Category Archives: Winter

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.


Hibernation is Not an Option

This is me in the summer: wp-1452547324242.jpeg

Looking at that picture, my heart feels light. I’m warm. The grass is green. The sun is shining. I love everything about it. Here’s another:

Summertime is my jam.

I lived in Southern California when I was a kid until 4th grade. Winter was not really a thing there. We had a season called winter, it basically meant we didn’t go swimming as often. I’m probably romanticizing that quite a bit in my head, but let me have my memories.

Then we moved to the Midwest. Winter was so cold. So bleak. So long.

For as long as I can remember, my moods and emotions and mental health have been closely tied up in the seasons. I wish very much that it wasn’t this way. Call it Seasonal Affective Disorder or whatever, but the fact is I have to work much harder to feel alive in the winter months.

Until this last year I didn’t realize that my thyroid has a lot to do with this. I’m cold all. the. time. At my in-law’s house for Christmas I was wrapped up in a blanket from the time we got there until we left (those Minnesotans, they love the cold so much they let it in their houses). Am I a wimp? Yes, I am. But I also have a tiny little gland in my throat that sits in a layer of ice from October to April (that might not be medically accurate, but the idea is).

When I wake up in the winter time, many days I start my day at a -3, whereas my husband is always at a 7 (I’m not sure what this scale is, but work with me here). If it’s cloudy outside, I might even be down to -5. The point I’m trying to make here is that before I’ve even gotten out of bed, I’m already feeling defeated. It’s a struggle to even get dressed, eat, brush teeth.

On top of this, I’m pregnant and it’s made me sick since the middle of November. So sick. Barely able to function a lot of days.

I know I’m not the only one. I’ve talked with some of you who have told me the same things. Living everyday life with depression is hard.

I was talking to Tim recently (my husband is so wise, you guys) and telling him I was tired of the struggle. “I’m so depressed in the winter, why is it this way?”

“Okay, so what?” He replied.

“Excuse me?” What does he mean, so what? I think the answer is pretty obvious. At some point we call it quits and move to Phoenix or Fiji where we’ll never have problems again.

“I mean, if your life is telling a story, you’re depressed, but… What are you going to do with it? Where does your story go from here?”

I stared at him, and realized that he was right.

Obviously I can’t just stop living in winter. I can’t only be emotionally present in my people’s lives for only half the year. I’m here on earth for the long haul, I have to do something with this.

Every spring I play a game with myself and the boys to try to find the first signs of growth. Green sprigs coming through the previously-frozen earth, first stems of fresh grass, tree buds. These signs to me cause hope to stir within my soul. The warmth will be back.
wp-1452548104109.jpegI think I still have a lot to learn from winter. In fact, without winter, would I appreciate summer as much? Would I feel the kind of longing hope that leads me to worship?
wp-1452547936668.jpegI think God has put inside all of us a desire for summer. It looks different for each of us. An end to the cold, an end to illness, a desire for peace. Hope for better circumstances.

This longing, this discontentment can either cause us to become bitter and lifeless, or bring us to our knees in desperation.

I can’t live in summer forever. The idea is appealing, but no.
wp-1452548350051.jpegI need winter. I hate to admit that. The cold and misery take me to a place of utter dependence.

Life is hard. But as Tim and I tell our boys, we do hard things.

So as I explore God’s grace this winter, and figure out where my story goes from here, I will acknowledge my own weakness and dependence. And wait again for the joy of summer, and even greater than that, the hope of completeness in Jesus. One day.

Will you do the same?


New Year No Spend

Happy New Year, friends!

I don’t know about you, but when January comes and the craziness of Christmas finally ceases (I’m not a huge fan) I breathe a sigh of relief. Time to relax. Also time to start over. New year, new habits, new growth. What are you doing for yourself or your family in the new year?

I try to pick a few things to work on in the new year for myself or our family, and start small. This avoids the resolution meltdown in February after pledging to go to the gym every morning at 6 or never eat proccessed sugar again, or other unrealistic goals.

One challenge I am taking on for our family is a New Year No Spend Challenge. 12395181_1499274417045599_627505169_n

I’m teaming up with several other bloggers who are taking the month off from spending. This is a great opportunity to save money (especially after Christmas) and practice simplicity. I would like you to consider joining me. Emily, you may be thinking, this is crazy, the new year starts tomorrow, this is impossible to pull together by then.

I would agree with you. I have been feeling under the weather for the last month (more on that later) which is why I’m just now getting this up here. And since my husband is a school teacher, we always do things by the school calendar, which is why my no spend month doesn’t actually start until Monday, the 4th, when he goes back to school.

So, there actually is time to pull this together. Would you consider joining me?

Here are the guidelines:

  • Know your necessities. Obviously I’m going to put gas in our vehicles, pay medical expenses, and regular bills. I checked with Comcast, and they weren’t as excited as I was about just skipping my bill for January. So, pay your bills.
  • No impulse spending. This is avoided by simply avoiding shopping. I’ll explain more below about our grocery situation.
  • Absolutely no eating out, unless you have a gift card.
  • Be creative. If you run out of something, can you make it? Can you wait until the month’s over?
  • And finally, give yourself grace. If a birthday party pops up in the middle of the month, by all means, buy a gift and go! Community is more important than this challenge. Community matters.

So, how do you avoid shopping for a month? Meal plan. It’s not as hard as it sounds to plan an entire month of meals. I give each day a theme: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc. So I just need to plan 4 meatless recipes, 4 mexican recipes, etc. Then make a huge shopping trip before the month starts. There are lots of great meal planning resources online. Start there if you need help.

Fresh produce is a large part of our diet, so I will be going to the grocery store every Wednesday to stock up. The trick here is to take a list and ONLY buy what’s on the list. Nothing more.

My no spend month is a pretty modified version. Not only will I be shopping for produce every week, but I’m co-hosting a baby shower in January and obviously need to spend money on that (which is a joy to do!). My girl Brittany, over at Little Mountain Momma  will be doing a stricter version, and she’s done it before and rocked it. Check out her post on how she does it.

We’ll be tracking our month on social media using the hashtag #newyearnospend if you want to join in on the fun. Let me know, would you, if you want in on this? Doing a challenge with friends makes it easier. Or do your own version of a no spend month. Maybe for you, that means avoiding the coffee shop on your way to work, or eating at home instead of eating out. The point is to take a break from what we regularly do and focus on living simply. I’m excited about it.

Check out these other bloggers too, who are teaming up with me:
Adriane over at Balance With Me
Rebekah over at My MSPI Baby
Chrissy over at Anchor My Soul
Brittany over at Little Mountain Momma

Let me know what you think, and I will let you know how the month goes.

Happy New Year!

Baby, Let’s Get Away

The other day we were further west toward the foothills for a Bible study. When we got in the car and turned toward home we saw our city.


Our city is down there hidden in the brown.

Ugh. Covered in smog. Gross.


This is their reaction to looking down on the city. Clearly they prefer the higher climate.

When I was a kid, living near L.A. I remember some days not being able to see across the street because the smog was so thick. It doesn’t get that bad here, fortunately, I never notice it until I’m away from the city looking back.

And this day, I said, Nope, and turned around, heading toward the mountains.


“Boys, we’re going to spend a couple hours in the fresh air before we head back to Industrial Progress.”


Let’s go play.



 My boys are obsessed with climbing rocks, so we went to one of our favorite spots.



I wasn’t exactly prepared for this mission.


Cute heeled boots. Not so great for rock climbing.

So I begged them not to fall because it would take me awhile to rescue them.


“I’m always careful, Mom.” Riiight.

The sun was shining, the snow was beautiful…

wpid-img_20150114_122827.jpgThe day was perfect.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the housework or laundry that’s not done, or the schoolwork we need to do that I forget to live.

Spontaneity. It keeps us alive. Leave the responsibilities, they will be there when you get back. Go. Go to the mountains, go to the beach, to the museum, to the backyard. Put everything down and watch your kids explore.

wpid-img_20150114_122623.jpgIt’s worth it.


Aaaaaaand…We’re Back!

Hello friends! If you’ve been wondering what happened to me (as in, where did my favorite blog go?) I’ve been wondering the same thing. Actually, what did happen was vacation, Polar Vortex, new phone, internet woes…otherwise known as April.

At the end of March I took off with my two boys across the country to spend a couple weeks visiting our extended families. And let me tell you, this Polar Vortex thing that’s been plaguing the eastern half of our country is no joke. People all over my small hometown in Iowa looked like they had just made it through a war. I think I met 2 people who were not coughing or experiencing runny noses, and they lived inside bubbles. (Kidding. Sort of.)

People had a look on their faces like they had fought a battle with the Abominable Snowman and barely won, but really lost. This winter was a big deal.

Then on to Minnesota where the natives were just as miserable. But really, isn’t every winter in Minnesota vortex-like? Not to mention the fact that the people of Minnesota tend to see horrid weather as their lot in life that they must endure. We must have done something to deserve this.

Midwesterners, I am so sorry for what you’ve been through. Come to Colorado and let us rest your weary souls and warm your cold limbs. Once you experience it, you’ll never go back!

Right, now where was I? Oh yes, new phone. We were set to get our new internet connection set up on April 1st. I got a new phone which took away our existing hotspot (slow, unreliable, horrible internet connection). It took us an entire month, and two internet providers to finally, today, get internet in our household once again. An. Entire. Month.

So I apologize for leaving you all hanging. The only access I had was my itty-bitty phone screen and I can barely text something that makes sense on it not to mention write an entire blog post.

But now I’m back. And better than ever! (Well, that might be pushing it…)

Snapshot of My Day: Choose Laughter

This is a new thing called Snapshot of My Day where I give you, well, a snapshot…of…my day. Except it’s a literary snapshot, not a picture. Because that would be boring. So to begin, I will give you a little background of what my morning looked like.

It was -1 degrees when we left the house this morning to go to Bible Study Fellowship. So of course I had to start getting ready 4 hours earlier than normal (that’s called “hyperbole“) in order to include all the snowpants, coats, boots, mittens, hats, scuba gear, etc that I have to put on the boys.

BSF ends at 11:30 and I thought for sure that I could run a few errands before giving my boys anything to eat and they wouldn’t end up whiny or grouchy. Smart.

So we get home at 1:15, and here’s the part I’m giving you a shot of. Little Guy is laying on the ground right inside the back door to our building. He’s crying because he doesn’t want to walk up three flights of stairs. I am up half a level with my arms loaded down with groceries, diaper bags, and spare mittens begging and pleading with him to walk up the stairs. Big Brother is up three flights yelling down to me, “Mom! I really have to go pee!”

I started crying. And then I started laughing, because frankly, I didn’t want to cry.

Mamas, in those moments when your life is as crazy as mine (I know it is), choose laughter. My philosophy is that when life throws crap at you, you can either laugh or cry.

Choose laughter.