Thursday, March 27, 2014

This Book Room: One Lost Sheep

“Ninety-eight…ninety-nine…” The faithful shepherd realizes that one of his one hundred sheep is missing and sets out to find it. In playful rhyme, prolific author Rhonda Gowler Greene retells Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep that loses its way on the mountain side. Under brambles, behind rocks, the shepherd looks until he finds it again. Children will delight in this fun and engaging tale illustrated by Margaret Spengler as they learn that God, like the faithful shepherd, will never let them stray.

My thoughts: It's always fun to get a package in the mail, and even more fun with my husband opens the mail and exclaims in happiness because we got such a cute book in the mail. And this book is definitely cute. The illustrations are darling. The words rhyme as the story progresses and is definitely useful for teaching a little about why Jesus is ecstatic over one coming to Him than the millions who are already there. I do agree with the book's age range of 4 - 8. While I think 7 or 8 years old may be a bit old for this book, the language isn't incredibly simple, so I would recommend this for a 4 or 5 year old. I will be tucking away this book for Bug for a future gift-giving occasion. 

Thanks to for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beauty Fix: my new favorite hand moisturizer is...

photo credit
My hands get seriously dry during the winter. We live in Michigan, so this is pretty much expected, but when they're so dry, they're cracked and bleeding, I'm not happy.

A friend recently told me she used coconut oil on her hands, and this was enough motivation for me to give coconut oil a go. We keep coconut oil in our pantry for baking and cooking uses (it's one of our favorite oils to use, honestly), so I just scooped a little bit out with a spoon and applied it to my skin.

I loved it. My hands not only instantly had relief, but they were noticeably less dry the next day. Now that I've been using coconut oil for a while, I've learned some tips and tricks:

  • You don't need a spoon to scoop the oil out, however, if the tub is fairly empty, it will be difficult to get your hand down to get some out. A spoon does make it easier. 
  • Coconut oil is greasy, so don't plan on doing too much once you apply it. In general, I find all lotion is greasy, too, so I always apply lotions at the end of the day. I'll read a physical book in bed, but that's about it. If you do want to be active after applying the oil, buy a pair of spa gloves to slip over your hands. 
  • The oil instantly made my hands feel better, but I find I have to apply it every day for continued relief and improvement. This could just be because of where I live and all the hand washing and other things I do. I also do read a lot, and paper is very drying. It depends on your lifestyle how often you'll need to apply the oil. 
  • Most coconut oil tubs will recommend you place the tub in warm water to liquefy it. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. You do not need to place the tub in water to liquefy it, though. Just scoop a little out and start rubbing it into your skin. It will liquefy all on its own because your skin is warm. 
  • You don't really need a separate tub for cooking and skincare, but I find it's handy to have separate tubs. This way, you can keep one tub in the pantry and one tub on your nightstand. 
Coconut oil is very cost effective and will last a really long time. You only need a small amount, about a quarter of a teaspoon, to moisturize both hands. This is the exact tub I use: 

I'm not sure I will ever try another moisturizer again! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Purposeful Parenting: How to Get Your Child on a Sleep Schedule

There is no one idea fits all when it comes to babies and sleep. All babies are different, and you might need to try a few different tactics when it comes to your baby.

Here's the one thing you need to know: your baby's sleep schedule will constantly evolve as s/he grows older. In Bug's first couple of months of life, she slept a lot. She was also awake a lot, though - apparently more than the average baby. Then around two months, we were taking two to three naps a day and they were somewhat predictable. Around four months, we were taking two naps a day. All during this time, she was going to bed fairly early - around 7 PM. Around seven months, things started going a little haywire. Naps were much less predictable as to when they would occur. Bedtime wasn't really set in stone for her either.

You can't really make a baby go to sleep when you want them to. Well, I guess you could. You could let them cry until they are so miserable and exhausted they fall asleep.

If you're in the cry-it-out camp, I'm glad for you that that works for you.

It definitely does not and would not ever work for me.

Babies will set their own sleep schedule. There are things you can do to help them along in setting one that you may like, but just as you cannot make yourself go to bed at 7 PM just because, babies are not necessarily going to fall asleep then either just because you said so (This is important advice to remember in the future when your older child wants to have a popsicle and you say no and she asks why and you say, "Because I said so." You generally need to have a real reason to tell your child for them to semi-happily obey you and learn to make good judgments on their own).

From months eight to ten, Bug stayed up really late, some nights until 10:30, which is very late for us. That was perhaps the roughest period of time. After month ten, Bug started clearly transitioning to one nap a day and by month 11, she was fully transitioned to one nap a day. That nap became fairly predictable. It usually began between 12 and 1 and would last anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours. She is definitely a good sleeper!

Bug's wake-up and night-night times were fairly predictable as well around month ten. She usually woke up between 8 and 9 AM and would be asleep between 9 and 10 PM.

Great, you say. How do I get my kid to have any schedule?

Again, your baby will set his or her own schedule. Some babies don't feel the need to nap, I've been told, but I will say this: generally speaking, babies need naps. So if you're having trouble getting your baby to nap at all or fall asleep at night, here's what I have found works well for getting a baby to sleep:

  • Rigorous play time during awake hours
    • Do NOT corral your child during the day! Let that baby crawl all over the house. Let baby explore his/her world. If you have a pack and play or other device, that's fine, but use it incredibly sparingly. This will ensure your baby's getting enough exercise and building up his muscles. This will help make him sleepy! 
  • Tub time every night
    • In the beginning, I would not recommend this so much, but once baby starts enjoying bath time (I pray yours does enjoy it; Bug is obsessed with her tub and anything involving water), tub time is totally acceptable every day. You don't need to soap baby up every day, but let him enjoy the water and his bath toys. Tub time should be in the evening and about an hour or so from when you want baby to be in dreamland. Warm water helps a baby relax and get into a sleepy frame of mind. It's also a good way for baby to play right before bed. 
  • Develop a solid routine for bedtime 
    • Tub time is definitely part of this. First, we have potty time. Bug sits on her potty and we read a board book to her. Then, we have tub time. After tub time and we're all in our PJs, depending on her current state, we will either have a bit more play time where Bug crawls all over the house, expending that last bit of energy, or we just feed her and she goes to bed. Bug definitely knows when the water is running to fill the tub and we're undressing her that it's potty and book time, followed by bath. We do this every single night. I'm sure there have been a few times we skipped this, but in general, we complete this routine 6.5 out of every 7 nights. 
  • Listen to and obey baby's cues
    • If your baby is showing signs of sleepiness, let baby sleep! This sometimes means Bug sleeps during an odd time of day, especially when she was very little. But I found that waking her up didn't work. She would just fall right back asleep. Generally speaking, I let Bug sleep when she needs to sleep. If she wants to be awake really early, that's fine, too (have hope: whenever Bug has woken very early, she sleeps a lot that day, and the phase will pass, I promise!). 
  • Let baby think over bedtime if all else is failing
    • I am a very laid-back parent. So much so that I think it, at times, frightens Jason. I do believe Bug understands a lot at her young age, especially since I take the time to explain everything to her. "It's time for bed because you need sleep to grow big and strong. You're going to go night-night so you can have sweet dreams, and in the morning, we will play again." But there are times when Bug just doesn't want to sleep, even when I can clearly see she is exhausted. If your baby has reached the point of absolute exhaustion, calmly explain to your baby that it is time to sleep, place him/her lovingly and gently in the crib and leave the room. Yes, wailing and sobbing is likely to ensue. After some period of time, for me this varied between one and five minutes, come back into the room and offer breast or bottle again. Bug would get to the point where she wouldn't eat so I would leave and when I came back, we were ready to settle down, eat and sleep. I always said, the period of time when I was gone from the room, that this was Bug thinking about what she wants to do. It worked 99% of the time. 
There are many books and other resources out there that will claim your baby can be on a sleep schedule in 12 weeks or some other period of time. Personally, I think to force a baby into a one-idea-fits-all concept for anything is delusional. Do you go to sleep at the same time as everyone else you know? Probably not. So why would all babies go to bed at the same time? It's just really weird when you think about it. 

Instead, I really believe you should work with your baby to develop a routine that works for him or her, knowing that your baby's schedule will continue to change. Nothing will ever be set in stone. Have patience, and you and your baby will figure out what works best for you. 

And if needed, you can always call grandma or a friend to come relieve you so you can get sleep if baby isn't giving it up ever. Do not be afraid to ask for help! You will figure this out. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Saving the Moola: are you ready to buy a home?

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Let me just start this by saying Jason and I are totally and completely not ready to buy a home. We're more than fine with that and quite happy to stay in our little apartment. If you're in a situation where home ownership is not in your immediate future, you should really own that and be happy. There are many people who own homes who truly cannot afford it. I've been the victim myself of people saying, "You should own a home. Why aren't you buying a home? Why do you want to rent?" Don't feel pressured to follow "normal" people and go broke trying to keep your home. I'd rather keep paying rent and feel secure financially than grow attached to a home and kill my family emotionally and financially trying to maintain it.

But maybe you can afford to buy a home.There is a lot more to home ownership than just money, however. So how do you know when you're ready? Jason and I know we're ready to own a home when:
  • We have a big emergency fund. Suze Orman recommends eight months, and I have to say I agree with her. Actually, if you can swing it, I would really recommend a one-year emergency fund. Over time, Jason and I plan to build ours up to this point, although we will likely purchase a home before we have a solid year's worth of expenses.
  • We have a down payment for our future home. Ideally, we would have a 20% down payment. This will allow us to skip paying for PMI (mortgage insurance). If you can't swing that big of a down payment, that's okay. You can purchase a home, however, once you have enough equity in the home, you'll want to reach out and be sure to get PMI removed so you don't keep paying for it.
  • A home makes more sense for us financially. Right now, it really does not. I don't know how often I hear people say, "Well, a mortgage would be a lot less per month than rent!" In some circumstances, yes. In our circumstances and in most circumstances where you're taking all of the home ownership costs into account, it is not. Owning a home isn't just about having a mortgage. You also need to pay property taxes, house insurance, repairs, maintenance and so on. We don't need to own any sort of lawn tools to care for our lawn. We don't need to have a home fund to pay for a broken refrigerator, oven or toilet. At this point, if we bought a home with a 20% down payment, we'd save about $900 a year. While isn't just pennies, it's also not enough to make us want to run out and buy a home (plus, we don't have a down payment right now).
  • We have a better idea of where we'll be living forever. For all I know, we could be living in another state in a year. Too much is up in the air right now, even if we had the money for a down payment.
  • We know the size of home we really need. Honestly, we just had our first human baby (we also have a fur baby!). We're just starting our family. I have no idea how much more our family will grow. How in the world would we choose a house when we don't really know how many bedrooms or space we will need?
Buying a home isn't just about money. Will your in-laws or parents need to live with you when you're older and they're older? They may need live-in care at some point. Will you be staying in the area your home is in forever? If not forever, how long? Your job may seem stable, but it might not be. And one day, you may wake up and realize God is calling you to pursue a different career. Do you have enough money to pay for all the repairs your home will need? Or do you know how to fix the repairs yourself? Home repairs are a "when," not an "if."

Jason and I are perfectly content to rent an apartment while we figure out the rest of our lives. Even though he's in his 30s and I'm quickly nearing that age (which kind of makes me feel like we should have our lives figured out already), I remind myself on a near-daily basis that we're still very young. We have a lot of living left to do. Our daughter is a good reminder of that for us. Home ownership may not come for awhile, and we choose to be content where we are. This is where we're meant to be and honestly, we're just happy we have a roof over our heads.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Book Room

Tim Graber arrives in Sugarcreek to help his aunt and uncle with spring planting. At first, Tim doesnÆt fit in with his many cousins and their crowded lifestyle. But when he meets Clara Slabaugh, the local school teacher, he understands why the Lord brought him to Sugarcreek. Clara is shy and quiet. Scarred from a fire when she was small, Clara has resigned herself to living alone and caring for her mother, who tells her that no man will ever see past her scars, and that Clara needs to keep teaching in order to make ends meet. Her father passed away years ago, and her mother depends on her. But the scars mean nothing to Tim. He appreciates her quiet nature and her wonderful, loving way with children. Yet Tim has a sweetheart back home in Indiana. As these two hearts struggle to determine their path, tragedy strikes, and every other worry seems insignificant in comparison. Though they now face a life they never imagined, will Tim and Clara have the faith to step out and risk everything for a chance at true love?

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Seasons of Sugarcreek series. There are four books in total in this series and all have been released. You can read my review of the first book here

My thoughts: The characters in this series is what really makes these books stand out for me. They are really lovable and relatable. If you've tried Amish fiction in the past and wasn't a fan, you should try again with this series. It is very boy-meets-girl, but the characters are very sweet. 
After 27 years of marriage, Marilyn Anderson is tired of playing the role of perfect wife. Her husband Jim is a successful businessman who gives her everything she needs--a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, the financial freedom to be a stay-at-home mom, an enviable collection of stuff. Everything, that is, except what really matters: love.

After years of trying to connect with Jim, Marilyn has had enough. She longs to experience some measure of happiness before she's too old to enjoy it. Needing some time to herself to sort things out, Marilyn leaves to start a new job and take dancing lessons--something she has wanted to do for as long as she can remember.
Shocked to find his wife gone, Jim Anderson must sort through the past to save his marriage. With a little help from an unexpected ally, he begins a campaign to win Marilyn back. What he doesn't anticipate is how his actions will affect everyone around him--starting with himself.
Additional notes: This is the first book in the Restoration series. There are two books in this series currently and the third will be released later this year. 
My thoughts: If you like Karen Kingsbury, you'll really enjoy this series. I tried reading other books by Dan Walsh and wasn't into them personally (but my husband really enjoyed his other books), but this series is great, especially if you're married. 
When cashmere-mogul Janet marries the cowboy, she knows she'll have a lot to learn about roughing it. Tom lets her pay for the wedding, but he insists on handling the honeymoon. The budget-minded Tom, however, chooses a tropical destination which might be a little too…casual. If a newly-married couple spends their first week as man and wife trying to keep their clothes on, can the sparks still fly? 
Additional notes: This is book 1.5 for the Cypress Hollow Yarn series. There are six books in this series. You can read my review of the second book here and my review of the third book here
My thoughts: This was a cute little book. I got it for free from the Kindle store, and it's a very short story that's funny. It had nothing at all to do with knitting, in my opinion, so I didn't feel it really meshed well with the series, but whatevs. 
From the beloved author of Garden Spells, comes Waking Kate, story about a woman who soon will face an unforeseen change in her life. One sticky summer day  as Kate is waiting for her husband to come home from his bicycle shop, she spots her distinguished neighbor returning from his last day of work after  eighty-six years at Atlanta’s oldest men’s clothing store. Over a cup of butter coffee, he tells Kate a story of love and heartbreak that makes her remember her past, question her present, and wonder what the future will bring. 

My thoughts: Basically, I hated this book. It was such an awful read! I got it for free from the Kindle store as an e-book and it's a short story that is just... terrible. I did not like it at all. In other words: do not read this book! 
“How do you do it all?”

That’s the question that wife, mom, actress, and best-selling author Candace Cameron Bure is often asked. And it’s a question that women everywhere are asking themselves as we seek to balance all of our roles, responsibilities, and opportunities.

So, how do we do it? Working since the age of 5, Candace has been in a balancing act for nearly her entire life. She is the first to tell you that there is no miracle formula for perfect execution in every area of your life, but there definitely are some lessons to be learned, lessons that come to life in Candace's story.

Come along and dig into Candace’s story from her start in commercials, the balance-necessitating years on Full House, to adding on the roles of wife and mom while also returning to Hollywood. Insightful, funny, and poignant, Candace’s story will help you balance it all.
My thoughts: I have to say that I am just a huge fan of Candace and am loving watching her on Dancing with the Stars! This book had quite a few good nuggets I tucked away for later when Bug is bigger. Basically, Candace just advises you to figure out your priorities and focus on those. Pretty simple and basic, but sometimes I just need a kick in the butt in that area. I would definitely re-read this one in the future for a refresher. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Busy Bag of the Month: Pom Poms Sorting

This busy bag idea is not incredibly sophisticated, and I really like it for that reason! I also like it because there are many busy bags geared toward older toddlers, and this one is geared toward younger tots. This project is pretty simple to make and incredibly frugal.

Here's what you need to make a pom poms sorting busy bag: 

  • Egg carton
  • Pom poms
  • Knife/scissors
Here's how to make a pom poms sorting busy bag: 
  1. Using a knife or scissors (I used a knife), cut the egg carton in half. I cut mine lengthwise, you can also cut it the other way. 
  2. Use six different colored or six different sizes of pom poms for kids to use to sort in the egg spaces. I used six different colors. You could also buy six different sizes and have your tot first divide up the pom poms by colors, then by sizes. 
Simple, right? Happy crafting! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Day in the Life

7:58 AM: I cuddle with Bug and get her re-settled in bed. While she sleeps, I complete daily Swagbucks activities and watch a video on YouTube.

9:00 AM: I wake Bug up for the day. Generally speaking, I don't believe in waking babies, but Bug is a year old now and if I let her, she'd stay up til midnight and sleep til noon. And that just doesn't work for me (or most people, I'm betting). I make breakfast for everyone, and we eat. My breakfast is two scrambled eggs and a banana. After eating, I shower.

10:02 AM: I clean the kitchen. This involves unloading and loading the dishwasher, hand washing dishes, wiping down the counters, Bug's high chair tray and the dining room table and sweeping the floor.

10:21 AM: I feed Bug.

10:45 AM: I grab a few minutes to work on a sewing project.

10:55 AM: Bug's due for a diaper change, plus I haven't yet got her ready for the day. I change her diaper and pop her in a cozy outfit.

11:11 AM: I start a load of laundry, and after, I play with Bug.

11:30 AM: I grab another few minutes to finish a knitting project, pictured below. I am slowly working my way toward opening an Etsy shop. I will be making a few more of this knit earwarmer/headband that will be for sale in my shop. They will be priced at $5 (in case anyone wants to buy one now, you just let me know!).

11:48 AM: I make and eat lunch (lunch for me is cottage cheese, strawberries and tortilla chips). While eating lunch, I read a few pages of my book.

12:03 PM: I feed Bug sweet potatoes. She's not the best at eating. She has somewhat developed an eating disorder, and it's been very trying for me (and her, I imagine). But we are making strides toward her not purging her food. Not only does she manage to eat quite a bit of sweet potatoes, she keeps it all down. YAY!

12:15 PM: Laundry is done, so I hang up the clothes to dry.

12:20 PM: I feel tired, so I sit down to read my book.

12:56 PM: Apparently, we're all tired. We all get settled down for a family nap.

3:11 PM: Bug wakes up crying and is obviously still exhausted. She's a really great napper. I get her re-settled in bed. She falls back asleep, but I feel fine now so I just read (I'm reading a really good book, if you can't tell, and just want to read all day long!).

3:55 PM: We're all up and ready to go on with our day. We pack ourselves up and head out to the library and Target. We love our library and there were a bunch of new board books in. We came home with quite the loot!

5:48 PM: We eat a quick dinner, then I declutter, feed Bug and watch a little bit of a movie.

8:06 PM: Jason wakes up (he sleeps a lot during the day because he works at night) to do potty time and bath time with Bug. I don't mind doing it with her, but it's probably one of my least favorite activities to do with her. I start working on a sewing project.

9:16 PM: All is quiet in the living room, so I sneak out to see what's up to find Jason and Bug sleeping together. So cute. I grab a snack and my book and spend the next couple of hours happily in bed reading. I haven't had a night like this in a long time. It's so refreshing!

11:02 PM: I wake Jason up so he can get ready for work and transfer Bug to our bed. She never wakes up. Jason gets ready for work and I join Bug in dreamland.

It was a really laid back day. We all needed this as it had been quite a hectic week - we traveled quite a bit for two job interviews I had and it was Bug's first birthday. This day was the perfect way to end a crazy week.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

This Book Room: The Cottage on Juniper Ridge

Can a book change your life? Yes, when it's Simplicity, Muriel Sterling's guide to plain living. In fact, it inspires Jen Heath to leave her stressful, overcommitted life in Seattle and move to Icicle Falls, where she rents a lovely little cottage on Juniper Ridge. And where she can enjoy simple pleasures—like joining the local book club—andcomplicated ones, like falling in love with her sexy landlord, Garrett Armstrong.
Her sister Toni is ready for a change, too. She has a teenage daughter who's constantly texting her friends, a husband who's more involved with his computer than he is with her, and a son who's consumed by video games. Toni wants her family to grow closer—to return to a simpler way of life.
Other women in town, like Stacy Thomas, are also inspired to unload their excess stuff and some of the extra responsibilities they've taken on.
But as they all discover, sometimes life simply happens. It doesn't always happen simply!
Additional notes: This is the fourth and latest book in the Life in Icicle Falls series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here and the third book here. The series is ongoing. 
My thoughts: By far, this is the best book in the series. If you're not a fan of series, no worries - this book can absolutely be read as a stand-alone book. Not only is the book's topic incredibly hot right now, but it was just what I needed to read, too. 
This book reminded me a lot of Sheila Roberts' other series, Heart Lake, which is discontinued as far as I know. Each of those stories featured a group of women desiring to change an aspect of their life. The series was so inspirational and fun to read. I was delighted that this book was reminiscent of that series and hope to see more books like that in the future. 
The Cottage on Juniper Ridge focuses on living simply, and most anyone can relate to that message - whether it's decluttering your home, your schedule, your budget, and so on. All of the characters were so relatable and genuine. I laughed out loud while reading the book - which is a high compliment as I do not laugh easily when reading. I highly recommend this book and promise you'll walk away feeling lighter, even if you haven't decluttered a thing yet. 
Thanks to Sheila Roberts for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Being part of Sheila Girls is a true honor and delight!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Life & Style: Fabric Bolt Tutorial

As any person who sews knows, a fabric stash can grow very quickly. Before I was pregnant, Jason and I had decided to turn our second bedroom into an official craft and work space. While I was busy planning out the look of the room, I knew I had to do something with my fabric.

Fabric always looks so nice at fabric stores because it's stored on bolts. So I scoured the internet and figured out how to make bolts, on a smaller scale, for use in my own home.

I had a request to share a tutorial for making fabric bolts, so here it is! I hope this helps all of you to conquer the mountains of fabric in your own home.

Here's what you need to make fabric bolts: 

  • Big piece of foam board (mine was 20 x 30)
  • X-acto knife
  • Ruler
  • Pencil 

Here's how to make fabric bolts:

  1. Measure and draw a line length-wise in the center of the foam board. Each piece should be ten inches high. 
  2. Next, measure the foam width-wise. For the fabric bolts I made years ago, apparently, I made them all eight inches wide. If you do it that way, you will have two tiny fabric bolts in comparison to the others. For this set of bolts I made, I made them ten inches wide, so the bolts were square and even, and none of the foam board went to waste. Alternatively, you can make the bolts all six inches wide and get more bolts from one piece of foam board. 
  3. Once the measuring and line-drawing is complete, cut the board in half with the X-acto knife. Then, cut each piece out individually with the knife. This is a quick process. 
  4. Once the boards are cut, you can begin to wrap your fabric around the bolts. The smaller the piece of fabric, the neater the board will look, especially if your fabric piece is felt. I've wrapped up to four yards of flannel on one fabric bolt and it worked fantastically. Felt, on the other hand, doesn't wrap as well. 
Here are fabric bolts from one foam board cut out waiting for fabric to be wrapped around them: 

As a side but important note, I do not ever use fabric bolts to store fleece, unless I've bought an entire bolt from a fabric store, which I have done, then I store the fabric on its original bolt that came from the store in our craft closet. Fleece stores easily on its own, I find, and my fleece fabric is in a separate tote. This tote, pictured below, houses all of my felt and other fabric. This is just the bottom layer of the tote. There are many other bolts that go on top of this bottom layer. 

It takes me about ten minutes to make six fabric bolts from one piece of foam board. The foam board costs $3, but please don't ever buy something at full price. My price for my most recent purchase of foam board was $1.80 because I used a 40% coupon. This is a super simple project and your fabric will be so much easier to grab without making a huge mess of all the other fabric.

Happy crafting!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Purposeful Parenting: Communicating Verbally with Your Young Child(ren)

photo credit
I read a lot of books and articles while I was pregnant and after Bug was born. I really could not read enough. I didn't grow up surrounded by babies. I was the youngest child in my immediate family. In my extended family, I only had a few cousins younger than me, and we were fairly close in age. I baby-sat off and on, but never for children younger than three years of age.

In short, I felt over my head when I knew I would be having a baby in my life.

In all of my reading, I read something that really stuck out to me. One thing I never thought of was how to speak to my child. I figured you just spoke to him or her like a normal human being! Probably with a higher-pitched voice since most people tend to default to that - I do with my cat and with Bug at times.

But What to Expect the First Year actually had great advice on words to use when communicating with your young child in terms of pronouns.

Basically, your child won't be able to grasp, "I love you." But "Mama loves Bug?" That, your child can understand. He or she probably can't understand anything when they're a day old, but as the child grows, it's useful and practical to use peoples' names in lieu of pronouns.

I was talking to a fellow mama about this, and she agreed that her son had trouble with pronouns, too. When he was hungry, he would say, "You hungry!" This makes perfect sense since we often say, "you," when talking to our children. "I love you." "You need to clean your room." "You are going outside."

This child thought he was You! And technically, he was.

Don't get me wrong - I don't know how many times in the day I call Bug "you." But whenever I do, I just correct myself and move on. "I love you" becomes "Mama loves Bug."

Regardless of how you choose to speak to your children, be rest assured that in time, they will be able to grasp pronouns and that "you," "me" and "I" refers to more people than those you've specifically used those pronouns for. But in the meantime, it may be helpful to them to use peoples' names instead of pronouns.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

This Book Room: a few riveting stories you must read now!


When they were young, cousins Ella, Rachel and Jo were always together at their family's lake house. As they grew up, though, they grew apart…until now, as the three must band together to grant a beloved aunt's dying wish: to finish the quilt she began as a gift for her daughter's Christmas wedding. 

Let It Snow by USA TODAY bestselling author Emilie Richards 

Searching for vintage quilting fabric, independent Jo is reunited with the man she thought she'd marry—and proves that sometimes the second time's the charm…. 

You Better Watch Out by Janice Kay Johnson 

Ella is desperate when the unfinished quilt goes missing in her care. But a cocky lawyer might just help her find it— and find love. 

Nine Ladies Dancing by Sarah Mayberry 

Shy Rachel risks exposing her secret life when she falls for her quilting teacher's seemingly perfect son. 

Together, Jo, Ella and Rachel create a Christmas heirloom that's both a wish and a promise—of happiness, hope and love everlasting

My thoughts: This book didn't knock my socks off, but it was a fun Christmas read. Also, I've read some of Emilie Richards' books in the past and enjoyed them for the most part. That was what drew me to this book in the first place. 

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock's beautifully told, warm hearted novel tells the story of one girl's journey to find
the mother she never had, set against the period backdrop of a small farming town in 1950s Vermont. For her entire life, 10-year-old Blue has never known her mother. On a cold, wintry day in December of 1941, she was found wrapped in a quilt, stuffed in a kettle near the home of Hannah Spooner, an older townswoman known for her generosity and caring. Life with Hannah so far has been simple—mornings spent milking cows, afternoons spent gardening and plowing the fields on their farm. But Blue finds it hard not to daydream about her mother, and over the course of one summer, she resolves to finally find out who she is. That means searching through the back issues of the local newspaper, questioning the local townspeople, and searching for clues wherever she can find them. Her search leads her down a road of self-discovery that will change her life forever.

My thoughts: I was absolutely riveted by this story. I consider this book a must-read for young adults and older. The story was surprising, beautiful, and to steal a word from the title, true. The characters were unfailingly honest in their flaws. It was such a refreshing read. 

Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

My thoughts: Run, don't walk, to your local library to check out this book. I absolutely devoured this book. It is a story that will remain with me forever. I really can't even put into words how much I adored this story. The characters in this story are so brave, especially Handful. Sarah did annoy me at times, not unlike people today who are still not speaking out for human rights. It doesn't matter if someone is different than you - you have no right to be mean. If you do read this book (and you absolutely should), I'd love it if you read it with an open mind to today's issues. No matter how different a person may be from you and how much you may not agree with them, we're here to love. 
As the coldest winter on record blows into Sugarcreek, will three hearts have the courage to discover the life that God wants for them?
In the small Amish town of Sugarcreek, Ohio, Joshua knows what's expected of him: to work at the family store and to finally marry Gretta, whom he's courted for years. But when a new English family moves in next door and their teenage daughter catches his eye, Joshua wonders if his future plans are too firmly set in stone.
Gretta is shocked by the sudden change in Joshua. Their arguments followed by tense silences feel too much like the frosty atmosphere at home between her parents. When Roland begins to take an interest in her, she considers what her life might be like with Joshua out of the picture. With Roland, Gretta would have steady, kind companionship...although she knows she could never love him.
When Lilly moved to Sugarcreek, she never imagined she'd be enamored with the Amish way of life and especially with her handsome new neighbor, Joshua. But she guards a secret that will surely drive him away, one that compelled her family to leave their old home and move to Sugarcreek in the first place: Lilly is pregnant.
Additional notes: This is the first book in the Seasons of Sugarcreek series. There are four books in this series, and all have been released. 
My thoughts: The story was very surprising! From the beginning, I thought I had it pegged for how it would end. I was very wrong. The story was unique and had a message of not judging someone by their appearance - a message I always appreciate and one I can always be reminded of. 
Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

My thoughts: I have to admit: I really am interested in the Eugenics program of the 20th century, along with World War II and the Civil War. It just fascinates me. I had never read a Diane Chamberlain book before, but boy, am I glad I read this one! This is another story that will stay with me forever. Jane was incredibly annoying, and at times, Ivy was, too. But in a way, that's what makes a book so great. It gives the characters room to grow. And these characters definitely grew. The ending was so wonderful. It's a tear-jerker for sure, so you'll want Kleenex at the ready! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason: Chocolate Chip Muffins

These taste like cookies, and from the picture, they look like cookies, but they're muffins - very yummy, decadent ones at that! Little chef Jess whipped these up, and she said they were really easy to make and we had all of the ingredients on hand, which is always a bonus. We found the original recipe here.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Combine wet ingredients in bowl first, then stir in dry ingredients until just combined. 
  2. Gently fold in chocolate chips. 
  3. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, and spray muffin pan with cooking oil. 
  4. Fill each muffin cup to about 3/4 full. 
  5. Bake muffins for 18 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then put muffins on a cooling rack. 
Please enjoy! 

Chef Jason 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Saving the Moola: February in review

We're on what I call a "God watch." He's here with us, and I can feel Him, but I'm needing a miracle right about now.

My unemployment has run out, and while I've had leads here and there, nothing official has happened. We do have some savings and will be okay for a little while, but after that is gone, I literally don't know what we're going to do. And just in case anyone reading this thinks I don't have a job because I'm unwilling to work for less than $30 an hour and am being lazy (I recently read comments on a news article where people actually said that for anyone on unemployment), let me inform you I've never made close to that in my life and I'm definitely not holding out for that. I'm not really holding out for anything right now! So please just know that people really are struggling finding a real job. I am one of those people.

I'm incredibly grateful that Jason has a job he enjoys, although I do wish it paid a livable wage for our family. But he works 40+ hours a week, and the overtime really helps. His tutoring also helps our family plug along.

We finally filed our taxes this month, and we'll be using the majority of our return to pay off our car loan - praise the Lord! We'll have a bit left over that will go into our emergency fund for when we need it.

I'm also looking to finally participate in a vendor show with some of the items I make. I've been wanting to do this for years and years, but it was never the right time. This year finally feels like the right time, so I've already started working on building up my inventory for the summer season. I'm pretty excited about this but also incredibly nervous about the reception I'll have. I hope and pray it will be positive!

That's basically our financial lives right now in a nutshell. If you are a prayer warrior, we would sure appreciate being on your prayer list. I've been having trust issues lately, and it's something that, quite frankly, I seriously struggle with. I struggled when I first knew I was pregnant, and I'm struggling again. It's just hard to let go and let God, to fully surrender to His will whatever it may be. And if you could pray that a new job with a decent wage finds its way to us, that would be awesome.

If you have any prayer requests, please be sure to comment on this post or on our Facebook page. I would be honored to pray for you. If you're not comfortable leaving a specific request, just let me know you need prayers, and that works too!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Saving the Moola: the great TP debate (and experiment!), part 1

photo credit
I'm just going to say this right off: yes, this post is going to be all about toilet paper. Generally, we all use it. You'd be hard pressed to find any bathroom, at least in the United States, without toilet paper.

But if you think about it for just a second, you will come to realize, as I have, that you're basically spending money on paper that you flush down the toilet. 

Since money is paper, it's almost like you're just flushing money down the toilet. 


Since I'd prefer to do something else with money, I've really been thinking on toilet paper. The issue really came to light when I recently read that the average American uses 24 rolls of toilet paper a year. 

Really? That's it? I can tell you we use much more than 58 rolls of TP in our house in one year. There are some things going on there that may account for why we use so much more. One is that I'm a girl. So I use TP no matter what, whereas Jason only uses TP in one instance. Also, Jason works 40+ hours a week outside the home, whereas I'm home all day. So he uses TP at work, and I'm only using ours, for the most part. That definitely accounts to extra TP usage on my part. Also, Jason usually grumbles that I use too much. And I probably do. 

To determine exactly how many rolls we use in a month, I plan to start March 1 with a fresh roll in each bathroom and keep count of how many rolls we use during the month. Mainly, I'm just curious. I highly doubt our count will stop at 8. But I also do wonder how much money we're spending on TP per month. Based on what I know we buy, I'd guess we use about 18 rolls per month for a total of $8 per month. 

I'm all for saving money however I can, so how does one save money on TP? We've found TP is generally cheapest at Aldi. We will, on occasion, also use gift cards we earned through Swagbucks to get toilet paper. Our total out-of-pocket expense then is $0. 

Since we cloth diaper Bug, I have given thought to using cloth for us when we use the bathroom. It doesn't disgust me in the least, but I will say that after all the poop I've dealt with for the last year, I'm not sure how eager I am to continue dealing with poop. But I have been giving considerable thought to using cloth when poop isn't involved. The conclusion I've come to: it's definitely worth a go. I have flannel scraps in my fabric stash, so this month, I'll be working on sewing some of up to use in the bathroom. 

After March is over and our count of used toilet paper rolls is complete, we'll start April with a new experiment. How many rolls will we use if I use cloth for part of the time? 

We'll update ya'll on our experiment in May and let you know what our plan is for the future.