Snow Day + Life with (just a few) Toys

We've stayed cozy, warm and at home during these past couple of snow days.

My heart goes out to all those who were stranded and separated from their families.


I thought it would be interesting to share how life with just a few toys is going since we've been housebound for 48+ hours. To give you a little background, mid January I found myself discouraged because I was drowning in children's toys, clothes, and other belongings. I wanted to throw myself down every time I had to face the daily grind of cleaning up our mess. I was in a perpetual bad mood.

I decided to take a radical step and I boxed up 95% of our toys to store. Immediately, I felt so much relief. I could see the floor again. I had put toys back before, but this time I put nearly all of them away, just leaving a carefully selected few out to play with. I realized that a lot of things I kept out before were things I wanted them to play with and not what they actually played with.

The best part about having just a few toys out is that so much quality has been added to our days. I feel like I can look my children in the eye, read, and be silly without the burden of so much disorder.

My children never (not even once) have said "where is my...?" Also, they have loved extra hard on the toys that are available to them instead of their usual scattering it all through the house and not really playing.

They build tents and forts with blankets and couch cushions. They draw and color. They occasionally sit and look at a book. They play chase. They "help" me in the kitchen. So the house still gets pretty disheveled everyday. But there is a deep peace in knowing that there are not 232 toys under my feet that eventually have to be picked up.

Also, since I have room to think, I actually have the energy to teach them to pick up after themselves. And though they sometimes protest, I know that they love being asked to do meaningful work. Can you imagine the satisfied feeling watching Blues Clues after you cleaned up all your Legos with only a little help from your baby sister?!

So yay, I have a life again. And I feel much more apt to gather everybody up and run out for an errand or adventure because I'm not wading through piles and piles of play food and puzzle pieces to get us out the door.

With a fewer toys I feel like my children are truly learning to play.

In a few months, I will rotate all the toys.


Budget fail + Meal Plan + Lollie Bean Recipe

I blew it. Our grocery budget for January. I'm not talking $20. More like $200. This happens sometimes.

It started with me having the flu. We went to Chick fil a and Five Guys. Fine, fine. But even before getting sick, I was pretty burned out in the grocery store going - cooking department.

And then there is George, my one year old who eats more than I do.

Also, I made dinner for a few friends that had babies and we entertained a several times, all of which we were glad to do! Beyond these things, I was just plain ol disorganized, and I probably under funded the grocery category.

So there's my excuse(s). I try not to beat myself up, but use it as a learning experience.

What happened in January stays in January. All I can do is get back on that horse in February.

I don't have a game plan yet, but I'm working on one. Maybe I should chronicle it on the blog and see what public accountability does for my budgeting skills?!

I'm still loving my new system of meal planning on Sunday night (or sometimes Saturdays) and shopping on Monday morning. It's a job that has to be done and having a "set" day prepares me mentally for the task.


Here's my menu plan for this week. Thankfully, I had most of the ingredients and I didn't have to buy too much yesterday to make our dinners this week.

Monday: loaded baked potato soup
Tuesday: pot roast
Wednesday: chicken quesadillas
Thursday: leftovers
Saturday: turkey burgers
Sunday: eggs, toast, grits or leftovers 


On my menu last week, we enjoyed a family favorite, Lollie bean. It's an oldie, but a goldie. I like this meal because it is chili-like, but has some different flavors

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 cup diced celery
1 large onion diced
3 cans Campbell's Minestrone soup
2 cans Ranch beans, drained
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

white rice
shredded cheddar cheese
Fritos or tortilla chips

In a large pot, cook celery and onion in vegetable oil until tender. Add the ground beef and brown thoroughly. Drain. Return to stove and add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes until nice and warm. Serve over white rice. Top with cheddar cheese and Frito scoops.

 Bon appetit!


2014 Goals

It took me a while to come around and make some goals for 2014. Like so many, I'm reluctant to make a resolution only to crash and burn 2 days later. Also, I was out with the flu at the beginning of the year, and in my helpless state all goals seemed out of reach.

So here is my list. I tried to break my goals down into doable bite size pieces. Some are small, but I've already experienced some the fruit of being consistent, even with little things.

Bible reading and prayer life
read 1-2 Kings before March 1st
prayer journal - write one page a day
memorize one Proverb a month

Pure Barre 3X week
Plan afternoon snack and enjoy it (I always eat badly in the late afternoon).
Sleep. If tired from waking up early, try to coordinate children's rest times and take a nap. Sleep late one day week.

Children and Reading:
Read 1 book at breakfast
20 minutes in the afternoon
20 minutes at night
(less TV, more outdoors)

2X week
 (more if possible)


My proverb of the month-

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28


pictures from the park this morning.
Is there anything more invigorating than a cold, sunny day?!

Laurie's shirt from this cute Etsy shop


Hot Chocolate After School

Friday, we had the funnest little TGIF celebration after school. Hot chocolate with whipped cream! My Laurie adores chocolate.

This book looks cute.

My mugs are Fiesta ware. For my birthday last year, I asked Stephen to pick out a mix of colorful mugs and bowls. Because what says 30th birthday better than mugs and bowls?! What I love besides the colors is how sturdy they are. I don't mind the kids using them. Also, they are extremely  affordable.



Three years ago I simplified. I decluttered.

A year later I did it again.

This past November, my sister and I had a garage sale.

Somewhere in there I decided that my kids didn't need so many toys.

But then there was Christmas 2014, and two birthdays, crafts brought home from school, hand me downs that seemed too good to pass up, party favors. The stuff came in.

And so once again, I am decluttering. I was thinking I wouldn't do it this year because I have done it so many times before. But Monday I packed up two boxes of toys to store. I immediately felt 40 pounds lighter. That afternoon, I spent a good 30 minutes on the floor reading with my older two because I could breathe again. I was not drowning in things. The burden of housework was suddenly....much less.

*I put the toys away while they were at school, and they have not said a single word about the "missing" toys. 

We have enjoyed our Christmas and birthday gifts tremendously. The new toys are refreshing. But some of the old has to be stored and rotated. I can only manage so much.

I have this issue of idolization of order vs. having order so we can breathe, live, focus on our relationships and enjoy life. I'm always living in tension between the two. But I do feel led to toss and purge, and store.....again!

P.S. I have a trash bag full of I-don't-even-know-what sitting in my laundry room waiting to go to goodwill. Makes me giddy.


Systems and Routines are My Friend

We all have a lot on our plate, and I find one way to manage it all is to get a few good systems going. A couple of phrases that run through my mind when regarding systems is "no fuss" and "uncomplicated" - "just do it, even if you don't feel like it."

One "system" is I keep a tube of chap stick by the kitchen sink. I never have to wonder where it is. I stand there and apply it and keep the rule to put it right back.

Another system, I started feeding my older two children Cheerios with sliced bananas, milk, and a little sugar every single morning with no variation. They love it, they eat it quickly, I don't have to cook it, and it is nutritious enough for my standards. For years we have been eating oatmeal, scrambled eggs, toast or smoothies. But decisions! I'm weary of them. I don't want to make these decisions in the mornings anymore.

A couple of sysytems I'm trying to get going are a Sunday night system and a Monday morning system or routine rather.

Sunday night: put kids to bed, make sandwhiches for the week (made 13 last night), clean out purse, take e-mail down to zero, glace at my calendar, meal plan, make a thorough grocery list, shower.

Meal Plan this week
Monday- chicken fajitas
Tuesday- Italian Meatball Soup
Wednesday- salmon with vegetables and pasta
Thursday- French dip sandwhiches
Friday- homemade pizza
Saturday- turkey burgers
Sunday- eggs, grits, toast or leftovers

Monday morning: rise early, read Bible, get kids dressed and ready for nursery school, drop them off, go to Pure Barre class, grocery shop (multiple stores if needed).

A few weeks ago I shared my evening routine. I strayed from it over the holidays, but I'm finally getting back on track.

People often ask how life with three young kids is. I always say the hardest part is keeping up the home and maintaining order, both physical order and scheduling order. Babies turn into people with lives and dentist appointments and school applications. It's seriously like running a small business to meet all the needs of family life. Flying by the seat of my pants just doesn't work. 

And so I streamline and make systems and build routines.

Thoughts? What systems do you have in place?


George Turned One

My George turned one on December 21st. One?!

My mom threw him a Crayola themed birthday bash. My cousin decorated this awesome cake.We ate spaghetti, sang happy birthday, and honored our tradition of having guests sign a birthday book.

The Day the Crayons Quit fit the theme. It's so cute and hilarious.

Party favors, colorful wine corks for the adults and crayon boxes for the children, hung on the little fake Christmas tree in my parents' kitchen. My mom is so clever.

It goes without saying that we are total nuts for George. He is the sweetest, easiest baby. He hangs right in there with his brother and sister. He loves a hug, hates a bath.

I'm a firm believer that it takes a full year to reach your new normal after having a baby. And it has been no different with George. This past year I have had to change the way I do things, lower my standards and expectations, ask for help, give up hobbies, live with the mess, almost stop blogging, say no, eat carbs, go to bed earlier, not proof read texts or e-mails, shop less, cook less, and clean less. Heck, we even started eating frozen pizza again. And it is well with my soul.

Happiest birthday to our bundle!
Thank you Jesus for our little George.


Happy New Year + Book Recommendation

Happy New Year!

This is not a typical New Year's Day post, but I just have to tell you about the best book I'm pages away from finishing.

Killing Kennedy by Bill O'reilly and Martin Dugard, an utterly fascinating read! There is so much history packed in and it's not sensationalized or muddled with conspiracy theories. It's just the facts....the juicy details of the Kennedy White House. FASCINATING.

I found this picture on Pinterest and one Pinner said they have this photo hanging in their entry way and people always complement it. I totally want to copy this idea. Maybe not my entry way...but laundry room or somewhere more discreet. I love weird, iconic art.

What do you think?

What's the best book you read in 2013?
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