Thursday, December 31, 2009

Planning My Life

I love organizing and planning- a fresh new calendar, a color-coded schedule, a well organized to-do list. I'm a little strange, I know. It's easy for me to sit down and plan. The tricky part is implementing that plan into real life! I'll share a little about my planning methods. Most of it has come from some great books I've read- maybe you'll add them to your 2010 must read list!

What's really important to you? What do you want your time and money to say about you? I've learned that each of us has a most productive time of day. Into that time slot is where we should put the activities that fall high on our list of priorities. For me, my high production is in the morning. If it's after lunch, the day's over! So, it's into the morning that I put spending time with God, school work with the kids, and one chore that HAS to get done. A great book that helped me sort through my priorities is A Woman After God's Own Heart®by Elizabeth George. I read through this every couple of years to keep myself on track.

Daily Schedule
There are some things that you know will happen at about the same time each day- meals, car pools, work, etc. These fall into a schedule with very little thought. But now it's time to add the other activities based on your priorities. Think about your most productive time of day and start from there. Don't fill it all up with things to do. Remember to add "transition time" (putting coats on the little ones), and down time- when you can just play with your kids or get out a book you've been meaning to read. the day should have it's own ebb and flow and the more days of your week you can get to look like each other the easier it will be to follow. I loved Managers of their Homes by Teri Maxwell for helping me figure out a schedule that works for me. I've also enjoyed the FlyLady website for cleaning help.

There are so many out there to choose from! I love a calendar that gives you lots of space to write things. This year I'm going to try the Mom's Plan-It Calendar It divides the grid into space for each family member and retains the calendar look.

A planner is important for the times you're standing at the clinic trying to schedule the next appointment. Essential for me in a planner is a week at a glance, space for a to-do list, and a monthly view. I'm really enjoying Amy Knapp's Christian Family Organizer which even has space for a menu plan and a "tearable" grocery list. The Christian version also has a space to record prayer requests.

Our monthly budget is put together in a similar way as my schedule. What are our standard expenses?- house, utilities, insurance, etc. The rest of the money is then alloted according to our priorities- food, gas, clothing, savings, giving, date night, babysitter, fun money, etc. There are times in life when there's no room for fun money, and that's a season that must be gone through. There are a number of computer programs out there that can help you track your spending. If you've never done a budget before, I recommend keeping track of all your expenses for two months. You'll see how things fall into a pattern. Once you can see where your money has been going, it should be easier to figure out how to allot it intentionally. Maybe you don't really need to eat take-out twice a week and you can put more money towards something else. Or you can turn that second take-out meal into the date night you didn't think you could afford and let the kids eat mac and cheese! We went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and loved it! Envelopes are a great method of controlling your spending.

Every time something "new" starts up I re-evaluate all of these things. The start of a new calendar year has many people looking around themselves desiring to make changes. Being intentional about how I spend my time and money means that I'm more likely to make it happen in real life. These are the tools and resources I've found particularly helpful in the past few years. What are your favorite tools? Do you have a favorite resource? How do you make it all work?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Meet Roselyn

Every birth story is a little different. Even having had all of my children via c-section, things are a little bit different each time. I think that the only things that have been the same for us is that we've had the same surgeon and all of my kids have been born on Tuesday.

This Tuesday started out a little differently, since we were scheduled for a noon baby. We enjoyed a couple of hours at home with the other kids before heading off. Once we got there, things were pretty similar in the prep department. We had a wonderful nurse working with us and we knew what to expect at each step of the way. It's still amazes me that there are three doctors, an anesthesiologist, and half a dozen or so nurses all devoted to caring for me and my baby!

When Roselyn was born they brought her over to the warmer and cleaned her up. I got to keep my glasses, so I could see what was going on this time around. She did not like being out in the cold and cried a lot. She weighed a mere 5 pounds 15 ounces and was 18 3/4 inches long.

When I was done in the delivery room they wheeled me over to recovery, just like normal. But this time, baby got to come with me! In the past they have used this time to take baby to the nursery and get it all cleaned up. This time I got to cuddle with my baby and they did the washing up right there in recovery. It wasn't until we were in there than anybody asked us what her name was. Two minutes later the lab tech came in to do her first blood poke, and her name was Roselyn, too! I was worried that this baby would cry all the time. I'd never spent those first couple hours with my babies before and did not realize how much crying they did! She got it all out of her system and hasn't really cried since. Well, unless we're changing her. It's cold with no pants on!

My room was very nice, but a little small when all the kids came for a visit! Apparently when they were getting ready to leave, they told Eleanor they were going to see the new baby and she said, "no, puppy." I think she's glad for the baby now, though! She is convinced that Roselyn needs all of her blankies and toys at all times. The boys love holding her and touching her soft skin. I'm still not sure what Veronica thinks. Mostly, everyone is still excited about Grandma being here to take care of them and having all this snow and Christmas, too. What a busy week it's been at our house!

I wanted very much to come home on Christmas Eve (one day before regular discharge after a c-section). That's always been the time for our family to read from the Bible and open our stockings. Because we went into the week planning to push my recovery and discharge date, we were ready to go before the blizzard made the roads impassable. Praise the Lord! We had a wonderful evening with Greg reading from the Word and the kids acting out the story with the nativity set. They all got sleeping bags under the tree and had a slumber party in their bedroom. Sweet memories.

The most difficult part of the process was trying to get my pain meds. We stopped at the pharmacy on the way home and dropped the prescription off. They told us fifteen minutes. We figured Greg would pick it up when he took the kids to the Christmas Eve service a couple hours later. When that was cancelled due to weather, he headed out to get it then. Unfortunately, they did not tell us that they were closing one hour after we dropped the prescription off and he arrived a few minutes too late. I was devastated! The prescription could not be picked up at another location or called in to another pharmacy. We called the hospital, and the nurse wasn't sure what to do, either. Thankfully, the doctor was able to call in a prescription for a different pain reliever and Greg braved the snowy weather to head to an open pharmacy. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I had drugs on Chirstmas Day :) There was enough in the bottle to get through the blizzard until our original pharmacy opened. My husband was even willing to walk down there for me, but the main streets were plowed by then, too.

The Lord has truly been gracious to us. Other things have progressed extremely well this time around. All of our babies have had some jaundice that required extra attention, but no light therapy. Roselyn is a great eater helping to flush all that bilirubin out, and we've even been able to avoid any extra pokes! Usually my post-op swelling has me sitting in a chair with ice on my feet, but this time it's been practically non-existent. My pain has been fairly managable, too. And last night, Roselyn slept for six hours! What more could a Mama ask for a week after delivery?

Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful new baby. You have truly blessed our family with Roselyn's presence. We pray that she will grow into a compassionate woman who loves You above and beyond all else and serves You out of a grateful heart. We pray that we can be the kind of parents You desire us to be and that we will turn to You for wisdom and guidance each and every step of the way. What an adventure parenting is!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baby on a Budget

Being just eight days away from having our baby, I've been thinking a lot about the things I still need to get out, washed up, bought, and put together- it's a lot of work getting things ready for a new baby! It's just too bad that the time for getting things ready comes when Mama is big, uncomfortable, and has trouble breathing if using the stairs too much!

I remember when we were expecting our first baby and looking over the lists of things we were going to need. It was so overwhelming! The price tag on those items was pretty overwhelming, too. Thank goodness for baby showers and hand-me-downs. I think that's the only way that most people can survive the hit of that first child.

Budget Savers:
1. Baby shower- It's great to have a friend or family member throw a shower for you. You'll get all sorts of things as gifts, and a great place to find out what other moms' favorite products are.

2. Hand-me-downs- Know someone with a baby a few months to a year older than yours? Maybe they have some things they're getting rid of! Be sure to return the favor to another new mom when you're ready to clean out your storage area.

3. Consignment sales- It's like one huge garage sale! I love these, but they usually only come around once or twice a year. Be ready for the lines! Take 2 and Neat Repeatz are the two I've visited here in Lincoln.

4. Consignment stores- A great place to visit year round. Watch for their end of the season sales for even better deals. Thrift stores can be a good place to find things, too, but they go quickly.

5. Borrowing- Especially for those bigger items that people don't need to use all year round or even with every child. This is baby #5 for us, and the first time I've thought it would be good to have a double stroller. But we don't want to buy one at this point. Our solution? Borrow!

6. Go neutral- from clothes to bedding to strollers this makes things more useful if you have more than one child.

7. Limit the number of "outfits"- they just grow so fast! Onesies and sleepers are really all you need for at least the first six months. An outfit or two is nice, but certainly not the 7-10 they have on some of those lists!

8. Cloth diapering- It's quite the thing to do for the environment, too. There is a bit of an initial expense, but the money saved over a year's worth of diapers is incredible. I should try to figure out how much we've saved over the course of five kids! Even with using disposables over night and when we leave the house for more than an hour, we've saved a bunch.

I've also learned that you don't need everything that's on all of those lists. Your baby will survive just fine without wearing an "outfit" every day. But there are a few things that I've come to love and make a point to tell every expectant mama about. What's your number one go-to baby item? What do you wish you could give to every new mother you come across?

Definetly Needed List:
1. Car seat cover- Needed if you live in a cool climate in the winter. Styles range from the kind that slip over your baby like a blanket, to the kind the buckle into your chair.

2. Nursing cover- I can't believe how much I love mine! These are especially great when you're at the park on a windy day. Or have a wiggly baby, or one that needs a little extra help.
3. Boppy- These things are so versatile! From tummy time to a sitting helper, baby grows strong. After having a c-section, it really gives me the extra support I need to hold that baby up, too.
4. Mittens- Cover their hands that first week or two so they don't scratch themselves all up. Socks work for this, too.

5. Changing pads- These are great on the changing table or in the diaper bag!
Useful in Certain Circumstances:
1. Double stroller- In general we make our kids walk when they're able to. It's important to teach them how to hold my hand or the side of the stroller. This time around the youngest will be 18 months when the baby comes and it will be icy January, and she was a slow walker- those are all good reasons to carry two!
2. Swings and bouncy chairs- Most babies can learn to fall asleep without the extra help a swing or chair provides. Or the car seat can be utilized, with a little rocking help from parents. I do have to say that babies with tummy issues benefit a lot from the vibration and rocking. And when older siblings like to roll and wrestle near the baby, getting them off the floor is a great help!
Fisher Price Soothe 'n Play Bouncer

3. Sling-
Lots of people live with their baby wrapped to them and love it. It hurts my back. However, we had a fussy baby that screamed unless you were holding her (until we figured out it was a dairy issue). Having the sling allowed me to make dinner or do any other task in relative quiet.
Nice to Have But Can Live Without It:
1. Booties and shoes- unless your babies are not like mine! I could never keep those booties on their little feet. And until they're walking, what's the point of shoes? Maybe to keep the socks on when they're wearing one of those outfits!

2. Bassinet- our first baby slept in a laundry basket next to the bed. Our second had some breathing issues and slept more upright in his car seat. With our third or fourth I ended up finding a great deal on a bassinet that doubled as a Moses basket. It's something we could still be doing without, though. It takes up a lot of storage space!

3. Baby bath tubs- These are nice because they use a lot less water, but the regular tub with only an inch in it works just fine. Or the kitchen sink- that's where I was bathed as an infant! We have a neat foam thing to place in the tub that helps elevate baby's head.

4. Baby toys- Because quite honestly by the time they're playing with toys the things that you get at a baby shower are just not that interesting! Go for stacking cups or blocks over the rattles and things. And think about how many bath toys you have- how long do you want them in that tub anyways?

Okay, moms, your turn! What's your favorite baby item? What's something that sat in your home and never got used?

Menu Plan Monday

This is my last week of menu planning for a couple of weeks. We're having our new baby in just eight days! Next week, my mother-in-law will stay for a couple days. She and my sister-in-law will take care of Christmas dinner. They told me not to worry about anything, but I'm thinking about baking some breakfast goodies for my freezer as my contribution. :)

In the past when we've had a baby, we've usually had several friends offer to bring us meals. It's so nice to have one less thing to think about during the day with a newborn. I've also doubled a couple of family favorites and frozen them throughout the month. This year, I didn't, needing to keep room in the freezer for the deer my husband is hopefully shooting tonight!

Knowing what a huge blessing it is to a new mom, I have done my part to provide meals over the years, as well. Sometimes I've wondered if a sack of lunch and breakfast items would be just as appreciated. (And quite honestly less work for me!) Or an offer to vacuum the house (especially after a c-section). What do you think? What other kind of help could be offered to a new mom in those first couple of weeks?

Monday- Chicken strips, potatoes, veggies
Tuesday- Hot dogs, mac and cheese, salad
Wednesday- Pasta
Thursday- Venison stew, bread/rolls
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Sausage and potato skillet
Sunday- Eat what you want night (ie leftovers)

There are lots more menus and recipe ideas at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Day(s) in a Homeschool

Does anyone know what day it is? This snow and the subsequent schedule changes has me all messed up. I wouldn't have thought that a snow day would affect our homeschool that much, but for some reason it did! Just the feel of being snowed in, having Daddy home in the middle of the week, and feeling like it was a day to just sit around in jammies and blankies with hot drinks made for a fairly non-productive week school-wise. So, how did we fare?

Monday we spent SIX HOURS cleaning our house. And that was just general stuff- no closets or desk piles were touched! Tuesday was spent e-mailing road conditions to Daddy at work. The boys attempted to scoop the driveway, but the garden shovel wasn't getting the job done. These pics are from then, about halfway through the official snow storm. And Eleanor thought I'd let her out, too! We had Daddy home on Wednesday, so it felt like a Saturday. Unfortunately, we had some sick kids. They felt fine by mid morning, but I spent most of the day disinfecting bathrooms. We made some cookies, too. On Thursday, I thought we should get back to our school routine, but by then the school/toy room was a disaster so the kids spent the day attempting to clean it up. I also ordered some new things online that I think will help keep me on track and consistent in the spring. I'm excited about my new books, and hope they get here before Christmas. Today will probably be a day devoted to organizing some games and crafts, and reading some library books. I also get to go grocery shopping tonight (without kids). I'm so excited to get out of the house that I'm hoping it takes a couple hours!

What I did realize this week is that when one is homeschooling we can take hits like crazy weeks and keep on going. Public schools were out for THREE DAYS, and I'm sure everyone thinks those kids will turn out fine. Even though we didn't sit down with our books and I didn't get to cross things off of my school list, my kids were still learning and growing. They've watched their movie on Planets twice this week and have looked through the huge stack of library books at least that many times, as well. Zachary instigated his own experiment about planet rotation after seeing flashlights and balls as a demo in one of those books. We looked through recipes and the boys had to do some simple reading. We doubled one of the recipes and I was amazed at how well the boys did. It could have been a great lesson in fractions, but I didn't think of that at the time. And, as always, my kids are learning about diligence, orderliness, kindness, obedience, and many other characteristics every day.

It would be so easy to look back on this week and feel defeated. We didn't crack even one school book open even one time. I have a huge list of really fun projects that we could do for our planets unit and another one of Christmas crafts that didn't even get looked at. Instead, I will choose to look back on this week and see how our homeschool is such a blessing. This is what I want for our kids. I want them to go through life looking at each and every day as an opportunity to learn and grow, regardless of what's on the schedule or whether they have a structured lesson plan to follow. (And it doesn't seem to matter if our hair stays in it's ponytail, or if we even have pants on!) I've come to the conclusion that homeschooling is a Finer Thingin my life. It's worth all the stress and chaos in my home and I'm so glad that we do it.

I've had some thoughts rolling around in my head about homechooling on a budget. There are so many great resources out there, that it can get quite overwhelming. And quite costly. So far, we've managed to "do school" for less than $100 each year. The philosophy we have and the tools we use are simple and easy. They are also great tips for encouraging your child's growth, whether or not you homeschool. I hope to get those thoughts written down soon :)

So, how did you spend your snow day(s)?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

December is a time for warm comfort foods and extra baking. So, we're having family favorites that are simple and easy for my family to make. They don't require a lot of prep time, and have a minimal amount of pans to clean up!

Monday- Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Tuesday- Pasta
Wednesday- Turkey and Rice
Thursday- Breakfast Night (Bacon, Waffles)
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Taco Casserole
Sunday- Eat What You Want Night

What are some of your favorite meals to pull out during this hectic season? Do you have any simple, easy family favorites? Check out Menu Plan Monday at for more menu ideas this week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tis the Season

Tis the season to over eat candies and cookies. Tis the season to buy lots of toys that our kids will break or never play with. Tis the season to buy ugly sweaters and useless gadgets for friends and family. Tis the season to return the gifts you didn't want and try to find something useful. Ever feel like that? It's so easy to get sucked into all the deals and hype of Christmas and forget what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

Our first year as parents was the year that my husband had been laid off. He had yet to find another engineering job, and was working through a temp agency to make ends meet. (Well, get closer to meeting!) We had cut EVERYTHING out of our budget, except house payment, car insurance, and utilities. We cut our food budget to under $100/month. And those were our expenses. There was absolutely nothing left over for anything else. In fact, we had to utilize some of our savings during that time to cover even those monthly expenses. So, what did we do for Christmas?

Nothing. No one got any presents. We told family that we usually bought for not to expect anything. Our son was a mere nine months old, so he wasn't expecting anything, either. We did purchase a small tree and had a hand full of ornaments that we had stored from the previous year. That year, Christmas was all about being together, without the expectation of buying gifts for anyone, without the greed that comes from a pile of presents with your name on it.

The following year, we had two young sons (ages 20 mos and 3 mos). We knew it was time to start developing our own family traditions, and we wanted to include gifts in that, but money was still tight. We decided to only do stockings as a family. Mostly filled with items from the dollar store. For our relatives, we had a minimal budget, and told them not to expect much. Again, Christmas was about being together as a family, reading about the birth of Christ, and the joy of having a couple of small items to pull out of a stocking.

Fast forward a few years to the present Christmas. Now, we aren't wealthy by any means, but we have the money to do as much or as little as we choose. And we choose to continue in our tradition of minimal gifts at Christmas. We still primarily focus on the stockings. It's fun to take the kids to the dollar store to pick out items for each other. Play dough, small plastic toys, hair accessories, water colors, activity many things to choose from! We have also added one present under the tree for each child. We have a budget for these items, and the gifts we buy for friends and family, and we stick to it. (We use an envelope method for our Christmas purchases, that I talked about in a previous post.)

On Christmas Eve, we gather near the tree and read the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2. We have something hands-on to help the kids visualize the story- small items representing different aspects of the story or a nativity set that they can manipulate. We thank God for the birth of his Son, and what He did for us on the cross when He grew up. We do gifts then, but because there's only one present, it's not consuming our evening. The time is centered around the Lord and being together as a family.

Last year we started a tradition of having a family Advent wreath. Each Sunday we light one new candle and talk about what that candle represents. On Christmas Eve, all five candles are lit and we celebrate the birth of our Savior. At times, we have also had a birthday cake for Jesus with the decorations representing different aspects of the Gospel.

I highly recommend "the ADVENTure of Christmas" by Lisa Whelchel as a way of bringing Christ into the things that you do this holiday season. Everything from the Christmas tree, to writing cards, to wrapping the presents is given a significance and can strengthen our faith in the Lord.

What do you do during Advent or Christmas to center the time around Christ's birth? How do you handle all the hype around presents? For other ideas on a budget, check out Frugal Fridays.