Thursday, January 28, 2010

Advice for College Presidents

Often I wonder how I got this job, that of full-time mommy, gentle and capable manager of home and hearth. A job for which I had zero preparation.

Most days I feel like an Army general who never went to basic training. Leading small, lower-ranking people who wholeheartedly put their trust in me, who believe I know exactly what I'm doing. I masquerade as one who is competent and ready, but worry that at any moment someone will properly examine my credentials and discover I'm a fraud.

As the Fake-General-Mommy, I frequently wonder how I got here.

How is it that none of my education covered anything I actually do in real life? How is it that I spent precious time and energy reading books and writing papers on things like European and American consumer culture and examining Western hegemony...yet most days I simply do not have a clue?

Perhaps colleges and universities need to revise their course offerings and graduation requirements.

Women's Studies should spend more time on how you feel like you're going to die when giving birth and less time on gender as a social construct. And speaking of construct, I will tell you something that can never be reconstructed: stretch marks. Where is the course on that?

General Education requirements should include topics like:
  • The Big Bang Theory: What Happens When Two First-Born's Marry
  • How Not to Panic When Your Child Asks You What Sex is in the Middle of Church
  • How to Maintain June Cleaver-esque Composure During Hormonal Shifts
  • How to Administer First-Aid Even if Blood and Vomit Make You Pass Out
I could have used those courses.

Instead of internships at law firms, students should have to live with real families {the ones with real children} and try to do it on their own for a week. Instead of Student-Teachers, "Student-Mommies."

Unless you can simultaneously drill multiplication facts while preparing a healthy dinner and answering questions like "Mommy, have you ever caught on fire?" while keeping your newly-potty-trained toddler from peeing on the couch {again,} you should not be able to graduate.

So for all of you college presidents who read my blog, one bit of advice: Humanities and Biology have their place. But your coffers will be full and overflowing if you can equip future alumni for the hardest job they will ever face: parenthood.


The third and final post in the Making Do series coming soon...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Making Do Part 2 {A Series}: Rug Rehab

Maybe I should have saved the hutch rehab for my final post in the series. It's certainly the biggest transformation and the most involved of the rehabs.

This one, however, is certainly the most unexpected. And the simplest. And by far the most comical. When my mom realized what I'd done, she literally doubled over in hysterics.

So here's the scoop. I inherited this giant room-size rug from my parents.

It's enormous and perfect for my great room which really needs a few key touches like rugs to set apart the living area from the eating / crafting / schooling / writing area {aka my kitchen table.}

I am all about free stuff. So even though the rug needed a bit of touch-up cleaning, I took it home. I'm glad I never bothered with the touch-up because seriously, I have 3 kids and the rug is cream and in about 2 days it was beige. As I'm writing this, it's tan with chocolate brown accents.

This rug was so gross, I wanted to throw up every time I walked past it....and honestly, it looked as if I had done just that.

{This shot does not do its nastiness true justice.}

And because it's huge and the cost of cleaning it would buy me a brand new rug, I was forced to take resourcefulness to new heights.



Don't you love this faux organic-ish look? I bet Pier One sells them for $400. Whatever is my secret?

I flipped it. That's right, I did the unthinkable. The unsightly underbelly of the rug, the part that was never intended for eyes to gaze upon, is now a key element of my living room design.

And while I realize that 90% of you would probably never try this at home, I'm writing this for the remaining 10%. The 10% of you who have nasty rugs, no shame, and are broke.

So, how do you make do? {The dirtier your secrets, the better.}


And by the way, The Nester did a great post last week that I can't stop thinking about, Simple Solutions for Everyday Issues. Seriously great stuff that I can't wait to get started on. Unfortunately she did not provide a solution for the incurable disease of L.A.D. {Laundry Avoidance Disorder.} It's going to be the death of me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making Do Part 1 {A Series}: Hutch Rehab

Welcome to Making Do, my first-ever {mini} series. It's about using what you do have instead of wishing for what you don't...a message aimed primarily at the one writing it.

I didn't set out to be all intentional and philosophical with these tweaks and makeovers I'll be posting. But as I began making a few changes in our home over the last several months, I realized that they were part of a larger plot. A plot that reveals just as much about the inner workings of my heart as it does the external changes in my home. So without further adieu, here's part one of my "story":


I bought this hutch at a thrift store for $150.



It was an insane amount of money for me to spend on something I didn't absolutely need. But for years I'd been searching for a giant hutch with glass doors and when I saw this one I began to swoon. So I bartered with the worker, begged my husband to let me spend the money, and called a neighbor with a pick-up truck.

I loved this hutch so much that it sat in my garage gathering spiders and dust for 3 years. Pathetic, I know. The Man urged me to sell it in the last 2 garage sales we've had....but I couldn't. This hutch, something I'd initially planned to use for kitchen storage and some cherished pieces, was instead going to become my schoolroom.

We have a smallish home but I have an almost 300-square-foot bonus room upstairs. I have big dreams to use it as our homeschool room and a place for the kids to play. {Yes, this is the part where I'm wishing for what I don't have.} It is unfinished. It will remain unfinished and therefore unusable until we have funds to do it...which means it may remain unfinished until our kids have completed their eduction. And that's okay...

Because I have this hutch, an unexpected remedy to my unfinished bonus room.

It unobtrusively houses all of our school books and supplies. Sneaky isn't it?

I didn't take a good BEFORE photo, but here it is again.

And now....

She is a beauty if I do say so myself.

All along I'd planned to paint her black. I paint almost everything black. But I changed my mind on a whim, afraid that such a large black piece in my very light-colored great room would suck up all the light and hog the stage. Now she looks like a pretty extension of my white cabs. She's still big but very blendy.

I borrowed the Nester's idea of tacking scrapbook paper to the back. I like it.

Hobby Lobby came through with these glass knobs for $2 each.

I wanted glass doors to showcase this beautiful and incredibly sentimental tea set my parents hauled back from Germany just for me. It was a lavish gift and I can't tell you how much I love it.

The rest of the contents are a work in progress. Eight-year-old Blondie saw me loading my tea set and she really wanted to add hers in as well. It's a bit knick-knacky in there right now but I love that she wanted to copy me, to place her special things alongside mine. One day she may not want to mingle so much.

The process: I sanded it down a bit, wiped the dust off with a tack cloth or baby wipes, applied 2 coats of Behr paint and primer in one with a brush, lightly distressed the edges, and finished with a thin coat of Minwax Polycrylic {which I only did because the hutch will get lots of use.}

The paint job could be better but I can live with it. I painted it on a rainy weekend with my mom's help {thanks Mom} and the finish got a little tacky.

Cupcake walked off with the first can of Polycrylic {brand new and unopened} and dropped it on the driveway at just the perfect angle to send the lid and its contents sailing. By the way, Polycrylic seals really well. A kidney-shaped portion of my driveway is now forever waterproofed and scratch-resistant. He is ever so helpful.

A big shout-out to the folks at Home Depot. I took back the empty can of Polycrylic {because it's $16} and told them my silly story of what happened. They exchanged it. Can you believe that? So go buy yourself some paint at the Home Depot and tell them The Scooper sent you and that she'd like some free supplies to finish up her bonus room. Thanks.

Linked up with Kimba's DIY Day {A Soft Place to Land.}

For part 2 of the series, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I know there are lots of people blogging and linking in an effort to spread awareness and generosity. There's no such thing as too much so here I am doing the same.

I'm sure I speak for many when I say that I have trouble falling asleep. My babies are safe and healthy and alive in their own beds. My family is accounted for. My community goes about the everyday business of work and productivity and relative normalcy. But Haitians won't know any of this for a long time.

I sit here as a mom who's simply one member of the watching world struggling with survivor's guilt. I want to fly down there and bind up wounds, bring home babies, and leave behind millions of dollars in aid. But I can't do any of those things so I will link to those who can.

Jenny got this site up and running overnight. You can choose a raffle to enter {great prizes donated by bloggers and others} and all the proceeds go directly to Compassion and The Red Cross. Or you can donate directly to these groups.


I'm a big fan of World Hope International. They are also accepting donations that go directly and immediately to Haiti relief.

For an immediate donation to The Red Cross, text HAITI to 90999 and $10 will automatically go there. It will show up on your next phone bill.


Here's a
blog written by an American family living in Haiti as missionaries. Tara and my husband were childhood friends. She succintly provides a first-hand account of what it's like there. even did a story on them. Most importantly, she mentions how we can pray and I need that. I want to pray for specific needs and specific people. I know you do too.


Lastly, there may be local Haitian groups in your area collecting supply donations. We are connected to a local Haitian church through my parents. This precious church was featured on the local news last night and every single person has lost family and friends. Can you imagine? Yet there they were yesterday praying and singing and telling the reporter, "God is in control."

He is.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Art of Letting Go

Once upon a time I was a swing-jumper. I vividly remember pumping my legs back and forth, back and forth as I watched the sky grow closer and felt my heart race with wild anticipation. At just the right moment, I’d let go and fly through the air with reckless abandon.

Letting go was the best part.

It’s been at least 25 years since I jumped from a swing and I’ve wondered how something that used to be completely innate became so completely foreign.

I still love a good adrenaline rush. It’s the letting go that gets me. It’s the letting go that I’ve had to re-learn.

That’s because I became quite good at holding on.

As I moved further from girlhood and closer to womanhood, holding on gradually came as naturally to me as the letting go had been when I was eight.

Holding on to the past and all the hurts and mistakes therein. Holding on to what I wanted my present to look like and how it didn’t measure up. Holding on to a future over which I had {and still have} no control. Holding on to so many levels of perfection I couldn’t even keep up with where I’d placed all of my type-A lists and mandates. Holding on to guilt and “if-only’s” and too much worry…

No longer the girl who lived life with reckless abandon and smiled at the sun, I became the wife and then the careerist and then the mom who got bogged down in the travails of the trivial. In short, I became a grown up.

But some sort of miracle gradually started to unfold about a year ago.

I began, slowly but deliberately, to reverse the havoc time had wreaked.

I started celebrating the everyday, disarray included. I grabbed hold of moments here and there and lived life as a child. It was painfully awkward and unnatural at first.

Like some sort of crash victim who had to re-learn basic mobility and motor functions, I had to learn how to let go again. And oddly enough, my kids became the therapists. They are, after all, the experts. I wonder how they got so wise.

Daily I’m learning. Some days I make tremendous strides, spurred on by the applause of those who love me most. Other days are met with relapse and regression.

It is both a conscious choice on my part and a grace bestowed by a Creator who knows me well and listens, daily, to my desperate pleas for help. Prayers tossed up like pancakes as I’m sopping up juice, wiping tears {theirs and mine}, listening to jokes that don’t really have a punch-line, realizing that the to-do list will never find completion and wondering if there will ever come a day of regular showering.

Some days the celebrating gets tricky…but it’s always possible.

Tonight I will go to bed knowing that I could have folded the laundry, finished up the dishes, mopped the floor and put more time into this post. Instead, my head will hit the pillow and marvel that I simply let it all go.

I read loads of books with the kids on our well-worn sofa in the messy living room, served as a jungle gym for my 2-year-old, tickled my boys until they could take no more, and laughed hysterically with my daughter through the season premiere of American Idol.

And while that sort of thing may come naturally for some, it was a monumental victory for me, full of imaginary fanfare amid such ordinariness.

Letting go of holding on is still hard. The achieving perfectionist who desperately wants more to show for her toil at the end of the day is never far beneath the surface. Not to mention her sister, the brooding second-guesser with the iron grip on all that past, present, future nonsense. And don’t even get me started on the guilt-monger.

But every day I say no to their familiar siren calls is one step closer to an everyday of finding childlike freedom and joy in the thrill of letting go.


Linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped {Chatting at the Sky}

It goes without saying that Tuesdays have served as a great source of inspiration and encouragement as I've practiced the {still-budding} art of letting go. {To Emily and my fellow unwrappers, thank you.}

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Confessions of a Reluctant Couponer...

Happy New Year!

I could talk about resolutions and fresh starts but I haven't resolved to do anything except finish unpacking from our holiday travels and take down my Christmas tree before February.

So I'm going to be a bit random with this post. {And I apologize in advance for the longish nature of it.}

I used to hate coupons. I thought coupon people were cuckoo...but now I'm one of them. This is my story.

In August Lily invited me to go to a women's conference in Charlotte. Lysa Terkeurst was the speaker and at the last minute I decided to go. {The conference was amazing. I still have all my notes tucked away in my purse.}

Jen, from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, taught one of the break-out sessions. I don't remember the title but it was about trimming the grocery budget. As much as I didn't want to go {even though I LOVE Jen}, I knew I should.

I didn't want to go because 1} I shopped at Aldi and Wal-Mart and a crazy dented-can salvage store and felt I was already pretty frugal about grocery shopping. 2} Coupons seemed like a hassle and I've seen some of those coupon moms on T.V. and I wondered if they ever slept or had a real life. Some of them were, um, a little weird. 3} It was just one more reminder of one more thing I could do to be a better manager of my home. One more thing in a long line of other things to feel guilty about not doing.

But I went to the workshop anyway. And much to my surprise, I didn't feel guilty. I felt inspired! I went home, told my husband I was ready to try couponing and started in earnest the next week.

Now it's January and I have a solid 5 months of grocery savings under my belt. I have saved an obscene amount of money, my pantry is full all the time, and I always have stuff to give away to someone who needs it more than I do.

I am not a grocery guru. This is not a niche blog about frugal living or home management. I'm just an everyday mom who's learned a lot and decided it's not as laborious as I thought. Here's a quick run-down of what I do. {And then I'll link you to the experts.}

Caveat: I don't share any of this to boast or preach or feel good about myself. If you feel guilty already, stop reading. Jesus loves you whether you use coupons or not. I share my story simply because it has been a tremendous blessing to my family and it came at just the right time for us.

1} I shop for what's on sale, particularly buy-one-get-one free sales {BOGO.}

2} I use coupons on top of that, preferably one coupon for each item I purchase.

Example: Publix had cereal BOGO which made each box $2, a great deal. I had $1 off coupons for each box I bought, which brought it down to $1 a box, an even better deal. Hard to believe but my price-point for brand name cereal is now $1 or less a box.

3} I broadened my horizons. The store where I always shop now is the store where I never used to shop. Why? Because it was too expensive {or so I thought.} Often the pricier stores are the ones with the most generous coupon policies and the best sales. My store doubles coupons up to 50 cents every day and lets you stack a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon for the same item. I don't usually hop from store to store. I shop Publix {and often CVS} weekly and only occasionally grab a deal somewhere else.

4} I took baby steps. Start with just shopping the BOGO items and not even using coupons. My neighbor started doing this and couldn't believe what she saved without even breaking out her scissors.

5} I let go of perfection. I tend to be all or nothing which often prevents me from even trying something new to begin with. I said I'd show myself some grace with this grocery venture. Yes, I've made some mistakes here and there. No big deal. The overall savings have been worth it.

6} I built up a stock-pile. The first few months my grocery budget stayed the same. I simply had far more stuff to show for my spending each month. As I built a stockpile in my freezer, my pantry, and with toiletries, I began to buy less. Now I only buy what I need to beef up my stockpile or stuff that's too cheap {or free} to pass up.

7} I established a goal. As I begin to see the savings and stockpiles grow, I figured I could get our monthly bill down to $300 a month for our family of 5. And I have. That includes groceries, diapers, cleaning supplies, paper products, cosmetics, toiletries, and even some gifts.

8} I reward myself. Seriously, I am a slave for presents. I treat myself to make-up or skin creams or candles that I'm able to score crazy deals on and I don't have to feel guilty about it.

9} I shop the pantry. Instead of making my menu and then going to the store, I look at what I have and make meals from that.

10} My husband loves me! Thankfully he did already but I had no idea how much he would benefit from all of this. I always have brand-name food on hand that he loves. He rarely has to stop at the store anymore on his way home from work. When he's out of deodorant, shaving cream, or soap, he just walks into the closet and gets some more. There's something about having plenty of the stuff he needs that makes him very, very content. I love that.

Now for the experts {which are also posted in the right sidebar of my blog under "Frugal Favorites."}

Jen at Balancing Beauty & Bedlam {who got me started on this crazy journey}
Recipes, grocery deals, and great inspiration for home management and intentional family life!

Click on a store in her header to see their weekly flyer. She lists where you can find a coupon for what's already on sale at that store. Then you can generate a printable shopping list and off you go! I now spend about half an hour going through the list, gathering or printing my coupons, and printing my list before I go. My last trip yielded $112 in savings so the 30 minutes was time well spent.

Read her getting started tutorials! They were really helpful for me.

Similar to Southern Savers in that she lists all the best deals at various stores but she also lists great deals throughout the day at on-line sites and retail stores. Fun stuff!

Sami is my real-life friend {who I recently met at a wedding} and she has a wonderful site full of coupons, deals, and freebies galore. A great site that will save you money! {And she is the guru of doing Disney way cheap.} Go to Sami's blog before this Friday and look for her Jan. 4th post. She's giving away several copies of the book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family., red plum, and smartsource are some printable coupon sites I use often.

How do you save?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin