Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wrap-Up for 31 Days in 2012

I have had the BEST time writing each day this month. I'm really surprised I saw it through and finished the task! It felt like a big undertaking some days with 2 little ones running circles around me but I know tracking what we've been doing this month will be fun to look back on one day. I hope you enjoyed reading how we do things in our home. I know seasons of life will come and go, we'll change some of what we do but I see us sticking to the simple life. Writing about it this month has renewed the hunger of wanting to get rid of more clutter and live a freer life, full of experiences and moments and with less stuff!

And don't go away because we'll keep writing on this blog! Daniel and I love tracking what we're doing here. It's a good way to look back and see how far we've come as a family. And I feel like the girls will enjoy reading this one day too.

I'll continue to write through Five-Minute Friday's, I'll post our menu plan, pictures of the girls and whatever else tickles my fancy. Thanks for reading and we hope you'll continue to come back!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days: Kids & Chores


It's such a dreaded word. I know I hated it when I was growing up even though I had basically no chores. But they have to be done and someone has to do them.

My parents talk often about how they wish they had taken responsibility in giving us more responsibility around the house. Learning from them and knowing how I want to help shape my girls, chores will play a part in that.

I'm a big fan of John Rosemond. I've written a book review on one of his books, mentioned him in another post on our TV habits and I am just, well, a fan, a big fan. He's a BIG believer in chores, even starting them at a young age. He believes they help shape a child's character and make them feel like they play a role in their family. I have to agree with him 100%.

When we first had Nyla I didn't think much about implementing chores with her or future kids. I figured I would just do everything (but let Daniel vacuum) and that would be that. My dad had mentioned John Rosemond's books on a few occasions and I finally borrowed one of his and was blown away. I then asked for a couple more for Christmas and blew through those. He talked briefly about chores but how he felt they were an integral part in the child's developing into a competent adult who contributed to his family, therefore contributing to the world. How many of us didn't know how to do laundry until we were in high school or had gone away to school? Did you know how to cook, meal plan and budget? I'd say there were a lot of us who didn't know about any of this. I didn't. And I know my parents regret it.

Now that Nyla is two she helps with a few things around the house. We've been picking up her room and the den for awhile now. She has her days when it's a battle but for the most part she's helpful. Now she helps unload the dishwasher (she started when she was about 20 months old). I told my mom that and she said, "But she can't reach anything!" Yes, but she can hand me everything. "Oh, right" was her response. Does it take longer when she's helping? Yes. Has she dropped things and broken them? Yes, but so have I. Does she put things in the right place? Not all the time. I love that she helps and wants to help. She thinks its fun and she has some ownership in the task. And she feels good about herself when I tell her what a good helper she is to me. She's contributing to our family.

Not only does she unload the dishwasher, she helps clear the table, sweep the floor, take out the trash, put a new bag in and wipe the table down. Yes, my two year does all this. She does it with help but she still does all that. It doesn't happen every night but it does most nights. I know it's so important that she feels she's contributing and being helpful and she's learning life skills. One day she will run her own home and need to know how to do things.

I think it's so important for kids to do chores. While we dread them and they eventually will too, it's part of life. Stuff has to get done and us mommies can't do it all, nor do we need to. It's part of growing our children into adults who contribute to our family and this world. And it's never too early to start implementing life skills into them. As she gets older, she'll get more tasks and she'll be expected to do them everyday. I also will teach her how to menu plan, grocery budget, shop and cook simple meals when the time comes, among other things.

Did you have chores as a child?
Do your children have chores now? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days: Fall Festival (with Pictures)

This weekend were most of the Fall festivals around town. The two we always hit up are my parents church because they're right down the street and they like to walk around with their grand girls and then we go to our church's Trunk or Treat.

Because I'm so terrible about getting the action shots, all I have are the girls in their costumes before we went to either destination. But they're still cute. I'll tell you, it's tough getting a decent shot of them together. They are on the move these days!

Naomi is a bunny and Nyla is the bunny farmer. :)
Hey, neither costume cost me a cent, I had to improvise!

Sweet pigtails!

Naomi is one cute bunny! 

I couldn't resist that cute bunny tail.

Nyla and I went to our church by ourselves. Daddy wasn't feeling good and Naomi
likes to go to bed early. It was very chilly so we didn't get to show
off Nyla's costume but we had a great time together laying and eating chips. :)

This girl is obsessed with the moon. She has been forever! This is her pointing at it.

I actually talked her into getting on the hayride with me. I couldn't believe she said she
would but I told her I'd hold her the entire time. She did great!!

Nyla and I had a great time together when we went out to our church. It's so rare to spend time with just one child, especially her. Since she goes to school two days a week I get that extra time with Naomi but rarely just Nyla. We're trying to make a point to have one-on-one time with each child but it's hard right now. I know we'll make it a priority as they get older.

I think she had fun with just me and having all my attention! We ate chips together, split a cupcake, talked to and loved on all our friends, rode the hayride and just giggled about nothing. We also had a great time collecting candy from all the cars and seeing all our friends. All-in-all was a great night at both churches!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days: 2 Days of Rest

Sorry you didn't get a blog out of me yesterday. I've been battling a pretty intense headache since Wednesday. Thankfully, the past 2 days haven't been terrible. I'm on the mend but trying to take it easy. I'll be back tomorrow for the last few days of this 31 days writing challenge. See you tomorrow!

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days: Voice (Five-Minute Friday)


Finding my voice as a wife, mother and still an individual is hard to do right now. With two young children who need almost constant attention, I struggle with finding my voice. There seem to be so many things I want to do. So many things in my head I want to get out but can't. How can I still be Ginny?

Realizing that my girls will grow up quicker than I want I'm thrown back to the reality of "it's not forever." Tomorrow they'll be one day older than they are today. Tomorrow they'll be one step closer to not needing me as much. But still I find myself complaining to myself how frustrated I am with being stuck in this house all day. Not enjoying every moment like I long to. Not having an hour to myself and always having someone follow me to the bathroom. 

"Quit complaining" is something I've been saying to myself a lot these past few weeks. "Be thankful" I can even have kids and am able to stay home and raise them myself. Daniel sacrifices to go out and work all day so the girls and I can stay home and be together. It's a blessing, I know this.

I know I'll find my voice again. I know it'll take some time.

Linked to Lisa-Jo's Five-Minute Friday link up party!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days: A Few of Our Favorite Things

One of the best parts about being a parent is seeing all the little quirks and mannerisms our girls develop over time, as well as things they enjoy a lot. With that, I present to you some of these about each of sweet girls.

Our sweet oldest definitely has her unique quirks. She likes to chew on her index finger when going to sleep. She typically requests one of three songs before going to bed: "Bible Tells So" (Jesus Loves Me), "Whole World" (He's Got the Whole World in His Hands), or "Wheels on Bus", after which whoever is singing is told to get the other parent. When I get home from work, she runs out the door to my car, hops up in my lap, says, "I need to drive" (ugh), and then wants to sit in the passenger seat and turn my hazard lights on. She's very particular about her shirts, making sure they're pulled down as far as they can. Her new thing is asking to play Angry Birds on the iPad. She's the only one in her KDO class that doesn't cry when dropped off. (Ginny is thankful for this!) And I think she knows how to work my mom's iPhone better than my mom.

I could just say, "Naomi is Naomi, and that's all you need to know." Of course, most of you don't know her, so I'll have to elaborate. She is one of the happiest babies you'll meet, but if she is hungry or tired, call the exorcist look out. Sitting in her high chair, she will wave her hand and shake her head if she does not want a bite of whatever you're giving her. Eventually, however, she caves in, because the girl loves to eat and eats as though the food vanishes into thin air in 5 minutes. Girl can throw some food back. If she's happy with herself, she growls or purrs. She will give her stuffed animals kisses, but Daddy leans in, she turns her head away (smiling I might add). Of course, at bedtime, she will snuggle so close. She likes it when Daddy "power bombs" her on the couch, but she gets nervous when Mom does it. If you (or a pillow or Nyla or a stuffed animal) are in the floor, prepare to be attacked.

I could go on and on, but I think that's enough for now!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days: Dear Girls

Dear Nyla and Naomi,
These past couple of weeks writing about our lives together has made me so appreciate the little time I have with each of you. The days seem to go slow but the years truly are flying by. Nyla you are 2+ and Naomi you'll be 1 in just 2 weeks. I feel like I just had each of you!

I'm so thankful I get to stay home with you each day and help shape the person you are to become. I pray I'm a good example. There are so many things I want to teach you. I get in a hurry. I am learning to slow down, we'll get there in time. And I know I couldn't do it without the help of Jesus. He shows me each day how to improve upon my mothering skills. I'm proud our God gave each of you to us and entrusted us with your safe keeping. And I'm proud to follow Him. He is the ultimate example of love!

I hope you appreciate the simple lives we lead. We lead simple lives to show you that not everything in this world is needed, that you can "go without" and still lead a happy and healthy life. We go against the world in regards to "stuff." I hope you don't ever see it as deprivation but as seeing there are others with so much less than we have. We have a roof over our heads, running water, multiple clothing choices and always plenty of food. We are better off than so many people in this world. I pray you always remember that. I pray we can not only tell you that but show you we are beyond blessed.

I pray that you learn to love the Lord as your daddy and I do. I pray we are lights to Him and show you the way to Him. I pray many things for you each day but this is number one. He is the ONLY way to a life filled with love and happiness. Know Him and keep Him in the center of your life.

I love you more than you'll ever know,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days: Planning a Lunch Menu

Recently, I've tried to make breakfast time go smoother in our home. I planned out a weekly breakfast menu that doesn't change and have stuck to it for the past few weeks. It's been helpful to look at it the night before and get out what I need to be ready first thing in the morning. Breakfast time isn't as stressful anymore. Thank goodness!

Last week I wrote out a lunch menu that basically follows what I do at breakfast. I made a different meal for each day of the week and it doesn't change until I'm ready for it to change. I do adjust if I needed and don't have all the lunch items. I have a few other lunch ideas listed just in case.

Note: Nyla goes to KDO 2 times a week so I plan for her. Naomi still eats some pureed baby food so I have that listed as well.

Here's our weekly lunch menu:

Monday- Naomi: pureed snow peas, fish sticks, veggie straws
Nyla (for school): peanut butter sandwich, grapes, chips or veggie straws, graham cracker with Nutella

Tuesday- pureed cauliflower, cheese, crackers, oranges and yogurt

Wednesday- pureed black beans, noodles, cheese, bananas or fruit cocktail

Thursday- Naomi: pureed snow peas, hot dog, veggie straws
Nyla (for school): peanut butter sandwich, grapes, chips or veggie straws, graham crackers with Nutella

Friday- pureed sweet potatoes, yogurt, noodles, cheese and grapes
Out to lunch with my mom and sister, we take lunch if they won't eat something where we eat

Saturday- pureed green beans, leftovers or sandwiches

Sunday- pureed black beans, pizza, veggie straws and yogurt

Quick substitutes if my usual food isn't available: leftovers, pureed corn, turkey burger

As you can see Nyla isn't a big meat eater. I've tried hot dogs and fish sticks with her but she wants nothing to do with them. I do have to have somewhat separate menus for the girls because of this. Also, I have quite a bit of baby food so I may switch what's listed around to suit our days needs.

This is what works for us right now. I've tried planning different menu's for breakfasts and lunches and was WAY overwhelmed with planning separate everything. I feel like our menu is varied and I'll change it as the girls grow and change. I hope to have a more well-balanced diet when they get older. Right now I'm just doing what I can for them. I just want them to eat at this point. :)

Do you plan your lunch menu? If so, do you plan it differently each week? 
If you don't plan, have you ever thought about planning? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days: Getting Ready for the Week

These days getting ready for the week is a bit more challenging when caring for two little ones. I have to be organized and prepared or things can get pretty hairy here in a matter of minutes. Or seconds.

To stay on top of it all I make a point each Sunday evening to get ahead. Really, I just look at what we have going on during the week, get the kitchen and den tidied up and get Nyla's kid's day out things together.

First, I take a look at our dinner menu for the week. Do I need to get anything out tonight to have thawed for tomorrow night? (I do this each night or try to). I then move onto breakfasts and lunches for Monday morning. Naomi still takes pureed baby food with her meals and it's in the freezer. I have to get it out to be thawed in the morning for breakfast. And, if possible, I prep for breakfast too (i.e. cook bacon for the week, make a batch of scrambled eggs, etc.) Now that I have a weekly breakfast menu my life is SO much easier! Looking at it each night before bed really helps our mornings go smoother. I know exactly what we're eating and how I can be prepared for the next day. (Our lunch menu will post tomorrow).

Once I have our food situated I pick up what toys and books were left out. Nyla and I try and pick up most of it before she goes to bed, since she's learning responsibility, but there are always a few things left in the den and kitchen. I make sure her toys and any of our stuff is put away too. When I walk into the den the next day and it's all picked up it makes me feel so much better about starting the week. It really is amazing how that works! The kitchen works the same way for me. I like to have the dishwasher running before bed so I can unload it while the girls are eating breakfast the next morning. Or I'll empty it so it's ready for our dirty dishes.

On Monday's Nyla goes to "Kid's Day Out" (KDO). She has to have a backpack with an extra change of clothes, a sleep mat with cover, her lovey for nap time and her lunch. So I'm not rushing around like a mad woman I make sure her bag is packed and ready to go, her mat has her cover and there's a lovey attached to it and at least part of her lunch is packed. That way if time gets away from us, which it usually does, her stuff is ready to be put in the car and we won't be late.

Getting ready for the week has saved my sanity. Yes, I stay at home and I know working mom's think I have it easy, but we stay busy too! It's so important to me to have things in order on Sunday night. I've really been trying to do each task every night but sometimes I'm just too exhausted. For the most part, I'm at least ready for breakfast. And I prep lunch during breakfast. That works most days for us too.

What do you do to get ready for the week?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days: Hosting a Baby Shower

I'm thankful to be involved in such a sweet church who love to help with everything. A friend and I talked about throwing a baby shower for another girl friend and I had quite a few people tell me if I needed help to let them know. After we planned out our menu I started asking those sweet ladies who said they would help. And I had no problem getting all our foods covered for the event!

Arrangement my mom put together. Beautiful!

Leigh and Jordan

Leigh and her baby boy, HB

The future parents opening gifts... Nate and Kristy

The food spread

The strawberry cupcakes I made. Mmmm!
For our menu we had:
fruit and fruit dip, cheese ball and crackers, marinated cheese and crackers, buffalo chicken dip, mexican corn dip, hot sandwiches and strawberry cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing. I wanted to have nontraditional shower foods because we were eating right after church and I know people are always hungry right after church, plus I'm not a chicken salad fan. :) And I asked Kristy what she'd been craving and went down that road too. Her cravings have been fruit, strawberry and vanilla and spicy foods. I feel like I incorporated well what the mommy-to-be has been craving!

I love being able to plan showers. I'm thankful there are so many special women at our church who love to help and love to cook. I couldn't have done any of this without them. Thank you, Ladies!
I also like not having them at my house so I don't have to worry about cleaning the house. :)
We had a great time getting together and blessing the parents-to-be with much needed essentials.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

31 Days: Reading Books

We here at the Gafford house are all about books! As you can see, one of us likes reading aloud! Have a great Saturday! I know we will!


Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days: When Menu Planning

I love to menu plan. I think it goes along quite well with the simple and minimal lifestyle we lead. When I menu plan I don't buy what I don't need. I will never have a pantry full of food that goes bad before I get to use it. And menu planning helps stay within our grocery budget, most months anyways. :)

I (right now) menu plan every two weeks. And then I grocery shop every two weeks. I do go in between for milk, eggs, yogurt and fresh produce. I always run out of those quickly. I used to plan weekly then I went to every two weeks and then I planned monthly. At this point in time planning every two weeks is good for us. It's hard to do major grocery shopping more than twice a month. I also found I'm likely to stick to my list if I do major shopping twice a month. I may go back to the other ways as our family evolves, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

I'm not going to say that menu planning is always a breeze. It definitely isn't! There are some weeks when I struggle to menu plan. I don't know why, I just do. I want to try new things but right now finding the time to spend the time on certain recipes is the problem. With two little ones at my heels, standing over the stove for more than 15 minutes is tough stuff. Even weekends are hard to spend extra time on meals. I want to spend that extra time with Daniel and not so much in the kitchen.

Over my four plus years of menu planning I've figured out what works best for us and how I can plan without going over our budget. Here are my tips for sticking to our budget and making meal planning work for me.

Plan the same dinners for two weeks in a row.
I just recently started doing this and it's made my life so much easier! I also love freezer cooking and this goes along with it. By doubling our dinners the first week I have the second week's meals already made and can easily reheat.
Check our deep freezer list.
I keep a running inventory of what's in our deep freezer hanging on our refrigerator. I try and use our leftovers within a month, if possible.
Check our refrigerator and freezer.
I used to have an inventory sheet for our fridge freezer as well but I had foods coming and going so often it was hard to keep a good inventory. And it's just as easy to look in the freezer as it is to look on a sheet of paper.
Check our pantry for baking and staple items.
I bake just about all our breads from scratch (sandwich bread, breadsticks, rolls, etc) so I always need flour. And sugar. Checking the pantry is essential for sticking to our grocery budget. Yes, I've had 3 bottles of ketchup (I make our own barbecue sauce and ketchup is the base) in the pantry at one time. And when I've bought a bottle and didn't need it I think of the $2 I wasted on something I didn't need. It makes me mad. I'm trying to get better about checking our pantry.
Check breakfast and lunch menu ideas.
Planning our breakfasts and lunches is new to me. I read about it on a blog and loved the idea. I struggle with varying our breakfasts and lunches around here; because of that I end up serving the same foods over and over again. Planning these has helped make meals easier and less loud when the girls are hungry. :) I have a permanent (for now) menu plan for breakfast and lunch posted on my fridge. I can easily check this list with what I have available in the fridge and freezer and buy what I'm low on. I've noticed this has helped our grocery budget as well.
Do we want to try a new recipe?
I love recipes so trying new ones are always on my list. This is where our 2 week menu varies. If I want to try a new recipe I actually look for two new recipes. I do this in case the first recipe I make isn't good and not something I'd want to repeat the following week. Oh yes, it's happened a lot in this house. I wrote about one here. I will stick with a theme on those days though. If I want to make a new lasagna one week I'll make a pasta dish for the next week. I do this so I can use some ingredients in both dishes.  For instance, I had to buy an 8 ounces can of tomato sauce for a recipe but I only need 4 ounces of it in one of my recipes. I'll either double that recipe or find something else that needs 4 ounces of tomato sauce. No, nothing goes to waste in our home. :)
Check our calendar for events outside our home.
We don't have too much going on outside our home these days. And frankly, we like it like that. When we do have somewhere to be it's usually dinner with our parents or dinner at our church. Sometimes things pop up after I menu plan but I just move things around or roll them over to another week. When we already have events on the calendar I work them into my menu plan. I always bring something with us to events so having it on the calendar means I just add my ingredients to our grocery list. Bada bing, bada boom! If you have events outside your home, once a week planning may work better for you. If you have events that pop up you will be better off planning once a week so you can roll your planned meals to the following week. This ensures nothing goes to waste. When we were first married planning once a week worked for us because of this. We could be more spur of the moment because we had no kids to plan around.

When it comes to menu planning do what works for you. Play around with weekly or monthly menu planning. I really go back and forth depending on what stage of life we're in. I'll be posting our lunch menu next week. Check back for that!

How do you make menu planning work for you?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

31 Days: Pillows and Poker Chips

Naomi rolling all over the pillows

I've come to the conclusion (well, awhile ago) that kids don't need many toys. Regardless of what toy company's and the world tell us, they do not.

Look at the picture above. You see one toy that is for "kids." It's a little puzzle. The pillows, rubber spatula and poker chips belong to the adults in the house. Yet, these are the things our girls want to play with most.

In the last year we've made some changes in our home regarding toys (one: because I was tired of the clutter and two: they weren't playing with it all anyways, it was getting thrown on the floor). I cleaned out a lot of them and they have been donated to Goodwill. We have mostly wooden blocks, pop on's (similar to duplo blocks), bracelets, a little kitchen with recycled containers that we cleaned out when we ate it all (yogurt containers, oatmeal, formula cans, spice bottles, etc) and spoons. People are probably thinking I'm denying my children all the wonderful age appropriate toys that are out there. I disagree. In fact, I think I'm giving them room to use their brains and imaginations. And that's more important to me. I want them to stretch their minds when they play. If a toy does one thing it will always do one thing and their imaginations can't expand because their toy does ONE thing. I'm a big fan of John Rosemond and he talks in depth about "play."

Ten months ago I turned the TV OFF in our home. Gasp! I didn't find anything on that was of worth to our little ones. And I doubt anyone could change my mind. I had the TV on just to have it on. I have no idea why, I just did. Doesn't everyone? After I made that decision I didn't realize how attached Nyla had been with it on. The first four days she kept saying, "tv on." I kept saying no and she just went about her business. This proved to me that I really didn't need it on. I didn't want her to become addicted to it. You can read more on this topic on a previous blog post.

I'm thankful for bloggers across the web who continue to write about their minimizing efforts. It shows that I, too, can have minimal "things" and still lead a happy and healthy life. You can too, take it one step at a time. I have.

Helpful blogs and posts:
Overstuffed: Clutter, consumption, and the study that shows how possessions shape us
Why I took my kids' toys away (and why they won't get them back)
Intentionally Simple (she continues to write on de-cluttering their lives. One of my favorites!)
How to make weekly purges happen (from Organizing Junkie; another favorite blogger)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days: Spaghetti Night

I don't know about y'all but we love spaghetti in our home! I think this is something we could have every week.

Tonight was Naomi's first time to try spaghetti. She wasn't a fan of the noodles but loved the ground turkey. She picked it out of the noodles and then smeared the noodles and sauce all over her tray. Typical!

 Nyla, on the other hand, loves the noodles and the meat, well, not so much. She does eat it when it's mixed in with her spaghetti but avoids it in other dishes.

If you guessed they got baths right after this, you'd be right. Daniel started the water before I even got them down from the table. I love how good our babies smell after a bath!

Spaghetti face Nyla munching on a graham cracker.

For not eating much spaghetti Naomi sure does have
a lot on her face.

We had a fun night watching our girls eat their spaghetti. Maybe next time will be a little less messy. Well, probably not. :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days: Giggle Monsters

Naomi, 11 months old and Nyla 2 years and 3 months old

Naomi's crib is where lots of laughing has been heard the last couple of days.

I find them rolling on top of one another, jumping up and down and giggling about whatever little ones giggle about.

These sweet and silly moments help me get through the tough ones. I know moments like these are just around the corner.

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days: Minimizing & Organizing

I love the simple life! As if you didn't already know that, right? I'm always looking for ways to make our life even more simple. Yes, I do think it's possible.

Last night while Daniel and Nyla headed to church (Naomi was a mess so she went to bed early) I cleaned out our master closet. It's needed it. I've been putting it off. I don't like clutter. But clutter happens occasionally. Enter our master closet.

Last year when we found out we were having baby number two I quickly went to work in cleaning out our extra third bedroom and closet. It has a spacious closet and it was pretty packed. Daniel paints, I like to craft, extra baby items and just a bunch of stuff that wasn't getting used was in there. I knew I need to minimize quite a bit because what was in that extra closet would be coming into our closet. And no, we didn't have room for ALL of it. Nor was I going to make room for things we weren't even using. I probably got rid of 4 large boxes of stuff. Between extra paint and craft supplies, games, puzzles, baby clothes that we had too many of, and so on, we had a lot. Minimizing our lives has been a work in progress. One I'm still learning.

As I was clearing out our closet last night it felt like all our things had multiplied. Does anyone else feel like that? I'm fairly good about getting rid of stuff immediately if it doesn't go with our way of life. I like the "one in, one out" rule too. I always have a pile going to give to Goodwill. But stuff still gets shoved on top of the fridge or in the back of a closet. It just happens.

I've been minimizing our lives since we got married. We lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with spacious closets and bathrooms and a bigger kitchen than I have now. I knew when we moved in I didn't want to pack every corner of that place. I packed up stuff for Goodwill right after I moved in and took it away and continued doing that every three to six months. Before we moved 2 years later I did that again. When we moved into our home I did it again. I hated that we took over quite a few boxes that eventually went to Goodwill but I've learned I don't want to be spur of the moment in giving away things. I don't want to have any regrets. And minimizing takes time. My rule of thumb is if I haven't used it or worn it in 6 months I think it's time to give it up. (This doesn't include maternity clothes or baby items that are expensive to replace) My rule used to be 1 year but now 6 months is good for me. If I'm unsure about something I'll hang onto it for another 6 months and revisit it. If it rarely got used I let it go. This works for me. It won't work for everyone.

I have people ask me frequently about my minimizing efforts. Here are my tips:

1. Take one room at a time or even one closet at a time. 
Remove everything. If it's clothes, try it on. If you're like most people you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time. Keep that 20% and get rid of the rest. It's so freeing to look in your closet and know you won't spend ten minutes looking for an outfit. If you're unsure hang onto it a bit longer and revisit it. That's okay!
If it's "stuff" (childhood memories, crafts, etc) get out 3 boxes. One for "trash," one for "keep" and one for "Goodwill" (or your choice of place). Go through all the items and put them in a box. If you have a friend in need make a box for them. Once you've completed this process start putting things back in one at a time. And if it doesn't belong in that area, put it where it does go.

2. What do I do with sentimental items? 
This is always a big question. If you have room and you're not sure what to do with it, keep it. If you think someone else in your family will want it, pass it on. If these don't work for you because you don't have the space but you're somewhat attached, take a picture of it. Make an album for things like that. You will always have that picture but not the clutter. For us, we don't have the room for everything. Nor do I want it all. I like taking pictures of the girls in certain clothes or playing with a toy. And I still have a hard time letting go of some things. I don't beat myself up about it. And I keep it for awhile.

3. De-clutter once a month.
Grab a laundry basket or box and start going through your main rooms (kitchen, den, entry hall) and fill that basket up. You'll be surprised how much stuff you accumulate that you don't really need. Just this past week I tackled the top of our refrigerator. I had PILES of pictures, Nyla's school artwork, papers and junk up there. I took everything down, piled it on my counter and went through it over a couple days time. I put our photo books in my closet away from the dust and put the paperwork where it belonged. I feel so relieved that my fridge is cleaned off.

4. Ask for help.
When you first start de-cluttering you may have a hard time letting go of things. Bring in an impartial party to help you. They can help you sort through things and you'll really look at it and decide you haven't worn it, you don't love it and you really need to get rid of it. And then get rid of it.

5. If you have a pile ready to go, get it out of your house immediately!
I can't stress this enough. I think of how many times I've gone through our home, had a huge box of stuff and then it just sits for a month or two. Then when I get ready to put it in the car to take to Goodwill I start looking through it. And then I think I need to keep some of the things I thought I wanted to give away. But wait. Haven't they just been sitting in a box for two months and I haven't touched it? Yes! Get rid of it within a couple days.

That's all the tips I have today. I'm going to tackle our hall bathroom closet now. It's a disaster!

What are your tips for staying organized and having minimal items in your home? 
Or do you struggle with de-cluttering?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Days: My Running Journey

This summer I started on a journey. A running journey.

I go go go for my family and make sure they're taken care of everyday. I finally hit a wall and realized while I was busy taking care of everyone else I was neglecting me. I'm not one to always want "me" time. I'm a girl who loves relationships. I love the relationship I have with my husband, girls, family and friends. Because I'm like this, it took me quite a while to relize I needed to do something for myself.

In comes running.

About 15 weeks ago I tried to get back into a workout routing. I was struggling with consistency. What's new with that though? I then looked into running. You have to understand that I'm 70 ish pounds overweight, have plantar fasciitis in both feet and have a bad left knee (high school basketball injury). Running didn't seem possible to me. It never has.

My sister and I were out one night having dinner and she mentioned she liked my watch (the $10 Wal-Mart special). I told her I bought it to be my stopwatch because I wanted to start running. I had done some research and had a running program in mind (this one) and she told me she'd like to help me. I was pumped. My sister is super woman when it comes to working out, in my opinion at least. :) Not only was she a Varsity athlete in high school, she played college basketball. She's run numerous 5k's, a half marathon and training for her second now, goes to kickboxing class and now has a personal trainer two days a week to help with her weight training. See, I told you! Anyways, the thought of going and running by myself didn't sound appealing even though I knew I needed to do something. And I knew I needed to get out of the house, without my girls and do something for me. Daniel leaves for work at 6 a.m. which means I had to either get up at 5 a.m. or wait until after he got home. Since we started running in July running at night didn't make sense because of the high heat and high humidity. Running before the sun started coming up seemed better for a first time runner like myself.

We started running about 10 days later. This gave me time to focus on what I wanted to get out of running and my other goals. So Monday morning 5 a.m. comes around. Y'all, I love to sleep. I love my bed. My parents lovingly gave me the name "The Bog" (bed hog) years ago and I like to live up to that. :) Five in the morning was. not. easy! But I did it. And I still do it. Three days a week we get up and go run together. We don't run if it's raining, the road is wet (I don't want to fall and get hurt) or we're sick. My only goals were to complete the program and run in the 5k. So off we went...

Week one was tough. Thankfully, it involved a lot of walking. The sixty seconds of jogging wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and I was glad. For someone who hasn't done anything consistently for 10 years this was the right program for me. I repeated week 1 of the program to help get me stronger. I didn't want to push it and wear myself out. I'm glad I repeated weeks where I needed to. It's been helpful in the long run. I ran week 2 of the program (week 3 of running for my me) and my knees were killing me. My calves were tight and I walked around with bags of ice on me most of the day. I started taking glucosamine pills and a week later my knees started feeling better. I know the pills helped but I also know my body was adjusting to my running. And losing weight didn't hurt either. And people, 90 seconds of running is way harder than 60 seconds of running. You wouldn't think so but it is. I'm glad I repeated week 1 before moving to week 2.

On and on the weeks have gone with running. I repeated weeks 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8. We have missed a few days but get back on track the next week, if not the next running day. We run Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I like this schedule so I have 2 days to recover over the weekend.

To date I have completed 13 weeks of running and week 8 of the program. The last couple of weeks haven't been great, but it's all me. I've been inconsistent because I'm ready to run the race. I knew from the get-go I'd run my first 5k on November 3rd and now it's so close! I just want to see how I do and go from there. I have just a couple more weeks before I run and I'm getting excited. I have no goals of time or pace. I just want to run the whole time with no walking and finish. Yes, that's it. I've come to realize that setting goals is important to help me stay focused but setting lofty goals isn't helpful. Too many times I've set the bar very high for myself and came crashing down just 4-6 weeks later and then it's months before I do anything else. That's not what I want to do this time around.

Well, that's my running journey. My goals after this race are to keep running. I want to run Monday's and Thursday's. I also want to do pilates 2 days a week and maybe 1 day of weight training. I'll see how my race goes and decide what I want to do. I don't want to burn myself out but find consistency. I know I will pick another race and train toward it otherwise I'll be running just to run and I'm not sure how much I'd like doing that. But we'll see.

I bought these about 4 weeks after I started running.
 I knew I needed a real pair of running shoes. These have been my trusty kicks. :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 Days: The Schedule Balancing Act

As you have no doubt noticed (hopefully anyway), I have been rather, um, infrequent non-existent in blogging here lately. It's not that I do not enjoy writing on here (because I do). It's that I have been busy. It's ironic that I am writing this the day after my wife posted an excellent piece on the theme "Race" for her 5-Minute Friday post. Almost a month ago, I began taking a class on Tuesday nights to earn a certificate in financial planning from my alma mater. With this class, I am having to study a lot and keep up with the reading and exercises. (Technically, there is no homework, but I want to earn the certificate and be able to sit for the national exam to become a certified financial planner. So yeah, I need to study a lot.) In other words, between that and my husbandly and fatherly duties, my time now is limited. I'm having to learn a lot more about time management. Between schoolwork, spending time with my family, doing my journaling, and the other stuff during the week, I have learned there are some important things to remember when juggling the various responsibilities.

Be intentional. If you don't commit to it, it won't happen. For instance, I am intentional about studying for 1-2 hours a night once the girls go to sleep. Before that, my attention is on the them and Ginny and being present with them. I've had to be intentional about my schedule and time and resolving to do exactly what I plan on doing. Because if I don't have it planned out, it won't work. A great piece of advice my former manager at work told me was his experience with getting a doctorate. He said he set aside Sunday through Thursday for studying, while Friday and Saturday (and some of Sunday) was to be with his family. That's being intentional, and I have followed that advice.

Be engaged. While I am studying, I am not watching TV. While I am spending time with the girls, I am not thinking about studying. You get the idea. Whatever I am doing, I am not thinking about something else. This one is difficult, because we've all been programmed to multitask or believe we can do two things at once. We can't. Well, you may be able to, but I can't. It doesn't work for me.

Be committed. Now you might think this goes along with being intentional. I separate them just because I can be intentional about blocking out the time, but I have to commit to actually doing what I've blocked out time for. There have been several nights already where I have not wanted to study. It would have been easy to go sit next to Ginny and watch TV. I can't do that though, because I've committed to at least an hour of studying each night (and sometimes 30-45 minutes in the morning before work).

I know the next year is going to be a challenge for me. There will be nights where I just do not want to study. There will be times when a kid is sick and I'm low on sleep, and going to bed early is looking might good. But by being intentional, engaged, and committed, I can manage my time, enjoy my time, and still maintain a balance to my life.

How do you maintain balance in your life? 


This post is part of our 31 Days of Writing series. For more posts in this series, click here


Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days: Race (Five-Minute Friday)


On and on we race through life. Do we ever stop to enjoy the little moments? You know the ones that come and go so quickly. Those little moments for me are building towers with my girls, snuggling on the couch reading books, having a helper in the kitchen.

This year has been what I call my "Year of Contentment." I've strived to not pursue "things." We have so much and yet the world keeps pulling at me that I need more. But I feel like I've overcome that lie many times this year. I'm proud that I've overcome "the lie" that I need more stuff. I want to enjoy the moments in life. My girls are small and the days sometimes seem sloooooooow but the weeks fly by. Each moment is precious. I don't want to race through life and look back and say, "I wish I had more stuff." I doubt I'll say that. I'll want to say, "I'm happy with what I did in my life. I enjoyed the moments, each experience. I enjoyed my family and the simple things in life."

As I race through each day I try and remember that life is short. The special moments don't last forever. The hard moments don't last forever. I want my girls to see me living and experiencing life.

This post is linked to Five-Minute Friday. Hundreds of women join each week, write for 5 minutes on the same topic. Come join the fun!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days: Fun at the Park

We are frequent visitors at many of our local parks. Thankfully, we live in the Bartlett area and there's a park for almost every neighborhood. We have our pick or busy and bigger parks or quiet and smaller parks. With our girls we usually go for the smaller parks. There's one not too far from our house that has a nice walking track, lots of ducks to look at, swings to swing endlessly on and slides that keep on sliding. Yes, we love being outside!

Naomi LOVES to swing!

At the "big" slide at Shelby Farms

Sitting on the bench at the park

Having lots of fun sliding, as always
Do you have a local park you like to go to?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 Days: New Appliances (Before & After Pictures)

This weekend I got new appliances! My parents came in and asked about a month ago if we'd like new stove/oven and microwave. Since we don't need anything for Christmas but needed some upgraded appliances, they thought those would be a nice gift. I gave an excited, "yes" and asked if we could get a dishwasher thrown in there too. I was just throwing that out there. And it was okay if they couldn't do it. But my dad said they could probably do that too.

That same week Daniel and I ventured out to H.H. Gregg to see what was out there. The first stove we looked at was the one we ended up with. It has a bunch of different size burners plus a warming unit. I don't know how much I'll actually use it but it's nice to have the option. The oven is bigger than the one we had and there's no heating unit showing on the bottom. It'll be so much easier to clean, to not have to work around that coil! Maybe my oven will actually get cleaned more. ;)

This past weekend a handy man friend of my dad's came and installed everything and I'm in love! He was here most of the day since he had to cut the vent pipe a little and the cabinets to make the microwave fit and get it attached. That was the biggest job. The oven/stove and dishwasher were a "piece of cake," according to him.

We're so happy with our new appliances. I love them and have been doing a lot of cooking the past few days. Daniel will enjoy the food I cook. Or so he says. :)

Dishwasher before

Dishwasher after
Stove and oven before
The duct tape is lovely on the oven handles, isn't it?
See the microwave to the left of the unit? It's tiny compared to our new one.

New microwave, oven/stove combo after!
Sorry it's blurry.