Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Make Over Your Mornings {Half-Time Report}



Sorry, I am posting this late - we lost power yesterday! Thankfully everything is all right. Our neighbor's tree fell across the street. It was not pretty, let me tell you. BUT had it fallen the other way, their house would be destroyed. As is, it didn't hit any cars or people when it fell ... just blocked the road and took out the power. All in all not so bad! 

I made it! I'm halfway through the Make Over Your Mornings ecourse from Crystal Paine (aka Money Saving Mom). Below are my thoughts immediately after completing the course material for the day. Course material ... that makes it sound really intensive. It isn't! There's a short (3-5 minute) video to watch and then a literal couple pages to read, and one or two tasks. Crystal designed the course so that each day's work could be completed in 15 minutes or less! When you're a mom of little ones like me, that is so helpful.

Note: You get an idea of what Crystal talks about each based off my reflections. What I say is by no means all that she communicates. Her job is to instruct, mine to reflect!

Day 1 - Task: choose a time every day that you're going to do this course.

This was easy, even though I didn't get to do Day 1 until right before bed, I have to pump first thing in the morning. That became my time for this ecourse.

Day 2: Establish a before bed routine, identifying stresser areas.

Before kids, years before marriage, I had a before-bed routine. When I was in college I had to leave the house no later than 6:30 to commute to school (seriously, leaving 5 minutes late meant I got stuck behind EVERY school bus on the way and would be seriously late. Leaving 5 minutes early meant I arrived a half hour early. Leaving on time or early was crucial). Let me tell you, when you have to wake up early the LAST thing you want to do is figure out what you're going to wear. So I established a routine where I prepped my breakfast for the car and laid out my clothes. This meant I could get up 10 minutes before I had to leave, and leave on time. Before my before bed routine was instituted, I'd wake up at 5:30 or 6 and *still* struggle to leave the house on time.

So I totally get why Crystal emphasizes the importance of this. When my life shifted to marriage and honeymoon baby this key part of my evenings disappeared. I guess because I had so much new I was adjusting to. If you asked me yesterday if we had a before-bed routine, I would've said yes. I mean, I pick up the playroom, we put the kiddos down, I pump, and usually husband works on cleaning the dishes.

But the kitchen doesn't usually get fully cleaned. There's usually something we don't get to, or we forget to wipe the counters. Or we left some pantry staple sitting on the counter. And we have a fairly small kitchen with a poor layout so ANYTHING out of place, or out at all, means its overcrowded.

And the whole "cleaning the playroom" thing is more of a if-I-get-to-it. Everything has a place, so it honestly doesn't take that long - 5-10 minutes when EVERYTHING is strewn out, but sometimes I just don't feel like picking it up (our oldest is just getting to the age where her helping clean up is a possibility). Then, in the mornings, I feel bad putting the children in the there to play...even though they messed it up! I don't want to encourage messiness. I want to instill the tidiness in them, and putting them in a disaster zone isn't the best way to accomplish that purpose.

We're in the middle of renovating right now, so our table is in the middle of our living room at present. Having a joint living/dining room is stressful in and of itself. But since it's not in sight when we're cleaning the kitchen, we usually forget to clean the table off and dishes or napkins just tend to pile up. This definitely needs to become a part of our routine. Starting the day walking in for breakfast and seeing a pile of stuff is not calming.

I'm going to be honest - my husband got sick the night of Day 2. This is a great way to ensure that whatever new routine you're doing together ISN'T going to happen! This has been followed by a half week of me feeling pretty awful (pregnancy related), but it's Sunday (so I should be on Day 6) and I'm on Day 3. Woohoo. BUT I'm going to see if it's at all feasible to play "catch up."


Day 3: Identify your big rocks (non negotiables).

This day is hard for me. What are my  big rocks, my non-negotiables that I should do first thing when I wake up to make sure they don't get lost during the day? As I said in Day 2, I used to get up early and exercise - I knew if I didn't then, it wouldn't happen. But my children are my alarm clock now. I'm not sleeping well at night, and the baby needs my attention first thing in the morning followed by my toddler. I want to exercise, but there's not much I can do while pregnant anyway. And, since I have to pump because of complications breastfeeding this time around, that takes up an hour of my time where I literally have to sit down and feel like I'm doing nothing. I try and eat breakfast during this time, write a little for the blog, work on earning swagbucks (since I'm immobile anyway).

On Mondays (laundry day) I know if I don't get that started right after I feed the baby, I'll probably continue to forget the rest of the day. But I don't have something like this for other days. This is an instance where I'm considering 2 things: 1. Talking with my husband - what does HE prioritize? What is something that would make him feel more relaxed when he arrives home if it was done? 2. Thinking about tweaking our daily schedule so I can make better use of my mornings.

Day 4: What's something you get pleasure out of?


This was an easy one. I love reading and I love scrapbooking/crafting. Because of the aforestated necessary pumping, during these times is usually when I'll read some. I read to my children all day long, but while board books are great for them, they aren't my cup of tea ;-) Crafting is harder. Right now my thing is trying to make scrapbooks for my children's first year (the one for my daughter would be finished, but I'm trying to get pictures from other people for several months of her life ... because my phone fritzed and I lost everything from that time! Back up your phones and computers often, people! This is heartbreaking) But this is a LOT harder to do with a toddler who wants in and is just going to mess things up. Usually, I make sporadic progress on this during a nap time here or after the kids are in bed there...but I usually feel guilty if the house isn't caught up first and I'm working on this. And since we're renovating parts of our house right now, nothing is ever entirely done.

Day 5: Goal setting.

This is really hard for me. My priorities are making sure my children are healthy, safe, and clean. I WANT to be a better housekeeper, but I'm just so tired! (Yes, I know Crystal talks about making sleep a priority, and I try - trust me, I'm actually one of those unfortunates who needs 8-9 hours of good sleep every night to fire on all cylinders, though I've managed to learn to function on much less. Pregnancy and young children aren't always kind to this, however.) Days I feel like I really got a lot accomplished with house stuff are usually the same days I feel bad because I didn't spend a lot of time playing with or reading to my children. I want to keep the house in order AND spend time with them! I'm sure this will be easier the older they get (my oldest is all of 2)

Day 6: Make it realistic.

Good, actionable tips to making goals manageable.

Day 7: Find an accountability partner.


This will be a harder one for me for a few reasons. 1) I've never had success with accountability partners before. Always a lot of oh sure I'll help! or I'd love for you to keep me accountable. But then they never follow through ... or get defensive when I follow through. This is obviously NOT the desired situation, but past experience makes me wary, even if my experience was in middle/high school! 2) My husband is an awesome accountability partner...for some things. Like this ecourse - he has been great, he'll text things like "have you been able to watch your video yet today?"  But what about the areas he and I both struggle in? Obviously, that's harder because its easy to both fall off the bandwagon at the same time and not even notice it, or to "take a break" and never start again.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

I have watched the videos and read the material for this ecourse every day (or caught up when I missed) BUT if something isn't listed out here, it hasn't been done. For example - those goals I'm supposed to actually write down and then make manageable? Hasn't happened. The reason is, this is something that really my husband and I need to be in on together. Some of it is "merely" applicable to me. Some of it needs his support if not his active participation. Some of it is that if I'm going to be trying to make our household run smoother and be better, I want to do things that make him more relaxed and blessed...that means we need to actually sit down and spend some time discussing things. I'm planning on us talking about that some Thursday night. Yes, its late in the game, but better late than never!

Another confession? We have absolutely not accomplished the before bed routine. Husband was sick, I've been dealing with pregnancy sickness, and the baby is teething. Bad timing? Yep. But there will always be something going on. I've been trying not to get discouraged that things "haven't been going my way" but I have the tools, and even if I'm not making the big strides, at least I'm thinking about things. I'm aware of what we're doing. I'm aware of what's not working and what we are going to do to fix it. Sometimes you have to take those baby steps. Inching forward is better than standing still.

Make Over Your Mornings has had a lot of good material. The issue so far has been what's going on in our family, not the course. As my experience so far has shown - there's never an *ideal* time to start making changes. It's certainly easier to stay stuck in your rut than to climb out - but if you don't make the effort, you won't improve and you'll continue to feel behind and frustrated.

I'm looking forward to finishing this course over the next week and being able to actually start implementing what I've been learning.

What about you?



original image source

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Make Over Your Mornings {Pre-Game Session}


After almost two months since Crystal launched the Make Over Your Mornings course, I will finally be starting it tomorrow (possibly later today, depending on how the children nap)! I didn't bother before now because my brother was getting married last weekend, and everyone was pretty busy.

So, my pre-game post.

I don't know what to expect going in, except I've heard nothing but good things about the program. I already have a kind of routine for my mornings. It goes something like this:

-- wake up when I hear the baby on the monitor
-- dress baby and feed him, put him back in crib
-- if toddler isn't awake yet, eat breakfast and pump
-- if toddler still isn't awake, get dressed & ready for the day
-- if toddler is awake, get her dressed, put her in high chair with breakfast, eat breakfast myself, and pump
-- put toddler in play room, get dressed
-- depending on what is planned for supper, dump in crockpot

It's hardly glamorous, but it is a kind of routine. A very flexible routine. I'm sure it's not the most efficient and that I could do better, but I'm not sure how.

That's why I'm excited about this course

It takes only 15 minutes a day for two weeks to go through all the lessons.

And if you aren't sure if the course will really be beneficial to you, it comes risk free! If, after 30 days, you don't believe that this course really helped you - ask for a refund and you'll get it with no questions asked. How generous!

And the course only cost $17.

Here is what Crystal Paine has to say about the course
[This is] a 14-day online course that includes videos, a workbook, and step-by-step projects. 
[It] is designed to help you revolutionize your productivity, streamline your routines, invest your time in things that truly matter, and find more joy and peace in the process. 
If you've ever wished that you could figure out how to get more done, have more organization in your life, and find time to spend on things you love, the Make Over Your Mornings Course is for you. 
It's not about following a one-size-fits-all system (because every woman and family is different!), but about creating a morning that is in line with your life, your strengths, your family's needs, and your unique situation.

I'll be posting next week about any benefits I've experienced from Making Over My Mornings - a half-time report, if you will. The following week I'll post my thoughts on the course as a whole - a game recap. Then, I'll do a followup post after 30 days to let you honestly know if it's been beneficial, the pros, if I've noticed any cons, etc.

What do you think? Are you ready to Make Over Your Mornings?


This post does contain affiliate links. This means that without any additional cost to you, I get a commission for referring business. I appreciate your support!


Monday, July 13, 2015

7 Favorite Board Books



These are tried and true board books at our house. AKA these are books that I'm asked to read every day, multiple times a day - kid & mommy approved!



1. Puppy Peekaboo illustrated by Lisa McCue
Adorable illustrations, a nice rhyme, and peekaboo fun! This is one I was given as a child (but past board book stage) that survived my siblings and is now enjoyed by my children!





2. Bright Baby Touch and Feels Animals (Box set) by Priddy Books
These four books have held up very well, considering all the abuse, er, love lavished upon them. Simple, primary colored backgrounds allow the photographed animal to shine. Children can pet each animal and learn about them in rhyme.





3. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
This book has a great cadence. Even though this is one of our more recent additions it fast became a favorite. Acting out the book with your kids is fun too, and may contribute to it's popularity 




4. Baby Farm Animals Illustrated by Garth WilliamsRealistic illustrations and an over-sized book. The text is too detailed for the youngest children, but it's also easy to improvise your own story based on the pictures. My kids love looking at these pictures and making the animals sounds.


5. Eating the Alphabet by Louis Ehlert
The colorful food depicted entices children, while I like it because it promotes healthy eating options! It also assists in teaching the alphabet, what not to love? (One complaint, "P" is featured twice, which is weird, but workable.)

6. Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra BoyntonAnother fun book by Boynton. This one teaches animal sounds, and I love it because it's the perfect book for children to fill in the blank. Educational, and my kids get real excited when they get to "read" the part of the story they know.

7. DK Peekaboo Touch & Feel books
We have Rainbow Colors and Peekaboo Sophie! (Sophie la girafe)
These are a lot of fun combining both peekaboo with various textures! Children love being able to participate in the story - I hope to add more of these to our collection.

What are your favorite board books?

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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Conservatarian Manifesto {A Book Review}


Are you frustrated with where the Right seems to be going? Do you feel conservative around libertarians and libertarian around conservatives? Do you wish the Republican party would truly become the party of small government instead of the party of big-government later?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, I'm here to recommend a book to give you hope.

The Conservatarian Manifesto clearly articulates where the Republican party came from, why it holds to the ideals it espouses, where it went wrong, and how to fix it.

Honestly, when I picked out The Conservatarian Manifesto to read it was partly because of the descriptive word "Conservatarian", partly because of all of the smaller words on the cover, and partly because it rather seemed modeled after the Communist Manifesto. After I got the book I started worrying that it would be dry, boring, academic, theoretical.

Mercifully, it was the opposite.

Cooke does a fantastic job of outlining just why so many people on the Right feel left out by the Republican party. He outlines ways the Republican party can get back to their core mission - a small, federal government that leaves most decisions to the state and local levels of government. He hits on the current weakness of the party, federalism, government itself, the "big deal" about the Constitution, guns, drugs, social issues, immigration, and the future of the party. Even when you disagree with him - and you probably will at some point - the points he makes are worth giving serious thought and consideration.

This work is obviously not a slapped together job, but one that is the byproduct of much thought and deliberation. The great irony is that Cooke's outline to save the Right and make it culturally viable again, without compromise, is coming from an immigrated atheist from Britain who won't become a naturalized citizen for another three years!

The book is easy to read and thought provoking. More than that, it gives people like me hope that maybe America can be turned around and reclaimed, becoming once again the great nation she used to be.

I highly recommend this book. While it likely won't become a classic, it is obviously directed to the specific political situation of today, it will stand as a polemic to the current state of things and a commentary on this era. Time will tell if it will be an unheeded warning or part of the turning tide.

Solid 4 of 5 stars.

PS - For those who care, he does use occasional language.



I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Don't Judge Me!" (Part 2)



Yesterday, I addressed the absurdity of the "don't judge me!" statements. A huge problem today is that the concept of not judging is fraught with equivocations. We, as Christians, are supposed to recognize truth from false, good from evil. That requires judgement. We're supposed to point out sin (lovingly, of course) in the hopes that it will save the person from death and cover over a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20) We should never judge someone as being unredeemable or not worth it, but judging - when correctly applied - is something we are called to do, not something to avoid. 

Providing a thoughtful commentary on an issue that is spotlighted in society is something we ought to do as Christians. I don't expect those who don't know Jesus to act like they do. I hope you don't either. But that doesn't mean we can't have a meaningful, thoughtful, loving conversation as Christians about a particular issue to show others in the church that certain behavior is not compatible with the Christian life. 


Jesus didn't condemn the woman caught in adultery. He told the Pharisees that if any of them were sinless to cast the first stone. They all walked away. Jesus could have stoned her. He had every right. But he didn't. Jesus didn't condemn, but he did judge. "Go and sin no more." That's a judgement. 


Jesus provides the example we are to emulate. 


We ought to judge. The passage in Matthew referenced yesterday is commanding Christians to take care of the sin in their own lives before telling a brother or sister what's wrong in their life. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" You hyprocrite! Jesus cries.


But he doesn't tell us not to judge them, just to take care of our sinfulness first. "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."


Speak the truth in love. Even if it's tough love, make sure it's in love. And make sure that you're willing to help your brother or sister remove the speck from their eye if you're going to call them out on it.


(original picture source)

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Don't Judge Me!" (Part 1)


"Judge not, lest you be judged" - Matthew 7:1

How many times have we seen this proudly proclaimed on social media?

Don't judge me for being transgender.

Don't judge others for being homosexual.

Don't judge me for getting a divorce.

Don't judge me for dressing immodestly.

Don't judge those who believe different from you.

You can't tell me I'm wrong.

You can't make any statement indicating disapproval.

Don't judge me bro.

Don't judge others.

Regardless of what you think about the particular issues mentioned above, there's a problem with every single one of the above statements.

They're all judgements.

All of them, inherently, proclaim "You are wrong if you judge me/others for this."

Saying that 'something is wrong' is a judgement.

It is impossible to hold to any position proclaiming "don't judge me" or "you shouldn't judge others" and be consistent, for you are always judging those who disagree with you. Just think about that next time you're tempted to post something in that vein (or see someone who does).


Tomorrow, I'll address Christians specifically in how we ought to handle the issue of judging others.

(original picture source)

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Belles of Williamsburg {Book Review}



The Belles of Williamsburg: The Courtship Correspondence of Eliza Fisk Harwood and Tristim Lowther Skinner 1839-1849 provides a fascinating peek into life shortly before the Civil War. This correspondence is one of the few nearly complete collections of courtship letters from this era. That's pretty impressive!

 Eliza, of Williamsburg, Virgina, and Tristrim, of Edenton, North Carolina, meet when Tristrim enters William and Mary College and boards with Eliza’s family. Eliza is only twelve at the time. Eliza’s aunt had no children, and her parents had eleven, so Eliza went to live with her childless aunt to be raised by them – a practice not uncommon for the time. 

The early correspondence between Tristrim and Eliza is that of friends, though there are clearly undertones of encouragement from Eliza’s “Godma”. This early correspondence is easy and familiar. As Eliza enters society, the tones of the letters become more formal, largely adhering to the social customs of the day.

While there are a lot of “please write more often” and “I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner because of X” in this compilation, everyday happenings are also chronicled. 
  • Eliza’s family takes boarders, one of those that is mentioned several times is John Tyler, both before, during, and after his presidency. 
  • In one letter, Tristrim goes on several sentences about farming woes, and then apologies for boring Eliza – she responds by showing that she actually knows a bit about farming (more than she supposes the average woman knows). 
  • Tristrim refers to his work in the North Carolina House of Commons and laments tactics of the Locos (a fraction of the Democratic party) that delays session ending since the Whig majority is slim. Some things haven’t changed in over one hundred years – including sessions running long and tiresome, and way past when everyone wants to go home! 
  • Society events are also chronicled, who is getting married, the success of the ball, the longing for music, the poetry parodied by students after drinking whiskey punch. 
  • Postscripts from “Godma” and “Cousin Dick” (Eliza’s uncle by marriage) are frequent in earlier letters, giving yet another perspective on society at the time. 

What probably amuses me the most about these letters is that Tristrim obviously meant for them to be private between him and Eliza, mentioning that fact more than once and offering to return her letters if she felt better about that. I wonder how they would feel to know those letters had been so cared for that they are now available for the perusal of thousands of eager eyes! 

The layout by editor Mary Maillard is very helpful. At the beginning of the compilation, she provides a brief sketch outlining the correspondence and highlighting the keynotes. This provides a framework for readers to allow the letters to fill in. 

Reading these letters was an easy task. The thing that surprised me the most was that this book of actual correspondence validated authors like Jane Austen for me (whom I already loved dearly). This correspondence takes place after Austen’s death and in America, not England, but the similarities are astounding. In fact, Eliza even notes a British novel that she feels greatly explains her and Tristrim’s relationship, Grantley Manor by Lady Fullerton. 

The couple identifies so strongly with these characters they sometimes refer to each other by the character’s names. [For those interested - Grantley Manor is in the public domain, and available for download, or the 3 volumes from 1847 are available for purchase!] Maillard does include some photocopies of key passages from the novel to help explain Tristrim and Eliza’s relationship, but these photocopies are impossible to read on the Kindle, as are the family trees she provides at the start of the compilation. 

Unfortunately, this book is only available in Kindle form – and the price is a little steep for that, in my opinion, but would be reasonable to slightly high for a nice bound copy. 

Half of the book (and I’m not exaggerating) is footnotes, primary sources, secondary sources, listing of family by names, listing the letter’s chronology, etc, in short – a haven for digging further into the time and life covered by these letters. It also means the reading material is significantly less than the little bar under the Kindle book indicates.

Anyone interested in the antebellum South would do themselves a favor to read this compilation. Anyone who loves authors like Austen would enjoy these real life letters. Like I said, the price tag is steep, but suggest the book to your library if you don’t want to cough up the money and borrow it from them – then even more people can have access to this historically significant collection.

5 of 5 stars


I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
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