage. As much as I like a clean organized home, I usually don't actually enjoy the process of cleaning but this day every pair of socks I matched, every crumb I swept felt like therapy. The tightness in my chest disappeared with every dish I washed, and when I was done I finally felt like myself again.

I never want cleaning or organizing to come before my children. That old poem that says

                The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs: dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep

definitely has a point! My children will never remember if the sink was always full of dirty dishes, but they will remember the times I played with them. And the times I said I was too busy to read a story, or built a blanket fort. I want their memories to be filled with many, many more "yes" moments from their mommy than "no" ones. I don't ever want to be so consumed with the daily drudgeries of running a home that my children miss out on quality time with their mom. 

But I also feel like one of the best gifts I can give my children is a clean, organized home. Space to spread out and play, rather than a space that is crowded with too much clutter. A sofa that always has room for the whole family to crowd onto, not littered with magazines and blankets. Room to run without fear of tripping over things. Freedom to spread out, to create a mess where a mess wasn't already. To grow up with the calmness and peace that comes with being in a space that is also calm and peaceful. I also want to instill the lifeskills in them that come along with having an organized home - time management, responsibility, teamwork. 

It's a balancing act.

  I will continue to clean. I will always make time in my day to sweep the floors and sort the mail. I will still tell my daughter "Not now, honey, I am busy" sometimes when I am up to my elbows in dishwater or making dinner. But I will try to remember that sometimes, that "Not now" needs to be replaced with an "Of course!" and I will dry my hands on a dishtowel and let my frying pan sit until the dishwater has long gone cold because I am too busy playing dressup to care.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I have decided to carry on the tradition my mom started with me of making special heart shaped cookies every February.

Growing up, we always made classic sugar cookies with pink and white icing, and topped them with cinnamon red hots. Always.

As much as I loved our tradition, I am the sort of person who is always itching to try something new! I doubt I will make the same cookies every year - I like to mix it up!

I have been scouring the internet for ideas, and have come across so many adorable cookies and techniques!

I love these stained glass looking ones

These peanut butter cookies with chocolate hearts would be easy for little helpers 

Or maybe classic sugar cookies with a rainbow of icing colors(although we'd skip the black)

These are unique and oh so adorable!

And these neopolitan cookies are so pretty!

Royal icing is always impressive

Image source

I doubt I will attempt anything this complicated with a three year old helper, but, oh...swoon!

Even something as simple as cereal treats look impressive when tinted pink (maybe some sprinkles thrown in for good measure)

So many beautiful cookies . . . the options are endless! I am trying to decide which ones we will tackle this year. Hopefully this weekend is full of sprinkles and the sound of my mixer!

It Is What You Make Of It

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. So many people see it as a holiday manufactured by card companies, but I say it is what you make of it.

As a girl, my parents always made me feel special on Valentine's Day. I  remember every year, coming home from school and KNOWING there was a special surprise waiting for me. That was more exciting to me than trading valentines at school . . . knowing all day long that when I got home, there would be something special waiting on my bed from my mom and dad.

I remember my Valentine presents more vividly than most of my Christmas presents. I think it's because Christmas presents were expected, everyone got them. And a lot of my friends got bigger and better Christmas presents than we did - my parents had four kids to buy for!

 But not all of my friends got valentine presents.

 And valentine presents play right to a little girls' heart - pink, frilly, extravagant, and oh so grown-up and romantic! To receive a heart shaped box of chocolates, all tucked into shiny foil wrappers underneath a lace doily at the age of 6 . . . swoon! It made me feel loved, special, and spoiled. I remember pulling into the driveway after school, looking up to my bedroom window and seeing a giant foil balloon bobbing away . . . waiting for me! Some years it was handfuls of heart shaped candy sprinkled and hidden all over my room. One year it was the foil balloon. Other years it was the classic box of chocolates. Every year, on my bed when I got home from school; some special token left to surprise me.

My most special Valentine memory is the year my dad came home with flowers, not just for my mom but also for my sister and I. I don't remember what sort of bouquet my mom received, but I do remember being given a glass bowl with a floating rose inside, and how it made me feel. Thinking about it now is actually bringing tears to my eyes! My dad is my hero, and he always made the effort to treat his girls with the same care and affection that he treats our mom. . My dad treated me like a princess - he complimented me every Sunday morning when I got dressed up. Opened doors for not just my mom, but also for me. Held my arm when we walked across slippery parking lots. And he bought me flowers on Valentine's Day. He gave me those experiences of knowing what it felt like to be cherished, to be loved and truly cared for so that when it was time for me to enter the dating world I wouldn't settle for anything less. And I didn't :)

Every year, my mom would spend an afternoon making heart shaped sugar cookies with me and my sister. We always decorated them the same way every year. Pink and white icing, and cinnamon red hots. It was our special tradition and I was always so proud to have those cookies in my lunch bag at school in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day.

When I got older, my mom would often make a special Valentine dinner with everything prepared in heart shapes, the table set with a lace tablecloth and candles. The first year after I got married, I invited my parents over for a candlelit dinner and served a heart shaped cake for dessert - our first married Valentine's Day and the idea of going out for a romantic dinner just the two of us never even crossed my mind. I wanted to surprise my parents and do for them what they had done for me every year.

When I think about Valentine's Day, those are the things that I remember. Those are the things that make me get excited to celebrate with my own family. Not an expectation for a fancy dinner out, an overpriced bouquet or a new piece of jewelry. Just the little things. The small gestures of love, the time taken to surprise a loved one just because you want to make them smile.

This year I am bringing back the tradition of making heart shaped cookies with my own daughter. And on February 14th when she walks into her room at the end of the day, there will be heart shaped candies sprinkled across her bed.

And we will sit down to a dinner of something heart shaped, with candles flickering and wine glasses full of juice in front of our plates. Some romantic music will be playing, and after dinner I will relax with my hands on my ever-expanding belly while I watch my husband twirl our daughter around the living room for a special Valentine's dance.

And it will be a million times better than any pair of earrings or fancy restaurant dinner could ever be.

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