Sunday, December 30, 2012

OrganizaFUN Special Edition: New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions get a BAD rep!


But you know what? I love 'em. I feel like they give my year focus and setting tangible, realistic goals for myself helps me live more intentionally. At the end of the year I love being able to look back at the resolutions I made on New Year's Eve and seeing clearly what I've done. It puts things into perspective and gives me a way to quantify my achievements. I started making resolutions for that very reason- once you're out of school, it becomes more and more difficult to see at a glance what you've done. It became difficult to feel like I had actually accomplished anything over the course of a year. And as I've said numerous times on here,

I. LOVE. Lists.

Lists help me create order out of chaos.
They give me that little "Hooray!" moment when I can check something off.
I can show you, at the end of the day, week, month, and year WHAT I've done and HOW I've spent my time.
More importantly, I can show MYSELF.
And that feels amazing.

THAT'S why I love making resolutions.
And that's also why I think a lot of people HATE them- because they don't know how to do them effectively, so they end up feeling like failures. But I want to change that!
If you've never done it before, I'll show you how I do mine and if it appeals, you can feel free to jump on board! Oh, and if you do decide to do it, I would love it if you would share your resolutions with me! It's always fun to see what other people are planning to do with their brand new clean slates!

Which brings me to my first point:

Resolutions are not about what happened last year, last month, or the last time you did this. A New Year is just that- NEW. You're not the same person you were last December 31st, which means it doesn't matter what the you did or didn't do then. Don't pick on yourself and don't listen to that nasty little voice in the back of your head that whispers, in that hateful little voice, that you didn't do it then so what makes you think you can now. That voice is a liar and a bully. For me, that voice is more like a dare than anything. When it says things like that, I say, "Oh YEAH?! WATCH ME." You can do that, TOO. I promise. Get sassy with that voice. Get spunky with that voice. 

Now let's talk goal setting:

1. Make tangible, logical, achievable goals. 

Think of the goals you're setting as individual books in the series of books about your life, and every good book has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your goals should, too. 

Let's start with the most popular resolution people make on New Year's Eve- weight loss: Don't just say, "In 2013, I want to lose weight." That doesn't give you anything to work toward or achieve. There's no meat to that, and it's not a goal. It's a wish with different clothing. 

Here's how a good goal looks:


In 2013 I want to lose 20lbs.
To do that I will:
  • Join a gym by January 31st
  • Read "X-Y-Z Guide to Weight Loss" and implement its information by February 28th.
  • Lose 5 lbs by March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st.
  • I will reward myself with a new [insert small prize here] for every 5lbs lost!


See that? You've broken one goal down into easy, achievable bite size pieces. You've set an actual amount of weight that you want to lose, which gives you something tangible to work toward rather than just a pie in the sky "I want to lose weight" wish. You've also given yourself the most important part of the resolution- A PLAN. Most resolutions don't last past the second week of January. Sad, right? That's because people don't have a plan in place to keep them accountable and to keep them on track. Even if you give yourself a tangible number to work toward- 20lbs- just saying that isn't enough. Seeing that weight fall off in 1lb increments can seem really discouraging when you have that big number looming over you. Breaking it down into 5lb increments instead gives you smaller goals to celebrate. You've also promised yourself something to reward yourself for your good behavior. We used to get grades in school, at a job you get a raise or a promotion, and you deserve no less for a job well done for YOU. It doesn't have to be extravagant or costly- it could be a clearance book at Barnes and Noble, it could be that new label maker you've had your eye on (NO JUDGMENT!), it could be anything that will motivate you. 

2. Put your goals AND your plan in WRITING. 

Not only that, post them somewhere you and OTHERS will SEE them regularly. Don't just write them down in your journal or a scrap of paper and forget about them. Definitely don't just say them out loud as the ball is dropping and then forget them as soon as the words become vapor in the air. Make them concrete. Make them something you're responsible for. Make them something that people can ask you about, there's no need to feel embarrassed or self conscious about them! EVERYONE has things they want to change about their lives and themselves. It's actually sort of a relief to get your goals OUT there and in the open air rather than trying to hide them like some shameful secret in the recesses of your mind.

SO! Now it's time to put my money where my mouth is! Here are MY goals for 2013:

1. I want to sew myself 2 different styles of skirt by December 31st, 2013.
To do that, I will:


  • Watch the instructional DVD that came with my new sewing machine by February 28th.
  • Complete whatever exercises are included in the DVD by March 31st.
  • Sew a blanket and two pillow cases as practice by July 31st.
  • Sew one skirt by August 31st.
  • Wear skirt to church on Sunday, September 1st.
  • Sew the second skirt by December 31st.
  • Wear skirt I made to New Year's Eve celebration.


2. I want to have our master bedroom painted and decorated by December 31st, 2013.
To do that, I will:


  • Pick out a pretty almond/tan paint chip at Home Depot by Saturday, January 19th.
  • Buy paint and paint bedroom by February 28th.
  • Find an inexpensive, pretty bedspread by July 31st (Amazon, JC Penney, Target, Walmart).
  • Find lamps for nightstands (thrift stores, Walmart, Meijer, Target).
  • Rearrange furniture in bedroom by January 31st.

3. I want to have reread the entire Book of Mormon by December 31st, 2013.
To do that, I will:


  • Read 10 minutes a day, first thing in the morning OR last thing at night.
  • Use this handy dandy Book of Mormon reading schedule bookmark to stay on track! (This is a resolution I make every year and it really has blessed my life! I printed off this bookmark last year and created a pretty, embellished bookmark that I keep in my scriptures. It makes it easier to stay on course!)


Since I'll be having a baby sometime between the last week of April and the first week of May, I'm being gentle on myself and only setting three goals this year. That's another important point: Don't bite off more than you can chew! Setting goals can be a heady feeling and it's easy to get into a "goal setting groove" and go crazy. I promise you, though, that nothing will make you feel more discouraged that feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you've tried to do and not being able to "do it all." You may accomplish some of your goals, but if you set too many, it will still feel like you've failed, which is NOT true! New Year's Resolutions are NOT about having a perfect life by the following New Year's Eve. They're about intentionally taking time to sit down, really think about what you want to achieve this year, and do it. It's not about "getting it all done" by the end of year. It's about the fact that, by the end of the year, you will have made progress.

So are you going to make some resolutions? How are YOU going to ROCK 2013?! Because you CAN, you know! This can be YOUR year to really make a difference! SO GET IT, girl (or boy)!!! Because guess what? Last year is the LAST year that you have to feel frustrated, ineffective, unhappy with the way things are, and overwhelmed by your To Do list! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Meal for Monday - Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches

Hey, hey everyone! I'm working on getting the blog back on track starting with "A Meal for Monday" because, well, my cousin will murder me if I don't get this recipe to her. lol. So here it is! Short, sweet, and fabulous.

This is a family favorite and I have actually made it for several different sets of missionaries and they have all raved about it as well, so what I'm saying is that we've field tested the crap out of this recipe and it's a winner! Plus, I am definitely in favor of slow cooker meals of any and all kinds at the holidays when it feels like you're so busy that you're just lucky to have your shirt on the right way out and pants on. Clean pants. Cleanish. *sigh*

Photo Source

Dig in! Side note: these are awesome with sauteed green peppers on them as well. Sort of a...French Dip/Philly Cheesesteak crossover. *drool* Now I want these...*sigh*

From our table to yours, with love!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teaching That "Less is More" in a "More Is More!" Culture

Folks, I love Christmas.
And I love giving gifts, for any and all occasions for any and all reasons. I love it. 

Things I don't love?
Greed. 
Stress.
Money worries.
The true meaning of Christmas getting lost.
Eight consecutive minutes of commercials telling kids that if their parents aren't buying them x, y, or z for Christmas then their parents don't actually love them. Usually airing during a t.v. special about remembering the meaning of Christmas.

So Hubs and I made a decision a few years ago to simplify our holiday season and to cut out unnecessary garbage that our consumerist culture seems to think is obligatory to celebrating the birth of the Savior.

Starting with the GIFTS.

***GASP!!!!***

I know.
It's because we're bad parents.
And hate Santa.

JUST KIDDING.

But that's what people think sometimes when they hear about our "rule" for gifts at the holidays. That we're channeling the Grinch (their hearts are three sizes too small!) or Ebenezer Scrooge (CHEAP!).

No. What we are is normal middle class Americans who are tired of the media and Big Box Stores TELLING us what WE NEED to have a "good" Christmas.

So we stopped listening.
A little refresher:

At the first Christmas, our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born to save all mankind from sin and separation from the God who made and love them.


"God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
let nothing ye dismay!
Remember Christ our Savior was born 
on Christmas Day,
to save us all from Satan's fire
when we were gone astray!

Oh tidings of comfort and joy!"

People and angels rejoiced because he was and is the gift.

Shortly thereafter (okay, it was probably more like two full years after His birth, but let's not split hairs, here), the Christ Child and Holy Family were visited by Wise Men (the number has never been actually quantified, but it's generally accepted as having been Three) and presented with gifts (three gifts- hence the "three" kings thing):


"We Three Kings from Orient are
bearing gifts, we traverse afar;
Field and fountain,
moor and mountain,
following yonder star!

Oh, star of wonder, star of night!
Star with Royal beauty bright!
Westward leading,
still proceeding,
guide us to thy Perfect Light!"

When they met the Christ, they gave him three very costly and precious gifts, all of which would have been presented to a young prince at his birth:

Gold,
Frankincense,
and Myrrh.

Jesus received three gifts at Christmas.
So we receive three gifts at Christmas.

Well...actually, we receive three gifts from each other.
Everybody gets one from Santa. Because...it's Santa!

And we have a simple formula that we use for choosing gifts for each person:

Something you want,
Something you need,
Something you wear,
Something you read.

And that's it! 
The "Something you want" is your gift from Santa and is usually the biggest/most expensive thing you get for the year.

I think that this formula covers all of everyone's needs for the year - mind, body, and heart - without putting pressure on us as married partners and parents to go nuts so that our kids and loved ones know how much we love them. 

Because I don't want Toys 'R' Us, Walmart, Target, or anyone else guilting me into feeling like I have to buy the love of my loved ones. 

"But what about when everyone at school is talking about what they got? I don't want my kid to feel badly!"
Yep. We've heard that. And this is our answer:

I would hope that we've taught our kid to value himself and his family beyond what they can get him; that we've shown him enough love that he doesn't doubt its existence if he doesn't receive the biggest, newest, bestest whatever on Christmas morning. I would hope that in doing this, we've taught him the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, that in keeping Christ at the center of it, he knows what the holiday is really about and that that meaning has nothing to do with something that comes from a store. I would hope that his sense of self worth is such that, should another child make him feel less because he has less stuff, that he doesn't buy into that kind of thinking and that he would be strong enough to reject a message that that accusatory child has obviously bought hook, line, and sinker- that more things equates to more love and more value.
And if he doesn't know those things, then there's no better time to teach them to him than at Christmas.


You know what? Every year that we've done it, no one has felt left out, forgotten, dissatisfied, unloved, or whatever else.
We've all been perfectly happy with what we've gotten!

And it makes shopping for Christmas SO. MUCH. LESS. STRESSFUL.

Hubs and I don't go into debt at the holidays.
We have time to do holiday things like bake, decorate, see loved ones, etc.
We don't feel maxed out by December 26th after battling with other maxed out people at the mall!

I love it.
We love it.

Feeling overwhelmed? I invite you to give our system a whirl! Simplify your holiday, reclaim the real reason for the season, forget making sure that everyone is "getting" what they "need" (because...do they need it? Really?), forget the post-holiday bill anxiety that's lurking around January's corner! Make a conscious decision to say NO to consumerism and commercialism. Say NO to buying your children's love and sense of self worth. Say NO to the pressure and the headaches and the anxiety.

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The City Mouse Says...My (Current) Beauty Favorites

I'm a city girl who's been transplanted to the Michigan Country Woods and some things have definitely changed, but I'm still a city girl at heart! I still like pretty things, home decor, and girly makeup-clothes-hair-shoes things. What can I say? You can take the girl outta the city...

While I was doing my face today, I thought that it might be fun to do a post on some of my current favorite make up things! I am by no means a "beauty blogger" (let's face it, I just don't have the budget! lol) because...that would be pretty boring. I tend to find a product that I like and stick with it (case in point: I've been using the same brand and style of mascara since high school) rather than being adventurous and trying out a bunch of different things all the time. If you're looking for a bona fide beauty blogger (that also happens to be one of my all-time favorite blogger/vloggers!), I suggest you check out Emily over at Beauty Broadcast (you can also follow her on PinterestFacebook, and YouTube) and she is wonderful. Seriously, I'm a huge fan. She covers high end products as well as the more easily-affordable drugstore and QVC stuff. Love.

Anyhoodle. 

That being said, there are a few beauty products that I'm in love with right now that I'd like to share. In fact, I might just make this a regular thing, for my own pleasure if nothing else. lol. So without further ado, here we go!



This stuff is boss. End of story. It smells so crisp and fresh, which I love in the wintertime when it seems like all of the fragrances can start to seem a little heavy to me. I tend to gravitate more toward light, citrusy or fruity scents, and this is right on target. Plus, my hair feels fabulously soft, looks super shiny, and my scalp isn't uncomfortably dry or itchy like it tends to get in the winter because of the dry air. I love it! It also serves as a great first-thing-in-the-morning aromatherapy pick-me-up in the shower!

I have been a Wet 'n' Wild fan since high school and their stuff has, in recent years, only gotten better. I am in love with their 8-pan shadow palettes right now! The one in the picture, called "Comfort Zone" is  really amazing and is the palette that I probably use the most often. The picture really and truly doesn't do it justice because the colors in person are really gorgeous. The shadows themselves are just as silky and long-lasting as shadows that I've paid a LOT more for, so at $4.99 for 8 large color pans I'm thrilled with these. They have three limited edition palettes out for winter right now and if you find them, definitely snap them up because they're great. This video from Beauty Broadcast says it better than I can and in less space. I really do love the matte palette called "Drinking a Glass of Shine" and the one called "Sparkle 'Til Morning."


 I found mine in a separate little display at the end of the beauty aisle at Walgreens. I have these palettes in several color combinations and they're all really versatile and wearable. Don't be scared of the brighter colors! With proper blending and accenting, they are really gorgeous! They are very highly pigmented, too, unlike a lot of drugstore brands that I've used (I'm looking at you, Almay!) and the colors stay on all day without smudging, creasing, or fading (even through feeding the chickens and cleaning the house!).

3. Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana, $48.00 / 0.8oz

Okay, yep, this one's a little spendy, BUT. I think that fragrance is one of those things that you should spend a little more on because cheap perfume smells, well...cheap. It usually has a very flat fragrance (one note only), doesn't last very long, and/or changes fragrance over the course of the day. Now, that is in general. If you have a drugstore fragrance that you've loved for years and that works for you, that's awesome! Specialty perfumes do tend to smell better, last longer, (making them more worth the money in the long run!) and hey, every girl should have her own "signature" scent, right? Plus, with it being the holiday season, perfume makes an awesome gift from someone special. I first got this as a sample from Sephora when I was buying something with a gift card that I'd received as a present last year and I've been hooked ever since. It's light, citrusy, a little bit floral, and very feminine without smelling like "old lady" perfume. It goes from summer to winter easily and lasts forever. My husband loves it, too, which is a big deal because he's kind of a hard sell as far as fragrances go.



I can't necessarily attest to the "mood boosting" powers of this blush (other than the lift I get from seeing the way it looks on my pasty skin and knowing that I look less deathly...lol), but the long-lasting color and subtle shimmer are awesome! It is lightly scented with a lightly rose-violet scent which is nice, but I'm a bigger fan of the effects of colors all swirled together to create a customized, natural-looking flush. This is truly a gorgeous blush product! It also comes in Rose, which has a much pinker tone to it but on the right skin-tone I've seen it look really stunning. The color never looks cakey, even after a full day of wear, and it blends really well. 


Along with their shadows, Wet 'n' Wild has revamped their lip products as well, and while some of them still need a little work formulation-wise (their long lasting lipsticks are not my favorite and not, actually, very long lasting!), they have hit some home runs lately with others! This is one of my favorite lip products lately in all of the color variations. They're light, shimmery, glossy, and really well pigmented. They don't last as long as something like a lip stain or one of the Outlast lip colors, but it's well worth the $3 and a little touch up throughout the day isn't a bad trade off for gorgeous color and a $3 investment.

6. Eos Lip Balm, $3.29

Dude. I feel like I could write FanGirl fiction about this lip balm! It's absolutely fabulous. From the ergonomic design to the actually-tasty flavors, to the fact that it's made of 95% natural ingredients, to the fact that it just works, this stuff is great. I'm dying to try the Lemon Drop flavor (can you tell that I have a citrus fixation?), and I'm really hoping that they come out with some sort of limited edition Christmas flavors (Peppermint! Egg nog! Cranberry!). These would make awesome stocking stuffers or gift add-ons for the holidays! I have the Strawberry Sorbet flavor next to my bed right now and when I wake up in the morning my lips feel soft, moisturized, and healthy- no small feat in Michigan winter in-doors weather! You can get these all over, but I've seen them most often at Walmart, Target, and Walgreens. I highly recommend checking them out for solving your chapped lip blues!


There you have it- my favorites for the month of December. I'm thinking of doing this monthly, but let me know what you think. It's something that I really enjoy and I always feel like I have a thousand recommendations when I go to the store, so I thought maybe this would be a good outlet for them! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Sunday In Advent - Waiting In Hope

Advent
[Ad-vent] noun
1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival, especially one that is awaited
2. (usually initial capital letter) the coming of Christ into the world
3. the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world. 

(from dictionary.com)


We love Advent in our home. The Hubs and I were both raised in the Lutheran tradition, so Advent observance a major part of our Christmas season and serves as a meaningful way to remember the true reason for celebrating the holiday. Traditionally, the candles are lit on the four Sundays preceding Christmas, but in accordance with an awesome church program called Family Home Evening, we have taken to celebrating on the four Mondays before instead. I actually love having an extra day in the week besides Sunday to spend remembering the "Why?" of Christmas.

This Monday, I decorated the Christmas tree, which is one of my very favorite parts of the holiday. I decided to go with a red and gold theme for our tree this year, and I think it turned out really beautifully. In addition to red and gold, I really like to add nativity-themed ornaments and stars of all kinds to our tree. 





I LOVE this bird nest ornament! Finding a bird's nest in your Christmas tree was traditionally thought to be a sign of good luck for the coming year and also symbolizes the feeling of hospitality and warmth of the home.)



Did you know that every part of the Christmas tree has a symbolic meaning? Some of it has gotten lost over the years, but the original reason that German families started incorporating the Christmas tree into their Christmas celebration is really quite meaningful!

The evergreen branches - represent Heavenly Father's eternal nature and love for us. (1 Cor 13:13)
The color red - symbolizes Christ's blood that was shed for us in atonement for falling short of the Glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
The Star on the top of the tree - symbolizes the Christmas star set in the sky to announce Christ's birth. (Matt 2:2)
The Tree Itself -  The idea of using a pine tree came about because of its arrow-like shape pointing up the sky, as if directing one's view to Heaven.

Isn't that cool?

I added a special thing to our tree this year that makes me smile every time I see it- at the foot of our tree I added an empty doll cradle with one of my great-grandmother's quilts in it. I love the contrast between the beautiful, ornate tree and this simple, crude little cradle. It's supposed to remind of just who it is that we're waiting for this season! The Inn in the scriptures might not have been ready to welcome the Baby Jesus into its arms, but we will spend the season prepared! There is room at our Inn for our Savior! The cradle is a symbol that we should be preparing a soft, inviting place in our hearts for our Lord.




In the same way, the Advent observance is rife with symbolism! The Advent wreath was actually first introduced as a part of the Lutheran litergy (apparently Germans really like symbolism), and each candle has a special  theme for the proceeding week.


There are five candles in an Advent wreath, three purple or royal blue (for the royal Son of God), one pink (for joy- Christmas is almost here!), and one white (for purity and holiness). Each candle has a special name and a special part of the Christmas story to go along with it. 

The wreath is made of evergreen boughs to symbolize God's everlasting love for us. It is round to symbolize the God's Eternal Nature. The flowers are just to make it pretty. lol. The pink and purple candles are placed in the wreath itself with the white candle in the middle. Each week, the candles are lit one by one until, on Christmas Eve, you light all of the candles. The symbol of Christ's imminent arrival becomes so beautifully apparent as, each week, the light from the candles becomes brighter and brighter until on Christmas Eve they are blazing away, just as Christ's light filled the world on Christmas!

Your family can do this, too! It's a treasured tradition in ours and I'd love to be able to share it with you!  I actually made our Advent wreath myself- it's very easy! All you need is an evergreen wreath, candles (you can actually get Advent candles at JoAnn Fabric Stores in their Christmas department, but you can use votives, ball candles, tea lights, or whatever you have handy. I've seen SUPER cute wreaths made with white votives that the person then tied pink and purple ribbons around!), and a set of Scriptures!

The first week of Advent is the Prophet's Candle (purple!), which symbolizes the many prophets of old who foretold Christ's coming and tried to prepare God's people for their Messiah, and the hope that they had in the knowledge that someday there would be One coming who would help them return to live with God. 

We read scriptures (If you happen to be LDS, you might find this helpful! It's a Mormon observance of Advent that BYU put together that incorporates scriptures from across all of the standard works, which is really helpful!) together that introduce the concept illustrated by the candle, and then light it. A good song to consider opening your family night with for this Sunday is, "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel." That song is one of my all-time favorites! I love the medieval sounding tune and the history of this song! It's really beautiful!

Next week, I'll post the meaning of the next candle in case you want to follow along! 
Enjoy your Christmas season!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Things to NEVER, EVER Say to a Parent Who Has Lost a Child

With the loss of sweet little Jayden Lamb in our community lately, this subject has been on my mind a lot more than usual. I feel awful for this family in their time of loss, especially being so close to the beginning of the journey toward living again. I thought if I could at least eliminate SOME of the pain they may be experiencing, I would like to try.

Because you see...there's something about standing in the face of another's agony and grief that makes people...stupid. They feel the need to say something, anything, that will help and often end up doing some damage to the very person that they're trying to comfort. It's almost never intentional and people so often mean well but sometimes it's all the person on the receiving end of such comments can do to keep from screaming and platitudes just don't help.

Remember this scene from "Steel Magnolias"? After our daughter passed away, I realized just exactly how honest it really is:


There's a saying that says, "The least said is easiest mended."

I cannot emphasize this ENOUGH. I will say again, this time with emphasis added, 

"The LEAST SAID is EASIEST MENDED."

I thought that I would put together a list of some of the things that I've heard most often in the days and months following our daughter's death as a way to help you know at least what NOT to say. I don't mean to offend and please know that I loved most of the people who said this stuff to us. I know how hard it is to know what to say and that it's a very human impulse to want to say something to fill the silence between the hug and the time you walk away. But...don't. Really. Some of these may be personal or specific to me, but this is just a guide. I'll cover a few of things that I or the Hubs heard that did help or that were general enough not to hurt at the end of the post. But when in doubt, channel Thumper's mother and don't say anything at all.

1) "I had a miscarriage, so I know just how you feel!"
No, you don't. Yes, a miscarriage is a devastating loss and can be excruciating to live through, especially the farther along that it happens. I actually had three of them in the 10 months between Violet's passing and conceiving Wesley. Having lost a child who was actually born, breathed, cried, nursed, wore some of the little outfits we'd bought for her, and then died and losing a child that I'd never physically met I can tell you that the losses are nowhere even close to being the same. They're just not. I'm not saying that a miscarriage is LESS of a loss (it's not a competition of who hurts more, after all), it's just DIFFERENT. The parents of the living child that has died know that and will not thank you for drawing the comparison. There is a time and a place to share your grief together, especially if you've already made or have a connection with the person, and an appropriate way to do it. The days immediately following the loss and/or as a way of comparison is not it. 

2) "I know exactly how you feel."
This is a variation on #1 but still inappropriate. It's not necessarily hurtful, but no one would blame the person for snapping back at you that no, actually, you don't know just how they feel. This is something you should never say in the face of any loss, really. You don't know the circumstances surrounding the loss, you don't know the feelings of the family, you don't know what they face when they're home alone after everyone else has gone home- you don't know. So don't say it. Everyone grieves differently and it's arrogant to assume that because you've experienced loss in your life that you know exactly how everyone else will feel in the face of their own losses.

3) "Well...she's better off being in Heaven now."
Yes, someone actually said this or some variation of this. Several people, actually. Never, ever say anything like this, even if you know that the person you're trying to comfort is a believer. You may believe it's true and yes, it's one of the basic tenets of Christianity (that we all want to make it back to live with our Heavenly Father in Heaven), NO PARENT wants to think that their child is "better off" without them. NO PARENT is "relieved" that their child died rather than having to live a full life, growing up, getting married, having children, etc. NO PARENT DOES. If you don't believe me, have someone offer to come to your house and "send one of your children to Heaven" because "they'd be better off" and then see how you react. Yeah. Don't say it.

4) "You can always have another one!" or "If it's a genetic problem, then you can always just adopt!"
Okay. *deep breath* This one is especially tough for me because it makes me SO ANGRY and I want to stay calm and objective during this post. There is a two-part response to why these are TERRIBLE things to say:

First of all, children are not replaceable. When you lose a child, that child is GONE. Its place cannot be taken by fifty other children. To imply that the parents are callous enough to believe that "just having another one" is even an option is insulting in the extreme. You also don't know how they're coping. In the aftermath of Violet's passing I knew that we would try to have more children, but Hubs and I definitely had some PTSD (that's not hyperbole) from having to go through the events of the day she died. Every thought of having another child was tinged by panic, anxiety, nausea, etc. We both had nightmares which meant that we were both on medication to make us sleep. We were both on anti-depressants. We were both just barely hanging on. Being told that, we could "just having another one" not only negated our pain and made it seem like we could just slap a bandaid over a gaping chest wound, but it also negated the special spirit of our daughter. As if she was something that could just be recreated. DO NOT SAY THIS. 

Second, suggesting that someone can "just adopt" is insulting to adoptive parents and adopted children everywhere. It's like implying that they're the consolation prize that their parents accepted because they couldn't have "kids of their own." I have several friends who have adopted and you should know that adoption is something you go into with a LOT of prayer, soul-searching, love, and preparation. It's not something that you "just" do for any reason. This is also a bad thing to say for the reasons listed above- children are not just replaceable. 

5) "Would you like to hold my baby?"
Someone actually came to Violet's funeral with their young infant, held him out to me, and said this. I just can't...no. No, I did not want to hold their baby. I had no problem with her bringing him; in fact, seeing healthy young children and babies served as a kind of affirmation for Hubs and I in the days following Violet's death that life does go on, that healthy children do exist, and that there was hope for us. But I didn't want someone else's baby thrust on me at my daughter's funeral. Unless they ASK to hold your baby or show INTEREST in holding your baby, DO NOT ASK THIS.

6) "So...what happened?"
Oh my word. If I had a dollar for every time I got asked this...look. Obviously if you're asking this then you're not close enough to the person to really know what's going on- if you were they would have told you or you would have heard from people surrounding them. Just don't ask. Whether it's intended that way or not, it will just sound like morbid curiosity and frankly, if you're not close enough to know what happened first or at least second hand, then it's none of your business. That might sound harsh, but the last thing the people in this situation need is for a lot of people to ask them to relive the situation over and over and over and OVER again. In public. For an audience. I was lucky (AM lucky) enough to have a best friend who would tell people who didn't know us well who asked her this question that if we wanted to talk about it we would and that it wasn't her business to share it. You probably DO want to know. You probably want to make sure that nothing like this could EVER happen to you. You probably want to know what to watch for in your own children. I get that. I really, really do. It's very natural. But...it's rude. So don't ask.

7) "Is there anything I can do for you?"
This one is the sweetest of the items on this list and is genuinely a nice thing to ask. The reason it's on here, though, is because it's just too vague. For comparison, imagine walking up the victims of a terrible car accident, leaning into the shattered window and asking, "Is there anything I can do for you?" Yeah. The problem is, in the time after losing a loved one of any kind, you just can't think of anything right then. Or if you can, you feel guilty asking. So you don't. And then you're alone, in the dark, at night, and the world feels SO big and uncertain and scary...Look, it's just better if you spring into action. Bring meals, come over and start cleaning toilets (yes, over protests), come over just talk and do something mindless- one of the best things was my bestie coming over and just talking to me. About ANYTHING. Sometimes it was about Violet but most of the time it was about goofy things, nothing, crafting, a movie I'd watched to pass the time, WHATEVER. Invite the person out to lunch or a coffee shop date- set a specific time, offer to pick them up (driving can seem like an enormous task in the face of depression), and do it. Just be there. See what needs doing and do it. Think about what you would want done for you, and do it. Don't leave the ball in their court and expect them to make the move to you because in this kind of situation sometimes all they can handle is getting dressed in the morning.

***

That was a short list of the stuff we've heard, but those are the comments that were most common. It's NEVER wrong to just say, "I'm so sorry for your loss," hug them if you're comfortable with that, and move on. It's not up to you to fix the situation. It's not your job to make them feel better because frankly, no matter what anyone says, they're not going to feel better for awhile. This might sound terrible, but it usually felt like the person who was offering the platitudes was really trying to make themselves feel better. No, stay with me. In the face of the loss of an innocent like a young child or a baby, everyone feels the senselessness of it. Everyone feels the fear when they look at their own children and realize just how fleeting this existence is and that death can visit anyone, not just the elderly. So they start saying things like, "It is what it is," "Everything happens for a reason," "S/he's with God now," "You'll never have to see him/her in pain," etc. It might help YOU on the ride home to chant those things in your head and that's fine. Whatever you need to do. But it DOESN'T help THEM, so don't say them because they are going home to a house with a giant hole in it with hearts that are weighed down with tragedy and sorrow that most people in our day and age will never experience.

Things TO say to grieving parents:

*I'm sorry for your loss
*We love you
*I'm praying for you
*I'm here for you (but only say this if you actually have a plan to be there for them. Don't lie.)
*S/he was beautiful/smart/funny/etc
*"I remember..." and then tell a good memory you have of their child. Did you catch that? A GOOD memory. It may help the parents to know that their child hasn't been forgotten by everyone but them and that other people knew how special their child was.
*I will call you on ______ (and then ACTUALLY CALL) and we'll set up a time to go to lunch (AND THEN ACTUALLY GO)
*the service was beautiful
*let the person share their stories! Letting the other person guide the conversation is usually the best thing you can do. I remember in the months following Violet's death, the subject of pregnancy would come up and people would get very uncomfortable if I shared a story or an experience, as if losing my child also meant losing my right to share in that female experience. Losing a child doesn't negate their entire existence and if the parent is talking about it, that means that they're getting to a place where they feel comfortable sharing. Let them.

Which leads me to my final bit of advice, and this might be personal specifically to me, but I don't think so. I have had to sever ties with a few people because all they wanted to talk to me about suddenly was my daughter's death and it made me so uncomfortable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's excruciatingly painful to be going along and having a totally normal day and then WHAM! Someone blindsides you by suddenly talking about your loss like it's no big deal and "Oh, didn't you WANT to talk about your baby's death in the produce aisle at Meijer?" Seriously. That happened. Just...like, I said before, let THEM guide the conversation. It's okay to ask, "Are you doing okay?" or "How are you doing?" or "How are things going?" It's NOT okay, in the middle of a public place and with no provocation, to ask something like, "So did the autopsy report reveal anything about what happened to your baby?" (Again, ACTUALLY HAPPENED.) If they want to share, they will. If not, you've managed to ask a caring question that shows that you're there to listen if they need someone and that won't make them burst into tears in front of a group of strangers. Secondly, there was more to me than my pregnancy when I was pregnant. There was more to me than my baby when she was living. And there is STILL more to me now that she's gone. Please, PLEASE don't act like the only thing that's interesting about me now is that and that that's all there is for me to talk about. If the person you know who's grieving likes to craft, ask if they're working on anything or if they want to go to JoAnn's with you sometime. Remember what it was that interested you about them before and remember that those things are still there in them. There is NO REASON why the ONLY thing you should have to talk to them about is this tragedy in their lives unless you didn't know them that well in the first place in which case either figure out something else to talk to them about or keep the conversation light and small-talky and move on.

Stay positive, but not "let's all look on the BRIGHT SIDE of this tragedy!" positive!!!!!- meaning using action words, establishing a timeline in the future for things for the parents to look forward to (like a lunch date), and reaffirming relationship. 

In our loss, I learned a lot about who was actually there for us through thick and thin and who was there for the beginning and then disappeared again. Sadly, a lot of the people who pulled the vanishing act were those I thought were close to us and that was a hard lesson to learn. So if you're going to be there, then be there. It means the most to grieving people in moments like this. They don't want to feel like social pariahs. If not, then be honest with them. Give them a card, give them a hug, and then move on. Don't make a lot of false promises or fake plans that you fully intend to break later. It hurts and it sucks. Don't be that guy.

And one last appeal- BE THERE FOR THE DAD. If you can't find someone who can. From what I've seen and read, it's VERY common for the dads to get ignored during this time, probably because it's just easier for women to reach out to each other on an emotional level. The Hubs was pretty badly neglected in the months following Violet's death, and that's not a way to guilt people in my life who read this. It's a fact and it's very, very common with men in tragedy. If you're a man reading this and you know a man who is grieving, YOU ARE NOT TOO BUSY. IT IS NOT TOO AWKWARD. IT IS NOT TOO HARD. Men grieve their babies and children JUST as hard as women do, but they don't seem to get the recognition that their wives do. No one was taking the Hubs out to lunch or helping to distract him by tossing a football around with him. No one invited him to watch the game or just to talk if he needed to. And he needed to. Again- YOU ARE NOT TOO BUSY FOR THIS. Let me be clear- If you truly are "too busy" to help a friend, brother, coworker, or family member deal with what is probably the MOST debilitating loss a human being could suffer, THEN YOU NEED TO REEVALUATE YOUR PRIORITIES. We are not put on this earth to be good workers or good peewee soccer coaches or whatever thing you think is standing in the way of you being able to help- we are here to be GOOD HUMAN BEINGS. So be one and be THERE.

Hopefully this has helped...if not, don't hate me. Remember, my intention was to help create a guide for people to help those who are grieving. I was so blessed to have a lot of people who stepped up and were truly there for me when it felt like the sky was falling. I cannot thank God enough for the people who stepped up and helped to shoulder the burden. You can be that person for someone else, you might just need some assistance. If you have questions, you can absolutely ask them in the comments section.

Friday, November 30, 2012

18 Weeks Ultrasound

It has been a year and two months since we lost our daughter Violet and we carry the pain of that loss around with us everywhere we go and into everything we do. It's not so intense and sharp as it once was, but it's there and very close to the surface. As we go forward with our current pregnancy, the loss of our daughter is even more palpable and even more poignant for us, thinking about the kind of big sister she would have been, what she would have been doing at this stage of her life, and how wonderfully crazy our lives would have been had we been looking forward to being the joyfully exhausted parents of two under two rather than constantly anxiety-ridden parents of one who may or may not survive to his first birthday.

We had our first anatomy ultrasound this past Monday before heading down for my Uncle Paul's funeral and as excited as we were to see Baby, it was an excruciating experience emotionally. We had been directed to the high risk doctors in Saginaw for the procedure because, with this pregnancy, our doctors are doing everything they can to cover every single base. This ultrasound was different in that 1) I didn't have to do it with a full bladder (hallelujah!!!) and 2) it came with a consult afterwards which consisted of going over, once again, every single detail of Violet's short life, my pregnancy with her, the minute-by-minute account of what happened the day she passed away, what was done for her intervention-wise, how successful she and I were at nursing in the three days that she lived, and so on. They FINALLY were able to talk the U of M into giving us the synopsis of the genetic consult and test results that we had done with her and basically it was four pages of, "We don't have a clue...*shrug*" Add to that the fact that the doctor who saw us left a WHOLE lot to be desired on the bedside manner front, and it was agony.

I couldn't help but draw parallels between our 20 weeks ultrasound with Violet and this one with Beanie. With Violet, we were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing our baby, of finding out what gender she was, of making sure that everything was alright. I remember Hubs being absolutely glued to the screen until he was certain the baby's brain was developed properly, that the heart was pumping properly, and that movement was happening properly. I am hopeless at knowing what I'm looking at when having ultrasounds, so I just laid there, nervous, and tried not to pee. (Seriously, forcing a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant to drink a full 32oz of liquid and then hold it for an hour and a half while a stranger pushes on her abdomen should be classified as cruel and unusual punishment.) After we were done, I remember fairly dancing out of the small, dimly lit room with an enormous smile on my face and throwing my arms around Hubs, who spun me down the hallway a couple of times. We were elated. Thrilled. Ecstatic. It was a GIRL! And she was PERFECT! WE DID IT!!! We went straight to Walmart to have the photos on the cd we'd been given developed and it was all I could do not to show them to every passing stranger in the store. "See our baby?! Isn't she PERFECT?!"

This time was different. We sat watching the screen, every nerve tense, watching the little baby on the screen punch its little fists and kick its little legs. "Is it moving enough? Is there enough room for it? Is its head big enough? It looks a little small..." Beanie wasn't feeling cooperative and so the nurse wasn't able to get half the shots she needed for the file, and we discovered the reason that I haven't been able to feel much movement (another cause for anxiety)- I have an anterior placenta as well as a slight case of placenta previa (which for those of you who don't know: An anterior placenta means that the placenta attached at the front of the uterine wall rather than on the sides or back, which is more common, and acts as a pillow between baby and mama's nerve-riddled front of the uterus. It also forces the baby to grow further back in the mother's stomach cavity, which can be a lot more uncomfortable since that means internal organs get shifted around a lot more. Placenta previa means that the placenta is growing close to or sometimes over the top of the cervix, which can be dangerous to the mother if it doesn't move over the course of the pregnancy. Normally as the baby grows and the uterus expands the placenta, which is firmly attached to a specific area of the uterine wall, will move along with the uterus and out of the line of danger, but sometimes it will stay put making the odds of having a cesarean section much higher as a way of keeping the placenta from rupturing during labor. My case is very slight, meaning that the placenta isn't actually over the cervix and is very likely to move. The odds of having one of these things happen in pregnancy are not great, but having both of them happen are, according to the doctor, astronomical. Lucky, lucky us.)

We were able to ascertain that Beanie is a BOY though, and we are thrilled about that. We're naming him Wesley Scott, after my dad. That news was overshadowed, though, by the knowledge that the doctors have no idea what happened to our daughter who was born perfect and passed away three days later. This means that they have no clue if it could or will happen again, what to do to prevent it, or what to even test for. So it feels as though we're going into this pregnancy looking down the barrel of a gun, so to speak. When we left the offices after the consult was over we made it to the car before we both started to cry. This whole process is unbelievably hard. There aren't words for it, honestly. It's times like this that I'm reminded of a "Christianity-ism" that I came across years ago-

"The God who made the universe is big enough for your anger."

I think that so often we think that being a "good, faith-filled person" means sitting in church and smiling benignly when bad things happen to and around us, as though nothing affects us. But it isn't. For me, it means knowing that I can get so mad at God that, if I saw Him face to face, I could rant and rave like a lunatic- and He'd still love me. He understands that I don't understand. He knows that it's hard and that He will never be able to give me an explanation that will make me feel okay about my daughter dying. He knows that I hurt so much that sometimes my pain feels like an actual tangible thing that I carry around with me like a purse. He knows that I know that He makes the plan and that He could've stopped this from happening any time. And He didn't. And that burns like fire. He knows I'm angry and He understands. 

AND HE LOVES ME ANYWAY.

Because He IS my Father. I remember getting SO ANGRY at my parents growing up that I could just spit. I'm sure I hurt them more times than I could count. I'm sure I hurt myself with that anger, too. But my getting angry with them didn't mean that they didn't still love me or want was best, not just for me but for the whole family. 

And that's Heavenly Father.

He's big enough to understand my pain and anger, to see me glaring up at the sky sometimes with tears streaming down my face. He can take it. He knows. He knows because His son died, too. He knows that pain. He gets it. And He's okay if I need to be mad for awhile. Because even the act of my being angry at him means that I still believe in Him. If He wasn't there to be mad at, I wouldn't be mad. He loves me and He knows that I believe in His ability to make things right. To have a plan. To know what He's doing. I may not like it (and let's be clear- I DON'T LIKE IT), but I still believe that the whole situation is in His hands. 

So I'm angry right now. But it's a faith-filled kind of anger. And as much as I'm angry, I'm still trusting Him to make things right. To make them work out. To have a plan. Because frankly, at this point, that's all I CAN do. I'm almost halfway through this pregnancy and at some point, Wesley Scott is GOING to come out. There's nothing I can do about that. I just have to wait and try to trust that Heavenly Father knows what He's doing and how much I can take.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I'll Be Taking a Break for Awhile

6 years ago we lost lost my Grandpa Anderson to whom I was very, very close.

3 years ago we really and truly lost my mom to Alzheimer's.

1 year and 1 month ago, we lost our beautiful daughter Violet.

And today, we lost my uncle to brain cancer.

It doesn't feel real to say any of that out loud, let alone all together in a list like that. It feels like too much, as if it's too heavy to carry around. It's too sad, too hard, too everything to put into words.

My soul feels bruised, and badly, like a boxer after a prize fight.

I feel like a bird with a broken wing who is stunned at suddenly being grounded, confused by the pain, and terrified at its immobilization. It hops and jerks and spasms, desperately trying to escape a pain that actually radiates from somewhere deep within itself.

I remember once when I was very little my family took a trip to Lake Michigan and I was playing in the waves. It was summer and for some reason the waves were really strong that day and I was very small by comparison. I was playing a game with myself, jumping into the waves as they rolled in and knocked my down. One minute it was a joyful game of oneness with the water, and then suddenly the waves started to come faster and faster and harder and harder, knocking me down over and over again. I would try to get my legs under me, but just as I would start to stand up, another wave would knock me down again. I started to choke and sputter, fear clutching at me and making me panic. I hadn't yet learned to swim and terror clung to me, making me feel like I was all alone in this wide open water doing battle for air and purchase on the ground.

And then, suddenly, I was being plucked out of the water and held close by my dad. And it was all over. The fight was finished and I slumped against him, relief and tears rolling through and over me.

Today, I was sobbing so hard that I could hardly breathe let alone articulate what I was feeling to my husband who held and rocked me. I found myself silently patting my open palm against my chest, and realized that my heart was trying to speak with gestures what my mouth didn't yet have words for- it burns. It aches. It feels like a tearing in my soul. It feels like a giant is squeezing my heart. It feels like boiling water in my veins and sand in my mouth. It hurts with a hurting that there are no words to describe.

And so I just sobbed, letting my hands and salt water say what I couldn't.

And I'll wait. I'll pull away for awhile from structure and schedule in order to allow my breath to once again fill my lungs. I'll wait until I feel that warm hand grab me from the surf and cuddle me close the way I know my Heavenly Father does in times like this, with soft words and comforting embraces. I'll take some time to allow the burn to cool to a slow flame. I'll let my mind catch up to what my heart knows.

But for now, I hurt. 

I hurt for my dad who has lost his best friend.

I hurt for my Aunt and cousins who have lost their husband, father, and confidant.

I hurt for my grandparents who have lost a son, because I know better than most that NO parent should have to bury a child, no matter the age.

I hurt for everyone who has lost, again, in our family.

I just ache.

And I wait for release.
For relief.
For rescue.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Meal for Mondays - Pork Chops and Rice

Okay, you guys. This is another Cheryl Daunheimer (a.k.a. my mom) Special, so this is guaranteed to be simple, stick-to-your-ribs, EASY to make fare. Hooray! It's honestly delicious in the fall and winter (at least I think so! Well, I and my family), so it's perfect for me to share right now! Also...look. I know that a lot of these recipes that I'm sharing aren't exactly gourmet fare. I know. I do. But...for me, that's not really the point. I remember the feeling I would get coming to the table and seeing these simple, easy, and yet familiarly delicious dishes on the table. It was homey and comforting and...just...simple. And I loved that. I cook things for my little family that WE like, things that my the Hubs feel loved and appreciated. Things that don't take me all day to cook (unless I'm using my beloved Crock Pot!) and that I can bring to the table with relative ease but that still taste delicious to US. I'm really and truly not trying to compete with the amazing gourmet stay-at-home-wives-and-mothers who moonlight as chefs in their spare time.

See...honesty time: I do not love to cook. It's not my passion. 

But I DO love to cook for my family. 

So...those are the only reactions that really matter to me. I share these recipes on here with you all because I think that maybe you'll enjoy them, too, and also because I'm sort of voyeuristic in that I love to get glimpses into what everyone ELSE is doing and what THEIR normal looks like, so maybe other people want to see mine. You know? If you choose not to check in on Mondays or if you choose not to make these particular recipes in favor of something fancier or something...I dunno...just...ELSE, I guess, that's totally fine with me. Because THOSE recipes are the ones that will become special to YOUR family because they'll remember YOU preparing them. These ones are special to mine.

I apologize too...I have NO pictures for you. Had I been bright, I would've taken pictures while I was cooking this tonight, but for the moment all I would have to offer you is pictures of my dirty dishes and I don't think anyone wants that. Unless the sight of them would move you to pity and cause you to come over and do them FOR me, in which case, please let me know. I will be glad to humiliate myself in exchange for free dish washing service!

Ahem.

Here's what you'll need:

Ingredients:

*1-2 pork chops per person (bone in or bone out, it really doesn't matter. I say 1-2 because if you have hungry men or teenagers in your home or if your chops are particularly small, you may need more than the rest of us!)

*1 can cream of mushroom soup

*1/2 of a large sweet white onion, sliced into thin strips

*1 soup can worth of milk (<----do cups="cups" dirty="dirty" for="for" it="it" love="love" measuring="measuring" no="no" p="p" us="us" you="you">
*white rice

Directions:

In a large skillet, cook chops in oil with onions until cooked completely through and onions begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix soup and milk together until completely blended. When chops are cooked thoroughly, pour soup and milk mixture over the top of them and bring to a low boil, stirring around the chops as well as you can to avoid scorching the milk. Reduce heat and cover. Allow to simmer until soup reduces down to a thin gravy.

In another pot, make white rice according to package instructions. Serve chops and sauce over the top of the rice on each plate. I like to sprinkle mine with a little parsley as well, just to add some color. I also like to serve this with my mom's "signature" fruit salad- sliced bananas, sliced grapes, canned mandarin oranges, and canned pineapple. Mmmmmm mmm!

So there you go! Pork chops and rice, from my table to yours, with love. Enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Citygirl/Farmgirl Fridays - It's SO Beautiful Out Here!


When the Hubs and I first moved out here, I was really, really nervous that I would hate it. I mean, we're about 20 minutes north of the closest grocery store, and half an hour from church (I end up doing most of my make up in the car. Early mornings are NOT my gifting, for sure) and my bestie's house. It feels pretty far removed from civilization sometimes. I'm even in a totally different "town," technically, meaning that when Hubs and I talk about going the places like the store we refer to going "to town." It's like Little House on the Prarie out here, you guys. I might start referring to the Hubs as "Pa" when Beanie makes his/her appearance.

But then...then. I fell in love with it. Completely and utterly. I love the way it just smells like fall out here in the evenings when the air is crisp and all of our surrounding neighbors have their wood furnaces stoked up so we can smell the oak and pine smoke wafting on the breeze. I love the way I can hear dry leaves from the trees of the woods that surround our house blowing around on the paving stones in the backyard when I'm drifting off to sleep. I love looking out the back window and seeing deer wandering down the paths in the woods behind our house.

And would you just look at this gorgeous sunset that Heavenly Father treated us to this evening? I just love the way the trees looked black against all the riotous color of the sky. It was, quite literally, breathtaking. I actually experienced a jaw dropping moment when I happened to glance up from organizing my recipes at my kitchen table and saw this glowing through my kitchen dining area windows. The picture doesn't even begin to do it justice...the colors seemed to be on fire they were so vibrant.


Can you believe it?! This is my FRONT YARD you guys! I am so incredibly blessed and I am reminded of that every time I step outside my front door. Sometimes it's just refreshing to be reminded that Heavenly Father knows what I need better than I do. This isn't a life that I would have chosen for myself three years ago, but today? I wouldn't trade one single crazy, animal packed, hectic, hard scrabble, two-steps-forward-one-step-back moment of it.

This really and truly, for me, is the sweet life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

OrgnizaFUN - Meal Planning

Welcome back! Thanks for hanging in there after I missed last week! Things have been a little bit crazy around here what with The Hubs being in school and working full time and Beanie has been making me a little bit sick the last week or so. Nothing major, just enough to make me want to lay on the couch and never get up again. S/he also seems to think that we need 10 hours of sleep at night in order to function properly. Lol.

But I'm back!

And I'm excited to show you one of my very favorite projects that I've done and it was SO inexpensive to make!

Now, I'm a planner. I have always liked to know what's coming next so that I can anticipate what needs doing, what I need to work on, what I should wear, etc. My meals are no exception.

You will be amazed what a difference this one simple thing will make in your everyday life! No more, "Hey honey? What's for dinner?" ringing across the house from the living room...at 5pm...and you've got nothing handy except a box of mac and cheese and a sad jar of pickles of indeterminate age.

It makes SUCH a difference to know that you've got what you need for meals handy, that you know what meals you're going to make, and what is handy in your food storage for add-on items (veggies as a side, fruit salad, etc).

In a corner just above the bookshelf where I keep my cookbooks I have this hanging:

(True confession: I'm in love with my little vintage toy tin stove there. The Hubs bought me that at the Antique Festival last summer and it came with all of these darling little pans and things, and it matches my kitchen perfectly! I knew it just belonged in my kitchen.)

I bought the 8-frame picture frame at Wal-Mart for $10 and I had the letter stickers, scrapbook paper, and dry erase marker on hand. It was as easy as pie to make- all I had to do was pick out complementary scrapbook paper that matched my kitchen colors (red and aqua...I love), trace the glass inserts and cut out the paper, add the heading ("The Schmidts' Week" in my case), add the days of the week, and assemble. Presto! Instant weekly menu! And I absolutely love it. Everyone knows what's coming, I can see at a glance what I need to plan on making every night, and it's easy to change if there's a last-minute request for something.

This is the last thing I look at in the evening, so I know what I need to be working on for dinner the next day. It lets me know if, while I'm chopping up veggies anyways, if I can just do tomorrow's veggies and save myself the hassle tomorrow. It reminds me if I need to get up a little early to throw something in the Crock Pot. It's a wonderful, easy resource.

I've seen this used for a variety of other purposes too- I've seen them in kids' rooms so they all know what activities they have coming up on a given day that week (no more, "Hey mom? When's my ballet class?"), which is nice because it teaches them a sense of personal responsibility for knowing what their schedules are. Rather than just running to you to ask, they can go look at their schedule and know for sure what's happening. It teaches them to rely on a planner/organizer rather than on a third party for their schedules.

I've seen it used as a family schedule for activities. I've seen it used as a  chore chart (Sally does dishes on Monday while Janie sweeps the kitchen floor and makes beds, etc). It's a WONDERFUL way to keep track of your FlyLady information, too! What day are doing which chores for the Zone we're in that week? Now you know, right away! (For those of you who were at my class earlier this month, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about it next week!)

It's a great visual tool to have in your home, it teaches your family to a planner for their information rather than running to you (or yelling for you, more usually) for the day-to-day details of your family's life.

I love that it's broken down so easily and allows you to take things one week at a time, too, rather than looking a calendar with a full month on it chock full of information, which can be a little overwhelming.

It's a small, easy step in the right direction. Your family will LOVE having an idea of what's for dinner (or what activities are coming, if that's what you decide to use it for), it will simplify things for you because you'll know in advance what you need to do to be ready for tomorrow, and being ready is HALF of being organized!

The frames come in brown and black and they're in the frame department of WalMart! Have fun with the papers you pick out, the fonts you choose for your stickers, whatever! It's completely personalizable and these make WONDERFUL holiday presents! Do you need a gift for you Visiting Teachees? These are a great idea!

Have FUN and remember- DON'T STRESS!!! We're doing this Baby Steps at a time!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Meal for Monday - Parmesan Basil Tomato Soup

Okay, so after last week's disaster (DISASTERONI), I have something for you that you will actually want to try. In order to redeem my Pinterest addiction, this one also came from there, so there is actually good stuff to be found on there. You just have to be aware of the yucky stuff and the too-good-to-be-true stuff (I'm looking, nay GLARING at you, mac 'n' cheese-in-a-mug).

This week I have something really yummy for you, and I couldn't be more pleased that this recipe turned out as well as it did. The Hubs got two helpings from this and that's only because he got to the Crock Pot in a hurry before it was gone (that's right- it was GONE and with a swiftness, too!). He liked it so much that I'm actually making this again (along with some spooky grilled cheese sandwiches!) when we feed the missionaries this Halloween Wednesday. It's definitely a meal that will be getting worked into our regular winter meal rotation. Hooray!

So. All that being said, you should know that I, like many of you, am in love with my Crock Pot. Like, so in love that I want to marry it. It's my FAVORITE APPLIANCE (don't tell my Kitchen Aid. I LOVE YOU KITCHEN AID!), and not only do I love my Crock Pot itself, I LOVE the customer service over at Rival. Let me tell you a little story about why I am a Rival customer for LIFE:

I received my Crock Pot as a wedding gift (my very FIRST wedding gift, as a matter of fact!) from my bestie and I LOVED it. I had wanted one for forever and I was so excited to get getting one! So fast forward a little under three years later and the latch on the lid breaks. I was sad, but the Pot itself still works just fine. In fact, a LOT of Crock Pots aren't even made to have a lid that stays attached to the base, so it's not like it integral to the function of the Pot, it was just nice when you had to add an ingredient or something to not have to take the lid all the way off. I still loved it and it was still 100% usable.


The Hubs decided to e-mail the company to see if they could just mail us a replacement hinge so that he could fix it (he's a fixer). The company said that they don't make that model anymore, but that they would be happy to send us a replacement Pot. FOR FREE. JUST LIKE THAT. Hubs assured them that the one that we had still worked just fine, but the company insisted that it was their "mistake" and that they would make it right. So they sent me a littler one that is PERFECT for soups, breakfast items, side dishes, etc and I love THAT one TOO! It had the digital timer/heat setting function (not just the knob thing) and a Keep Warm function, PLUS it came with this genius little Velcro strap for the lid so that it won't spill if I'm traveling with it (like to a pot luck at church or something). It's EXACTLY what I wanted (I had been hankering after  second Pot since I loved my first one so much so I could do side items, etc.). I was SO impressed!!! I will never buy another brand of Crock Pot. Ever. LOVE.

Anyways. 

I LOVE tomato soup. Love it. Especially with a lovely grilled cheese sandwich. Mmmm...there's just something so homey and comforting about that meal, especially when the temperature drops and the snow starts to fly. Imagine my delight when I found a slow cooker version of it on Pinterest! AND it was SUPER yummy! I decided to test this recipe out on my bestie and her whole family at their Sunday night get together that we always go to and it was a big hit! It was all gone and eaten up in about 15 minutes (seriously) and Hubs immediately requested that I make it again some time. I loved it too, so that was a no brainer.


Photo Credit: 
Clair Buys/BYU Magazine

From my table to yours, with love!