12.29.2008

When Mommy is Sick...

So today, I've been rather under the weather. Thankfully, its just flu-like symptoms, but no fever or upset stomach. Anyway, when I got up, I had hoped to get some help from my mom as she is always readily available when I need her. But, when I called her this morning, I discovered that not only was she, too, sick, but that she was worse off than I was. *ACK!!!* Please don't mis-read that I was unsympathetic toward my mom's illness, because I certainly was/am. But, what in the world was I to do with two kids under 2 when all I wanted to do was go to bed?!?!

Two words: "Bob" (veggie tales) and "books"

We literally spent the morning watching our Veggie Tales collection. Patrick had a blast and Erin napped through most of it. Of course, I felt bad for landing my kid in front of the TV for most of the morning, but when I was doing great to feed him goldfish and cheerios from the couch, "Bob" is pretty much the only option. Finally, 2:00 rolled around and I was able to put both kids down for a nap. I napped, too. We all slept about 2.5 hours. It was beautiful. Of course, by this time, I felt a little guilty for watching hours of "Bob", so I unplugged the TV (Patrick loves to play with the buttons) and commenced to read stories to Patrick between his bites of goldfish. Erin played in her exersaucer the entire time.

I was also able to accomplish a few modest tasks throughout the day. Sick days are just like the first few weeks after having a baby - you have to limit yourself. My goals for the day: Keep the kids fed, don't burn down the house, unload the dishwasher and wash and dry one load of laundry (note: we didn't say anything about removing from the dryer, folding, or putting away). I was able to accomplish these things by simply taking my time. It took nearly all morning to unload the dishwasher, even though it was only 1/2 full... I made one trip to fill the laundry bin. I made another trip, taking the laundry bin to the basement and I started up the wash. About 2 hours later, I went back down and transferred the laundry to the dryer and started that up. About 2 hours after that, I checked the laundry and ran the dryer a bit longer. The laundry hasn't been touched since. I will ask Daniel to bring the laundry up later tonight. Maybe it will get folded tomorrow...

All-in-all, I consider it a pretty productive day. My kids are fed and happy, the house is reasonably tidy and we have clean laundry in the basement.

Oh, did I mention? The house is still standing. :)

12.23.2008

Random Tips - Post Travel Thoughts

We just got back home today from a several day visit with out of town relatives and I've had a few thoughts to tag on to my "Travel and the Holidays" post...

Do as much house cleaning as possible before you leave. I'm not saying it has to be spotless, but wipe down counter tops, clean the toilet, the bathroom mirrors, vacuum, etc. There's nothing like coming back to a clean (or at least reasonably well picked up) home. While it took a great deal of work and thought for me to clean and organize before we left, it was sooooo worth it!

I mentioned before, do laundry while you're with your host, if you can. Our family certainly didn't mind (Thank you!), and this was a huge blessing to wash and fold our clothes on the morning of the day we left and even throughout our stay. This made such a huge difference in unpacking once we arrived home. Instead of throwing it all in the washer, I was able to put clean and folded clothes straight into drawers. What a huge blessing!

Make a list of the things you took with you while you're packing. I used this for clothes only, but it helped me to keep track of every ones things. While I did inadvertently leave a few things behind on this trip, the list really helped. I've also made note of the things we're not likely to need next time. Save that list to help you think through your next traveling adventure.

Keep each person's belongings/clothes separated, but limit yourself. For us, limiting ourselves meant that all our clothes had to fit in our larger suitcase. I put each of the kids' clothes in a pillow case. Patrick's clothes fit into the blue pillow case and Erin's were in the green one. This was a huge help in keeping track of everything while we were gone. I put their pillowcases of clothes into the top flap of our suitcase. Daniel got 1/2 the main compartment of the suitcase and I used the other. Every time we took off something that couldn't be re-worn without washing it, we placed it into a plastic grocery bag until we were able to do laundry. If the clothing can be re-worn, fold it promptly and place it in the appropriate person's space. We did this pretty strictly throughout our entire visit and it worked beautifully.

When you get back, even if you're tired (and you most likely will be!), take that first hour home to unload and unpack. Daniel spent about 30 minutes bringing in our belongings from the car and then I started unpacking them as quickly as I could. I unpacked and put into their proper places all the kitchen items and all the kids' books from our "multimedia bag" (a Once Upon a Child bag used for all such travel necessities). Then I moved to the suitcase. I've always struggled with not taking a week to get a suitcase unpacked, but this time I resolved to just get it done and it really wasn't bad! As long as I stuck to one person's belongings at a time - I unpacked all Erin's things first, then Patrick's... then once the clothes were done, I moved to the bathroom items, etc...you get the idea - it was extremely fast to get done.

It seriously took 1-1.5 hours to get all of us in the house, all the luggage in the house, and to get unpacked. I also took inventory of our refrigerator and cupboards and made a quick grocery list that should get us through the end of the month - about a week. Once we were organized, I did my shopping and by dinnertime, we were all settled back into our normal nightly routine at home without any unpacking looming over us. This has been a huge blessing this evening as I am now way past my fatigue threshold to unpack in any kind of organized, coherent manner.

12.19.2008

I No-Poo

For those of you who are a little more "main stream" in your way of doing things, this might push me over the edge of the "crunchy" cliff, for those of you who baby wear, home-birth, make everything from scratch, etc. this may seem common sense to you. Either way, however, I would encourage you to try this...

I "no-poo" - no, I'm not having digestive issues, thanks. I'm talking about hair and for this, I'm bring up my two favorite household staples - baking soda and vinegar. You will need a separate container for each mixture. Two old tilt top shampoo containers will do... or an old water bottle w/ a pull-out nozzle or whatever. You will also need a spouted measuring cup (or cream pitcher...), if available.

For a standard size shampoo bottle, dump about 1/4-1/3cup baking soda into the measuring cup Add just enough warm water to the measuring cup so the baking soda begins to evenly dissolve. Pour into the shampoo bottle. If there is a lot of baking soda left in the bottom of the measuring cup after you've dumped it into the bottle, add more warm water to the measuring cup and pour it into the shampoo bottle. Top the shampoo bottle off with warm water.

Using a similar size shampoo bottle, pour vinegar - I typically use white, but have also used apple cider - into the bottle. I don't really measure, but for those of you who like exact measurements, use a ratio similar to the baking soda combination. Top off this bottle with warm water as well.

To use: The baking soda "no-poo" doesn't come anywhere near sudsing, but it will leave your hair very clean... just start at the hairline and slowly pour it over your scalp and run the mix through your hair with your fingers. Leave this mixture on your hair about as long as you would regular shampoo. Rinse well. Like regular shampoo, any excess left behind will leave your hair looking and feeling dirty. Once you have rinsed out the baking soda mixture, repeat the process, this time, using the vinegar mixture. Let sit for a minute or two. (Yes, it does smell a bit like vinegar while it is on your hair, but once you have rinsed it out, you shouldn't really be able to smell it. You might get a trace scent every now and again for a little while after, but no one else should be able to smell it.) Rinse. This leaves your hair very silky and shiny.

Why I love this method - it is easy and it really works. It will also keep your hair clean for several days without needing to repeat the process. Just before Erin was born, I started no-pooing... I was sold before she was born, but it was a life-saver with a newborn. I was tired and I really didn't want to take forever in the shower. But, because I have thick, longish hair, washing it does not help speed up the showering process (did I mention how long it takes to dry my hair?!). Yet, I didn't want to look as though I'd been annointing myself with oil. No-pooing allowed me those five-minute showers without adding anything else to the process. Of couse, I no-pooed when necessary, but it meant I could usually go every other shower without washing my hair and it was still genuinely clean.

Anyway, there are a few variations on these recipes, but the above mixtures work just fine for me. I had gotten out of the habit of no-pooing because we had some shampoo to use up, but I just recently started again and there really is no comparison. No-pooing works waaayyyyyy better. If you try it, give it a week before you evaluate its effectiveness- this should be long enough to get out any kind of build-up from your current shampoo and conditioner and then you will see the true results. But, you should see some benefit after the first wash. :)

12.15.2008

Travel and the Holidays

For many of us, the holidays often bring road trips of varying lengths and the probability of living out of a suitcase for several days. Now that we have two children to pack for, not to mention ourselves, it can easily seem like we've packed everything AND the kitchen sink. While I'm nowhere near perfecting how to pack for 4 while using the least space possible, I have learned a few tricks in recent months. After all, the simple fact of the matter is: the more you take, the more you have to keep up with and in turn, the more likely you are to leave something behind.

1 - If you're staying somewhere with a washer and dryer, use it (if the host doesn't mind, of course). Pack only enough for about 2 days and don't be afraid to wash your clothes while you're there. This can go a very long way in managing the volume of things you pack. I've found that taking a pair of jeans and a pair of khakis or similar type pants is usually enough to get me through a 4-7 day stay somewhere. Unless you get pooed on (for those of us with kids under 12 months, this is a very feasible possibility), chances are those pants will remain quite clean throughout the entirety of your visit.

2 - Take as many consumable products as possible. What I mean here is - take bags of goldfish, cereal, cheese sticks, crackers... you get the idea. Don't take much that requires tupperwares or coolers. This will make packing easier and will allow more space in the car. Sure, if you have small children, you probably do need to take a cooler to store their milk or whatever in, but you might be taking a small cooler rather than one that takes up 1/2 your trunk space.

3 - Toys... oh, the toys... how they seem to multiply when you're in the car! We almost always tend to over-pack in this area, but over the weekend, we took a day trip just a few hours away to see my grandparents, uncles, and aunts. I experimented with taking only the kiddos' personalized blankets and their bears. You know what? They didn't need anything else! There was enough going on that they were completely content without their insane volume of toys. Sure, if you're going on more than just a day trip, you'll need more, but you probably need less than you think.

4 - Diaper bags are bulky and, in my mind, unnecessary once your children reach a certain age. Once my kids reach about 6 months, I stop carrying a diaper bag. If it can't fit in my purse (a mid-size one), we don't need it. I can fit a sippy cup, a bottle, a very small toy or two, 2 diapers and wipes in my purse while still having room for my planner/wallet, some lip balm, and keys. Yes, the purse is crowded, but I have what I need in a very small space.

5- Pillows, blankets and the like. It's amazing how much space these things can take up! My rule of thumb is one pillow per person over 5. If you're under 5, you probably don't need it. We pack blankets for the kids and that's it. If we get cold in the car, we turn up the heat.

6 - Manage your trash as you go. On our next trip, we will keep a small handfull of plastic bags in the car to use as our trash bin. Each time we stop or as necessary, we will toss the bag. We drink a lot of soda and such on our trips (we usually travel at night for long trips, so this is practically a staple), and this creates a lot of rubbish. Toss it. I hate traveling in a cluttered, messy car.

7 - When you arrive at your destination, take as little in as possible. Do you really need to bring all that junk in?! Doubtful. We tend to leave snacks, sodas, books, cds, etc. in the car. The less you bring in, the less you are likely to forget.

8 - Multimedia can be a huge blessing to have on a trip, but my tendency is to overpack in that department as well. This year for our trip to Michigan, I will take my iPod, one book on CD (to listen to while I'm driving) and my journal. We will take our cameras. Daniel may take his laptop. Daniel will probably also take a book on CD. For the kids, we'll pack a small pile of books and some DVDs to watch during our stay (I often try to put 2-3 dvds/case just to minimize the space they take up). This should be more than enough.

Those are my travel tips. If you have any, please feel free to add them. Just remember, you rarely need 1/2 of what you pack, so just try to think through the necessities, and pack only those. :)

12.12.2008

How Do You Teach Phone Etiquette in Our "One-Phone-Per-Person" Society?

Last night at the dinner table, Daniel and I were talking about how much things have changed since our childhood. As dinner was drawing to a close, Patrick was playing with Daniel's old cell-phone... one of his current favorite toys (as long as the battery is charged!). Patrick was absolutely adorable as he lifted the silver phone to his ear and said, "Bye!".

I've been working with him off and on about how to hold the phone properly and with the kind help of our families, we've been able to show how people talk to us through the phone - and I repeated this last night by calling my mom right after Patrick proclaimed "Bye!" to the silence on the end of his disconnected phone and trying to get Patrick to at least say, "Hi!" or "Bye!" to her. Of course, he loved hearing his gramma's voice on the other end, but wouldn't do anything but smile.

Anyway, this moment of "training" last evening caused Daniel and me to realize that teaching phone etiquette in today's high-tech society is sure to look vastly different than it did 20 years ago. We do not have a land-line and we are not likely to get one any time soon, if ever. So, no more, "Hello. You've reached the ________ residence. This is Rebekah. How may I help you?" With the prevalence of cell phones, it seems the "proper" way to teach phone etiquette will be something like this... "Hello. You've reached my mommy's phone. This is Patrick. Let me go get her." OR... "Hello. This is Patrick's phone..." At what age is it appropriate to give your child their own cell phone? Seriously! I mean, we live in a world that is filled with technology and some of that technology is great, especially when used for safety/emergency contact.

I don't like leaving home without my phone - just so I can be contacted if there is an emergency, or so I can contact someone else in the event of an emergency. So, wouldn't I also want that option to be readily available to my children? But, is it appropriate for your 5 year old to have a phone on their first day of kindergarten? I'm not so sure...

I am not advocating giving phones to small children, but I'm also not saying they should be 18 before they get one either. Think about it and leave feedback if you will. :)

12.10.2008

Perspective on a Child's First Christmas

Okay, so with the hectic nature of the Christmas season hitting in full force (or, maybe it's just life?) I don't feel as though I have much new to offer in the way of posts. As of now, I've shared most of my creative domestic tips, plus a whole album's worth of photos, and a few videos... I did realize one thing, though, when Daniel and I were talking last night.

Baby's First Christmas = Commercial Marketing Hayday.

Last year, Daniel and I gave Patrick a few fun, cute gifts. But here's the thing, short of the photos we have of Christmas morning, he really wasn't all that into things. He sort of liked the bow on top of his "big gift." Otherwise, he really didn't care. Sure, he liked the gifts we gave him, but he would have been just fine without them.

As I have mentioned before, having two kids under two means that we have more toys than our house can handle. Some are large, but most are small and can easily make any given room look like a hurricane came plowing through - leaving countless chunks of debris in various shapes, colors, and sizes behind.

Please don't read that I'm not thankful for these toys, because I am. Most have been given to us, and I am very, very thankful for the generosity bestowed upon us. But, I am saying that our children do not need any more toys for their age-range. Because their ages are so close - 13 months to the day - they pretty much like the same toys. While Erin can't enjoy everything Patrick likes, Patrick often finds Erin's toys interesting.

So, what am I getting at? Unless I am overcome by an overwhelming need to go buy something useless, we won't be buying the kids anything for Christmas this year. Besides, we can probably go looking through the boxes of toys we have stored away and find something suitable to place a bow on and hide under the tree.

Or, I could just buy a box of fruit snacks for Patrick and a can of pumpkin for Erin. They would enjoy the contents, but seriously... It's the paper and the bows that are the most fun at their ages. Or, maybe I could give him an empty cereal box...

Just last night, I gave Patrick an empty oatmeal canister to play with. He loved it. In a day or two, I'll throw it out and he probably won't miss it. I'll repeat this in a few weeks when our next oatmeal canister is empty.

In a nut shell, don't waste any money on buying all this fluff for a kid's first Christmas. They won't remember it and you won't add any more rubble to the living room. :)

12.06.2008

A Very Full Day

Yesterday, a friend of mine (who is a piano teacher) and I took our students to a local assisted living facility so our students could put on a Christmas concert for the residents. Having worked in a retirement home, I know what a joy this can be for the residents - especially those who either do not get to see children often, or those who do not have family around. I've also seen how much they enjoy music. So, for the 3rd Christmas season in a row, Amanda and I organized this service project.

While it may seem an odd location, we chose to perform in the dining room. Besides the fact that the room itself is beautiful, the original idea behind this location was to make it comfortable and personal, not formal like regular recitals are.

I have always made it a point to stress with my students that God has given them musical talent and that through these concerts, they are using their talents to both serve God and to bless the residents living in the assisted living facility. The focus is on service, not on the musicians.

I think this year we saw the biggest turn out among the residents. Instead of having a proper reception after the concert, the retirement facility provided cookies and drinks during the concert. This made a more casual, more personal environment among the students, parents and residents.

All of our students performed beautifully! While I was unable to get photos of everyone, we did get a few good pictures during the concert. :)


Amanda and I each had the opportunity to play a duet with one of our students.


Once the concert was over, I was able to get photos in front of their beautiful Christmas tree with each of my students. Me with Olivia.

Me with Luke.

Molly and me.

Yesterday evening, Daniel and I took the kiddos over to Dad and Mom's house to enjoy dinner over there and to help decorate for Christmas. I've always loved decorating their house, so it was an honor to get called upon to help with the tree again this year! Here are some photos from yesterday afternoon before going to Dad and Mom's and then a few of yesterday evening.

Daniel and me in front of our Christmas tree at home.

Erin - enjoying her newly brought out exersaucer. Look at that pludge! :) Of course, at 7 months of age, pludge is cute. :)

I just love this outfit on her. :)

Me - decorating their tree. I think it is lovely. :)



A few photos in front of Mom and Dad's (decorated) tree. He was a squirmy little guy, but we managed to get a few precious photos.

As I mentioned earlier, we pulled out Erin's exersaucer for the first time yesterday (she does have one at my parents' house, but she hasn't played in ours before). She definitely enjoyed it, but apparently Patrick was impressed by it, too... as evidenced by this video.

12.05.2008

Non-Scrabble night

Tonight, Daniel and I took a break from Scrabble night... we were blessed by my parents' generosity to watch the kiddos, so we went out for a date!!! We kept it simple by going to Burger King and then we went over to the mall to enjoy the Christmas decorations.

One thing we've learned in our nearly 2.5 years of marriage is that its not the "niceness" of the date that makes them enjoyable, it's the company. So, for us, dinner at Burger King and then a stroll around the mall was a perfect, causal way to just enjoy being with each other without the kids. (Of course, we LOVE our kids, but we like some time by ourselves, too. :))

Anyway, the point of the post is this - expensive, fancy dates are great, but so are the super-casual fast-food ones. God has given us the ability to find joy in the everyday situations just as much as the extraordinary ones. So, when that fancy date is not a great option, make the most of a casual night out. :) It's the company, not the location, that really makes the difference.

12.04.2008

Christmas Trees and Gingerbread Houses

As promised, here are pictures of our beautiful Christmas tree. I think we really did find the perfect one this year! :)

As you can see, there is a pretty distinct blue and silver theme. I'm all about themed trees - they just look elegant and organized. Of course, not everyone likes this and to balance out theme with family, there is a small smattering of "sentimental" or "more personal" ornaments. Among the sentimental ornaments are one we purchased in Williamsburg on our honeymoon, several ducks in honor of Patrick's nursery theme, a few in honor of Erin's existence from last year, and one marking Daniel and my first Christmas together from 2006.

Here is another (kind of blurry!) photo, but with more cozy lighting - a bit more the way it actually looks in person without the harsh photo light.
Last year, Sarah and I started the "tradition" of decorating gingerbread houses and watching "Home Alone" (no Christmas season is complete without viewing this *cough* 'timeless classic' hehehe). So, last night, we had our 2nd annual Gingerbread Decorating Movie Fest. Twas grand! We were too frumpy to take photos of us with our gingerbread houses, but here are a few photos of our incredible masterpieces. :) Sarah's is on the left and mine is on the right.
I LOVE the holidays!

12.02.2008

A Few Cute Pics


Holiday Tip of the Day

I haven't posted anything practical for a while, and since sharing practicality is one of the primary goals of my blog, I figured I would make this short and sweet.

If you have followed my suggestion about getting your Christmas presents purchased early - even if you only have one out of the way - go ahead and wrap it. It really can take an insane amount of time to wrap all the gifts on your list, so why not go ahead and get a good start? Seriously, how long can it take - 5 minutes? I'm pretty confident most of you have that 5 minutes to spare. :)

11.30.2008

Happy Birthday, Daniel!

Today is Daniel's birthday, so this post is for him. :)

I am so incredibly blessed that the Lord brought you into my life. (For those of you who may not know, my mom introduced us at their Sunday school class in the fall of 2004.) Since the day we met, I knew there was something special about you, and the Lord gradually brought us together. Since our wedding day (July 1, 2006), I have grown more and more in love with you. I can imagine no one I would rather walk through life with.

I love it when you come home at the end of a long day, and yet you still have the energy to smile, to laugh, and to be an encouragement to me and to our children. You are a godly man and a godly leader.

You are my dearest friend and I love you beyond words.

All my heart,
Rebekah

11.29.2008

Post-Thanksgiving Photos and a Short Video

Today has been a relatively quiet day. We put up the Christmas tree, as planned, and it is now decorated. :) I'll post pictures of it later.

As always, I was struck by the absolute cuteness of Patrick and Erin (I'm soooo not partial. :-p). This afternoon, Erin was playing in the floor after her nap and I captured a few precious moments.
For those of you who may be wondering, yes, Erin is generally this happy! :) We are definitely blessed. :)

This evening, I gave Patrick a hair cut. I have found that the easiest place to do this is when he is secured in his high chair. He can still play with toys but not have the freedom to run off while I'm working on trimming up his hair. Of course, he is covered in hair by the time it is all said and done, but this routine works well. He had a few cute moments once we had cleaned him off and removed his hair-covered shirt.
Hey look, Mom, I have a brush!!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Erin has started to say, "Bababa." This is adorable, and I did manage to get a quick video of her "talking" this afternoon.

11.28.2008

Thanksgiving, Christmas Trees, Scrabble Night and the like

On top of having much to be thankful for, we had a fabulous Thanksgiving! We started our day with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and homemade, whole wheat biscuits with butter and honey. Yummmmm...We spent a relatively quiet morning at home and let Patrick enjoy his afternoon nap before heading down to Granddad's house for a Thanksgiving feast! Patrick spent a portion of his morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the Sesame Street float came along, he was stunned and proclaimed, "Wow..."
We had a wonderful time with family down at Granddad's house. Patrick seemed to enjoy himself, too...Patrick spent a few moments cuddled up in his Great-Grandpa's lap looking as content as can be. Of course, the moment was too short to capture on "film" (or should I say "memory card"?) in its entirety... such is Patrick's life. It's difficult to say what Patrick was up to here... but it's pretty clear that he was happy. :)
Patrick had a grand time "playing football" with the guys. (Or maybe he just took their ball? )

Erin had a grand time as well, being doted upon by her Gramma, Great-Aunt Cathy, Aunty Sarah, cousins, etc. She took a nice, long nap during the dinner hour and was happy as a clam for the entire visit. (I should have more pics to post at a later date.) As the afternoon/evening progressed, Erin learned a new trick... saying "Bababa..." Too cute!

For my family, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas season (yes, I said season!). So, this morning, Dad, Daniel, Patrick and I went hunting for the perfect Christmas tree. We found the perfect one and look forward to setting it up tomorrow. The Christmas tree place was closed today, so we tagged our tree and Dad and Mom's tree and Daniel and Dad will go back in the morning to cut them.

I LOVE Christmastime and can't wait to have our tree up. Of course, with 2 kids under 2, we had to make a few adjustments to our tree-selecting as Daniel and I determined the tree needs to be placed in the dining room this year, out of Patrick's reach. Patrick spends most of his time in our front two rooms (the living room and the study), and the living room is the most logical place for a tree, but one can't leave a nearly 20 month old alone with a full-size Christmas tree for any extended period of time... So, we decided it would have to go in the dining room this year. This, however, meant that we needed to choose a much smaller tree than we might normally have picked. I'm confident we found the tree to match our new "regulations", so I look forward to putting it up and decorating it tomorrow. (Now, if we could only figure out how we're going to get power to the lights...)

Tonight is Scrabble Night. I love Scrabble Night. Its a great at-home date-night with Daniel. Since Crusoe doesn't come on tonight (it has moved to Saturday nights), we're planning on watching "The Bishop's Wife" - a great black-and-white Christmas film introduced to us by friends from church. We love this film, so I have much to look forward to this evening.

Before the Scrabble Night festivities begin, however, dinner will take place. We're having black bean burritos with salsa for dinner. :)

As I said at the beginning of my post, I have much to be thankful for.

A God who loves and sent His Son to die for me
Daniel
Beautiful children
Family and extended family
Good health

I hope any of you who are reading this had a fabulous Thanksgiving and I hope you have much to be thankful for. By the grace of my Heavenly Father, I certainly do!

11.26.2008

Make-Up

I love make-up. I always have and I probably always will. You can accomplish many different looks just by using a few simple supplies - the simple, everyday "girl next door" look or a more dramatic look for formal occasions. The possibilities are endless. That having been said, I've learned a few things in recent months.

I used to think that I needed to apply foundation, blush, lipstick, eye shadow, eye-liner, mascara, etc. daily. While I still like the finished product these supplies produce, they aren't practical as a stay-at-home mom. In fact, there is simply not much time in any given day to apply make-up with the precision I would like. Yet, I never know when the call of motherhood requires that I go out - to get baby motrin, diapers, etc - and I don't want to go out looking like I just rolled out of bed. So, what do I do?

There are four carefully chosen staples that meet my everyday make-up needs... moisturizer, concealer, blush and eye-liner.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it deserves careful attention.

Exposed skin - particularly your face, neck, and hands - need to be moisturized, especially in the winter months. I've found that using a decent, natural moisturizer helps my skin look healthier and I am less prone to break-outs. Also, if possible, find a way to naturally exfoliate your face once or twice a week and you will probably see healthier skin. That having been said, if your skin looks healthy, why cover it up?

Of course, uneven skin tone is common. Freckles, moles, darker spots, lighter spots... chances are, we all have them in some capacity. In the areas where you may have darker circles or spots, use a small amount of concealer - just enough to blend with your natural skin color and to minimize the unevenness in color. This doesn't mean you have to completely cover up the "flaw" - just minimize it.

Eye-liner is one of my cosmetic bag favorites. It can be used to draw attention to your eyes without using mascara - something I used to wear daily, but got tired of using regularly after Patrick was born. And, it washes off easily. Probably 90% of the time, I use eyeliner without mascara and the results aren't much different.

Powder blush is also a must-have. Apply to your cheeks, your chin and your forehead. This gives you that healthy glow without looking like someone smeared paint all over your face. If you put it on too heavily, grab a piece of toilet paper and gently rub off the excess.

Lipstick is one of those possible musts, but in the last few weeks, I learned that if your lips are properly moisturized, they will develop a natural healthy color. I've always had difficulty with dry lips year-round, so I use lip balm all the time. Since I found an all-natural one that works well, I've been wearing considerably less lipstick. But, this need will probably vary drastically from person to person.

Anyway, those are my tips regarding make-up. Following my own instructions, I can usually moisturize my face and have make-up applied in 5 minutes or less. Sometimes it takes longer, but that's only when I have time.

God gave us skin and He gave us things in nature to help take care of it. :) How does your skin look?

11.24.2008

Sick Kiddos

Today has been interesting. Yesterday, Daniel and I tag-teamed staying home with the kids because Patrick's nose was dripping like a fire hose and I'm sure the parents of the other kids in the nursery, not to mention the nursery workers, would prefer that he not leave his germs all over the toys in the nursery. So, Daniel went to Sunday school and I went to church. Last night, Erin started coming down with the same chest cold/runny nose. :( The poor little thing can hardly breathe.

Of course, chest colds do not magically disappear over night, so today I had two drippy nosed, coughing kiddos. Erin, who hates to cry (just like me) and will do everything in her power to prevent crying, definitely shed some tears throughout the day. Between the necessity to care for and comfort Erin, the need to wipe Patrick's nose and his desire to be held more than usual, I felt like I wasn't able to accomplish anything...

But, sometime mid-morning I realized that I was accomplishing something. God gave me extra opportunities today to love and nurture my children. What greater thing could I have hoped for? :)

Blossoming Musician

11.22.2008

Patrick

While I was making dinner this evening, Patrick was playing in the living room. I went into the dining room and discovered the following. :)



He definitely loves to explore and to learn... and to create new uses for old things. I love my little boy!

11.21.2008

I love Fridays!

But not for the reason you might think. Sure, its nice that the weekend is here, but as a homemaker, my work really never ends (a fact that I am thankful for!), so Friday, Monday, it's pretty much all the same to me.

Friday is the day that I often stay home with the kiddos. Sometimes we have a friend over for a play date, but sometimes - like today - we don't. This morning, I decided to make a yummy breakfast - something a bit more exciting than Cheerios. I made breakfast burritos. Yummmmm!

(L: Patrick's burrito. R: Mommy's burrito.)

I made them with eggs, black beans, cheddar cheese, and four cheese con queso.

Patrick waited patiently for his breakfast. :)

Patrick has this thing about stretching his feet out to rest them on the table while he eats. He does this almost without fail every time we eat. Patrick enjoyed his breakfast. :)
Then, it was Erin's turn to eat. She got pumpkin. While this may not look super appetizing to you, Erin seemed to enjoy it!She ate most of the pumpkin.

I'd say we had a great morning!

11.20.2008

I'm a professional model

This morning, I once again had the privilege of attending Mom 2 Mom. It's a beautiful 2.5 hours spent with the kids in the same building, but not under my immediate care and a time spent with other young moms. I am SO thankful for this.

One of the things I was reminded of today is that I am a model. No, I don't walk down the runway in odd, very expensive clothing in front of a bunch of cameras with the demeanor that I have nothing to be thankful for.

I do, however, walk about daily, for countless hours in front of my children. They absorb everything.

I've heard it said, "If mom isn't happy, no one is happy." This is so true.

I remember one day, a little over a year ago, I woke up in a grouchy mood. Of course, I had no good reason to be grouchy, but my sin nature was definitely evident in my demeanor, my attitude and in my actions. At the time, I only had Patrick to take care of. But, we had quite the morning.

I was grumpy. Patrick was grumpy.

I had violin lessons to teach that same afternoon, which meant that Mom kept Patrick at her house for his nap that day. I dropped him off and went back home to teach. I think once the lessons were done, I had some time to think and to pray that the Lord would correct my attitude. He did.

Shortly thereafter, I picked Patrick up and we had a fabulous afternoon.

My point is this: As parents, we train our children... we train them to love the Lord or to hate Him. We train them to respond selflessly with grace or to pitch a fit out of selfish anger. We train them to have compassion or to not care.

If you are a parent, you are a model. What are you teaching your kids?

11.19.2008

Cost cutting tips

Okay, so I've mentioned some cost cutting tips using home-made items before, but I've also found that some things must be bought and in order to actually keep costs down, sometimes you need to buy the more expensive items. Sometimes, you just need to use common sense to keep the costs down. Below, I've provided some very realistic ways to keep the costs down or to allow more "wiggle room" within budgets.

In the bathroom:

Toilet Paper: why oh why do some people think you have to use 15.75 squares (a.k.a. a fist full) of TP to wipe?!?!?! I am baffled by this. Sure, if you buy the one-ply kind, you might need a small fist full, but seriously... spend $3 on a pack that you go through in a week? This is wasteful.

Cost cutting tip: buy quality TP. We get the charmin strong in the jumbo rolls. There are something like 2,000 squares of TP in a 6 pack. You will probably pay around $7.50 for this. Now, you're probably thinking, "Why would you spend almost $8 on TP that you'll go through in no time?!" Ahh, here is the key... use 2 squares each time you go to the bathroom... you may need a square or two more if you poo, but after careful experimentation, we have determined 2 squares is more than adequate. That may not sound like much, but seriously, if you have quality, thick TP, why in the world do you need more?!? If you don't do this already, humor me and try it. Your bank account will probably thank you.

In the laundry room:

Laundry detergent:
I've already written a post about making your own laundry detergent. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most inexpensive way to go.

Cost cutting tip: If you're not into making your own laundry detergent, you can buy an inexpensive laundry soap like purex (this is what I use as a back-up to my homemaid detergent) and use 1/2 the amount it calls for per load. This allows your store-bought detergent to last twice as long!

Wash cycle: Why do we run our washers on the full wash/rinse cycle?! ALWAYS choose the shortest cycle unless you cloth diaper or have seriously soiled clothes!

Cost cutting tip: Run your washer on the "light" or "delicate" cycle. It generally takes less time and less water.

In the Kitchen:

Dirty Dishes:
I could go on about the ways we typically do dishes, but there's really no point. :-p

Cost cutting tip: If you do not have a dishwasher, soak your dishes first. Scrub them with a sponge or wash cloth in the same water you soaked them in (soaking generally doesn't take too long) and then rinse them. If you do have a dishwasher, set your dishwasher on the water saver option and then latch it so it will start. I usually click the washer until the first rince cycle has passed and then let it run. Even eliminating one rinse saves water!

Water saving tips:

Showers: Do you really need to shower daily? For some people the answer is "yes", but for most of us, the answer is "no". Sure, you might prefer to shower daily (is it just because you "feel dirty" or is it because you are dirty?), but again, this can be wasteful. If you don't need to, don't do it. Just remember this... in third world countries, daily showers are not a regular occurrence and they can maintain acceptable hygiene. Daily showers, in my mind, are mostly a waste of time and water.

In this same vein, when you do shower, you don't need full water pressure. Turn the hot water on first about 50% on and then turn on the cold water on about 20% or less. This should do the trick. When you need to adjust the temperature, try turning more of one temperature off rather than turning more of the other temperature on. Generally this works.

"But, I have thick hair," you might say, "I can't get the shampoo out if I don't turn it on all the way." I have thick hair, I've experimented and I can get all the shampoo out with about 50-60% water pressure. Honestly, once you've turned it on about 1/2 way, the pressure doesn't change much. Try it.

Edit: Just so you don't think I never shower, every other day or once every 3 days should suffice. :)

Brushing teeth: the tendency can be to leave the water running full force the entire time you're working on your teeth.

Cost cutting tip: turn the water on about 25% to wet your tooth brush, then turn it off. When you're ready to rinse, turn it on at the same pressure and then turn it off again. Repeat as necessary.

Using these water-saving tricks, I have actually managed to cut my water bill in 1/2.

I can't claim originality for most of these tips, but they have been helpful to me and I suspect if you're willing to try, they will benefit you as well.

11.18.2008

I'd rather be in bed...

It's 7:54 am, and its cold outside. Yet, I've fed a baby, changed a diaper, I've unloaded the dishwasher and I'd really much rather be in bed right now... This morning is one of those mornings where my kids were making it very obvious that they were ready to start the day well before I was. But, as kids (particularly the smaller ones) seem to have incredible volume when they aren't happy, I got up. At first, I was less than happy about it.

I bring this up, not to be complaining, but to remind you of two things.

First, as adults, parents, and children of God, we are called to a life of self-sacrifice. My husband surely didn't want to go outside this morning to scrape the snow off the cars before he went to work. (Yes, he scraped mine, too, so I wouldn't have to do it when I leave for CBS. He's great like that. :D ) Then, he went to work. This sounds less than ideal to me, but, he did so joyfully, knowing that his calling is to provide for me and the kiddos. Christ modeled what it meant to be self-sacrificial and He made the ultimate sacrifice, so the least I can do is crawl out of bed with a smile on my face when I don't want to, right? (I'm still working on this...)

Second, kids grow up way too fast. My mom has reminded me regularly that if it wasn't for the people in my house - Daniel, Patrick and Erin, I wouldn't have those socks to fold, or those bottles to wash or that diaper to change... While these things may seem a drudgery in the moment, they really are a blessing.

So, when its cold outside, you would much rather stay in bed where its warm and cozy, but your child is making it quite plain that the sun has risen and you're missing out on all the exciting things going on outside, remember, this is a season and it will pass quickly. Enjoy it.

11.17.2008

Poo

Of the great mysteries in life, this one perplexes me.

Why do children often poo just after you've changed their diapers?

Nasty task that changing a diaper is, it is still a joy and a blessing to be thankful for!

11.14.2008

I'll Shamelessly Admit...

My kids are cute. :)

I will give thanks to God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ~ Psalm 139:14


Play Date

I try to have regular play-dates for Patrick so he can have more one-on-one interactions with kids his own age. This morning, Charlie came over. They had a lovely time together.

It can be virtually impossible to actually capture their interactions, but sometimes the camera is fast enough to capture a cute moment.