Sunday, December 30, 2012

Catching up- the new job.

So to be honest, I'm not sure even where to begin...

Let's start with right after I accepted my job offer.

Right after I accepted the position I had my first block off, so I got to do some quick planning for my first class. In case you are wondering my college uses a block system for their traditional students. Basically they have one class at a time for 18 days for three hours each day. Then a few days black break and onto the next course. It's an odd system, but works well for us. though I still haven't mastered the three hour course in terms of boredom, but I'm learning...

Because my chair (for non-academics this is my boss) is very kind, he's allowing me to work from home the majority of the time. That means except for days and times I need to be there, I typically work at my own desk. This has been great as we've been able to hire a babysitter for the girls when I'm gone or working and not send them to daycare. I love leaving them with someone who loves them and can pays lots of attention to them. It's the next best thing to me being home with them.

In addition to traditional students, I also teach night courses for non-traditional students. These courses meet one night a week for six weeks. I've taught two and loved it! I have to say I find non-traditional students refreshing. They are highly motivated and enjoyable to teach because they ask lots of questions.

I really love that I get to be home so much, having so much time with my girls is irreplaceable. However, it has proven to be difficult to manage everything. Because of short prep time and the large amount of work involved in teaching (if you don't understand me, then I'm guessing you've never taught), I've been more than a bit stressed. The good news, before my next two blocks of teaching we'll be employing a housekeeper to help with my work load. I'm excited and a bit nervous. Truth be told, I never ever thought I would hire someone to clean my house. All my life I thought that was something reserved only for the rich. But with the savings from going to my insurance, we can pay for the housekeeper (with extra leftover) and not make any difference to our budget.

Now for the ultimate question, why even take a job? Truth be told, I'd love to be a stay at home mom. Reality though is tough... As a academic I have to stay in the game (so to speak). Once you are gone for awhile, it's extremely hard to get a job. I left research knowing the door probably wouldn't open for me to enter another research lab again. The information just moves so fast... For teaching it is similar though not as absolute. So when the girls enter school, I had always planned to go back full time. My plan was to teach adjunct until a position opened for full time faculty and then apply. It's just the job opened before I thought it would. In our area there are not many colleges that I could apply to, so this was just an opportunity that couldn't be missed.

I'm glad it did present itself. Financially, it's allowed Mark and I to give more and pay off extra on our mortgage. Win-win! Now I just need to get into a better time management system and all will be perfect.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's time to catch up!

So I've been gone for what seems like forever. But I can tell you it's for good reason, lots to do and very little time.

But I do want to catch everyone up with what we've been doing. So look for several posts about the last three months coming very soon.

Cheers!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Being honest

So I know I've been gone a long time. But I'll be honest, there just hasn't been time for blogging.

Even more honesty, I'm doubtful that I'll be blogging regularly for a little while longer.

Final bit of honesty, part of the reason I haven't written anything is due to pain. My health problems keep flaring up. I've tried two more medications this month. But I'm afraid I'm headed back to surgery, as is my doctor.

I could certainly use your prayers. As the pain is getting significantly worse. It is a difficult road and one I wish I could change for family most of all.

My best to you in yours, as there are so many that struggle day to day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just a little update

Today was super busy and on top if it my health has been getting worse.

I tried writing how I felt about my health and the post came out so angry, I knew I couldn't share it. Not without frightening you all that is...

So quick updates instead, because it's safer that way.

1. I got new meds from the dr today. I'm hoping they work quickly, because I'm getting so angry about everything, I'm starting to scare small children and our waiters at restaurants (ask me later for that story).

2. I only accomplished two pins today.
- I made muffin pancakes, which were just ok.
- I checked out several chapter books recommend for preschoolers from the library today. Elizabeth is excited!

3. I probably won't get to many pins tomorrow. I have meetings in the morning and will leave after breakfast. That cuts down on pin accomplishing time. However, I've got a recipe to try for breakfast, so mark one off for sure!

4. Evie is slowly getting better. The no dairy diet is going ok. Elizabeth doesn't like the vanilla soy milk though, so she'll be getting regular. We'll see if the almond milk is any better.

That's it for now! I'll check back later.

Cheers!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Playing Catch Up

Hi all!

It's been awhile because of all the craziness that hit us all at once. So today instead of my usual mom post, I'm just going to catch you up on our lives. 

First thank you all for the prayers for both my mom's surgery and with the passing of my uncle. They are very much appreciated. 

My mom ended up having emergency gallbladder surgery.  Originally the doctor thought she had a gallstone that was stuck, instead her gallbladder had developed gangrene and was about to rupture.  So these past few weeks she's been recovering.  The great news is she is doing wonderfully!

Awhile back I asked you all to pray for me as well. Those prayers were also appreciated, as I'm happy to announce that I'm heading back to work.  I'm officially a Assistant Professor of Psychology at one of our local private colleges.

 The absolute great news, is that they are working with this mommy and giving me a flexible schedule.  I'll be doing a lot of work from home, and since they are on a block schedule I'll have whole months when I won't be teaching. A great deal!!

However, with this added job, I'm going to have to change my schedule a bit. During my teaching months, I may be blogging less and less.  So instead of having a formula of doing something each day or so, I'm just going to blog when I can and about whatever is going on in our lives. No planned posts, just fun to share with our friends and family. 

First day of Preschool

Finally, the girls are doing pretty good.  Elizabeth started preschool and is loving it!  She's my little smartie pants, and according to her teacher she has been spending a lot of time in the science center, just like her mommy. She's gotten better at writing her name and comes home singing most days. She's also started ballet and had her first lesson last week.  She was adorable in her little dress and of course she loved dancing.

First Position!

Evie is loving having time with just mommy on Elizabeth's preschool days.  On those days, we go to Kindermusik and Storytime at the library.  However, we've been battling another round of diaper rash.  We thought eliminating citrus solved the problem, however, it is back.  We went to the dr today and have been advised to eliminate dairy for a few days.  After she gets a little better, we can add back cheese, but are to wait on milk.

Doughnut Date on Preschool Day

I'm getting ready for class on my off hours and trying to justify my hours spent on pinterest.  I challenged myself to complete at least one pin on pinterest a day.  Today was my first day, and I did five total!! Here's my five:

1. Mini Frittatas for breakfast
2. Homemade granola bars for the girls' snack
3. Paint your own toast for breakfast
4. Wash your dishwasher
5. Moondough

I'm hoping to log some each day on the blog.  We'll see how it goes.

Well, I suppose I've bored you all enough, hope your week is wonderful!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Prayers requested

My great-uncle June passed away this morning. He was diagnosed with cancer and had entered hospice awhile ago. In his eighties, he had lived a long while, however, his children still mourn and need the supporting comfort of prayer. So if you pray, please ask for God's comforting presence to fill his family as we celebrate his life tomorrow evening. Thank you.

Wordless Wednesday- Natural talent at one year

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mom Monday- Too Fast

I'm about to repeat the most overused phrase in motherhood

(well, besides be quiet),

they grow up too fast.

It's true though. Even with the stressful days and the times you think why did _____ do _____?!? It really does move fast. Childhoods are over and the real world and responsibilities set in.

But before you think this post is depressing, don't worry, it's not that kind of post. Because even though my girls are growing, I get to enjoy that process.

I get to enjoy watching them interact with this world in the most ordinary of circumstances.


Like tickling each other in the grocery cart.


Or when they try and love a new food.


Dancing to their own drummer.


Learning to color.


Helping each other.


Becoming like Daddy.


Or developing a passion.


Two blessings from God that make the perceived ordinary, extraordinary each day.

So even though it goes fast, it's full of miracles. Quiet, unassuming ones, like making it through a rough day or the impromptu kiss and I love you from your little one.

Blessings, indeed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I'm not writing

So I haven't written because we've had a busy and big week so far.

Everything went well yesterday, maybe too well, if that's possible. But now that brings some really big decisions.

Keep praying for us, especially for us to know God's will for our family. Because I know what my head says and my heart, but neither matters like God's plan.

Only I'm not sure what that plan is...so please keep us in your prayers.

Thank you all!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Prayers Requested

Instead of my usual thankful post, I wanted to ask a favor of those of you that pray. 

I'm wondering if you could add me to your prayer list?

I've got a big event coming up on Tuesday that I'm scared, nervous, and actually quite terrified about.  It also comes with a bag of questions, that neither my husband or I are quite sure about.

Now before you all think I've got some horrible disease (besides endometriosis), I don't. So no, it's nothing like that.

But it is going to be a nerve-wracking day, and they'll be a lot of questions to answer after. So I ask that you pray for God's guidance for us, and for us to recognize His will and not our own.

Oh, and for me to not embarrass myself either. ;)

Thanks!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Substitute Refresher Sweetened with Stevia Extract

So I have a confession to make, I really like the new Starbucks Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers.

Image Credit: Starbucks

If you haven't heard of the refreshers, these are the new juice drinks that have green coffee extract in them.  I've only tried the one, but I really enjoyed it. The only problem is my wallet doesn't enjoy the daily trips through Starbucks and as someone that enjoys roasting her own coffee it can be especially painful to not be doing it yourself.

After telling my hubby I was going to need a replacement or face finding an extra 20-30 dollars a week feeding my habit, we started looking for some alternatives.

And leave it to my wonderful hubby to save the day!

Image Credit: Tazo Tea

He came home with another Starbucks product- Tazo herbal passion tea.  Now strictly speaking, this isn't a tea at all.  It's really just an herbal drink, but brews in a similar way as tea.

The taste isn't exactly the same and there is no caffeine in this version, but both have a good bit of hibiscus which for me was the main flavor I wanted to recreate. 

It's simple to brew.  Simple pour a quart of boiling water on one bag.  Allow to steep 5 minutes, remove, and then add another quart of cold water.  Store in your fridge.

The price difference is huge.  Consider that you're getting 6 pitchers for $2 more than the one 8 oz drink, it really is astronomical.

Now I like a little sweetner in my tea, I mean I'm southern...but I do not want to add more sugar to my diet.  So I decided to go with stevia extract, since it has been shown to not spike your blood sugar (and zero calories).


My stevia is from a bulk health supplier and contains only stevia.  However, in the future we'll be making our own stevia extract.  My stevia plants are really taking off in this hot, humid weather were having and it's time to get brewing.

If you go the store bought stevia route, please check that what you buy doesn't have other artificial sweetners mixed in with the stevia- sucralose is the usual culprit.

The hard part is knowing how much stevia to put in, too little and the herbal tea is tart, too much and the stevia will have a bitter after taste.  After scouring the internet I started adding 7 drops to each 8 oz glass.  Perfection!  

Now if you want to sweeten your whole pitcher at one time, a good substitute is about 1 teaspoon of stevia for every cup of sugar that you replace.

Serve your glass over ice, with mixed in berries for a cafe flare or....


...just go a little country with a mason jar and a straw.

Side note- The next step for me is to create this tea myself with bulk ingredients.  Any suggestions?

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #36.

Mom Monday- Playing catch up

So I haven't done a proper post about our family life in awhile, so I thought I might play catch up.

This summer has been a busy one.  We started with our summer Kindermusik, then headed to the beach for some fun.  After a fun fourth of July with friends, we started our July events.

Elizabeth has started swim lessons at the local University I teach at,


so far she really enjoys it.

Both girls have enjoyed the new pool we have set up.  We thought with this horrible heat it might be nice to get them a little something to play in.   Of course about a week after we've had the pool, it started raining and has barely stopped.  Good for the garden, but not much fun for the pool.


We've had a lot of fun at our church.  Every summer our church cans green beans to raise money for charity.  Our church body donates the time, supplies, and work.  This year all of us went and broke beans prepping for the canning process.  Even Elizabeth helped out, and I think she'll be a good canner.


Evie on the other hand, enjoyed the wonderful cooking of the ladies at our church.  And let me tell you, we've got some good cooks...


Both girls seem to be growing up so quickly!  Elizabeth is part of the summer reading program.  Every week we check out our books and we've read about 10-15 books each week.  Even Evie is enjoying her books and has a favorite author, Sandra Boyton.  We've check out as many of her books as possible and Evie loves them.  Her favorite is the go to bed book, which we read before nap time each day.


Evie is also reaching new milestones every day.  She can now feed herself really well with a spoon and has added quite a few new words.  She can identify the chickens, tell me what she wants, and even can show people several parts of her body.  The cutest is when she is ready to go outside.  Not only can she tell me "outside" to go out and play, but she will grab her shoes and sit down on the floor for me to put them on for her, saying "shoes."


Elizabeth has a developed a heart for giving.  She's already raised enough change for her first donation to the malaria fund. She was so happy with her jingling envelope.  I wish I had half the love she has, such a sweet girl, and best of all she knows it is all for God's glory.


We've really enjoyed the new moms group we've joined. Elizabeth has a best friend from the group and we've been trying out new and fun things.  Just recently, we headed to Chik-fil-a for Cow appreciation day.  Since we all dressed up we got free meals, and I have to say, my little cows were so cute.


In conjunction with the mom group, we also hit our local play museum.  Evie especially enjoyed dressing up and dancing on stage...while Elizabeth enjoyed everything.



Elizabeth has become my big helper.  She holds open doors, wants to cook with me, and even asks to clean.  Anything to help out, and she's actually really good at it.  Recently she helped me roast some coffee for daddy.  Her job, shaking the beans until they cooled off. She did great!


 The girls are playing more and more together.  It's so cute.  They both especially like the new house Elizabeth got for her birthday.  It's part of the Calico Critter sets.  We got a few new pieces and the girls were super excited.


 Finally, we've really enjoyed all the fun we've been having on the weekends.  Except for the buckets of rain we have gotten recently, every weekend has been so splendid. We head out to the farmer's market, then to the library, and then usually out to eat.  This week we tried a new restaurant downtown, where even our picky eater, Evie ate a bunch.


All in all you couldn't ask for a much better summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Taking a break this week

Been a tough day...new semester started and the old one ended.  Also feeling a bit miffed at my employers at the moment, and yes, that's both of them.

So I'm taking a break this week to try and get things back in balance. We've got a playdate thursday at our house and swim lessons are starting today.  So lots of new things to do beyond work...hence the break.

Hope this week keeps everyone well and happy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Things I'm thankful for Friday

So thankful for good friends who open up their home to celebrate our country's birth!

We had such a great time, we couldn't ask for better friends and neither could the girls.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Make your own diaper cream

A month or so ago my youngest who is still in diapers broke out in a diaper rash.  I immediately thought maybe it was my cloth diapers...only once we got it cleared up not two days later she broke out again while wearing disposables.

Helping mommy with diaper laundry

We haven't nailed down the exact reason she's broken out, but our theory is high citrus.  You see after she had her first lemonade not more than a day or two later she had a very acidic bowel movement and broke out.  We didn't notice the link until it happened again and while on the phone with the doctor we pinpointed it out as a possible target.

Since we've eliminated lemonade and orange juice, she hasn't broken out like before.  This is also the same time we introduced an all natural cloth diaper safe diaper rash cream.  We started using Earth Mama Angel Baby Balm. I would highly recommend it.  A great diaper cream for less than some of the other cloth diaper creams. 

But after using the balm for awhile, I started to wonder about making my own. The ingredients seemed simple and unlike the balm I was using I wanted to add coconut oil which has anti-yeast properties.

So after some research I decided to give it a whirl, here's the ingredients I wanted to use.

Olive Oil – Antibacterial, Antioxidant, Light Weight, Cloth diaper Safe
Plus it is easy to obtain olive oil and while not cheap, we buy ours in bulk to make it cheaper.
Coconut Oil – Antiviral, Antifungal, Anti-yeast, Light Weight, Cloth Diaper Safe
I LOVE coconut oil.  In fact, I have switched several of my recipes to coconut oil.  We are in the process of eliminating all vegetable oil from our house, so it was easy for me to use this as we had already purchased it in bulk.  I can't say enough about how great it is for you skin, but add to the fact that you can actually lose weight on this oil...and you reach amazing territory.  I'll write more on this later.
Tea Tree Oil – Antiseptic, Antifungal, Antibacterial, Anti-inflammatory, Cooling, Light Weight, Cloth Diaper Safe
Now this is important, many people are afraid to use this as you can have allergic reactions to this oil if you have sensitive skin.  However, I like to add it as it is a great way to have more antiseptic properties. But if you use it in your diaper cream, use it sparingly.
Lavender Oil – Pain Relief, Cell Rejuvenation, Aromatic, Calming, Soothing, Light Weight, Cloth Diaper Safe
I love lavender scent and even more so the healing properties of lavender.  There's a reason so many baby products are made with lavender.  I use it in almost everything!!

My diaper station

Now the recipe:

1. Melt 3 parts of coconut oil on low and include one part of olive oil in the mixture. I did a total of four tablespoons of oils...because a little goes a LONG way.

2. Once melted and oils mixed, add your essential oils.  I like to go very sparingly on the tea tree oil, so two drops was my limit in four tablespoons of oil.  I might go with one drop next time. As for lavender, I went with three drops. You could add more based on your preferences, though I would recommend being conservative to avoid any allergic reactions.

3. Pour into your container and place into fridge.  Leave the cream in the fridge until it solidifies.  Then remove and keep at room temperature.

You will notice that under HOT conditions (like the ones my state in under now) olive oil will melt back to a liquid.  No problem, just pop it back in the fridge or use it anyway.

Simple and easy, right!  Apply it like any cream and enjoy your savings, not to mention the knowledge that you are using non-toxic items to soothe your baby's skin.

Now I consider this a maintenence balm.  I use it all the time to provide a barrier between her skin and the waste.  And guess what??  Her skin has never looked better!  Soft and clear. 


Got to love that!

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #34.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Things I'm Thankful for Friday

So happy to have a little girl that loves to learn...




When she's not being silly that is...

She was sticking out her tongue.  Silly!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Being a good stewart, giving away our excess

I've been wanting write this post for awhile, but I've been afraid I'll offend someone.

So please note this post is about my family's choices, if it's not right for you that's ok. It is not my intent to change everyone with one blog post.  This is my opinion and my suggestions that are not meant to offend anyone.

That said, in my opinion our culture and the current interpretation of the American dream is very much centered around getting more...buying more...having more stuff....a bigger house...more and more focus on money,

...and as much as I love my country, I'm afraid our focus is in the wrong place.

The bible tells us in 1 John 2:15-17,

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 

And recently, my own church family has placed a focus on responsible stewardship.  In several sermons, our Reverend has reminded how privileged we are to live in such a wonderful country of abundance.  But as she reminded us, it is our call from God to give our excess to those who need and to take care of what bounty God has given us.

In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds the Corinthian church that while it is important for the Christian worker to earn and keep their wages, it is also extremely important to give to others from our abundance.  He further reminds them of the church in Macedonia that while extremely poor, freely gave to the Christians in Jerusalem that were being persecuted. 

The Macedonia church truly embodies the spirit of the Lord.  Freely giving, even begging to help others...always a spirit of love and compassion.

That's the kind of person I would like to be...

It's also the kind of people that I hope my girls grow up to be...

But it means focusing on responsible management of our money and shifting our love of money to a love of all people.   In this culture, that can be difficult because our society says, you need more stuff...you must have more to be happy...you have to have it all.

It is something I struggle with to this day...but all it takes is one look at the children in Africa that need a simple mosquito net to save their lives.

Or seeing a village that could use a goat, chicken, or even just clean water to survive.

In our own neighborhood, we drive by the homeless or hungry that struggle everyday.

Or knowing that we need to care for our world, so that we leave future generations with a sustainable landscape.

It doesn't matter what choices or mistakes they or we have made, it is up to us to help them and our world.  It is what God calls us to do.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18 

So with a need pressed to my heart to help, we've been making changes at our home for the past year.  Here are some I'm sharing, and if you are of the same mind, I hope it helps you too.

1. We're eliminating a lot of our going out to eat. At the end of the month, the money we save from eating at home we're going to donate to two different charities. This benefits our health too as we eat better at home with homemade whole foods. Taking care of ourselves and others with a simple change.

One of our favorites, Quiche.
2. We are living more frugally and with less environmental impact. So far we've eliminated a lot of processed food and commercial soaps & cleaners. Less toxins = better for the whole world. Plus saving money = better for our budget, which means more to share. My next goal is to eliminate more of our paper and plastic consumption.  That means the sewing machine and I will be spending more time together. ;)

3. We try to keep our money local to help those around us. That means buying from local stores, farmer's markets, and from our local farmers directly.  A healthier community means a better area for us all.
Tomatoes from our farmer's market last year

4. Our oldest, who is only four, has two jars on her shelf.  One with a picture of a bed with a net and another of clean water. We allowed her to pick two things she wanted to support and those were the two she picked.  We give her change from time to time for chores etc.  She is now saving all her change for little children.  As she says, "we'll get them new beds with no mosquitoes, and lots of good water and food."  She is so excited that there will be "no more malaria" for the kids she helps.

So happy with her jars

5. This Christmas, we are going to limit our "stuff". Each year my hubby and I go overboard with "stuff" for our girls, stuff they don't even use. So this year we are practicing a new idea. The girls will get three gifts just like the gifts the wise men brought Jesus. These will consist of a need (like new pjs), a want (a toy), and something to focus on Christ (last year Elizabeth got her own bible).
Overload


6. We don't over extend ourselves. That means a reasonable house payment, and no major purchases without cash. Debt is something of a dirty word in our house, and we're trying to eliminate all of ours with extra payments to our mortgage etc.  For us this also includes saving as much money as we can for our girls education funds.  Since Elizabeth has been born she's had a 529 plan.  We'll be switching both girls to IRA's soon, as the 529 plan doesn't give the tax benefits that it once did (the state we now live in has no income tax).

7. As I mentioned above we are trying to be frugal. That means that we also grow a lot of our own food, reuse items rather than buy new, make our own when possible, and fix what we have. I sew, Mark made our chicken coup from items we already had, I crochet hats and scarfs, we buy clothes at consignment, and we have a huge garden.

Peas from our garden

8. Give away our abundance- literally. The girls and I have been setting aside extra toys etc they don't play with. They'll be going with a friend of ours who has a charity helping orphanages in Africa. Elizabeth is all for it, she seems to have a soft spot for helping other little kids, and I'm super proud of her for that.

9. Every year at Christmas, we put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Elizabeth loves shopping for the kids and personally picks out the toys.

10. This year at Christmas, Mark and I agreed that we'd let the girls pick out something extra to support.  I'm guessing they'll pick a goat, chickens, or a well for a village in need.

These are simple and even obvious ideas, and I realize that the amount of need in this world is overwhelming...but small simple changes from a lot of people can make a huge difference. So pick your favorite charity because together we can change what we see as important, and it's not money or the stuff we can buy with it...


One look at these cuties will tell you that.

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #33.
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