raising a mommy

raising a mommy

Saturday, March 29, 2014

why i love envelopes

Today's blessing:

Have you discovered the envelope system yet? If you haven’t, you really should! Along with a solid budget and a frugal mindset, it’s how we've managed to not only make it on $1100 a month since August, but we've managed to pay off some debt. Here’s what you do:
  1.  Read the Total Money Makeover, take a Financial Peace University class, or spend some time on Dave Ramsey’s website learning about the baby steps.
  2. Complete baby step #1. (Have $1000 in savings.)
  3. Make a list of how much you spend on everything during the month. Eliminate everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Reduce everything that is. Seriously. Reduce it until you can’t imagine possibly living on that little.
  4. Make an envelope for every item that’s left on the list. For example, we have envelopes for car/renters insurance, gifts (so Christmas doesn't sneak up on you), pet expenses, clothing, eating out, car expenses, charitable giving, and discretionary. (The last one usually ends up being an extension of the eating out budget, but it’s there just in case we have a small expense that we didn't anticipate or find a really great sale on something.) Groceries get a separate wallet, because, let’s face it: an envelope wouldn't last long going grocery shopping at least once a week. Gas, student loan payments, and phone bills go on the debit card.
  5.  Every month, put the pre-determined amount of cash in the envelope. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you have no money in your gift envelope in December, you better start baking cookies. If the grocery money runs out, start rummaging through the freezer or pantry.
  6. Spend every penny of your income that’s left paying off your debt. If you don’t have any debt, you’re welcome to some of ours. We have plenty. (All student loans, though. No credit cards or car payments or anything like that. I guess if we have to have debt, I would prefer that kind…)

I first truly appreciated the envelope system when we got our $600 car insurance bill, and I didn't flinch when paying it. I just took the money out of the envelope and deposited it in the bank. You get a break if you pay all six months at a time rather than going monthly, so it’s definitely saved us plenty of money (and stress) in the long run! I no longer dread paying bills every month, because I know exactly how much we have and how much needs to go where!

The whole "pay cash" "gazelle intense" "live like no one else" lifestyle is something that the dork in me is absolutely obsessed with. If you're even the least bit intrigued, we should chat. Come over for a cup of tea. Or have me over for a cup of tea. Or we could go out for coffee/tea/pie/lunch, but you have to give me plenty of notice so I can make sure I have money in the budget for it. Seriously. It's a little disturbing how much I love to talk about this stuff and share what I've learned.

If you want to get started, you can purchase fancy pretty envelopes from a site like this, you can make your own, or you can do what I did:

As you can see, they've been loved. I hope to soon replace them with cute little cloth pouches, but it's not quite at the top of my to do list yet!

Friday, March 28, 2014

fmf: mighty

Here are the rules:
1. Write for five minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back to Lisa Jo Baker's blog with the rest of the Five Minute Friday-ers.
3. Comment on the person who linked up before you.

Please join us!

Today's prompt: Mighty


"Motherhood is the holy, grueling work of being refined by the fire of sleep deprivation."
-Lisa Jo Baker

Wow, now isn't that something. You've heard of baptism by fire, jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, etc etc etc. Motherhood is so much. It is gentle and loving and generous, yes. But it is also exhausting, grueling, difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. There's a fire in it.

And that is what makes us mighty.

It's not that we aren't afraid to mother the child or make the life-long irreversible commitment. Sometimes it's not even motherhood specifically. Sometimes, it's not that we're not afraid to take the leap to sign up for that race even if we're no where near in shape for it yet. Or call that person that we met at church or playgroup or the gym and actually set up that playdate (and that's especially hard for awkward little me!). Or write that book even if we don't really believe that people will want to read it or that we're ready to share that part of us. It's not that we're not afraid.

We're just mighty.


Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Today's blessing:
Human interaction - I don't need a whole lot of it, but I do need some!

For some reason, this word has been weighing on my heart lately. Perhaps it's the lack of physical face-to-face fellowship I've experienced lately. Don't get me wrong - I don't really mind all that much. I'm not a big people person. I'm not one of those who needs human interaction in order to thrive. Of course I like spending time with people I like, but I don't mind going a whole day seeing no one but my hubby and kid.

But fellowship...that's important.

What is fellowship, exactly? It's more than just having people around for company. It's more than being in the same room as a group of people, even if you have similar interests and happen to be talking about the same topic. I learned about fellowship in college. I have my friend, Hannah, to thank, for convincing me to come to my first FCA meeting my freshman year. (FCA=Fellowship of Christian Athletes.) While there were very few of us in the group who were actually still actively involved in athletics, it was still some of the best (and certainly most enriching) fellowship time that I can remember.

To me,
fellowship is Carl and Josh with their guitars leading us in worship music, with Kevin singing (horribly off-key, which I love about him!) behind me.

fellowship is Anna closing her eyes, grin spread wide across her beaming face, leading us in an earnest prayer.

fellowship is laughing, then crying, then laughing again, all within a five minute span, then doing it all over again, sometimes not even knowing why you're laughing or crying.

fellowship is the duct tape olympics - being duct taped to a wall by your team and staying up just longer than your roommate to win the round.

fellowship is VeggieTales during finals.

fellowship is milk and cookies.

What does your fellowship look like?

Friday, March 21, 2014

fmf: joy

Here are the rules:
1. Write for five minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back to Lisa Jo Baker's blog with the rest of the Five Minute Friday-ers.
3. Comment on the person who linked up before you.

Please join us!

Today's prompt: Joy


I've always been intrigued by the phrase "choose joy." I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. According to my dictionary app, joy is "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying."

Sounds great, but not exactly something you can choose. At least, not directly.

If joy is caused by something else, something outside of you, other than yourself, it's not something you can choose. You can, however, set yourself up for it. Follow me on this. It may get a little rough, because I'm still working it out myself as I go. That's the whole point of Five Minute Fridays, right?

I'm currently reading "How to Expand Love" by the Dalai Lama. Brilliant, but that's another post in itself. One of his biggest points is that you may not be able to change the behavior of others, but you can change how you view it. Now, I don't believe in reincarnation, but I'm fascinated by his explanation of it in this book. If, in fact, we are reincarnated an infinite number of times, as is everyone else in the world, then at some point, every person on this planet was once your mother, father, brother, sister, child, best friend, etc. Therefore, in a past or future life, you loved them so much that you would give your life for them. Crazy, right? Using that train of thought, it makes sense that you should want to extend love to them, even if they have hurt you in this life.

I don't know if you've noticed this like I have, but the more you love on others, the more you get back. Now, that doesn't always make it easy, because some people just won't seem to want to be decent to you no matter how nice you are to them, and some people just make it plain old hard to be nice to them in the first place, but keep trying. Sorry for the cliche, but you really do reap what you sow.

And if you sow love all around you, isn't joy going to be a natural byproduct?


Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

yum: the easiest chicken ever

Today's blessing:
My slow cooker

Have I used that one before? I'm extremely grateful for it, so it would be appropriate to consider it more than one day's blessing!

This is seriously the easiest thing you could possibly do with chicken. It's not great for a meal on it's own, but it is about the best basic recipe you could ask for. Here's what you do:

1. Gather your ingredients: Crock pot, chicken, and water. That's it. I'm serious.

2. Place the second and third ingredients inside the first. You'll want enough water to nearly cover the chicken, but it doesn't have to cover it completely.

3. Cook on low until it's done - maybe five or six hours, depending on how much chicken you have.

It doesn't look very appetizing when it's done.
That's it. Take it out, shred it, and put it in chicken pot pie, chicken noodle soup, a salad, enchiladas, wraps, sandwiches, etc. I'm sure you could get more creative and add seasonings while you cook it or even make a broth out of the water, but I haven't gotten that fancy.

So easy, and so convenient to have a couple containers of this, already cooked, in the freezer ready to go whenever I need a few cups of shredded chicken!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

time flies: a two year photo shoot

Today's blessing:

Really, she is wonderful. She's been our family photographer for a little over two years now, and I couldn't be happier with absolutely everything she's done for us. She took the picture that's been at the head of my blog for a year now, and she took the one with which I will soon be replacing it. (I just have to decide which one to use and have her watermark it...it's such a tough decision!) Ellie is tasteful, classy, professional, extremely reasonable, and very quick. I've seen her work with families, senior pictures, babies, weddings, maternity photos...it's all great. If you're in the Twin Cities or surrounding area and are in need of someone to photograph anything, I cannot recommend her strongly enough. Check out her facebook page to see some more examples of her work and learn how to contact her. You won't regret it.

A couple weeks ago, Husband, P, and I met up with her at our alma mater. There was something going on on campus, so we weren't able to use several of our preferred locations, but the chapel and atrium proved to be wonderful back ups, and Ellie was able to do great work with the space. There were even some janitors cleaning and students studying nearby who didn't give us weird looks while we were taking the pictures, so that was a nice bonus - Auggies are pretty awesome! (Ellie would probably agree - she married one.)

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I really do just like Ellie and her work that much. She's pretty great!

Look at that face!

Yup, another future Auggie coming September, 2014

Priceless moment caught on camera...

My heart melts every time I see this

I don't like this one, but it's only because she looks like such a kid, and not a toddler at all. Not okay!

P's ao dai from Auntie J. She stole the show at my in-law's Lunar New Year party that night!

Seriously. Heart. Melting.

Monday, March 10, 2014

our little girl: 25 months

Since the developmental milestones are much less defined after 2 years, I'm not going to do a "formal" update anymore like I have been. However, I know there are some people out there who want to be kept up to date on all of P's remarkable developments, so I'll still share some of our fun from the past month, as well as a few cute pictures!

P continues to be stellar in every way. Yesterday was actually 25 months, but it was a busy day, so we're playing catch up!

Our biggest developments this month:
P successfully said her ABCs from start to finish!

Her vocabulary continues to develop at an astounding rate. I don't know that she's learning new words, but she's getting better at putting them into sentences.

She's also getting a lot better at using correct pronouns. There's not so much mixing up of "me" and "I" and "you." It's quite impressive, actually.

P learned that she's going to be a big sister! She loves snuggling with the baby in mommy's tummy and reading books to baby. Cutest quote of the month (as she's patting my stomach): "Hi baby. I'm big sister P!" Doesn't that make your heart melt?!

She has also rediscovered vegetables this month. Yay! She loves peas, carrots (especially with butter and brown sugar), and corn. We're still working on green beans, but at this point, I'm not going to push it!

Now for some cute pictures (we did a 2 year/new baby reveal photo shoot last month, and I will be sharing a bunch of those pictures later this week, but they deserve their own post!)

Me: P, is that a truck?
P: No, a fullvozer. (Translation: bulldozer)

Playing in the most amazing cardboard box with friend S.

I know the lighting isn't great, but it was so darn cute I had to share it!

She asked to do the dishes. I hope this is a trend that continues for many years to come. With as much as I hate doing dishes, she could make bank when she starts earning an allowance!

P with a baby in her belly.

P reading to the baby in mommy's belly.

Friday, March 7, 2014

have books, must read

Today's blessing:

My friends, I am quite literally surrounded by blessings all the time. Of course I mean a comfortable home, loving friends and family, beautiful weather (sunny, snowy, rainy, or windy), and plenty of time at home with my baby toddler. (I'm still getting used to that.) However, for the sake of this post, I mean books. They are everywhere.

I grew up a reader. In third grade when there was a monthly competition to see who could read the most pages, I won every month except one. (And I think she lied. Really, no one in their right mind would read as much as I did!) I was the girl who finished the 600 minute reading challenge in two days one year. (Remember, where you read 600 minutes and you got a free ticket to Six Flags?) I remember my mom telling me to put down my book and go outside. So I took my book outside. Apparently, that wasn't what she had in mind, so when she tried to take my book away, I climbed a tree and read up there. I'm not joking. There is photo evidence somewhere in my parent's house.

While I won't be completely heartbroken if my little girl doesn't love reading quite as much as me, I am definitely relieved that she enjoys books.

Sometimes you just need to escape to another world and live someone else's life. Or sometimes it's good to remind yourself that your life really isn't all that bad. Whatever your reason for reading, it is a good one, and you will be a better person for it!

I've really fallen off the reading wagon lately, so my for my "lenten discipline" this year, I'm going to read more. I don't know how giving up chocolate or coffee will make me a better person in the long run, but I know that reading certainly can.

I recently had the opportunity (joy, privilege, honor, etc) to hear the Dalai Lama speak at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

We were in the seventh row. Absolutely amazing. He was such a cute little old man, and so funny!
Hearing his simple brilliance inspired me to pick up a book that I started a long time ago but never finished:

I'm pretty excited to get back into this one!

What should be next on my list? While I like to be entertained, I'm looking for books with substance. I'm thinking about some Donald Miller and possibly Peter Gomes, but I'm definitely open to suggestions!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

top ten thursday: winter

Today's blessing:
A warm, comfortable home

I've decided to start something new and sporadic: Top Ten Thursday. Every Thursday (that I remember/have time/can think of something) I'm going to post a top ten list. Eventually I'd like to switch it to Tuesday, because I think "Top Ten Tuesday" sounds better, but I'm at my computer now and have a few minutes, so you're going to get Top Ten Thursday this week! I actually started this particular post back at the beginning of November, but then life happened and it got put on the back burner!

I love winter. I really do. And that's a good thing, because there is a whole lot of it where I live! For us, it would be more appropriate if the groundhog saw his shadow and gave us six more weeks of winter in mid-March. My family's winter adventure of the day: getting the car out of the driveway. No joke. Here's how it started:

Fun, right?

What you can't see is that:
1. The snow actually surrounds the car; it's not just piled up against the driver's door.
2. As we discovered once we finally got the car backed out, there was actually so much snow under the car that it had beached itself. (Is that the right term?) Yeah, the tires weren't actually on the ground.

Turns out that this snow bank wasn't the only obstacle between my husband and his play practice, though. He actually got stuck again at the end of the driveway.

But I digress. I really love winter, and here are my ten favorite things about it, in no particular order:

Hot Chocolate
I can't think of a better beverage when the snow is flying. A shot of Bailey’s might not hurt either, for those of you who are not pregnant or nursing!

Soup is to winter what salad is to summer. Is there anything better on a cold day than grilled cheese and tomato soup? Or chicken soup? Or really any kind of soup?

Nice warm cozy sweaters with chunky turtle necks…so wonderful!

Especially this winter since I've discovered the joy of making (and selling) my own, I love cute hats!

And scarves, too. I got a couple really pretty ones in Thailand a few years ago, and I love showing them off in the winter!

Snow on the Trees
There aren't many things that are prettier than glittering snow clinging to the branches of a tree.

Snow on the Ground
Or the smooth ground after the snow has just fallen...

Snow Swirling Around
Or the flakes dancing in the air!

What a great workout, and you rarely have to worry about getting overheated! Plus, when you're done, you can come inside and drink hot chocolate!

Self explanatory.

Well, there you have it - my first top ten.

Please note: I'm trying to stay positive as we enter our fifth month of winter, especially knowing that we probably have at least a month and a half to go. If you don't like winter, I don't want to hear about it. Help me out and keep things positive by sharing your favorite things about this season!

Cute hats - mine made by me, P's made by our ridiculously talented friend, Kate.

The view from our porch this morning.

The view from our porch at supper time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

yum: whole wheat tortillas

Today's blessing:
Good kitchen stuff that make cooking easy

Disclaimer: I sell Pampered Chef. This entry is not meant to be a commercial, but I will be sharing a recipe and some of the tools I use to help make the making of the food easier. If this kind of thing annoys you, you can either stop reading or attempt to ignore it. Also, if you've made this recipe or a similar one, please feel free to share your tips in the comments!

I have recently decided that I need to be more intentional about what I put into my body. I’m focusing on eating more “real” food, with the help of this wonderful website! I’ve made two of their recipes with great success, so I thought I’d share one of them with you! (The third was a complete failure, but that was my fault.)

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Step one: gather your ingredients
That's right, only three of them! Actually, there is a fourth, but I didn't think you needed to see my cup of water.
 Step two: mix them up
The original recipe calls for you to use the dough hook attachment, which I didn't have. This one worked just fine!
Step three: divide them up
This is where I started to appreciate my pastry mat. I'm horrible at eye-balling measurements, but this worked like a dream!

Step four: let them sit
Self explanatory.

Step five: roll and cook
This is where the first true wonder of the pastry mat came into play. The writer of the original recipe was very concerned about using too much flour to roll out the tortilla. I used none. Also, I didn't have to guess if I was close to 8-10 inches!
Then it rolled right off the mat! It was amazing! Sorry for the awkward picture; I was using my camera's self-timer option.

I cooked mine in my 12" nonstick skillet, and it worked like a dream. The first time I made one, I put a little oil in the pan, as the recipe said. However, I didn't like the greasy-oily look and feel it gave my otherwise very healthy tortilla, so I didn't use any oil for the rest of them. If you aren't using a non-stick pan, you may need the oil. Then I used my handy tongs to flip them, and I was all set!

They have so much more character than the perfectly round, boring ones you buy in a bag at the store!

The Recipe:

Whole Wheat Tortillas
from 100 Days of Real Food
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used olive oil, because that's what I bought in the gallon jug at CostCo, but you can use whatever kind you have on hand.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or a little less. I tend to use less salt than any recipe calls for.)
  • 1 cup warm water
  1. Combine flour, oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a dough hook (or not, if you don't have one!) mix until crumbly: about 3-5 minutes. Scrape the sides as needed.
  2. With the mixer still running, gradually add the water, mixing until the dough becomes smooth.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 12 pieces (or however many tortillas you want). I use the handy measurements on the edge of my pastry mat to help me get my pieces relatively even.
  4. Form the dough into balls, flatten them slightly, and put them on a baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap. Let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or up to an hour. Meanwhile, heat your skillet over medium-high heat. You'll want to give it plenty of time to get nice and hot.
  5. Roll out each ball into an 8-10 inch circle (or circle-ish shape). Grease your pan with a little bit of oil if you need to, and transfer the tortillas, one at a time, into your skillet. Cook them until they are puffy and slightly brown, about 30-45 seconds per side.
  6. Allow them to cool, and either refrigerate or freeze them within an hour.
This time, I made a double batch and froze half. They make a great breakfast with a scrambled egg, salsa, and a little cheese. A quick and easy lunch is a little bit of turkey or chicken, cheese, and whatever veggies you have on hand - yesterday I had tomato, spinach, and avocado. Yum! Then supper was chicken enchiladas. Delicious! I will probably never buy tortillas again... (That's a lie. I'll probably get lazy/busy at some point, especially after I have more than one child and have to go back to work, but I will resent the store bought tortillas with every bite for being less healthy and far less delicious.)

If you are interested in purchasing any of the Pampered Chef products I feature in this post, I hope you'll shoot me an email or visit my website. If you're in the southwest Minnesota area, you're welcome to come over and raid my kitchen to try them out, first! If you decide you can't live without the skillet, but you just can't afford to pay full price, you might be interested to know that you can get it for 60% off in April just by collecting $200 in orders from friends and family. Then you can also get the pastry mat for 50% off! Again, shoot me an email if you might be interested!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

an announcement!

Today's blessing:
Too many to count!

Well, most of you probably got here via facebook, so there's a good chance you saw my profile picture update. Just in case you didn't...

That's right, in September of 2014, we will become a family of four! I have so many amazing pictures thanks to Ellie and can't wait to share them, but for now, I'm going to go to bed, because turning food into a human is exhausting!