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The New Blog Has Arrived!

2 Mar

You may have wondered where I have been the past few months? I have been working on a shiny, new and improved blog, and I would love for you to join me over there as I will no longer be posting here. You can now find me at A Simple Living Journey.

Hope to see you there soon!

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Christmas Gifts

9 Dec

Have you ever felt like the mountains of Christmas gifts under your tree is all just a little too much? Are you stressed about holiday shopping, running from store to store for the current “it” items for your children? In the past I know I have spent way too much time, money, and my own sanity buying things my girls didn’t even need just so they would have lots of pretty things under the tree on Christmas morning.

This year we have implemented a few restrictions on our gift giving, and it has certainly made this part of the holidays more enjoyable and stress-free. For each of the girls we are giving them something they want, something they need, something they will wear, and something they will read. We are also giving them an educational gift, and this year it is something they will share but in the future it could be something different for each of them. My husband and I are also giving each other the same: need, want, wear, read; and we did each make a wish list to help each other out 🙂 Each of our girls also have a stocking that we will fill with a few small needs, as well as a few small wants.

In our country, and in the area that we live in specifically, there is so much excess. We are confronted with it on a daily basis where we live, and I have watched as the children around me have become so entitled it is downright scary…my own girls included. That is one of the many reason we had to stop and take a hard look at the way we are living our lives, and make some much needed changes in the direction we were going. Limiting Christmas gifts is just one way we are combating the excess in our lives.

How are you combating the culture of excess this holiday season? What is your family doing to keep your children grounded and living in reality?

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

27 Nov

Tonight my husband and I will bake our pecan and pumpkin pies, tomorrow morning it’s rolls and sweet potatoes for me, and then on to my parents house for Thanksgiving lunch. I can’t wait, it’s one of my favorite days of the year! I will try to remember to post some pictures later.

I have so many things to be thankful for this year, and every year really. A few things that come to mind immediately are my two girls, my husband of fourteen years, our extended families, our home, job, food in the pantry. There are so many who are not so fortunate, let’s not forget that most of us are part of the wealthiest 1% of the world. We are so blessed to live here in the United States, born into opportunity and a pretty easy life in most cases. I can’t help but think of people in third world countries, who did not ask to be born into extreme poverty…hungry and penniless…but that is the hand they were dealt. Tomorrow, as you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, wherever you may be, stop and be thankful. I will too.

Where will you be spending tomorrow? Are you cooking, or is someone else doing the cooking for you? Any Black Friday shopping plans? I can’t decide! I’ve never participated in the madness, and probably won’t this year either, but the hype is exciting anyway.

Art Closet: Before & After

13 Nov

Take a look at this mess! I am not as fortunate as some, to have a whole room dedicated to our art supplies, but we do have a closet full. Unfortunately our art closet had gotten completely out of control, and recently I decided to do something about it. At some point in the past three years since we bought this house, my girls stopped putting things away neatly, and just stuffed and stacked and crammed things in. It got to the point that we could no longer even walk in the closet, or find what we were looking for. It was time for a complete reorganization! Here are some pictures of the process.

Sorry this is blurry, but it is the only before picture I got.

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All clean!

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This is everything that came out of the closet!

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Blurry again, sorry, but much better!

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What organization projects have you tackled around your house lately?

Big House Too Big?

10 Oct

I never thought I would say this, but we are strongly considering putting our house on the market in the spring. I have been feeling the need to simplify our lives for some time now, and our 2800 sf house just isn’t simple for the four of us. How much space does a family of four need anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I love our house and I love it’s potential! When we purchased our home three years ago, I thought we would be here at least ten years.

A house this big is hard to keep clean without the help of a cleaning service or maid, and that is something we just can’t justify spending money on at this point in our lives. Cleaning our house from top to bottom is a day long process for two adults, which just seems like a ridiculous way to spend our time. A couple weeks ago we were expecting out of town guests on a Saturday evening, so I got up at 6:30am and got to work cleaning. My husband joined me at 8:30am, and together we worked until 5:30pm, only pausing for meals and bathroom breaks (and a softball game for my husband). All this cleaning has me rethinking the idea that “bigger is better”.

Another reason we are considering putting our house on the market, is that we would really like to move to another part of the country. My husband and I were both born here in Texas, and have spent our entire lives here with the exception of our four year stay in California. Despite this, we both hate the heat and humidity that we have to endure June through October. Our oldest doesn’t handle the heat well at all. All four of us also have pretty bad allergies here. We are considering a move to Colorado at the beginning of the summer, once school lets out. We have visited several times over the years, and like the cooler drier weather, the good/healthy food, the overall healthy environment and outdoor activities, and the fact that it is drivable in a day for our family here. We are currently in the research stage though, so we’ll see.

Reason #3 to list our home for sale, is that our current market is booming and if our calculations are right we could make enough profit to pay off my husband’s student loans and be completely debt free. Assuming the government gets their act together, and doesn’t screw up the housing market recovery with their ridiculous shut down of course. We have been looking at comps in our area, and talking with friends who have sold recently, and were surprised at what we could potentially make on our home if we were to sell it. Being able to be completely debt free for the first time in our fourteen year marriage is reason enough I think!

We have some big decisions to make in the near future, and are praying that God will guide us where we should go. Any advice would be welcomed!

Independence Day

14 Aug

The fourth of July has come and gone, but I still want to write about how we spent our day. The fourth of July has always been a quintessential part of summer vacation for our family. I have so many memories of July 4th holidays spent with family and friends growing up, and now with my own family and the traditions we love.

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We start our day with the parade our little town puts on…this year was the best we have seen yet. My oldest has even been in the parade a few times with her Girl Scout Troop. Here in Texas it is usually pretty darn HOT in July, but this year we had the best weather…it actually felt nice sitting outside.

After the parade we head home for a nice relaxing day. For dinner, my husband dusts off the grill. This year we went with a healthier version of the typical July 4th fare. Organic Applegate beef hot dogs on the grill, Ezekiel 4:9 whole grain pocket bread, raw sharp cheddar cheese, Garden of Eatin’ organic blue corn chips, locally made salsa, organic fruit salad (bananas, plums, peaches), and Maine Root root beer. What a treat!

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At dusk we load up our lawn chairs, and head down the street to watch the fireworks show that our town puts on. This year was another good July 4th for my family, with many fun memories made, and I am grateful that we have the ability to enjoy celebrating our independence thanks to the brave men and women who fought for our freedom!

What did your family do to celebrate this fourth of July?

2013 Goals: May Update

20 May

My progress so far this year…

Financial

1.Pay off all debt except student loan and home mortgage (this includes two cars, a line of credit, and credit cards) – Paid $211 extra towards debt

2. Make a decision about what I want to do (for work), and work towards putting myself in that position – I am leaning in a certain direction!

Physical/Health

1. Convert to clean eating, while spending wisely to save on groceries – Watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

2. Exercise 2-3 times per week (30 minutes or more) –

Home

1. Finish girl #1’s room re-model

2. Start (and hopefully finish) girl #2’s room re-model

3. Continue improvements to yard and landscaping

4. Start a garden – I planted a tomato starter plant in a large pot, using all organic products (fertilizer, soil, insect repellent [garlic spray])

Spiritual

1. Find a church home – Visited a friend’s church, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right fit for us

Personal

1. Learn Spanish with my girls –

2. Read (books) –

3. Volunteer (more often)

4. Be a better wife/mother/daughter/sister/friend

5. Simplify my life – Made the decision not to constantly check email, or spend time on facebook daily. I check email when I can, but only for a few minutes, and spend time on facebook only when I am waiting somewhere (doctors office, school pick-up line, etc). I am behind on email and facebook, but I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. I have adjusted my priorities to fit the kind of lifestyle I want to lead.

Healthy Lifestyles Chair (PTA)

10 May

kids-jumping

I am so excited to have the opportunity to be the first Healthy Lifestyles Chair to serve on the PTA at my daughter’s elementary school during the 2013-2014 school year! This position did not exist at her school, so when I read about it I contacted the PTA president and asked her to let me take it on. She gave me the role!

I will be working under our SHAC (School Health Advisory Council) Representative, and will attend SHAC meetings as well. I will promote healthy lifestyles programs like Walk to School Day, Bike to School Day, etc.

I plan on using my position to try and influence the school to make adjustments to the school cafeteria menu. I recently requested a list of all the items served during the month of April, and I plan on doing a lot of research over the summer to find healthier options. The first issue I plan to tackle is the beverages they are serving the students. I will present my findings to them at the beginning of the school year, and hope to convince the staff to make needed changes.

I feel like this role will put me in a better position to be an agent for change. We need to take steps in the right direction, towards healthy eating and healthy living. I can’t wait to get started!

Email and Facebook: Why I am Cutting Back

12 Apr

I get so many emails everyday, 64 on Sunday alone (I just counted), that it takes a lot of my time to read them all and respond when necessary…too much time. I know a lot of you feel the same way!

I made the decision a couple weeks ago to cut back on the amount of time I spend reading and answering emails. When I sit down at my computer now during the day, which I usually do in-between other things (dishes, laundry, cleaning house, kids stuff, etc.), I will read and answer three emails. Just three. This means that I am always behind on my email, and I have to be ok with that. It definitely wasn’t easy the first couple days! Currently I have 350 unread emails in my inbox, and another 182 in my spam folder. I am ok with that!

I did worry at first how other people would react to this. We live in a world where instant gratification rules, so how would people react when I didn’t respond to their email for several days? I have gotten a comment or two about why I’m not responding to email as quickly, but for the most part the reaction has been minimal. What if I miss something important, or don’t read it for several days? I feel like if it is that important, that person should call or send me a text.

In addition to email, Facebook was one of my bigger time wasters. I would usually spend an hour on the couch every evening browsing through Facebook posts while my husband watched TV and our girls were asleep. I know there are better ways I can use that time, but I don’t think I should have to give up Facebook altogether (it is a form of entertainment that I enjoy), so instead I only check Facebook from my iphone while waiting in the pickup line at my girls school, or waiting in the reception area of the doctor’s office, etc.

While neither of these things (email and Facebook) are wrong, I do feel like cutting back on the amount of time I devote to them is in keeping with simplifying my life and spending the time I am given wisely. If you have come to a similar conclusion in your life, please let me know in the comments, I would love to hear about it!

2013 Goals: April Update

10 Apr

My progress so far this year…

Financial

1.Pay off all debt except student loan and home mortgage (this includes two cars, a line of credit, and credit cards) – Paid $2,526.72 extra towards debt

2. Make a decision about what I want to do (for work), and work towards putting myself in that position – My husband and I are kicking an idea around that we are both very excited about!

Physical/Health

1. Convert to clean eating, while spending wisely to save on groceries – Carefully reading the ingredient labels on everything I buy. Continuing to read and learn more about eating real, fresh, organic, local food. Watched the new documentary Hungry For Change.

2. Exercise 2-3 times per week (30 minutes or more)

Home

1. Finish girl #1’s room re-model

2. Start (and hopefully finish) girl #2’s room re-model

3. Continue improvements to yard and landscaping – Planted new flowering shrubs, ornamental grass, and flowers in our front flower bed.

4. Start a garden

Spiritual

1. Find a church home

Personal

1. Learn Spanish with my girls – Still working our way through the 6-disc children’s Spanish learning DVD set I purchased. Finished disc 1 (learned all words), currently on disc 2.

2. Read (books) – Currently reading two books

3. Volunteer (more often)

4. Be a better wife/mother/daughter/sister/friend

5. Simplify my life – Made the decision (it’s been a long time coming) to close my portrait photography business for good