Category Archives: Uncategorized

In Defense of Valentine’s Day

Like it or lump it, Valentine’s Day is coming this weekend. That commercialistic, sappy holiday sponsored by Hallmark. It also happens to be my birthday, so clearly this is my favorite holiday and I think it’s worthy of celebration. It doesn’t have to be a commercial mess like a certain December holiday, and it doesn’t have to be solely about romantic love. Let’s take a look at where it all began.

The history of Valentine’s Day is murky and muddled, but it’s clear that it started in Rome as a fertility festival called Lupercalia. It was celebrated as most Romans festivals were with nakedness, drunkeness, and sex. Oh, also the women were whipped by men with the hides of newly slain animals, all in the name of fertility, of course.

Later, St. Valentine was added in to the festival. The church was not, and is not, sure which man named Valentine this saint was named after, apparently there were several that were martyred for their faith in some fashion or other.

St. Valentine was made part of the celebration in an attempt to Christianize the holiday. Pope Gelasius the First did this in order to “put the clothes back on” the festival even though it remained a drunken party. By the way, that is the funniest description of how Christians took something over, isn’t it? Can we please describe all Christian cultural things that way? GodTube is like YouTube but with clothes on. Creation Fest is like Woodstock but with clothes on. (Yeah, those are things.) Terrible Christian movies are like the ones from Hollywood but with clothes on. I could do this all day.

Anyway, by Shakespeare’s time, Valentine’s Day was becoming more about romantic love and continued to do so until Hallmark got ahold of it in 1913. And here we are today. My point in all this is not that we go back to the origins and bring back fertility beatings, but that the holiday really has no set agenda to it, outside of Hallmark’s bottom line. Which means, at least in my figuring, that you can do whatever you want with this day.

wp-1455304679672.jpegIn our house we use Valentine’s Day, and really the whole month, as an opportunity to tell our loved ones they are special to us. Our boys have been making cards for weeks, mailing them, delivering them door to door, and passing out chocolates. We tell them that sometimes we have special sweethearts on Valentine’s Day, and sometimes we don’t, but that’s not really the point. The point is that there are always people in our life who we can show love to, because God’s love never stops for us.

Every Valentine’s Day I make a card for Tim (take that, Hallmark!). It’s usually silly, I’ve usually stolen the idea from someone on the internet, but it’s fun, and it’s us. Here’s last year’s card. And honestly, I love the idea of giving something, anything, on my birthday. You should try it too.

wp-1455307086298.jpeg

Full disclosure: I did NOT come up with this. I saw it online and redrew it. You should follow me on Instagram if you want to see this year’s card. It’s going to be awesome!

So I challenge you to look at this day differently. If you’re tempted to complain about it, instead do something about it. Send an encouraging note to a friend. Buy someone flowers. Make something. Bake cookies. If this is a special day to you and your significant other, great! But don’t forget that romantic love is not the only thing worth celebrating. How can the two of you work together to bring joy to someone else?

Take this day back. How will you celebrate your Valentine’s Day? Let me know. And enjoy your chocolates.

wp-1455307411737.jpeg

My sweet friend blessed me this week with these beautiful flowers, and now I’m reminded of her friendship and love every time I look at them.

By the way, if you’re wondering about my sources. I used this and this for my history lesson.

 

New Year No Spend: How Did It Go?

January is over, which in itself is always something to celebrate. But this year, the beginning of February brought an end to our New Year No Spend month. So how was it?

Mostly a failure. Or maybe not. I don’t know. Read about our halfway point here, if you haven’t already. We had so many things at the beginning of the month that we knew we’d have to pay for: birthday gifts, baby shower stuff, medical bills; and then things that popped up within the month: dinners with friends, births of babies, laundry; I think we finished the month spending about as much as we would have if we weren’t doing a no spend month. But it was good, and here’s 3 things I learned about myself and my family through this month.

1. I will always choose my community over my wallet (within our budget). When my brother invited us over for brunch and asked us to bring something specific we obviously went to the store and bought OJ and bacon. When a friend had a birthday I bought her a gift. When the ladies in my church group all met for coffee early one morning I went and bought coffee (and a gluten-free donut!). Now, I realize the point of the month was to compromise and either make something I already have, or do withou, and I did that a lot with other things. But I never wanted to turn down a chance to connect with people I love because of the principle of not spending.

2. I self-medicate with comfort food. Yikes. This was not so much fun to realize. There were a few days in January where my depression felt like a weighted jacket and my first thought was always ice cream. Or chocolate. Or baked goods. I thought if I could just curl up under a blanket on the couch and eat what I craved I would be fine. This month forced me to realize that eating those “comforting” foods didn’t so much solve anything as they did distract me. I also realized how often I turn to food instead of healthier pursuits when I’m feeling down.

3. I actually rock at this whole budget thing. Last year I set up some pretty elaborate Excel spreadsheets to track our budget. I know where every penny is going every month and can see exactly what we’re buying. Tim and I talked about doing the envelope system of budgeting, but since we both hate using cash, and enjoy the cashback benefits of using Discover, we decided this was better for our family. Instead of envelopes we have Excel columns, and the bottom line lets us know when we’re out of cash for that area. All this has made our spending intentional, and the no spend month helped us be even more intentional about where our money was going. We avoided all impulse buys in January, which was great, and I think we can keep that going since we track it so closely.

Will we do another no spend month? Probably. But with a different goal. I like the idea better of picking one or two things to not spend on. Like no eating out, or no Target trips, or no coffee dates. It’s good to discipline ourselves in that way, and we can learn a lot by being intentional about what we spend or don’t spend.

Have you ever done a no spend month? Will you ever? Do you struggle with emotional spending?

Happy February!

New Year No Spend: Halfway There

Yesterday was the halfway mark for our New Year No Spend month. You may be wondering how it’s going. Or, more realistically, you’ve forgotten I’ve even been doing this until just this moment. Either way, here’s an update. 12395181_1499274417045599_627505169_n

I’m bad at this. I will give a full report at the end of the month, but I’m finding out that I’m bad at this. Here’s why. When things have popped up throughout the month (birthdays, brunches, dinners with friends, baby showers, etc) I have not hesitated to spend money.

When I give a full update after the month is over, I’ll explain why I’m okay with that, and why our budget is okay with that.

The biggest thing to tackle this month was not eating out. We enjoy trying restaurants around our great city, so taking a break from that is a bit challenging. I have every meal planned, down to breakfast and lunch, so there is no excuse. I even have a huge bag of pancake mix so that on the days when I’ve felt terrible (pregnancy is no joke) I have an easy, quick meal for the kids and husband. Pair instant pancakes with fruit/veggies and yogurt and you’ve got a complete meal.

I will confess, I went through the Chick Fil A drive thru. Once. I had a day where I couldn’t shake the headache that’s been on and off for a month, I was tired and miserable, and I loaded up the boys and headed to CFA.

I wrestled with that decision. I didn’t want to spend, but I also didn’t want to make lunch and it was already after 1:00 and the boys were hungry. I realized that I had an opportunity to show grace to myself and to my kids, so I did.

That’s what our year is about, Grace. That doesn’t mean going to Chick Fil A everytime I don’t feel like making lunch. It does mean giving myself room to receive help when it’s needed.

I don’t really have anything else to report for my halfway mark. I’m sticking to my shopping list when I go to the store once a week for fresh produce, that was one of my biggest goals.

Check in with my other blogging buddies if you want to see how their month is going:

Adriane over at Balance With Me has a secret weapon (spoiler: it’s grace. I like her.)
Rebekah over at My MSPI Baby
Chrissy over at Anchor My Soul
Brittany over at Little Mountain Momma

And our new friend Fiona over at FiFi and Florence, who has been tackling this thing with humor and grace. She’s great.

How is your January going? Did you remember to give yourself grace when planning your new year? I hope so. None of us are going to do anything perfect, and it’s tempting to throw in the towel when we mess up. That’s when grace steps in and says, it’s okay, let’s start again. 

Today is a new day. Tomorrow is a new day. God’s mercies are new every morning. Live in that.

 

Angels Working Overtime (Part 2)

If you missed part one, check it out. I talked about how I thought God was protecting my kids from harm. The second recent incident where I was left praising God that my boys were safe involved our garbage disposal.

Immediately after we moved into our new place a few weeks ago our dishwasher and garbage disposal broke. When we had someone in here fixing the disposal he told us that whoever installed it had no idea what they were doing. The cord was getting wrapped tighter and tighter around the disposal (not sure if the spinning blades were pulling on it or what) and he said the wiring was not even grounded.

Now, I’m no electrician, but I’m pretty sure that when something’s not grounded that’s not a good deal. He told me it was a short-out waiting to happen. He fixed it. No big deal, right?

Except, my kids are obsessed with playing hide-and-seek. I frequently hear “I’m hiding!” at random times throughout the day and I have to go find the hider. What is Big Brother’s favorite place to hide? You guessed it: underneath the sink. In our smaller apartment downstairs we had to get creative to find hiding places so he regularly hid under the bathroom and kitchen sink.

If he would have hid under the sink his head would have been inches away from this wiring nightmare.

But he didn’t.

For some reason, as soon as we moved upstairs he had no desire to hide under the kitchen sink. He hid under the bathroom sink but never once did I find him under the kitchen one.

Why? Why did he never go to his favorite hiding place? God’s watching out for him, I think.

I’m thankful that Someone is watching over my children, because I can’t do it constantly. I’ve tried.

How have you experienced God’s protection in your life?

2014-01-21 20.47.20

The underside of our sink now looks like this. No room here for hiding!

Angels Working Overtime

I always think that there are angels working overtime watching over my boys. It’s not so much that they are naughty, they are just boys. And they are curious. And fearless. And everywhere at once.

I think about myself as a child and how daring I was and how I was constantly getting hurt. Most of the time I didn’t tell my parents because I was doing something I shouldn’t have (they probably knew anyway, parents know everything). My dad told us not to stand up on the skateboard, I did and it hurt. Once I jumped off my friend’s bunk bed onto a pile of blankets (seemed like a good idea at the time) and hid a limp (probably unsuccessfully, I’m sure) for 2 weeks.

So when I catch my youngest when he falls down the stairs (because why shouldn’t he hop down the stairs like a frog?) or stop my oldest from climbing the bookshelf I tell myself that I am getting paid back for the gray hairs I gave my parents.

There were two recent incidents that left me almost in tears as I thanked God for his protection of my littles.

The first: We were waiting in line at the Walgreens pharmacy. There was a lady in front of us with a big dog. The dog had a pill case attached to his leash and collar so I assume he was a service animal. He looked like this:

Massive dog! As we were going to get in line Big Brother went up to the dog to say hi. He knows he is not supposed to pet any dog without first asking permission but apparently he thought it was okay to get really close and speak to the dog (we have since corrected this assumption). The dog got nervous and backed away from him. I saw this and grabbed Big Brother reminding him that we always ask before approaching a strange dog. Then we got in line.

This is when the dog decided he really did not like my children. He started barking and growling. His owner scolded him and calmed him down. He was quiet for 30 seconds but then lunged toward my boys while growling. I was terrified! I really believe he would have attacked them if not on a short leash. His owner was mortified and quickly finished up her business and got out of there with her dog straining against the leash and growling very menacingly. (When we left the building this all happened again as they were standing outside.)

I am thanking God for his protection because I’m wondering why in the world if this dog was so upset by small children (some dogs really hate children) why did he not attack Big Brother when he first approached him? This could have been so much worse. Brother’s face was inches away from the dog’s mouth.

The second incident…Is going to have to be a new post. This one is long enough.

How have you seen God protecting your children?

Why I Clean My Bathroom

Yesterday I wrote about how my domestic skills are lacking, and it’s no secret. I have to trick myself into doing chores. Like, I rewarded myself with a piece of toffee this morning for getting all the dishes done. A clean sink makes me happy. Toffee makes me happier.

I also try to come up with reasons why I should do this or that household chore. So today I present to you:

Reasons to Clean My Bathroom:

  • Sometimes when I’m popping my birth control pill out of its little foil wrap it falls into the sink. If my sink is clean I don’t have to make the choice between the plague and having a baby. (I always choose plague.)

    dirty sink1 Dirty sink

    This is not my sink, I promise.
                                Source

  • Two days ago I was helping Little Guy brush his teeth and he scrubbed the bottom of the sink with his toothbrush and put it back in his mouth! I’m trying not to gag while writing this.
  • Currently our shower in the loft doesn’t have a door, which means we’re using the bathtub shower, which means that when Tim or I shower we take the tub toys out of the tub and put them on the floor by the tub. Which means of course they don’t stay there, they get kicked around the floor, behind the toilet, next to the trash can, etc. Which means the children pick them up and play with them. Ugh. I am keeping that floor clean.
  • Kids do weird things. Like when I give them a snack and then they disappear and I find them in the bathroom together eating their snack, for no reason that makes sense to me. I’m trying to keep that place clean and also figure out why my kids are so strange.

So those are my reasons to keep my bathroom clean. This is what makes me get up and accomplish stuff around the house. Otherwise I’m sure it would quickly turn into a den of filth.

What are your reasons for cleaning?

Housekeeping for Dummies

If you know me well you might know that I am slightly undomesticated. Okay, perhaps more than slightly. I’m not a great housekeeper. All this cleaning and tidying and laundry and dishes are foreign to me. I grew up developing my Frisbee-throwing skills, running-legs, and literary knowledge. Those things don’t come in handy here. I pretty much suck at keeping house.

As we’ve been unpacking boxes in our new home I found a cookbook someone gave me as a wedding gift. 

2014-01-13 20.27.25

Apparently “everyone” has this cookbook. Do you?

I just realized I’m slightly offended by this book and here’s why:

2014-01-13 20.29.09

Grilled cheese, you guys. There is a recipe in this book for grilled cheese. You know, that thing where you put cheese on bread and toast it in a pan?

Someone out there was afraid that my new husband and I were going to starve due to my lack of cooking skills and so gifted us this no-brainer cookbook. (If this was you that gave it to us, please don’t be offended…I love you!)

When two of my siblings visited Tim and I for spring break our first year of marriage they brought back tales of excellent food that their dear sister had prepared for them. “She can cook!” They excited reported to my mother.

Yes, yes I can cook. I’m an excellent cook, in fact. However, most of the time I choose not to. Meh.

I started out this post with a completely different direction in mind, regarding cleaning my bathroom. But I think you’re going to have to wait for tomorrow for that.

In case you’re wondering why I still hang on to that cookbook, I keep it because there’s an incredible recipe for jam on toast in it.