Saying No and Going Slow

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Recently I have been battling with something called Adrenal Fatigue. I knew something was up. “Why do I need three cups of coffee to get through the day? Why do I need to take three naps? Why I am dragging through my day? Why do I have heart palpitations? Why do I have trouble sleeping at night? Why is my brain in a constant state of fogginess and forgetfulness? Why can’t I lose the extra weight I’ve gained in the last year?

The answer: STRESS

We were busy, busy, busy. Rushing from one event and activity to the next. And just not stopping, not breathing, ticking off the to-do list, getting it done, doing it all, saying yes every time and feeling guilty when we said no. That in combination with a ton of outside family drama happening, housing college guys for the year, being too busy to work on our marriage and just not being able to communicate with one another, and oh yes… homeschooling six children! It really took a toll on our emotions, mental faculties, and physical bodies, marriage, parenting…everything.

My husband and I sat down to plan out the fall. We were looking at doing the homeschool co-op again, would we do singing school? Choir? Parish? Should we house boarders? What sports would we do?

We looked at each other and I think my husband saw the look of despair fall over me. I was exhausted. “Lets have a year of NO,” he said. My shoulders instantly felt the weight fall off. “Yes!!!” I said.

Here’s what we said yes to:

We needed to work on our relationship with each other. We not only want to know one another when the kids move out, we want to be best friends. We’ve committed to a weekly date night.

We are trying to be healthier. For my husband, that means playing tennis. With working three jobs, the poor man needs an outlet. He feels amazingly better, he is energized, he is happy. We also said yes to our boys doing ONE sport. Honestly, it helps get the wiggles out.

We are committing to spending more time in God’s word. Quietly. Not just getting it in when we can. Read Luke 10:38-42. I’ve always been a Martha.

We are saying yes to being spontaneous with our children, and our friends. Last minute picnics, hikes, dessert nights. We know how we are feeling,how much energy we have and can plan accordingly.

I have committed to teaching the kids cooking skills and life skills, instead of being too busy to get them in the kitchen and cooking things quickly by myself in order to get dinner on before the next crazy activity.

We are learning to not feel guilty when we say no, and not to be apologetic about it. We are nurturing our family, working on relationships, developing our characters, learning to navigate the wild world of teenagers and little ones together, knitting our hearts together and seeing our children knit their hearts to God.

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Now, is there anything wrong with parish, choir, singing schools, co-ops, or any of those other things? Absolutely not. Those are wonderful activities that build you up, they grow, they teach. But there are seasons when it is all just too much. And as Mamas, we need to recognize when we need to take a step back.

Women (and especially mothers) are plagued by guilt in almost every facet of life, but especially when it comes to our children regarding activities and opportunities. We worry that we are going to somehow shortchange them. If they don’t all play several musical instruments, are good at sports, knowledgeable on all subjects, have the best parts in the local play, and have the highest SAT scores, then we feel as though we have failed. Honestly, kids don’t need all of that. You heard me right. It is more important that their hearts know that home is base, that Mom and Dad love them, that their relationships with God and with each other are the most important thing. Everything else either builds or depletes that. Either the activity is building everyone towards being happy, healthy and holy or it is grabbing our joy, our energy, and our ability to grow with God. Sometimes, it is the hardest thing in the world to say no. But it can also be the most rewarding.

A few of my children did fuss in the beginning when we told them we were cutting back. But they have voiced to me lately that they are happy they aren’t so stressed out like last year.  For one thing, I’m seeing them grow in their ability to retain educational information (there is only so much room), they have become readers (always had been a struggle before). My little ones are getting the time and snuggles and story time they need and my teenagers are getting the voice and the attention they needed. We’ve had time for really good conversations that before were too deep to delve into and back out of before we had to be somewhere at 4 o’clock.

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Where does this come into play for you? Well, this looks like a billion different ways for a billion different families. Only you and your husband know what your family needs. If your husband has been wanting to slow down and pare down the activities and you are worried you are going to disappoint someone who expects you to be the one to sign your kids up for their program/sport/activity. Or your mother-in-law is going to have a fit that your children aren’t doing X,Y, and Z. It’s time to listen to your husband, and trim the fat.

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What is Hygge? Hygge is enjoying the comfort of your home, enjoying your people and SIMPLIFYING. It’s saying No and going slow. It’s having conversations that need to be had, even though they are difficult to have because you now have the time to have it.(patching up a marriage and communicating is EVERYTHING! Learning that the two of you need to agree about politics, theology, how you view the world is ESSENTIAL!) It’s about loving on your people and having the energy to snuggle with them and love on them without falling asleep on the couch because you are completely drained. It’s becoming a relaxed individual who is a joy to be around. Being a smile to your husband, being a listening ear and an observing heart: something that is almost impossible to be when you are too busy, too tired, spent, depleted, and spread too thin.

This may mean you need to avoid the toxic people in your life. Time to take a stand, tell it like it is, and not continue to text or debate on Facebook. Let them go.

This may mean you need to pare down your home-schooling curriculum. Would this extra book be a help or hinder my children from being able to get all their school work finished?

Your spending habits: If I purchase this will it create more financial stress and is it going be something I regret later because I’m only trying to make myself feel better in the here and now.

How you treat your home: if I let the house go and don’t make it a clean sanctuary. Will this add to my mental stress?

Your eating habits: am I creating stress on my body by eating this and thinking it’s comfort food when it’s really junk food that damages. Will this third cup of coffee really help me or make me even more nervous and anxious?

Am I doing a certain thing because I’m trying to impress a certain group of people? How does God feel about this? Does it change the fact that I am His daughter, He loves me unconditionally and beautifully and perfectly? No, it doesn’t.

Rest. Be at Peace. Enjoy your people. Be still.

Love,

the Hygge Homemaker,

Mama J

Picking Plums and the beginning of Autumn

Autumn begins tomorrow, and I’m so happy that the plums are ready to be picked, ready to be baked or cooked or sauteed into some delightful concoction.

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Time to roll up our sleeves and pick, use and enjoy the fruit that God gave us. I’m grateful that we have so many plentiful kinds of fruit here on the Palouse. We found two laden trees just a walk from our home (and not in someone’s back yard)

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Here are some recipes that we enjoy that I find delicious. It’s time to light a scented candle (probably pumpkin spice: I’m such a sucker for that stuff!) Time to cozy up next to the fire with a good book (and a slice of galette). Time to nestle into the cold, and enjoy the coming display of Fall leaves that God sends our way.

Abigail’s Plum Galette

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For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 stick of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cream for egg wash (optional)
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)

For the Filling:

  • 6-8 tart plums, pitted and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of flour for thickening

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter to the dough and use your (clean) hands or a pastry blender to work the butter into the dough until the mixture resembled crumbs, with pieces of butter no bigger than a pea.

Add the sour cream to the mixture and mix in with a fork. Gather the dough into a ball with your hands and flatten into a disk shape. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour (it will need chilling to firm up) before rolling out.

Gently toss plum slices with sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice,and flour in a medium sized bowl

Preheat oven to 375°F

Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator to let stand for 5 minutes before rolling out. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, or lightly butter a baking sheet. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the pie dough to a 13-inch round of even thickness.

Place rolled-out pie dough in the center of the lined or buttered baking sheet. Arrange the plum slices in a circular pattern, starting from 1 1/2 to 2 inches from the outside edge of the dough, working your way into the center. Fold the edges of the pie crust up and over so that circle of the filling is visible.

Whisk together the egg and cream in a small bowl. Brush on the exposed pastry crust with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with some coarse sugar.

Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a rack for an hour before serving.

 

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Plum Bars

CRUST:
  • ¾ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 1¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1¼ cup rolled oats
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
FILLING:
  • 2 cups diced plums
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 T. butter, melted and cooled
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup juice, 1 T. zest)
 For the crust, combine all ingredients, stirring until crumbly. Reserve about 1½ cups of crust, and spread remaining crust on the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until brown. For filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl, tossing until well coated. Spread filling over baked crust, then crumble reserved crust over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until brown. Let cool completely, cut into 24 bars.

 

Plum Salsa

  • ripe plums, pitted and diced
  • small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro
  • tablespoons chopped red onion
  • tablespoon lime juice
  • teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Toss all the ingredients together. Let chill in fridge for an hour. Serve with Chips or over Chicken or Pork Carnitas.

 

May this coming Autumn bring all sorts of delights! Or as my mom always says “Happy Fall Y’all!!”

**(all photos taken by my daughter Abigail and used with her permission)**

Learning to Smile

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I am passionate about a myriad of different subjects. This topic is no exception. I’m talking about the art of “learning to smile” and how important it is to teach this to our children. More than ever before, our society is longing and hungering for human interaction in a loving way. We are crying out for acceptance, for approval, for affirmation. We are battered and bruised and full of the wrong kind of pride and rather than adding beauty to life, we fight still more and more and the endless cycle of hatred and bigotry continues. We are full of the satisfaction in knowing we are right, and everyone else is wrong and we are smug. No matter what creed, or philosophy, no matter what political view you may possess, we easily forget:

that every human is lonely

that every human is hurting

most humans have financial, or emotional, or physical difficulties

that every human is fallible

that most humans live with some kind of regret and are plagued by guilt

that humans want to be seen by more than just their outer shell

most human beings think negatively about themselves, they feel ugly, or they feel stupid, or they feel inadequate

So why smile? Why be gracious to a random stranger? Because you too are a human being, and you need to be the difference, you need to shine the light when absolutely no one else will. When you teach this valuable tool to your children, they are little bits of light in the dark, dark world. We just saw the eclipse on Monday. It was gorgeous, it was breathtaking, it was humbling. But what did we learn? That even though the darkness can completely surround the light, the light still shines through and it overcomes the darkness.

I see too often today, parents coddling their children by letting them hide behind them. They say something like “Say hi Billy!” and the child says “no!” or shakes his head or runs away. The parent lets the issue go.  It may be a seemingly small thing, but what the child is being taught is

  • It’s perfectly fine to be selfish and self absorbed, no one else matters, their feelings don’t count
  • You don’t have to go outside of your comfort zones or do hard things, and learn valuable social skills
  • That it is okay to be rude

Teach your children well

We must teach our children to smile, look someone in the eyes, shake their hand and say “It’s nice to meet you.” Or “thank you so much” Or “The dinner was delicious”. Teach them to smile to perfect strangers, to pick up something for someone when they drop it with a smile and a “here you go”. Teach them to hold doors open for people, to grab something that someone in a shopping motorized wheelchair can’t reach. Teach them to smile at the cashier and ask how their day is.Teach them to be patient with slow drivers or slow walkers (my own personal struggle, I’ll admit) Teach them to say hello to someone walking their dogs as they walk by your house. Teach them to give little gifts that say “I was thinking of you”, or “thank you for all you do”. Teach them to wave. Tell them how important it is to brighten people’s day with a smile.

(Now what I’m not saying is: force them to be affectionate. Never should they be forced to hug or be affectionate with a random stranger or even someone they feel uncomfortable with.)

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It starts with you

Put your phone down and look at people when they are speaking to you. Put your phone down even if you are in a dentist’s office and everyone else is staring at their phone. Put your phone down when you are at the park and encourage another mom by letting her know that you know all too well about her exhaustion and to hang in there! Put your phone down and say hi to an elderly man in the grocery store who probably hasn’t spoken to another living soul in over a week. Put your phone down when you are taking public transportation and speak to the woman who has just come here from another homeland and is scared to death, she is overwhelmed by a new country. Invite her and her family over for dinner and make a new friendship. Put your phone down when your grandmother is telling you the same story you’ve heard so many times and treasure these fleeting moments.

Hug people who are mourning and cry with them. Pray with them right then and there when they tell you of their hardships. Drop flowers or special surprises on people’s doorsteps “just because”. Greet your own children with a smile and give them your attention so that they can return the favor. Listen to their silly little stories that may feel like they are of no consequence. Listen to your spouse and concentrate on their words, their passions and when they’re telling you about their day.Celebrate your family’s victories and be a shoulder that they can cry on. Teach them what it means to nurture by being a nurturing person. It doesn’t matter what some test on the internet told you about your personality, it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or shy, you are still a human being and that should never be an excuse.

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And sure, it starts off small, by shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eyes and smiling, but you’ve taught your child what it is to have compassion, to have empathy, to treasure human life and genuinely love people.

Love

Just another caring mother,

Mama J

 

 

 

The Clean Routine: Part 1

Now that the school year is back upon us, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get down to the nitty gritty. I am busily homeschooling my kiddos, but I thought I’d jump on here quickly to give you two helpful hacks when cleaning.

The best scrubbing recipe you’ll ever use:

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Heat up 1/2 cup of vinegar in the microwave for 45 seconds. Put 1 1/2 cups of baking soda in a bowl along with 1/8 cup dish soap (dawn is great, but Palmolive works well too).

Slowly incorporate the hot vinegar to the baking soda and dish soap. And stir like crazy. I go slowly with this and add little bit by little bit, stirring often. It will turn into a magical goodness that only the unicorns speak of.

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This recipe is enough to do both my bathrooms. I lather it all over the bathtubs and inside the sinks. Let it stay on there for about an hour if you can. Any hard water, any goo, any disgusting bathroom junk you can think of scrubs right off. It’s inexpensive to make and your kids can use it. It WILL change your life!

The second hot tip: laundry sorting.IMG-3826

This is how I sort my laundry and why:

I sort them according to their material. That’s right! This tactile Mama gets my hands on everything, if it feels like permanent press (dress shirts, church clothes, etc) it goes into one pile. T-shirts get their own pile. Jeans and other tougher/thicker fabrics get their own pile. Sweatshirts, sweatpants, sweaters and socks get their own pile.

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Why do I do this? Because the soap is evenly distributed among the clothing. The socks aren’t absorbing all of the soap and they aren’t hogging it all for themselves from the t-shirts who’s armpit areas severely need it! Also: things dry evenly. There’s nothing worse than folding clothes and finding that the jeans are still damp while the other articles of clothing are hot to the touch. You have even washing and even drying. I promise it will save you time in the long run, it will save you money from needing to turn the dryer back on 2 more times, and it will preserve your clothing and make them last longer. I promise!

That’s all the life altering wisdom I can give you for now. Hope your day is productive and joyful, hope your clothes stay clean and your bathroom is shiny for as long as possible (who am I kidding?)

Love,

Mama J, the Hygge Homemaker

Frugal Mama Fridays: What Frugal Mamas Do!

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Let’s talk about the ways in which Frugal Mamas pinch their pennies and save money. They add financial peace and financial joy, knowing that the coming days are taken care of, food is at the ready, the bills are getting paid, and there is wiggle-room in the budget to enjoy themselves and not letting anxiety over financial matters creep into their family’s life.

They budget

This seems like a no-brainer, but it starts here. If you’re not budgeting every month for every dollar, life is one big roller coaster ride of anxiety. You know that the mortgage or rent is paid, there is money for food, the lights will stay on, etc. This is where words like Prudence come into mind. Yes, it means saying no to some things. But if you have budgeted money for clothing, then you can say yes to school shopping and panic-ville won’t ensue.

I keep a simple sheet of paper each month that I like to write things down and keep a visual reminder. Some people like computer programs or apps, but I’m an old fashioned girl who likes things written down. It looks something like this…

Income _____________________

Tithe ______________________

Mortgage _____________________

Debt or Savings _____________________

Groceries/ Non food items ______________________

Gas for Car ____________________

Utilities _____________________

Insurance ________________________

Phone and Internet bill _________________________

 

You get the idea. Sometimes you need to work the numbers around a bit to make sure things add up correctly. Sometimes in order to save up for School Supplies, you need to put more beans and rice in the meal planning, but this is wise and yes, Prudent!

They Meal Plan

Never is it a good idea to leave dinner time planning to 5pm, an hour before your husband is coming home for dinner. Plan out the weeks menu. I love to do this on Sunday nights, I see what’s in my pantry, or my freezer. I know what the busy nights are and when I need to schedule freezer meals. I see when company is coming over and I need to double a recipe, etc.

Shop from your pantry first! Use up what you have!

Make freezer meals for difficult evenings or when you are feeling exhausted. Don’t be tempted to eat out!

Use up ALL of something. Use a spatula to get out the last of the peanut butter in the jar. Add water to the BBQ sauce bottle to get out that last bit. It feels like pennies, but it turns into dollars after a month or two.

They make their lunch the night before using leftovers.

They make things from scratch (which is healthier).

Buy generic!

Buy in bulk!

Have a few vegetarian meals you make in the week.

Make your own coffee and stop frequenting the cafes and drive thrus.

They don’t waste what’s growing. They pick the fruit from their trees and use it! They find where the berries are growing and pick them.

 

They watch their power usage

When I first read that turning off your appliances and unplugging things at night would save you money, I thought it was a bit ridiculous. Until I starting saving $25-$50 a month! Do a walk through of your house in the evening before bed. Turn off lights, turn off the power switch to things like T.V’s and DVD players, etc. Plugs can suck energy just by being plugged in. Also, we converted all our lightbulbs to energy efficient ones. This will save you incredible amounts of money!

They embrace the Winter

We keep our thermostat at 61 in the winter and we wear sweaters and socks. We keep our gas fireplace running, but we keep our heater running low. I drink hot tea, and we snuggle with blankets. Not only is this the ultimate “hygge” experience, but it is also a frugal and a thrifty one.

They learn to fix things themselves and they keep things maintained.

YouTube is my best friend. I’ve learned how to gut a fish, how to install a new toilet seat, I’ve watched cleaning tutorials, my husband has done our brake pads and oil changes for the car. It is such a valuable resource! Use the internet for good and become educated!

Keep things oiled, lubed, protected, cleaned, stored correctly, sew buttons back on, hem pants yourself, fix holes in clothes, use OxiClean for stains. It’s about being a good steward with the things God has given you!

They are responsible

They don’t leave out tools in the rain to rust, they bring outside items (trampolines, patio furniture) into the garage in the winter to make them last. They don’t get speeding tickets. They use reminders so that they don’t miss bill payments or doctors appointments. They avoid tickets, and fees at all costs.

They don’t use a gym

Once again, Youtube!! With enough determination and a good workout video along with some free weights, you can skip the gym and save yourself hundreds of dollars by working out at home. You won’t have to worry about daycare for your children because they get to see Mommy working out and being healthy and they get to join you. These are the little areas in which we teach our children valuable character qualities: determination, courage, control, perseverance.

They find free Entertainment

They don’t have cable, but instead they watch things that are free online or they find out what free events are in their local community, they go hiking, or enjoy picnics. They learn how to enjoy themselves without the need to spend money.

They shop around first

Frugal Mamas exhaust every option looking for the best price before they purchase something. They don’t buy things on impulse, but they find the best deal first. They consult their husbands first to make sure that this is the best use of their money.

Their clothing is bought second hand or on a super sale

Sometimes Gymboree has clothing sales that end up just as cheap as the thrift store. Sometimes Garage Sales will let you fill a bag for a dollar. Be wise, be willing to have self control. Look for good quality items, test zippers, look for bare spots in the knees, be discerning about stains, frays or holes. Take your time and be willing to have a price cap for all articles of clothing.

Also, your child doesn’t need 10 dresses. Pair down. Create capsule wardrobes for you and your family. Select items that you can use over and over again in different ways and limit the items in everyone’s wardrobes.

They plan for Christmas and Birthdays all year round

Frugality means not buying things at the last moment, but finding good deals and savings as often as you can. I keep a Christmas bin in the closet and when I find good deals, I add them to the box. Look for book sales, toy sales, get sweaters on clearance in February and save them for next Christmas!

I also use my Ibotta app (use my referral code: egbhwcm) whenever I grocery shop. They give me money back in the form of gift cards. I use those gift cards for Christmas or Birthday gifts. Win-win!

They also learn how to DIY gifts. I’ve made soap, candles, spice mixes, cookie mixes, knitted washcloths, made body scrubs and lavender bath salts, I’ve hand painted flour sack towels, embroidered baby bibs, one year I hand painted and embroidered purses for everyone, made felted bible covers, sewn baby blankets. The list is endless and not that hard to pull off. It is meaningful when you make something yourself!

 

What are some ways that you are Frugal? I’d love to hear!

Love,

Frugal Mama Julia

 

 

Frugal Mama Fridays: date night!

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Hi there Frugal Mamas!! Today’s topic is a good one! One of my favorites actually!

Marriage!

I spent years and years not knowing the importance of a weekly date night. I would roll my eyes when I heard people talk about how vital and amazing it was. In my head I thought “who can afford that?” and I had this image in my head of how a date night was supposed to go down. A fancy dinner, something fun and exciting to do, we both get dressed up, and it has to be magical and perfect. If things didn’t go according to plan, I was upset. And worse yet, I didn’t budget monthly for dates. It wasn’t a priority because in my head, it was all or nothing and if we couldn’t afford the most amazing date ever, then why try? Well, after almost 15 years of marriage I have learned A LOT! I’ve learned to take what I can get and enjoy and make the most of our time together: no matter what that entails.

I now put a line item in my budget for our dates. To me, it is worth saving a tiny bit less per month and investing in our marriage, then be debt free or have a bigger savings account faster and be strangers in our home. Date nights give us a way to reconnect, we throw out expectations, we unwind and breath a little without a thousand interruptions, we laugh with each other, we remember how we are best friends, we talk and dream, we make goals, we talk out the tough stuff. We become closer to being one. 

Choose a night and try to stick to it! Sure, there will be events that fall on that particular night and sometimes you have to work around those, but try to be vigilant in sticking to that particular night. For us, it’s Saturday nights. Put your phones on silent or better yet, turn it off. And connect with the man, whom you said “I do” to!

Date nights can mean a lot of things, but one thing it does not have to mean, is spending an exorbitant amount of money. Last week, we went to our local Arboretum and sat in the cool of the evening, I opened a bottle of wine and for reals, we ate goldfish crackers. I’m sure some wine connoisseur somewhere would have had a heart attack, but it was lovely to laugh and talk and hide wine and yes, eat goldfish crackers.

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Use your creativity and imagination. It can be totally free or very inexpensive.

Here’s a list of some fun ones to try!

  • bicycle ride and picnic
  • make your bedroom into a restaurant: clean it up, make it pretty, find room to put a small table with a white tablecloth. Make it a theme (Parisian, Greek, Italian,etc) Light candles everywhere, play music (Pandora, or Youtube) that goes with your theme and cook food that fits the occasion.(You can buy crab legs for a fraction of the cost at what it costs in a restaurant…. just sayin’)
  • game night: play chess, have individual pints of ice cream, or a mug of tea, or a bowl of his favorite candy.
  • Movie night: make popcorn, cozy in and share a blanket
  • Campfire and smores: make a fire in the firepit, make grownup smores (we add bacon and sea salt dark chocolate!)
  • Blow up a kiddie pool, fill with blankets and pillows, spray yourselves with bug spray, look up at the stars and talk about your dreams.
  • play sports: what does he like to play? My husband plays tennis, I’m terrible, he’s fantastic, but he’s patient enough to play with me anyway, and we have a blast. The other day we were driving somewhere and we saw a couple walking back from playing basketball with each other. She was pregnant, they were adorable, we both said “that’s so cute!!”
  • Sunset or Sunrise walks
  • have a book club and read books together
  • Have a music tasting night where you introduce one another to new music and listen intently.

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Date nights with other couples

  • Couples Karaoke! Youtube has hundreds of options, and there is nothing more fun the belting out a tune from the 80’s.
  • Host a chocolate and wine tasting: hide the labels, rate them from 1-10, have other couples each bring a bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine.
  • pub night: get some local craft brew and play darts, pool, ping pong tournament!
  • Fancy dinner party: dress up, make cocktails, choose a theme for the night and have everyone bring something tasty! Chocolate mousse, fine cheese, french bread, bacon wrapped dates, nice olives, walnuts, etc.
  • Movie night: popcorn, red vines, old fashioned soda and a thought provoking movie you can all discuss afterwards. Or watch a murder mystery and guess “who done it!”

There are lots of things that you can do with one another on a weekly basis that involve spending very little money, but investing ten-fold in something worth keeping, worth preserving, and growing. Your marriage needs to be watered weekly!

What are some date nights you love to do? I’d love to hear more fun ideas!

 

Motherhood, Manners, and Sick Children

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It is with great fear and trepidation that I blog on this topic. I carefully tread into the stormy waters of this theme. But I think it’s an important one. First off: I am not trying to hurt feelings or shame anyone. This is merely an “eye opener” for all of us. It is something that I hope will stop and make us think, and act with wisdom. I’m also writing this post in August, when everyone is fairly healthy so that no one thinks I am talking about them in particular. I am not finger pointing. This blog post is NOT one where I air my opinions on topics such as my feelings on medicine, essential oils or herbs, etc. If blog comments get nasty, they will simply be deleted. (Rolls head back and forth, cracks knuckles, breaths deeply… here we go!)

I want to address an issue of manners in regards to our sick children. Many people seem unconcerned with the idea of taking their children out in public when they are sick. They make excuses for it, they have too many commitments, too little time, and well… Johnny is just going to have to tag along if he’s going to make it in this family. Children are dragged hither and yon to the store, to church, to friend’s houses, to sporting events, etc. All because we committed to something and we can’t cancel and stay home. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we all have much to learn.

Dangerous

The first reason that this is a dangerous and a selfish thing to do, is that we are presuming that it’s no big deal if we get someone else sick. This is thoughtless and this is rude.

People in public are as follows:

  • newborn babies
  • the elderly
  • people who have low immune systems due to cancer, Auto immune diseases and Rheumatoid Arthritis, AIDS, or other diseases.
  • Families who have been ill a number of times and who are trying to get healthy again
  • Men and women who work extremely hard and who cannot afford to get sick and take time off from work
  • People who are about to go on a special outing or vacation where sickness would ruin their trip
  • School children with learning disabilities who are already behind on the work

These are the people in public that we risk getting sick. It is even harmful for them in some cases to catch our child’s illness and it’s easily prevented if we just stay at home with our germs.

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The second reason it is dangerous: we are teaching our children that Mommy’s plans, and the need to get out of the house, the desire to go to an event or to serve in a particular way at the church, is more important than our children’s health and best interest. When our little ones have teary eyes, and snotty noses and coughs and they are fussy because of it, that is the time when they need to be AT HOME. They need to be in a rocking chair, with a blanket, being snuggled by Mama. She needs to rub their backs, sing them a little tune, make them tea, their noses wiped,put cool washcloths on their heads, take their temperature, and keep a close eye on them. They need to know that THEY GET FIRST PRIORITY.

Actually, my favorite memories I have with my children, and our most bonding moments are during these times when we read books, and snuggle up and just HEAL. My favorites include reading Brambly Hedge at 2am in the bathroom while the shower steamed the bathroom and my little one sat on my lap and was able to breath properly again. The time my son was crying because the stomach flu was so bad and his little hand grabbed my shoulder and he said “I love you so much Mommy, never go away.” These are the memories we make, the love we grow, the life-altering events they will remember as adults.

The List

If your children have any of these symptoms, keep them home.

  • If they have a fever and for 24 hours after it breaks
  • If they are vomiting and for 24 hours after they stop
  • If they have diarrhea
  • If they have lice
  • If they cough so hard that they throw up
  • If they have pink eye and 24 hours after drops
  • If they have runny noses, watery eyes, sore throat and cough.
  • If they are suffering from asthma (especially if they need to stay near a nebulizer)
  • If they are dizzy and nauseous

 

For the sake of the babysitter

I will also mention babysitters here. If your child is sick, please don’t keep scheduled plans and invite the babysitter to come over. There is nothing worse as a babysitter than being “surprised” with the fun fact that everyone has pink eye and you get to be next in line. And give a “full disclosure” when you do hire a babysitter and ask them if they mind. Some do, some don’t. But information is always nice.

 

Tough on the Mamas

I know that this job and this duty of caring for our little ones is no small task. I remember a Winter in particular that I missed 5 weeks of church. It just seemed like every time we started to get better, we caught something else and were back down. It was lonely and discouraging and exhausting. It’s embarrassing having to cancel dinner at someone’s house. It’s tiresome to go grocery shopping at 10pm because that’s the only time you could get out by yourself. You feel you aren’t fulfilling your noble purpose and calling if you don’t head up some particular event. You are just at home, in your yoga pants, dried snot on your shoulder.

But that is the farthest thing from the truth. You are nobility in the making. You are an adventurer roughing it and gaining glory. That fifth load of laundry from the great stomach virus of 17′ is turning you into gold. This is a short season in the grand scheme of things, but one that is producing so much fruit. You are producing so much love. You are teaching the next generation how to nurture, how to be selfless, and humble. You are teaching your children that there is something really human, yet really grand when you are on your knees cleaning up vomit. You are teaching your children that they are the most beloved children anywhere ever, by not letting their noses become crusted full of snot.

You are teaching your children manners,

especially how to love humans everywhere.

 

 

*artwork by Pino Daeni

Mom Meals: for when Dad works late

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Your sweet, hard working husband texts you or calls you to say “hey honey, looks like I’ll be working late tonight. Sorry!”

Your first instinct is panic-ville. But it’s already been a rough day with the kids, but Suzy only took a 20 minute nap today, but Billy has been cutting a tooth and his crying makes your ears turn into goo. Of all the nights to be flying solo, this is NOT the night! But then you remember (light bulb!) You knew this night was coming and you prepped for it.  You have your arsenal of meal ideas ready to go, you make a plan to get through the evening and you pull it off brilliantly! Well, maybe not always brilliantly, but you survived without crying in the bathroom right?

Step 1:

Take the kids to the park for awhile and burn off their extra steam, or take them to the library to pick out a movie for tonight. This movie is the crux of the evening. Just get to movie time.

Step 2:

Pull out a Mom meal that is memorable, free of veggies and easy to eat. You heard me right. Don’t feel the need to cram the most healthy of healthy meals into their mouths, just make it free from crying and complaints. Make it yummy. Pick the veggie meals when Daddy is home and can help with the aid and guiding of said veggie-eater-in-training.  Here are some meals that you can keep in your pantry and freezer for nights such as these…

  • Beans on toast: keep a few cans of cowboy beans in the pantry. Keep a loaf of bread in the freezer, also wrap a few pieces of bacon and place in the freezer. Toast the bread, serve the beans over it and sprinkle cooked bacon.
  • Cornbread waffles with chili and cheese: You can make the cornbread waffles in advance and freeze them. Pull out some cans of chili or a frozen bag of chili from the freezer, shred the cheese and you’re golden. Here is the recipe. (and you don’t have to make it spicy!)
  • Waffle and chicken sandwiches. Make your standard waffles and freeze them. Buy breaded chicken patties. Cook up a piece or two of bacon and add it to some mayo along with 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup. Spread Mayo on waffles and make sandwiches with the chicken patties. Make one for Daddy when he gets home or he’ll be bummed he missed out on these.
  • Garlic bread pizza boats: store a few garlic bread loaves in the freezer. You can also freeze mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. Keep the sauce in the pantry.  Let the kids help you make these.
  • Classic tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches: Keep the cans of tomato soup in the pantry. Keep the cheese and bread in the freezer. Always a favorite!
  • Baked mac-n-cheese! You can bake these in advance and freeze them in aluminum disposable containers.

Pull out a few pots and pans, some spoons, and plastic measuring spoons for the kids to play on the kitchen floor while you are prepping the meal… There! You didn’t need to go through the drive-thru. You fed your kids with something you made and now their tummies are happy, your wallet is happy, and you’re almost there.

Step 3:

Give them a fun bath. Float toys you wouldn’t normally put in there. Put in lots of bubbles. Put fun children’s music on your phone in the bathroom and let them have a blast. Laugh,  and sing along and make it fun! Grab some books and while they are in there, turn down the music,  and read a few books to them. Calm them down. Put their towels in the dryer to heat up, so that when they get out, they are comforted and cozy.

Step 4:

Put on that much promised movie. Snuggle under the blanket. Chances are that they will fall asleep and can be carried to bed. If not, they can enjoy the movie and get tucked in afterwards.

Step 5:

Congratulations! You made it through the evening without a hitch. Celebrate with a glass of wine and a square of chocolate. Give yourself a mud mask and paint your toenails. Your husband will come home to a woman who isn’t frazzled and anxious, she is calm and composed. Truly the best gift you can give your husband.

Frugal Mama Friday: Spending Freeze

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What is a Spending Freeze and why it’s good for your budget:

Every once in awhile, our family does a Spending Freeze. January or February is a good month to do it, and August and September are also smart months to have one. Usually things are slowed down enough that the big month purchases and spending(March, April, May, June, July, October, November, December)have already happened.

A spending Freeze is when you only spend money on Mortgage/Rent, utilities and bills, gas for your car and food (grocery, not going out to eat). And you refrain from all other forms of spending. You take a break from shopping for clothes/home decor, etc, going out to eat or having coffee, you eat simply (freezer meals!!!) and you limit activities to those that are free.

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You would be so surprised at the amount of money left over!

So what next?

Dump all that leftover money (or if you are paycheck to paycheck, whatever is left) onto your Debt or stick it into savings!

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You will find it so helpful to learn how to track your spending habits and develop better ones, how to budget and stick to it, and you get to see the magic of debt disappear quickly or savings add up quickly. Yes, it’s not easy. It’s a teaching time for everyone involved. My child doesn’t deserve a cookie whenever we go out. I don’t deserve to go online shopping for another cute dress or shoes.

We’re learning to be grateful for the fact that God DOES meet our needs and in abundance. And by having a spending freeze, it grounds us back to needs versus wants. it helps us in our gratitude, but also in our responsibility and self control.

Practicality

Here are some tips for helping your “no-spend” month go smoothly:

  • Before you go shopping for food, shop from your pantry, fridge and freezer. Get creative! Google the ingredients you have and see what comes up.
  • Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan! On Sunday night, plan out the weeks meals. Be organized about it.  This deters the panic on Wednesday night, the laziness of not wanting to cook and the guilt after the unplanned trip to Burger King.
  • Make weekly date nights at home! (this will also be a future post!)
    • Popcorn, red vines and an old movie (maybe even one you both loved from high school)
    • Grown up campfire, star gazing and s’mores! (we like to get gourmet and add sea salt dark chocolate and a slab of bacon. Don’t judge me)
    • Sunset walk (pick flowers, take photos, and talk)
    • Read a book together. Be your own book club.
    • take turns introducing each other to new music you like.
    • And when it doubt, binge watch a comedy and drink wine and be merry with the spouse of your youth!
  • Take advantage of freebies! Our local library has an upcoming Harry Potter birthday party that my kids are freaking out about. It’s free! We go to a community pool that is donation only when we want to go swimming. Look for concerts in the park, or free art festivals, sometimes museums have free days, (I miss Phoenix and their children’s museum so much!!!) Sometimes restaurants have tastings, Safety fairs give out helmets. Do your research! Facebook is loaded with local events and information.
  • Be honest when you say no. When all the girls want to meet up for a girls night out at your favorite restaurant, be honest with them. There is no shame in saving money, but you may be able to host something at your house with a few goodies instead. When your son begs you for a Lego set from Walmart, you can explain to him that he has dozens of Lego sets at home he can come up with alternative sets. (adding to that: you can find just about any Lego instruction online and chances are, your son already has the pieces for it!)
  • Get creative! Go on walks, ride bikes, paint with watercolors, press flowers into books, read stories by candle light (save on Electricity!), be together and be present. No amount of money can replace that. Do something priceless and enjoy one another!

 

Our family is doing a Spending Freeze for August. Hope this encourages you to do one with your family!

Love,

the Hygge Homemaker

Julia

Making your Home a Sanctuary

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HOME.

What does this word mean to you? How does your home feel? Is it warm and inviting and is it a place of comfort? A shelter? A safe harbor from the storms of life? Does where you live feel like home base, where you can relax and kick up your feet and sigh. You know: that sigh. The sigh that says I am with my people in the place I prefer more than any other.

For many of us, the answer is no. Home is crazy and chaotic, there are always piles of dishes in the sink, laundry to be done, messy bedrooms, and piles of shoes, coats, toys,etc. You feel that tension rise up in your chest as you look around and panic. Where do I start? Many of you have been told to just get out and go somewhere, but that is not the solution. It’s not even an answer, it is simply a distraction, an excuse. Proverbs 7:11 gives us a picture of the loud and rebellious woman who’s feet do not stay at home.

We want to be “home-centered”. When we try to escape the place we dwell, we come up short and it simply becomes a place we stuff our stuff. Nothing more. But what if I told you that you could create a place where memories are made. A beautiful place bringing coziness and comfort to your family, friends, guests and even…you?

Making Home feel like a Refuge

Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first? Bad news first? I thought so. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and tackle the mess. Create a schedule (which will be in a future blog post!) that helps you day by day cut down on the mess and the grime and make a habit of becoming a keeper of a clean home. Start practicing “cleaning as you go.” Teach your children how to clean up after themselves. Get them involved with you when you clean. Give them chores and have them help you. It’s good practice for them.

Why?

Mama J is going to be blunt. Because living in a dirty, messy home isn’t good for your mental or physical health and it’s certainly not a good example for your children. I’ll leave it at that.

Practice Minimalism

You don’t need 10 sweatshirts, you don’t need 3 bundt cake pans, you don’t need fifty mismatched plates or 20 mugs. Pare down. Sell what you can, some things you need to throw in the trash, donate the rest.  If your stuff is surrounding you and adding to the chaos…. let it go, set it free, move on. And with it, the anxiety will depart as well.

Organize the items you do have

It really doesn’t take that long and after a trip to the dollar store, it might even be fun. But get your stuff organized so that it’s easy to find. You waste less time, less energy, less money, and you won’t find yourself easily getting stressed out and saying “maybe it’s in here… where is that thing!!!”

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Light a candle, everything is alright

Honestly, it doesn’t cost a lot of money to make your home a sanctuary. Light a few candles that smell good, put tea lights in mason jars or tea cups. Replace bright light bulbs for those that are yellow and low wattage for a softer and less intrusive glow. Place a small lamp on a table in a corner, with a book, and a vase full of flowers. In the winter, drape cozy blankets over couches, create pillows out of old sweaters. In the summer, add fun bright pillows that bring cheer. These small touches add a magical quality to your home and brings so much delight to little ones, and brings much calm to mommy and daddy.

That womanly touch

Edith Shaeffer’s book “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” was revolutionary for my mother, who made homemaking an art form. It changed my life too. I adore the sketches as well as her writing style and if you haven’t read the book, PLEASE, I beg you, get your hands on a copy!!! It will transform the way you view your home. She gives so many good ideas on adding touches of beauty to your home.

-beautiful shells laid out on a table or collected in a vase

-an elegant piece of driftwood

-small vases of flowers

-a grouping of wheat, put together with ribbon

-a bowl full of smooth rocks

-a basket of apples in the Fall

-a grouping of tiny succulents in small pots

*my favorite! Rubber plants. They are hard to kill, they give off good oxygen and filter the air and they soften a room!

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a home beautiful and restful. You just need a bit of creativity and a desire to serve those around you.

 

Mood Music

This one is a biggie! Now, I’m all for dancing around the kitchen to Laura Mvula while flipping pancakes. But there is also a time and a place for quite music, which creates a calm and quiet home. When the kids are cranky, and mama is irritable, I like to put on Vivaldi, Eric Satie, Beck’s “morning phase” album…

Or when Mama is about to bring out Thor’s hammer and let it drop, instead I pull out the big guns… Enya. Yeah, it’s old school, but it does the trick every. single. time.

CALM.

Everyone is in a better mood and they’ve nestled up with a good book or drawing their next masterpiece.

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Surround yourself with Scripture

I’ve saved the best for last: give it to God. Keep on praying for your heart to be right and joyful. Surround yourself with scripture. Trust God that He will make your home a sanctuary, where you commune and fellowship with God and with the people He gave you. That the Prince of Peace will make a home of peace.

How do you make your home a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe harbor? Please let me know in the comments.

I’m here for you.

the Hygge Homemaker,

Julia