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Same Kind of Different as Me - a review

I had several friends tell me that they loved the book Same Kind of Different as Me and that I had to read it. They also described sobbing uncontrollably while reading it. "Keep a kleenex handy!" they said. This caused me to dismiss everything they said about the book after that. Why sign myself up for the ugly cry on purpose?





Keeping your act together

Not long after realizing I was finally getting a handle on this housekeeping business, we had the water fiasco. This threw such a wrench in the whole thing. It really put the process into perspective.

The water went out right before an ice storm, so we left and spent three nights with family in town (with water.) This meant that everything that was undone when we left was still undone when we returned, plus laundry. Oh, wait, no washing machine.


Water on a farm

Last week, I shared about my transition into getting my act together. Little did I know what would come next...

My son showered and, like the fancy-free teen he is, walked through wearing only a towel around his waist. I saw his back and gasped! It looked like it was covered in bruises! Closer inspection revealed that he had some purple liquid clinging to him, not bruises.

"Oh, yeah!" he said. "The tub looked really funny, but I thought my water was reacting with some funky cleaner of yours." (note to self: your all-natural experiments are scaring the children)




Bonhoeffer - a review

 I read the original Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxis a couple years ago and loved it. It is a heavy, moving biography. Faith fortifying. I knew immediately that it was going on my sons' reading list when we studied WWII. Of course, it didn't occur to me that there were already twenty other books on the list for the same era and that I didn't want to devote more than a couple months to WWII. I briefly considered dropping it from the list.


I was thrilled to find Bonhoeffer Abridged! I'm generally not a fan of abridged books, but I was very hopeful this book would be able to trim the less important details from the original version, while maintaining the heart of the story. Much as I loved the original, it did have a lot of extra details in the that I actually found a bit distracting and draining to the story. I did read some reviews describing the abridged version as choppy, but I found the original to also be choppy, so it did not dissuade me.


Refreshing words

While hunting up inspiration for new blog designs, I ran across a beautifully written blog. Life edited. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as if the author is actively writing at this site anymore. The words have been like refreshing water to the soul this evening. It doesn't look like I'll be able to read anything new on that site for a while, but I will definitely be spending some time reading through what's there.

It seems the author is a contributor (or was at some point) at She Reads Truth, which offers free Bible studies. I haven't examined them, but I'm hopeful.

It's an odd blog post, I suppose, but I think you'll enjoy the read. Also, the blog design is simply beautiful!


Getting your act together

After reading every book out there on home organization without much success, and even plotting ways to save up to hire a personal organizer, I have finally crawled out of the abyss of chaos and am living in a peaceful home. Being packrat by nature, this has been an embarrassing progress, but I know I'm not the only one and I hope I can encourage others trying to change their habitsf .

This lesson I've learned probably isn't what you want to hear, but it's a fact: it is always going to be work. But it's work that comes with fulfillment. It yields peaceful days. It takes awareness throughout the day, but that awareness isn't even on the same scale as the energy it took to keep up with the stress of cleaning a house for company just a 6 months ago.

Six months ago, company coming meant tossing everything in boxes and hiding them in my bedroom. I hid dirty laundry in the dryer. I hid dishes in the oven. I also ruined more dishes than I care to count when I forgot and preheated that same oven the next day.

If you're where I was, you're thinking that a steady spacing of awareness isn't going to cut it. It might maintain the current level of chaos, but you have a HOLE to dig out of. How do you deal with THAT?

I'll share what I can. My mental breakthrough might not be your mental breakthrough, but I'll share just in case.

We'll start with this for now:

The very idea that paying careful attention throughout the day could only maintain but not fix your problem is dead on and is key to getting your life together. It doesn't dig you out of your hole, but if you focused on being aware of your home and your habits throughout this entire day, you would be able to prevent it getting worse today, wouldn't you?

Let's face it; not worse is an improvement. Start there. Honest. Just start there. You'll be amazed at how quickly it tunes your thoughts to notice your habits and what needs changing.




Custom Bags

My 11 year old artist has discovered a new passion this week. Every spare moment she finds, she is taping, pasting, and drawing to create specialty bags for her friends.

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It started with our Writing lesson from Writeshop Junior. The girls both wrote letters to their cousin and we learned about proofreading. Writeshop recommends creating an Editor's Bag to hold the tools they'll need for a fun editing session. This includes highlighters, colored pencils, stickers, and a ring to wear on the pointer finger. My boys would have rolled their eyes out of their heads at this age, but the girls eat it up.

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The Editor's Bag inspired other custom designs. She created an Underwater Bag for her friend who wants to be a marine biologist, a Star Bag for the friend who loves astronomy, and a dozen others.

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I confess, I too rolled my eyes when I read the lesson. But I read the option to them to gauge their reaction and they were over the moon. Lesson learned for me. Just because it's not my cuppa doesn't mean it isn't a great tool for learning. The girls are excited about correcting their work, thanks to their editor's bag.

I also confess that it mildly concerns me that they can't see through it. Their brothers would say, "Fancy editor's hat and stickers don't change the fact that we have to rewrite our whole paper." But we're a skeptical lot and the girls have somehow been shielded from that line of thinking. They are prone to find joy where joy can be found and I'm thankful for that.

I'm very proud to have been presented with a Mama's bag. It includes chocolate, bandaids, a manual, magic powder, hair stuff, and money.

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I asked about the validity of the currency and she assured me it covers the cost of shoulder rubs and dish washing. She said that once paid to a child, the currency is then good for buying cocoa and gum. It's a nice cycle.




2015


I have no personal goals for 2015, just a determination to walk in what I've learned and to do the next thing that needs done, hopefully learning lots more along the way. It helps to see it all lined out on paper, to gain perspective. I'd like to share the little scraps of helpful things I've found, in hopes they can help someone who has shared similar struggles. Thoughts and advice are greatly appreciated, especially for the topic of school.

Finances

This last year we began using You Need a Budget, also known as YNAB. I've tried many different programs, but none have helped me get a true picture of where my money is going. I shared more detailed thoughts on it in this post, if you're interested. If you purchase YNAB with my link, you will receive  $6 off of your order, and I will receive a $6 commission. There is a free one month trial with no need for a credit card or commitment to try.

A free budgeting option is Mint. It was not a good fit for me, but it is a solid program and perhaps it is just what you're looking for.

If you are operating on a two-week pay period, Moola Saving Mom shared some tips on How to Budget With Paychecks Every Other Week

Spiritual

I haven't chosen a reading plan or anything special this year. I am focusing most strongly on my prayer journal. I am finally able to enjoy some quiet time alone in the mornings and will enjoy coffee, prayer, and Bible study. After nearly two decades of parenting without that time alone with God in the mornings, I am so incredibly thankful for it now.
Ministry Mom's 365 Days of Praying for Your Children
Satisfaction Through Christ shared 10 Unique Bible Reading Plans for 2015
Messy Theology shared a post that challenges us to examine our perspective: Suffering or Prosperity

Goal Setting

I'm a sucker for printables. I print them and use them for three hours. Then I think of all of the things I want to tweak, so I create my own. I use those for two weeks and then give up. I'm not even trying this time around. But here are some I ran across in case you're interested:

Stuffed Suitcase's One Year of Monthly Goal Setting Worksheet Printables 
Purposeful Homemaking's New Year's Printable

The Home

There are lots and lots of links out there to help you simplify and downsize. I've tried an embarrassing amount of books and programs to get my house in order. None has worked as well as Motivated Moms and the book Organized Simplicity. These two things combined are a game-changing power house. A power horse? highly effective.

In case you want a less effective free motivator, this one looks helpful:
Gone Storage Solutions: 52 Weeks to an Organized Home

The Menu Plan will be an ongoing part of life that helps the house run smoothly.

School

No program or printouts, just sitting down and making it happen. I confess, my fingers are kind of crossed here. I really want to buckle down and do this without distraction to a level that I have never accomplished before. I am thankful for the flexibility our year-round homeschooling affords us, but we are all craving structure right now. One of my children even requested he be put in public school just so he could have a more formal routine.

Blogging

Katie Marcum's How to Get Your Blog Organized in Style
Inspired Bloggers offers advice on Choosing Your Platform
My Joy Filled Life created this amazing (and very affordable) blog planner.
Fabulous Blogging's Get Your Blog Ready for the New Year 




You Need A Budget

You really do. But you know that already. I knew that, but still struggled to get things organized until this last year. I created many budgets on paper, in spreadsheets, in programs....but never managed to carry them out for more than two weeks.

I've tried many different programs, but none have helped me get a true picture of where my money is going. One came close: Dave Ramsey's envelope system, but it requires carrying around large amounts of cash and is just not practical these days when nearly all of my bills are paid online. YNAB is basically a digital envelope system and it is a perfect fit for me.

It requires me looking at regularly, but it takes very little time to do so and for some crazy reason, it makes me WANT to look at it regularly. I enjoy staying on top of it. It feels like a game now, seeing how much I can roll over to my next pay period. No more paycheck-to-paycheck. I've waited many months before sharing with anyone my thoughts on the program, wanting to be sure it wasn't a fleeting fad for me. This one stuck.

Perks:


  • The tutorials are short and sweet. You will be able to start budgeting within minutes of downloading. 
  • YNAB shares simple, yet helpful courses and articles to help you learn how to save and organize your money. These come in optional emails and do not overwhelm you all at once, but are paced out for baby steps.
  • There is a free phone app that syncs to your YNAB account, so you can always check to see how much you have budgeted and available for items. You can also update it from your phone so that your spouse knows you've filled the gas tank, bought groceries, etc.
  • If you are a college student, it is absolutely free! Very generous!
  • There is a free one month trial with no need for a credit card or commitment to try. I am so glad I tried it. I don't generally spend money on things that have free alternatives elsewhere, but this came very highly recommended by several friends. The free trial convinced me it was worth the investment. It quickly paid for itself. 

I cannot recommend YNAB highly enough.  And if you use my link, you will receive $6 off of your order, and I will receive a $6 commission.

$6 off YNAB



No Time for Navel Gazing

We're settling into the house happily. We've been here a couple months and have still managed to not bring any of our pack-rat habits with us. I feel like it has freed me up to do more and enjoy more. Habits are just different. I noticed how different just yesterday. I pulled out an index card to write down my list of what needed done that day, but before I wrote a single jot, it hit me: I can just DO what needs done. I don't need to write it down! Just do the next thing that needs done and eventually it will all be done. So freeing!

The real test for our habits will be next week when we begin school. We worked so hard on house renovations and outside activities that our humanities were pretty well abandoned last semester. We barely tackled history. We will be buckling down and sticking to a strict schedule this semester. It's time to turn off all electronics and contact with the outside world during school hours. This is probably the hardest part of homeschooling for me now: staying on task and shutting out all distractions. But it will be done. 8:00-3:00 will be focused time.

With Chris' hours and the boys' evening orchestra, this means our family time will need to be carefully guarded. I remember when they were tiny and I was desperate for some time alone. Now I am desperate to grab each moment we can get all together. Ages and stages. Content in all things.

This last year, I shared the little lessons God had been walking me through, the simplest and clearest being "It's not about you". I hope they helped someone. I fear it came across as deep navel gazing. Regardless, it's no longer the season for such things. It's a step out and do it season, not a sit down and examine it season.

If I wipe down my stove after every meal, it takes five minutes to clean. If I wait until the end of the day, it takes half an hour. If I fold clothes straight out of the dryer, it takes five minutes. If I fold them while watching a DVD, it takes the full length of the DVD. It's a "doing" season. Doing doesn't mean non-stop work. It means Work First, Play Second, and have time to enjoy the play with the stress of chaos around me.

I'm not choosing a word. I'm not making a goal. I'm just doing what needs done. I'm going to read a lot, because I enjoy it. I'm going to seek God and dig into His Word because it's the air I breathe and I really like to breathe. There will be many days that I'm not going to feel like doing any of the things that are good for me. I'm going to fail. But it's going to be okay. I'm also going to try my best.