Thursday, January 31, 2013

naptime confessions

Here are few moments, confessions, funny/touching/cute happenings and things I've learned lately...

.... Titus naps a lot better when I wear him out beforehand! These past few warmer days, we've been running around our big yard, and out to the woods and back. It only takes 5 mins, and then he's out like a light! Today is frigid- so we did jumping jacks before bed! :) I'm learning it's a boy thing!!

... I heard Titus coming, so I stuffed the fruit snacks wrapper I'd been munching from in between the couch cushions.  hee hee! bad mommy! :)

...Having TWO toddlers, I now have hit the "letting myself go" phase of life! UGH! I hate that fact, but it's just impossible to pry them from my body in order to have even 5 mins in the bathroom! They have so many demands in the morning, that there's just no time to think about myself! I'm truly at the stage where I'm lucky to get to use the bathroom at all! Please tell me I'm not alone here! It's depressing, but I know it won't be for forever... at least I hope!

...both of my toddlers will sit at the picnic table together and play with playdoh independently for a half hour! I now see myself being able to steal those few moments for some productivity... or maybe just to get ready for the day! (see above) ;)

...Titus said today, "Norah my best sister! She's my friend!" This is what I've been waiting for! Their friendship is growing all the time, and I love that I can truly see it happening!

...Norah is starting to show love! She's finally playing with dolls and is starting to initiate hugs with her dolls and her brother! This is so encouraging to see!

...My 3 year old can memorize Scripture amazingly!  I realized last week "Why am I not having Titus memorize Bible verses?" I immediately taught him John 3:16, and the next day he was saying it like a pro! A week later, he walks around the house saying it, and tells it to everyone he sees! Why did I not do this sooner!? Never underestimate a toddler's ability to learn! Take advantage of it asap!

...I've been purposely making myself stop & watch the kids - soaking in every detail of the moment! Whether it's playing, or cuddling, or sitting still, I want to pause time and really see them in the moment- memorize their facial features and expressions, their smooth skin and sweet voices. To close my eyes, and breath in their smell! These are the things about this phase of life that I will one day miss! Trying not to miss the joys of this age, because of the stress and exhaustion that it is as well!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Homemade Foaming Antibacterial Handsoap

I've been wanting to make my own handsoap for some months now, but have yet to get around to it!
This past weekend, a friend sent this recipe my way, so it gave me a reason to finally try it! ;)

It was MUCH easier than other recipes I'd seen and had a mere three ingredients!
(I've decided my favorite homemade products have minimal ingredients because then there's more of a chance that I have everything needed!) :)

Remember when I shared all the things I loved about Castile Soap when I talked about going Shampoo free? Well, here's a recap! 
--I use Castile Soap on the kids exclusively now. The hubby and I also use this as a body wash, and can be used as a shampoo (especially on guys, since they have shorter hair!) And you only need to use a tiny amount!

--I love that it doesn't leave behind a residue or build-up on our skin (this has always bothered me about soap!) Castile Soap is made with pure and simple ingredients- castile soap and organic oils and essential oils!

--I also love that it's a Fair Trade Product, meaning that it wasn't made through the use of slave labor! 

--And I love that it lasts a LONG time and is more cost-effective than other soaps. (we've been using our 32oz bottle for over a month and I've made two bottles of hand soap, and only 1/4 of the bottle has been used up.)

-- It can also be used in household cleaners, dish soap, laundry soap, and more!

So while Titus was taking a bath, I whipped up a couple bottles of this handsoap! Seriously one of the quickest, easiest mixes! Both of my bathrooms had foaming soap dispensers that were almost empty! (Yay!!) Apparently you can find empty ones online if you don't have any laying around. I just emptied and washed mine out, mixed the ingredients together, and gave it a quick shake!  Simple as that!

Now I want to find a similar recipe for liquid dish soap because I know that Castile Soap can be used for dish soap (I think I could probably just use this recipe though!)

This recipe and photo was found from The Simple Moms
(They give some more info and tips on this post if you're interested.)

With a 3 year old and a 1 year old during cold/flu season, we are constantly washing our hands around here! In doing some reading I've learned that 60% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed and I want to make sure that only healthy products are going on our skin! Soap is probably what we use most on our skin on a daily basis! I love that I now know exactly what our skin is absorbing with this homemade hand soap. It leaves my skin feeling fresh and clean and smelling great! I also notice that my hands don't feel quite as dry as they do when I'm using commercial soaps all day, and I think these bottles will last a loooong time (don't foaming soaps seem to last longer?) making this soap even more cost-effective than it already is! 

There are many new people to DIY toiletries who've been asking about where to get all these ingredients/supplies from. If you already make these kinds of products, would you share below where you get your supplies/ingredients from so that we all can benefit? Thanks!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

just leave me alone vs laying down my life

I get up in the morning and I'm tired (what else is new?) and just not in a very talkative mood. I'm feeling blah!
My husband asks "what's wrong?" and I reply "nothing." to which he gives a skeptical look.

Really, nothing is wrong.
But I could say, "Well, what's wrong is that I'm selfish."
I have a list of things I NEED to do (housework and such), I have a list I WANT to do (hobbies, relaxing, etc) and I basically want to just be left alone!

What do you do as a mom when you find yourself telling everyone (only in your mind, of course),
"I just want everyone to leave me alone!"?

Basically, in a heart that is to prone to sinfulness because of my flesh, I want to live for myself!

I'm thankful for reality checks that God brings into my life to to refocus my perspective on what's the most important and to reveal how my heart needs to change.

Friday, January 25, 2013

the battle of trying new things!

There is just something overwhelming or scary about trying new things.

I was just thinking about this this morning as I made some pizza dough for lunch.

I was thinking about how my pizza dough isn't whole wheat dough, and some would possibly judge for that, or how other moms cook more healthy than me. But I thought about how making homemade white pizza dough was my goal because I wanted to stop buying refrigerated doughs.  In that moment, I allowed myself to feel some victory for the progress I've made!

And I thought about how whipping up some pizza dough, or bread dough or yogurt, used to be a totally overwhelming thought, even scary. I sincerely wanted to add these homemade staples into our diets, but they seemed to be too time-consuming, or tricky, or difficult. So I kept myself from pushing through and trying something new, and then doing it again and again.
But when I finally overcame this, I found it wasn't as difficult or time-consuming as I thought...

So this morning, as I'm stirring together my pizza dough, like it's old-hat, hardly looking at the recipe, I realized my triumph, and I started to consider a few things about trying new things.

Sometimes we give up on something too soon, even if we've tried it once! Of course something takes longer the first time we try it! And maybe even the 2nd or 3rd time. But the more we do something, the faster we get at it and the less intimidating it seems! 
And if we keep at it, it's easy to plan it into our busy schedules and assign it a realistic amount of time! 
And before you know it, it becomes a habit and is a part of your life, and you've conquered the fear of trying that new thing! 

So now that I have this realization, I'm going to rejoice in the no-longer-new things I've tried and made apart of our lives!
But there are still a list of things I want to try, and I know I'm avoiding because I'm intimidated. So I want to evaluate what those things are and push aside my excuses or fears, and conquer another goal!

What are some things you've been too intimidated to try (both past and present)?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

a word about baby shampoo

I just had a comment from a reader who read about how our family is going shampoo-free and was wondering if Johnson's Baby Shampoo was safe?

I had recently heard some things against the company, but I couldn't remember specifics so I just did some quick research and here's what I've found!

We've probably all used Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo at some point or another on our kids! I've used lots of it, and have always viewed it as a safe shampoo- I mean, they used it in the hospital to clean up my babies right after birth! Well, no longer! I'll be throwing my bottle away after I get done writing this post!

I just read several articles that Johnson and Johnson Baby shampoo was found to have used two cancer-causing agents (1, 4-dioxane) and formaldehyde in their baby shampoos and other shampoos.

They pledged in August of 2012 to remove trace amounts of carcinogens and other potentially toxic chemicals from its toiletries and cosmetics by the year 2015. The company had previously pledged to remove such ingredients in baby products by the end of 2012.

What?! They won't have even removed them until 2015??
Well, I believe that I will be extremely careful in the future about purchasing anymore Johnson & Johnson products!

Here are a couple safe, more natural shampoo options for kids:
~Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap (this is what I'm currently using on my kids! Read about the benefits here.)
~Homemade Hair Clarifier and Rinse (what I use on my own hair, but safe for kids!)
~Plus there area  plethora of recipes on the Internet to make all kinds of different soaps + lots of homemade soaps, lotions, and shampoos sold online, (do a search on Etsy). Maybe even find a local seller, or a health store!

**NOTE: I'm not one to be vocal against specific products or companies, but in the interest of a reader who asked about a specific product, I'm am using this blog to share what I found in my research, especially since it coincided with this recent post about chemicals in commercial shampoos.

Here are some articles I found on this issue:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oak Street Studio Reopened + NEW products!

Big News!!! My shop is back OPEN!!!

I've been working on this reopening for a few weeks now and I'm so excited that it's finally the right time! I have alot of new products with more in the works!

After the New Year, I asked myself what I needed to do to reopen Oak Street Studio. Well, I realized that my craft room was still not even unpacked, even though I'd done gobs of sewing projects in December! And since I didn't stop my creativity to unpack and organize, my new craft room was a MESS! That was the biggest thing standing in the way of reopening!

So before I started any more projects, I buckled down to organize my new craft home! I'm happy to say that it's functional and organized, with lots of room to grow! I just need to pick out some paint colors and get crafty with some fun decor, but that won't stop progress! :)

Here's what new in the shop!

{Everything you see here is in VERY limited quantities, 
so if you see something you like, snatch it up quick!}

(featuring me in my new craft room!) ;)

 Say hello to our yummy Vintage Floral Collection of wristlets-
 now at a new lower price! And all of these babies are ready to ship!

Did you know...
I first created this little bag for myself as an alternative to carrying around a purse in addition to a diaper bag? This has made nursery/childcare transition so much easier too! I just grab my wristlet from out of the diaper bag when I drop off my kids- no more digging for my wallet, cell phone, keys, sunglasses, etc and no more carrying two bags! I never go anywhere without my wristlet anymore! It holds just about everything I need when I go out! (It currently holds my wallet, cell phone, checkbook, lipgloss, ipod, etc.)

But our wristlets aren't just for mamas...
 they are perfect for any on-the-go lady 
AND would look adorable on the arm of a little girl, carrying her chapsticks, jewelry and colors pens! :)

This wristlet clutch is a beautiful powder blue floral fabric with a Pink polka dot ruffle, a wrist strap and a fun bright pink zipper! 

This wristlet clutch is a beautiful lime dot fabric with a pink floral ruffle, a wrist strap and a crisp white zipper!  

This wristlet clutch is a beautiful Pink Floral fabric with a Jade Dot Ruffle, a wrist strap and a crisp white zipper!  

This wristlet clutch is a beautiful Jade Polka dot fabric with a Lime Floral Ruffle, a wrist strap and a fun bright pink zipper!

This wristlet clutch is a beautiful pink polka dot fabric with a powder blue floral ruffle, a wrist strap and a crisp white zipper! 

{Remember, everything you see here is in VERY limited quantities, 
so if you see something you like, snatch it up quick!}

In case you aren't familiar with the purpose of Oak Street Studio, it's a way for me to be make a difference, not just on my family, but also in the world! I have a growing burden for Human Trafficking/sex slavery and for the Worldwide Orphan Crisis. As God has developed this passion in my heart in recent months, I've been praying for ways to be involved. It's difficult as a young, stay-at-home mom to have the time, money and abilities to give and to feel that I'm playing an important part in these horrific needs in the world. But I'm going to do what I can. First and foremost, I will become a more faithful prayer warrior for the suffering in the world. And I'm excited to use this blog and my new shop to raise awareness and funds for these great needs! 50% of all my sales will be contributed to Human Trafficking organizations (like Women At Risk, Int'l) and to my friends' adoptions (like the Phillips family).

I pray the Lord will bless me and give success in these endeavors!
Please follow this blog and visit my shop, and please share with others! And you can follow via Facebook!
I want the word to get out about what I'm doing and why!

Monday, January 21, 2013

made from scratch: discovering the pleasures of a handmade life {book review}

As many of you know, 2 months ago we moved our family from Michigan to Ohio. It's been an adjustment for all of us and we certainly do miss dear friends and family. But the move has not been without it's positives! Besides loving our new church family, and having some new friends, we are also looking forward to the Spring! You see, we now live in a big farmhouse built around 1873, that sits on about 5 acres of church property. There is lots of room for the kids to run around, we have a little bit of woods, a fire pit, and what we're most excited about- a garden! Read my husband's blog about our past and present garden advetures here.

Anyways, as we sit inside all winter, we've been reading up on gardening and getting excited for all the possibilities! We plan to have a bigger garden, and have been trying to think of more ways to be self-sustaining with the land that's around us! Tim also blogged about some great books on homesteading/gardening too.

One idea that we've been toying with is getting some chickens, for eggs and possibly meat as well. Now we love the idea, but we want to make sure that we know all it entails first so we can be truly committed. I've been pretty excited about the prospect, but also hesitant. You see, I am NOT an animal person. I never really have been. So although the idea of having livestock sounds exciting and practical, I'm having to face this reality about myself.

I told my brother and sister in law about our thoughts because they've raised chickens and built a coop before. They've sent us some great resources. My sweet SIL told me about this book that she read that really inspired her to get the chickens, and she promptly loaned it to me via Kindle.
Made From Scratch: discovering the pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich.

Made From Scratch is an entertaining, informative and inspiring book about how to live more simply, frugally and self-reliant. Jenna, a web designer at a big company, shares the ups and down in her own personal journey raising chickens, setting up a bee hive, planting a garden, making her own clothes, and learning to play the fiddle all while living in a rental home! She shares her stories in a humorous and witty way, but you come away wanting to order some chicks, a beekeeping kit and a hand-crank radio! She makes the handmade life sound very satisfying and desirably simple!

I already do a lot of what she shared, like sew clothes for our family, grow a garden, make more food from scratch, and I'm developing a love for old things. But it made me want to do those things more, and it opened my eyes to so many new things I'd like to try.

I came away from the book, not only sold on the idea of raising some chicks this spring, but I also want to:
Plant a bigger garden
Make more of our clothes
Bake bread more regularly
Keep Bees
Churn Butter
Decorate my house with old things
Buy a hand crank radio and kitchen appliances
Raise Angora Rabbits to spin their hair into yarn!

Now I just need to find the time to do all that... Whew!

Made from Scratch is certainly not a thorough how-to book when it comes to all these different topics. But it gives you enough information to have a basic understanding of what each will entail, and she also provides lots of resources in the back of the book if you have any more interest in any of the topics. It's the push in the right direction you need to develop an interest in trying something new, and feeling like you can do it!

If you read this book, I guarantee you will laugh out loud (or at least, chuckle under your breath), you will have moments of sadness, you'll open your mouth in shock, and you'll be inspired to try something she talks about!

When you read it, share in comments below what you liked about the book and if you decided to try anything she shared!

Friday, January 18, 2013

why i don't use shampoo

Yes, it's true! I don't use shampoo and conditioner...

I hope you'll be intrigued enough, rather than grossed out, to read on!

I've been going shampoo free since the beginning of November, after trying to for a month last summer! I have to say before I go any further here that my hair IS clean, and looks and feels more healthy than before!

I had never heard about how to clean your hair without commercial shampoos and conditioners until I read the book Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider. I thought, Whoa that's weird! and felt no desire to try it. But as I read her reasons and what exactly is in our shampoos, plus how much healthier it is to make your own, I was curious... It couldn't hurt to give it a try, right?

I saw it as exciting adventure to do something totally out of the ordinary. It felt totally counter-cultural, in a rebellious kind of way! Hee hee! :) It became my little secret, because I certainly wasn't going to tell anyone and risk grossing them out, at least before I was sold on it, which I didn't even know would happen. So I kept my secret mission to myself, but of course I had to tell my mom! And she was sworn to secrecy- especially from my cosmetologist family members!

What's the big deal with shampoo?

Is it really that evil?? Uhhh NO! :) It's definitely NOT the most important health change out there. But because it does contain chemicals and isn't really the healthiest option, it's worth looking at the other side- because there ARE other options besides just walking down the store aisle. Here's the reason I decided to stop buying shampoo and make my own:

Did you know that people didn't always use shampoo? People have only been using shampoo for the last 100 years. Before that, they just used a good ole bar of soap! That was before we started adding all kinds of stuff to our water, like minerals and such. Once we did that, the soap wasn't as effective in alkaline water and essentially left a residue (or as we call it "soap scum") in our hair, making the scales on your head stand up, and making your hair weaker, rougher and a big tangled mess! So shampoo entered the scene! The only real benefit was that it could work in both hard and soft water BUT unlike soap, shampoo is a detergent, which is harsh, and strips the hair of all it's natural oils! That led to the introduction of conditioner to replenish some of those oils. Now we have to shower more often because our hair produces oil faster to compensate for the oils that we strip out day after day, and conditioner oils don't stay in our hair long enough! Our scalp and hair need those natural oils, and the longer that we strip those out, the weaker our hair becomes, causing damage and breakage over time!

Do you know what's in your Shampoo? 

Shampoo contains chemicals, that you don't want in your hair OR on your body! One ingredient that I'd like to point out that shampoo contains is Mineral Oil, which is a byproduct (what's left over) of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil. It's added to create an artificial shine as a thick layer of oil all over our hair.

Mineral oil cannot absorb into your skin like other oils do, so it sits on top and forms a barrier preventing oils and toxins from being released as a normal part of your skin's lifecycle. This is one of the reasons you'll find that the more shampoo you use, the more often you need to use it. In the long run, coating your hair with mineral oil makes it weaker, and more prone to damage.- babyslime

So the more you use, the more you need. It's a cycle of stripping out natural oils, replacing with thick mineral oil that sits on your skin and hair. By not using shampoos and creating your own safe replacements, you are essentially returning your hair to its most natural, healthy state!
For an in-depth look at the harmful chemicals in shampoo, visit this blog.

Another reason to consider is cost when it comes to going Shampoo-free

Now, I know that Shampoo isn't THAT expensive! It's not like cutting shampoo out of my budget is going to create a huge amount of extra money for me! But how about this: because our hair is coated in unnatural oils and chemicals, it takes more unnatural products to keep it looking or feeling the way I want! Thus the creation of sprays, and gels, and waxes and detanglers and mousses, etc...

I also seemed to have a problem with a dry, itchy scalp, so I had to purchase special products and shampoos to try to help with that. And I was buying special shampoos for the kids- did you know the "tear-free" versions actually have a chemical that will numb their eyes if it gets in there? Wow! No thank you! Now what I make/buy can be used by the whole family, so it's safe for us all, plus it's cost-effective to not have to purchase different soaps for every member of the family. To purchase the ingredients needed, it costs about $5 which would last for a very long time! Maybe like a year or more? When it comes to buying commercial shampoo, it costs about $5 for one bottle, which might last around a month for one person? Definitely cost effective when you look at it like that!

No, I don't believe Shampoo is inherently evil, but I do think it's unnecessary! And so it feels good to cut out the cost! I've been aspiring to living a more frugal, simple and natural lifestyle and I believe making my own shampoo helps me live this way! Not only am I saving money by making it from a few simple ingredients that I already have in my pantry, but my family can all use the same product safely!

In addition to making my own hair clarifier ("shampoo") and rinse (Yes, I'm getting there- recipe is coming up next!), I've purchased some Dr. Bronner's Castile soap for our family to use (We like the Peppermint scented kind)! It can be used for your hair or body. I use it for the kids now, and Tim is using it too! And it also can be used for many household cleaners, dish soap, laundry soap, and more!

--I love that it doesn't leave behind a residue or build-up on our skin (this has always bothered me about soap!) Castile Soap is made with pure and simple ingredients- castile soap and essential oils!
--I also love that it's a Fair Trade Product, meaning that it wasn't made through the use of slave labor! --And I love that it lasts a LONG time and is more cost-effective than other soaps.

Here is How to make/use your own shampoo/conditioner replacement: 

Hair Clarifier

Baking soda has become a staple in my house as it is a main ingredient in many of my homemade cleaners and toiletries! You probably already have this in your house, and can buy it very cheaply!
It works great for hair, and very gently clarifies hair from chemical build-up!
This recipe can be tweaked to fit your specific needs, but here's what I do:

Mix 1 Tablespoon of Baking soda with 8 oz of warm water, and shake to dissolve baking soda! That's it!
(I also add a few drops of an essential oil, since I was having an awful time trying to comb my hair out after washing my hair. The few drops added just enough extra oil that I could comb through my hair much more smoothly! Plus it's adds a nice scent as well- Orange is my favorite!)

This batch will last me 3-4 uses. I store it in a plastic squeeze bottle I had laying around and use a small to pour the baking soda in. You could put it in old shampoo bottles, and even double or triple the recipe.

To use, get your hair thoroughly wet in the shower. Concentrating on your scalp, squeeze some in different places all over your scalp and massage it in. Start at the crown, and work it in all over your scalp. There isn't really any lather. You can include the rest of your hair, but as the baking soda mixture clarifies the scalp it'll naturally clean the rest of the hair. After a minute or so, rinse it out just as you would shampoo!

ACV Rinse

Apple Cider Vinegar is another ingredient to have on hand not just for your hair, but for other household cleaning as well! It is mildly acidic and works well to counteract the baking soda. That's why it's a great replacement for conditioner. It detangles the hair folicles, seals the cuticle, and balances the hair’s pH balance.

Mix 1 Tablespoon of ACV with 8 ounces of water, and give it a quick shake.
I put this in a leftover spritz bottle. This mixture will last a LONG time! I think I'm only on my 2nd bottle of it!

To use, after you rinse out your baking soda clarifier, spray/squirt your ACV mixture the ends of your hair and rinse out after a minute or so.
*No, your hair will not smell like vinegar- don't worry!*

And there you have it! That's all I do!
The only other product I use on my hair is a little bit of hair spray! I no longer need the baskets of hair products, because my hair is so much healthier and holds a style so much better! My hair feels so good and so healthy! There have been different concerns as I've gotten used to cleaning my hair this way, but I've figured it out and tweaked it along the way. Nothing the internet can't help with!

In fact, I used Shampoo/Conditioner last week just because I wanted to feel the big soapy lather, and soft hair! Well, my enthusiasm was short lived when a little while later, my hair started to feel oily and nasty! It just didn't feel right! You see, when you use the baking soda and ACV mixtures, you don't have to wash your hair quite as often because your scalp isn't producing those natural oils as quickly as when you're using shampoo. I wash mine about 3 times a week now.

Shampoo-free 3 months!
Washed 36hrs ago and still looks/feels freshly washed!

 Here are some other tips posted by

• You might have a transition period that lasts from a few weeks to a few months, where your hair reacts with excess oil to the lack of shampoo. This is perfectly normal. It’s used to having its oils stripped, so it might take time for the oil to stop producing so heavily in protest.
(Mary Beth here! My transition period only lasted about a week and was really no big deal!)

• I hear that eventually, you can wean off baking soda and vinegar all together, relying only on water in the shower to remove dirt and oil. I haven’t gotten there yet.

• If you find that your hair is too oily (after the transition period), try using less vinegar, or not using it all together. Some people also use lemon juice instead of vinegar as their acidic clarifier.

• If your hair feels too dry, use less baking soda, or try using honey instead of vinegar.

• I don’t need anything else for my hair. I stopped using pomade, which I previously used religiously to cut the frizzies. My hair is amazingly pliable, and can hold styles without my needing to do much of anything. I’m thrilled with the results!

 - - - - - - - - - - -


Alright so there you have it! Hopefully you stayed with me through this whole journey! I know that was a lot of information! If you have any questions or tidbits to share, please comment below! I can't promise to have all the answers you need, but use the resources below to help answer any questions or concerns as well!

Here are a few other sites to check out on this topic:

babyslime- For lots more in-depth information on commercial shampoo, as well as trouble-shooting when it comes to going shampoo-free/your hair type.

Simple Mom - another personal story of going shampoo-free

Monday, January 14, 2013

setting goals for your kids in 2013

I hadn't planned to officially make "resolutions" for this new year, because I had already made some decisions before our move in November of changes I'd like to make. I had decided that with a big change and a new life, I wanted to get more serious about creating a healthier, more simple and natural lifestyle! I also figured that making resolutions would be too overwhelming right now, so I figured I'd focus on making yogurt and bread, replacing more household products with homemade/natural ones, plant a big garden, and that'd be good for this next year of adjusting to a new area and developing relationships.

But then I came across these reflection and goal-setting questions from Simple Mom. I printed them off and spent an entire afternoon praying through and answering them! SO much happened during 2012 for our family, that I needed that time to reflect. I enjoyed thinking about my year's greatest joy and greatest struggle. Not only had I forgotten so many things that had happened, but I needed to be reminded of how God had been behind the biggest blessings and sustained me through the hardest moments.

Then I looked ahead to this next year, beyond just  implementing a few more healthy habits. I looked deeper into my spiritual life, my personal life, our finances, marriage, and my kids lives. It was helpful to see how I've grown spiritually and personally this past year, but it also revealed some areas I need to work on!

What I enjoyed most was setting some goals for my kids this year! I don't think I've thought about the questions she asked quite like this before! I spent a good deal of time thinking about kids' strengths, how to encourage those strengths, their weaknesses, and how to help them work through those weaknesses.
Then there were 6 areas listed you'd like each of you children to grow in. I was able to think much deeper into my kids individual lives and make some goals for them: physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, educationally, and other.
 For instance, this year I'd like to work with Titus emotionally to learn some self control and an understanding of the choices that he makes. Also I'd like to work on the concept of time and the calendar educationally. For Norah, we'd like to work on helping her be more patient and less demanding emotionally. To learn that she is only one member of this family and not the most important every moment of the day.

I feel much more prepared to enter this year as I've reflected on this past year and where my kids and I are all at individually and where we need to do this year next! I could've made like 10 "resolutions"
for each of us (which would really be like 30 for me!) but by looking at where each of us are and making a few goals, my mind is most aware of where we're at! I know where we are and where we need to go. And there's no pressure to do everything, but at least I know where we're headed and I have an idea of what I'd like our year to look like. A new year just gives me a fresh look and fresh start!

Here are the reflection and goal-setting questions from Simple Mom if you'd like to look through them or take the time to spend answering them!

20 questions for reflecting on your 2012

Goal-Setting Questions for a New Year

Friday, January 11, 2013

desperate to make a difference

For over 2 years, my heart has been breaking for women and children around the world, and in our own country, who are sexual slaves and trafficked like animals or business goods. They are moved from place to place; used, exploited and abused for the pleasure and satisfaction of sick, selfish individuals for just a few dollars, instead of the precious beloved souls who are loved by God!

I've struggled to know how I can help! And even in the small ways I have, I still feel like it doesn't make a difference. And I'm desperate to do MORE! But I feel so small, so insignificant in this fight!

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day!

800,000 people a year are illegally trafficked across international borders against their will- HALF of them are children!

These women have been deceived by good-sounding opportunities, then enslaved into a life of horror. Or they've been stolen. Or they've been sold by their families.

Every 2-4 years, the world looks away from a female victim count on the scale of the Jewish Holocaust, as 114-200 million women go “demographically missing”!

Children are born into this life and raised by pimps and owners to continue the business. They are not shown any affection, so they will never know love! Even babies are sold and abused! And our own children here in the US are kidnapped and trafficked- never to be found!

 The FBI estimates that of our own children here in the US, born and bred American citizens, 100,000-300,000 are missing- they are trafficked and exploited!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Every personal story I read and human trafficking news report I hear, hurts my heart...
Yes, there has been so many good things happening to fight human trafficking and there are some wonderful stories of rescue and healing, but there is still so much to be done! We've just scratched the surface!

There are so many days that I feel the weight of the suffering... I try to imagine their lives and feel their despair. I squeeze my kids a little tighter as I wipe tears away, trying to turn my mind away from the horror that other children endure because I just can't bear it!
And I think about God. He actually can see and feel their suffering.
And I struggle to understand why God allows this kind of horrific abuse in millions of peoples lives.

But its pulled be closer to the heart of God, as I spend much time in prayer for them- all the trafficked and sexually enslaved women and children around the world!
Because of them, I want to know Him better and how He feels about human suffering.
I want to look through His eyes and feel through His heart!

The Lord has used Psalm 10 as a source of comfort whenever I'm burdened with the injustices of the world's suffering- whether human trafficking, abortion, the orphan crisis etc
{You can read the whole Psalm here}

I ask "Lord why do you stand so far away? 
Why do you hide in time of trouble? 
Rise up Lord God! 
Lift up your hand. 
Do not forget the afflicted." (vs 1, 12)

Even to the evil man, it seems like he's getting away with it!  
"In arrogance, the wicked relentlessly pursue the afflicted. 
He boasts in his own cravings, and curses and despises the Lord. 
In all his scheming, the wicked arrogantly thinks: 
'There is no accountability, since God does not exist' ...
He waits in ambush... he kills the innocent in secret...His eyes are on the lookout for the helpless..." (vs 2-4, 8-9)

This is why I love this Psalm! Here is the comfort: 
That God DOES hear our prayer and DOES care about the oppressed, and He HAS the power to bring evil men to justice...  and one day He WILL!

But You Yourself have seen trouble and grief,
observing it in order to take the matter into Your hands.
The helpless entrusts himself to You;
You are a helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evil person;
call his wickedness into account
until nothing remains of it.
 The Lord is King forever and ever;
the nations will perish from His land. 
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their hearts.
You will listen carefully, 
doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed
so that men of the earth may terrify them no more.
(Psalm 10: 14-18)

As we continue to create awareness of human trafficking today and throughout the year, let's not forget the One Who ultimately has the power to rescue- not only to save from physical enslavement, but also from spiritual enslavement! 


And as I stay faithful in prayer to our All-Powerful, Compassionate, Loving God, and know that I can trust Him for their lives, I also pray that He will continue to show me how I can make a difference in this fight for the freedom and healing of so many precious lives!

To learn more about Human Trafficking, and how you can get involved in the fight, 

Monday, January 7, 2013

homemade greek yogurt

In addition to making New Year's resolutions, I made a few resolutions as we prepared to move back in November (you can read about our big life change here). One of my resolutions for our new life, was to make more things from scratch -- ie food, cleaning products and toiletries. I had already tried my hand at a few things in 2012, but with our move looming, I decided to use that huge change in our lives as a catalyst for some smaller changes. One thing I committed to, was to live more simply and create a healthier, safer environment for our family.
I hope to share with you in the coming months, many of the changes that we've made!

But today, I want to talk about our change from store-bought yogurt to homemade greek yogurt!
I've had a few people ask me about it, so I wanted to share my recipe with you here!

Here's the story of my homemade yogurt start!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Norah's Winter "One"derland Party

My baby girl turned 1 year old this week!

With the holidays and moving all in the past month and half, Norah's birthday was getting over shadowed by everything else going on! As her big day was getting closer and closer, I realized how guilt-ridden I was over it! I was choosing not to think about it and make plans, because I was so overwhelmed with life in general! I felt guilty because I'd always done parties for Titus with lots of family and friends in our cozy home and spent countless hours planning and dreaming... Now I have a GIRL, and two-weeks away from the big 1st birthday, I have planned nothing! I was so discouraged... So I messaged my sweet friend, and former business partner, Laura, and vented all my feelings! I knew she'd understand and have some great encouragement and advice! Just getting it out helped, and I was able to get on top of my feelings and start planning a little party for her.

Then Laura offered to make Norah her birthday outfit! I was just overwhelmed by her generosity- especially her willingness to add another thing to do during the Christmas season! I was ready to explode with excitement when I opened the box! It turned out amazing! And Norah looked stunning! Seriously, she was so cute, you wanted to give her a big squeeze, take a hundred pictures, and eat her up all at the same time!

Here are some pictures of the fun night!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

a homesick heart AND choosing to trust

The holidays are over, all our dear company has gone home, my hubby's back to work, the Christmas tree is down, the presents are put away...

With the departure of my in-laws this morning, the reality has set in that here we are "alone" in Ohio...

no family around to help out,
no visits to look forward to on the horizon,
the winter making it difficult to want to go out,
home all day in our new house, in our new city, in a new state...
feeling so far away from loved ones and familiarity...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

reflecting on norah's life...

Our little family rang in the new year with a small celebration of Norah's 1st Birthday in our new home!

This past week as we've been reflecting on not just this past year, but also on Norah's birth already a year ago! We've been amazed to think about all the big changes that have happened in our family and how full our year has been!

Our 2011 ended with the birth of Norah on Dec 30th, just after midnight...

We always say that nothing about Norah and her life has been the way we have expected!
Granted, its not all been bad! Some things have been better than we've expected!
But she just does things in her own way and her own time!
Of course we know that it is ultimately God's will and timing...