A Glimpse of Our Garden

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Well, the week is rapidly winding down, and I’ve been really busy with our Munchkins, but thought I’d share a little glimpse with you all of our family’s first attempt at gardening. We’ve wanted a garden for several summers now but it’s never worked out until this year. It’s been far more work than I anticipated, but we’re enjoying the fruits of our labor. The picture above was taken just after a lettuce and kale harvest so the greens are looking a little pathetic. They usually look much nicer: bigger and fuller. We’ve gotten a lot of salads out of this garden.

On our deck are some flower boxes that we filled instead with dill and baby greens this year. They’ve done amazingly well and we’ve gotten three harvests out of the baby greens already.

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Green beans have been our easiest and most rewarding endeavor. I pick them three times a week now and we’ve been enjoying lots of cooked and raw green beans. I’ve even made some baby food for Paul…for when he’s ready.

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This is my favorite part of the garden. Back in the spring we were given several organic bell peppers. I pulled out some seeds, just for fun, and planted seeds from red, yellow, orange, and green peppers. And just look, they’ve done beautifully. This picture is about a week old and this morning I counted at least eight little baby peppers going strong. Now we’ll just see if they change colors. 🙂

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That’s about it, other than Lydia’s sunflower patch. But, as I hardly have enough time and energy to keep up with weeding the vegetable garden, I’ve let that go. Surprisingly, the first flower bloomed this week, and was on a mammoth sunflower that had fallen down during a storm. Lydia and I propped it back up and are hoping that’ll be the biggest flower of the summer. If they do well, maybe I’ll put up a picture for you all in a few weeks.

Taylor Home Tour

Welcome to our new home! Would you like to take a look around?

Before we get started, I have a confession to make. I spent the whole morning running around, cleaning, and moving things out of the pictures before I took them. No, our house is not as clean as it looks here. But this is a blog, after all. Maybe I’ll hold this post up as inspiration in the future to keep things clean. 🙂

Anyway, come on in.

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Here is our living room, but let’s start with the upstairs, shall we? Turn to your right.

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Up we go.

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Don’t trip over the baby gate. We recently bought a new one that swings open (much safer for pregnant mommies carrying toddlers!), but it hasn’t arrived yet.

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To your immediate right, you’ll find the Master bedroom.

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The family who sold us this house also gave us a lot of their furniture, including an entire bedroom set for this room. However, we priced out king size mattresses and decided to stick with our queen. Then we couldn’t get our box spring up the stairs so we ended up buying a new bed frame from Ikea. Now I enjoy our new headboard every single night when I read before going to sleep. Then I enjoy it again in the morning while Lydia snuggles with me and I read my Bible and pray. But, go ahead, and have a look around.

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Now we’ll head across the hallway to the baby room/office.

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Glider for Baby. It needs new cushions. Or the current ones need to be washed. Not sure which we’ll do yet.

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Desk for Dan…

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Books and a few other boxes we have yet to sort through…

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Now we’ll head further down the hallway to the girls’ room. Shhhh, Abby’s napping.

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You also probably noticed that I’m in the process of washing Lydia’s sheets.

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The closet does have doors but they have to be reinstalled. When we had the floors put in (did you notice the beautiful new floors?) the workers took out the closet doors in here and they have to be cut to fit above the new floor now.

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I love this part of the room. Eventually Lydia’s kitchen will go in this little nook.

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Just a little further to our “dumping grounds”, that is, the third bedroom that currently holds all of the kids’ clothes. I have to sort through it all, but it’s not my top priority at the moment. This is also where Baby’s bed currently resides, although we plan to move it in to the Baby room/office.

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You’ll notice all that storage across the hall, from the ceiling…

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…down to the floor.

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At the end of the hallway is the bathroom.

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I love the girls’ puppy and elephant towels hanging there so happily. We really do need to install some more hooks though.

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And now we’ll go back downstairs to see the first floor. Notice the nifty shelves on the way down? This is the first time Dan and I have had more shelves than books. It’s nice.

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Here we are again in the living room. Notice the short open door to your right? That’s Lydia’s “dressup closet” and it’s nearly always in use. To close that for all the pictures would have been impossible. It was hard enough keeping the Munchkin in her tutu out of the pictures.

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There’s our Christmas tree.

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We ended up rearranging all of our furniture to accommodate the Christmas decorations. I love having this setup where I can read or work on little projects while I sit between all the Christmas lights. It’s cozy.

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There’s our Beloved Christmas Moose.

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Stockings and the kid-friendly nativity scene arranged by our own Munchkin. Yes, I realize we could have hung the stockings from our fireplace mantle like you’re supposed to. We tried but the hooks we were using just fell off. I looked up real stocking holders, but they weren’t in our budget this year.

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Now through this doorway is the kitchen.

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This breakfast nook is also Dan’s favorite spot to grade papers and plan lectures for the class he’s been teaching.

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Lots of cupboards, lots of counter space. I love this kitchen.

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The kitchen pictures are the most deceiving. The counters are actually covered in appliances. The appliances were under the island, but we’re installing a pretty massive water filter system there and I have to find new homes for everything. I love having my counters nearly bare (easy to clean!), and we’re currently deciding whether or not the coffee pot deserves a permanent spot up there. Dan votes “yes”, I’m leaning toward “no”. Thoughts?

Moving along…

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Here’s the island with a prep sink and everything. So handy.

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Through that door you see just past the island is the laundry area. It cuts right through to the piano room. We’ll get there.

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Washer and dryer behind those closets.

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Drying rack, hamper, and broom back here. We’d like to get that broom to hang up. Haven’t figured out how to do that yet. The hooks just fall down…might have to actually put some holes in the wall…

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Just past the kitchen is that back of our house and the dining area.

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This is the door we actually use. You, as a guest, came in the front door.

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Across from the back door, the first thing you see when you walk in, is our family-less tree. One day it will become a family tree, but that day hasn’t come yet.

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Here’s where all the meals happen. And my sewing.

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Adjacent to the dining room is the piano room. It also currently holds our chest freezer, closet doors to the girls’ room, Abby’s “standing toy”, and that massive water filter system I mentioned earlier.

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It also holds more decorations than any other room in the house. Sparse, I know. We’ll get there.

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And here we come around to the hallway that takes you out. We did a big loop, if you followed all of that.

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Before we go that way, I’ll open this closet door to give you a sneak peak into one of our many closets. I have unpacked sufficiently for now, but the closets are a mess. This is my “mom closet”. It has random toys that haven’t been put away yet, sewing projects, homeschool research materials, and some other miscellaneous items I don’t want the girls to get into.

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We’ll just shut that closet door and make our way out.Did you notice I even closed Lydia’s dress up closet for you? Feel free to use the restroom on your way out. First door on the left. You can just move Lydia’s potty seat. There’s a nifty little hook for it on the side of the sink.

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Well, it’s about lunch time and Abby needs to get up from her nap, so I’ll let you let yourself out. We won’t explore outside today as it’s getting late and it’s pretty cold out there. Have a nice trip home, stay warm, and come again soon!

The Story of Our House

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Back in August I shared the story of our housing hunt.  Today I’d like to share the story of our house.

It had been a long hunt so far when I started praying that we just wouldn’t even look at anymore until it was the “right one”. I was weary of getting my hopes up and then the crushing disappointment that usually followed: the house or neighborhood was no good, or someone else made a better offer.

There was a two-story home in a neighborhood that we liked so we went to go see it. The owners had kept it immaculate. Every inch was decorated to their style but, as they showed us around, it was hard to picture is as ours and not theirs. The price was within our range, but seemed high for the area. We prayed and talked about it. And we waited. We prayed more, talked more, asked our parents for advice. We walked around the neighborhood, talked to neighbors, and even went to look at it again.

It seemed like a good match. Everything in our minds said to go for it. I was desperate to finally end the hunt. But whenever we prayed, we felt unsure. It was confusing. Over and over we had prayed that when we found the right house we would know right away, and with this one we just weren’t sure. Again and again we tried to figure it out, but it just felt like God was giving us an unclear, “Maybe not.”

After a couple weeks with no changes and no new prospects, I started apartment hunting online. It just felt like we’d never find the right house. We still didn’t know if we should offer on the two-story, and we were waiting to see if maybe the price would come down. Then, one weekend, our Realtor took us to look at three more houses.

One was on a busy road. One was moldy-smelling and old. One was huge, but with a small yard. All were out of our price range. We prayed and again felt like God was saying, “Wait.”

At the end of the three viewings our Realtor asked me again what was wrong with the houses so far, what did I want that they didn’t have. I attempted to explain the things I wanted in a home, the most important things. Suddenly her face lit up as she said she had the home for us. We knew the owners, she told us, but she had to get their permission before telling us which house it was because it wasn’t even on the market yet.

Dan and I spent the ride home trying to guess who it could be. The next day he found out and emailed me. My first thought was, “I love that house, but Dan probably won’t want it.” To my surprise, he told me he had prayed and felt this might be our new house.

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The next day we went for a visit and our friends showed us around. We loved it and had no question we wanted it to be our new home. The next weeks were so happy. We had found a house that we loved. It was bigger and more beautiful than anything we had expected to afford. It had a huge yard and was just down the road from a park. It was better than anything we had looked at so far and anything we had hoped or planned for.

Because the house wasn’t on the market yet, we were able to offer the asking price without any competition. The inspections and appraisals went forward and, after what seemed like a very long time to us, we closed on our own house.

Dan and I truly believe that, by praying about every home and trusting the Lord’s leading, God kept us from offering on the other houses because He had something better for us. And now we are enjoying the fruit of the waiting, the prayers, and the obedience, by getting settled in a house that really feels like a home. It’s not the starter house we had in mind. It’s a home we can imagine living in for a very long time.

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I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 40:1

Life Lately…

We’re back! Since I last posted the story of Dan’s new job, life has been a whirlwind. And, while things are still crazy, they are slowing at least enough for me to update you all on the past month and a half.

On September 24 we closed on our new house. Even though we had to wait for wood floors to be put in upstairs, we decided to move in anyway and camp out in the living room until they were done. Dan slept on an air mattress and the girls got a kick out of it every morning when it was time to deflate Daddy’s bed.

That Saturday we got a U-haul and moved all of our stuff into the garage, where it stayed for the next month before we could finally start unpacking.

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Every morning we enjoy the sunshine while we breakfast in our new breakfast nook. And Abby has been practicing her crawling skills by exploring every inch of the house (and eating anything she can find on the floor too).

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In October, we celebrated the wedding of our friends, Aric and Hannah. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful wedding. They are certainly a beautiful couple and we will miss them as Aric serves in the military out in California.

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We have certainly been enjoying the fall weather, and having a yard of our very own. On Saturday we all spent a large chunk of the afternoon raking and playing outside.

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And while Abby has been crawling all over the place, Lydia has been working on her memory verses, including the books of the Old Testament and Psalm 23:


Mostly we are just trying to get unpacked and settled so we can spend this winter together keeping cozy in our new home. We are so thankful for this house, for the changes in our lives lately, and for the way God brings everything together to create such a beautiful story.

The Great House Hunt

You probably already know that Dan and I are in the midst of shopping for a house. It has been a long road so far, sometimes exciting, often disappointing. At the time I am writing this we have gone with our realtor to look at 22 different houses, two of them twice. We’ve driven by more homes and opted not to go look at them for one reason or another. We’ve hearted and starred and saved more homes online whose prices were too high or homes that we thought we might go see in the future. Today I thought I would give you all a glimpse into our housing hunt so far.

I remember the first home Dan and I liked. We had just gotten pre-approved for a mortgage and both of us noticed this cute little home go up for sale. We booked a visit and waited. The family got sick and we had to reschedule. The day before our appointment someone made an offer on the spot and the sellers accepted. So we never did get to see that cute, little house.

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A few days later this charming home came on the market. We called our realtor and got to go see it that night. We prayed and prayed on the way to see the house, not wanting to rush anything. We loved it. The neighborhood seemed perfect, the house was move-in-ready, and the fenced-in back yard had a gate that opened up to soccer fields and a walking trail behind the neighborhood. That night we Skyped Dan’s parents and decided to make an offer. Later we found out that we got beat out by someone else who had made the same offer, but with cash.

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Oh was that disappointing.

A few days later another home came up that was in the same neighborhood. It needed a little work, and it wasn’t as nice, but we jumped on it. Someone else offered way more than the asking price and we lost that one too.

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So the search continued. We looked at a few more. Eventually we found another ranch in another neighborhood that was a little less nice. The house was beautiful though and also move-in-ready. We made an offer and heard back that night, “Is that as high as you can go?”. There was another offer. So we raised our offer a little, but the other offer was “way higher” and we lost that one too.

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So our search has continued. There have been two other homes we’ve really seriously considering offering on, but decided not to for various reasons.

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Some homes have been in bad locations.

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Some have had no yard.

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Some have had damp basements. Some were too close to highways or busy roads and the noise was unbearable. Some have smelled damp or moldy. Some have been cheaply redone and were overpriced.

And so, 22 houses later we are still on our housing search. Every day was ask God to give us the right home, at the right price, in the right time (and that the right time would be soon!). We have a few on our radar right now and I am confident that we will be in a home of our very own…someday.

Tips on Moving Efficiently

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I can’t believe we’ve moved four times in one year. That on top of spending three months in the NICU with Abby and Dan switching jobs. In Lydia’s short life she’s already lived at five different addresses, and that’s if you don’t count her first six months of life spent in the hospital.

You might think that with all this moving Dan and I would be experts at the process, but that’s not really the case. You see…

Move #1: I was pregnant with Lydia, but took lots of time packing boxes. Some sweet girls from church came over to pack my entire kitchen, and the youth group moved us. Three days later I had Lydia and Dan’s parents and grandparents came down to unpack us. It was months before I even started organizing anything.

Move #2: I was pregnant, with Abby this time, and the members of our Bible study offered to move us. I, once again, did a lot of the packing, but as far as the moving went, I didn’t lift a box. This time I was able to do a lot of unpacking, but eventually Dan’s mom did come down and helped me with my kitchen.

Move #3: This move was because a moldy condo was making our family sick, so it was sort of an emergency move. The ladies from our Bible study came and packed us in one night and just a few hours at that. Some of the men in the Bible study did all of the actual moving the following weekend. And as for unpacking, we never did get to do it. The short-term solution was furnished so our stuff mostly just stayed in boxes.

Move #4: This move happened a week after Abby was born, and as I was recovering from the c-section, I didn’t help with it at all. Dan’s mom packed whatever needed to be packed and the youth group moved us again. They unpacked my kitchen. A couple weeks later, Dan’s mom and aunt came down to unpack us.

Move #5: This brings us to our current move. We evacuated our home with only a few hours notice. The basement where we are staying is furnished, so once again, a lot of our stuff was headed for storage. We packed as quickly as possible and are living on meager belongings while trying to keep the rest in boxes. The easiest things about this move were that we didn’t have a baby in the hospital, I wasn’t recovering from labor and delivery or a c-section, and I’m not pregnant. The hard thing was that we did it all with a baby and toddler in tow.

All that to display that we are not moving experts. But we have picked up a few tricks to optimize the time and money involved in the gruesome moving process.

Don’t pay for boxes.
Did you know you can walk into any GFS and ask for boxes? Sometimes the pickings are meager, but sometimes there are some really nice boxes just waiting to be broken down. Almost anytime we’ve gone, we’ve been able to snatch enough boxes to fill our car. We never bother to break them down, we just fit what we can. If you’re planning far enough ahead, you can have as many boxes as you need. Since we’re always making last-minute moves, we usually run out of boxes and have to get a little creative.

Oh, and don’t worry about only grabbing big boxes. We took whatever was available and found the little boxes great for certain kitchen items, office supplies, or even food.

Mark ’em up.
Label boxes. It only takes a couple of seconds and later you’ll be glad you did. I try to label boxes with the room and a brief description of what’s inside (ie – “Kitchen Spices”). If there’s an item you might need right away, label that too (“toilet paper”).

Use what you’ve got.
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Don’t use up big boxes to pack away suitcases and duffle bags. Fill those up too! Just make sure you don’t put anything in there that you’re going to need urgently as you can’t just write on these with a permanent marker the way you might with free boxes from GFS.

Pack with towels
When it comes time to pack the kitchen, wrap up breakable items in your bathroom towels and wash cloths. It’ll save the boxes you’d need for packing linens and it’ll keep your fragile items from breaking during the move.

Keep important items handy.
There are certain items that you’re going to need when you get to your new location. Keep that in mind during packing so that items are either left out or clearly labeled and you know where to find them. Some that we find important are:

Bedding (clean and ready to use) – Before you know what happened to moving day it’ll be late and all you’ll want to do is go to sleep. The first thing you should do when you get to your new place is make up the beds.

Overnight Bag – toiletries, pajamas, clothing for the next day

Diapers and Wipes – if you have little ones

Cleaning Supplies – I know everyone thinks they’ll be unpacked before they need to clean, or at least I always did. But one day you move, then you get busy and don’t finish unpacking, and next thing you know your bathroom is moldy (not that that’s happened to us once…or twice…)

Important Papers – whether it’s a social security card, medical records, or your tax returns, there are times when you’re going to need these and you’ll want to know where to find them, especially if you’ll be house-hunting (like us!) or are dealing with insurance companies while your preemie is still in the hospital on a feeding tube (don’t get me started on that one!)

Toys or Books – Again, if you have little ones. Something has to keep them busy while you unpack.

Food and Kitchen Necessities – I usually end up pulling out a pot or two, serving spoon, a bowl and silverware each, water bottles, cutting board and knife. Sure, you could just eat out until you’re unpacked, but that’ll cost more. And, you could just use disposables, but that would cost more too.

Dish Soap and Sponge – If you decide to go with the real dishes and homemade food route…

Computer and Camera – So you don’t have to take a break from any important emails, or from updating your blog, in my case.

A Wooden Spoon – This is Dan’s absolute favorite all-purpose kitchen utensil. If I want his help in the kitchen, there must be a wooden spoon handy.

Bag up closet clothing.
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We learned this trick when we ran out of boxes during Move #3. Instead of painstakingly folding up every item in your closet, grab some kitchen draw string trash bags. Rip a hole in the bottom center of the bag and stick a bunch of hangers through the hole. Pull the bag over the rest of the clothes and stuff everything in as you draw the bag tightly closed. Tie shut. Now you’re good to go. These won’t stack as nicely as boxes, but when you get to your new house you can stick them right in the closet and rip the bag off. It’s so easy, it’s worth the unstackability. And if you use white bags you can even label them with the correct closet.

Keep Things Simple
Unless you have some weird circumstances (like us) where you’re storing items for an extended period of time, moving doesn’t have to be complicated. Just box things up as well as you can and get them unboxed as quickly as possible so you can enjoy your new home. Things don’t have to be pretty and if you have to mix items from different rooms, that’s ok too. Even if you’re not on a time crunch, there are too many good things in life to waste away hours packing things perfectly.

Be ok with a Little Chaos
You might have clutter for a while. You might even have to put the beautiful “just because I love you” flowers from your husband in a free North Face water bottle. It’ll be ok. The mess will be cleared up soon, and even if it isn’t, the world won’t end over a little clutter and the flowers will still look beautiful.

I’m preaching to the choir here though because the clutter around here is driving me crazy. It’s likely that the girls and I will be escaping for a week up North at some point, especially if this chaos continues for much longer…

Well, that’s all. Happy moving. And if you want to give somebody a really nice gift, offer to pack their kitchen.

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Not Home Yet

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Last Thursday Dan called at around 6:00 in the evening to let me know that we’d be moving that night. I had nothing packed except for a bag of the girls’ clothes. Sometimes life feels to crazy to be for real.

Yes, this is our fourth move in a year. And, no, we don’t particularly enjoy the moving process. That’s not why we do it. Each and every one of our moves was for a perfectly good and logical reason, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. This time we had to move because our apartment building was filled with lots of smokers and the various forms of smoke were filling our apartment and making us sick. The real concern, though, was for little Abby. As an early preemie, Abby is already considered high-risk to have chronic lung problems and second-hand smoke was only adding to her risk factors. After seeking some advice from our family and doctor, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to stay out our lease.

It took a while, but eventually our apartment management released us. We thought we had another place lined up for the move, but once we got out of our lease and gave the landlord a call we realized it wasn’t going to work out after all. With two weeks left to be out of our apartment we still didn’t have a place to go.

Sometimes I look back at the things that have happened to us in the past year and I can’t believe it. There have been so many unexpected emergencies, changes, and a lot of waiting too. I can’t help but wonder what will happen next.

So, with two weeks to homelessness, a generous family from church welcomed us into their basement for as long as we need to stay. In a flurry of an evening we packed up everything we thought we might need for the next couple of days and drove off through the night to our new temporary home.

I never did get to that laundry room.

As we’ve adjusted to our new situation and discussed where to go from here, it has struck me over and over again how not in control we are. It doesn’t matter how much planning we do, what security nets we lay out, what advice we seek, God can change our lives in an instant. It would be scary, except that we are His children.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
Romans 8:14

In church this Sunday we sang a lot of songs that were quite fitting to our current situation. One that I especially liked is called “Behold Our God”.  It makes me think of the last chapters of Job.  Job’s life had completely fallen apart but God came in and reminded Job of how small Job was and how big God is.  God is on the throne.  God created the world.  He is above all things.  Again, it would be scary if Job wasn’t God’s child too.  So, this song reminded me of those chapters in Job and the message they contain:  God is the one seated on the throne, making decisions, leading His children, doing the impossible.

Dan and I had a lot of plans last year. I think God changed all of them. And, by His grace, I’m ok with that. I know His plans our better. So now we’re pressing on, seeking His guidance again, and letting Him lead.

Who has held the oceans in His hand?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice

Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His Words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Who has felt the nails upon His hands
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior risen now to reign!

Behold our God seated on His throne
Come let us adore Him
Behold our King nothing can compare
Come let us adore Him!

Lydia’s Room Redo

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Last month I spent a day organizing and rearranging our master bedroom. It was a lot of work but instantly worth it! Our room remains clean and happy and is my little haven in our home. I had so much fun doing it and have so enjoyed the results, that I decided to set apart every other Friday for big projects like this one. Then, illness, travel, and birthdays messed up my plans and it took much more than two weeks for me to enjoy another “Big Project Friday” (as I’ve started to call them). But, at last, it happened.

And, no, I still haven’t gotten to the laundry room.

The higher priority this time was Lydia’s room. It wasn’t really a disaster. There was just one problem: toys, and lots of them. Too many toys. And stuffed animals. And books. Everywhere.

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I thought I could take care of Lydia’s room and the linen closet and the laundry room, but Lydia’s room alone turned out to be just enough to fill a whole day. I must say, I’m particularly pleased with this redo. I sorted through piles of clothes from newborn to 18 month and ended up with two huge bags of clothing to give away and share with friends. I went through all of Lydia’s book and toys and determined that we really did lose her pink flower sunglasses. I found her missing baby doll bottle. Now I know where all of Lydia’s stuff is and where it belongs. And, like all of my organizing projects, this one got a lot worse before it got better.

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So, without further ado, here are the pictures. (I apologize for the quality of these pictures. Lydia’s room doesn’t have a lot of natural or artificial lighting. It’s fine in real life, but not great for pictures.)

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Lydia loves it. I love it. And, I’m pretty sure Dan loves it too. Lydia spends much more time playing in her room than she used to. The light switch on the wall actually turns on her lamp. And there’s a place for everything sorted and neatly put away into boxes and bins in the closet or under the bed (or in the bag next to the kitchen for easy access to the toy food, pots, pans, and aprons). At first I was afraid Lydia was too young to remember where things went. She was busily cooking some pretend soup and pulling out toys one after another. Later, she came out into the living room and I poked my head in to find that she had put (almost) everything away in its place. This is one happy Mommy with two happy rooms in this house.

Perhaps I shall tackle the laundry room next?

Bedroom Remodel…Almost

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Last Friday I threw my routine out the window and spent the whole day organizing our bedroom. Still a mess from when we moved in, I just haven’t had a good chunk of time to tackle this project, so I’ve left it a mess for far too long. When Dan commented on the mess (for the first time in six months) I decided enough was enough. I’m almost too embarrassed to share the “before” pictures, but this is our real life. And, they make the “after” pictures so much more impressive.

Here’s the view when you walk into our bedroom:
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I managed to rearrange our furniture in a way that made the room feel more cozy. And I successfully hid Lydia’s old crib in the back of our closet. It’s not ideal, but it’s practical for the amount of storage space we have right now.

To the left you can see our closet:
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I promise I only did a tiny little bit of mess-transferring. And the only messes I transferred were transferred to their rightful locations.

When you turn around you can see Abby’s crib and Dan’s desk:
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Now Dan has a relatively spacious place to work away from the rest of the family. And he can actually get to it now that I moved his bike!

So, no, we didn’t actually remodel anything, but the change is just as refreshing. Instead of costing us a small fortune, this project was free. In fact, I found 74 cents in the process! I can’t help but grin when I walk into our room now, and I found myself wandering back there Friday night just to keep looking at it. And our routine-free day was actually not stressful or crazy like I imagined. In fact, I’m thinking of making it a regular practice to occasionally ditch the routine and tackle a project, just to keep things interesting.

Next up: That Elusive Laundry Room!

How We Ate Off of $35 a Week

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The title for this post should really be, “How we ate off of $35 a week while feeding teenage boys once a week, but while also cheating a little…and why we could never go back.” But that seemed a little long. Now, I know there are plenty of people who have eaten more frugally, more strategically, and more healthfully. But this is just a post to share what we did, how it worked, and why we couldn’t do it now.

The Tricks and the Changes

There were no tricks. I didn’t coupon. I didn’t even really shop sales. We just cut back and ate cheaply. No desert, no beverages, no condiments, no recipes with lots of ingredients. The simpler the meals, the cheaper they seemed to be. We continued to eat on this budget, and these types of meals, until shortly after Lydia came home from the hospital. Due to some health issues, we started to cut out dairy. We had already cut back on meat to save money. At that point, we were given a book by Dr. Fuhrman. After reading the book (Disease Proof Your Child), we changed our diet pretty significantly. We eliminated dairy completely, cut out refined grains and sugar, and increased fruits, veggies, beans, seeds/nuts, and whole grains. After this change we found that we just couldn’t go back to eating the way we had before because we would literally get sick: stomach pain, sluggishness, vomiting, and increased colds were the result during our “backslides”. Since that change we have continued to totter back and forth between more healthful and less healthful, more expensive and less, trying to find the right balance for our family.

The Cheating

One way this meal plan worked is that we didn’t have to pay for lunches. At the time I was helping a family during the mornings and they fed me lunch. They probably never knew (until now) how significant those lunches were to us at the time. (Shoutout to Kelly! She has a blog too. You can read it here.) Dan skipped lunch entirely. So lunches were just out of the picture.

We also started shopping at a wonderful store called Joe Randazzo’s. It’s an indoor produce market with ridiculously low prices. I don’t know what we would do without good old Randazzo’s.

Breakfast

Breakfasts were very simple. Either we ate oatmeal with brown sugar, homemade bread with peanut butter, or eggs occasionally. And usually we added in a banana apiece.

Our breakfasts haven’t changed much since then. We often eat oatmeal, but now it’s topped with either honey, maple syrup, dates, fruit, or almond milk. And we still usually add in a banana each.

Mac and Cheese

Dan absolutely refused to stoop so low as to eat Ramen noodles. We did, however, enjoy mac and cheese (whole wheat, Kroger brand) once a week. It was our favorite and most expensive meal. Two boxes with two slices of American cheese melted on top, topped with garlic pepper. Served with a glass of milk and salad on the side.

Mac and cheese was the first meal that had to go when we changed our diet. I added up the saturated fat from that one meal and was horrified. When we have wanted to enjoy something reminiscent of this meal I have occasionally made Hurry Up Alfredo.

Hambuger Helper

Dan and I spotted a deal for Hamburger Helper one week. Combined with coupons, I think we got 10 boxes for $8 or something like that. Realizing what a steal it was, we went back and bought ten more boxes with the same deal. Then I bought beef on sale and would cook half the suggested amount to go with the box meal.

Later I read the ingredient labels: tons of salt in a variety of forms, MSG, transfat, and (of course) plenty of dairy. So the hamburger helper had to go. I have learned, though, that many Hamburger Helper inspired meals can be sort of duplicated from scratch and even using lentils instead of meat for a cheaper and healthier meal, like lentil sloppy joes, and lentil tacos.

Spaghetti

Whole wheat noodles. Store bought spaghetti sauce. A can of green beans. Oh, and don’t forget the Parmesan cheese. Dinner for under $3.

We still eat spaghetti, but now we add more nutritious ingredients: vegetables and sometimes beans. We replaced canned veggies with fresh or frozen and always serve a salad along side. And when we threw dairy out, the Parmesan had to go with it.

Beans and Rice

Bean and rice doesn’t have to be boring and it wasn’t for us. We topped our slow cooker refried beans with brown rice, sour cream, cheese (bought in bulk from GFS), salsa and tortilla chips. And we ate it twice a week, plus leftovers when we didn’t have anything else.

We still eat beans and rice, but without all the cheese and sour cream. We’ve added guacamole, lettuce and occasionally some tomatoes or sauteed bell peppers and onions.

What about those Teenage Boys?

We hosted a Bible study every Friday night and usually had 6-8 teenage to young twenty-something guys come over for dinner and discussion. This was often another meat night, but not always. Sometimes we had breakfast for dinner, sometimes soup, and sometimes a new casserole recipe. I just looked for recipes without many ingredients and that only had meat or cheese, but not both. Since the rest of the week was cheap, I usually got about $10 for this meal, which felt like a lot at the time.

Weekends

I never planned meals for Saturday or Sunday. We scrounged. We ate leftovers. We once had to go to the store because there was nothing to eat. Often we were invited to a family’s house from church and they fed us. Weekends were the hardest, least predictable, and most disappointing days. I eventually learned that planning a meal for Sunday made coming home from church much more appealing, but at the time we just didn’t have any money left.

The Lord Provides

It is true that eating healthy costs more. Even when you do cut out meat and dairy, condiments and dessert. But we have observed that with each step toward healthier (and more expensive) eating, the Lord has provided additional income, a gift, gift card, or pay raise to provide everything we need to be good stewards with our time, health, finances, and nutrition.