29 December 2010

How to Prepare for Physical Therapy

My first time at Physical Therapy was not a pleasant experience.  I went in expecting something on the order of a massage but instead felt like I'd been tossed overboard somewhere near Iceland.  Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it sure didn't feel therapeutic.  The last 15 minutes, I was hooked up to an electric shock contraption that looked like it was from the 1960s.  The PT had to sprinkle water on the attachments to make it work.  If I could have run, I would have been soooo outta' there!  To make matters worse, he covered it with the coldest ice packs south of Santa's workshop.  After my first experience, I learned to better prepare myself for the next time:

1.  Wear long pants, but be sure they stretch over the knee.  I wore capris for the first visit, which worked out just fine, but jammy pants or yoga pants were more comfortable.
2.  Eat breakfast.  I got a little nauseated the second go round, and it felt like a low blood sugar thing that could have been resolved with a piece of candy, instead the PT decided to fix it via a strange head-lock maneuver that is "popular in New Zealand."  Weird.  
3.  Hide some form of entertainment in your pocket.  I watched the clock for fifteen agonizing minutes of pure frostbite-worthy "therapy."  After that, I learned to keep my iPhone in the pocket of a fleece vest so I'd have a distraction from the pain... and it was fun to take pictures of the ancient equipment to post to Facebook.

My only other advice for post-op recovery first timers ~ Pain pills.  Double if necessary.  I tried to only take them "as needed," but taking them more often helped keep me exercising and decreased my recovery time.  .. and talk about some good sleep!  It's Plain & Simple As that.

Three Reasons to have knee surgery right before Christmas

Ten days post arthroscopic knee surgery, I'm feeling pretty good.  Would I do it again right before a big holiday?  I sure would, and here's why:

1. The doctor thought I'd be able to drive the day after my surgery, which didn't actually happen.  No driving they days before Christmas meant no last minute (expensive) Christmas shopping.
2. I could barely walk, so standing for a long time was out of the question.  This got me out of the kitchen and meant I don't have to make a big fancy Christmas dinner.
3. My sweet husband had vacation to burn, so he spent a few days at home babying me, Pampering Tiny, and cleaning up after the Tot.  

It was a nice little vacation from reality.  Plain & Simple as That

13 December 2010

A Plain Jane Christmas Wish Granted

After 20 years of complaining about a bum knee, I'm finally getting it fixed.  I just got home from a rather uneventful pre-op appointment.  Other than sacrificing a vile or two of blood, I got some great news.  The schedule got pushed back an hour, so I'll be sleeping in next Monday, then I'll go to the clinic where a very kind elf anesthesiologist will put me back to sleep!  Uninterrupted sleep must be on every mother's Christmas list, and mine is going to be medically induced.

As if the extra sleep wasn't gift enough, I also get to skip all medicine the morning of surgery ~ including my daily mess of vitamins.  I'm to wear jammy pants and a cotton t-shirt.  No jewelry.  No makeup.  No lotion.  No nail polish.  No hair spray.  No fru-fru of any kind.  Doctor's orders!

Surgery right before Christmas might sound like a bummer, but I'm telling you, it's every Plain Jane's wish come true.  ~ It's Plain & Simple As That

12 December 2010

Never Throw in the Towel

In the year we've been at Grace Point, our pastor has made a few pleas to the members to get plugged in.  At one point, he mentioned that Grace land ~ home of the 2 & 3 year-olds ~ is the hardest volunteer position to staff.  We kinda' took that as a challenge.  I'm not sure why it's so hard to get volunteers to keep two-year-olds?  It's fun.  Okay, I admit it.  Some days, I'm ready to throw in the towel, but my husband is a genius with these little people.  Even when it's not fun at the moment, it's full of fun stories, for example, here are some conversations from this morning:

Three-year-old with some urgency, "I GOTTA' go"
Me rushing him out the door, "let's go"
We return to the group and the child refuses to sit and have snacks with his friends.  Walking funny, he heads for the corner.  My husband queries him to find out why he won't eat his rice cakes when he emphatically announces, "My wiener is stuck!"
Me, somewhat puzzled, "What did he say?"
My husband, "Well, I think he said, his ..."
"Nevermind.. I got it."
~ for the record, he's okay, I just didn't get the Superman underoos pulled up far enough in the front.   I have two little girls.  Suiting up a kid with exterior plumbing is all new.

08 December 2010


***note, this post will probably only make sense if you were at iGet2Give tonight, but I decided to publish it anyway. 
 It's my blog; I can do that if I want to***

Alright, confession time.  When I checked the box to say I was interested in helping with iGet2Give, I really meant that I was willing to help... and by that, I mean, I was willing to help greet people at the door or help fill cups with ice or something along those lines on the night of the event.

Fast forward about 10 weeks to the first iGet2Give meeting.  I reluctantly agree to head up "Tickets" because of the entire list, it sounds the easiest and for some odd reason, no one else jumps on it.  I walk out of the meeting wondering what on earth I've gotten myself into.

07 December 2010

Planning for Tomorrow

Every night, we struggle to get the Tot to stay in her bed.  She might fall asleep in the living room, but there's something about her pillow that wakes her up.  I think she just starts thinking through the day and putting the pieces together in her head... or maybe she's planning for tomorrow.  

Last night, about 45 minutes into her nightly routine, and probably the 3rd time she sequestered a sucker-parent back to her room, she asked the Daddyman, "Daddy is Christmas coming?"  He affirmed her suspicions, and after a moment of pondering, she added, "Where are all the presents? I some more crayons and a big, big... are Grandma and Papa coming tomorrow?"  

Later, he returned to find her hanging over the baby gate.  Leaning down, he said, "Whatcha' thinking about Baby?"
In a drunken voice, "Daddy, I tink you're beauuuuuutiful."
Daddy, "Why, thank you Sweetheart, I think you're beautiful too.  Go get in your bed."
The Tot, "Are you gunna' wear your boots tomorrow?  I think you should wear your boots.  Can I have some sodie tomorrow?  I want a ponytail tomorrow."  

My baby is as random as her mother!  But very good at planning for tomorrow.   ~ Plain & Simple As That

04 December 2010

A Colorful Soul Hiding in a Plain Jane Shell

I'm cracking out of my shell and showing my true colors.  It's not that I'm shy, or embarrassed about what I believe or how I live my life.  So, why the pseudonym?  why the generic picture?  and who was PJ anyway?  

I created this space with good intentions of narrating a life of simplicity: free from the need to keep up with the Jones, free from the temptation to alleviate stress through retail therapy, free from a gluttony of stuff.  Though I strive for those things, 
in all honesty, I'm not there yet.  In my heart, I truly desire the Plain Jane (PJ) life, meanwhile, I added some not-so-PJ-earrings to my Christmas list.  I'm not even sure why I have a Christmas list since I really just long for a home with uncluttered spaces.    

Glancing over all the things I've written about, it's obvious that while the PJ in me has a few things to say, the soul of Stacy keeps spilling onto the page.  Plus, my audience seems more amused by my soul spillings than my heart's infatuation with bare walls and clear surfaces.  

It's time to put away the facade and use the face that matches my soul.  I have a feeling we'll still hear from my inner Plain Jane on occasion, but for now, my true colorful self is here to stay.   ~ It's still Plain & Simple As That (for now).

30 November 2010

My Facebook Friend Posted a Prayer Request Today

A friend, a Facebook friend, posted a prayer request today... not your typical, "my kid has a runny nose, please pray it won't ruin our weekend plans" or "I broke my toe today, please pray for quick healing" kind-of-pray.  Not that those aren't real prayer requests or that God doesn't care about them.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if God is just waiting for us to ask for something hard.  Do we have enough faith to ask for the hard stuff?  You know.. the stuff that only God could do.  Are we so convinced that He won't do it, so we don't even bother to ask?  Who is the omniscient one in that scenario??

Back to my Facebook friend.  I've only met her once, and I doubt she really even remembers me all that well.  I remember her beautiful long hair, her tiny stature, and the seemingly amazing adventurous life that she and her husband were living in Asia.  I took her prayer magnet as a promise to pray for them and their ministry.  

29 November 2010

Shameless Plea for Swagbucks

Hey, for those of you who *are* shopping online this year, try using SwagBucks instead of Google for your search.  It's free.  It's easy.  It combines Google and some other search engines so you get similar results... AND, you can earn free stuff without any extra effort.  I'm not sure when I started using it.  In the Spring maybe?  Anyway, I've earned at least $30 in Amazon giftcards.  You choose your reward, but I've found this to be the best bang for your Swagbuck.

28 November 2010

More Christmas Design without Decorator's Remorse

If you are like me, you greet December 26th with a to-do list every year.  Topping the list: take down, pack and store all the Christmas Decor.  It makes me regret dragging everything out of the attic in the first place!  This year, I'm determined to create a festive space that won't taunt me after all the excitement is done ~ and I want to do so without spending a fortune. Here are a few more inexpensive-disposable/consumable-yet-eco-friendly ways to decorate: 

The Hunt for Dingy-Duplex Christmas Decor 2010

Nothing gets me into the spirit of Christmas like giving, but decorating sure helps!  We have some decorations we love ~ like our collection of Lenox Snowflakes; however, when we sold our house and moved to a temporary home, we sent our rarely used items packing and chose to only live with the "essentials."  Christmas trees, lights, and ornaments missed the cut.  It's not worth disrupting the delicately balanced storage unit to unearth them, but we still want to honor the season by creating a festive space.  Thus, the Hunt for Dingy-Duplex Christmas Decor.  

The Plain & Simple Criteria:
  1. Budget-friendly (and by that, I mean mostly free)
  2. Disposable and/or Consumable yet Eco-friendly (My least favourite thing about decorations is packing them up and storing them after Christmas.  They usually hang around taunting me until mid January.  How awesome would it be if decorations disappeared after December 25?)
  3. Non-chokeable
Here are a few of the ideas I've come up with so far (And yes, they are just ideas.  That's my role in this family ~ I'm "Planning" and my husband is "Execution"):

25 November 2010

It's Not the Principle of the Matter, It's the Interest That Counts

If there's one thing I remember from college, it's the power of compounded interest.  One class in particular was all about different software that Industrial Engineers would be expected to know.  Our professor took advantage of the speadsheet lessons to teach some valuable life-lessons, such as: the advantage of making one extra mortgage payment a year, starting to save for retirement one year early, or even putting 1% more in a 401K savings plan every year.  When it comes to compounding, over the long term, even unnoticeable amounts of pocket-change count.

23 November 2010

Gateway to Christmas: Is it Thanksgiving or Is it Black Friday?

When I started this post, it started out, "Only 80 "shopping days" until Christmas"... then I worked on it when there were "Only 50 "shopping days" until Christmas"... Now, here we are ~ almost 30 days until Christmas and I still haven't published it.  Why?  Because every time I try to write about spending less this Christmas, I get writers' block and head over to Amazon.com to work on my wishlist.  The irony of it all has me thinking I have no right to write this.  ... but, since it's on my heart, here goes:

"Only 30 "shopping days" until Christmas."  

22 November 2010

Deciphering the Scribbles of a Christian Life

I live in awe of the Holy Spirit every time He connects the dots in my teensy little mind.  Sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes... they stir memories, tie experiences together, and knot knowledge in a way we can't unsee things.  Claude Hickman explains it like this:  Once someone shows you the Big Dipper,  you can't look at the sky again and NOT see it.  It's always there.  You can't unsee it.  Avery Willis and Mark Snowden explain in their book, Truth that Sticks more of how God uses our senses, to solidify our knowledge of Him.  We are created to experience God, not just to learn about Him.  Once we see Him, we can never unsee Him.  The more the dots connect, the clearer we see the whole picture.   

19 November 2010

Not Prince William's Cup of Tea

Alright, so I'm older than Prince William... quite a bit older.  And I'm already married... and I'm not a perfect size 4 with gorgeous hair, a sweet smile and a sassy British accent.  I mean, I do have some British blood, but as a first-generation American born to a British mum and a farmer from the mid-west, I'm a bit of a half breed.... but besides all that, I think I've figured out the REAL reason Prince William chose Kate Middleton over me.

16 November 2010

FSA Tips and Tricks

It's that time of year again:  Open Enrollment Season.  I'm all for tax deductions and tax credits... so we take full advantage of the Flexible Spending Account (FSA).  The years we had babies or eye surgeries, it was a real perk!  However, this year, we didn't have anything big, so I'm left with a mess of receipts.

I keep all my receipts in a pile file.. okay, in a piled file.  Having a credit card receipt from the doctor's office is NOT sufficient documentation.  The mysterious reimbursement people also require a copy of the sheet that has the doctor's notes on it, and you have to *ask* for it every time.  Try remembering that while you are lugging two bambinos around, and then keeping it with the right receipt.  Here's my tip.. I just discovered this today, and I'm rather excited!  Call the billing office and ask them for a Year-to-Date summary of your account (usually by patient, so the pediatrician will have one summary for each child).  They can mail it, and you won't have to reconcile all those receipts.  Hallelujah!

*** If you don't use the FSA because you don't see the point, 
keep reading, 
the rest of this post is for you *** 

15 November 2010

A Special Occasion for Something Simple

We try not to take our kids to too many over-the-top experiences yet ~ you know, like Chuckie Cheese ~ lest they start expecting it, or worse, they just aren't happy with the simple things of life.  My Tot thinks it's a treat to go to Sam's on Sunday after church for pizza.  We can feed the entire family for about $7 and she thinks it's special.  I guess that means it is special, and at seven bucks, I think it is out-of-this-world-special!  

Today is the eve of her third birthday.  It seems a momentous occasion, so I thought it was time to up the adventure level a bit and introduced her to another of life's simple pleasures.  A quiet moment with a hot beverage.  Unfortunately, she hasn't quite caught on to the "quiet" part, and she was only really interested in whip cream on top. 
The Tea Cup, Saucer & Spoon are part of a set from Green Toys ~ they've lasted over two years so far, they look just like the day she opened them, and they are dishwasher safe.  A great gift for any little girl.
Maybe later today, I'll take her to see the fish at Walmart.  It's a toddler's paradise.  ~ Plain & Simple As That. 

14 November 2010

A Not-So Plain Jane Splurge

My friend Malinda is crazy; she's a Mary Kay Lady, she's a miracle worker, and she is always available for a beauty emergency.  I'm pretty low maintenance when it comes to beauty, but there's nothing that makes me feel better than clear skin with less visible wrinkles.  Malinda knows her stuff and prescribes just the right regimen to make me look more like my age and less like the sum of my life's experiences.  

12 November 2010

Industrially Engineered Lifespace Design

Somewhere on the career scale, between Burger Flipper and Rocket Scientist, you'll find the Industrial Engineers.  We function on logic, which means we struggle to understand why the rest of you do the things you do the way you do them.  As engineers, we're supposed to be creative, although, I'm convinced engineering school sucked most of the creativity out of me. I dredged my way though the seven deadly engineering sciences.  Electricity used to be magical, but now, I understand how it works... okay, not really.  It was purely my professor's pity and the help of a few friends that got me through Circuits, but the point is, it's no longer magic.  I know there's a logical reason why it works. 

Not surprising, the courses that actually intrigued me were the subjects directly related to Industrial Engineering: process flow, manufacturing processes, production planning, materials management, and workplace design... and those are the places I still get to be creative.  You usually think of an industrial engineer as a manager.. what? you don't?  well you should, just ask any of my industrial engineer friends!  The skills are transferable to most any field, and I've been blessed to use my IE skills managing my home *and* designing a house for our family.  For an IE, "Home" isn't just "where the heart is."  No, Home is the workplace of the family, and it deserves a simple, creative, industrial, yet inspired design.  For this IE-turned-SAHM, Home is a lifespace.. a myriad of places: 
  • It's our favorite restaurant where we prepare meals (working from the stove & refrigerator on the left to the dining room table on the right).  ....and then do dishes (working from the dining room table back to the sink/dishwasher and then the cabinet).  
  • Each night, Home becomes a spa where we bathe babies in a tub without shower doors to maneuver around or a potty to climb over.  
  • One day, we will again set up our Home as The Potty Training Boot Camp.  The vinyl floored playroom adjacent to the laundry room and a bathroom will be perfect when Tiny is ready.  
  • EIGHT closets, uber-easy-to-access attic space, and a crawlspace make our home our storage unit.  Hopefully, all the "overflow" stuff we don't want to admit we hoard will be easily hidden away, if not, it'll be given away!
  • For us, Home is a happening-hangout for hosting holiday events and spontaneous get-togethers with family and friends ~ in the great room or the oversize porch away from the plastic toys, cartoons, and mystery stickiness of the basement.
  • Home is a place to rest & a place to play ... with Tiny & the Tot, play equals NOISE, so while one is in the basement-level playroom, the other can sleep in her relatively quiet bedroom on the second floor. 
  • For any mom, Home is a place to do laundry.  Constantly.  I'll have a room to sort it and leave it sorted until it's done (Someone please tell me it eventually gets done.)
  • My kitchen has an integrated desk, just big enough for a MacBook, a printer, and an 8" file drawer (Yes, an 8" file drawer... and lots of shelves for MY file system, aka, File-by-Pile!) because Home is also the office.
  • All the bedrooms are on the sunset side of the house because on Saturday mornings, Home is a five star luxury hotel ~ perfect for sleeping in.
  • Most importantly, Home is our sanctuary with plenty of little places to get away from the rest of the family.  I love them dearly, but, well, you know.  
Okay, so it might not be perfectly engineered, but we are pretty excited about the "lifespace" designed dwelling for our family.  Perfect for working on rest, relaxation, and reconnection.  This house is full of function with just enough form to reflect our family's personality.  And, I can't wait to move in ~ Plain & Simple As That.

10 November 2010

Rule #2 ~ Don't Wake The Mama Bear

Dear Tiny,
I appreciate that you slept for 11 consecutive hours last night.  However, setting me up for a midnight awakening was kinda' mean and calculated for a one-year-old, don't you think?  At least when the alarm started blaring, my mind raced back to all the smiles and giggles you shared while pressing buttons earlier in the day.  

This brings us to Rule #2:  You may play with the clock, but please refrain from setting the alarm.... unless it's the daddyman's clock ;)  

I'm convinced I won't sleep through the night the until the fall of 2028.  It's frustratingly Plain & Simple As That.  

08 November 2010

Fun Doesn't Have to be Expensive, Just Creative

Never one to excel at playtime, I'm finally learning that it isn't as hard as Fisher-Price makes would like me to believe.  Three years of purchasing random trash from the toy stores has lead me to this... a stack of toys that actually entertain Tiny & the Tot:
Clockwise from the top: 
  1. A nap spot for "Monster"/rocket ship/pirate ship/cage for Tiny (though she doesn't enjoy that as much as the Tot)/indoor canvas for sidewalk chalk, 
  2. "Suuuuuuper Neena's" cape (Thank you WonderPets),
  3. a Red straw from Sonic ~ the most highly prized, most often sought-after, most frequently fought-over toy on the planet, 
  4. Tiny's crinkle wrapper (note, this is a one day use toy, but the Tot usually has a new one for her after her first nap), and 
  5. last but not least, a drum/pony caddy/circle template/tea party plate/scooper/shaker/hat.
I used to dread inside-days, but a bit of creativity goes a long way, and my littles seem to be full of creativity.  What ideas do you have for inexpensive/free indoor activities?  Brainstorming together, I bet we can come up with a winter's worth of fun. ~ It's Plain and Simple As That.

07 November 2010

That Girl Knows Her Daddy

On Friday, the daddyman intended to be home from work a little early, so I promised his parents that we would come up and do a few tasks around their house.  The maple trees have blushed and the mercury struggles to make it into the 70s during the day, so it is time to remove the air conditioners from the windows and bring in some wood for the stove.  Unfortunately, 2:00 turned into 3:00 turned into 5:00 turned into a call from the daddyman, "ummm... I'm not gonna' make it home early this afternoon."  

While I've missed my opportunity to go for an afternoon swim, there's still a promise to keep and tasks to be completed.  My suggestion: "Why don't I take the girls on up to Mom and Dad's house, and we'll meet you there?"  Brilliant idea, if-I-do-say-so-myself!!!  

I pack a pair of jeans, a belt, clean socks, a t-shirt, a fleece pullover, a pair of boots, and a pair of hiking shoes incase he's not in the mood for boots.  The Tot decides to help me pack.  This is what she added to the stack:
That girl knows that when Daddy packs, he always takes his shoe trees and a book.  She even picked one with a mirror.  Smart girl.  Plain & Simple As That

The Perfect Way to Start a Day

It's Plain & Simple As That

06 November 2010

Who Am I Becoming?

Anyone else notice that the more you associate with someone, the more you become like that someone?  Parents are all too familiar with this force of nature ~ it’s the reason they warned us to choose our friends wisely.  In junior high, I wore biker shorts with men's boxers over them in an effort to like the cool girls.  Mother warned me I'd regret that.  Anyway.. that whole “becoming like someone” is happening to me again.
Three years of living in Totland, surrounded by musical light-up toys, Dora the Explorer, and a two-and-a-half foot tall shadow, have taken their toll.  I'm becoming more like a toddler and less like a mature adult (except for that whole gray hair thing.. read about that on my post For Every Season, There is a Hairstyle).  I'm whiney.  I'm needy.  I need a nap, and I'm vocal about it all.  
Even in something as fundamental as spending time in the Word daily, I too often spend an entire week starved of any real meat.  I wait to be spoon-fed on Sunday morning.  On a good week, I might get an occasional snack of truth from a song on the local Christian radio station.  When I am in the Word, I’m not concentrating.  I may read a bit, but do I really take it in, or do I just check the box?  I get about as much from my quiet time as Tiny gets from feeding herself.  She mostly just looks at it, smears a little on her face, and flings the rest on the tile.
My Tiny just turned one, and I guess that has me thinking about how I've spent my time since retiring from the "real world" to be a SAHM.  It should be considered a privilege to spend every waking (and not so awakeing) moment with my offspring... but there are days I hate it.  Days I hate being a mom.  Not that I want to go back to the world of high heels, fancy hair, & annual performance reviews, just that I want to be around grownups ~ or do I?
A wise mentor recently asked me, “Do you spend much time with your girlfriends?” .. um.. no, not really.  Who has time for friends when you have so many things to do?  Let’s just start with all the things that need to be wiped: faces, hands, bottoms, counters, floors, high chairs, walls, etc, etc..  I’m behind on laundry.  I have no idea what’s for dinner.  My vacuum cleaner is buried in the garage (which tells you how long it’s been since I last used it).  The baby is crying.  And I can’t remember the last day I had a shower.   Besides, while they may not admit it, my friends have it all together, and that makes me feel like even more of a loser mom.  They bake from scratch, make their own cleaning supplies, their kids aren’t just dressed, they are accessorized!  I’m doing good to get my princess to brush her teeth and/or hair!  Even if I did want to go spend time with my friends, my self-esteem won't let me out the front door.  After two babies in two years, my jeans “fit” differently, my hair is all crazy ~ what’s left of it anyway, I’ve given up on clothes that aren’t spit-up and sticky-finger proof.  What’s the point, really?  
For the last 11 weeks, I managed to go tag along with other women on a journey.  Most of them were more gussied up than me, but on the inside, I learned that almost all of us have some dirty laundry.  Being around them made me realize I’m not the only one that doesn’t have it all together.  I’m not the only one drowning in a sea of primary colored plastic.  It’s okay that I don’t enjoy my “job” everyday.  As Tiny & the Tot get a little older, and a little less dependent on their mama, it’s okay to spend some time outside of Totland.  Eleven weeks of SheLOL gave me a growing hunger for the meat of God's Word.  I've also grown in my relationships through this study.  The “cool girls” don’t expect me to wear what they wear, or do everything they do.  It’s okay to be myself, but now, I kinda’ want to be more like the people I am around.  
Suddenly, it’s an honor to be more like the ones I associate with, and I don’t think my mom would warn me that I’d regret that one day. ~ Plain & Simple As That. 

05 November 2010

Destination: Up Against a Wall

For some, being up against the wall is a bad thing.  For me, it's a chance to catch my breath.  "The Wall" has become a my ultimate destination.  You see, I'm a swimmer.  Not really.  I mean, I'm not strong. I'm not fast, and I'm not graceful.  I just like to swim.  It's sweat-free calorie burning.  It's a ticket to a toddler-free shower, and it's uninterrupted meditation time.   

For the most part, outside voices cease, and I can be alone in my own little underwater world.  Sometimes I just count my strokes and try to kick faster to make it to the other wall before I get to 27.  (Don't laugh, I'm doing good to actually swim "laps" without stopping.)  Sometimes I plan my next facebook status update.  If it's short, I may save it for Twitter.  If it's long, well, now I have a blog (with needy followers).  Ha!

Sometimes though, I just meditate on all my lists ~ I am an avid list-maker afterall.  Usually, my to do list surfaces to the top, and I plan out my afternoon.  Often I plan dinner and make a grocery list in my mind.  On occasion, I think of all the things I'm thankful for, usually starting with "this quiet moment, even though I feel like I'm drowning."  After about half an hour, or half a mile I'm ready to go back to the above world.  

Thirty minutes of survival swimming is enough to make me thankful for the little things in life... like oxygen.   It makes for a good day, and for the rest of the afternoon, Tiny & the Tot have to work a little harder to drive me up a wall.  Plain & Simple As That.

Its a Great Location ~ It Just Stinks

While we wait for our house to be ready for move-in day, we reside on what I have deemed "Duplex Alley".  Allow me to explain my synicism about this place.  First off, I am not implying that I am too good to live in a "semi-detached" home nor am I too good to live in a space considered relatively small by American Cultural Standards.  Sure, our facet drips incessantly, the bathrooms doors don't actually latch, and the carpet has that a-cat-once-peed-here-frequently feel to it.  Living here has taught us to really take a look at the lifestyle we had come to take for granted.

Even though it is smallish, Tiny & the Tot each have their own room.  We have a garage, a fenced in yard hill, even a dishwasher.  We have great neighbors, and we live close to everything ~ we are blocks away from schools, parks, ice cream shop, the Farmers' market, and even our new house!  

Living close to "everything" seemed like a great idea at first.  Unfortunately, sharing a property line with the city compost pile and being just downwind from the city wastewater plant is taking a toll on my ability to appreciate how fine a location we have discovered.  

Duplex alley ~ its a great location.  It just stinks.  Plain & Simple As That.

04 November 2010

Thank you to the SheLOL Ladies

This week, I'm learning the power of prayer.. not just any prayer, but the prayer of Christian sisters who have walked (or are walking) in my shoes.  We are each given a set of circumstances and God desires to work through those circumstances.  If we refuse to share them, even the tough ones, they are useless.  Not only that, but we miss out on the blessing of prayer from someone who has trudged the same struggle and lived to walk out the other side thriving.  

Tuesday night, I was given the opportunity to share a brief testimony about the last 11 weeks... I shared about my struggle to find time away alone with God.  Since then, the girls have slept in and taken synchronized naps.  That hadn't happened the previous 11 weeks, and certainly not 2 days in a row.  

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 4:20 am.. wide awake.  I debated getting up, but talked myself into going back to sleep.  At 6:10, I got a second chance at a quiet house to myself ~ my husband was already gone to work and the girls were still snoozing.  I knew it must be a God given day, so I took advantage and even had tea during my quiet time.  Unheard of!!  

So, THANK YOU to the SheLOL ladies who have been praying for me since Tuesday night.  As for the one of you who prayed I would wake up before my girls ~ not funny!!   Plain & Simple As That :)

31 October 2010

For Every Season, There is a Hairstyle

Nothing reveals more about a woman than her hair and her shoes.  Even if she hides her gray, the styles in her grammar school photos will reveal the decade she was born and probably tell a story about the journey that got her to where she is today.  Her hair style speaks volumes about her life style ~ is she relaxed and easy going, high maintenance, a trendsetter, a trend follower?  

I've strayed from long hair a few times and regretted it every time.  I'm not a trend setter, a trend follower and I don't have it in me to be high maintenance. In elementary school, I wore two braids for most of my school pictures with a slight detour for that awful mullet of second grade.  By junior high, I had matured to a french braid paired with some fringed moccasins that were about 20 years ahead of their time. Fast forward to college.  My years at OSU were a bit conflicted.  I was struggling for an identity and terrified of pretending to be anything that wasn't part of my nature.  That mostly meant long-natural-barely-brushed-rarely-trimmed hair.  It was a nice compliment the Birkenstocks w/ socks "fashion" statement (that had been out of style for about 20 years).  However, I also enjoyed dancing with the local cowboys, so on Thursday nights, I left my "style" in the dorm and wore a high ponytail, a pair of ropers and some way-too-tight-Rockies to Tumbleweed's.  It was like a costume party every weekend.  

But all good costume parties come to an end, and in 1999, I joined the real world.  I took a job in a manufacturing plant so the hair went into a bun ~ everyday.  EASY.  I loved it!  

Then, I started working with fancy people.  Que a new costume party.  I adopted an actual hair style and bought high heels to match.  Though my colored-highlighted-stacked-razor cut-flat ironed-hair looked nice when it was styled, I despised the morning routine and the constant upkeep.  A haircut every 8 weeks & color every 3 months made me feel like I needed a second job.  

Three years of being a stay-at-home-mom and being somewhat alienated from popular culture has helped me to be more okay with the way God created me ~ cow-licked hair and all.  Growing it out has simplified both my routine and my upkeep schedule.  I'm even learning to accept my "natural" highlights, finding inspiration from other ladies who are Going Gray and Looking Great.  No worries though.. I haven't completely gone back to my Birkenstock days.  I can still rock the scarf look to hide a bad hair day, but I have learned to appreciate the magic of a straightening iron for taming runaways (and most of my hair is runaways).  

Life is a journey and along the way, things change.  We adapt to our environment, but the challenge is to remain true to ourselves ~ to embrace what comes naturally even when it isn't the most popular trend.  It's Plain & Simple as That.

29 October 2010

Tricked or Treated?

Even a plain Jane can be known to splurge on occasion... a birthday gift for Tiny & the Tot, the cookie aisle at Walmart, a rare dinner with the daddyman, or a mani/pedi to celebrate the start of flip flop season... but one thing I refuse to spend too much money on is halloween, and more specifically, Halloween costumes.  For me, it's the thrill of the hunt, and the satisfaction of expressing creativity on next-to-nothing.  I mean, really.. anybody can purchase a costume in a bag, but it takes sheer genius to come up with something out of next-to-nothing!  
We are hosting a Game at the annual Grace Point Church "Trunk or Treat" event, so by Sunday, I have to figure out a queen costume... three days, any kind of queen; the pressure is on!  Let's see, there's:

  • a beauty queen - umm.. no.  I don't have the legs.  Plus, I can't walk in heels.
  • the Queen of England - ummm... nope, I can't pull off the hats or the accent, 
  • a Homecoming Queen - uh uh... too many wrinkles and gray hairs, 
  • Queen (For my audience that lives under a rock, Queen is a band) - it would be sinful for me to show up at an event for children wearing spandex
  • Queen of Hearts - interesting, but would require too much facepaint
  • Queen Esther - pretty predictable, but .. I think it's the one. 
Now, to find a robe, a headpiece of some sort and some accessories.  The catch:  I'm determined not to spend more than $10 total on the parts of the costume that can't be (or won't be) used again in everyday life.  Here's what I have put together:
  • Blue Short haired velour robe: Scored this little gem at the Thrift store in the old part of Rogers today for a buck.  Unless I plan to save it for the nursing home, this won't be used again, so that counts toward my $10 budget.   
  • Headband: a big spend at $5.  Potential for the Tot to wear it sometime, but not likely.
  • Regal Purple Velvet Beaded wine bottle bag (to be turned into a purse because I can't be without pockets): 50 cents.  I love the Thrift store.
  • Shoes: $0 I'm just using my old sandals
  • Leggings: This was a big chunk of my budget at $4.50, but it is functional.  I hesitated on this particular purchase since it adds nothing to the overall effect, but it's hard to put a price on warmth, so I went for it.  They are just plain black, so I might wear them again with a skirt and some boots if I decide to get fancy one day.  
  • Sash and/or belt: $0 I haven't figured this out yet, but I'm thinking some old fabric; I have some lavender microsuede that might work.
  • Jewelry: I could have spent about $20 on some cool costume jewelry, but instead, I'm going on a scavenger hunt through some of the old beaded stuff I was saving for the Tot.  
Overall, I'm at $11.  Not bad even though it's technically 10% over budget. I guess I should just let it be.  

I struggle to see Halloween, even Halloween "alternatives" as anything more than marketing ploys by the industry ~ especially the Pumpkin Growers of American; the makers of Aqua Net, cheap tulle, and fake blood; and the good folks in Hershey, Pennsylvania (and Hackettstown, NJ).  I probably shouldn't bring that last one up since technically, candy is our bread and butter, but it's true.  

Alas, I've been suckered and we spent some cash on Snickers and M&Ms (of course).  And... I bought pumpkins for Tiny & the Tot along with some "ballet slipper" pink spray paint so they could double as Tiny's birthday decorations.  

Maybe I was tricked into "celebrating" Halloween.  It's okay though.  Afterall it's for the kiddos, and they are in for a real treat.  Plain & Simple as That. 

28 October 2010

Jump Start Your Journey

Last year, I started to feel like I was drowning in stuff ~ stuff I didn't use, stuff I didn't need, and even stuff I didn't want.  On a search to find breathing room, I discovered Discardia and the 100 Thing Challenge.  Both sites got me thinking about where all this stuff came from and why I couldn't get rid of it.  Some of my friends have since asked me about my journey to living a more simplified life, so this post is dedicated to anyone who wants to get started down a similar path to freedom from junque.  Keep in mind... it is a journey, and I don't claim to have arrived.

Discardia helped me to part with the things I kept even though I didn't want them.  Parting with a gift or something inherited makes me feel guilty.  Somehow, we attach memories of people to their things.  We have to understand that parting with the item does not lessen our love for the giver (or previous owner in the case of "inheritance").  I don't need everything that was in Grama's house.  I wear her ring, and have a few of her Hummels.  Keeping her dishes (to give to my girls one day), freed me to get rid of a bunch of my dishes.  Too often things kept out of guilt drain joy from true treasures.  

I learned that true joy could be gained from giving my treasures away.  It's okay to pass along gifts to someone that will enjoy said items more than me.  Not in a sneaky regifting kind of way, just in an "I thought you would like this" kind of way.  

How often have you kept something because it was such a great deal?!  I bought a beautiful tea set for a steal once... but I didn't actually need another tea set.  It was pretty, and I liked it, but it was taking up space and stealing joy (guilt for owning it, guilt at the thought of getting rid of it since I spent money on it) ~ so, it went to live with my friend.  She now has real tea parties with her little girl instead of pretending with a play set.  Before, it was gathering dust in the shadows of my curio cabinet, now it is being used for its intended purpose ~ and that erases the guilt for me.   

The 100 Thing Challenge showed me why we accumulate so much stuff and how to stop the flood from overtaking my house and in turn, my spirit.  I never got down to 100 personal things, but my mindset has changed.  I now view retail therapy as a temporary bandaid, not a permanent fix.  I've found it much easier to donate half my closet, and I'm enjoying more breathing room even though we are in a significantly smaller home than we were a year ago.  Those skinny jeans I've been saving... they are from another season in my life.  Hoarding them in my closet will not make me skinny ~ it just makes me sad to look at them.  Besides, by the time they fit again, they will only be great for vintage costume parties ~ hardly worth the space in my closet since I don't get invited to many of those.  Time to have a garage sale or better yet, donate to a good cause (Check out Donate or Save to see the math).  It's Plain & Simple As That.

For more ideas on where to get started, check out the discussion pages for Discardia on Facebook and the 100 Thing Challenge on Facebook.   

27 October 2010

Fashion Tips for Kids

Plain & Simple Fashion Tip #1: Last week, I bought Tiny two brand new long sleeve white onsies. Layering these under a t-shirt or a sundress turns summer wear into fall fashion.  

Plain & Simple Fashion Tip #2: If you feed Tiny too many chocolate animal cookies, dress her appropriately.  Yep.  You guessed it.  

A classic case of Murphy's Law.  Plain & Simple as That.    

Even a Hypocrite Can Praise Him

David was called "a man after God's own heart," but if you read the Psalms, you might observe while being very good at worshipping the Lord, he was also a big ol' whiney baby.  With a great big slice of humble pie, I generally refer to such people as hypocrites.  I won't claim to be an expert at worship, but I sure can whine.  Yesterday was no exception.

Tiny was up early ~ and by early, I mean before the other side of the planet went to bed ~ the Tot wasn't far behind her at O'dark-thirty.  My journal had a whooping four words in it before they interrupted my quiet time.  Later, I started again with the date, "10.26.2010" and the words, "Take 2" even though Tiny was still crying herself to sleep.  Her crying woke up the Tot.  Great.  Back to keeping one quiet while the other sleeps ~ have I mentioned we live in a little duplex with thin walls???  Ugh!

By 3:30, Tiny still hadn't taken a nap, so I packed up both littles and headed to the sanctuary!  (Check out my posting: Maybe You go for Skinny, I Go for Sanity to hear more about that).  Nothing soothes a bad day like some time away ~ even if it means almost drowning exercising.  

Still not quite soothed all the way, I unloaded my day on the daddyman before heading out to do some religious stuff. How's that for hypocritical!?!?!  After whining to my friends at church, I came home to a quiet house.  Sixteen hours after first complaining to God about wanting some time alone with Him, He granted the cry of my heart.  

This morning, I woke up 30 minutes before the Tot ~ just the amount of time I begged God to give me.  A dear friend came for tea and Farmers' Market apple butter (and she brought her Tot along to occupy my littles!) Ahhh... #5 on my  Name them One by One list of blessings!  This was just what I needed to keep Tiny awake for the morning.  Skipping her morning nap meant that she and the Tot would be taking synchronized afternoon naps ~ another cry of my heart granted!

My point is this: I may be a hypocrite, but I serve a mighty God, and He still shows up when I cry out.  Actually, when I cry out, He shows up in a big, big way.  It's Plain & Simple As That.

26 October 2010

Name Them One by One

While I claim to be a Plain Jane at heart, I'm living in a culture of extravagance so sometimes I still relish some of the not-so-plain & simple-things of life.  But if I think about the things that really make me happy, I have to leave off silver and gold, diamonds, fancy bouquets of flowers, couture fashion, and expensive perfumes.  This is a list of things that make my heart smile, things that make me realize it's time to count my blessings.  

1. Tiny & the Tot ~ especially when they nap simultaneously.  
2. 80 degree days in October.  The trees are gorgeous and it's still warm enough to enjoy them
3. Sand between my toes and endless water before my eyes.  This doesn't happen often enough.
4. Hot tea on a rainy day
5. Hot tea with a friend, especially a friend that brings along entertainment for the Tot (ie, another Tot) or a friend that brings along scones (Mary ~ you know who you are)
6. Hot tea with my mom.  It always tastes better at her house
7. Hot tea at grandma's house, especially with blueberries and custard

**I know what you're thinking... "Okay, so we've established that you like hot tea... shouldn't that just be one item?"  For the record, I stand by my list that these are four distinct entries**

8.  Lunch dates with the daddyman
9.  Good hair days ~ especially when Jolana does it at The Blue Door
10.  Swimming more laps than my goal for the day
11.  Reading comments on my blog or on my Facebook page
12.  Emails from a friend I haven't talked to in a while
13.  Getting my passport stamped and experiencing a different culture
14.  Speaking Spanish to someone who didn't expect me to know any ~ and seeing their face light up when they realize I know THEIR language.  Makes me want to learn 10 more languages!
15. Sleeping in
16. Making someone laugh or even just smirk.  Humor that elicits snorts is the ultimate goal most of the time though. :)
17.  Roller coaster rides ~ especially big drops or fast spins
18.  Reading something I wrote and feeling like it is brilliant ... even if I know I'm the only one that gets it.
19.  Worship songs that penetrate my soul and capture my sentiments exactly.
20.  Candlelight
21.  Peanut M&Ms 
22.  Finding a great deal on something for my house or my girls at a garage sale, thrift store, flea market or Craigslist
23.  Jeans that fit 
24.  My Uggs, my jammy pants, an old tattered long sleeve t shirt and my MacBook with a fully charged battery
25.  Watching the daddyman read to Tiny & the Tot
26.  When the Tot says "Please," "Thank you," or "Excuse me" without being prompted

I started this list as "20 things" but it just poured out and I have a feeling I could easily come up with at least 100 more (even without cheating and making one thing into four things).  

God has truly blessed me ~ it's Plain & Simple as That.

25 October 2010

Maybe You Go for Skinny ~ I go for Sanity

There are a million reasons to exercise:  camaraderie on the bikes, sweating off last night's pie in Zumba class, showing off a new pair of Sketchers ShapeUps, working toward those coveted skinny thighs and flat abs.  Name your motivation.  It's different for everyone.  As for me, I do it the cinder block shower with the mildewed curtain.

A few years ago, when I signed up for this mommy gig, I fully anticipated having to constantly supervise my littles ~ but nothing could have prepared me for constant supervision.  In my years of working outside the home, I never experienced micromanagement like this.  Sure, I get that all humans are created for community, but there are certain times everyone wants to just be alone.  

Alone time takes careful planning these days.  I've tapped the depths of my cerebrum to come up with a list of "errands" so when a Tot storms the bathroom, I have a task waiting for her: take something to the trash in the kitchen, check to see what Tiny is doing in the living room, or go look out the window on the other end of the house and tell me if Daddy is home yet.  To gain an extra 30 seconds, I sometimes attempt the evasive sneak-away-without-telling-her maneuver.  I've learned not to attempt this during Tiny's naps because sneaking away is always followed by, "MOOOOOOMMMY ~ WHEEEEEERRRRREEEE AAAAAAAAAAAAARE YOUUUUUUUUUUUU?"  Seriously?.. we live in a 1000 square foot duplex.  Where does she think I went?  Errrrrr.   

My Solution:  The Pool.  

Not only does it give me the freedom to gorge on an entire loaf of pepperoni cheese bread, but swimming also guarantees an opportunity for prayer and meditation.  Alone!  The littles stay occupied supervising the childcare area, and the other swimmers are pretty quiet.  It's sorta' difficult to talk while swimming.  

So, yeah, I covet your skinny thighs and flat abs, but for now, I keep my gym membership for the sake of sanity.  Thirty minutes of swimming justifies a nice hot shower with no one busting through the curtain screaming, "Moooooom!"  That's my motivation.  Plain & Simple as That.  

24 October 2010

Investing in our Future

For the first seven years of our marriage, we focused on building a future. We stacked our 401k, saved a little nest egg for a down payment on a house in town, and tried to a be a blessing to others though what we deemed sacrificial giving.  All the right boxes were checked.

In the meantime, what we really sacrificed was time; especially quality time together. Between raising rugrats and building a bungalow, busyness has rocked our foundation this year.  If we let it crack, the rest of what we've strived to build could crumble around us.  Recently, we decided to heed some valuable wisdom from a trusted friend and invest more time, energy and money into enriching our relationship.

At first, taking time away from our girls and rearranging our resources felt a bit selfish even though we understood that it is essential to secure the future of our collective dreams.  Tonight, we finally left Tiny & the Tot with a teenager, and went on a date. First, we strolled down memory lane as we sorted through our storage unit together.  Afterwards, we enjoyed some pumpkin pie and mingled with the retirees at Villiage Inn.  We came home to sleeping babies.  What a perfect evening!

Sometimes, investing in the future doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be intentional.  I'm finding it really is as Plain & Simple as That.

23 October 2010

Bringing home Baby without Breaking the Bank

What do you really NEED to bring a baby home?  It was so much fun to go register for all those tiny little bits of baby paraphernalia  ~ but you don't need it all and it just takes up space!!!  

For kid #2, we trashed the "Diaper Champ" for a plain trash can lined with a Walmart bag.  We empty it more often, but it seems more sanitary.
The Tot had loads of adorable clothes that she never wore.  Footed PJs are cute enough for church when you weigh less than 20 pounds and it is only 20 degrees outside.  Little dresses, even with "tights," never seemed practical.  Tiny has no idea how unstylish we dress her, but I'm convinced she appreciates comfort more than she would fashion anyway.  Every time poop escapes a diaper, I'm grateful for her garage sale wardrobe.  

The most treasure toys in the house are hidden in the daddyman's pocket: keys, cell phone, a few pennies, and a wallet stacked with credit cards.  No matter how many squeaky bath toys we give them, they'd rather scoop water and splash with a washcloth.  Yogurt containers have entertained my girls far longer than anything from Toys 'R Us, and never ever underestimate the value of that crinkly fruit snack wrapper the Tot left under the coffee table for Tiny to find. 
Marketers would have you think it costs a fortune to have a kid that will be intelligent, but I tell you, you can raise a creative kid with a rock, a stick, a rope, a bucket of water, and pile of dirt.  ... okay, maybe it's not quite that easy, but for my blog's namesake, let's pretend it is Plain & Simple as That.

19 October 2010

Donate or Save ~ Use the Math

It's often hard to donate good stuff.  It just feels wrong; I mean, you spend good money on something you'd like to at least get a little bit out of it, right?  but sometimes you get MORE for giving it away than you would if you sold it.  How?  It's called a Tax Deduction!  So, how do you decide if an item is worth more to sell or to give away?  Let me show you:

The Salvation Army has a Value Guide for household items and clothes.   Let's do the math using a men's shirt for an example.  The Salvation Army says a men's shirt is worth anywhere from $2.50 to $12.00, and YOU get to decide the value (be reasonable).  If you donate a $6 shirt, you can deduct six bucks from your taxes ~ donate $200 worth of stuff: deduct 200 bucks from your taxes!

If you are in the 15% tax bracket, donating the shirt either reduces your tax bill by .90 ($6.00*0.15) or adds that much to your tax return!  You have to sell the shirt for more than 90 cents in a garage sale to make more by selling it than by giving it away.  If you are in the 25% tax bracket, it's worth even more to donate ~ $1.50!

I usually sell shirts for 50 cents, so donation is a way better deal for me.  I get rid of stuff in bulk, I don't have to store it for the next season, I don't have to spend as much time in the driveway bickering with people over the price of my husband's old jeans.  The trick is to keep a good record of what you donate.

How's that for Plain & Simple Math!

14 October 2010

Treasure Hunt Find

When it comes to style, I'm a true plain Jane.  I like my old jeans, my husband's old t-shirts, and a pair of flip flops... when it comes to my house, I'm mostly into simplistic, but can't help but feel comforted by a bit of vintage whimsy.  

While my fancy friends swarm the mall for the latest fall trends in home fashion, I like to go treasure hunting on Craigslist or garage sales and flea markets.  Spray-paintable frames for the girls' artwork, unusual tchotchkes, and lately ~ vintage furniture that can be reupholstered and/or refinished usually top my wishlist.  Today, I discovered "Out of the Box" err.. something like that, in Rogers, AR.  It's a new flea market in an converted nursing home.  I found a real diamond in the rough.  For six bucks, I got this:

Urban Outfitters sells this one for $148.00

Now that's a deal! ~ It's Plain & Simple as That

13 October 2010

Rule #1

Dear Little People, 
If you stay up late and get up early, that means you must take a really great (LONG) nap.  Get used to it.  That's the rule.  ~ It's Plain & Simple As That.


12 October 2010

Breaking Up With My Addiction

You remember him... that boyfriend that you knew wasn't "the one," but your heart wouldn't let you end it.  

So, one day, you did it.  You called him up and dropped the dreaded, "I just want to be friends" line.  But really, who can be "friends" after dating?  

That's how I feel about Diet Coke.  It's been fun.  I've savored every single cherry flavoured, lime flavoured, Sonic iced of carmel coloured, carbonated, aspertame.  I've enjoyed the conversation accompanied with Chips & Salsa, Popcorn, PB&J sandwiches, and yes, even the occasional salad.  

I've tried to end it before, but I keep running back to my beloved 24-pack of silver cans.  When the top shelf of the fridge is empty, it's like a part of me is missing.  

Is this the last time?  Is it really over forever?  It needs to be.  

The last 4.275 days (if we're counting) have been filled with headaches, chills, and then a freedom that only comes from being released from something that has controlled me for far too long.  

Good bye Diet Coke.  Maybe we can still be Facebook Friends. ~ It's Plain & Simple As That