Friday, February 22, 2013

Family Mission Friday: Meal Planning

Today we tackle one of the largest problems I hear so you never again stare at a pantry of odds and ends muttering to yourself "what can I make with 3 cans of tuna, ketchup, frozen carrots, and one potato?"

Meal planning isn't just for moms - it's a whole family activity.  There are a few different ways to tackle this.  If you have a small family, I recommend each member that eats be responsible for one day of menu planning - then Mom and Dad take the extra days.  If you have a larger family, consider using a 2 week or more "plan".  Start with just planning dinners and then let it grow to the rest of your day's foods.

Even your youngest children can plan.  If they're able to express what they like, they get a vote.  For "the smallest among you", try this.

Index cards
Photo Album
Glue/glue stick
Family artist and/or Google

Take a set of index cards and get your computer ready (or your artistic skills if you're braver than I!) and a set of markers.  You're going to have 4 categories of cards.  Starches, Veggies, Proteins, and Desserts.  Pick a color for each and "edge" the card by making lines around the outside so it can be quickly identified by category.  Attach a picture (or draw one right on the card) of the item and write the name.  So, for example, a card may look like this:

Once you have a wide variety of the ingredients your family loves, you start what can actually turn into a game.  Everyone gets "dealt" 2 proteins, 2 starches, 2 veggies, and 2 desserts.  They can then swap, trade, etc to create the meal they're aiming for.  So, if a child had the above "cards" he/she could make his/her meal Beef with Broccoli over steamed rice.

Take the photo album and slide the index cards into the day so you know what day is which.  Block out 5-6 "spots" per day based on your album's layout.  That gives you room to slide in a card with the recipe, a list of other ingredients you will need, etc. 

From this list, you make your grocery shopping list and then just go through the book and compile the meals.  :)

As children get older, you can change the cards to have the meals on them and have them actually make the meal that they've chosen.  Cooking skills never go out of style!

Get the whole family involved with meal planning.  This fun activity helps everyone feel included and reduces the chaos of trying to get dinner on the table every night. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

ClutterBug Attack!!!!

I don't know about your home, but our home is plagued with ClutterBugs.  They're closely related to I. Dunno and Nobody of Erma Bombeck fame.  They appear from nowhere, usually directly behind where I just finished cleaning and attack.  I turn around and the area that I know was perfect 5 seconds ago is now...well....not.

Today we're going to tackle kitchen clutter which tends to gather in one of 3 places.

1. On top of the refrigerator

I don't know why, but the area on top of the refrigerator is approximately 2-3 square feet of magnet.  You'd be amazed what has gathered up there that you've forgotten about, or never knew it existed in the first place!  Unless you're one of those people with a cabinet over your refrigerator, grab a small step ladder and climb up there and see how bad it's gotten.  At best, it likely needs some love with cleaner and some towels.  At worst, well, let's just say I found a miniature promo Minion on the top of mine from the movie Despicable Me which came out in 2010.

2. Under the sink 

This is where cleaning products go to die in my home.  Maybe you store something else under there, but for me, that's what's usually cluttering it, ironically preventing me from being able to clean.  A relative of mine likes to store grocery bags to use for other things.  This is a great tactic if you use them often for walking your dogs.  This is a horrid tactic if you can't close the doors anymore.  As with all things, moderation. :)

3. The counter closest to where people walk into the kitchen

You know the routine - you're walking in the door juggling 5 bags of groceries, a screaming baby, a pile of mail, your car keys, your purse, 3 toys, and a water bottle.  Bottom line, something's gotta give!

If the money is in your budget, organize this area formally NOW, or at least by this weekend.  I took this area in our home and put a few bins.  One is for each person.  The top is for DH (he's the tallest).  His mail, magazines, and anything he puts in that spot goes in his bin. 

The next one down is for me.  I don't get much mail or magazines, but I get tons of "Mom!  Look what I did!!!" so they go there until I have the chance to sort through them.  Once a week I go through and pick a few things to selectively display around our home of triumphant moments.  The rest magically disappear.  This is also where I keep my "go bag" on a hook next to my bin.  It's a diaper bag since I have an infant at the moment which also carries a planner, notebook, 3 pens, any reading material I'm supposed to be reading (think handouts for church, school, etc), an MP3 player, and my Kindle.  This way I know where everything is when I need to leave and I can just grab and go.  I put the charger for the Kindle in the car (which also works for the MP3 player and my phone) and I don't have to worry about running out of battery!.

On the bottom is the one for my son.  His contains his magazines and mail as well as any paperwork that comes home from CCD, Scouts, and anything else.  Once a week I go through his bin, move the "need to reads" up to my bin to go into my bag, and make certain any art to be featured has also made it up to my bin.

Now, in that "spot" where things tend to land, put the following:

a small decorative bowl
   ~ to catch keys, pins, buttons and anything else little that's in your hands as you come in the door
a towel
   ~ lay flat to wipe grimy hands and/or to absorb any condensation from drinks that magically appear
a pen and pad of paper
   ~ to write the notes that are running around in your head from the day as you come in

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Everyone Deserves a Friend

Stop the discrimination!  Give your containers some love today.  They deserve a friend, a companion, a lid.

Go through your food storage containers and find them friends or let them leave.  Put them in your box to donate and drop them off if they're still in decent shape.  Someone may very well have the lid they need. :)

If your food storage containers are stained, place them in a sink filled with HOT water, 1 cup bleach, and 2 tbsp dish detergent.  This should bleach out any stains from food and help remove any grease residue which can also cause stains. 

Whatever is left, organize and if it doesn't fit in the space where your containers belong, weed out some more.  This is a doable project that may take longer than 15 minutes, but will make a difference in your daily routines and make it so much easier for you to save the food that gets ruined saving you money.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cupboard Clutter

Today we're going to tackle our cupboard clutter in 3 simple steps focusing on the pantry and other places you store food items.

1. Take out anything expired and toss it.  Also toss opened packages that are now stale or icky such as chips. 
2. Take out anything you'll never eat and put it in a box to donate.  Also take out things you overstocked on and add them to the box - you know - those "I need cream of mushroom soup" moments that accidentally occurred for 7 paychecks in a row.  If you won't eat it before it expires, now is the time to pass it on to someone who needs it.
3. Organize what's left so you can actually find it.

When you organize, keep in mind who eats what and where it should go.  Keep treats in high cupboards to prevent pint-sized snitchers (the big snitchers, well, you're on your own).   I also recommend keeping sweet things used for baking like chocolate chips, candies and such up high as they are often the most pilfered in my cabinets when the treats disappear.

Keep healthy snacks for the kids at their eye level in the cabinet in their own basket to set them up for success.  Some larger families I know have gone to a basket per kid system to divide the treats in advance when they come home from the shopping trip.

Organize one of two ways - put items together that are usually used to store a meal, such as storing spaghetti next to the spaghetti sauce OR organize by type of food, all the pastas together, all the sauces together.  Since I tend to make "Frankenmeals" that are grab what I want, I organize by type rather than by meal.

As you're organizing and pitching, take note of what you're getting rid of and what you'll need.  Also pay attention to those "I'm missing one can of this to make that" moments and add those to your list of what you need.  When you have all your ingredients, it's so much easier to make that kitchen magic happen. :)

Next time you're going by the local food pantry or attending Mass, just drop off your box and then take that list to the grocery.  :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's growing in there?

Today we're going to begin tackling the kitchen.  Some are certainly better than others, but today I'm going to ask you to attack the area where most of us have something lurking.

Today you're going to go through your refrigerator.  Take out anything that you can't remember when it went in, anything that's growing, and anything that has lost a lid because it will no longer properly seal to maintain it's freshness.  Next check out this wonderful Food Storage Guide and use it right away to finish going through the fridge.  Pitch everything that isn't within the guidelines and make this your new plan. :)

Now, if you have the extra time today, this is also a great time to give your fridge a good cleaning.  If there isn't time today, that's okay too!  We're going to put this part on next Saturday's list so you can add it to you "to do's" for the future as well.

Last, but not least, find a permanent marker and place it in the drawer next to your fridge.  When you put something with a longer shelf life, such as condiments, in your refrigerator, write the date it will expire (based on the food storage guide) right on the label so there's no more confusion about when to pitch it. 

Blessings and peace!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday Roundup: The Beginning

This week we tackled 3 "trouble spots" in most homes as we started the Cleaning our Homes and Hearts Lenten Journey.  Nearly everyone we talked to had at least one, if not all 3 of these problems.  Just as a reminder to you:

Wednesday: In Search of the Table
Thursday: Go! Go! Go? - Keeping up with the Mobile Office
Friday: Family Mission Friday: The Bed

You've all done a wonderful job and it's been a delight hearing from  you on various boards and in the comments here on the blog.  Thank you so much for joining me on the journey.  It's so helpful to me to know that I have sisters out there who are fighting the battle right alongside me.

This week we also had our first local to me join the journey.  She's my "slob sister" and one of my dearest friends.  I'm so blessed to have had her join us.  In fact, I apologize for not being fast on comments yesterday - I was snaking her drain. ;) (no, this will NOT be part of the journey!)

As I promised, on Saturdays I will give you a list of "optional" things you can do during the weekend or throughout the next week.  My Slob Sister and I, while snaking the drain, attacked this list together.  My special thanks to her family for a lovely "breakfast for dinner" and movie afterwards.  It was fun to just "be" with friends.

Next week we will be heading into the kitchen which for me is a neverending project.  The activities for this weekend and next will focus primarily around this area of the home and projects that stem from it. 

Weekend/Next Week's Optional Activities:

1. The Wipedown:  Wipe down the dashboard, cup holders, inside of your windows, and any other surfaces of your car.  It's a quick, fast, and easy thing to do but this time of year the dust that's building up due to winter can begin to affect the air quality in your car and therefore your family's health!  Grab a few rags and head out there when you get home from a run over the weekend.  That way the interior is already warm and you can just wipe everything down and get on with life.

2. The Table:  We tackled the dining room table last week on our very first day.  If you have a separate kitchen table, now is the perfect time to help it out.  Simply go through the same steps you did on Wednesday with your kitchen table.  It's okay if only one is usually used for meals - but the other one definitely deserves a nice wipe down and so do any chairs, stools, and eating areas in your kitchen.

3. The Tools:  Gather your tools.  If you don't have your own, consider asking your husband for a set that are just for you.  Every Mom should have her own tools on hand. 

I recommend:
set of screwdrivers (Philips and slotted - or + and - respectively)
magnetic driver with a set of bits
adjustable wrench, claw hammer
measuring tape
long nose pliers
diagonal pliers

A small set of fasteners can finish it off if you are the type who has things hanging in your home, or would like to be.  Want to keep your husband and sons from stealing them?  Buy a set in purple or pink.  You may not love the colors, but they're far more likely to stay where they belong that way!  ;)

4. The Cleaning Tools:  Gather your tools.  Make a set of cleaning tools so you can find them when you're cleaning your home.  In a 1-2 gallon bucket gather: 2 sponges, 2 cleaning cloths, disinfectant, white vinegar, dish soap, window cleaner, empty spray bottle, 2 cleaning towels, and 1-2 scrubbing pads and either additional towels or paper towels as your family uses them.   This will get the vast majority of cleaning resources you need in one home where you can find them and help set you up for success.

5. The Fifteen:  Give each person in your home a bag, box, or basket.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  Have them each target ONE thing to gather during that time.  Bags can gather trash, boxes can gather things to put away, baskets can gather laundry.  Everyone gets as much in their bag, box, or basket as they can as fast as they can.  Once done gathering, take the laundry to the washer and get it started, take the trash outside, and sort the items into their homes.  Voila!  Speed cleaning!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Family Mission Friday: The Bed

Every Friday we will start a new Family Mission.  This week, we're tackling something everyone in your home has, a bed.  One of the most difficult things for me is when my husband is on third shift or working 12 hour shifts.  It seems like there is always someone sleeping in my bed.  I go to bed in it.  While I'm in it the kids miss Dad and migrate into it.  When I wake up, they're still sleeping in it.  Then he comes home and gets in it.  The kids wake up and get out of it.  After school they climb back in to cuddle while he's still sleeping.  He wakes up to get ready for work and gets out.  They get up, we eat dinner, and I get back in it.

So, pretty much there IS someone sleeping in it 23/7. It makes it REALLY hard to make my bed...and to make matters worse, if mine isn't made, it's impossible for me to make the kids make their beds.

So, starting today, your very first Friday Mission is to get everyone in your home to make their bed.  From the crib the baby sleeps in to Mom and Dad's, everyone's bed should be made at least once a day.  Maybe that means you make it and get right back in.  That's okay.  Trust me, it will still feel better getting into a made bed.

This is also going to be the time that I remind you that you should really be washing your sheets and pillowcases at least once a week.  If Friday works for you, make it Sheet Day.  The good news is, while sheets are large, they don't take up that much room in the washer and dryer.  So it's pretty easy to wash a few beds at a time if you have a large washer and dryer.  If you live in a warm climate, break out the clothes pins.  There is simply nothing like the smell of fresh sheets off the line.  To break up the "crunchies", toss them in the dryer for 5 minutes after bringing them in and put white vinegar in a downy ball instead of fabric softener.  It will save you $$ and make your sheets last longer too!

Ideally having 2 sets of sheets per bed is the "perfect" number, but sometimes it's just not practical.  That said, especially for small children it really is a nice "perk".  If you need to, check your closets and basement.  Having spare sheets available is heaven sent when everyone is sick.  If storage space is the challenge, try this: fold your clean "extra" sheets and place them between your mattress and box spring.  Then make the bed right over the top.  When you have an "emergency" in the middle of the night, you'll know exactly where they are and never be hunting for fresh linens again.

For infants to young toddlers:  Check crib/toddler bed mattresses and make certain they're still snug in their frames.  Strip beds and replace linens. Check blankets to make certain they are clean enough to make it through another week and replace if necessary.

Toddlers to preschool: Check mattresses.  Strip beds.  Make certain you have a spare list of linens "hidden" as listed above.  Check blankets.  Replace linens with the "help" of your child for their bed.  They can help bring the sheets up and even assist with putting pillows in pillow cases.  Starting them now will help get them ready for doing it themselves when they get older.

Elementary grades: Strip beds.  Hide spare linens if you have them available for sick nights.  Check blankets.  Replace linens with the help of your child.  Help them learn how to get a fitted sheet on (or use two flat sheets - it's much easier!).  Then let them finish making the bed themselves as they learn how.

Older children:  They're on their own.  Have them strip the bed themselves and replace their own linens.  I often tuck a little "surprise" in the new linens to encourage them when they're first starting.  A little treat or even just a dollar to buy their own little treat.  Sometimes I leave a little note in thanking them for what a wonderful job they're doing on something lately too.

Yourself:  Strip your bed.  Yes, YOU.  Strip your bed.  Wash your linens.  Check your blankets.  Replace the linens and make up the bed.

Now, everyone keep making the beds once a day until next Friday (or whenever Sheet Day works best for you!) and keep them moving forward!

Blessings and Peace!!!!  Have a lovely weekend.  Tomorrow we will have a list of "Optional" weekend activities available for you that you can also take into next week as "alternate" activities for when you already have the items on our list accomplished. I'm keeping all of you in my prayers and look forward to our project next week - tackling the kitchen!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Go! Go! Go?

Like most moms, I spend a CRAZY amount of time in my car.  To make it even more interesting, we live 15-30 miles from most of our destinations so not only are we in it often, we're in it for long periods of time and can't just run home which means everything ends up in there.  And I do mean everything.

Up here the weather can turn a dime so it requires changes of clothes, blankets, coats, hats, and gloves.  Because we're gone so often it also means water bottles, snacks, and things to entertain the kids.  Throw in a stroller, peapod (like a pack and play but packs up WAY smaller), and rug for the baby to play on, my Pampered Chef gear, my husband's business equipment, the stuff we need for 4H, Scouts, and Church...

Well, you get the picture.  Even when clean, my car is not an oasis.

But it is NOT clean.  In fact, it is awful. 

Day one we talked about eating at a table for ALL of Lent - and that's going to lead directly into what I'm going to ask you to start doing today and keep doing every day for the rest of Lent. 

By not eating in our car, we should be cutting down on the "trash can with wheels" problem.  Now I'm asking you to take that one step further, okay two.  But they're little steps, I promise.

1.  Do not bring ANYTHING new into your car and keep it there for the rest of Lent.  Add nothing.  If you need to bring something out, it comes back in with you when you return.  Everything you purchase also needs to come in when you get home.

2.  Every time you stop your car and get out, bring something with you.  Walking into the store?  Grab a handful of old receipts and toss them in the trash.  Heading into the house?  Grab an empty bag and toss in some of the kids meal toys and bring them in along with the pile of papers the kids brought home from CCD a month ago. 

Easy and painless - and think how wonderful it will be when you have someone who needs to hop in  your car and there's actually room for them. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In Search of: The Table

Can you guess how many times the word "table" appears in the Bible?


Do your children know what a table is?  Do you use one in your home?  Do you use it daily?  What do you do there?

Your mission today is to find your dining table and then commit to using it for the rest of Lent.  Eat every meal at your table or at a table.  Stop eating out of bags and boxes on the go and eat at the table. 

We made this change the first time 2 years ago for Lent at the challenge of my son's catechism teacher for First Communion and Confirmation.  It made a world of difference in our lives.

Now, if your table is like mine was, you might need to unearth it first.  That's okay.  Get out a trash bag and a box.  Put the trash in the bag and the things that need to be put away in a box.  Do the same for your chairs.  Then (and this is for everyone!) give your table a good wipe down - all of it, including the chairs.  Clean it from the top to the bottom and get all the dust and dirt off it.

Each week we join the Lord at his table to receive the Eucharist.  That's how important the family table is in our Faith.  He chose to give us a table to gather around.

We need to do the same for our families.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI and the Papal Interregnum

Today, to the shock of the entire world, Pope Benedict XVI announced he will be resigning at 8 PM Vatican time on February 28, 2013.  As with the rest of the world, our family was stunned by the news.  This is historic for Catholics. In the past 1,000 years of Church history, only 4 other Popes have resigned.  Most recently was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 who sought to reunify the Church after the Western Schism. To reunify the Church, he took the opportunity to revamp the process of choosing a Pope and following his resignation, the first conclave as we now know it convened to elect his successor and end the Schism.  Prior to that, Pope Celestine V and a Pope who never wanted to be elected was the first Pope to declare that Popes could resign and after only 5 months in the Seat of Peter he did so himself, returning to his life as a Benedictine hermit in 1294.

While the next Papacy will begin with something we have never seen in our lifetime, the process of choosing a Pope by conclave will still occur although the timeline and events leading up to the conclave are still in question.  We are expected to have a new Pope by the beginning of Holy Week based on all current accounts.

Most children in our families will not remember the election of Pope Benedict XVI if they are under the age of 13.  Those under 18 would have been 10 and under at the time and likely won't remember it clearly at all.  Lots of questions began to fly in our home this morning as I struggled to wrap my brain around the Holy Father's decision and I decided we could all use a little help in explaining this to our families.

The folks over at Busted Halo made this fabulous video explaining how a Pope is elected.  This is the most concise version of the truth I have found that doesn't include some vast mystery novel. 

For more on how the Pope is elected, there is an excellent series of "the way things usually go" on EWTN about what is formally called the Papal Interregnum or the period "between the reign" of two Popes.

As more information becomes available I will do my very best to bring it to you in everyday terms we can all understand and from resources that are accurate, reliable, and the truth of the Faith.

Special thanks to my friend Wendy who found the video by Busted Halo.  I just heard their radio show for the first time today and while not a long time listener, I am now officially a fan! ;)

Preparing our Minds

On Saturday we focused on preparing our hearts for the journey of Lent and this journey.  Today, we focus on preparing our minds.  Now that our hearts are open to change and with the Super Mom of the Old Testament in mind, we are ready to have that talk with our brain - that mass of grey upstairs that so often undoes what we attempt to accomplish before we even begin.

1 Peter 1:13 tells us "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (courtesy of Blue Letter Bible). 

Allow me to describe to you a typical "trying to leave the house" moment for our family.  It starts with me trying to get the baby ready to head out the door.  New clothes first, which I must ask my older son to go downstairs and retrieve because the only clean ones are likely still in the dryer or on top of it because I haven't had the chance to bring them upstairs and even if I did, there's nowhere for them to go.  When the clothes finally arrive, the baby gets a new diaper (currently retrieved from the dining room because that's where he slept until this month) and is put together in his clean duds to leave and then allowed to play on the floor with his favorite toy, 2-3 empty Mountain Dew bottles of Dad's and his brother watches him.  During this brief reprieve I run in circles gathering clothing, running a brush through my hair, throwing things into the diaper bag, trying to find 2 shoes, and attempting to locate my car keys.

Sometime after my chaos my son needs to get clothes and shoes.  15-20 minutes later he will resurface and we will attempt to head out the door.  I will put the baby in the car seat, the diaper bag in the front passenger seat, and as my son loads up I will remember 2-3 things I forgot.  So I turn on the car and my son or I run back in and grab the missing items and then out the door we finally go to head to town.

This entire journey takes about 30-50 minutes depending on the day, location of the items, and when the last time was we went to town.  The longer it's been since we needed shoes, the longer it will inevitably take to find a pair.  Murphy's Law. ;)  On days when we don't have time and I know we won't be getting out of the car, I will freely admit to driving to town in a nice shirt, pajama pants, and mismatched shoes or better yet a pair of heels because they were the only ones I could find.  Classy, huh?

Our Bible Verse today talks about preparing our minds for action to be ready for the return of Christ.  Right now, I hope Christ doesn't mind being kept waiting at least an hour for me to get it together to meet Him.

Okay, okay - I know that's unreasonable.  I should be ready to meet Christ at any time - but I am not ready to even greet my neighbor at the door and find out I need to chase our beagle down the street yet again because she got out.  My neighbors know every pair of pajama pants I own and what color and pattern my bathrobe is.  Yup - I'm THAT crazy lady.

If I am not even ready to open the door for my neighbor, how can I be ready for Christ?  How can I be ready to invite Him in?  To open my door?  If I am to be "sober in spirit" but dress like the crazy lady, how does that work?  Most people who don't know me well would probably assume I'm a better candidate for rehab than to lead this journey.

The truth is, I am not ready for Him.  Not at all.  It hurts to admit it, I wish I could say I were - but I promised I wouldn't lie to you.  It's not just about cleaning up my house or my eating habits over Lent.  It's about cleaning up my soul.  The mess around me is a direct reflection of the mess within me.  I want, no...I NEED to clean up these messes.  If Jesus, or my neighbor, comes to my door I want to fling the door wide open and hand over a cookie with a big smile.

Peter continues "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:14-16)

This is the goal - to move past our former ignorance, which got us to this place and to move forward to light.  Our homes, and our bodies, are vessels for the Holy Spirit.  God lives within you - and He deserves the best home you can provide. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Review

While on our Lenten Journey each Sunday I will post a review of what we've been doing along with links to what we've discussed each day.  This way if you miss something, you'll know where to find it.  If your entire house gets taken out with the latest bug you can jump back in and get caught up.  If aliens abducted your computer, we've got your back.

And just for fun so I have a clue what's coming up, I'll give you a brief overview of what's coming in the next week and what preparations you will need to have ready to go in advance. 

This week we began the beginning steps of our Cleaning Our Homes and Hearts Lenten Journey.  I introduced you to the schedule on Friday and then on Saturday we began to discuss Preparing Our Hearts and the Old Testament ultimate Super Mom.

Next week we will spend a few more days preparing our hearts, minds, families, and homes for the journey and then on Ash Wednesday we will jump in with both feet to begin the walk.  From Ash Wednesday to Friday we will start our journey working on 3 key areas and new habits we're going to implement right away in each of them. 

For this week you will need trash bags, 3-5 boxes, the internet, and a phone.  If you don't have the boxes, don't fret - you can just use a bag for right now and then transfer to a box later.

Keep praying, enjoy Mass this week, and I will see you all tomorrow when we talk about preparing our minds for the journey.

Blessings and Peace,

~ Heather

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Preparing Our Hearts

Humble pie is a dish best served with a side of sugar whenever possible.  One of the hardest things for me to admit on my journey to this process is that, frankly, I need to eat some humble pie.  So go get some chocolate and cuddle up with this post - because I can't pass my homemade oreo truffles to you over the internet (hint - dunk in dark chocolate).

Contrary to popular belief, I am not Super Mom.  I am not Wonder Woman.  Oh, I'm good at playing that role to the outside world, believe me - but the reality is that I am not perfect.  Not even close.  I am a woman that God created to be the helper and love of my husband's life.  I am the woman God gifted with 2 beautiful, amazing sons who make me laugh until I cry.  My world is full of blessings.  My cup, quite literally, runneth over.

But not today.

Today, I am bringing to the front the Bible Verse that brings me humility.  Proverbs 31:10-31. 

10 The truly capable woman -- who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearls.
11 Her husband's heart has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit.
12 Advantage and not hurt she brings him all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax, she does her work with eager hands.
14 She is like those merchant vessels, bringing her food from far away.
15 She gets up while it is still dark giving her household their food, giving orders to her serving girls.
16 She sets her mind on a field, then she buys it; with what her hands have earned she plants a vineyard.
17 She puts her back into her work and shows how strong her arms can be.
18 She knows that her affairs are going well; her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She sets her hands to the distaff, her fingers grasp the spindle.
20 She holds out her hands to the poor, she opens her arms to the needy.
21 Snow may come, she has no fears for her household, with all her servants warmly clothed.
22 She makes her own quilts, she is dressed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She weaves materials and sells them, she supplies the merchant with sashes.
25 She is clothed in strength and dignity, she can laugh at the day to come.
26 When she opens her mouth, she does so wisely; on her tongue is kindly instruction.
27 She keeps good watch on the conduct of her household, no bread of idleness for her.
28 Her children stand up and proclaim her blessed, her husband, too, sings her praises:
29 'Many women have done admirable things, but you surpass them all!'
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty; the woman who fears Yahweh is the one to praise.
31 Give her a share in what her hands have worked for, and let her tell her praises at the city gates.
(courtesy of Catholic Online)

Glad you grabbed the chocolate?

Me too.

I am not the Proverbs 31 Woman.  I wish I were.  That said, I am the wife my husband chose 10 years ago - and I must be doing okay - because he's still here...

But that's not enough for me.  I want more.  I want to BE this woman, a modern Proverbs 31 Woman. 

While we are working on the Cleaning Our Homes and Hearts Lenten Journey we are going to be finding ways to emulate this lady of immense stature, the Super Mom of the Old Testament.  We will be giving our husbands more confidence in us by taking better care of what they work so hard to provide.  We will be getting better at managing our homes.  We will learn tips and tricks for utilizing not only what we have, but how to create something from nothing with our hands.  We will be preparing to work the soil we have, be it in the ground or in pots preparing for spring and the gifts that come with it.  We will be performing corporal works of mercy with what we already have. We will be clothing ourselves with strength, dignity, and modesty as we sort through our closets shedding the past.  And while our children may not rise up and call us blessed as we teach them to care for their spaces while we are showing them the way by better caring for our own, the day will come when watching them managing their own homes well will be our own little secret private reward.

We must open our hearts to the journey.  We must embrace where we are with humility so we can move forward through Lent growing in love and our faith together.

Originally this journey was meant for me.  I am sharing it with all of you.  I will be honest and open with you about my triumphs and my failures.  I pray that you will find the strength to be just as honest and open with me.

When spring comes and brings neighbors dropping by to your door, you will no longer cower in fear praying they don't have a decent enough reason to need to come in.  You will be able to open the door and embrace them - secure in your home and secure in your Faith. 

This journey will not be easy for me.  I didn't write this to make it simple.  I wrote it to make me work hard, to push myself beyond where I am. 

I recently told a dear friend I didn't want to put up crosses and crucifixes in my home because I didn't want Jesus to see what it looked like.  I'm right there with you.  This is my journey as well.  Jesus sees this mess, and the mess inside my heart, whether I open it to the world or not.  It is time for us to prepare.  To be humble enough to know we need to make the changes, and that in order to make them, we need God as part of the picture.

Join me.

Friday, February 8, 2013

An Invitation to Catholic Creativity's Cleaning our Homes and Hearts Lenten Journey!

This year, in addition to removing something from my life, I am making the addition of trying to be a better wife by learning to keep my home better.  Lent is the PERFECT amount of time to get things in order for me.  I would LOVE it if some of you would join me on the journey.  I've created a plan using 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week with "optional weekend activities" (which could also be added during the week for those with more than 15 minutes to spare or substituted if the day's activity isn't something you need to accomplish) combining several of the "home cleaning headliners" and organization mavens tips along with my own knowledge.  There will also be a section to read over the weekend about how to maintain what you have accomplished and keep moving forward.  Much of this is from when I used to set up my military homes when we would move which would inevitably result in pure chaos. 
The schedule will be as follows:

From  Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13) to Feb. 15: Preparing for the Journey
Feb. 18 to Feb. 22: Kitchen
Feb. 25 to Mar. 1: Bathroom
Mar. 4 to Mar. 8: Master Bedroom
Mar. 11 to Mar. 15: Living Room/Office/Homeschooling Areas
Mar. 18 to Mar. 22: Dining Room
Mar. 25 to Mar. 29: Finishing Touches
We will be emphasizing more than cleaning and organizing - we will also be collecting donations for charity and working on our hearts and minds.  For the "extremely challenged" (like myself) there will be some additional activities to help you on your journey.  For those of us who need to multitask we'll be intermingling prayer, Bible verses, and connections to Faith throughout the challenge as well.
If you want to join us, be it for one day, one week, or for all of Lent, just follow along as the posts come up. :)  I will let you all know what I'm working on, give you a head's up for what's coming in the week ahead, and help you get started on organizing your home (and mine!) along with tips, tricks, and helpful hints. :) Plus, let's be honest, for those of us hostessing for Easter... ;)