February 28, 2013

Recipe: No Bake Energy Bites

Pregnancy was not nice to my waistline. After my son was born, I changed how I eat. Completely. Instead of steak and extra-butter potatoes, cheeseburgers, corn dogs, and as much dessert as I could find, I started eating healthy. More fish, salads, nuts, whole grains, etc.

So far, I've lost a LOT. And I'm only 8 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight! Yes!

Here is one of the healthy snack recipes that I absolutely love:

No Bake Energy Bites

Photo: www.gimmesomeoven.com

2.5 cups instant oats (dry oatmeal)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix together.
Form into 1-inch balls.
(Add more oats if they are too sticky.)
Store them in the fridge. 

They are OH SO GOOD!

You can add other stuff, too. The original recipe I saw called for some stuff we don't like (coconut & flaxseed). So I just left that out.


February 27, 2013

Fun Find: Ceramic Pitcher

Don't you just love a great bargain?  
I was shopping last week and happened to find this little gem. 
This classic style is popular right now and I love it!

I found it on sale for $5!
And now it has found a new home in my dining area...

I just added a little cluster of silk flowers and there you have it- 
a little centerpiece that makes my day for the price of a fast food meal. :-)

Oh, I am SO ready for spring! Maybe it's due to the fact that the sun is finally shining and my neighbor's daffodils are blooming? Anyway, my spring fever prompted me to change out the wreath, too...
I don't care if it's still February!

Have a great day!

February 25, 2013

Why Are Christians Ineffective?

I live in the home of the free, the land of the brave. The country with more wealth than any other, the most talented, inventive thinkers on earth, where anyone, regardless of his circumstance, can find success. I love my country.

But I am so very worried for my country.

Did you know that about 75% of people in this nation identify themselves as Christians?  That's a pretty large majority, even if it is declining. With so many Christians, I would expect to find a nation full of people who stand up for what is right, do their best to obey the Bible, seek to reach the lost and show love to their fellow mankind.  I would expect these Christians to have a huge impact on businesses, schools, laws, media, etc.

Um. I'm not seeing so much of that lately.

What I am noticing is increased mocking and demonizing of Christians. Anyone remember the war on Chick-fil-A? I am also saddened by the reputation that "Christians" have earned themselves in this nation. We are seen as cheap, judgmental, anti-gay, anti-this, anti-that, hypocritical, and the negative adjectives go on and on...

Here's an example of just one of those professing believers that I encountered while teaching. His child was in my class and we were meeting for our first conference. During this conference he spent most of the time explaining how rotten of a teacher I was for his child, raising his voice so loud that a teacher in a neighboring classroom was keeping an ear on the situation, should she need to call for a Principal's assistance. At the end of the conference, after he had degraded me to his best ability, he told me of his profound Christian faith.   I found myself thinking, "You hypocrite! Get out of my classroom!"

I cannot judge his soul, as that is completely up to God, but his actions that day (and for the rest of the school year) were anything but Christian.

After my years of teaching in the public school system, I can count on one hand the number of children who felt confident enough to speak openly of their Christian faith. Oh sure, many spoke about going to church...but a relationship with Christ? Not so much. I saw just one student dare to bring a Bible to school and read it. Only ONE.

I listen to the radio and hear incredibly lewd lyrics. I turn on the TV to see shows where men are made out to be stupid oafs, women to be powerful and controlling, and kids void of respect. I get on my computer to be constantly bombarded by advertisements with scantily clad women.  Even erotica for women is on the best seller list! Yuck. I see families out to eat together, more interested in their smart phones than having a real conversation.  We've made it legal to kill innocent unborn children who are seen as inconvenient to their mothers. We are perverting the very definition of marriage, which was created by God. When will enough be enough?

So where are the Christians?

Sure, show up to any church on Sunday morning and you can find hundreds, if not thousands of church folk. They flood restaurants on Sunday afternoons. It's easy to spot them all dressed up in their Sunday best. But where do they go during the week? It seems as if we Christians go into hiding. Now, I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone, as I am in no way a poster child for perfection. But as I continue to search my own heart and observe the world around me, I grow increasingly burdened. Collectively, are we cowards? Have we lost hope? Would we rather live in our little bubble, ignoring the world around us? Are we afraid of offending someone? Are we really followers of Christ? Are we using church to seek social stature? Are we using God for nothing more than a moral compass? Are we any different than people who do not profess our faith?  Do we even know what the Bible says?

Here's what I have a hard time wrapping my mind around: politicians told our kids not to pray or bring Bibles into schools, so we stopped equipping our children to live out their faith at school. We have made them afraid to be "overtly Christian" in their public schools (a generalization, I know there are exceptions). Songs with lewd lyrics wouldn't be popular if 75% of this nation didn't listen to them and buy them. Those TV shows would be canceled if 75% of this nation didn't watch them regularly. Scantily clad women wouldn't be bombarding the internet if 75% of this nation didn't click on them. Shoot, even women's erotica would not be a bestseller if professing Christian women would not buy it. Laws would not be passed that go directly against God's Word if 75% of this nation would stand up for what is right. You know what we are doing? We are overlooking sinful things because we are afraid of what people will say about us...and we enjoy the sin. We partake in it gladly and just don't talk about it with our church friends. Some of us are completely lost and don't even realize it.

Ouch. It's true.

1 Corinthians 16:13 
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong."

So I've done some soul searching of my own. I refuse to be a cowardly Christian.  I reject the perverse media that bombards our daily lives. I do not want to be seen as a hypocrite. In fact, I feel that I must work against these things. No shying away from tough conversations, but I want people to notice a difference in me without having to throw my "religion" in their faces. I want my life to be a testimony of God's grace to me, because that's what it is- grace. I am no different than anyone, except for God's grace extended to me. 

1 Peter 3:13-14 
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 

Christians, it's time to stand up for what we believe. We need not be afraid. There is nothing wrong with being outspoken about our faith. We need to live out our faith daily and think twice about ways we support things that go against God.

2 Timothy 1:7 
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 

What kind of example will I be to my son if do not live by the Word I expect him to follow? I know will fail at times. I will need to be lifted up. But at least I'm not afraid and not hiding...

Are you?

February 22, 2013

Master Bath Update

When we first saw our house, I fell in love with the master bathroom. I could not believe that I could actually have one as beautiful as this! After we got all settled in, I started seeing things that I would like to change...someday. Whenever this happens, I start looking for bargains. I may look for bargains for months before actually making any purchases, but when I find the right thing for the right price, I go for it. We have made minor updates to our lovely master bathroom that I think make a big difference.

This vanity is already beautiful, but I always hated the faucets. They looked old and I could never get them to look clean. It wasn't long before I was ready to see them go.

 See what I mean? Yuck.

I love a garden tub and all that natural light! 
Lots of potential here...

I really wanted to get this room updated before our baby was born. You know what they say, everything is harder to do when you have kids...so we watched a few YouTube videos and taught ourselves how to do some minor electrical and plumbing work. Actually my husband did the dirty work; I was his assistant. 

It paid off.

 We added a beautiful new light fixture that I found on clearance and some new faucets that I fell in love with. I happen to love chrome and white for a bathroom. It's classic and beautiful.

Now, I know it's a trend to get rid of the huge builder mirrors. Honestly, I like having all that mirror space. I've thought about putting a frame around it, but for now it's just fine the way it is.
 This light has fewer bulbs than the old Hollywood lighting, but it's so much brighter. Who knew?

Isn't this faucet so much better? I love the shape.

In most cases when updating a bathroom you want to make sure that your metal fixtures match. If you change the faucets from chrome to brushed nickel, for example, make sure you change out all of the chrome. We saved a lot by sticking with the existing chrome, just updating with some newer fixtures.  

This is my decorated tub area. Oh, I love it. 
 I actually used several things from my old living room to decorate this space. The curtain, for example, hung above my couch in my apartment. It works beautifully here.

 I bought this hand painted mirror at my favorite store several years ago. 
You can always add light to a room by hanging a mirror near a window. 

 These candlesticks were a wedding gift. I love them in here!

This cabinet hangs above the toilet and is probably the greatest bargain that I found for our master bathroom. We happened to walk into a store one day and saw it sitting in the clearance section. It was originally priced at $80. Guess how much it was marked down to? 
Yep. So we bought it. And I love having the extra storage in our little toilet room.

If you want to fix up a bathroom and not spend a lot, look for simple decor that you have another room. I've heard this called "shopping the house" and it works! Also, if you have a bathroom with a lot of natural light, consider adding a potted tropical plant (like a parlor palm). They will flourish with all the light and humidity. 

Happy decorating!

Tags: decorating, design, before & after, remodeling

February 21, 2013

Hostessing: Feeding a Crowd

Over the past few years, I have become accustomed to having 15-20 people in my home for a meal at once. It's common for churches in my area to have small groups that meet in people's homes, and we often host these events. When I first started making these large meals, I had a hard time figuring out how to feed so many people without (1) spending a lot and (2) having enough so everybody was full.  These meals are informal and I have found that buffet style works best for my house. I've compiled a list of simple and inexpensive meal ideas that I've tried and found successful.

Main Dishes
1. Mini Sub Sandwiches
  • Make sure to have a choice of meats and cheeses (at least two) and common toppings/condiments. I like to have most of these: lettuce, pickles, black olives (my favorite), onions, mustard, miracle whip, & ranch. 
  • You can buy bulk sub rolls at a warehouse club or even at your local Walmart. If they are too big, just cut them in half. 
2. Baked Potato Bar 
  • Plan to bake your potatoes at least three hours before guests are to arrive if you will have to make two batches. If they finish baking early, make sure to cover them with foil to keep them warm. Baked Potatoes usually hold their warmth for a while, so if they come out of the oven a little early it will be ok.  
  • You'll want to provide plenty of toppings like butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar, bacon bits, & green onions.
  • These have a delicious sauce that you can choose to put on top, but I usually just put it inside the sandwiches.
4. Sloppy Joes 
  • My sloppy joe recipe is simple: brown as much hamburger as you will need (1 pound makes enough for about 5 sandwiches). After you've drained the grease, add equal parts ketchup and BBQ sauce and a dash of chili powder. You can even add a teaspoon of Honey Dijon mustard and/or diced onion for some extra flavor. Just mix it all up, adding ketchup and BBQ sauce until you get the consistency and flavor you like.
5. Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Buy canned tomato soup and add milk instead of water to make it creamy. The more soup you make, the more milk you will need to have on hand. 
  • Use a large griddle to make up to 8 grilled cheese sandwiches at once. You can even slice your sandwiches in 4 vertical strips, easy for dipping.
6. Fettuccine or Spaghetti
  • Just remember that you will need more sauce than you might think because a large batch of pasta sucks up the moisture in the sauce quickly. You don't want to serve your crowd dry noodles. 
7. Wraps
  • These are great in the summer! You can play with the filling to make it your own. 
8. Taco Bar or Cheesy Enchiladas
  • A taco bar is simple, just have your toppings ready and serve the meat and tortillas warm. 
  • You don't need much for enchiladas- I just stuff mine with chicken or beef, cheese, and a bit of enchilada sauce. Pour more sauce and cheese over the top before baking. You could even add black olives and/or green onions on top. Find the recipe on the can of enchilada sauce.

Can't Go Wrong Side Dishes:
  • Potato Chips (SunChips are tasty and a little more healthy than your average chip)
  • Salad (Try different/seasonal toppings like cranberries, strawberries, candied nuts, etc.)
  • Baked Beans (I like to buy canned baked beans and add a bit of smokehouse BBQ sauce for flavor)
  • Assortment of Fresh Fruit (pair this with spring/summer foods like sandwiches or wraps)

Easy To Please Desserts:

If you have other ideas for simple and inexpensive ways to feed a crowd, feel free to share! I'm always looking for new ideas. 

February 20, 2013

How A Dog Can Save Your Life

This is my sweet and absolutely spastic dog.
We love her dearly. 
And this week, she might have saved my life.

It was my husband's night to get up with Baby Boy. Unfortunately, our little man is teething and a bit more (ok, a lot more) fussy than usual. In the middle of the night, when my husband was doing everything he could to calm our boy down, I could not sleep. That baby needed something for teething and it was buried in the diaper bag downstairs. So I got out of bed, headed downstairs, and started rummaging through that bottomless pit of a bag to find the teething stuff. I didn't bother turning the lights on because, well, who wants to have blinding light in their eyes in the middle of the night? Not me.

And then our little dog heard me downstairs. I guess she didn't hear me get out of bed over the ear piercing baby screams. She let out some muffled barks (which I did not hear while rummaging through that blasted bag), and got the attention of my husband. He also happened to miss the fact that I had gotten out of bed. 

You see where this is going? 

So they both thought I was an intruder. My husband was holding Baby Boy and making plans for defending his family...and I'm pretty sure death of the intruder was at the top of the list. Thank goodness my dog is not completely cowardly. She crept down the stairs slowly, making her way to the intruder (me). She saw my feet, didn't recognize me right away, and gave the alert to my husband upstairs. At which point I said something along the lines of, "You stupid dog! It's me. Quit barking your head off!"
And my husband did not kill an intruder. 

That's how my dog saved my life. 

Have a great day!

February 18, 2013

How To Buy Quality Furniture

Have you ever gone shopping for furniture and wondered if you were getting a quality piece? How exactly are you supposed to know if the furniture will stand the test of time?

Well, I have done my fair share of furniture shopping and have learned a few things along the way.  When we were first married, my husband and I went on a quest to find a bedroom set that we could keep forever. We wanted an heirloom quality and timeless set. Here is what we learned.

1. Look for dovetailing. If you are looking for quality wood furniture, open the drawer and look at the construction of the drawer. A good quality, well made piece of furniture will have this dovetailing detail on the drawers. You will not see staples holding the sides together.

Here is an example of what you should find: 

2. Solid wood is important. You can see in the picture above the grain of the wood in the dovetailing. This is important if you are looking for furniture that will stand the test of time. Also check the bottom of the drawer. Make sure that is made of wood, too. With poor quality construction you will often find particle board instead of wood.

3. Check the back. Cheaper furniture will have a large piece of cardboard or particle board attached to the back instead of wood. It may also be held together with staples. This type of furniture will work for a time, but will not last for many years and can be easily damaged.

Here is a beautiful example of what a quality piece of furniture will look like from the back:

4. Test the drawers. You should be able to close a drawer with one hand by pushing just the right side or the left side. The drawer should close flush and easily without having push both sides of the drawer at once or having to push the middle.  This is a sign of true, quality furniture. This applies to drawers that do not have slides and rollers.

5. Be cautious with veneers. Most furniture on the market today will have veneers of some sort, but the quality of the veneer varies greatly with different manufacturers and price points. They can be absolutely beautiful. What you want to avoid is the paper thin veneer. Over time, very thin veneer can buckle. Also, it can't be sanded down and refinished. You will need to be especially careful not to keep this type of furniture in a humid or damp area (like a non-climate controlled storage unit). The glue can weaken and the veneer can come loose.

6. Quality Costs. It's important not to feel burdened to furnish your home completely with top of the line furniture. It's not cheap. You can find great second-hand furniture that is excellent quality for much less than buying new. If you don't want to buy something again, consider buying the best because it will last. If you think your furniture might go out of style or you will get tired of the design relatively soon, don't overpay for something you won't keep. But most of all, don't be suckered into paying top-of-the-line prices for cheap stuff.

In my house we have a mixture of all types of furniture. We have some quality antiques that I love, we bought some new quality pieces, we treasure our handmade pieces (both of our fathers made us furniture as children), and we have some inexpensive, good-for-the-time-being pieces. We have even refinished some furniture. But I will tell you that we found the needle in the haystack: the most wonderful, timeless, solid wood, veneer-free, mahogany sleigh bedroom set that we love and plan to keep forever. :-)

I hope this helps! Happy furniture hunting!

February 16, 2013

Nautical Living Room

This room was a challenge.  Not only was the budget was small, but there were several things I could not change so I could not take the makeover to the level that I had hoped. However, I was able to make some  improvements with very little money, under $200.  The couple did not want to have anything of much value in this place, being that it's a rarely used beach getaway and could easily be destroyed if hit by a large enough storm...

This room was so hard because the furniture had to stay where it was. There was just not enough room in the space to change the arrangement. Trust me, we tried.  But I did the best I could to make the space more inviting.


I was not allowed to change:
  • The paint color. If I had my way, I would have painted the walls a light sandy color to make it feel more cozy.
  • The furniture. I wish I could have found a small bookshelf instead of that little white table and a smaller couch than that futon, which was too large for the space. Also, if my budget was just a little larger, I would have put a navy blue slipcover on that futon.
  • The flooring. I would have loved to see a seagrass rug over some simple bamboo or hardwood-looking vinyl floors. 

I was able to change these things:
  • Added a new light fixture by the window. 
  • Slipcovered the love seat- such an inexpensive way to cover dated upholstery.
  • Got rid of the ugly wooden cornices and added nautical colored curtains. You can make windows seem larger by hanging the curtains as high as possible and wider than the window frame. With low ceilings, I needed to create the illusion of as much height as possible.
  • Re-purposed art and collectibles that were already there, but put them in better spots. I also added some new decorative touches, such as the wicker ship's wheel, shelf, and the monogram on canvas.
  • New throw pillows add to the nautical theme.
  • Moving the small table to the side gives the illusion of more space.
  • I reused the netting above the window on the left. After we hung the curtains, the bare white wall needed something. This netting does the trick and allows a nice spot to display the starfish and shells.

It is possible to fix up a room with a very small amount of money.
You just have to prioritize which things are most important to change.
Look for solutions that don't cost much, like light fixtures and new pillows.
Compare prices of items online- but measure twice before you buy.

February 14, 2013

Crash Course to Parenthood

I've written before about God using our pain for His glory, but today I'd like to share the scary circumstances that God used to teach me about being a mother.

Considering it was my first pregnancy and I had no idea what to expect or how to feel, I think it was a pretty normal 9 months. We had no major health problems. All my tests came back normal. All ultrasounds looked great. We really had no reason to worry and we weren't worried. Everything was going along just as we had hoped and prayed.

Then, after several long hours of labor, our precious boy was born. Screaming! What a relief to hear that little voice. He was given a clean bill of health by the doctors and we were told he was "very vigorous" (which was not a surprise given the all flips, turns and kicks I felt while he was in the womb).  All was well with our world. Our hearts were so full and so happy. We were thankful!  Family came to the hospital to meet our baby boy. Hardly surprising, they fell immediately in love with him, too. The family went home. We were so tired, hardly keeping our eyes open, so we sent our baby to the nursery so we could get a few hours of sleep.

We were awakened by a nurse and a doctor tapping our feet, standing between our beds. The room was dark and we were half conscious.

They had admitted our baby to the NICU (intensive care unit for infants).

My head was swirling. I could hardly make sense of what they were saying. How could this be? He was just fine three hours ago!

Well, we learned that when he went to the nursery, a nurse noticed his little hands trembling as if he was cold. But she was trained to notice when something wasn't quite right. She tested his blood sugar and found that it was dangerously low, so dangerous that he was at risk of having a seizure.

I was not prepared for this. We went immediately to the NICU to see our boy. He had an IV taped to his little hand and bandages on his little feet. He was hooked up to several machines. Quite honestly, I felt that I was in a nightmare.

Baby Boy spent the rest our our hospital stay there, away from the comfort of my regular post-natal room. I spent most of my hospital stay next to him, holding and feeding him as often as I could. The nurses kept telling me to leave him and get some rest so I could recover. How could I rest with my baby in intensive care?! No! I would be with him! I did not care if I recovered. All I wanted was for those doctors to tell me that they were letting him come back to me.

They didn't.

It was the hardest day of my life. It was time for me to go home without my baby.  I walked out of that hospital with the "welcome baby" gifts, leaving my precious boy behind. My heart was breaking. I was a wreck.  The doctors could not tell me when he would be better. We just had to wait and let the doctors do their best.

God used my mom to show me what being a mother is all about. You see, in the midst of my fear and worry for my baby boy, my mom shared her experience twenty some years ago when she gave birth to me. I was also born with complications and my parents were left feeling helpless and terrified. It was through my mother's helplessness that God showed her He was in control. He was my Heavenly Father. He had made me just how He planned. And He gave me to my parents as a gift. My mom said that when she realized this, that I was God's child, she could rest. She had given me over to God in her heart. He would either allow me to live or take me to be with Him, but my mom understood that her Savior was still in control.

Psalm 139:13-18
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.

I had to do the same with my son.  I prayed long and hard for my baby's safety, healing, coming home...and that God would help me. I prayed that God would care for my baby as He had cared for me. I praised Him for giving me the chance to be a mother. I thanked Him for loving us. I recognized in the depths of my soul that my baby belongs to God and He will take care of my son, no matter what the circumstance.  My baby boy is God's child, too.

For four days we waited, hoped, prayed. Our baby made great improvements, started weaning off his treatment, and relapsed. We started all over again. The doctor came to us literally scratching her head, not giving us any answers but warning us that we should expect him to stay there another week. Devastated, I clung to God's promises and remembered the scripture above.

That night, the doctor gave orders to try weaning him again. By morning, he was still doing great and taking much less treatment. By noon they were telling us that we would be taking him  home that day!  He had made an unexpected speedy recovery. Five days after giving birth and officially becoming parents, we were able to bring our boy home. It was wonderful. Our family was complete.

I look back on our hospital stay and I can see God's provision and timing even in that nightmare. I am so thankful that we sent our baby to the nursery that night. Without a trained professional noticing that little tremble, he might have actually suffered much worse. Today, our baby has completely recovered. The doctors never were able to tell us why or how this happened, but one thing is sure. We know the Great Physician. :-)

I learned so much from those first five days of being a mom. I learned how precious and delicate life is, how God is present and working in the hardest of times, that I would rather bear all the pain and hurt and sickness for my son than have him experience one moment of it, that my child belongs to God first and me second, and that for the rest of my life I will have to depend on His guidance to raise him.

Things will happen with our children that are out of our control. 
May we always cling to the One who has it all. 

To read more about God working in my life:
This Is Harder Than I Thought!

February 12, 2013

Daddy's Advice

When we became parents, we had to learn everything about baby products on our own.  My husband, a proud new daddy, has some suggestions for anyone about to become parents.

So here you go...

  • Zippers are easier than snaps. Look for that when buying baby pajamas. Daddy will appreciate it when he's changing a diaper half asleep. 

  • Diaper pail refills are overrated. Just tie a regular trash bag in there and save $20 a month. 
  • For teething babies, these things are fantastic! Just cut a slice of fruit (we like apples) and pop it in there. It will buy you 10-15 minutes of peace. 

  • And I quote, "if you have a boy, lay a clean diaper over the cannon in case it's ready to fire".  

  • When your baby is fussy while eating, find a sound that makes him/her laugh. It will be your secret weapon when finishing those last couple of bites in peace. (This dad's distraction technique sounds just like this guy. It's adorable.)

Mommy's favorite distraction can be found here.

Short and sweet advice from Daddy
The End.

February 11, 2013

Hostessing: Guests & Bathrooms

Bathrooms are a big deal.

Great design is not just pretty to look at, but functional at the same time. I like to keep a few extra toiletries on hand in case my overnight guests forget something: cotton balls, cotton swabs, a toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. I put the freebie toothbrushes and toothpaste from the dentist into my guest stash. Hotel shampoo samples are also handy (as long as they smell good). 

Here's a pretty way to display supplies on a small bathroom counter.
Guests don't want to rummage through your cabinets to find what they need, 
so making supplies easily accessible will make them feel more comfortable.

I found those little canisters at Home Goods for just a few dollars.
The silk peony is simple and timeless. Who doesn't love a peony?
It rests in a not-so-elegant bud vase that does the job.

A list of things that should be in plain view for every bathroom that guests may use:

Plenty of hand soap
A clean hand towel
A trash can
A plunger
Extra toilet paper
Air freshener spray

That's all you need in the loo for comfortable and happy house guests...

My house guests have had to trip over rubber duckies and baby bath supplies lately, 
but at least the bathroom is clean! After all, isn't that what is most important? :-)

For thrifty bathroom design ideas, click here.

February 10, 2013

Confessions of a Teacher

I have devoted several years of my life to being an educator. Over those years, I learned a lot of things about different families and misconceptions that people often have about teachers. I'd like to share a few in hopes that if you have a school aged child, you can be better equipped when communicating with your child's teacher.

1. You, the parent, are responsible for your child's education.

A child learns his attitude about learning from his parents and will approach his studies with as much or as little enthusiasm as the parents support. Yes, the teacher is responsible for everything that happens in the classroom and keeping your child safe at school. It's an added bonus if your child's teacher can inspire a love for learning and engage your child on a daily basis.

But the teacher cannot control what happens at home.

You are responsible for encouraging your child when he/she is discouraged. Your words and actions mean 100 times more than anything your child's teacher will say. You are responsible for asking your child what he/she is learning and finding ways to go beyond 20 minute lessons taught in the classroom.

Engage your child about what he is learning. For example, if your child comes home and tells you that he is studying multiplication facts, instead of nodding and telling him to go and practice, take 10 minutes to practice with him. Praise him when he does well. Encourage him when he misses one. Be interested in what happens at school. Take him to a museum or the zoo. Even a trip to your closest historical area is supportive to his education.

When a child is successful, which word would you choose to fill in the blank?
  • That kid must have had great ___________. (teachers / parents)
When a child is expelled or drops out of school, which statement is more relevant?
  • That kid must have had rotten teachers.
  • Where were the parents? 

If you approach the teacher with the mindset that you are equally (if not more) responsible for your child's education, you will find yourself with a great parent-teacher relationship very fast. In the rare case that the teacher does not appreciate this mindset, be doubly cautious of what is being taught in the classroom.

2.  Be sensitive to the fact that there are other children in your child's class.

We live in a "me, me, me" culture. That's just how it is. Unfortunately, there is no exception in the school system. Some parents are concerned about field trip details or last night's homework (which are relevant things to be inquiring about) and get frustrated when they don't get an immediate response. These parents are completely unaware that another child in the class became homeless that day and the teacher had to figure out a way to ensure the child did not go hungry. Your child's teacher is dealing with these types of issues on a daily basis. If the teacher is busy and can't get back to you right away, she might be dealing with a very serious issue. Be understanding.

3. Think twice before sending that nasty email.

Think about an issue before you bring it to the teacher's attention. Is it really important? Is it something you can deal with at home?  Here's a very important piece of information about kids: they often lie or distort the truth to get out of trouble. Be careful before you immediately side with your child when you hear a not-so-glowing behavior report. Which makes more sense: having a discussion with your child about how to conduct himself and asking the teacher to keep you informed, or immediately assuming that the teacher is out to get your child in trouble and sending an email denying the poor behavior and condemning the teacher?

If I had a nickel for every time I got the latter, I could probably pay for a trip to Hawaii. The truth is, I loved those kids. Sometimes they broke the rules. Sometimes I had to correct them (some more than others). Sometimes I had to give them less-than-perfect reviews.  Perhaps your child is misbehaving.  Perhaps your child's teacher is trying to help your child by correcting him. Perhaps you can help even more by supporting the teacher's efforts through your conversations and attitude at home.

4. Some things can't be overlooked.

If you see any of these things happening to your child, contact the teacher immediately to find out what you can do.

1. Bullying
2. Falling grades
3. Repeated missing assignments
4. Poor behavior reports
5. Lack of interest in school
6. Loss of friendships
7. Increasingly negative interaction with teacher

Any of these may be signs of more serious problems. Truth is, the teacher probably has some insight as to what may be causing the issues. Be open to hearing the truth, even if it means that your child is causing some problems for himself. If you intervene quick enough, you may be able to stop it and reverse it before the school year is over.  Don't make the mistake of expecting the teacher to catch everything. Remember, you are the parent. You are ultimately responsible.

5. Attitude is everything.

If you are critical of yourself for not having "enough" education and you feel that it will hinder your child's future, stop! If you value learning and encourage your child to do his best, your child will want to learn. If you love your child unconditionally and meet his needs, he will excel. If you have high expectations, your child will strive to meet them. It doesn't matter how much or how little education you have. Your positive attitude about learning and school is what your child needs for success.

More on education later...

February 8, 2013

This Is Harder Than I Thought!

Leaving my teaching career behind was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. My dream was to become a homemaker, wife, and mom on a full time basis. When I became pregnant, my husband and I seriously started considering a new role for me. We started making plans financially and I started preparing mentally. But the adjustment to being a stay-at-home-mom was not as dreamy and easy as I had imagined.

My first job began when I was just old enough to get a worker's permit. I had been collecting a paycheck ever since. I had no idea that it would be difficult for me to stop collecting those paychecks...but it was. For a couple of months, I started feeling guilty spending anything on myself, thinking that I was not contributing as I once had.

Another hurdle was my misconception that I needed to keep everything perfect, all the time. After all, it was now my full time job to be a homemaker. Shouldn't everything always be clean, organized, and perfect? Ha. No. I tired myself out trying to achieve perfection. What a burden! There is no better way to make yourself grouchy than constantly trying to make everything perfect and fail, daily.

I completely underestimated the amount of time and energy it would take to care for a newborn. At first, when we finally got our baby boy home, I tried using every moment of daylight when he was napping to clean and cook and run errands. I was also on a mission to lose the weight I had gained over 9 months of pregnancy...and spent about an hour a day working out in one form or another. When our baby was awake, I was feeding, rocking, changing diapers, feeding, rocking, changing diapers, etc...

It was so exhausting!

And my exhaustion wasn't making our home any happier.

I had to make some changes.

Starting with my perception of myself as a homemaker, I talked with my husband long and hard about my new role. It was comforting to know that he valued me being home to raise our son. He actually enjoys being able to provide for me (us); he did not want me to feel like a burden. I started thinking of my husband's job and his hard work as a gift to our family and treating him with thankfulness for what he provides.  I had always been so independent. This was a change for me. What a relief to just allow myself to depend on him! Seriously, he is a blessing.

Ephesians 5:28-30
 "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body."

Next I had to work on my perception of what a homemaker actually does in a day. Instead of keeping a perfectly clean house every day of the week, I created a schedule for myself. My new goal is to accomplish one major chore each day, not five. For example, Mondays and Fridays I do the laundry. Tuesdays I vacuum (this is a large job with a dog who sheds like crazy). And so it goes each day, something different. I always take Sundays off from housework. It's a day to worship and relax with my family. It's so much more manageable and less stressful! No, my house is not perfect all the time, but my family is happier when I am not stressed to the max. Some days are fabulous and I can accomplish a lot. The difference is that now I don't expect all days to be as productive, so it's a treat when they are!

Lastly, and most importantly, is adjusting to being a mom...all the time.  It's the reason I have this role in life. It's the greatest investment I will ever make. Shifting my mindset, I make caring for my baby boy the main priority of each day. If all that I've accomplished today is being the best mom I could be, that's ok with me.  I'm not saying that my son is more important than time with God or caring for my husband; I'm saying that I understand it's normal to spend about 80% of my day caring for my son's needs. It's one of those things that I knew before becoming a parent, but just didn't fully understand. There is no need to feel like finishing the dusting is more important than hugs and kisses for Baby Boy. There may not be down time for me in any given day, so when an opportunity presents itself for napping, I take full advantage. That's ok. The pressure is off.

Proverbs 17:22
"A merry heart does good, like medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones."

Maybe I'll have it all figured out by the time my son goes to college.

Eh, probably not. ;-)

This is my story. I realize that everyone has different circumstances in life. I'm not proposing that everyone must live like I do, but if you are in a similar situation I hope you can find encouragement in knowing that you are not alone.  Maybe you're a little bit like me, making things harder on yourself than really necessary.  Don't be afraid to rethink the way you live. It might be the key to making life less stressful.

February 7, 2013

Itty-Bitty Powder Room

We have a very small half bath that was as plain as you could imagine. It's so small that it actually fits under the stairs. Combine the tiny space with off-white walls, builder grade mirror, ugly faucet, etc. and you have one boring room.  And that was the bathroom that our guests most frequently use. I had been itching to fix it up somehow, but had a hard time imagining what could be done with such a small space.  After my son was born, I thought it was time to fix it up...finally.

We saved some money by using leftover paint from the living room. 
Since it's such a tiny space, I only needed a half gallon. 
We replaced the ugly faucet with this affordable, contemporary version.
I am a fan of feature walls. I left one of the walls the original color and added a fabulous decal from my favorite decal company. See a close-up below: 

 I would definitely recommend doing business with this company. 
They were able to adjust the size and color for me with no hassle. 

 The ceiling in this room looks good with contrasting colors.

For storage, I added this wicker magazine rack. One side holds magazines, the other holds extra supplies. Nothing is worse than going to someone else's house and running out of T.P., so I always have plenty.

  I got rid of the builder grade, non-framed mirror that was here before and replaced it with this one that I found on Craigslist for $25. It was gold when I got it, but a quick spray paint job fixed that.
And to make it even sweeter, I sold my builder grade mirror on Craigslist for $15! 

I love the detail on this mirror!

When looking for used items for your home, especially frames, pay attention to the shape more than the color. The color is easy to change, but great detail will cost you more if you buy new. 

If you spray paint a mirror, have a razor blade handy to scrape any extra paint off the mirror surface. Make sure you keep the blade flat so you don't scratch the glass. 

I found the shelf at my local home improvement store for $16.
 It works well for a little bit of storage and some decorative touches. 
Very easy to install: just need a drill, a level and about 10 minutes.
And one little change that has nothing to do with decor, but everything to do with function- we added a slow close seat to the toilet. No more banging. Yes!

So that's a very inexpensive way to refresh a tiny bathroom.
 It's simple.
 It's clean.
 It's neutral. 
It serves it's purpose without being too boring. 
And we like it. :-) 

February 6, 2013

Beach Bedroom Makeover

Who wouldn't love the chance for someone to write you a check and ask you to design a room for them?  This actually happened to me! Thrilling! I have ALWAYS wanted to try decorating someone else's space. Since this was my first ever project (other than my own house), I put the entire budget into the room and did not take any profit. 

I had $400 and a lot of adrenaline. 


I had my work cut out for me. This room needed a total makeover, from bland walls to the plethora of cartoon fish decor. Good thing I was up for the challenge! With a lot of persistence and bargain hunting, I was able to give this room a complete face lift.


Totally different, right? I am still smiling over the transformation.

Secrets to making this work with such a small budget:
  1. Spray paint is key. See the lamps? They were both spray painted to match. Use spray paint whenever possible.  That night stand, yep. It was spray painted, too. It was an ugly 1970's brown when I found it. 
  2. Use whatever you can that is existing in the room. See the new bedding?  I saved a ton by purchasing a duvet cover and stuffing that old fishy comforter inside. 
  3. Don't be afraid to find things at Walmart. I found the three matching frames for a mere $2 each and filled them with vacation photos that the couple had already printed. 
  4. If you want a soft look for ugly windows, try inexpensive sheers. I found those sheers online for about $6!
  5. Don't be afraid to get your hands, feet, knees, and hair dirty. I saved the most by recruiting my sister to help with the dirty work. We spent hours removing wallpaper boarder, painting, and cleaning. In the end, it paid off...and gave us some good quality sister bonding time.  :) 

Some of my favorite details from the room:
I found this beautiful book and the seashells hanging around in another room.
They got a new home and look about 100 times more beautiful. 

This little corner was so much fun. The blue paint and sandy colored accents made all the difference in transforming dull, white walls into a peaceful getaway.