Saturday, September 20, 2014

Laundry Low Down

Okay I admit it.  I am frugal by marriage.  I can look at a variety of unmarked items and 9 out of 10 times, I would pick the most expensive one.  My husband on the other hand would pick the least expensive and most practical.  A few years ago we found ourselves in the midst of financial uncertainty and needed to learn fast how to stretch every dollar.  I am always up for a challenge, so I dug in deep and tightened the spending belt.  I learned fast that clipping coupons, shopping sales to stock up, and planning meals really did save our family money.  I also noticed that even with coupons we were spending $20+ a month on laundry detergent.  That didn't seem like much, but it is $240 a year. We needed a more frugal option.  I remembered that my aunt had mentioned making her own detergent and that it was relatively inexpensive.  Like any modern mom I began to search Pinterest for a recipe:  Baking Soda, Super Soda Wash, Borax, and a shredded Fels-Naptha Bar.  I mixed the ingredients in a 5 gallon storage  container and it lasted our family just over a year and a half! AND it worked great, too!  Except for the little chunks of Fels-Naptha, I would find every now and then.
Impressed by the cleaning power, but irritated by the little chunks of soap, I sought out an alternative to the Fels-Naptha Bar.  It needed to be easier to mix and fight stains. Baby Oxiclean was a great substitute.  This evening we mixed equal parts of Baking Soda, Super Soda Wash, and Borax with one tub of Baby Oxiclean.

Baking soda 6.59
Soda Wash 3.97
Borax 3.97
Baby Oxiclean 5.99
Totaling $20.52 lasting 18 months ~ $1.14/month

Instructions for use:  Add 2 Tbsps to your wash.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Out with the Old and In with the New

I survived shoe shopping!  One of my girls friends is the fashion industry and she assisted me this weekend in picking out my new shoes.  I like different, but never venture far from my comfort zone with shoes.  My friend and I have two very different styles of shopping.  I like to skim the shelves and look for the normal styles I like.  She is a digger trying on every shoe that catches her eye, with an efficiency of a shopping ninja.  I roamed the store and found two embarrassingly similar styles of black shoes and couldn't decide on which I would take home. So I asked my friend for help in making the decision. "Amber, you need to do some more looking, and try some more shoes," she advised.  I held up an orange pair of ballet flats that I had been flirting with each time I walked by.  "I like these, but really when would I wear them?"  I asked. She answered,  "All the time! Orange is the a hot color this season."  She continued guide

me with her fashion insider tips.  I loved the shoes, despite the impractical color, and was excited to hear how they would enhance my style.  Now with the mold broken I thought I should run through the clearance one more time looking for anything I might wear.  On one of the shelves was a mustard colored pair and my mind thought back to the pair I had recently broken and need to be replaced.  Score!  I am excited to sport my new shoes this week!

Friday, September 12, 2014

In the middle of it all

He never said it would be easy, and I know first hand being a mommy isn't easy. I was recently in a restaurant sitting across from a distraught young child, who was hitting and screaming at his mommy. The child's mother had this quiet and merciful look. Though the child didn't calm quickly, she handled the raging fit with a stern grace.  With glassy eyes she held her emotions in, and held her head up, despite the judgmental glances from those staring at our table.  This was our first mommy lunch date. We both were in need of some big girl time, and here we were sitting at a table exhausted by the demands and expectations of our fast paced society. Marked by weary smiles we were secretly loathing the definition of perfection that burdened each of us.  Everyday I wake up and think: today is the day I will get it all together, instead of acting like I have it all together; so it was easy for me to recognize that I have got it all together , but not really look in my friend's face.  Instead of offering a friendly encouraging story about how I too had a passionate child (true) and how I would super mommy those difficult moments (which was not always true), I opened up and laid my struggles out on the table:  

"I recently accepted a part time job, on top of running a photography studio, and my "homework."  We have had a rough run over the past five years, and my family needs me to work outside of the home in order to close that financial gap.  I have been battling with my emotions and the truth, partly because I am exhausted and overworked and the other hand I am thankful that I have this other job to help make ends meet.  I really do like my jobs, but I haven't found balance with working, the studio, being mom, wife, and friend.  My husband is doing a great job trying to fill the gaps at home, by making dinners, helping with homework, chores...  But he's not mom, I am. And it is really hard for me not being available for mom things.  We have survived some really tough times over these last five years, and no doubt we will survive this season too.  Instead of keeping a balance or even gracefully juggling the roles I am playing, I feel like I am wrestling for control.  Wrestling, that is what I am doing, like Jacob.  I am not going to let go of God until He makes His mark on me. I might walk with a limp when I get out of this season, but I am sure my faith will be stronger because of it. The process isn't easy, I often feel like disconnected and down, sad but not without joy.  I do a lot of crying and crying out to God.  He is doing a great work in me and will not leave it unfinished, but the piercing blows of the chiseling process demand perseverance and strength, that can only come from a great source, God."
Deep Breath, sigh.     I said it.      I mean I have written it secretly in emails asking for prayer and strength, but I said it out loud this time.  .....Silence....  not long enough for my imagination to start roaming on what she must think of me...  just long enough for God to fill the moment with grace.  My friend offered no advice, but rather opened up, and told me about her struggles.  We were two women sitting in a restaurant filled with random people doing the society shuffle, sharing our burdens in a way that didn't make either of us feel ashamed or superior.  It was real, plain, and simple.  The honesty of the moment didn't lead us to pity each other, but encouraged us with the knowledge that we all struggle, and we all fail.  God created us for relationship to share our burdens and encourage each other.  So, why do we feel that we need to display happy shiny faces in order to show others we serve an awesome God.  He offers life abundant to us, without the promise of the material concepts we attach to it.  He offers us a peace, that we sometimes are too busy to enjoy.  We are so busy it is hard to find a moment to even accept His peace.  Take this morning for example: I slept in, and had to shuttle the kids off to school, because we missed the bus.  The kids were groomed, lunches were packed, and we pulled into the parking lot right on time.  I was still in my pajamas, neither hair nor teeth were brushed, but we were on time!  This was a mommy victory, small, but a victory. Until I realized I hadn't fed my children breakfast...the daunting perfectionist voice echoed: failure.  After opening the lunch boxes pulling out grapes and snack bars I shuffled them into school before the tardy bell.  Slightly self conscious as I walk back out next to a woman dressed to impress.  The click of her polished high heels made me even more aware of my unsightly display of disorganization. Thankful that I had plenty of time this morning, to spruce myself up, before the days appointments, I walked into my house and for the first time realized, it was a disaster zone.  

   Feeling a little overwhelmed by the morning's ciaos, I sat down and turned on worship music, hung my head and prayed.  God, I am overwhelmed.  I need you.  Before I could utter any more, and as if it were God saying directly to my heart, You of little faith, I am right here, with you, in the middle of all this ciaos.  My tear filled eyes caught a glimpse of a sweet little devotion book we read at dinner time, right in the middle of the mess around me was Jesus Calling! Later on in the morning I received a phone call from another dear friend who had just been thinking about me.  She had been feeling overwhelmed and distant, not sure of her effectiveness for God's kingdom because of her feelings. The idea that we as women of faith can't be sad or overwhelmed or stressed is a lie.  We all at times will battle internal struggles, hard times, and even depression.  The enemy wants us to pretend it is all fine and dandy, so that the world will get a false perception of the Christian identity.  The Truth says we will go through trails, and through those trials be given hope that comes through faith.  What ideal circumstances inspire faith, other than raw dependence on God.  The idea that our problems are too small or big for God or that we can't be facilitators God's love because of the way we feel during these struggles are a lies too.  God put me on her heart to call, and with a simple act of obedience she showed me God's love. The phone call ended with us praying for each other, and that wouldn't happen if we kept on pretending we didn't have problems.  What sets us apart as believers is that we are not alone and can rely on a source that can overcome even the most desperate struggles.  Mommies we don't have to strive for perfection, trying to get our lives in order; we need to rely on the Creator who made all things and holds them together, the Great I AM. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mamma Needs a New Pair of Shoes

What woman doesn't love shoe shopping?  Uhhh, ME!  I don't know if it is the unique shape of my feet or the insane expense of buying shoes, but I have found that I am very picky when it comes to shoes.  When I find a pair that I like, and the price point fits my budget, I usually will buy them and then wear them over and over till they wear out.  My Husband does the same thing but he is still wearing the same brown shoes from high school (almost 15 years ago).  However my shoes never seem to last that long.  I am lucky to get 1 year's wear out of my classic "go to" shoes.  I am only recently becoming aware of this shoe epidemic because I used to wear flip flops all the time.  However, for the last two years I have learned that Wisconsin's winter weather isn't too conducive to sandals I used to wear all year round. So here I am on the verge of "Closed Toe Shoe Season" and my favorite and only pair of shoes are about to look like those trending jeans with the frayed holes.  What is a girl to do?  I know I have to go shoe shopping and that brings me to the original point: I DON'T LIKE SHOE SHOPPING.

Friday, September 5, 2014

School Information Overload

Are the school papers already piling up on your counter tops?  We are one week into the school year and my "Mommy this needs to be read, sorted, or filled out and returned pile" is already making a home on my kitchen counter tops!  Last year the steady flow of information was manageable, but I only had one school aged child, now I have two.  Double the fun and double the paper intake!!

Don't get me wrong, I am very please with the communication from the girl's teachers. I just need to find a way to keep it all organized.  We have a family information binder for important documents, schedules and other items we may need to refer to, periodically, but not on a daily basis.  I have an amazing Pinterest worthy  calendar hanging in my kitchen
but that does me no good with piles of paper.  I even have a great little file system, but I have found that when the items are out of site, they are out of mind. If you have found yourself in a similar situation here are some suggestions for managing the confetti colored news letters, bulletins, permission slips, and more:

1. Go through your child's take home folder while he or she is doing homework.
2.  File important papers in a child specific folder, but clear in once a week of outdated documents.
3. Keep the recycle bin near by. Record special events and dates in your family calendar, then toss the papers.

My mission for this upcoming weekend is to create a system that is practical and repeatable.  To all you amazing teachers, thank you for the hours your spend creating the take home communication papers.  We appreciate you and the investment you make in our children's lives!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Those are such big steps

She did it; she stretched out her arms, grabbed the railing, and bounced onto the school bus this morning. The only tears were in my eyes, those of a mommy watching her youngest pearl eagerly waiting the arrival of the yellow school bus.  My heart melted as I wanted to cling to her and she to me, with a secret hope that she would want to stay one more year at home with mommy.  Instead as I knelt down she gently touched my cheek with her soft sweet hand and assured me, "Don't worry mommy. I will miss you."   Though my heart sank with the end of one season, and it celebrated the confidence of five year old little girl ready to take on the world of kindergarten, but not before she comforted her mommy.  I have prayed that God would bless her with strength, dignity, and confidence, and His measure of blessing has exceeded my expectations.

I am inspired by her confidence to take on challenges and to not let the world dictate to her who she is or will become. More so, I am thankful that she rejected my influences to hold on to one season and move boldly into the next.  She takes each day for what it is and passionately pursues her goals, not accepting the limits around her.  I wonder sometimes if maybe I looked at my day through her eyes would I make different choices.  Could I really take on the day with a child like faith, that allowed me access to a confidence that is readily available to me?  If so, what would be the impact of my life for the Kingdom of God?

I was eager to hear how her first day of school went, so I waited for the school bus to drop her off at the end of the day.  I couldn't help but chuckle when I heard she had made herself at home in the back of the bus, a section reserved for sixth graders.  In her mind, she is just as big as they are, and though she is the smallest on the bus, I have no doubt her ambitious heart is the biggest!