Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yum Yum Hot Cocoa

The celebration is over but the decorations are still up. Oh how I love CHRISTMAS! I married a man who loves it as much or more than me! We had a wonderful time this year! Family, friends, phone calls to relatives far away, and joy on our boy's faces as they came down-stairs Christmas morning. We had a special Christmas this year here at our home with just us five. We had seen my family the Saturday before and Kevin's family is all over the US, so we spent it at home with our boys and my dad. It was special and memorable. We did a lot of snuggling, read about the birth of our Savior, opened presents and watched Christmas movies. It was perfect and precious. This whole month has been filled with wonderfulness. I love to take a minute here or there to catch up on my favorite blogs and see how everyone else is celebrating this wonderful time of year! It was during one of my reading sessions that I found this hot chocolate recipe! Here, in Iowa, with 9 degree temperatures and a foot of snow, hot chocolate is ALWAYS welcome. We've been a "packet" cocoa family....until recently. Our lives were changed forever after I found this recipe:
Best Hot Chocolate Recipe 1/2 c. sugar 1/4 c. cocoa powder (we used Hershey's) 1/3 c. water

Whisk these three ingredients together and bring to a boil.
4 c. milk 3/4 t. vanilla

Once the cocoa powder/milk mixture is boiling add the milk. Do not bring to a boil but keep it over heat until it's the temperature you desire. Add the vanilla and serve. It tastes delicious with Whipped Topping as well! Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Back Home

I am so excited to announce that I am now a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) again!!! Praise The Lord (PTL)!!!! My last day at work was November 16th. My first week home I started planning for Thanksgiving, which was held at our house this year. :) We had a great time but that consumed most of my week with preparations. Last week I spent the week preparing for a Christmas party on Saturday, with folks from our church. So my first two weeks home have been full of preparation and little time to truly reflect on this amazing opportunity I have been given.

A little back story-I went back to work, after being a SAHM for two and half years, in November of 2011. At that point our lives were upside down from the loss of Kevin's job. I had not worked since I was 10 weeks pregnant with Leo! I was nervous about what this would mean for our boys and what would happen to us as a family, with me not being home to "man the ship," so to speak. I am responsible for all our budgeting, bills, laundry, cooking, cleaning....and all other chores that go with being a SAHM. Kevin was going to be in charge of most of that during the day, while I worked and he desperately searched for worked before his unemployment benefits ended.

I worked as a temp for two companies before I got my "dream" job at a fantastic financial company in downtown Des Moines. I said from the start, had I not loved being a mom-this was my dream job! It was in a posh office in the tallest Skyscraper in Des Moines. I was the 4th person in a 4 person office, also the youngest. The people I worked with were fantastic and I loved pretty much everything about the job. But, my heart has always been with my boys and as a family, our goal was to get me back home with our boys.

In August of this year, Kevin started working for a company that has tremendous potential for the future. As a family, we decided this was the time to really focus on getting me back home. He has a secure position, and although the pay is significantly lower than what he made at his previous job, we are thankful for the position and potential it provides for our family. That being job and the pay that I was receiving was making our lives comfortable, so comfortable that even with daycare expenses we were STILL financially comfortable. It was a good feeling.

I will admit at this point, this is when I began to lose sight of our goal. I battled with quitting, this wonderful job that I loved, because of all the great aspects of it and the financial security it offered, to be home again. Please do not misunderstand, I love my children so very very much....while this internal battle was going on, my main thought was financial stability. So many people thought that the choice to leave was a silly and foolish one. Here I am, in this current economy, with a great job that I love, wanting to walk away to be home with my kids and give up almost half of our annual income. I wrestled with thoughts of doubt....doubting my husband's decision of wanting me home...doubting that his job would provide financially enough for us to be "comfortable".... doubting that I would even know how to be a SAHM again (after a year in the work field) many doubts. I was sick with fear of the unknown. I felt like-at least with my job I KNOW we can be financially secure. It was a good feeling. Even though it meant that I was home every night at 6 pm and spent all of two and half waking hours a day with our boys.

Kevin consistently reassured me that I was to be home with our boys and we need to trust God, not my job. One Sunday at church, our pastor gave a message on trusting God with everything. As I sat in the pew I felt as if he was speaking directly to me. Here I was....telling God that I knew what he wanted....but I could "control" the financial aspect of our family with my income, and that was good enough. It still makes me ill to think of my foolishness. That Sunday, I gave my doubts and fears to God, at the alter. I cast all my worries on Him and asked Him to forgive me for my silliness.

My notice had already been given, but rather than spending my last week lamenting on my "bad" choice to leave, I had a joy in my heart. My boss tried desperately to change my mind, my last Friday there. It was so wonderful to feel so wanted. Tears were shed as I walked to my car that evening....but still God gave me peace that my decision was right.

We have made many changes in our lives to accomodate me being a SAHM: we canceled my fancy smart phone service and now I just have a regular mobile line and use a free TextMe service on my iPod, we shop almost exclusively at Aldi (which is a secret awesome, amazing grocery store with savings that I've been missing out on for only 31 years!), our boys will only receive one gift from us for Christmas this year (which, coincidentally, were purchased from the wonderful land of Aldi at amazing prices!), I'm back to making our own laundry detergent for cloth diapers (which is better at cleaning...but takes some time to make), we now cloth diaper 98% of the time (we use disposable diapers for outtings), making my own bread, reduced insurance on our vehicles, transferred life insurance to a new company for a $50 monthly savings, decreased the minutes on our phone to a meager 450 a month (eeek!!!!), and all trips are consolidated. In order to get where we feel God wants us to be, we had to make sacrafies in the conveniences of our life. While they may seem inconvenient now, the long-term rewards are more than we can comprehend.

Here I am, two and half weeks later, 4 pounds lighter (because SAHM's never seem to stop moving-except for nap time), and overwhelmingly happy. I am definitely "working" here! At my "job" I spent most of my time on the computer at at desk and some filing. My days now consist of crafting, cooking, cleaning, baking, cleaning, reading stories, snuggling, nap-times, cleaning, and helping to mold these two precious people into Godly men. In my time home Leo has learned, word for word, John 3:16. He is a little sponge for knowledge and I now have time to "feed" it to him. I have so many ideas for wonderful ways to teach my boys and am so thankful for this opportunity.

I have realized that as a parent I was failing my children because I spent so little quality time with them. Our mornings were filled with me stressfully attempting to clothe two sleepy, crabby boys and rush out the door. Our evenings consisted of a tired mommy rushing to help with dinner, then bathe, then put the boys to bed. There were no games played....few stories read....snuggle time was cut short because mom had to prepare for "tomorrow." It hurts my heart to think of the time that I missed with them the year that I spent working outside of the home. They're precious voices, learning to speak....Judah's little feet carrying him for the first time. I missed so many moments. I know I am where God wants me to be. I've turned in my suits for jeans and my heels for tennis shoes. Makeup comes out rarely now and my hair is not picture perfect all the time...but my boys love me in home "finery" so much more than my work "finery" because I'm always ready for play time, and that payment is worth so much more to me than anything else. I know God will provide and we will be cared for. :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New counters

To say I'm PUMPED is an understatement!! I am sooo PUMPED!!! We have lived in this house for four years and my bane since purchase has been the "flashback to the 70's" orange counterops. The countertops themselves were in great shape, no cracks or scratches....but the was as orange as a harvest pumpkin. Behold the "before" all of its orange-y glory!
Obviously something had to be done! I have done quite a bit of research the past four years. Visions of lovely marble and granite tops drift into my head...glorious beautiful shiny ones....then the price brings me back to reality. Price has brought me back to reality on all other options as well...until I discovered Giani! Countertop painting?!?! Whoever heard of such a thing!!! I did quit a bit of research and was impressed with what I found. It took me about a year to get fully pumped for the thought of painting my tops because once you do it, there is a two week dry time before your KitchAid can get back to its cozy nest on the counter. Then one day (last friday), my amazingly crafty husband was at a paint store with a display of Giani. He purchased the Diamond White kit and our lives are now changed forever. He brought it home and we began that night. First step is to clean and lightly sand the tops. Then apply the primer.
After allowing a night of drying for the primer,I enlisted the help of my mother and over nap time we began the sponge painting technique. It was SCARY at first....we did a practice paper then began. We had fun! We layered three colors over the primer. It was easy!! Here is a shot of the paint after application. We allowed an entire day to dry before we removed the Frog tape.
Tape is removed and counters are exposed in all their glory! They are awesome!!! I'm amazed at how much they actually look like granite. Being the amatures we are, there are definitely some spots that are more white than others...but I suppose the quarry extracted a different section of rock that day. ;) Real granite isn't perfect and exactly the same throughout, and neither is my lovely new piece. It is such an improvement on the old awful orange!
Caulking still needs to be applied to the seams, but Kev wants to wait a day to do that to ensure perfect bonding...or something technical like that. :)
Here's a close up! Pretty awesome, eh?!? Yeah...I think it is too!

Friday, October 19, 2012

You want to see the island....

Two weekends ago I started the painting of the kitchen island we purchased from K-Mart...on sale....for $120!!! I loved the price, loved the detail and loved the size. I did not like the color one bit. Honey colored wood did NOT go well with our barn-board cabinets and lovely orange countertops ("lovely orange" is said in jest...and as soon as I have extra money and time...those bad boys are getting painted and updated!). I talked Kevin into helping me set up my paint booth in the garage!! Being the awesome husband he is....he helped. :) I'll get pics of that up at some point. I'm super pumped because I have acquired so much furniture from craisglist and garage sales, over the past 3 years. I have fantastic intentions of painting it all, making it awesome and either using it in our home or selling it, but have never had time or made the time to get it done. Now I have one less excuse! I would love for this to be a way to make money, when I'm home with the boys.  So Kev got me all set up and I went to work. First I removed all the hardware. I lightly sanded the surface, which was kind of silly because some parts of it aren't even wood, just laminate (what did I expect for $120 though, right ;)). I sprayed two coats of paint that we purchased a few years ago for our house painting project. Definitely will NOT be using it again because it is the paint you get from the paint recycling place and was full of gunk that constantly clogged my awesome paint gun. A huge headache for my first ever project! I did two coats, cleaned up, played with the boys, made supper, picked up the house and a million other things (it seemed like) because my weekends are BUSY! :) We let it dry overnight, then Sunday, after church and dinner, Kevin put 2 coats of Minwax Polycrylic on while I gave the boys a bath. :) He had to sand off some of the bumps from the bad paint before he sprayed it and touch up a few areas, but it turned out AMAZING!!!! I am so beyond pumped!!!
I am TERRIBLE at taking pictures while in the process, and am determined to create a habit of doing "action" shots so I can be a better blogger and give all the awesome details, but for this first Before and After post I only have pictures from when we first purchased it and put it in our kitchen and once it was painted and put back in place.
I plan on using my Silhouette to make the vinyl letter for the quote. Kev came up with those words and I love it because I LOVE to cook and it is so true, for me. :) So this next picture is a futuristic type one with how the island will look once the quote is added. I'm such a planner like that! :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Getting started

A little about me: I am married to the world's greatest man (how I came to be SO blessed in this way is WAY beyond my comprehension), I have two beautiful, funny, energetic boys whom I love more than words can express. Our little family lives in the country with two "black stallions" (black geldings), one lab/german shehpherd mix, and one pot bellied pig. My husband and I are currently renovating our house that we purchased four years ago and raising our boys with the help of our God, our church and our patience. :) We work at a painfully slow pace because honestly, our house is at the end of our list. In September of 2011 my husband lost the job that he had for seven and a half years at a great company. I had been blessed to be able to stay home with our boys since I was four months pregnant with the first one. All of a sudden our lives were turned upside down. I know in the grand scheme of things, job loss pales compared to many things, but in our lives, at the time, it was a traumatic blow. I found work as quickly as I could, while my husband turned into a stay-at-home dad. Roles were switched and the change was a lot to process for our two young boys (at that time 2 and 9 months). Dad used to work 70+ hours a week and now he was home and mom was gone. Months prior to my husband's layoff we had begun building on a master bedroom suite, complete with master closet and bathroom, and renovation of one of the three upstairs bedrooms into a large bathroom for our growing family. Construction halted, the contractor was not extended to finishing the interior, we were left with a housewrapped addition on our second story with no access to it from the inside, only rough plumbing run; no insulation, electricity, flooring, drywall or roof. The upstairs renovation on our bathroom halted as well. We are living in an abandoned construction zone. My husband is talented in all areas, so he has worked when he can, to complete as much as he can, but it's a slow process when you're 'mom' during the day to two busy boys. In May we realized that the short term rubber roof was not keeping all the rain out of the addition and causing black mold to grow in the kitchen ceiling. Our boys were developing breathing problems and we had no insurance or money to combat what we were faced with. We called the contractor, who agreed to replace the entire kitchen ceiling, remove all the mold and finish it at no cost because the temporary roof he installed leaked. What a blessing! We just needed to get a permanent roof on the addition in place before he would replace the kitchen ceiling. I made a humbling call to a friend at church, whose husband is a great blessing, with a plea on behalf of our sickly family, to please help Kevin install the metal roof we had purchased but lay unused because we could not afford the workers. Her husband and a church boy drove 45 minutes both ways for two weekends to assist Kevin with the installation. Once completed, the following weekend the boys and I stayed with my sister while the contractor repaired our entire kitchen ceiling and treated the beams for black mold. Praise the Lord!!! Our construction is far from complete, but God has shown us that he is working and is with us and cares. Kevin was offered a job almost 6 months to the day that he was letgo, within one week of his unemployment expiration date...try to tell me that was not God! He was then recruited for a position by a company for implementation of an assembly line similar to what he was used at his previous company (even though he was not in assembly)! He is now employed by that company and is working to further his career. I am still working, but our goal is to have me back home with our boys as soon as we are financially able. We went from living a very comfortable life to making less than half of Kevin's annual salary in a matter of days, so our road is rough but we are tough. :) Through all of these trials I have only grown to love my husband more. He is the most amazing person in the world to me. His grace and character have shown throughout this whole experience and have shown me that I am blessed to have him as my own. Our priority is for me to be home with our boys and educate them, nurture them and teach them a love for God and man. I have such a burden for their development that it is overwhelming. I look at our current world and know that I want better for my precious boys. My husband shares my conviction, so while it may not be easiest or most popular choice, we are choosing to homeschool our boys, when the time comes. But first....we have to get me home! :)
The love of my sun, moon, and stars.