Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook: December 27th


FOR TODAY, December 27th

Outside my window... we awoke to a dusting of feather light snow, nearly just a heavy frost, and the sunny skies have already melted most of it. Just a hint of what's in store in the coming weeks, but it tempted me to bundle the kids and go for a walk nonetheless.

I am thinking... about the year ahead. Over the years, I've worked to simplify my life and create more time and space for family. I'm feeling the pull to simplify further, to decrease the daily running and increase my daily investment in my home, my God, and his plans for my family. Today, I am reflecting and praying about what changes are necessary.

I am thankful... for a lazy morning at home after several days of celebrating with extended family. Noah and Miriam are getting along beautifully for the time being, a huge blessing while Big Sister is with her dad and not here to provide some added entertainment.

From the learning rooms... Our oldest has been learning all sorts of life lessons this year, namely the value of practicing and learning things that don't come easily to her. I haven't taught this lesson well thus far, partly because school has come fairly easily in the past few years. Working hard for something difficult is a vital lesson to learn, and I'll continue to work to instill that value in her.

We gave Noah his first chapter book for Christmas: Magic Tree House. I was a little leery of starting him on higher level reading too early, but he read chapter one with me last night and finished confident and not at all frustrated.

Miriam's Santa gift this year was a LeapPad Explorer, a perfect item for her weekly car rides to and from ballet class. True to herself, she progresses at her own pace. It's not always the one I'm comfortable with or the one that I'd choose for her, but I've learned (and I'm still learning) to escort her and cheer her on rather than try to push.

In the kitchen... there are plans for easy winter meals- the kind that simmer or roast all day and come in bowls with cornbread on the side- vegetable soup, chili, and pot roast. Winter dinners are some of my favorites. The house smells good all afternoon, and the kitchen is a bit cozier than the rest of the year.

I am creating... my 2012 family calendar. It seems full of weekly demands, but they are activities that each of my children look forward to and always attend excitedly.

I am reading... an awesome read for parents of boys (of all ages). It full of clear explanations and practical, bible-based advice. Like all books, I'm reading it as advice and not scripture, but I've gotten many nuggets from this book, and I really wish I'd read it when my son was younger.

I am looking forward to... finding out if I'm getting a niece or a nephew at the end of this week! I've been praying for a healthy ultrasound for my sister and brother-in-law first and foremost, but I'm getting excited about being able to start some projects for the little guy/gal.

I am hearing... the sounds of a big brother teaching a little sister to play Super Mario Bros beside me. I'm sure it'll turn into a squabble over turns soon enough, but that's life around here. We revel in the goodness while it lasts!

Around the house... I've sorted and cleared the kitchen and game cabinet to make room for Christmas gifts. It left me wanting to sort and clear out every nook and cranny of our home, but I think I'll work on laundry and wait until I'm more sane to decide what items we need and what can be donated.

I am pondering... Gift-giving. Every year, I leave Christmas feeling like gift exchanges are frivolity and not as much a genuine giving. It seems to me that we need to be giving gifts of time and talent rather than tossing $30 toward a cashier for a gift that we hope our family members will like. I can think of gifts of time I could have given to each person on my gift list this year, and I think they may have been happier with that than anything I could have wrapped and placed under a tree. Something to think about for next year, but it's also something I could be doing all year long.

One of my favorite things... I got for Christmas was the bracelet my oldest gave me. For weeks before Christmas, she was excited about her choice. When I opened it, I realized just how grown up she is becoming. I loved it because it was obvious that she hadn't thought of herself while choosing it. She'd carefully chosen something that had elements of her mamma's favorite things, an ability that she struggled with in past years.

A few plans for the rest of the week: a few store exchanges for my oldest whose feet are, apparently, nearly as big as my own. Both the house slippers and rain boots she received for Christmas were too small, and I thought I may have been purchasing too large! We're hoping to catch up with friends who we didn't see often enough this fall, but mostly, I plan to camp out at home and play with the kids!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...




Friday, July 29, 2011

Road Trip: A Wisconsin Adventure




During my two hour drive to meet my husband and get away for the weekend, I prayed. I petitioned for our safety during our travel, offered thanks for the opportunity to retreat from the stress of child rearing and work and focus on our marriage for a while, and asked that Amos and I grow together in Christ, being open to what seeds may be planted during our trip. I just love when God answers prayer! We left the ol' mini van in St. Louis, packed the Versa, and we were headed north!

An overnight stay with a great friend and a quick stop at my favorite cupcakery later, we found ourselves across the Wisconsin border. The topography looked much like Missouri's rolling hills, lush green foliage, and rural communities. We marveled in details unique to Wisconsin. The endless water that peeked once in a while from behind the hills and midwest forests felt foreign to this Missouri gal, used to endless rolling hills. In my travels, the land has always dissolved into sand and palms or jungle-like greenery before the horizon was filled with sparkling water. As we drove along the edge of Lake Michigan, we saw quaint red barns scattered like a city's Starbucks.



Being in Wisconsin felt genuine, simple, and wholesome. More than anywhere else I've been, the farmland and rural communities were filled with a love for Christ. It is a subtle excitement, one that seemed to be a way of life here. Communities seemed to be confidently rooted in God's Word.

Door County, Wisconsin's "thumb" is sandwiched between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Blonde haired children working the family campground greeted us with soft Wisconsin accents. Amos and I loved that we were never more than twenty minutes from a shoreline, and we loved that the sun rose and set over a water horizon in this rural community. What a blessing to have the awe of both in one place!
We sat on the dock of the bay and watched the sunset together.






Cherry season is serious business in Door County. Amos and I took our bucket to the orchard rows and filled it with dark red berries. We picked cherries as it started to sprinkle, and walked back toward the barn through a shower of heavy, cold Wisconsin raindrops. It was perfect.





We spent a day in Chicago before heading home, and while we hadn't planned on this adventure, we both enjoyed our day sightseeing together. I loved getting to show my husband a city that I love. We enjoyed the bustle of the city and the quiet of the parks with the Chicago skyline behind us.


We traveled to the 95th floor of John Hancock to enjoy the view from atop the city. We walked Navy Pier and Chicago's Riverwalk. We discovered new neighborhoods that left this girl excited to explore them on the next visit. We stopped into the world of American Girl which hit a soft spot with a certain Daddy who brought a very special doll home for his youngest daughter.

The drive home began with music and comfortable silence, and transitioned to a sharing of faith, struggles, advice, and appreciation for one another. If we had needed to be away from home for a month in order to share those last four hours, it would have been worth it.
Praise be to God who know what we need even when we are clueless!



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer/School


It's kind of amazing how much a mom's identity is formed by her children. It's been ten years since I've been home without children. From my first pregnancy, I've assumed my God-given duties as a mother with honor. I've been present as much as possible to raise my three, and even in my teaching years, my oldest was in school and I was home when she was. When Noah came along, I submitted my resignation, not thinking twice about explaining that educating my own child was my priority. I've been a homemaker ever since. There has ALWAYS been a need for me to be physically present with my children. If I was away from them, it came with relief mixed with a tiny bit of "I hope they don't need my while I'm gone." Mothering my children has been a constant, 24 hour/day job for years, but those hours are about to change.


The year ahead is daunting. One child is moving from elementary to middle school, another beginning kindergarten, and the third will start preschool. It all seems like too much all at once, and I worry about being able to be supportive enough of each one of them simultaneously. All three of them will need extra attention in the next couple months as they adapt to their new schools, and all the while I'm going to have to find my own way into my altered role as Mom. How will I cram all the teaching that I did over 13 hours each day into a mere six? Are they ready?

For now, I'm choosing to soak up as much summer as I can while it lasts!













Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Play Ball!


I love this time of year. Ball Season. Maybe it's because I grew up around so many die-hard Cardinals fans, maybe because I have so many memories of my own childhood softball summers, or maybe I'm just a sucker for a boy in a baseball uniform!
He does look handsome after all!











Friday, May 20, 2011

Proposal



I love it when I catch a glimpse of my son's tender heart. Tonight the whole family went shopping together at J.C. Penny. We stopped by the jewelry department for Big Sister, and a round stand of boxed rings caught Little Mister's eye. He was SO excited to see so many rings, and at first, I couldn't understand why. After examining a few one at a time, he spun around, looked up at me with excitement in his blue eyes and proclaimed, "This is the perfect ring to give my bride when I'm big!" I was so stunned as I realized why he's been so happy to see the ring display. His use of the term "Bride" made me tear up a bit, and just his anticipation of marriage truly made my heart swell.



I've always impressed upon my children that marriage is not the only plan God lays before his children. I've talked with all of them about the possibility of being called to religious life or simply to live single in order to serve God in a special way. My sweet Little Mister had never faltered in his desire to be a husband and daddy. His mind is often consumed with the steps he must take in order to be ready to lead a family, and I'm coming to realize that marriage and fatherhood seems to be written in his heart.

Our home contains its share of disagreements, and snide remarks are, unfortunately, tossed between my husband and I from time to time. I'm so thankful that God allowed me this opportunity to see that my husband and I are living an example of marriage that our 5 year old sees as exciting and important and a PRIVILEGE. He watches my husband work so hard for us and notices that Daddies should get down and play with their kids. When he thinks about what career he'd like to have, his concern is always his ability to be a good daddy with his job.


Standing in that department store watching my son kneel down on one knee, box held in front of him and ask, "Will you marry me?" with a huge grin on his face, I was in awe of the child in front of me, so grown up in just five years. How precious and fleeting is the gift of parenthood.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ten Grand

Tomorrow I'll be taking my van to the shop once again. The cost to work on the suspension will likely be $1000. I cried when I found out. I always cry. I am weak and get frustrated with the unexpectedness of it all. This will put our total van repairs over the 10,000 mark. That's right. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS over the last three years.

So where does that put our loan payoff movement, the one that we started less than a week ago? Right on schedule thanks to the savings we stashed for inevitable circumstances like this one! I'll rebuild our lost savings with extra earnings here and there, and if our balance falls below our comfort level, we'll pause our extra debt payments and focus on nursing the account.

It feels great to feel in charge of our income. I know that it'll take us three years to pay everything, assuming no job loss or tragedy strikes our family. But that's not as terrifying as it used to be, not as overwhelming. I know we're getting ready for something more, a life that God intended us to live. We've purchased college degrees and vehicles on credit, learned first hand why Jesus taught against borrowing money, and now we're finally going to live with financial responsibility. God didn't intend for us to live the three years of financial headache ahead of us; we created that mess. A necessary, self-inflicted life of living paycheck to paycheck is no one's fault but our own. It's strangely empowering to acknowledge that failure; it comes with an awareness that we can control our finances.

If you haven't invested a few minutes into this website, you really should. Mr. Ramsey operates largely on common sense and it's very likely you're already familiar with his financial theory. His conservative, Christian views of financial planning have earned my respect and attention in the last year or so. And for all you Missourians, he'll be visiting Kansas City in two weeks. My husband's busy then, but I'm really considering making the drive and bribing my sis and brother-in-law (hint, hint) into watching my kiddos.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Financial Dieting

I just sealed our first extra vehicle loan payment into its envelope. According to the math, we should be able to pay off the remaining three year term of our loan in... 5 months. When I figured (and refigured) that timeline, there was no way to do anything but dive, head first, back into frugal living. The numbers work on paper; in reality we will undoubtedly be faced with unexpected expenses along the way (like the thousands of dollars we poured into vehicle repairs last year). Realistically, we should be able to finish before Christmas.

We've knocked our vacation plans to the bare bones: our beloved east coast beach vacation... the one that we take almost every other year. We share the cost of a beachfront house in a gated neighborhood with several other families. We make the 16 hour drive there and back without an overnight stay. We spend little extra while there; the beach is our amusement park/spa/party scene. We'll spend $700, far less than the $2,000 I wanted to spend taking the family to Pennsylvania this summer. We could have saved the expense completely and stayed home, but there's something to be said for truly resting and enjoying your family for a week.

Drive thru trips for caffeine have been diminished to once a week, house projects requiring a purchase of materials will be postponed, and the mattress that might have been purchased with a tax return will wait. Yard sales are in the works, an embarrassing amount of baby clothing and gear to purge. Extra income opportunities will go toward debt instead of fun. We'll spend more time at home.

Sure, we'll get off track. We'll kick ourselves for purchases we didn't need. We'll bask in a splurge on pizza for dinner once in a while when this mamma's just worn out. But the reality of our finances is not easily forgotten; I am reminded of the potential power in the budget I've written each time I hold my debit card. At the very least, I'm constantly weighing our financial options and making smarter choices. It's amazing how much money we throw into drive through windows if we're not careful.