Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welcome, Little One.

Dear Friends,

Hello!  I’m back, and I’m delighted to introduce a new family member!  Just one week ago, we welcomed Hattie Grace into the fold.

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Life is certainly different than it was when I started this blog in 2009.  I had two small boys, a teaching fellowship, and a crazy grad school schedule.  Now, in the summer of 2016, I became the mother of FIVE. Our whole world is different now.  We have three boys and two girls.  I am a mostly at-home mom, but I’m also a doula now.  We homeschool (something that was certainly not in the cards in 2009), and we are all a little further along in the big quest of figuring out who we are as a family and what that looks like in our world.

These are wonderful changes, but they also mean that blogging gets pushed aside most of the time.  I am grateful if anyone still reads these posts–even after months of silence on my end.  I still don’t intend to ever call this blog “complete,” saying good-bye to a project that has meant a lot to me over the years.  Just know that long stretches of time might pass without something new, but I’m still over here dreaming up ideas and waiting for the right moment to share a piece of our life with you.

‘Til next time…

 

In Between

Dear Patient Readers,

I’m here!  I’m glad that you are, too.

Yesterday, it was 66 degrees.  We went outside without jackets.  I started to believe that spring actually had sprung.  This morning, however, the world is frozen again.  Water that collected in a snow sled out back is frozen solid.  Snow is falling and blowing.  Pretty as a picture–just not the picture that I was hoping to see.  I enjoy winter, but these little hints of spring over the last few weeks have made me excited for planting things, making pastel crafts, and preparing for Easter.

This is limbo–a weird in-between state.

Spring has always been a good blogging season for me.  I guess it is the urge to start something new.  The Yarn Harlot calls it “startitis” in her hilarious book, The Yarn Harlot and in her blog by the same name.  I feel it!  I want to start all kinds of new things–a garden, a knitting project, some redecorating, and of course–SPRING CLEANING.  I want to come back to the blog to start a long chain of current posts, up-to-date this ‘n that from my house to your home.

Will I do it?  Can I do it?

I hope you’ll stop by to see.

*~*~EricaG~*~*

2016 Theme and Goals

I love the start of a new year!  I’ve written about my love of fresh starts many times on this blog.  I look for lots of reasons for a personal “new year” (birthdays, new seasons, the start of school, etc.), but I especially love the traditional new year because I’m setting goals and dreaming about the future along with many other people.  I enjoy blog posts and YouTube videos about resolutions and goal-setting.  Last year, I posted a detailed list for myself, and I also did a mid-year update.  Writing about my annual expectations here helped keep me accountable, and I’m eager to get started again.

This year, I decided to choose a theme.  My theme for 2016 is SIMPLIFY.  This is a continuation of last year’s goal to “get organized” and my later posts concerning simple living.  I will apply this theme to a few specific area of life.

  1.  In the practice of my faith, I wish to embrace the simplicity of the gospel and avoid the perfectionism that often keeps me from digging deeper.  I want to begin each day with time in prayer and reading, but too often, I decide not to do it because I don’t have enough time to do it “right.”  What a ridiculous excuse!  No more of that. A couple of minutes in focused prayer is certainly better than none, and every minute has as much potential for blessing as an extended period would have.  God shows up everyday, so I should, too!
  2. I’ve been simplifying my belongings since the summer, but we have a terribly long way to go!  Instead of getting discouraged, I’m creating a monthly plan to address the different areas of my home.  I’ll save that for a different post, but I will say that January is devoted to Clothing & Laundry!  I am working on building capsule wardrobes for my kids (I’ve been using one myself since the fall), and I want to finally find a laundry routine that works for me.
  3. I’m simplifying my exercise expectations.  I always make tons of plans that never pan out.  I need to recognize that I am in a season of life where my time isn’t really my own.  My children are small, and they won’t always be!  So instead of bemoaning the gym membership that I do not have or the 5Ks I have not run, I am going to take joy in daily walks with my dog.  When I do walk faithfully, I can quickly tell that it is good for my body and my spirit.  It is also very good for my dog!  Please remind of of this when it’s below freezing!
  4. Finally, I want to establish morning and evening routines that help us to transition into and out of our days.  This isn’t a new concept.  I was quite the devoted “FlyBaby” (www.flylady.net) at one time, but we’ve fallen out of our routines.  I know that my whole family benefits from this loose but meaningful structure.  When I’ve been disciplined in my routines, everything feels simple, and I desperately need that feeling.

Beyond my themed goals, I have one other resolution.  In 2016, I will grow in my “culinary self.”  I’ve been in a cooking rut lately, so this year, I resolve to experiment with food.  I want to try more meatless meals and rely less heavily on grains to simply fill up.  Due to some medical needs for one of our children, we’ve already made great strides to limit grains and sugars, but instead of seeing this as a limitation, I want to use the opportunity to explore alternative ingredients, new flavors and textures, and even cuisines from different cultures.  It’s exciting!

Well, that’s it, gang!  Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2016.

~*~Erica G.~*~

Getting Back to the WHY

We hit a rough patch early in the fall.  We had been working hard on the house–painting, cleaning, organizing, and decluttering.  That’s exciting!  All good things.

But then there was the flat tire, the dented car door, the leaking sink,the dentist appointments, the strange little stomach bug with a slight fever, the lost library books, and those pesky multiplication facts.  Sigh.  Real life.

Suddenly, in the midst of all that LIFE, I kind of crumbled under a whole lot of self-doubt.  Have you ever been there?  You’re working hard to do all the right things–to check off all those boxes–but you always feel behind and inadequate.  That’s where I wallowed for awhile.  Homeschooling, in particular, was feeling like a bunch of “get dones” instead of the joyful privilege that it can be.

I’m not one to linger in a bad mood for long, and I knew I needed to do something to shake the funk.  I reached out to a group of homeschool moms who might understand.  Their responses were incredible.  They were practical, offering actual help for spelling and reading.  They were whimsical and inspirational, reminding me that I’m not alone.  One friend told me to get back to the WHY of our decision to homeschool–to return to all the things I love about educating my children at home.  That advice was a true answer to prayer, and I followed it immediately.

In our homeschool, getting back to the WHY means experiencing the outdoors.  It means learning through all of our sense.  It means learning by doing.  It means reading lots of things from a variety of sources and subjects.  It means learning together as a family.  And it looks a little something like this:

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In Progress…

Oh goodness.  I’m being pulled in many directions these days, and I’m sure that many of my readers can relate.

I’m working hard at my simplifying project, and I keep having to remind myself that it gets worse before it gets better.  Am I the only one who finds this to be so?  Our new bedroom is basically finished, but there are still odds and ends to be done.  We’re decluttering like mad, but that means there are piles of things in every corner.

My doula business has been launched, and I’m pleased to have a client waiting for her precious new baby.  I’m making sure that my childcare plans are settled and my bag is ready.

We joined a homeschool co-op this fall, and we’re still finding our way in that new routine.  Additionally, we’ve found ourselves making new friends in a different community of home learners that fell into our laps rather unexpectedly.  It’s exciting to connect with families that share similar values.

I wish this post could be a bit more colorful, but in the process of digging through our belongings, I seem to have misplaced my camera charger.  I’m hoping it shows up soon because I love all the sights of autumn!

Simple Living // One : My Story

Hello, friends,

Today I am starting a series that I’m calling Simple Living.  Simplicity has been a core value in my life and on this blog for many years, but I’ve been distracted from that theme for awhile.  Here is the story of how the journey began and where I am now:

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I grew up in a family that values simple things.  We were never into “keeping up with the Joneses.”  We’ve always been a DIY kind of family, and my kids love to talk about how “old fashioned” Papa is because he heats his home with a pot belly stove and uses wonderful spring water from the hill out back.

In 2001, I married my college sweetheart.  As brand new college graduates, we didn’t own much, made very little money as graduate student teaching associates, and had an absolute blast!  We were very careful at budgeting and even saved enough money to take a two week vacation to Florida (including Disney World) when we had been married about a year and a half.  We got our first credit card that year, and we did so only because it was required for the hotel reservation.  We used only cash for every aspect of the trip.  We needed few things, and we were so busy with school and enjoying married life that we did not accumulate much.  Except books.  I can make no good excuse for our book collection!  Anyway, we moved out of our tiny (but adorable) attic apartment in 2004 after finishing our masters degrees and bought our first house.  We continued our graduate work at a new university and added two children to the mix by 2008.  Our house was small, and we were rapidly filling it with THINGS.  We continued to keep our schedule fairly simple (if you consider school, work, church, and family simple), and in general, my preferred aesthetic then and now is simple, clear, and fresh.  I don’t have extravagant taste, and I would choose a single daisy over a dozen roses any day.  YET the sense that we had too much was creeping in.

In the summer of 2011, we welcomed our third child and moved to Florida.  It was a huge move.  A thousand miles.  My husband had received a new job at a small university, and the kind people there helped us find a rental house until we could buy a home.  Our time ran out at the first house, and we moved into a second rental.  All of that moving around taught me an important lesson.  We had moved to Florida with only a small fraction of our belongings.  We packed only a small collection of clothes for ourselves and our children.  Our two boys packed one small box of toys and books.  The houses were furnished and had kitchen supplies, so we only took sheets and a few bath towels.  You know what?  It was wonderful.  I only missed  a few things–my vegetable peeler and some of my books.  When we successfully purchased our new house, I truly did not want the bulk of our stuff to come into it.  But the stuff came.  We were moving from 1100 square feet into more than 2000 square feet.  It was easy to stash away a lot of things that we really did not need, and the clear lesson was RIGHT THERE.  We only needed a fraction of what we owned, and after four month with only a small amount of our things, I only desperately wished for my lovely vegetable peeler.  (And after this blog post, my mom sent me a great peeler in the mail.  Thanks, Mom!)  This was a golden opportunity!  We should have been very, very discerning about what to keep, but instead, we loaded everything into our new house.  Many of those boxes hadn’t even been opened when we moved again (those same 1000 miles) less than two years later.  A lot of those boxes are still in our basement!

That brings me to this spring.  I started making some important changes in my life that I wrote about here.  I needed to clear my head and my heart.  Around the same time, I read a blog post by my friend, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is many things, but two of her most important roles are homeschooling mom and entrepreneur.  She blogs at www.homeschoolmanager.com, and I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts.  Anyway, she wrote about going from hoarder to minimalist.  Somewhere along the line, Elizabeth recommended the website Becoming Minimalist and specifically, the post called “How to Stage Your Home for Living.”  Big things were happening inside me.  I needed to return to simplicity, and I finally felt ready to make it happen.  I realized that I was one of many people who are looking for ways to reduce STUFF and enjoy a life of simplicity.

On my birthday in June, I wrote this in my journal:  “I’m on a minimalist journey.”  I realize that it sounds totally melodramatic!  (I even cringed a little while typing it.)  But here is how I see it.  A journey can take you anywhere. I set off on this journey with both feet, and I have to keep moving forward to see where the road takes me.  I’m pretty sure this journey isn’t going to bring me to the place of only owning what I can fit in a backpack.  That might be great for some people, but I’m aiming for something far less extreme.  I just want to feel content, spend more time with my kids, and less time cleaning.  I want to see clear, open spaces around me.  I want to own things that I love.  I don’t want my things to own me.

I have had success with birthday resolutions in the past, and I’m particularly excited about this one.  I dove into decluttering immediately after my birthday.  THIS is what sat in front of my house on July 4th weekend:

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And that was just the beginning.  In addition, we’ve donated three enormous bags of clothing to charity.  I have a big box of books that is headed to our local library.  I’ve thrown away about 20 bags of junk since June.  (Note: I deeply regret that I did not recycle more things.  I’m making a commitment to do better at recycling now that my belongings are more manageable.)

So that’s my story so far.  In my next installment, I’ll write about some of the people and resources that inspire my desire to live simply.

Thanks for reading!

 

Project Food Budget — The End

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It’s wrap-up week.  Here are the things that I learned during this project.

  1. Planning matters!  I do usually plan meals, but Project Food Budget required consistency in my meal planning.  If I am going to stick to my budget, I MUST have a plan.  This project has proven what I already knew.
  2. Accountability is everything!  I love this project because someone is watching my menu!  It pushes me to spend carefully and plan creatively.  I like trying new things, but like everyone, I sometimes get into a rut with our family meals.  Sharing my plans with others gives me the incentive to be more creative.
  3. We need planned snacks.  I intentionally plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I often forget snacks.  By the end of the week, my kids are begging for spoons of peanut butter because I didn’t buy enough snacks.  Except for cookies, we don’t buy junk food, so I really need to do some thinking and researching about easy and healthy snacks.  I repeat: EASY.  If you have some favorites, please post them in the comments.
  4. My budget is going to have to grow…maybe soon.  If I’m really, really careful I can meet our $120 budget, but it doesn’t leave much room for fun or trying new things.  And these kids of ours are growing, growing, growing!  This week I will have a TEN year old.  I can’t imagine now much food we’ll need in the future!

Goal: $120          Actual:  $45 Aldi + $79 Shop ‘ n Save = $124  Not bad!

Monday:  Chicken nuggets, sweet potatoes, and mixed veggies

Tuesday:  Faculty Picnic at Cory’s university

Wednesday:  Baked fish and broccoli

Thursday:  Baked ziti and salad

Friday:  Grilled cheese and homemade vegetable soup

Saturday:  Sandwiches, pasta salad, and birthday cake!

Sunday:  Leftover buffet  :)

Blogging Budgeters:  (Or is it Budgeting Bloggers?)