Friday, January 23, 2015

Pretty Rooms, First Edition

One of the best aspects of buying a "fixer-upper" is that it needs, of course, to be fixed up.

I'm not naturally a creative person, so I can't just look into the recesses of my "creative mind," and find all sorts of wonderful ideas on how we should renovate and decorate our rooms!

Introducing... Pinterest.

Okay, so it sounds lame, but honestly... it's awesome. Almost daily, I am collecting photos of design and decor ideas--and then I'm continually texting them to Matt for his input. I'm more the "decor" girl, while he's the guy with the nail gun [i.e., the ability/knowledge on how to make these ideas become a reality].

In case any of you are in a similar fixing-up-your-house situation, I thought I'd share some of our inspiration ideas with you! That being said, I present...

[[Pretty Rooms, First Edition]]

[Whether or not there will ever be a Second Edition is all based on the popularity of THIS post. ;)]

[[kitchen]]



[[back porch]]



[[living room]]



[[master bedroom]]



[[play room]]



You're probably getting clued in to what my style is, right? Simple, clean, with pops of blue... everywhere. :)

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How I Earn $40-50 a Month Using Phone Apps [Part 2]

I know you've been waiting, anxiously waiting, to hear more about how to earn money using your phone. In fact, every time I turned on an app that I hadn't yet told you about, I felt a little guilty. But now, here I am.

But first...If you missed Part 1 (where I talked about Swagbucks, Bing, and Qriket), check it out HERE!

And secondly... for all those of you who one, are skeptical of this whole money-earning app thing (OR, you are a millionare, and would rather sit and count your millions), two, never have any dead time where you'd USE said apps, or THREE, could care less to hear about apps where you have to CLICK buttons to earn a few cents here and there (yikes, that does sound bad!!), I say this to you:

Stay tuned for the grocery store apps, at the bottom of this post. Because there's a chance that you might still buy groceries from time to time. You might even visit clothing stores once in a while. And if you do THOSE things, then you might be interested in the three apps I mention at the bottom. So don't close this post. Not yet.

OH-kay. First up: Feature Points. There are many apps like this, in which you download a free app, try it out for a few seconds, and BAM: you get points. And those points add up, convert to dollars (or gift cards), and you go shopping. ;)

This app MIGHT be the best of all of download-and-try apps, because of the referral system. Not only can you rack up your OWN points, but you receive 50% of all your friends' points, too. . Not a bad deal, huh? If you have friends who have access to phone apps, that is. ;)

As I've mentioned last time, you don't need to use my referral code. You can just search Feature Points, and go from there. But if you want my referral code ('cause you're feeling extra generous), here 'tis: 73EM6K.

My favorite rewards from Feature Points are Amazon gift cards and Paypal (a.k.a. real money!), though there are many other reward options.

Ahh... now. My favorite app for the hours and hours a day when I'm not using my phone. When my phone is just sitting on the counter doing nothing earning gift cards.

It's called Perk TV, and you literally start the trailers running on this app, and walk away. Every hour or so, you have to click "yes" to the question "Are you still watching?" but other than that, the trailers continually run all day long, making this app kinda awesome.

My goal for THIS app is the same as the goal for Swagbucks: one $5 gift card every week, and I always choose a Wal-mart gift card for this one, too (though you could earn gift cards for Applebee's, Children's Place, Target, Lowe's... You name the place. There are gift cards!), because the bulk of my "household products" come from there.

Combining my Perk TV gift cards and Swagbucks gift cards, by the way, is how I earn (or my goal is to earn) $40 in Walmart gift cards every month. That leaves our "ACTUAL" Wal-mart bill very small indeed.

If you're interested, my Perk TV referral code is: 910c32b7.

Next: App Trailers. This is another trailer-watching app. Although you have to actually click for each trailer to start, I still really like this app because I can earn money (Paypal again) while I'm watching TV shows, curling my hair, nursing Caroline, or other activities where my hands are mostly free. I love how EASILY this money transfers to your Paypal account as soon as you reach $0.50 (which is about how much I earn every day).

Every time I purchase anything using Paypal, I always have money already in there (from App Trailers), which gives me a nice discount! As for referral code, I'm honestly not quite sure how this one works. I'd just try mrandmrsregar, and see what happens! ;)

And FINALLY... for those of you grocery-store-shoppers who have been scrolling and scrolling, these are for you.

My Top Fav Store App is Receipt Hog.

I LOVE this app, primarily because it's so FUN. You take pictures of your receipts (from grocery stores, or major retailers), and the "Receipt Hog" eats your receipts, and gives you points. And then sometimes you get to "spin" for more points. And points turn into (guess?)... gift cards or cash. As usual.

You'll love it. (Some of you have already used my referral code, which I posted on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you!! For those of you who haven't yet signed up, my code is: zund7013).

The last two grocery store apps (which are very similar to each other) are: Checkout 51 and Snap. Each week, they post special offers on certain grocery items (some are as non-specific as "grapes" or "loaf of bread.") Once you purchase those items, then you snap a picture of your receipt, and they give you a certain amount BACK for each of the items you bought.

Alrighty! There are many more apps out there, but these are all my favorites. For now. ;) If you have any other favorite apps (which happen to earn you a little cash), please mention them in the comments, and I'll be sure to check them out!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How I Earn $40-50 a Month Using Phone Apps: Part 1

Hey! I recently asked on my facebook page if anyone was interested in learning about MONEY-EARNING APPS, and a bunch of you responded! I'm super excited to tell you about my favorite apps, and how they all work, but first... a couple things to keep in mind. ;)

1. These apps THRIVE on what I refer to as "dead-time." We all have this, even if you're a busy stay-at-home moms! There are moments throughout every single day when you're waiting for someone to arrive, or for the water to boil. Or you're "Please Hold-ing" on the phone with the insurance company. And let's not forget about commercials!

There are also many moments when you're performing a semi-mindless task, such as folding laundry, curling your hair, or ironing, when you could have your phone next to you, continually earning money.

That brings me to point #2.

Earning money on your phone does not = a part-time job. If you do exactly what I do, you're looking at a nice chunk of "fun money" every month, but don't think you'll be able to start paying your bills using this essentially "free" money. Ha. :) But at the same time, if your phone's just SITTING on the counter, doing nothing, or if YOU'RE just sitting, doing nothing (if only for a minute), wouldn't it be cool to use those moments to slowly earn up some money that you weren't counting on?

The money will come in slowly, but if you use these apps enough, the money will add up--till you look around your house, and realize that half the decor in your kids' rooms, plus your kids' pajamas, plus a pair of shoes, and a new dress for yourself, etc. ALL came from clicking on some phone apps. It's pretty simple, and I hope you enjoy this experience (and the extra cash) as much I have!

Now. I WAS planning to explain about ALL the apps in one killer-long post, but I think it might be better to split them up and explain as I go.

First off, probably the most popular money-earning app. At least the one I've heard the most people talking about, and that is...

SWAGBUCKS

Everyone has a slightly different way of using Swagbucks to make them the most money. My goal is simple: to have a $5 gift card once a week. This is what I do to achieve that goal.

1. Install the Swagbucks toolbar on your computer, and then visit Swagbucks every day. (1 SB per day)

2. Perform the Daily Activities (1-2 SB per activity). You'll find these on the Swagbucks website.

3. Scroll through the homepage, looking for "Earn Easy Swagbucks" activities. Sometimes you can find opportunities for 2 SB (which are usually as simple as clicking a button), and other times, you'll find ones up to 25--or more.

4. Play a few games (up to 10 SB).

The bulk of my SB earnings, though, come from Swagbucks TV. This is both an app, and a button on your Swagbucks toolbar.

5. SB TV on the computer: Every 10 videos watched = 3 SB. That seems like pittance, and that it would take forever, but here's the good thing: you can be doing whatever you want on the computer, and keep that TV running (on the side) the whole time. I've never gotten to this grand total (you'd have to be on your computer all day long!), but supposedly you can earn over 100 SB daily, just by running the TV on your computer.

6. SB TV on your phone app: Pick which set of videos you want to watch, and your phone will run on its own, watching video after video, up to 36 SB. You can literally just press a button, and walk away--and your phone will sit there, earning money! Sometimes your phone might freeze, but I've heard that re-setting your router once a week would fix that problem (??).

7. Enter the available Swagbucks Codes for 3-6 SB daily (depending on the day). I have all SB Codes texted to my phone (if you're in the US, text "follow SwagCodeSpoiler" to 40404), so that I can enter them (either on my phone, or on the computer) before they expire!

8. Install the Bing App, which can stand on its own (as a money-earning app), or it can be SB's BFF (Best Friend Forever ;)). How Bing works: it's basically a search engine like Google. You can perform searches on your phone and computer, and earn up to 27 points per day. The nice thing is, one of the rewards Bing offers is to transfer your Bing points into Swagbucks! You don't have to do that of course, but it definitely increases how many SB you earn per week.

Well, that's HOW you earn Swagbucks (hope some of that made sense--whew!), but here's WHAT you can earn... gift cards for Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks (each one "costs" 450-500 SB)... How's THAT sound, right?!

There are so many more apps to talk about, but I'm going to leave you with a quick bonus app. This one's super easy, and it takes basically no time at all every day. In fact, Rachel and Jemima have gotten into earning money on this app!

It's called "Qriket," and all you do is spin a wheel, with the chance to win a random amount, starting at $0.05. Once you get to $5, you can cash out to Paypal. You can only spin the wheel a few times a day, so I check it in the morning, spin the wheel (if I have free spins), and then wait a few hours till I gather more spins! And that's it.

Let me say one more thing before I go: for almost every app I use, I have a referral code--which means that if you sign up *using* my referral code, I get some kind of bonus. It's small, but it's a fun bonus nevertheless! ;) If you'd rather not use my referral code, then don't click on my links... just head straight to Swagbucks or Bing or wherever you please! :) And for those of you who DO sign up with my codes, here's a thank you in advance!

Okay! If you have questions, let me know! I hope you have fun with these! I'll hopefully be back soon, with more money-earning apps! LOL.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Keeping Up with Six People's Laundry [Without Getting Overwhelmed]

You wanna hear some sarcasm?!

There's nothing better than getting ready to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, only to open the dryer and see cold, wrinkled clothes that you'd totally forgotten about.

There aren't too many sights more beautiful-to-the-eyes than your guest bed, covered in piles of unfolded clothes.

Yeah, wow. What about your laundry room floor, strewn with dirty clothes... like, everywhere?

First thing that comes to mind, is to whip out your phone, and start pinning these awe-inspiring images to Pinterest, am I right?!

Ahem.

No. Not a chance.

Here's more the feeling that overwhelms me when I see this: discouragement. Feeling like the laundry is a MONSTER, that I'm JUST TOO TIRED to keep fighting.

I was a little nervous about adding a fourth child's laundry to our "laundry situation"--especially since a baby goes through a good deal of clothing the first few months. It's small clothing, but still... clothing nevertheless that needs washed and put away.

But honestly, it hasn't been too bad. Really. I adopted a system of doing things, that seems to be working nicely. It's pretty simple, too, and the laundry is almost always done for the day by lunch time. At least, that's the goal!

So, here are my favorite tips for keeping the laundry under control...

Dirty laundry everywhere? No. Designated spots where dirty laundry is contained, until washing? HUGE HUGE HUGE YES.

We have two laundry baskets--one in the girls' room, and one in our master bedroom. The girls are pretty much in charge of putting all the KIDS' dirty laundry in their basket. So if I'm changing Matthias's jeans, Caroline's sleeper, you name it... the girls come and get it [immediately], and put it in their hamper. The girls are more than welcome to change their own clothes, or put on their nightgowns, etc., as long as they put their dirty clothes in their hamper right away. We have a strict "no dirty clothes on the floor" policy.

What about dirty towels and sheets? Blankets? This might sound silly, but when we have dirty towels/sheets/blankets, I throw them down the steps towards the laundry room, and then whenever anyone of us (including the girls) are going downstairs, we pick it up and place it right into the washer. That way, they're already there, ready to be washed, along with the clothes.

How much laundry is there? I mean, isn't there, like, a TON, with six people? Okaaay. Maybe there's a lot, but honestly, I think you'd be surprised how LITTLE there is, all things considered. And here's why: We only change clothes if they're actually dirty. Otherwise, we wear them a couple days in a row. If you know me personally, I'm a bit of a clean freak, so don't worry--if the clothes are actually dirty, they're getting changed. It's not like I have dirty kids running around. And this system works VERY well in the winter time (when they're primarily playing inside), as opposed to summer days (when they're getting dirty and sweaty, having fun outside).

As for pajamas, the kids don't wear them every night. It's kind of like a special treat, though the girls are wearing them more often now, since they can dress themselves. But it'll take SEVERAL wearings of pajamas before I proclaim them needing-to-be-laundered.

I don't know how much this ACTUALLY plays into LESS LAUNDRY, but my kids' outfits are pretty simple, meaning they don't have a ton of clothes to begin with. The girls wear shirts, skirts, and leggings every day, Matthias wears a shirt and jeans, and Caroline's favorite outfit is still cuddly sleepers. ;)

The girls can mix-and-match the pieces in their outfits a lot, so that it appears that they're wearing different outfits, but really... we're working with the same basic pieces. :)

Oh! Oh! I want to talk about socks. I'm just a wee bit passinate about socks. ;) I buy ALL the kids' socks from Old Navy--every time. I try to buy cool designs--so Matthias has orange fox socks, gray and black raccoon socks, striped or plaid socks, etc.

Similarly, the girls have pink, polka-dotted, purple, striped, and so on. Not white, which get stained easily (not a fan of stains over here). When the socks are very colorful/specific (who could accidentally match an orange fox sock with a purple polka-dotted one?!), then it's easy to match them up, and tell whose are whose.

And by the way, the girls wear the same size socks, which makes it awesome. Old Navy had a 5 pairs for $5, so I bought five pairs, and the girls share them.

Once they're dirty, they get put in the wash. While folding clothes, all the socks get thrown a pile, where they are then matched up and distributed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Each day, right after breakfast, the girls dump the two laundry baskets together, and I carry it down the stairs and start the wash. In this season of life, it's all one load, folks. No sorting. (But that's just based on our preference!)

[[our laundry room]]



An hour or so later, I go BACK downstairs, and switch the wash into the dryer. Then an hour after that, the laundry is dried and ready.

Woo-hoo! Excitement, excitement. Clean, warm laundry!!

And then what happens??? The girls open the dryer, pull out all the kids' stuff, and distribute it. We're still working on the folding aspect. Right now, each child has a dresser, with certain drawers designated to hold different pieces of clothing, and the girls deliver the clothes to each drawer accordingly.

Then, whenever I get around to it, I'm "in charge" of the adult clothing--which, considering we're doing a load every day, it isn't that much stuff.

As for towels and rags... I fold them, and the girls put them away.

What about all the bedding? Extra for an extra crib sheet, we don't have any extra sheets. So if I strip the bed (or beds) in the morning, I try to have the bed made up again by the time it's needed for naps/night time.

All this being said, my biggest tip for laundry (especially the distributing part) would be...

Just Do It.

Same with cleaning the bathrooms, wiping the floors, doing the dishes. Sometimes, it'll never seem easy, and you'll never FEEL like folding, even if it's a small pile.

So just start working on it, and little by little, you'll soon see your hard work pay off!

No more piles?! Hurray! Definitely a cause for celebrating.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How My Life is Gonna Change in 2015

The new year has a funny way of creeping up on me. I never actually felt completely "ready" for Christmas (I'm thinking it was the lack of snow...), and IT'S already over.

Anyway, I'm not usually "into" New Years' Resolutions, but THIS year, in the past week... or month... or several months... I've been thinking that some changes needed to be made, and a new year seems like the right time to put these changes into place. So I'm makin' it OFFICIAL. ;)

In no particular order...

1. I want to read or listen to the Bible, the whole way through. AND, I want to read the Bible with the kids every day.

2. I want to memorize a new verse with the kids, every other week. That'll give us two weeks for each verse! I'm telling you--Rachel and Jemima (but especially Rachel, who's 4) has CRAZY memorizing skills. She's able to pick up on verses and song lyrics WAY faster than I can. It seems like an incredible opportunity to get her memorizing some Scripture!

3. I want to be singing, with the kids, every day. We started this in November, so that they could learn some Christmas carols, but now that Christmas is over, I don't want the singing to stop! I looove it. We started on a few random hymns that we'll be singing in church, and I guess we'll go from there!

4. I want to read with the kids more--period. Short stories, chapter books, Rachel reading to me, me reading to all the kids, kids on my lap or kids sprawled around me, reading to kids while nursing Caroline, you name it. The reading's gonna happen.

5. I want to wake up earlier! Now that Caroline's sleeping through the night, I'm able to get a full night's sleep! Which means... I can set the alarm, and GET UP with the alarm. The first day I tried this, I was a little over-ambitious, and got up at 5 AM. Although by 10 AM, I'd accomplished a full day's work ;), I was also kind of exhausted. So my current wake-up time is 5:30 AM, and I'm taking my mornings a little slower. This way, I can be showered and dressed, get a bit of work done, AND be in the process of making breakfast, when the kids wake up.

6. Spend less time on social media. I like Facebook and Instagram... MOST of the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm just wasting my time, and sometimes I get upset by what I read, and then it effects my attitude for a while. Mostly, I just hate the distraction. I like catching up with people, and I ENJOY reading cool articles, but I DON'T like getting caught up in what I'm reading, and forget about my day. My kids. My husband. The food I need to cook. The laundry that should be folded. ETC.

7. Have FUN working on house projects with my husband! I'd say painting a room, side by side with Matt, is one of the most romantic, enjoyable things we could do together. Seriously. The problem is when I start creating deadlines in my head (when there is no need for them), and it starts stressing me out when the house doesn't look a certain way, when I want it to. So... less stress when there are setbacks, and more just enjoying the adventure of fixing up our home!

8. Learn more about decorating. I'm not completely sure how to do this, but I'd love to be better at picking items that would go together nicely in a room. I love shows like The Property Brothers, Clean House, Buying and Selling, etc. The staging process at the end of each show, and the way these experts bring each room together, is SO MUCH FUN to watch... and I wouldn't mind having a bit more expertise in that area! :D

9. Encourage other moms--younger moms, who have one or two kids--especially in practical areas such as taking care of multiple little ones or keeping their houses orderly and clean... not letting dishes or laundry take over. I feel like I've grown a lot in what I'm able to do, and I've learned some tips along the way that might be helpful for other mommies. I'm not sure practically how to do this, but I want to be a source of encouragement somehow!

10. Be a peaceful, kind, patient presence in our home. I want to create an atmosphere of calm, and cheerfulness--and definitely not anger and bitterness, as can be my tendency sometimes. :( I KNOW that I'm a huge influence on the general ambiance of our home--both with my husband, and my kids!

11. I'm quickly tacking this on at the end: Have an official "school schedule" for Rachel, and stick to it! She's actually reading short books now, and we're seeing tons of progress. This is definitely something I'm super excited about for the next year!

So that's what I'm looking forward to, by God's grace, in 2015! As always, thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway ($25!!), Plus How We "Do" Christmas

Hey, everyone! So here's something a little different [and super FUN??!!].

Excitement aside ;), a friend of mine--who also happens to be a talented writer--has a fun giveaway on her blog! All you have to do is join her email list!



So there you go. Take a moment to enter the giveaway, and browse Katie's blog, and then head back here to read what we DO and DON'T DO for Christmas!!

*****

"How do you guys DO Christmas?"

Have you heard that question a lot recently? I have, and [gulp] I've been asking other moms that exact question, too. I love the idea of Christmas traditions, and some general round-a-bout "Christmas cheer," and yet I'm not very creative, and I have a hard time deciding what traditions to actually DO, y'know?

Besides, I'll admit... life is just a teensy bit busy around here, without adding anything to our "normal" activities. I'm sure every Christmas season will look different for us, but here's what we've chosen to do THIS year.

DECORATE!

We set up our big, fake tree (that a friend of mine snagged for FREE at a yard sale!), covered it in lights and ornaments, and bought a few other decorations at the Dollar Store.

[[dining room at night. nice and cozy!]]



One day, I'd really love to have more ornaments, and maybe some ribbon. But it took plenty long-enough to hang the ornaments that we had, and it will be relatively easy to remove them all from the tree once Christmas is over. Besides, I think I want the kids to be old enough to actually HELP, before our Christmas decorating gets any "bigger."

BUY GIFTS!

This year, Matt took Jemima, and I took Rachel (on different days) to the Dollar Store, so they could choose a couple gifts for the other siblings. The girls had SUCH a good time with this! As for Matt and me, we're focusing on not spending a ton of money right now, which means a few meaningful but inexpensive gifts for those on our list.

WATCH MOVIES!

This is one of the joys of Netflix! There are SO many Christmas movies on there right now! MOST of them are super cheesy (at best), but we've found a few new ones that are fun.

[[watching a Christmas movie on my phone]]



Besides It's A Wonderful Life (which we own), my favorite Christmas movie is *definitely* Mistletones. I discovered it this year (on Netflix), and have already watched it several times. It helps that the girls really enjoy it, too!

SING CHRISTMAS SONGS!

A daily event at our house--usually when I'm feeding Caroline. The girls know the first verses of maybe five Christmas carols, and most of God, Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (because we've been singing it at church every week). Talk about spreading Christmas cheer!

READ CHRISTMAS STORIES!

We just got a STACK of Christmas books from the library, and we've been snuggling under blankets and reading stories. It's AH-mazing. I love reading to the kids, but sometimes our stash of books can get a little old (especially after reading the same stories over and over). It's nice to have some new ones, that are all Christmas-y!

Okay, as for what we DON'T DO?

We haven't baked any cookies yet (though we will, for my family's Christmas Eve celebration!), we're not sending out Christmas cards (though we did take a semi-good-mostly-blurry picture at Thanksgiving--see below)...

[[only family photo that includes Caroline, on the outside]]



We didn't decorate outside at all (one day, one day), or hang a wreath. We're not filling stockings, or talking about Santa or the Elf-on-the-Shelf. Though we DO have a chimney that the girls say a "pretend" Santa will come down... but most of the time, they just say that "Daddy and Mommy are giving us presents!" :)

The kids don't have matching Christmas outfits. The girls kind of did last year (because that's what we had), but this year... I think all three girls will be wearing purple for Christmas (because 80% of their wardrobes are purple. I wonder who dresses them?!), and Matthias will be wearing his nicest non-purple outfit. ;)

Most importantly, we are talking about Baby Jesus, who was born a King, and that HE is the REAL reason we are celebrating this year, and every year to come!

If I don't write here again before Christmas, Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just For Mommies: Belly Bands, Dieting, and Losing the Baby Weight

Well, here I am again, not pregnant... and back to the fun to losing weight. ;) I've become increasingly more interested in this whole "getting my body back" idea since I've realized that...

A. I get pregnant again FAIRLY quickly after each baby,

and

B. The weight is increasingly harder to get rid of, after each baby.

Which is why, I've tried to lose the weight between pregnancies. My pregnancies have been close together, and Lord willing, we will continue having children for a few more years! I've never had any idea when the next pregnancy will happen, and I want to make sure the weight doesn't slowly start building up.

My maximum amount of weight I wanted to gain this past time was 30 (though honestly, I was shooting for between 25-30, because that's what I've read is the healthiest for Mom and Baby), and I gained 31. Within a couple days, I'd lost 10 (for obvious reasons :)), and since then, I've lost another 7.

How? Basically... few carbs, and little sugar. Sugarless coffee, oat pancakes without syrup, lots of meat, salads, eggs almost every morning, lots and LOTS of water, no desserts except on Sundays...

I still eat plenty of awesome food--just not bread and potatoes! :)

Moving on... I thought it was about time to let you all in on a little "secret find" of mine. It's something that I only recently heard about, and I decided to try it... and I NOW KNOW that... Post-partum belly bands are AWEsome.

As soon as I read the word "compression" (and around your sagging tummy?!), I was sold. A few HOURS after Caroline was born, I put on my first belly band, and I wore it *almost* 24/7 for the first month.

[on the left: one DAY after Caroline's birth. on the right: one MONTH after Caroline's birth]



But these belly bands are NOT just for weight loss and tightening your belly. After my last births, I had weeks of *terrible* after-birth cramps--to the point that I was on my hands and knees in pain. And after Matthias's birth, I went to see a chiropractor because my back hurt so much.

This time, I had TWO DAYS of after-birth cramps, and the belly band took care of the rest! :) Besides, it just feels marvelous to have that firmness around your belly.

Now as to what I specifically used...

The Shrinkx Belly I've just told you about all the PROS to the belly band. The cons are that eventually, the velcro began wearing out (you have to remember, I was wearing it ALL the time!), AND I grew out of it, so that it didn't really work comfortably anymore. (But is that really a con?) I bought a small/medium (smallest size they had), and I grew out of it within 3-4 weeks. The thing I LOVED was that it had two adjustable straps (besides the thick band) so that you could make it as tight as you wanted to (for a while).

YES, you can see it underneath your clothes, because it doesn't rest perfectly against your skin. I would either not care and still wear it OUT anyway, or I'd only wear it at home, and then put it back on as soon as I returned from errands/church/etc.

Last week, I bought an XS Belly Bandit. I was "done" with the Shrinx Belly, AND I'd heard other moms raving about the Belly Bandit, and I wanted to see how it worked. I like it, too. The velcro seems stronger on this one, but it doesn't have the straps. It's definitely comfortable!

So there's where I am, with this whole weight loss and tummy tightening thing. Now you know all my secrets! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Quick [Updated] House Tour!

I'm on Instagram (littlehouseinthehills), as many of you know, and the last few days, I've been enjoying this "Christmas House Tour" that numerous bloggers are participating in. Basically, I'm scrolling through picture after picture of perfectly decorated houses--y'know, with the chalkboard paintings and the blankets draped JUST SO.

The more I look at these homes, the more I'm realizing that my home ISN'T perfect, but it doesn't have to be perfect... because what's perfect anyway? I can't have white couches at this point in my life, and white curtains, and white rugs, and white blankets. My kids don't even wear white socks or white shirts! [But that's another conversation, for another day.]

I LOVE my house, and I want my family to love LIVING in it. I love beauty and order, and I want my house to be beautiful... and comfy... and orderly... and LIVED IN. I'm trying to find a balance between stressing over my house being *perfectly clean and neat,* and my kids having a blast making a MESS in that house. All that aside...

In the general idea of everyone putting their houses on tour over the holidays, I thought--perfect decor or not--I'd give you a quick tour of our house, in its present, working progress.

*deep breath*

Here's what we have so far...

[[living room]]







[[foyer]]



[[laundry room]]



[[family room]]



[[upstairs bathroom]]





[[girls' bedroom]]





[[matthias and caroline's room]]





[[our house]]



Almost all the decor you see throughout the house came from Michaels, TJ Maxx, and Target (mostly the latter two). I'd say most of these items are fairly unbreakable, though the kids still know not to play with the decorations. That's what toys are for! ;)

The kids play, build tents, move around the furniture (after asking, of course ;)), dump their toys everywhere, spill their drinks... which is why I like to keep their rooms simple. Not too much to clean up, or rearrange, or fix. And yet... it can still look nice in the mean time!

Okay, house tour over. We have about a gazillion projects that we're in the middle of/haven't started yet, so I will continue to post "progress" pictures along the way.

Come again!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm Not a "Super" Mom

There's been a lot of honesty going on around the internet these days from moms. Moms all across the country are posting pictures of their houses a total mess, their dishes unwashed, and laundry unfolded. I've heard countless tales of moms who just can't find the time to shower anymore, who are exhausted from night after night without sleep.

Well, here I am, sitting at my computer, at 1:32 in the afternoon. The counters are wiped, the floors are swept, and the laundry is put away. The four kids are asleep or quietly playing, and I lit a cinnamon-smelling candle. The house is calm.

Did all of this happen magically? Definitely not. Do I have super powers? NO. No, no, NO!!

I've been telling people that four kids has been easier than one--or two, and that is oh-so-true. When I just had Rachel, I was hesitant to even change her diaper, afraid that I would somehow "do it wrong." Jemima used to "explosively" spit-up, and I remember the day that she spat up all over me and the floor, and I had the phone in my hand, about to call Matt to come home from work, because I didn't think I could deal with a 1-year-old Rachel AND cleaning up after Jemima. I would call my mom or sister to help me take my ONE child shopping, because I couldn't picture how I could do that.

There were many days that I was tired, and overwhelmed... and I had two. And then I had three, and it took about one month of adjustment (and crying) before I felt like, "Wow... I can do this!"

Enter Caroline, and thus four kids in less than five years. It's easier now, and better. I'm not saying that everything is easy (I'm still super tired from having a one-month-old!), but I'm also having more fun with these kids than I've had before. I'm able to enjoy Caroline more than I enjoyed my other newborns, because I'm more relaxed.

All that aside, how do I do it? How can my house be "picked up," when my oldest is 4 years old? How can I be showered and dressed every morning when I have a newborn? With two kids in between...?!

I've written so many of these ideas before, but recently, I've heard more than ever the response "You must be a super mom," as if I've reached this level of perfection that is unattainable for the average mom. That is SO not true, and I want people to know that! It's been a slow, growing process, and I've learned so much along the way. Some things are simple, and others take more sacrifice, but really... it's about pushing through the hard times, with a little bit of perseverance, and whadda-ya-know, things start getting easier.

A couple weeks ago, I was at the dentist's, and he asked me (as I was getting my mouth worked on) what was my biggest piece of advice for having "four kids" and keeping my sanity.

Being a bit sleep-deprived, and having dental instruments in my mouth, I couldn't think super clearly, so I said the first thing that came to mind, and that was: Teach your kids to obey--the first time.

Basically: expect obedience. It's a command from God, and it relieves an incredible amount of time and stress (on the part of the parents). It might even save their lives one day.

Kids need to know that when you speak, you mean what you say. So when I say to the girls, "Clean up your toys," they understand that I literally mean: "Clean up your toys." Like, NOW.

We don't have a set routine right now, but we have general guidelines in our house. Such as, when the kids wake up, they stay in their rooms until I (Mom) get out of the shower. They have a few books and a few toys, and they have their imaginations. They can do this.

When I'm cleaning up the house, I expect them to help me. Often times, the messes are caused because of something they did anyway (like eat breakfast, or dirty their clothes...), so I want them to be helping me clean UP what they created. It's simple tasks, really. "Carry the dirty laundry basket to the top of the steps." "Unload the [unbreakable] plates from the dishwasher into this drawer."

It always helps when the messes are prevented in the first place. The girls are almost to the point where they can take off their nighgowns and put on their clothes in the mornings. So we expect them to either... Put their nightgowns back in their drawer (immediately after taking it off), or throw them in their bright pink hamper.

Even Matthias knows how to throw away his diaper, get out his sleeper, put away his shoes, and so on. Kids don't need to play all day. Seriously. I can't entertain them, and they're happier when they're not entertained all day long. Helping can be fun!

Of course it helps if Mom has a good attitude. ;) A friend of mine was telling me (years ago) how much she hated cleaning the bathroom, and I told her (blunt Tricia that I was) that she was going to be cleaning her bathroom for the rest of her life, so she might as well start enjoying it--at least as much as she could. LOL.

I think many tasks sound worse than they are--even getting out of bed in the morning, after being woken up several times in the night. If you keep laying there, thinking about how much you DON'T want to get out of bed, how will you ever be able to actually... umm... roll over and get out of bed?! And then walk into the hallway, with at least half a smile to greet the kids. :)

Here's what I am slowly learning: this housework, these pregnancies, and childbirths, and everything wife and mommy-related are my life right now. I'm busy with my children all day long, day after day. This is the work God has given me to do, and He expects that I do it cheerfully. I cannot do anything on my own power, which means that every morning, I need to pray and ask God to give me the strength (HIS strength) to make it through that day. Everything we have is from Him anyway, and He can give us the wisdom to train our children, and the courage to greet each day--and each child--with joy.

A few more practical things I do... I read an article recently about moms of littles doing "less stuff" over the holidays, and I couldn't agree more--except I'd apply it to my life, every day. I'm involved in very few activities, and I rarely "go out" except for shopping once or twice a week. This may change as my kids get older, but right now, loading the four kids up in their carseats to go anywhere seems pretty much unnecessary, especially when it's winter time. The few times I've gone somewhere with all the kids, I've asked someone to go with me. Yes. So this hasn't changed--but the number of kids has. ;)

I also think that times of quiet are absolutely essential to the general peace of the household. I feel most frazzled and unfocused when I haven't been able to rest all day long, which is why my goal every day is that all four kids sleep at the same time. Caroline's not on a fixed schedule yet, so there have been afternoons when I'm feeding her while the other three are asleep, but that's still peaceful... all snuggled up with my baby girl. :)

When I get to the point that I can't hear myself think (which happens at least once a day!), I have all the kids sit down in the living room, and we're all quiet together. Even if the house isn't completely silent, it's CALM. The kids are memorizing Psalm 23 (which is a peaceful Psalm, by the way! :)), and we practice it multiple times a day. We are slowly teaching the children that they don't always have to be silly, that they can quote Scripture or sing Christmas songs confidently and calmly.

After the kids wake up from their naps, and I'm feeding Caroline, we've been singing Christmas songs. It's a very frugal way to create some Christmas cheer (!), and I absolutely love all these Christmas songs. I want to pass that on to my kids! We haven't had a day yet that singing song after song does not produce happiness and smiles all around.

And one last thing: towards the end of the day, when I'm getting last-minute-dinner preparations ready, or paying the bills, or finishing doing whatever I need to do, the kids are allowed to watch a TV show or movie. I'm trying to limit it to the afternoons, because by then, the kids have had hours of imagination-play, school time, and plenty of helping me. It's been a nice way for all of us to unwind and finish off the afternoon/early evening with some fun (as long as the show is decent!).

I've been typing for a while, and Baby C is just waking up. I hope these thoughts have been encouraging or helpful to some of you!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Version of a Capsule Wardrobe

I have a problem with maternity clothes--and, going even further, post-partum clothes, too.

But let's start with maternity clothes. Besides the fact that they're sometimes (often?) hard to find, uncomfortable, and expensive (for starters), they only last you a few months anyway.

With Matthias, I was bursting out of my normal-sized jeans somewhere in the first trimester. My belly band wasn't cutting it, and I already needed... maternity jeans. But I was still skinny everywhere BUT my belly, which meant that I got away with wearing very small-sized maternity jeans.

But time passed, and I gained some weight, and eventually... I needed a different size maternity clothes. Now that's just ridiculous. TWO sizes in MATERNITY clothes?!

It gets better.

Once my babies are born, I can still wear my "bigger" sized maternity clothes for a week or two, before they start looking like, "Oh, Tricia's still wearing maternity clothes--and they're a little big."

Which means that... I go back to my "smaller" size maternity clothes, or--as I did with Matthias--I went to Goodwill and bought whatever size in "normal" clothes that I would've worn at the time.

But then I lost weight. So one or two months later, my "transition" clothes were too big. So I bought *another* transition size.

Which led to my owning two FULL boxes of maternity and post-partum "transition-y" clothes... quite a bit of which, I didn't really like. It's just what I was able to find for a reasonable price.

So this time around, I finally decided upon a completely, totally different idea with my wardrobe. It was simple, and fairly inexpensive (because it was simple), and "worked" from PRE-Pregnancy, all Through The Pregnancy, and now, Post-Pregnancy.

It looked very much like This:



I call it my very own version of the extremely popular "Capsule Wardrobe," or...

My Solution to Maternity Clothes. ;)



Are you noticing a theme? It's called a Maxi Skirt. ;)

It helps that I wore stockings every day, so I honestly preferred to wear skirts every day versus jeans or pants. And once you've tried a maxi skirt while pregnant, and felt how comfortable that panel is on your belly, there's no going back to jeans. At least there wasn't for me. :)

So. I had a couple maxi skirts, and I bought a few more, in my pre-pregnancy size. I started wearing them pretty much as soon as my jeans stopped feeling comfortable--and I've worn them almost every day, ever since.

Ok, besides the skirt... my non-maternity "Maternity" wardrobe consisted of:

Plain-colored or polka-dotted or flowered top: bought mostly from Target, Goodwill, and Rue 21

LONG tank-top: this is how I was able to pull off the "normal" sized knit tops, because I bought extra-long tank tops to wear underneath! My current favs are from Forever 21 ($1.90 each!!)

Maxi skirt/skirt with super-stretchy waistband: Amazon, Gap (the best quality by far), Target, TJ Maxx, and second-hand

As for shoes, well, my foot hurt all the time, so I bought a pair of $20 slipper-like silver shoes from Target, and I wore them EVERY SINGLE DAY for about 6 months. So, yes, wearing only one pair of shoes--like, EVER, can be done--though it's nice to be out of pain now, and be able to wear heels, or boots, or flip-flops!

Accessories: Scarves (Walmart, Rue 21, gifts) and Jewelry (everywhere--but I especially like Rue and Forever 21's collections now)



Mixing up the accessories and shirts significantly helped with the "I'm wearing the same skirt to church three weeks in a row" situation.

The maxi skirts grew with me, and now, instead of trying to fit into jeans already, I'm still wearing those same skirts. They just look a little different! :) The advantage to this "capsule maternity wardrobe" is that I didn't have to buy any special maternity clothes, and now I don't have to buy any transition clothes.



Yes, I still have a small collection of "Skinny" clothes--the clothes that I wear for a few months, when I've lost all the baby weight, but that "wardrobe" really doesn't need to be extensive, as I don't last in that size long before... I start growing a baby again.

Ok, so I know this sort of idea will definitely NOT work for everyone. I was even wondering to myself why I'm all about simplifying, to the point of wearing only a handful of skirts over such a long stretch of time. What I came up with: for me, every child I have adds MORE to my life--more of my time and energy and thought... So every area that I can somehow TRIM down, really helps me!