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 :)