Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding Normal Again by Way of a Little Productivity

I feel like I am lifting out of the fog a bit today.  Does anyone else ever have those days...weeks...months when you just feel a little off?  A little not quite yourself?  You look around your home or at your children and realize you just feel a bit disengaged?  I think I have been there for a while and didn't even realize I'd been hanging out and getting comfortable in it.

Can anyone else relate?  Is it the never-ending demands on the SAHM that can make us feel this way?  Is it the "Groundhog Day" type of repetition in the daily routine that makes me more prone to sliding down into the funk?  It isn't anything that I would call depression, not even unhappiness, really.  It is just a sense of apathy that seeps into my bones and keeps me from enjoying my day, my children, my home, my husband, my LIFE the way that I really want to be.

It seems to effect many aspects of my life.  I don't engage in relationships in a way that helps them foster and grow.  I find that I am much too content to sit on the couch and watch more sitcom reruns and daytime court TV than is really healthy.  I allow housework to build up around me and I find it difficult to work up the motivation to exercise or eat the way I should...which sometimes leads the numbers on the scale to creep in a direction that is really disheartening.  I find that I am less spiritually in tune.  My Bible may go several days without being cracked open and my prayer time may become all but non-existent.  I am not engaging with my children in any meaningful ways, which often leads to THEM watching way more television than is typically advised.  When I am not at my best, my family is not at its best.

The hardest part seems to be recognizing when I get to this point.  It is difficult to see the pit for what it is when you are down in it.  The next most trying task is to begin pulling myself out of it.  It usually starts with a decision.  A decision to turn off the TV, to pick myself off the couch and begin plugging back in.

We were out of town for the 4th of July weekend, and I have just been getting by since we have come home.  Today I looked around and realized I had sunk back into apathy.  It was time to pick myself off the couch and make a change.  I started with opening up my Bible and doing some extra reading.  I don't know why I am always amazed by how re-engaging spiritually has the ability to energize me to take charge in other areas!  After breakfast it was time to put my house back in order.  No more avoiding.  Time to get things done.  I don't think my house has been this clean for the past two weeks!  Does anyone else find it invigorating when your environment is clean and ordered?  I spent my morning cleaning, vacuuming, putting away laundry and it felt great.

I got a start on mowing the lawn, but I got rained out.  Oh well, it gave me the opportunity to sit down in front of the computer and write a new blog post:)  I get to sit and reflect on what I have accomplished so far today...and not just housework.  I got to take the first steps back towards Normal.  I am reminded that I need to take a little more time for myself.  I need to take more time to enjoy my children.  I need to be more intentional about staying connected with my girlfriends.  I need to remember to take opportunities to date my husband.

Today is a reset.  I think I am going to have my 6-year-old pick out a book and have her read it to me.  Tonight I am going to have a Girls Night with some very good friends.  But right now, I think I am going to go back outside and mow the lawn.  The rain has stopped and the clouds are clearing...and not just in the sky.    

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Some of This Mom's Favorite Ways to Save While Online Shopping

So I thought I would take a little time out this afternoon to share with you some of my favorite online money-savers.  From coupon codes to rebate checks, there are so many ways to make your dollar stretch when shopping out in the vast world wide web.  Odds are good you are familiar with some of these sources, but perhaps not all!  Feel free to click on any of the links provided below and check them out.

Ebates.com is a great place to start your online shopping experience. It is a website that pays you cash back when you shop online (up to 26% back!) Ebates works with 1,700 stores including Expedia, JCPenney, Kohl's, Home Depot, Best Buy, Groupon, and Walmart, so odds are good you will find some of your favorites.  
How does it work?  Simply go to Ebates first and select the store you wish to shop.  You will be redirected to the website and Ebates will track any purchase made and you will start banking up rebates in the percentage that is represented on Ebates.com In addition to cash back, Ebates has thousands of great coupons, free shipping, and special offers from its stores to help you get a great deal.  
Membership at Ebates is free and there are no forms to fill in or points to redeem. You get paid cash back for shopping by check or Paypal. As an added bonus, when you use the link above, you will receive a $5 bonus when you make your first purchase! It perhaps won't cover a mortgage payment, but since becoming a member, I have received checks totaling up to $102.67.  Who doesn't love a little extra fun money?

RetailMeNot.com also needs to be in your savings arsenal.  It is the world's largest digital coupon marketplace.  If you are not already armed with a coupon code when you head to a website, you absolutely MUST check with RetailMeNot before doing your final checkout.  I ALWAYS search for a coupon code whenever I see there is a place to enter one.  I often am able to save anywhere between 10%-30% simply by taking that extra step.  I also have found that if you cannot find a coupon code at RetailMeNot, odds of finding one elsewhere are slim to none...believe me, I've tried!

Zaycon Foods is a way for you to buy quality food for your family in bulk at great prices.  I am new to this, but I am excited about the great deals!  The way it works is you go online to ZayconFoods.com and create your account.  You will then be able to see the upcoming "Events" in your area.  Some of the events include: Ground Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Pork and Fish.  Choose your event and place your order.  On the day of your local Zaycon sales event, you bring your order confirmation to a designated location (in my case it is a church) and you get your fresh, delicious, nutritious food!  They cut out the grocery store middleman so your product is fresh, direct from the producer.  This service is not ideal for everyone. Because they sell product by the case, you must be willing to devote a certain amount of time and effort to prep and portion your products for consumption and storage (a vacuum sealer will be your friend!).  I think the prices are worth it and my family can go through a case of chicken breast fast enough that I don't worry about losing it to freezer burn:)

Online Consignment Shopping Options:  
Twice and thredUp are both online consignment boutiques that sell carefully screened used clothing.  Twice offers quality women's clothing items while thredUp offers accessories, shoes, handbags and children's clothing in addition to women's clothing.  I am totally obsessed with this new way of "thrifty" shopping!  The selection is constantly changing and I have saved so much money on brands that I would not typically wear because they are usually out of my price range.  
I have also earned some cash cleaning out my own closet (which I, of course, have used as credit towards my purchases but you can choose to cash out through PayPal if you prefer).  If you want to get paid to de-clutter, you can go to either website and request a free shipping bag and send in your own gently-worn items (they do carefully screen items for quality so do not expect to get paid for every item you send in).  In full disclosure, I have used the thredUp clean out service and I have been pleased with what I have received for compensation.  I have not used the Twice service so I cannot comment on their selling program (if you give it a try, please come back and leave a comment and let me know about your experience!).  
If you are new to these sites, using the links above will provide you with a $10 credit for your first purchase on either site.  

Finally, there is Amazon Mom and Amazon Subcribe and Save.  These are both ways for you to put products you buy often on auto-delivery and save some money in the process.  When you join Amazon Mom, you can take advantage of 30 days of free Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime, 20% off diapers, other promotions for parents, and a free trial of Prime Instant Video.  With Subscribe and Save, you can save up to 15% on grocery and household items and never have to worry about running out since you decide how frequently you want deliveries.  I used this for years when my girls were in diapers and it was consistently the best price around for my prefered Luvs diapers and Pampers baby wipes.  I also think it is great for other items like cleaning products or multi-vitamins.  Shop around and when you find one of your favorite products at a great price, start your subscription and forget about it!

I hope you give some of these money-savers a try.  Let me know what you think and if you have any great wallet-friendly websites or tricks, please leave a comment below and let us know about it!  I am always on the lookout for the next way to stretch a dollar.  Hopefully I will continue to find new ways to save and this will be just the first installment of frugal hints and tips.  So to all my fellow Home Economists out there, Good Luck and Happy Saving!    

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gearing up for Summer!

School isn't even out yet and already I am feeling like my summer is fully booked!  Did anyone else start feeling anxiety over their summer schedule back in April, or is that just me?  With swimming lessons, birthday parties, dance classes, church activities and all of the little weekend excursions we already have planned, it promises to be a fun, but busy, summer.
Slip 'n Slides work so much better when you have Daddy to launch you down them!

My husband only has one scheduled weekend off a month and we already have commitments, most of them out of town, for every single one of them this summer.  What about all of the projects that I am hoping to get done around our little farm?  The list is endless and it seems like we are going to have very little opportunity to tackle any of our planned DIY projecst this summer.  And so, I start stressing.

If you are anything like me, you allow yourself to get bogged down in the planning and the details.  I find myself, way too often, forgetting to enjoy the moment I'm in because I am worried about what I have to get done tomorrow.  How do we mothers turn off the constant reel of "things to do" in our minds so we can sit back and appreciate what is going on around us right now?  If you have the answer, please leave me a comment and share your wisdom!  I need it!  You can be my own personal Yoda:)

This summer I want to do something that I have found very elusive the last couple of years...enjoy my children.  Does that sound bad?  What I mean is that I allow myself to get swept up in the endlessness of my to-do list that I don't take the time to just sit back and watch my girls be little girls.  They are growing up faster than I can believe and there are times that I wonder if I am missing it.

I need to watch them chase lightning bugs.  I need to watch them twirling in summer dresses with flowers in their hair.  I need to jump in their little pool and splash with them.  I need to remember that the things that will make me smile years down the road are those moments.  The details will take care of themselves.  Our weekend getaways will be just as fun even if we don't come home to a spotless house.  The dishes are just as easily loaded into the dishwasher the next morning if we decide to take advantage of the free admission evening at the pool.  Bedtime doesn't need to be a hard and fast rule in July when we have a fire in the pit and there are s'mores to be eaten.

Summer is just about to begin and this year, I want it to be different.  I am making myself a promise.  I am going to worry less, enjoy more, and love my girls in the moment.  Will I always get it right?  Probably not, but I am going to try harder than I did last summer.  I am going to be more of the mommy I want to be this time around.  I am going to take hold of a passage that was read at our wedding, and probably many of yours, and make it my mantra for the summer.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I am writing these verses out and hanging them up where I will read them everyday.  This is what I want to give to my children and my husband this summer.  If I can just keep these words at the forefront of my mind when the kids are tracking wet sand and melted popsicles over my freshly mopped floors, I think everyone will be happier!  What are you going to be more intentional about this summer?  How are you going to make it the best one yet?  Please share your tips because I could always use some!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When You Hurt My Baby's Heart, You're Breaking Mine.

How do you explain to a five-year-old that some people are just mean?  That they will say things to hurt you, just to make themselves feel better?  How do you look into those big, brown eyes that are fighting back the tears and let her know that she is amazing?  I knew it was coming, but I hoped it never would.

"Look, Mommy!  Ariel gave me a friendship bracelet!"
"Ooo!  Pretty!  That was nice of her."
"Yeah.  She gave it to me so I wouldn't be sad."
"Why were you sad?"
"Because 'Sarah' was saying mean things to me.  She said I was just a little girl and that I was the worst kid she had ever seen in the world."  Eyes are now downcast and I can see tears sprinkled in her lashes.

Now, I know that this is by far not the cruelest thing that has ever been said by one child to another.  This is not going to turn into a huge rant about bullying and the state of our country and children today.  I am not going to be calling the bus driver demanding to know the child's parents' phone numbers so I can call them up and chew them out.  I was just struck anew this afternoon by how much I love my children and how I wish I could shield them from everything bad in this world...even something as simple as an unkind word.

When we take on the roll of parent, we know that we will eventually have to deal with things like this.  Children all say and do things to each other that are hurtful.  I am doing my best to teach my girls that they should not treat others unkindly, but I am not naive enough to believe that they will never be the ones dishing it out (I've seen them do it to each other!).  All I can do it try and instill in them a sense of empathy, a healthy dose of respect and compassion for others.  But knowing this in my head does not dull the ache I feel in my heart as I see my daughter dealing with one of her early encounters with an individual who chooses to pick on her for no apparent reason.

I know I cannot protect her from  every verbal assault.  I know that it would not be wise to do so even if I could.  I will not be around forever.  She needs to learn how to deal with people who are unkind, people who want to hurt her so they can inflate their own ego.  She needs to know when it's appropriate to deal with it herself and how to do so, and she needs to know when to find an adult who has the authority to make it stop when it crosses the line.  I need to let her fight her own battles with poise and dignity.  She needs to learn how to maintain her confidence in herself so that cruel insults don't bite so deep.  I'm learning that one of the most difficult things I must do as a mother is allow her to find her own way through the minefield.  I can offer counsel and guidance, but I cannot walk through it for her.

I can be grateful.  Grateful for an older girl sitting on that bus that recognized a little girl who was being picked on and who took it upon herself to cheer her up.  A girl with a cheap elastic bracelet bearing the word "courage."  I hope my daughters become that girl.

I can be grateful that I began building a foundation of confidence and self-approval months and months ago that I can now call upon when her spirits are down.

"You know that none of the things that 'Sarah' said are true don't you?"
"Because you remember what you are, right?  You're a Konen girl!  You know what a Konen girl is, right?"
A big beaming smile, "Pretty and smart!"
"That's right!"
"I guess 'Sarah' didn't know I was a Konen girl!"

I suggest all you parents of daughters begin brainwashing them all right now so they answer this question like a parrot, "What is a insert last name girl?"  Answer: "Pretty and smart!"  Starting this months ago, I had no idea how powerful it would be when her confidence was shaken.  Seeing that smile on her face helped heal my heart as much as saying the words healed  hers.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Closet Purge = Fashion Upgrade for this Mommy!

It is FINALLY is starting to feel like spring!  I want to pull out the capri pants and the pastels and feel as fresh in my look as the breeze feels upon my face.  I go to my closet and I am immediately crestfallen for I realize that I am in desperate need of a fashion overhaul.

I find myself staring at a closet that is bulging with clothes that I either haven't wanted to wear for at least three seasons or clothes that I would love to wear, but can't due to my current scale status.  Listen!  Can you hear that?  It is the malicious laughter of shorts and t-shirts that are mocking me for they know there is no way they will be doing any work for me this summer :(

I have finally come to the decision that it is just not worth it to hold on to items that I cannot wear right now.  If you are anything like me, you may have a whole dresser dedicated to all of the clothes you know you will be able to wear again because you are determined to make it back to your pre-(you-fill-in-the blank) size.  I finally realized that letting go of all those items is not admitting defeat.  It does not mean I will never reach my weight goal.  It is allowing me the peace of saying, "I might not ever make it all the way back, but that's ok.  I can still look and feel great!"  It is time to give myself the gift of a wardrobe that works for me just as I am and I hope I can inspire some of you to do the same for yourself.

I wish I had thought to take a "before" closet picture, but you can get an idea from the empty hangers and free space visible in my "after" pics of how much I ditched.  I was not about to hang it all back up in order to stage a photo!


I finally have some space in my closet and I can look at what is in there and only see things that I would actually be happy to wear!  I don't have to dig through layers of ill-fitting crap to find something that will look nice.  I cannot pull out something cute only to try it on and be filled with disappointment (again) when it still doesn't fit, despite my best efforts. Now the closet purge is over so I move on to my drawer full of jeans.


Here I did think to take a before and after.  My drawer was absolutely stuffed with jeans!  On those rare days when I am completely caught up with laundry and all my pants are clean, there is no way in this world that I am able to fit them all in the drawer, let alone come anywhere near to closing it.  I would employ the method of cramming pants into it and then leaving the drawer halfway open with the extra just sitting on top, but of course you've never done that :)  When I pulled jeans out, trying some of them on to be sure, I realized that more than half of them either didn't fit or I deemed them unflattering.  Why have I been holding on to them?!

So now I have a giant pile of clothes.  Do I bag it all for Goodwill?  Not necessarily.  I recently discovered a website that sells consignment clothing.  One of my favorite finds of 2014!  It is called ThredUp and it is so easy!  You can request a "Clean Out Bag" like the one I have pictured below and fill it to bursting with your "no longer right for me" clothing (they accept women's, juniors and kids clothing so you don't just have to stop at your own closet).

Choose only items that are brand-name and like-new quality for your Clean Out Bag.  Once it's full, you drop it off at the post office or your local Fed Ex at no cost to you (you can see the shipping labels come already affixed to the bag).  Once received, your items are sorted and you can choose to be paid through PayPal or opt for a credit to spend at thredUp.  I have done some shopping on this site as well and scored some really great deals!  If you are interested in shopping, you can click HERE and receive $10 off your first order :)

So, I have done my sorting and you can see that I am going to need to request another Clean Out Bag!  I also have a couple of bags of clothes that either were an off-brand that thredUp won't take, or they are showing more wear than would be acceptable for consignment.  Those bags are heading to a local thrift store that benefits Easter Seals.

I still have some work to do.  I have a large plastic tote that is full of summer clothing that I put away for lack of space last fall.  I have a feeling that most of it is going to head strait to one of these piles when I get to it and not back into my closet :)

It is amazing how freeing it feels to let go!  I now feel no guilt about going out and purchasing a few quality items that will look great on me, feel comfortable and be incredibly versatile in my wardrobe.  I am finally learning that a few great pieces can be a wonderful investment if they are flattering, timeless, and versatile!  Along with a couple new pairs of capri pants and shorts for the summer, I have also purchased a great skirt that is quite possibly the new favorite item in my closet.

I'm not sure if I have ever owned anything that I can wear so many ways!  This is called the "Seasonless Skirt" and it is available exclusively at Seamly.co.  I was just recently introduced to this clothing company and I am in love!  Kristin Glenn is the owner and designer and it is her mission to create sustainable clothing from deadstock fabric and create it all, from start to finish, in the gool ol' US of A!  

Not only is everything lovely, it is super comfy (this is coming from the self-proclaimed "Queen of Sweatpants" so you can take that to the bank)!  I couldn't stop at the skirt, so I am also the happy owner of the "Wrapped Cardigan."  I think I now have a problem because I am currently anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new "Versalette," which is currently out of stock on the website, but I was able to purchase one from someone else who decided it wasn't for her.  Talk about versatility to the extreme!  Click on the links to find out what I am talking about.  I'll try and post some pics of the cardigan and the Versalette later.  

Well, I hope I have given you some inspiration or at least some food for thought.  Perhaps it is time to attack your closet with a critical eye and purge it of everything that doesn't make you feel fantastic.  My closet was holding me back from making some long overdue style changes.  Is yours?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Out of Hibernation

So here I am, staring May in the face, and wondering where I have been the last five months.  If you are like me, you are still recovering from an endless winter that has left you shell-shocked and dazed.  This may be known as "The Spring that Wasn't" around my house as we are still working to shake the last bit of winter off our boots.  It's April 30th and I still can't turn off the furnace!!!  Welcome to Wisconsin everyone.

Well, this isn't supposed to be a post full of whining complaints.  I am willing myself to renew my commitment to this blog project I decided to undertake just under a year ago.  I so enjoy sharing my experiences as a wife and mother with my friends and family and whoever else may wander across my path.  I love the feedback and comments that I get that remind me that I am not alone on this journey.  There are women everywhere who can relate to their child taking a spill and kissing pavement.

Whose heart wouldn't melt when their five-year-old decides she wants to make a big sacrifice and cut off half of her hair to donate it to another child who is sick and had theirs fall out?  What a proud moment for this mama!
Sorry, can't figure out how to turn the pictures!

Every once in a while, it is also fun to be able to share our little "Pinterest Worthy" accomplishments.  If you are anything like me, the successes are few and far between!

I realize that when I allow myself to be dragged down by circumstances that I cannot control, like a relentless Wisconsin winter, I miss out on sharing the fun little moments that bring the sunshine into the gloom.  For instance, a later Easter this year meant we didn't have to chisel the little plastic eggs out of snow and ice!
Easter Egg Hunt 2013
Easter Egg Hunt 2014

It is time I recommit to taking more time for reflection.  Sometimes I need to be still for a moment so I can truly appreciate the many blessings around me.  Other times I need to autopsy a situation so I can find the lesson that God wants me to learn so I can be a better mother, wife, friend, fill in the blank.  I have found this blog so helpful in accomplishing this goal.  It is fun to go back and read what I have written before and have a chuckle or shake my head over what I must have been thinking or find a renewed sense of thankfulness as I remember the fun moments and blessings that have filled my life.

So here's to a new year (only four months late)!  Can't wait to see what happens and I look forward to sharing it with you.  Until next time, make it a great life!