Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When Dreaming Leads to Discontentment

The grass is always greener, right? 
In this day and age, I think that contentment can be a hard thing to come by, and an even harder thing to hold on to. I am not sure if it is because of the internet and social media, but I personally feel like they go hand in hand. We see what other people have and we want it. Everyone is putting the best parts of their life out for the world to see, and hiding the bad stuff deep beneath the surface. I mean, how many times have you looked at someone's blog or instagram and thought "Wow, they have the perfect life." Every time I think that, I stop and ask myself what their life is really like. We have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their life, but it is hard when all we see is sunshine all the time. It is hard to feel like what we have is good enough. Hard to feel like we even have enough. Maybe even hard to feel like we are enough, sometimes? 

When our family first decided to move over a year ago, we were really discontent with where we were living. Most of it was the location-it was just on the edge of a not very safe neighborhood. But there were things about the house that we also didn't like. When we decided to list our house, we started dreaming about our next house. Would we buy a newer house, a smaller house, a bigger house, an older house? We didn't know at first, but it was fun to dream! 
Soon, though, dreaming led to discontentment. The more we dreamed of what the future held as far as our home went, the less content we became with our certain circumstance. All of a sudden, we hated living there. We hated the most random things that never seemed to bother us before we knew we were moving. All of a sudden, everything became annoying and glaringly obvious and we couldn't wait to get out of there! I feel like this happens so often with dreaming. The more we dream about something and hope for the future, the less content we become with our reality. 

Sometimes it's fun to dream. My husband and I love thinking about the future together. Dreaming about what holidays will look like as our kids get older. Talking about trips we hope to take together. Looking forward to years to come. Dreaming can be totally harmless and really good for our souls. Until we hit that place where we are only looking forward to our dreams and don't want to live in the present. I think it is really easy to cross that line and go to "that place". I know I have been there many times in my life. Sometimes it is just something little like living room decor. Sometimes it's dreaming about a new craft or hobby I want to pursue and becoming discontent with my current abilities. Sometimes it's much bigger, like when I dreamed about being a mommy, but wasn't living that reality. Are you sensing a theme here?! I seem to struggle somewhat consistently with contentment in one aspect of my life or another. 

The thing I have noticed about downsizing  is that you really have to continuously choose contentment. There are a lot of aspects about moving to a smaller space that can make you discontent. Like, um, the lack of space. Having to change your ideas to fit your new space. Needing to figure out where you are going to fit more children and all of their stuff. Being forced to get rid of things because you simply don't have a place for it (like the piano my mom passed down to us-so sad). It can be tricky. Having lived in our smaller space for 9 months now (which is so hard to believe), I am learning that it is more than worth it. The physical closeness our family gets to experience (someone is always in the next room), less space to clean, lower energy bills--these are just a few of the reasons I love living in a small house. I won't lie though, it can be hard not to wish for more when you're living small. Dreaming of more rooms, a bigger dining room to host company, and taller ceilings. I've wished for them all in the last 9 months, but when I get to that place, I go back to the reasons this small space brings me joy.

What situations do you struggle with overcoming discontentment in? How do you balance having fun dreaming about things and living in your reality? 
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

World's Best Banana Bread

You know when you find a recipe for something, and then any other time you have that food (not from that recipe) it just isn't nearly as good? That is this banana bread. It came from our church's cookbook years and years ago and the first time I made it, I knew other banana bread just would never come close. 

What You'll Need:
1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 bananas, mashed (don't need to be old!)
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. lemon juice
(optional) chopped walnuts and/or chocolate chips 

What You Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
2. In a medium-large size mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy.
3. Stir in the dry ingredients until barely mixed (DON'T overmix!).
4. In a small mixing bowl, mash the bananas until smooth and add lemon juice. I blend them with my hand mixer to get them really smooth. It's important to mix them separately or the bananas will turn purple when the bread bakes.
5. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and stir to mix.
6. (Optional but highly recommended!) Add 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup-1 cup chocolate chips. Stir to combine.
7. Bake for 50-60 minutes until done! 

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Homemaking On A Dime: Organizing Your Home

Welcome to week 3 of the Homemaking On A Dime series! This week we are going to be talking about how to organize your home on a budget. I know that there are so many blog posts, articles, and ideas floating around about how to organize your home, and they all have really great ideas! The thing that I have found when organizing my house is that everything is really particular to your house. What works in your home probably won't work exactly the same way in mine. As much as I want to take someone's great closet organization idea and put it in my own closet, my closet isn't going to be laid out exactly the same way. That can make organizing tricky. You often have to come up with your own ideas and own materials based on your space and budget. Hopefully some of these ideas for doing it inexpensively will come in handy. 
97 cent shoe boxes
Do yourself a favor and get some of these. No, get a lot of these. I feel like I'm constantly finding new ways to use them and going back to the store for more! At Target, I believe they are 97 cents, and I think they are something like 94 cents at Wal-Mart. You can also get them at the Dollar Tree for $1. A few weeks ago, when I was organizing my pantry, I went to get a few from Target and they were on sale for 75 cents. These are seriously the best! I use them in my pantry for drink mixes, cups and tops for a small blender I have, and miscellaneous. I have them in my girls' playroom for some of their smaller toys like Minnie Mouse dolls, my daughter's Innotab with games, Peppa Pig toys, etc. We have one in our hall closet with batteries in it. I use them under my sink without the lids to organize cleaning supplies. I honestly think I have at least one in every room. They stack nicely too, which is great! 

Dollar Tree
The Dollar Tree has a ton of organizing items. I have gotten things several times for small organization projects, such as little plastic baskets, desk organizing bins, etc. Everything is $1 so I am not spending $20+ to organize one little space, which is great! 

Target dollar spot
If you have never bought organizing materials from the dollar spot at Target, you are MISSING OUT! I have gotten so many little organizing things here and there! My latest and greatest find was these magazine files with a chalkboard label that I use to organize some food in my pantry. I am waiting on my Target to get more in stock so I can organize my freezer this way, too! I have found a lot of little things here including file folders, notebooks, jars, and random containers.

Use wall space
Rather than getting some big and expensive organizing system, I highly recommend using wall space to organize. I typically do this in the form of shelves--I love shelves!
 Shelves are great because you can put baskets or little buckets on them, but you can also just do open storage. If shelves are in your kitchen, put some pretty dishes on them and you have decor and organization in one! In my bathroom, I bought some clear glass jars from Walmart in different sizes and store some of our bathroom stuff in them, like cotton balls, q-tips, etc.
 I also have this caddy that I talked about in week 1, from Ikea on a wall in my kitchen, which was inexpensive and organized everything really nicely for me. 
Be wary of baskets
I love baskets as much as the next guy, but you have to be careful with them. Baskets are not cheap, and they add up really quickly. A few months ago I was looking at baskets for a closet organization project, and even looking at stores where I could get discounts (Like 50% off at Hobby Lobby), it still would have been several hundred dollars once I got all I needed. Just be cautious and know that it adds up fast and baskets don't always hold a ton. 
Get creative
It's amazing what kinds of items you can organize with it you just put a little creativity into it. I recently read this post where Amanda organized her junk drawer using items from her recycling bin! Totally free! I'm sure there are awesome ideas floating around all over the internet for this! 
What other ideas do you have for cheap organization?!  
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Wholesome Netflix Choices for Kids

If you are anything like me, you are consistently shocked at the things they put in kids shows and movies! Even shows that would be considered pretty clean by most standards surprise me sometimes. It can be really hard to find shows that you want your kids to actually sit down and watch.  I want my kids to be watching things that I know I approve of. 

Here is a list of some of our favorite and parent approved wholesome, clean choices for kids on Netflix Streaming. Even shows such as Arthur, can sometimes be like "wait, what?!" to me, so just know that these shows are ones that I think any family would find appropriate and clean, with good morals and story lines. I have not watched every episode of every show, so don't sue me if something sneaks in there. Like when Peppa Pig taught my 3 year old the word "stupid"....that was devastating. Anyway...
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood 
I feel like almost everyone who knows my kids know that they are biiiiiig Daniel Tiger fans. Let's be real, their daddy and I are, too. What's not to love about DT? It's a spin off of Mr. Roger's {helloooo childhood memories}, teaches good morals, and really helps kids to learn and identify their emotions. Plus, they have cute songs that teach lessons that kids can apply to their lives. 

Veggie Tales 
If you've never seen or heard of Veggie Tales, the jist is that they are a bunch of vegetables who tell stories from scripture. It is a really cute and God honoring show. Netflix currently carries 9 Veggie Tales movies on Streaming, and they just came out with a Netflix exclusive Veggie Tales show with several episodes! I am really excited for this, because typically my kids don't last through an entire VT movie, so I think they'll love the shorter episodes! 

Handy Manny
My husband actually first got into this show for the kids and kept telling me what a nice show it is. Manny is a bilingual repair guy who has tools who help him fix things around town. It is just a really sweet show and good at teaching kids problem solving. 

Super Why
Super Why is a wonderful show about a super hero named Whyatt who has to go into stories to fix problems in them. He needs "super readers" to help him. It is really educational, and my kids have actually learned a lot from this show. 

Peg + Cat
This is a cute little show about a girl (Peg) and her cat (Cat), who have to solve problems throughout the show. It is mostly math based. The animation is really unique, because the whole show takes place with a graph paper with illustrations as the background. My brother and his family first introduced us to this show, and my kids have been enjoying it. 

Angelina Ballerina
Angelina is a cute little mouse who loves ballet (bet you couldn't tell that from the title, huh).  I haven't noticed any other super common themes within each episode except for her love for ballet, but she is a nice girl with nice friends and the show is cute and very girly. 

Busytown Mysteries
Another childhood throwback. This is a little spinoff of the Richard Scarry books. The little cats solve mysteries and adventures in Busytown. It is a pretty simple show, but a cute one. 

Justin Time 
This is a pretty new show to us, but it seems good so far. Justin and two of his little "friends" go into make believe scenarios to solve typical problems that kids face. I think it is a good use of showing a child with a big imagination. 

I know there are many more awesome shows out there. These are just some of our favorites and the ones we have found to be the most appropriate for our toddlers. 

What other shows would you recommend for young kids that are available on Netflix? 
Do you have any favorite kids' shows that aren't on Netflix?! 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Change My Heart or Change My Circumstance

Today, I am excited to be guest posting on Jusika's blog about a huge lesson God taught me!
After many, many months of trying to get pregnant to no avail, I became discouraged, as I think most women would. Each month was harder, and I became more blue with each passing week. Finally, I got to a place where I knew I couldn't continue on the way I had been. Something had to change! The hardest thing for me was admitting that I was mad at God. I kept telling myself that I wasn't MAD at Him, I was just frustrated with the process and confused. Eventually, I came to a place where I could freely admit that I was mad! I was angry because I felt like He wasn't allowing me to get pregnant! I had been praying all the "right" things. I had shared my burden with other people who were also praying. I continued to search scripture for answers, prayers and comfort. It seemed like I was doing everything right, so why wouldn't God allow this to happen? Continue Reading at Life As The Artist
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

4 Delicious Soup Recipes

In the fall and winter, I feel like at least 75% of the dinners we eat are either soups or crock pot recipes. They just SCREAM fall, don't they?! Nothing like coming home to a warm bowl of filling, delicious soup. So I thought I would share our top 4 favorite soup recipes with you! You will have to let me know if you try any of them! 

I have no idea where this recipe originally came from but I've tweaked it here and there to make it perfection. It is better than any other chili or taco soup type meal I've ever had. Make this and you will thank me! Not to mention it is sooo easy! We eat this often, and everyone in our family devours it each time.
2 cans ranch style beans (this is the secret ingredient-it won't be the same if you use other kinds of beans!)
3 cans petite diced tomatoes
1 can corn, or just dump in some frozen corn
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch mix
1- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef, or ground turkey
1. Brown the meat, and drain
2. Combine everything into a large pot 
3. Simmer on low for 1-2 hours
Voila! Told you-completely easy! The longer you simmer it, the better it will taste. It is great as a leftover once all the flavors sit overnight and really come together. Mmmm!

This is my husband's favorite meal. It comes from a lady at church (I've tweaked it just a bit) and it is a bit more time consuming but the end product is worth it. 
1 lb. ground beef
3/4 cup shredded carrots, or carrots diced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
4 tbsp butter, divided
3 cups chicken broth
4 diced potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup flour
8 ounces cheddar cheese, cubed
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sour cream
salt & pepper to taste
1. Brown your ground beef. While meat is cooking, peel and dice your potatoes, and cube your cheese.
2. In a medium saucepan, Saute carrots, basil and parsley (original recipe has chopped onions) in 1 tbsp butter until tender.
3. Add meat, potatoes and broth, bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are tender.
5. While potatoes are cooking, in a small skillet, melt remaining butter. Add flour, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes until bubbly. 
6. Add flour mixture to soup, bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. 
7. Add cheese, milk, s & p. Cook and stir until cheese melts.
8. Remove from heat, blend in sour cream.

My husband calls this "Natalie's Mexican Chicken" but I definitely did not invent this! 
2-4 frozen chicken breasts
1 can black beans, drained
1 can rotel
1 can corn (I use frozen corn instead)
1 packet dry ranch mix
1 tablespoon cumin
Sprinkle of onion powder
Sprinkle of chili powder
8 oz. block of plain cream cheese
1. Put chicken on bottom, with all ingredients on top. Place block of cream cheese on top of everything.
2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. Shred chicken (it will come apart sooo easily!)

Its pretty much your basic roast, but the flavor and texture are on point.
Package of stew meat
4-5 Red potatoes, cut into quarters
1 bag baby carrots
Can of cream of mushroom soup
Packet of Beef Onion soup mix 
1. Dump everything into the crock pot (you could also add other veggies like celery or onion).
2. Top with mushroom soup and spread over meat and veggies. 
3. Dump soup mix packet on top and add a tiny bit of water (1/2 cup or less).
4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Happy soup slurping! 
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How to Date Your Spouse...When You Don't Have Time

Life just gets really busy, doesn't it? It gets in the way of so many things, including making time to date your honey. It's a shame, really, when you think about how infrequently so many couples take the time to date and make time for each other. 
The last few years of our life has been consistently busy between planting a church, my husband finishing up a second degree, and having little kids. Finding time to date has been tricky. We have slowly, but surely, gotten a little better at making time for a somewhat regular date night and it has been wonderful for us. I just love spending time with that guy! 
Kill two birds dates
A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law offered to watch our girls every other week so we could have either a date night or work on projects around the house (we are still finishing up our basement and I always have DIY projects I'm wanting to complete). My husband and I talked about how great this will be because even if we are in the garage making a headboard together, we can totally make it a date night. Order some take out, put on some music, and let the conversation flow while we sand and paint together. #qualitytime 
Lunch dates
I love lunch dates. Something about snagging up your love in the middle of the day for an hour is wonderful. Majority of the time when we have lunch together, the girls are with us, but we have had a few times where it's just the two of us and it is so fun. I know its not possible for everyone, but maybe you can tack a 45 minute lunch onto an appointment, or bring lunch to your husband's office and eat in the conference room. Get creative. Even better if you can surprise him! 
Late night dates
Sometimes you just need the neighbors to come over for an hour at 9:30 p.m. so you and your husband can go on a walk around the block a few times and catch up on your week, hand in hand. Sometimes you just need to take the monitor outside at 10 p.m. and sit by the fire pit together, wrapped up into a blanket. Even though these late dates might take place when you're exhausted and would rather have your head on the pillow, these times can be some of the best. Committing to spend an hour at the end of the day together says a lot! 
Dessert dates
If you don't have a few hours to commit to appetizers, dinner and drinks, just skip all of that and go for dessert. Maybe you can sneak out after the kids go to bed, or maybe you can drop them at a friends house for an hour before bed while you go get a molten lava cake to share. 
Active dates
If you have to work out, you might as well do it together. One of our favorite things to do together is go for bike rides. Sometimes we just go up to a park and back, and other times we'll take several hours and do 20 miles on the trail. Either way, it's such a good time talking and sharing our dreams, AND boom, work out done. 
When all else fails, the best thing I can say is to make time. It is hard, I know. Our lives are busy and there are millions of things begging for our attention. But what better thing to spend time on than building into your husband and your marriage? 
What other tips do you have for squeezing in dates when you're strapped for time? 
Fore more tips on dating your husband, check out: How to Date Your Spouse...When You Can't Afford It
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Homemaking on a Dime: Furnishing Your Home

Welcome back to the Homemaking on a Dime series! I am really excited to keep talking about how to be an awesome homemaker on a budget...two of my favorite things put together! This week we are going to talk about some tips for furnishing your home on the cheap. Furniture can be REALLY expensive, and if you have just moved or are re-furnishing a room, you'll quickly find how fast it all adds up. Here are some of the ways I have furnished our new home without going into major debt! 

Look for sales and wait
Waiting is really hard. But I have found that with big purchases like furniture, it pays off to wait. Before we moved into our new house, I knew that I really wanted some of these bar chairs from Target. After we moved in and found that we were more broke than we thought we'd be, I knew it wasn't feasible to buy 3 of them right then. I thought about buying one at a time, which would have been a good plan also, but I just waited. One day, I was shopping at Target and looked down the furniture aisle and saw a sign underneath the chairs saying that they were 30% off using the Cartwheel app! I knew that was the time to finally get them. Each chair being 30% off, plus saving another 5% on my red card meant that I basically 3 chairs for the price or 2! Waiting totally paid off in this case. It was kind of weird not having any chairs at the bar for awhile, but I saved so much this way! 

Hand Me Downs 
Hand me down furniture is the best thing ever. When we were first married, practically our whole apartment was furnished through hand me downs from our parents' various moves. Actually, I take it back, I think our entire place was...I honestly don't think we bought a single piece of furniture until our house. If you know a friend or family member is moving or re-furnishing, ask them if they have any furniture they are looking to get rid of for a small price. Most of the time, when people are moving, they are ready to get rid of all their stuff, so I'm sure they will be happy to have you take it off their hands. Our kitchen table was my mom's prior to us getting married in 2008, and I sat at it every day from probably 7th grade on when we got it. When my mom got married, her husband had a table, so she saved it for me, knowing I'd need one sometime in the near future. This FREE table has lasted my little family 6+ years (not including the time my mom had it, too)! 

Cover It Up
If you are able to find a piece of furniture on Craigslist, Goodwill, garage sale, etc. or from a loved one that is cheap or free, but maybe not the best looking piece of furniture, consider getting a cover for it. When we moved into our current home, we knew we had to furnish two living areas, and had nothing to do it with because the buyers of our previous house wrote our one large sectional into their offer. I was at my husband's aunt's house one day and she was showing me their new furniture. Later, I was thinking "I wonder what they did with their old stuff" because I knew they kept their things in good condition and it would be better quality than anything I could find on Craigslist or elsewhere, so I asked her, and she said they were keeping one piece and the couch was up for grabs! The only downside is that it was totally white, and we have two toddlers. That would be a total disaster waiting to happen, so I just bought a couch cover at Target that was something like 40% off and its perfect for our living room. 

Re-purpose It
If you no longer have a need for a piece of furniture, you could consider using it for something else. I have seen tons of ideas floating around Pinterest for things to do with old cribs. The possibilities are endless! This also works the opposite way--if you have a need for something new, see if you can repurpose something you already have. Try using a night stand as an end table or vice versa. 

Refinish It 
If you already have a fine piece of furniture, but its not that eye catching, or doesn't fit with your decor anymore, consider refinishing it. There are so many tutorials out there these days for painting furniture, staining, reupholstering, etc. This is also a great idea for Goodwill finds.I have done this with several items in our home. I bought an old dresser at a garage sale and turned it into an entertainment center (post will come on that someday).
I had searched here and there throughout my pregnancy for a nightstand for my daughter's nursery, and finally one random day I saw the perfect nightstand for something like $7 at Goodwill. It was totally ugly, but it turned out fabulously. 
(sorry for the poor quality before photo)

This ombre dresser was a Walmart dresser I had owned for years, and I wanted to use it in my girls' room when we moved. I simply used a few jars of sample paint in coordinating colors. Easy and cheap! 

Liquidation or Discount Furniture Stores
If you haven't checked your furniture liquidation or discount stores, you may be missing out! In most cases, the quality is not going to be as good as if you were shopping on Furniture Row, but you can't beat the price. With little kids and pets, we figure our furniture is not bound to last a super long time anyway, so we are really comfortable with paying a smaller price for lower quality in this stage of life. We bought our sectional for hundreds, if not thousands less than we could have gotten a similar style at a regular furniture store.

Other stores to check:
Target {Cartwheel app savings + %5 red card discount really adds up with bigger purchases}
TJ Maxx
Home Goods
Hobby Lobby  {things are often on sale,& if not, you can get a 40% off coupon on their site any time}
Local consignment stores 
Do you have any other tips for furnishing cheaply? How about stores to find inexpensive furniture at?
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Diastasis Recti {Separation of the abdominal muscles}

Have you ever heard of Diastasis Recti? If not, you are not alone. Basically, it is separation of the abdominal muscles, often caused by pregnancy (but other things can cause it as well). It is not harmful, and in my case not painful, but it makes your abdomen protrude out, looking as if you are a few months pregnant. I read that 30-40% of mothers have a diastasis, but most are unaware. It is unfortunate that the condition isn't talked about more, because it is such a common thing and many people are making their separation larger, simply by not knowing.

You can read more about diastasis recti here and here.
If you haven't already done so, you'll want to check yourself for a diastasis. It's very simple. Watch this video to see how.
The most frustrating thing for me about all of this, is that so many websites and videos are giving conflicting information on what exactly it is, and what exercises are and aren't ok to do with it. My best understanding is that anything above 2 finger widths is a diastasis. Mine is about 2 1/2 finger widths and when I sit up you can see the ridge poke out down my belly.
When I first found out I had this, I searched and searched for a solution. Everything I read said avoid any type of sit up or crunch. Some things said planks are great, other things said avoid them. I've since come to the conclusion that planks, crunches, and most pilates and yoga moves are NOT good for a diastasis. See, these types of moves push your abs OUT and can actually make the separation wider.
Several people have asked what exercises I HAVE been doing, so I wanted to share that.
I do them about every other day or so (when I remember), to give my abdominal muscles time to repair in between working them.
I really liked this video, because her explanations are really clear. She explains that you need to pull your abs IN when you do the exercises.

I wanted to also mention that some of the things I read say that you should stop all other exercise while treating a diastasis. Perhaps this is true if you have a really bad one, but I have continued exercising. Most of what I read said it is ok to keep exercising. You just need to be mindful of WHAT exercises you are doing. I recently read and realized that burpees are bad for a diastasis (because you are getting up and down and really engaging and pushing your abs OUT to do so), so I stopped doing them. Just think about what you are doing and HOW that move is working your abs to decide if you should stop it or not.
I am definitely not an expert in this area, but hopefully this will help anyone who is confused on what to do like I was. I wish there was solid information out there that made it really clear, but unfortunately there is not. I'm happy to answer any questions if you have them. I have a few years of experience in this area! I saw results instantaneously when I started the exercises. Within a week or less I had noticeable difference in my stomach, so it's definitely worth it to change your ab routine if you've got separation!
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Praying for Your Husband

How often do you pray for your husband? Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly? Less than that maybe? 
Prayer time can so often become a rut for all of us, I think. We get focused on the few same prayer requests or things going on in our own lives, that we forget to pray about other things. Is your husband one of those "other things" who is falling by the wayside in your prayer life? Don't let him be! 

As wives, we have a great honor to be able to know our husband intimately. We know his deepest struggles, his greatest fears, his work woes, and what brings him the most joy. We (hopefully) know him better than any other person on this earth. Are we using that beneficially when we pray for him? We need to be covering them in prayer, wives. They face battles every day. At work, at home, at church...everywhere they go. They face battles of lust, of pride, of being the provider, and maybe even deep spiritual battles they are walking through. Who better to take them to the Lord than YOU? Their partner, their love, their confidant, their wife. 

I am not just talking about praying for his day (although that is certainly good, as well). I am talking about really digging in and praying for him. Praying for every aspect of his life. Praying for hard things he may be going through that you don't even know about. Praying for his walk with the Lord. That he would be the best spiritual leader for your family that he can be. Praying for his decision making--that he would make wise, loving, and biblical decisions. These guys make tons of decisions every day-probably way more than we even know about! Praying for his physical health. For his emotional health. His spiritual health. That he would find favor in his job. That he would balance work, home and other commitments well. There is so much to be praying for. Lets make sure we are taking the time to bless him in this way. Even if he never knows that you are praying for him, be his biggest cheerleader. Be the one who is constantly taking him to the Lord. 

I have found some really helpful prayer plans and printables for focusing on praying specific prayers for my husband. I thought they would be a blessing to some of you as well! 
31 days of praying for your husband
Praying for your husband from head to toe
5 hard things to pray for your husband
25 verses to pray over your husband 

Let's commit to being our husbands' biggest prayer warriors this year! Who is with me?!  
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Adoption Home Study : What Is It and Why Do You Need One?

I think sometimes when you have read up about a topic, or you are doing something related to it, or you know someone who is, etc. you just know what everything means. Sometimes you forget that not everyone else knows what you are talking about! I have somewhat recognized that this may sometimes be the case with adoption. I know that every adoption looks different and there are many ways to go about it. Unless someone tells you every detail of their story, you probably won't know exactly what it looks like. BUT, with that being said, I think that I was a little bit naive in thinking that people are talking a lot more openly about adoption nowadays and I thought that a lot more people just knew all the ins and outs. I am realizing that this may not be the case, and I would love to be a helpful resource in sharing more about what adoption looks like and what the details of the process are.
If you have heard anything about adoption at all, chances are that you have heard the term "Home Study" used at least a few times. Though it may be a familiar term, you may not have a clue what a home study IS. The short answer is that a home study is the process of a licensed social worker going over many details of your life to determine if you are fit to become adoptive parents, and that it is typically the first step in an adoption process. The long answer is a little bit more. Read on to find out more about a home study and what it entails! 

So, what exactly IS a home study?
A home study is, in some ways, exactly what it sounds like! It is a study of your home and life. The home study is the first part of the adoption process. Without it, you are not yet approved to bring an adopted child into your home! Typically, the first step in a home study would be finding a social worker to do it, if you don't have one already. Next, you will be collecting lots and lots of paperwork. You will need everything from your previous years taxes, to statements on your health written by your physician, to proof of insurance for the adopted child, to copies of birth certificates, marriage licences and much more. Our social worker gave us a very helpful check list, where I literally just went down it, collected the item and checked it off once I had added it to our folder. This will take some time because you will need to be calling doctor's offices or going in for appointments, tracking down licenses, asking your employer for letters of employment, collecting reference letters from friends and family, getting your fingerprints taken and background checks completed, etc. The adoptive parents will also fill out questionnaires with tons and tons of questions with everything from "how do you handle stress" to "what are your preferred methods for discipline". This helps your social worker to better get a feel for who you are, support systems you have, what your relationships are like, etc. You will also have an interview(s) with the person completing your home study. In ours, we told her about our family, life, marriage, and our reasons for wanting to adopt. Finally, your social worker will come to your home. Our social worker told us that the main purpose for this was to make sure that our home was safe. Not necessarily clean or up on the trends or anything like that, but just to ensure safety. For example, she checked to make sure that we had a baby gate on our stairs. She asked us to point out all of our smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. This step could very easily make you nervous, but there is nothing to worry about. They aren't going through all of your drawers and cabinets, looking at every last thing you own. They just want to see what your home is like and make sure a baby would be safe living there. 

Who completes your home study?
Depending on your adoption process, this will be different for each family. If you are using a local agency, they will probably do your home study for you as part of your fees. If you are using a consultant, or an agency that is not nearby, you will probably find a social worker who does home studies. Your consultant or agency will probably have recommendations on reputable social workers for you. I believe, but am not 100% sure, that if you are doing a foster adoption, the state will complete your home study for you. 

This sounds like quite the process. How much is this going to run me?
Again, this will depend on your process. Many agencies will include this in your fees. Many won't. What I have typically heard is that it can cost anywhere from $1000-$3000, depending on your area, type of adoption, etc. Ours was just under the low end of that, and we also had to pay our social worker's mileage for driving the 2 hours to our home and back. You will also need to do post placement visits with your social worker after the baby is placed in your home. This is typically not included in those fees. We are expecting at least another $1000 + mileage for the 3 visits we will do between the time our baby is placed and the adoption is finalized in court. 

How long is all of this going to take? 
I have found that typically, your social worker is going to try to get things done as quickly as they and you are both able, because until your home study is done, you are not officially waiting for a baby. You CANNOT bring a baby home until your study is completed. Our home study took almost exactly 3 months. It probably could have been a little faster than this if we had scheduled our first visit a little bit sooner, and without all of the holidays in there. Sometimes things get slowed down, like if your fingerprints don't come back right, etc. and I have heard of it taking up to about 6 months. I have also heard of studies being expedited and being done in a matter of weeks. It is all going to depend on how fast you can get your paper work done, visits scheduled, and what your social worker's load is like at the time. 

Ok, this all makes sense. But, why do you NEED one? 
We have had a few friends laugh about the fact that we need to "jump through all of these hoops" to adopt a baby. I agree that it is somewhat laughable, but I understand the need. For families like us, who already have children, it may seem silly to people who know us, know our character, know how we are raising our kids. But you cannot be too sure. You cannot be too safe when approving someone to adopt a baby. I get that any old Joe out there can have and raise a baby biologically without doing all of this, and I think that's what throws people off. The way I see it is, if you were going to give your precious child to someone else, how safe could you really be? How much would you want to know about them? How sure would you want to be that they weren't a criminal, child abuser, etc. It is not because the government or the birth parents or the agency doesn't trust you, it is because of the safety of the child. 

Once you are home study approved, you can begin the wait for your child! If you are working with a consultant, like we are, you can start applying to agencies and being sent possible matches that you may like to present yourself to. If you work with an agency, this is when you would be officially on the list of waiting families. In international, I believe this is when you would start working on your dossier to be sent to the country you want to adopt from. It is the crucial first step in this wonderful process to bringing your child home! We are very excited that we just received our approval last week! 

Do you have any other questions about a home study that I didn't answer?
How about other questions about adoption or the adoption process that I could answer in the future? 
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