Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Worship

I've always found it easy to find God in the everyday, more so than sitting in a church-pew, or listening to the preacher preach. I find Him in the whisper of the wind or the warm sunshine on an otherwise cold day. I find Him in the blooms that pop up and reveal their beauty to us in the spring and the leaves that turn bright orange and yellow and red in the fall. I find Him in the gentle and slow fall of the snowflake, no two alike, individual in their own way. (Just like His children.)

God surrounds us and his blessings do too, if only we allow ourselves to see them.

There is no place like the ocean, to me, that He can be found. The waves crashing along the sand and the water stretching and stretching and stretching as far as the eye can see. This is where I feel as small as I really am and God begins to feel as big as He really is. Then the thought of all the animals, itty-bitty fish and huge whales, filling that water; it's humbling and being humble is the first step to worship.

Often a song on the radio will move me to tears long before a sermon could ever. The silent tug of the heart pulling me closer into God's arms and whispering the sweet nothings of want and love and forgiveness as those words set to melody wash over me.

This is worship. Simple. Complete. My God as big as my God can be and me here humbled and in complete awe of His love for ME.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Living on Less - An Extremely Long Post About Being Poor but Happy

I was reading my cousin's post over at Wife Mommy Me this morning about how she'd like to start a budget and stick to it when I realized I had began to write her an entire blog post as a comment about ways that we have learned to budget and really live on less.

I don't know why talking about how much money one makes seems like such a taboo. I don't know if it's our insecurity in thinking that if someone realizes how much (or how little) money you make, they'll think less of you, or what. But I don't have a problem with it so let me get real personal with you for a moment.

Jeremy works as a mechanic in a small (very small) shop in Troy. It's a historic building with many years of history and this is how the place works: one man owns it, one man works for this man, and then when the owner retires, he passes it down to his worker. My husband is in line to own this shop one day and I couldn't be more proud of him. They have a great reputation in the area for being kind, honest, and professional and are voted number one in the county every year. You just don't find a shop that is like that anymore. The one downfall is that if my husband went elsewhere, he'd make close to double of what he's making now. He brings home about $400 a week which is our main income.

I work at Lowe's part-time. I have a very easy, laid-back job which allows me to come home and just forget it. I don't have to stress about what's going on at work so I can focus completely on my family. I love that. It also allows either Jeremy and I to be home with Henry at all times. That is very, very important to us. My checks are usually between $350-$400 every two weeks. Combined, we make about $32,000 a year, that's not much, I know, but we live and we live well.

So how do we do it? One word: priorities.

God first.
Family second.

We have also established a real difference between needs and wants.

Things that you need are simple: food, water, shelter, basic clothing and shoes, transportation, medical needs, and savings. Everything else is pretty much a want.

Notice I put savings in there. Jeremy and I strive every week to put 1/3 of our income into our savings. That's $200 a week for us. When it goes in the savings, it stays in the savings until we really need it. Typically we take out of our savings 4 times a year: twice for vacations and twice for 'big' projects or purchases. We've drained our savings twice: once to buy our home and then again to side it. That's a scary place for us, but under the circumstances, we found it necessary.

We also do not owe money. The first year we were married, we paid off all credit cards and outstanding bills. Now the only bills we have are your typical monthly bills and a couple of medical bills. We cut out the cable so now our bills are down to electric, water, gas, internet and the cell phone bill. They equal to about $500 a month. Also, our cell phone bill is a family plan that is split four ways between the two of us and my in-laws. It's cheaper that way!

I spend between $50-$75 a week on groceries and I only go ONCE a week. I cut coupons as well as using my stores virtual coupons on their app. I also do not buy junk food or anything that I don't have a plan for. I don't 'meal plan' exactly, but I have about 5-6 meals that I can cook in the house at all times, plus about 3 others that are simple and easy for nights that I work. Once we have that meal, I buy the things to replace it. Henry eats what we eat except for a couple of breakfast and lunch items for him. He doesn't drink juice or eat sugary snacks unless someone else buys them for him. One night a week we get pizza for dinner and one day during the week we have lunch together. Otherwise we pack our lunches for work and during the week, I typically eat the night before's leftovers for my lunch. We typically do not throw food away.

Our only other main cost during the week is gas. Which we have no control over so we just go with the flow there although both of our vehicles are pretty gas-efficient.

If we have a day off together, we dedicate $50 to that day. That includes eating out or spending money at the flea market or going to the zoo. You can do a LOT with $50 if you just try. We typically only have 2 days off together a month, so it's really not that expensive. During the week we find things to do at home together as a family, or something free like a park or festival.

If there's an item one of us really want, we save for it. If one of us need something (like clothes or new shoes) we talk about it before we just go out and buy it and we try to be sensible about it. We usually only buy these type of items when they're on sale or clearance as well. Henry's clothes are typically 2nd-hand except for a couple of outfits a year for special occasions. We keep each other accountable for ALL money that we spend. Say I need new foundation and it's been an expensive week, I wait until the next week - and I NEVER buy make-up without it being on sale and I having a coupon. Every little bit helps!

Pretty much all of our furniture was found on craigslist or at a garage sale or bought extremely cheap on sale or clearance. We also love hand-me-downs!

We don't have much money, but we also don't stress about it. If there's something one of us really want, we eventually get it. It's just determining how badly you want it BEFORE purchasing it that's the key. We also enjoy to travel so by not spending money on this and that, we can usually afford to take a couple decent vacations a year. Spending time as a family is the most important thing to us, so by cutting things out like the cable and not having stuff all over the place that doesn't really entertain us, we find entertainment in one another. And to us, family the most important thing that money can't buy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hello, Old Friend

I'm in the process of (attempting) to de-clutter our home so that we can start on some big projects this winter. This process is easier said than done, let me tell you. I just know that as a family of 3, we have way too much stuff. I threw away an entire trash-bag of things from our kitchen alone last night and none of it was food; one only needs so many water-bottles, glass jars (this was a hard one for me), and left-over napkins from parties and holidays. I'm proud to say that my kitchen is way more functional now than what it was 24 hours ago, however.

My main objective is to clean out our back bathroom so that we can attempt to start finishing it. We have been using it for storage for everything from our Christmas tree to boxes of things I want to put in a garage sale this fall to clothes that I'm hanging on to of Henry's in case our next (there is going to be a next, right?) baby is a boy. This room is completely unfinished, no drywall or floor, so you can imagine the work that's going to go into it. Do you know what I'm most excited about?!

A bathtub!

We haven't had a bathtub in our place of residence in 3 1/2 years and let me tell you something: I MISS IT! Henry is getting way too big for sink-baths and you should see it when I have to give the dogs a bath. Not to mention, our single bathroom in this house was converted from a closet. A small closet. It has just enough room for a shower, toilet and a very small cabinet in which Jeremy and I have tried to shove all of our bathroom-related things. It's not a pretty picture!

I sometimes feel like after owning this home for two years, things should be easier than this. We should be more organized and more finished with projects that we had intended to start directly after moving in. But the truth of the matter is that when we moved in, we had so much to clean up before we could even start working on the house. The garage STILL has things in it that do not belong to us and we haven't had a chance to get out there and go through it all. The main issue I've come across is that a house built in 1920 is missing one huge aspect: storage.

There are 4 closets total in this house: our bedroom closet, the hallway closet, Henry's bedroom closet and a very small utility-like closet upstairs. We also have very little 'storage' type furniture. Our closet alone plays duty to hold all 3 of our clothes, shoes, and accessories. We have one dresser which holds Jeremy's undies and t-shirts, plus all of our swim suits. Mama needs more furniture!

Things will all fall together eventually. In the meantime, I'm getting excited to start our bathroom and planning exactly what I want it to look like in there! I mean, HELLO, first room EVER that I get to start from scratch. THAT'S exciting!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Boat Drops

I've seen this recipe floating around Pinterest for the last week and it looked SOO good so I just had to try it.

I've renamed these little jewels 'boat drops' because I'm crafty like that and it makes sense to me.

The recipe is so simple and so easy!

2 ripe bananas
1 cup of oats
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
1 heaping spoonful of natural peanut butter

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and wah-lah! Yummy (and healthy) cookies.

I made 15 fairly decent sized drops that are about 60 calories a piece. Yours may have more or less calories, depending on the size of drops you make and your exact ingredients.

Let me know if you guys decide to try them! They're a HUGE hit with Henry and I'm loving them too. Jeremy on the other hand - well, he hates bananas and won't even try them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Last

I often wonder what would happen if I fell so hard and so deep one day that my husband, my friends, my family, the people that I love, would not love me anymore. I have heard the warning from my husband time and time again, "I can forgive anything, Jennifer, but not that one thing, if you do that to me, I'll walk away and never look back."


I understand, I do. Forgiving someone if they betray you is hard, especially if you've trusted them with everything that you are. But I've done it before, time and time again. I suppose my forgiving heart does not understand how you can not give someone a second chance if they mess up.

No matter what they did.

It's not like this is a huge concern in our relationship. I can't see myself ever straying away from my husband for a fling or even for something 'deeper'. And I can't see him straying either. I like to think that since marriage, I've become very good at seeing all other men as just men, and my husband alone as my mate; the person God made for me. But everyone makes mistakes and I sometimes worry that one day I will make that one last mistake that will cost me everything.

I often want to shake my husband when we get to talking and he says something like this to me that God commands us to forgive. Seven times seventy times. That's a LOT. Selfishly it's for my own reasons because I would never want to lose him, no matter how badly I had hurt him.

I know it's odd that things like these linger on my mind. But I suppose I like to know and be prepared for all situations in life. When he asks me the same question my answer is simply this: "It would be hard to trust you again, but I would forgive you."

My heart aches with the question: why won't he do the same for me?

The one comfort that I do have when thinking on tough situations like these is that God would forgive me. There is no one last mistake with God. If we're broken and sincere and truly sorry for the sin we've committed, God will come running to our aid, wrapping his arms around us and ushering us into his house of forgiveness and love. His love is just that true and strong.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Be fit: Update

I'm sure you all remember this post from March in which I sprained or broke, or did something, to my ankle while out running one night. This just a couple of weeks into a deep desire and conviction resulting in deciding that it was time to get my butt off the couch and do something about the fact that I am definitely not at an ideal weight. And by 'definitely' I mean no where near.

I think the last time I updated about this little journey to become healthier was directly after our vacation, in which I had gained 4 pounds of the 20 pounds I had lost back and was working on taking them back off.

Well... I did.

But it took way too long and I have been anywhere but on track the last few months. After losing 3 of those 4 pounds, I gained 5 or 6 back, only to have to lose them all over again.

I kept using the excuse when I stepped on the scale and my weight was the same, 20 pounds lighter, that as long as I wasn't gaining weight, then I was okay. Then when I gained one pound, I told myself I just needed to watch myself and that I'd had a bad day and that I shouldn't worry about it. The next pound was easier to ignore and by the time I had gained those 5 pounds back, I was miserable in thinking that I had gone so far backwards so easily.

So I kicked my butt back into gear and lost those 5 pounds plus 1 in the last couple of weeks.

Today I am 21 pounds lighter than when I started, way back in the middle of January. I'm disappointed that I haven't done better as a whole through-out the year, but I'm hoping the rest of the year will make up for it some.

Even if I have to restart a million times, I am determined that I will do this. I want to be healthy, for myself, for Henry, for Jeremy, and for a bazillion other reasons.

As for running; I still can't run. My ankle is still not completely healed and it's been a huge, HUGE disappoint for me. But I can walk, and so I started wearing a pedometer and am sure to take 10,000 steps a day, regardless of the day. Baby steps...

Thank you to those of you who have encouraged me and supported me throughout this journey. You have no idea how much you are an inspiration and strong-hold for me and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kind words and thoughts.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Time Off

Summer is quickly fading and my desire to fade away myself is fleeing with it.

Friends, I am tired. Worn. It has been such a very long two weeks and I have found myself many times taking a very deep breath and reminding myself that this too will pass, and I will once again be cooking dinner for my family at 7 instead of 10:30, and Henry will be awake when I get home instead of sleeping peacefully in his crib, and I won't miss out on those evening cuddles, puckered kisses, dinner at the table, or conversation between husband and wife that does not include whether or not Henry pooped and when he went to bed.

I'm not sure how my part-time job (the one I took just to help contribute a little more, to have insurance, and to get me out of the house from time to time) became a full-time job, but I will assure you that I am not ready to go back to work 40 hours a week with all of my other commitments, paired with the amount of time I put into our home and our family on a weekly basis. There have been many days that I have felt like the walking dead, physically and emotionally, forcing myself just to keep moving because I was afraid that if I stopped, I wouldn't be able to start again.

Thank you Lord, tonight ends this half-month streak of having no time off and I can enjoy my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at home, all day, with dinner and conversation and cuddles and kisses and all the things that I have missed so very much.

The crickets have been chirping non-stop for the last two weeks and as I sit here listening to them this bright and sunny morning, I feel like they're calling to my soul to stop and enjoy this time. They are reminding me that it's good, so good, to be put into situations where the things you take for granted are taken away just long enough for you to appreciate them the way that we should. Tomorrow, as I sit at the table with my husband and son at my side, I know I will take in a newly-found sense of appreciation for the small things that have such huge impacts on our lives. Things like dinner and cuddles and kisses and conversation...and time off.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chris Ashton Kutcher

So clearly I am not a teen anymore and did not watch the Teen Choice Awards, but I've seen this video buzzing around the internet and thought I would share and see what your thoughts are. As a mother, Chris may just be my hero at the moment. I hope more stars will be willing to step up and speak out about the crap that people feed the young of America these days.

Five Minute Friday: Small

It really is the small things in life that matter. Life has been so very busy lately that it's actually been easier to enjoy the little, small things that we often miss when we become wrapped up in ourselves or the things that (be honest) don't really matter.

I've truly enjoyed the weather the past few days. The sun has been warm but the breeze has been cool and I can't help but be moved by the spirit of change as summer begins to fade and autumn begins to approach. I made a promise to myself a few weeks ago that I needed to find the things that really, really matter and focus on them and forget the rest. And I have. And it's been heaven.

Things like Henry's perfect little smile when he wakes up in the morning and sees my eyes open, or that little laugh when I tickle his sides. Things like a warm tea in the morning to start my day and a devotion in the evening to end my night. We've been twice to the fair and I breathed in deep the smells and the sounds and the sights of the children, mine included, taking in the wonders of new animals so close up and their sounds, rides zooming past, and lights flashing. The world is a magical place when you stop to see it the way they do.

There has been temptation to curl up on the couch and click through the television for a day or focus completely on myself and my projects, but I've found that using my God-given talents in service for my son and my husband has been more rewarding than anything else I could do. It makes me happy to know they are happy and well taken care of. Being a wife and mother is not a small job, but if I focus on the small things I can do as a wife and mother for my son and husband, they can have a BIG impact.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chase is One

A little photo session finished and ready to share with you all.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A post on time, being a horrible 'professional', and other random things...

There is not enough time in a day!

Can I get an amen?!?

24 hours feels like 4 to me anymore and quite honestly, I don't know where the heck the time is going. I am so behind on ev-er-y thing.

Part of it is my current work schedule which has jumped from 20 hours to 32. I haven't complained, we need the money and I know it won't last long, so I'm just going with the flow. Lowe's is pushing Obamacare through within the next few weeks and I won't be 'allowed' to work over 24? 25? 26? hours. It's somewhere in there.

Another part of it is that it's FAIR time and I can't help but want to go to EVERY SINGLE ONE that's in our area. Our county's fair is going on right now and we are given passes (Cause we are super important people. Not.) every year so I try to go as much as possible. Henry and I will probably go explore several times this week. He loves the animals and I love the art. I always mean to enter my own photography, but I always miss the deadline. Whoops! 

I'm also in the middle of like... oh... 15 projects? Including the fact that I haven't even LOOKED at my brother's wedding photos since like the day-of his wedding. That was almost 2 months ago. Yup, hello Miss Un-Professional. At least I wasn't paid, right? Mentioning paid, I also have like 200 photos to finish editing from a paid wedding that I did almost 2 months ago. They're all the dreaded family shots plus they had each 'group' attending the reception line up to get their photos taken with the bride and groom. The lighting was horrible and I've glanced through them and I know they're going to be a dread to edit so I keep putting it off. I've got to get on that!

I also primed my bar-stools yesterday so that I can paint them this week and I have two other gallons of paint waiting to be put on the walls. I have three (yes, three) crochet projects started, one of which is paid as well. Gotta get on that...

Ever take on more than you can do at once?

Yup! That's me!

Today we celebrated my grandmother's 84th birthday, did laundry, went to the fair, and I mowed and trimmed the yard cause the hubs is down for the count at the moment. Now for dinner, baths and beds! I got this!

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Rain

It's raining a soft, slow rain this morning, the kind that makes you want to curl up with a good book and your favorite throw and just read all day long. I don't remember a period in my life when I didn't love the rain. I'm sure as a young child I may have wished the rain away for another day, but as far back as I can remember, days with rain filled me with this kind of joy that is only felt when you feel clean and new and good. Rain really does that for me, it feels almost magical sometimes.

I loved playing in the rain as a kid and yesterday I allowed Henry to strip down and play in the summer rain until he was soaked to the bone and exhausted. Why is it that as adults we don't find time to play in the rain ourselves? I sat on our back-porch watching the joy that Henry found just splashing in puddles and feeling the rain on his face and I thought about joining him but then thought again. I know the neighbors would think I'm crazy, but I'm pretty sure they already think that so that's not what held me back. Maybe it was the simple fact that I had my hair up and my make-up on and the thought of doing all that again (or going out without it) was exhausting. Or maybe it was the terrifying idea that playing in the rain wouldn't be as much fun anymore, that I had lost that wonderful feeling that I keep tucked into my heart from when I was a kid. I'm not sure.

My heart has been tugged lately to go in a different direction. A direction in which playing in the rain would be a priority instead of a dream from long past, and enjoying the little moments and things in life will be easier because I will be less distracted and focused on other things. Like this post, for example. Lately I have tried not to write unless I feel that old, familiar tug on my heart because I have something to say directly from my heart. I don't want to care about how many followers I have or how much a post is read. I don't even want to care about whether or not anyone else understands it or connects with it. I just want to be me, my whole self, and write directly from that person. This is not my career or a steady source of income, so I have to quit treating it like a job at times. This blog is an extension of myself, my feelings, and the one place where I do not have to be filtered. I want to keep it that way.

Ripples & Waves is just a small example of how I am trying, really trying, to get back to basics, march to my own beat, be true to myself, and be an overall better person, wife, and mother. Life is short and time is precious and I don't want to waste any more of it pretending to be someone else, or trying to fit in, or doing things that don't bring me joy simply because I feel like I should. I want to use things like Facebook and Instagram simply to share our lives, not compare them. And at the end of the day, I don't want to feel like they're a necessity. I love my life, I really do, and I don't want to miss out on any of it because I am distracted by things that really shouldn't matter.

So today Henry and I are going to enjoy the rain. We are going to laugh and play and I'm going to find joy in simply knowing that this precious little one is never going to be this age and this exact way ever again.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

National Breastfeeding Week

In case you were unaware, this week is National Breastfeeding Week. Breastfeeding is a sore subject for me. I hate to talk about it because I am so passionate about it and 1) I'm afraid I'm going to deeply offend someone and 2) it seriously hurts to talk about.

When I found out I was pregnant with Henry, I wanted so much to breastfeed. I had this wonderful vision of spending quiet time alone with my baby, bonding as I did the one thing that no one else could do for him. I thought of breastfeeding as the most natural thing in this world, and in fact, the sole reason that God gave me these huge breasts to lug around all the time. I was actually excited to breastfeed.

Then Henry was born and we were overjoyed and exhausted and so excited to start this new adventure of parenthood. When it came to feeding him that very first time, I took him into my arms and was just thrilled to tuck him close to my body and experience this new and perfect thing that we would now include in our daily lives.

But it didn't happen. He wouldn't latch.

The nurses assured me that he would, that he was probably just a bit behind since he was born early. They called in the consultants and had me pump in the meantime so that he could still have mother's milk for those first meals.

We tried and tried, and I pumped and pumped. Anytime Henry was due for a feed, I had to pump first - which took forever, sometimes an hour. The consultants kept acting like I was doing something wrong, that I just needed to be patient and try harder, but it just wasn't happening. They sent me home with formula and told me that if I really wanted to keep trying, I could, but they didn't encourage the breastfeeding anymore.

I was devastated, heartbroken and on the verge of tears every single time it came to feeding. I would try and try until we were both a frustrated mess; me exhausted and Henry starving. I continued to pump. I pumped and pumped and pumped. I was home for 3 months and then when I went back to work, I came home on my lunches to pump some more. Every feed, I pumped. My life consisted of feedings and pumping.

I froze everything that I could, and gradually, I quit producing milk. I tried supplements, pumping every hour, every half-hour, eating and drinking certain foods, anything that I could to keep my milk coming, but it didn't. Eventually it stopped and I knew that this phase was over for us. Eventually the frozen supply ran out and Henry finished his first year on formula.

I hated it. I hated myself for it. I felt like it was my fault and that I had done something completely wrong. I felt like I hadn't given my son everything he deserved and that my body was revolting against everything that I felt was natural.

We came to find later that Henry was lip-tied which was the cause of him being unable to latch, but it still hurts to think about. When I see new moms choose to feed their babies formula over breast-milk, I hate to say it, but they immediately anger me. I feel like they're taking the choice that I didn't have and throwing it out the window (usually) because of some selfish reason. I typically overcome that feeling quickly, knowing that there is no right or wrong way of parenting. But I can't help that initial reaction when I think about how hard I tried and how much I would have given in order to have the choice myself.

My hope and prayer is that when we have another precious baby, I'll be able to breastfeed the way that I so dreamed with Henry. And if not, I'm going to try not to beat myself up about it as much as I did the first time around. I know that you have to do what works for you, your baby and your body, but I couldn't help but fight back tooth and nail when it came to breastfeeding.

Did you breastfeed or use formula? What made you decide to go the route that you did?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

An Enchanted Garden

Well, maybe it wasn't ACTUALLY enchanted, but it could have been! Henry had a wonderful time yesterday with his cousins and I enjoyed some time with my sister-in-law!

Monday, August 05, 2013

A Day Off

Finally! A Saturday off that I DIDN'T have to request! After two long years, it's about time!!

We started by going pickin' down 127 (the world's largest yard sale) and didn't buy a thing. Then we visited a 'ranch' that's located about five minutes from our house in the middle of some corn fields. Yeah...we have a giraffe within a couple of miles from our house. It's almost funny to think about! Then it was bubbles and a fire in the backyard, just enjoying our night together as a family. I'll let the photos speak instead of going into detail!