Monday, August 12, 2013

Why I Love Mondays

As a homemaker, I love Mondays.

Don't get me wrong, I really love weekends too.  There is nothing better than having my entire family together, sharing life.

Weekends mean sharing all of the same meals together.  Sharing every activity together.  Discussions that range from heart issues, world events, desires for the future and fermenting (yep, my hubby's new interest) warm my soul and get my brain firing.  Bonding with my husband while we invest time, love and attention into the lives of our children multiplies the cords that keep our marriage strong.

I love having two days each week where we deviate from our weekday schedule.  We have long, leisurely mornings together over pancakes and coffee.  The four of us nap together.  We tend to rarely leave our home during the weekend unless necessary - preferring to bathe in the attention of each other.

However, unlike most people, I also love Mondays.

I love having the anchor of my holy, incredibly demanding, life-giving career. 

I work with two beautiful lives all day, every day.  The work I do is developing two someday women who will change this world - for either good or bad.  I don't take this responsibility lightly.

I know that the most important work I will probably do while alive on earth is to build the foundation from which my children will grow and learn from.  The foundation that builds their faith, beliefs and character.  The foundation that gives them the ability and courage to leave our home and do the work that God intended them to do.

What are the chances of my children building a foundation of faith that can move mountains in their future family if I do not build it for them as children?

And that is why I love Mondays.

I love returning our home into a place of order -  that helps me clearly identify soul-building steps I will work for in the week to come.  It centers me again to the fact that I am the primary influence in my children's lives for the majority of the day, so I must choose my words, actions and desires of the heart carefully.  It quiets my scattered, weekend-brain to more clearly hear just with the Spirit is teaching me in being a wife and mother and how that will translate into eternity.

I have felt nothing more rewarding and humbling than the realization of God entrusting me as a mother.  A life shaper.  With a job like that, Monday's are awesome.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Tasty, Cheap Lunch That Takes Only Minutes to Make!

I made some black bean quesadillas last night for dinner and they were okay.  They were adapted from a cook book that I love, and I had a very hungry family so made them very quickly, without thinking of ways to make them more suitable to our taste.

So today for lunch, I was craving something with a lot of flavor, and decided to make them again for Emma and I, knowing that they would only take minutes to make.

I added some ingredients with a little more flavor and boy, were they good!  I've noticed if I have a tasty lunch, full of flavor, I am more content throughout the day and not on the lookout for sweets later in the afternoon. 

Emma loved them as well and they will be something I make often. 

Tasty Black Bean Quesadillas

4 flour tortillas, cut in half
1 can of black beans (drained)
Peppers (last night I used red, today I used orange, both of which I had frozen from last year's garden)
Lime juice
Garlic Powder

In a bowl, mash up the black beans with a fork.  Add handful of chopped peppers, a handful of chopped onions, a bit of cilantro, a tablespoon or so of cumin, a teaspoon or so of garlic powder, and about a tablespoon of lime juice.  Since my onions and peppers were frozen, I then microwaved the stirred ingredients for about 2 minutes and then stirred it once again. 

I threw the tortillas on a sprayed skillet, layered cheese, black bean mixture, more cheese (so the cheese will melt and keep the quesadilla together) and heated them through, until the tortilla was crispy.

Texture of food is of importance to me, and alone this would be too mushy, so I crushed some ranch tortilla chips on top for some crunch, then added some garden tomato and more cilantro. 

These were really good, really easy and really quick to make!

Mexican Cheese

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Bit of a Schedule Makes a Happy Homemaker!

Read this small bit from Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss, which expresses the thoughts of a girl with no desire to ever marry.  Yet her life was touched by a home....and a homemaker.

"Aunty has six children of her own, and has adopted two.  She is full of fun and energy, flying about the house as on wings, with a kind, bright word for everybody.  All her household affairs go on like clockwork; the children are always nicely dressed; nobody ever seems out of humor; nobody is ever sick.  Aunty is the central object around which everybody revolves; you can't forget her for a moment, for she is always doing something for you, and then her unflagging good humor and cheerfulness keep you good-humored and cheerful.  I don't wonder that Uncle Alfred loves her so.

I hope I shall have just such a home.  I mean this is the sort of home I would like if I ever married, which I never intend to do.  I would like to be just such a bright, loving wife as Aunty is, to have my husband lean on me as Uncle leans on her; to have just as many children, and to train them as wisely and kindly as she does hers.  Then, indeed, I would feel that I had not been born in vain, but had a high and sacred mission on earth." 

I absolutely LOVE this excerpt and is one of the ways I would love to be remembered by my children...."flying about the house as on wings...with a kind, bright word for everybody," being the central object around which everyone revolves; my children and husband unable to forget me for a moment, for I am always doing something for them with unflagging good humor and cheerfulness.

The funny thing is that I never desired to have children, much less ever desiring to be a homemaker.  It's absolutely amazing how God can change a heart and place a calling!

It is no less than God Himself who, in Titus 2:5, sounds forth His high calling to you and me as His women "to be...homemakers."  While it's true that we live in this world, we are not to be of this world (John 17:15-16).  We are not to live as worldly women live.  We are not to be conformed to the ways of this world (Romans 12:2).  We are not to focus on what worldly women focus on, or pursue their paths.  No, as God's women and as women who desire to live godly lives, we are to focus on being "homemakers," "home lovers," and "workers at home."

God has given me such a desire and drive to make a home for my family.  And I'm not talking about just a place to eat meals and sleep.  I'm talking about a beautiful place where wonderful memories are made and a place of haven for my family.  A haven is a safe place.  It's a harbor and a port where vessels and wayfarers find shelter.  And shouldn't our homes offer such shelter and safety to our cherished family?

Some aspects of cultivating this type of home come naturally to me, and some do not.

I've always loved to make my home a comfortable place for my family.

When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a tiny, one bedroom apartment - and I went to work to make it "homey."  I took things my mother no longer wanted to decorate with and was sure there was artwork on the walls.   I always had a stocked pantry and a warm meal in the evening - even when I wasn't much older than a child at twenty-two.  I learned to cook because I had a desire to make a home.

As we bought our first house and our family grew, my desire to make a "homey" home only increased.  We painted in bright, cheery colors and made each of our girls their own inviting rooms.  Our kitchen and living room were re-done to reflect our love of color and I continue to add touches here and there, five years later. 

I made a deliberate effort to develop a love for cooking and baking so I can not only nourish my family, but so we can create cherished memories with the girls at my side while cooking and around the dinner table as a family.  I also want my family to feel loved and cared for by taking the time to prepare handsome dishes for them. 

I try to have a homemade sweet treat available for a midday snack or dessert and have begun to always light a candle at the dinner table while having soft music playing in the background during our meal.

I have a vision, with the help from the Holy Spirit, to create an environment of warmth, love and beauty for my family.  That's the part that comes easily and naturally to me.

The part that is not so natural is the mundane, every day that keeps our home organized and picked up.  Since Haddie has been born, our lives have been very out of order and we have struggled to find a daily schedule. 

However, I've been encouraged to find a solution to the madness and create anchors in our daily lives.  One of the things I've adopted is a weekly schedule that covers the necessities in our home to ensure everything is cleaned once a week.  It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning - but I'm beginning to see fruits of my efforts.

My schedule looks like this -

Monday: Market, laundry (wash, dry, fold and put away)
Tuesday: Bedrooms (give everything a permanent home, dust and vacuum)
Wednesday: Family Room (put everything away, dust and vacuum)
Thursday: Dusting (living room & kitchen), bathrooms
Friday:  Floors (sweep and mop kitchen, living room, hallway and stairs)
Everyday:  Kitchen (because this is where the majority of our time is spent and many, many meals are made) and pick-up living room

In addition, each night before bed, Emma picks up her room and we all work together to put toys away in Haddie's room, allowing for a fresh start the next day.  This also ensures that Emma's room doesn't get too out of hand, which seems to happen very easily!

Before adopting this schedule, I felt that each day I needed to work on every room in the house to keep it under control, but obviously time was an enemy, so little actual improvement occurred. 

This simple schedule has allowed our home to be reigned back under control and given me much more free-time throughout the day to play with and enjoy my babies!  I'm happier because some organization has returned and my girls are happier because I'm less stressed and more available.

What are some ways that your family is able to not only bring beauty into the home, but also maintain some type of organization?

"Money can build a house, but it takes love to make it a home."

"Home is a world of strife shut out, a world of love shut in."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Feeding my family a Mexican Fiesta for $5.41 (including the grass-fed beef!)

The hubby called me this afternoon and asked if I wanted to go eat Mexican tonight for dinner.  I wasn't too keen on the idea for two reasons.  First, we have a toddler and an eight month old.  Do I really need to explain further?  Eating out is not enjoyable for me during this stage in our life because it is just so much work to make sure our three year old stays at the table (at the table, not above or below or anywhere else) and eats and that our eight month old is happy, simultaneously.  That's too much work.  Second, I'm kind of a food snob.  I really prefer to know the ingredients and what type of food is used in meals that myself and my family are eating and I know that restaurants typically use the cheapest ingredients possible.
So, instead of eating out, I went down to our freezer and pulled out a pound of sirloin steak and let it thaw.  I ended making beef fajitas, tomato rice and homemade guacamole.  And get this, the entire meal, that fed all three of us and included left overs, cost a sweet $5.41.  That includes the grass-fed sirloin steak, which when typically bought, isn't cheap.  Here's the breakdown -
Pound of grass-fed beef - $2.50
Onion (I used an entire onion between the fajitas and rice) - 12 cents
Red, green and yellow pepper - 99 cents
Tortillas - (we used 5 out of a pack of 20) - 25 cents
Some oil and spices that are kept on hand in my pantry.
Tomato Rice (my own recipe and very yummy):
Tomatoes - free from the garden
Rice - The amount I used probably added up to about 17 cents of the total bag
Garlic - 20 cents
Spices - just stuff that I always keep in my pantry
Avocado - $1.18 (this is way more than I would usually spend on an avocado, but I really wanted guacamole)
Other ingredients used are just staples in my pantry
Add that up and you get $5.41!  The local Mexican restaurants aren't too expensive, but you can't feed a family of three and have leftovers on that price.  The added bonus is that we buy an entire cow each year with money we purposely have taken out of Matt's check each month, so the price of the sirloin steak wasn't even out of our monthly budget.  When you take that into consideration, this meal cost us a cool $2.91!  PLUS we got to eat it in our own home, without worrying about the kiddos AND got to end the meal with a family dance party in the kitchen listening to Sanctus Real!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Little things that make it possible for me to stay home with our girls!

I've had several people ask how we make it work so I can stay home with our girls on my husband's modest income.  While we live without many extras that appear to be necessities in our culture (satellite TV, smart phones, eating out frequently, etc.) and feel very blessed to not have attachments to those things, there are many little ways that we are able to save money.  Hence the picture of 12 lbs. of onions!
Right now, onions are 49 cents for a 2 lb. bag at Aldi, so mama stocked up!  I spent $3 on 12 lbs. of onions and spent a portion of my day slicing each onion and spreading them out on baking sheets to flash freeze and then dropping them into freezer bags for our freezer.  Not only is this a great price (hello, less than 25 cents a lb.!) but it's so nice to have them easily available each night while cooking.  And seriously, I use onions, so this not only saves money, it saves me time! 
I figured I saved about $5 on this sale.  Sure, not a huge amount of money, but it's the little savings like these that add up over a month that make it possible for us to follow God's calling for our family!

Note:  I'm probably never going to have an onion cutting fest all in one sitting again.  My face was seriously horrific (imagine snot running out of my eyes, nose and ears), I was sweating like I'd ran a marathon and I began having flu-like symptoms.  There was nothing fun about it.  Next time, I'll wait for the hubby to be home so we can spread the process out!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why have we stopped listening to our Mama Instinct?

I have a lot of mama friends who all have young children, and God has blessed me tremendously by these women.  In our isolationist culture where few people have good friends, I am fortunate to call many amazing women close to my own age, as well has several "seasoned" Christian women, my friends.  God knows that I need women to relate to, talk to, laugh with, cry with and celebrate life's seasons with - and He has been a faithful provider!
However, I've noticed a strange phenomenon among so many mamas - our mommy instinct is being called into question.  We have been told by pop culture, contemporary authors and people claiming to be experts on our children, to ignore those feelings deep inside about what is best for our children, and to instead, listen to them.  And we are doing it!  We are being told what and how to do everything that relates to being a mama.  There are instructions on exactly when to quit breastfeeding our nursling (or worse yet, being told to ignore the amazing benefits of breastfeeding, both nutritionally and emotionally), told exactly how we are to put our babes to sleep and that does NOT include us caring for them (even though so many moms feel such a strong desire to nurse their babe to sleep, a horrendous mistake claimed by many books), told exactly how many shots our children are supposed to receive and exactly when (although I am CONTINUOUSLY in the presence of mothers who feel extremely torn over this schedule), told when our babies are ready for solid food (although everything in nature screams otherwise), and by what age our babies are ready to be separated from us, even though at this age they can do absolutely nothing for themselves.  Every time we go to almost any function, including church, it is almost expected we hand our children over for someone else to care for while we go off to do our own thing.  We are told we are benefiting our family by leaving our children for the majority of their lives to pursue a career.  (I am not even beginning to declare whether it is right or wrong to be a working mom - but to ignore the fact that babies are meant to be with their mamas would be questioning God's design of the mama/baby relationship). 
Mamas, it's time to take back your family and listen to the instincts that God intentionally gave you.  YOU know what is right for your children - no one else comes close to having that ability, other than the One who desires to guide us.  If you are doing something that goes against that gentle mama voice that is alive in everyone of us, STOP.  Talk to God.  He loves our babies more than we are capable of - and he so greatly desires our children to be wonderfully cared for!  If your precious baby is waking up several times a night to nurse just to be close to her mama (uh um, I'm talking about you, my sweet Haddie), nurse that cuddly baby!  Our loving Father would not have placed that desire in her if it wasn't part of his design.  If your almost three year old finds her way in to your bed in the middle of every night (uh um, I'm talking about you, my precious Emma), don't shoo her away because everyone tells you she should be sleeping on her own.  The tender age of three may be almost adult-like in our crazy culture, but she's just a baby.  She won't always need to stroke your hair for security (still talking about you, my darling Emma).  Don't stop nursing your baby when they turn a year old because your doctor says it's no longer necessary.  Your baby knows when to quit, and it most likely has nothing to do with your schedule.  When your toddler doesn't want to be left in the nursery on a particular day, don't worry about what other mamas think - let that sweet child stay with his mama.  Your body knows what your children need and the Holy Spirit will never guide you wrong.  Trust the Spirit and ask for wisdom. 
I'm so happy to have very young children still but already know how bittersweet it feels when they grow and change.  I never want to look back and feel that I made my children be prematurely independent because I listened to advice that wasn't from God, and ignored my mama instincts.  I fully intend on loving, guiding and sheltering my children for as long as God leads me to.  Yes, I said "sheltering" - an action that our culture deems hazardous to our children.  I have been blessed with a very loud mama instinct from the very beginning and have made efforts to never ignore it, regardless of how others have tried to make me feel (doctors included).  God has given me the courage to follow my instinct even when it's been counter-cultural, and I have much peace in doing so knowing that my decisions have been thoroughly researched and discussed with my Creator. 
My prayer for all mamas is to listen and follow your own mama instincts and to have God's peacefulness when doing so.  Be courageous and know that you know what your children need and that no book or friend will fully know your family's dynamic or your child's personality.  Go to God with every single one of your hard decisions, but don't forget to talk to him about the day-to-day decisions.  He wants to guide us in everything!  I'm praying daily for all of my mama friends.  Each and every one of you inspires me and I am tremedously grateful for all of you!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fresh Strawberry and Cream Cheese Crescent Roll-Ups

Oh my goodness, these little babies are wonderful!  I saw a recipe similar to this on Pinterest, but it used strawberry jam.  We aren't big jam or jelly eaters in this house, so I didn't have any strawberry jam but I DID have a pound of fresh strawberries sitting in the fridge.  Aldis has strawberries for 99 cents a carton right now and I buy 3 or 4 every time I go, which might be 3 or 4 times a week.  We are big berry eaters here.  These were so easy and quick to make and like I said, out-of-this-world delicious and the girls both loved them too.  There may or may not be a crescent left in this house.  I'm not saying.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor put about half a stick of cream cheese, however many strawberries looks delicious to you (I used almost a whole pound), one teaspoon or so of vanilla, a teaspoon or so of fresh lemon juice and about 1/4 cup of sugar.  Process until nice and gooey!
Spread into crescent rolls, roll up.  You can use an egg white and teaspoon of water to brush on the top if you want, but I couldn't wait to eat one of these, so wasn't patient enough to do that extra step.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes.
You can use some of the extra filling to dip them in as well....which is yummo!

I'll probably make these again tomorrow morning so Matt can have a taste.  He's not usually a big sweet eater for breakfast, but I am sure he will love these!