Thursday, February 28, 2013

iScream {Let.It.Go. Blog Hop}

"But I trusted in, relied on, and was confident in You, O Lord; I said, You are my God. My times are in Your hands." ~Psalm 31:14-15 (AMP)

I love looking through old photos and reading old blog posts. I love to look back on the days when I had little, little babies. To remember the days when we had no schedule, no place we had to be on most days. Days when I just sat on the floor to play or at the table to color. Impromptu trips to the library for story hour or an afternoon at a park. Or even a picnic lunch in the backyard followed by hours of swinging and sliding and running. During those days I had time - or rather took the time - to bake cookies and muffins and other little treats on a fairly regular basis.

If I'm not careful, though, I can get caught up living in the past. Obsessing and dwelling on all the good memories of those days.

But not every day of those years were filled with feelings of bliss and content. When I am really honest with myself I also remember the lonely afternoons of a stay-at-home mom, the afternoons I desperately needed another mom to talk to, or the moments I longed for an activity other than changing diapers and washing bottles and sippy cups and the other daily tasks of a homemaker.

It's those moments that made me feel I needed more. To have a complete and happy life I needed to fill up my time and my family's time with busyness. And so I did.

Today I have a kindergartener, a preschooler, a part-time job, and a church with which I am actively involved. Most of our days are filled, filled, filled with one activity after another. School functions, homework, children activities at church, women's Bible study at church, teaching Sunday school, dance classes for both girls, work, meal planning, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning house, cooking dinner, packing lunches, taking the dogs to the vet, administering our senior dog's daily doses - I could go on and on, as most moms could. It's no wonder I feel overwhelmed. It's no wonder at the beginning of the year I felt like we had taken on way more than we could handle and our chaotic life needed simplifying. Even more accurate, at the beginning of January I was ready to quit everything, and I mean everything!

This Let.It.Go. study has opened my eyes and heart to so much already but when I read the title of Chapter 7 - "When Your Schedule Screams (and You Want to Scream Too)" - I knew Karen had to have written this chapter personally for me!

"At every turn is an activity (many worthwhile) begging and beckoning us to blessed busyness."

"Maybe, just maybe, if we got intentional about weeding out commitments and obligations before the schedule started its bossy chant, we wouldn't need to seek such control in the first place."

(Chapter 7, page 140)

"Intentional." When I set about to fill up the life of my family, I missed out on the key point of being intentional about it. I have overfilled my schedule with activities and tasks that are not necessarily bad things, but I did it for all the wrong reasons. And I was trying to fill a void I was feeling, a void that no activity can fill, but one only God can.
Karen gives us several tools in this chapter to help us "trim the fat off our schedules" (I so love the phrasing of that). While some of my responsibilities can not be cut out, so many of them can and others can certainly be managed more efficiently (see Chapter 5 "Micromanaging instead of Mothering" and Chapter 6 "Hovering Over the Home").

My favorite - Stand back and ask, "Why?"
"Don't sign up for every happening without a valid reason."
My other favorite - Say yes because you feel called, not because you consider yourself capable.
"Resist answering in the affirmative unless you know God desires for you to serve, give, lead, or teach in this area."

All of the tools Karen gave us in this chapter are great. I have taken some time to review all of the activities that fill our family's schedule using these tools and have come to the conclusion there are a lot of changes to be made, whether it is an activity we need to cut out completely or a matter of allowing other members of my family the opportunity to take on a responsibility around the house.

I am hopeful and encouraged my family and I can take some time over the next few weeks and months to assess our schedules and our activities together and make some important decisions, decisions and changes that will benefit all of us.

"When we don't feel stalked and chased by our schedules, we're more likely to find a place of calm and order." (Chapter 7, page 143)

Sounds exactly what this Momma and the Lingg family needs!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Menu Planning

Before going grocery shopping each week I try to plan out the menu for the week. Inevitably I'll forget one ingredient or two. I'm not always great at sticking to the menu either. But the weeks I have planned and shopped well, we eat so much better around here - much healthier and more economical meals.

I thought it would be fun to share our menu for the upcoming week. I'm really excited about these dishes, especially the slow cooker ones. I happened to catch a few minutes of Rachel Ray yesterday morning; I haven't really watched any daytime tv since going back to work. Rachel Ray was doing a slow cooker week and the few minutes I caught yesterday she had four slow cooker recipes, all ranging in budgets from $20 down to just $5. Not too shabby!! These recipes are supposed to yield 4 adult servings. Since my girls combined don't typically eat one adult serving, we should have more than enough food for dinner plus leftovers for mine and Ed's lunches. 

Not only are this week's meals quick and easy to prep which will be great on those days I'm at the office, I happened to have a lot of the ingredients on hand in our pantry and freezer. I have sauce for the ziti as well as the pork shoulder and chicken for Tuesday and Thursday all in the freezer and most of the staples ingredients including a lot of the veggies in the pantry. Love it when that happens! Especially since this week on my shopping list were those necessary but often expensive items like laundry detergent and other household cleaners - all of which seem to run out at one time.

So those are our meals for the week. I hope they turn out as tasty as the recipes and pictures make them appear!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be My Valentine

I admit it. Since becoming a mom I have a tendency to go overboard with most any holiday and occasion. I just can't help myself. This Valentine's Day was really no different.

I made heart shape chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Samantha, having the pickiest and strangest eating habits ever, ate one pancake and then declared she did not like chocolate chip pancakes. Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands in exasperation with her and food.

Samantha and I surprised Gabrielle with Chick-fil-a for lunch at school. She was happy to see us and it was nice to see her in the middle of the day.

Since Valentine's Day fell on a Thursday this year - the night the girls have dance class - we did not have our traditional "special" dinner. Instead I packed sandwiches for the girls, picked up McDonald's on the way home for Ed and treated myself to a {free} grande Starbuck's vanilla spice latte. (As I was going back to proofread this post I came to this realization - most of our celebrations revolve around food in some way!! Not sure what that means or if it is a good or a bag thing.)

When the girls and I got home from dance that night, Ed had surprised us all with flowers. He also had the other gifts and cards for the girls on the table waiting for them. 

Samantha fell asleep in the car and it was a struggle to get her awake enough to open her gift.  I need a video camera ready at all times when it comes to giving this child a gift. Her reaction is so genuine and one of absolute appreciation and true surprise. She may outgrow this trait someday but I hope not - it doesn't matter how big or small, Samantha will always make the gift giver feel like she is receiving the ultimate gift.

Samantha said she wanted a "big stuffed animal". When I saw this bear I thought it fit the bill. Samantha is somewhere behind her "Snuggly Wuggly" (who has kept her "safe" every night when she goes to sleep).

Gabrielle has a quieter reaction to all of her gifts but she loves and appreciates it just as much as her sister. She has asked for this heart pillow every year since she was 3 years old. Finally this was the year and she has slept with it every night since.

Gabrielle's teacher gave us parents some homework this Valentine's. She sent home a big heart with directions to decorate it anyway we would like to surprise our kids and show them how special they are. Ed and I had a lot of fun with this assignment. We decided to find some words we felt described G and glue them to her heart. It turned out exactly as I had envisioned and hopefully G felt special when she read it.

The girls had fun making Valentines too. Well, G had fun. Samantha got not quite half of hers done before she got bored and decided to watch Octonauts on Disney Junior instead. G is the one who takes after me in the arts & craft department for sure.
This is the Valentine G made her sister - with no prompting what so ever. I love these unexpected moments of sisterly love! (these moments unfortunately don't happen often enough around here)

And that concludes Valentine's Day at the Lingg household this year!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Daddy - Daughter Date Night

Tonight was the Father-Daughter Princess Party Dance at Gabrielle's school. Gabrielle has been looking forward to this event for a few weeks now. Originally the dance was scheduled in January but due to a bit of "winter weather" it was rescheduled. At last the night finally got here!

Gabrielle wore her flower girl dress and insisted on her daddy wearing a tie - but not a bow tie because apparently, as I found out this morning, she does not like bow ties. Not that it matters, because to my knowledge Ed has never even owned a bow tie. He didn't even wear a tux with bow tie for our wedding. 

We were talking about the dance while I was getting her dressed and she mentioned she hoped she could dance like a princess (the waltz she had seen Princess Sofia the First do with her daddy in a recent episode). Ed decided to do a little practicing with Gabrielle before leaving.

With Ed and Gabrielle out for the evening, that left me and my little munchkin at home alone. I wanted to order pizza for dinner but my picky eater decided she no longer likes pizza. What 3 year old does not like cheese pizza? Anyway, we ended up with a gourmet dinner of macaroni and cheese for Samantha and cereal for myself. 

A couple of Little Debbie snack cakes and quick bath later Samantha and I were snuggled in my bed ready for some books. I let her pick as many books as she wanted - not just the 2, maybe 3, we usually read at bedtime. We didn't quite get through all of them.

The girls share a room and bedtime seems to be a struggle most nights. Not tonight. Samantha was asleep five minutes after tucking her in!!

Ed and Gabrielle had a great time at the dance. They both came home with smiling faces. Gabrielle was excited to tell me about the dance, her friends, her goody bag, and the food. And apparently she had a good time with her daddy. She only wanted Ed to get her ready for bed and put her to bed.

With the excitement of the dance and all the sugar from the multiple cupcakes and cookies and punch Gabrielle told me she had (oh and a few grapes thrown in for good measure), I really thought getting her in bed was going to be a struggle. Amazingly enough she was sound asleep within 5-10 minutes as well! I guess the dancing, running and the fact it was almost an hour past her usual bedtime was enough to overcome the adrenaline/sugar rush.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ooo! Shiny!

Today I am participating in a Blog Hop. This is week 1 of an online Bible study with Melissa Taylor from Proverbs 31. We are studying the new book by Karen Ehman "Let.It.Go." (This is my second online Bible study with Melissa. I did "Made to Crave" last January and LOVED it! Looking at her schedule for the year, I have a feeling I will be signing up for at least a couple more of her studies.)

There were three topics to choose from for this week's Blog Hop. I am choosing to talk about topic #3:  
Ooo! Shiny! – Chapter Two. This world is full of shiny things begging for our attention. What are things in your life that have turned into controlling tangents? Let’s help each other break just one!
After reading Chapter 2, highlighting, taking notes and re-reading the chapter, I did some journaling. I thought I had figured out exactly what my big controlling tangents are. Karen describes tangents as those "activities, hobbies, people or time-wasting habits that knock us off course."

I can admit honestly and with strong conviction one of my biggest controlling tangents is Facebook and time on the computer, reading web page after web page. I almost obsessively check Facebook several, make that many, many, many times a day. Before I know it I have spent not minutes but hours on Facebook or the internet and accomplished nothing. Meanwhile, the laundry is piled up, there are dirty dishes in the sink, and real work to be done around here. Not to mention my beautiful girls would love nothing more than for Mommy to sit and play or read or do anything really as long as it was time spent with them.

As Karen suggested, I need to set up some "big-picture guidelines" to prevent Facebook and computer time being the problem it so often is. After all, Facebook isn't all bad. I love being able to keep in touch with family and friends and being able to share with them what the Lingg family is up to. Several of the groups I'm involved with at church use Facebook as a means of communication and a very effective, quick and easy way to share news and prayer requests and praises. It's when I allow myself to be consumed by it, when I start comparing myself to what other people are saying and doing - that's when the trouble begins.

Before writing this post, I hopped around and read a few of the blogs posted by others participants. I could relate to many of the women. Karen's post, however, made me realize yet another tangent that last night did not come to me. 

I don't want to be left out. I want to fit in. I want to belong so badly I am not always true to myself in order to fit in with the group or person I am around. And I think I have had this problem since childhood. I can understand having this feeling as a little girl, but how can I still struggle with this feeling as a 35-year-old woman??? 

It is only week 1 of this study. We are only a couple of chapters into the book and already God has revealed some hard truths I have wanted to avoid and ignore for far too long.

I am hopeful though. Hopeful that through this study I will learn "how to stop running the show and start walking in faith" (Karen Ehman).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Birthday Love

Yesterday was my birthday. And it was one filled with love and well wishes from so many people! Cards I received in the mail a few days prior to my birthday. Morning birthday wishes from my family. Happy birthdays from co-workers. An overwhelming number of birthday blessings posted by friends and family on facebook. It all added up to making this girl feel a whole lotta love yesterday!!

The girls were singing to me as they brought out my present and card. I guess Bella wanted in on the action too!

The most beautiful wrapping paper ever created. One of a kind and made just for me. Samantha had the left side, Gabrielle the right. It is now hanging on my bedroom door.

Just one of my gifts. Loved listening to this in the car this morning!!

Getting older is not so bad when you're getting so much love from your family and friends.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Good Start ~ Still a Ways To Go

The bedroom makeover began today. I am so excited about this project. I have been wanting to do something to our bedroom for about a year now. Our bedroom has remained exactly the same for the past 8+ years and I was more than bored with it. My boredom is probably one cause to the clutter that seemed to find its way to our bedroom. It was a mess and desperately needed some sprucing up!!

During my trip to HomeGoods this past Thursday I found a comforter and quickly fell in love. I took some photos to show Ed to get his opinion and surprisingly he really like it too. I was surprised we found a comforter set we both liked this quickly. Ed told me from the beginning we would not be painting the room. I have no problem with the color of the walls but that did limit choosing an entirely new color scheme. It is difficult to tell in the terrible pictures above but our walls are a sage green. Our quilt was a cream, sage, and purple mostly floral print. Sorry, but I didn't really go to much trouble making the bed or straightening up at all this morning before taking some quick "before" photos. And to be shamefully honest, the room probably looks this messy and disheveled the majority of the time.

I made a return trip today hoping the comforter would still be there. I found a few more items during my trip that I would like to eventually add to our decor throughout the house. Right now my budget demands baby steps in the bedroom makeover so the comforter, some curtains and curtain rods were the only purchases today.

The biggest change, however, is rearranging the room. Our master bedroom is small. I believe the dimensions are only 13' x 10'. It is not a big room and the closet, bathroom door, vents, and directv plug all limit the furniture arrangement. We really thought when we first moved into our house the placement of our furniture was the only way to possibly have it. Boy, were we wrong!!

Our room looks and feels so much bigger. No longer will we be bumping into the corners of the bed and dressers just trying to get to the bathroom or out the door. I love it!! I just can't believe we didn't do this sooner.

As the title of the post says, this is just a start. First, obviously in the photos there is still some "junk" that needs to be thrown out and stored elsewhere. We're hoping to get a chest from Ed's dad to put at the foot of the bed. I need to start searching thrift stores and yard sales for a small nightstand for my side of the bed. I'm definitely replacing the art we've had hanging forever. No offense to Ed - he loves this print and had it hanging in his apartment when we started dating. But I had to inform him he could take it to the office. I have other ideas I'm super excited about and hoping I'll find/make the time soon to get them done. After the room is done, our closet needs some serious cleaning out and organization but since I can close the doors and no one sees the mess but us I'm saving that for last.

So what do you think???

Friday, February 1, 2013

This Calls for a Celebration!!

I will warn you now, this short post will involve a little bragging by me on Gabrielle.

In Gabrielle's school folder each month is a calendar  where the teacher makes notes on behavior each day. A good behavior day usually is noted with a hand drawn smiley or sticker. For January, Gabrielle received a sticker or smiley every single school day!!

Gabrielle has never had any big issues with behavior (at least not with everyone other than her parents) but the first half of kindergarten there was certainly a learning curve. She needed some time to figure out how to get along and be considerate with everyone. We had several talks about when we are having problems getting along with someone, sometimes we just have to learn to "walk away" and play with another friend for that day. It took a little while for that to sink in and for her to put it into practice. This month I feel like she finally "gets it" and I feel like maybe she is actually listening to something I have told her. Hooray!!

Also, this week she brought home her second report card of the year. At our school we have parent-teacher conferences with each report card. G's teacher was very happy and impressed with Gabrielle's willingness to write and how well she is doing with all of her schoolwork. I left the conference a beaming, smiling, proud Momma. 

I decided this definitely called for a little celebration. Gabrielle wanted to go out for ice cream after dinner tonight is only 30 degrees and very windy. I convinced her into a trip to Krispy Kreme instead. I was actually able to change her mind by informing her Krispy Kreme had ice cream as well as donuts wouldn't you know it, the ice cream machine was not working. Fortunately the chocolate glazed heart shaped donuts lifted her spirits. We each had 1-2 donuts there and brought home a dozen for breakfast tomorrow. So, so bad I know!!

I have to tell you though, if there is a Krispy Kreme in your area you absolutely have to go this month and get the dark chocolate strawberry donut. It is a chocolate glazed donut filled with a strawberry-dark chocolate cream. Oh my, oh my!! It reminded me a lot of a chocolate covered cherry. So delicious. Run and get one ASAP. You absolutely have to try it!