Living Simply Saturday: A Change of Pace

Lss

Who doesn't need a bit more simplicity in their lives? And how could it not be helpful and amazing to share ideas for achieving just that with other women?

That's what I thought when I started Living Simply Saturdays, and for the most part, I think that this carnival has accomplished some of my original goals for it. I know that I've been encouraged and inspired by the things that so many of you have shared, and I'm grateful that I've done it these past 7 months (wow, has it really been 7 months?).

I need to announce, though, that as of next Saturday, I need to practically make my own life a bit more simple by ending this weekly carnival. I have found that the time and effort it takes to prepare for and to run the carnival are simply (hey, there's that word again!) more than I can give in this season. I will likely still post on the topic of living simply from time to time, and will attempt to finish up the last few chapters of From Clutter to Clarity, but I will bid adieu to the carnival itself.

Thank you so much to those who have participated and read so faithfully. It's been a pleasure. :)

So here's your last chance, ladies, to share with us what brings more simplicity to your life!
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Living Simply Saturdays
are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and
purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back
here and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the
specific post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that
you include in your post a link back to this post. Thanks so much!

If you don't have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

Clothing Kids Without Breaking the Bank: Part 2

See the other posts in this series:

Clothing Kids Without Breaking the Bank
Clothing Kids Without Breaking the Bank, Part 3

Here is the next part in this series, continuing on where we left off. I wasn’t planning to make this such a long series, but I’ve got one more part after this one, with some really practical tips.

Kids-with-all-swap-meet-clothes

**These are my goofy kids (and yes, Caden has a shiner if you look closely) in front of the clothes I recently bought at the swap meet.**

5) By knowing where to shop

Rare is the day that I actually shop for my kids in retail stores. My main sources of cheap clothing are:

  • garage sales
  • kids swap meets
  • thrift stores
  • and occasionally clearance retail sales

Garage sales are the biggest gem of them all. I usually don’t pay more than $1 a piece, and often less. Try to hit the ones in nicer neighborhoods, because you will find oodles of name-brand clothing in excellent condition, and the people mostly just want to get rid of it.

Kids swap meets are popular in the area where I live. They usually happen once a month, in a large gymnasium or similar building. Moms come and rent out tables, where they sell their kids outgrown clothes at near garage sale prices. Sometimes they charge slightly more, because they want to cover their table cost and bring home a bit of extra cash, but they are almost always open to bargaining, and since I’m a haggler, it works out well for me. :)

The best thing about the kid swaps is that there are tons of different tables, with every size from newborn even up to size 8 or 9 etc. all under one roof so you can usually find everything you need, unlike garage sales which are so much more hit and miss. Try calling local rec center to find out if any are happening in your area.

Boys-side-of-swap-meet-clothes

This and the picture below are from the last time I went to the swap meet. Just to give you an example, up above you see 4 pairs of shorts, a pair of jeans, a pair of khakis, 3 button up shirts, one light jacket, one pair of pajamas and one sleep sack.

Below is Abbie with her stash, which consists of 5 long sleeved shirts, 4 t-shirts, 3 skirts, one fleece hoodie (she’s wearing it already), one windbreaker, and 4 pairs of pajamas. The total for both pictures was about $48, including my entrance fee. Nearly everything is name brand and in excellent shape.

Girls-side-swap-meet-clothes

Thrift stores in Canada are definitely charging too much for their clothing these days, but they can still be valuable. It’s nice to be able to just walk in and find the section you are looking for, to get those few items that you need to fill in the gaps. Sometimes they’re great for things like jackets and shoes.

My best experiences are on 1/2 price days, like the one I just shopped at Value Village. It took me over two hours (with a bit of shopping for myself mixed in, of course) in a crowded store with two little ones, but it was worth it. I came away with a good 20 items that were still on my list for the spring/summer/fall, paying between $1-3  per item, including a really nice Carter’s winter jacket for my little guy, as well as a pair of runners and a pair of casual dress shoes for him, and several adorable dresses and sweaters for my daughter.

Retail clearance
is definitely pricier, but still occasionally worth it. Especially if you are planning to have lots of children, and here’s why. We’ve been blessed to receive several gift cards to Gymboree and Children’s Place for our kids. With these, I have either scoured the online clearance sales or shopped the sales at the outlets. The clothing I have been able to by is very high quality (especially Gymboree), and I’m confident it will last through at least a couple of children, which sometimes makes it worth it to pay more than you would for used.

Where do you most frequently buy your children’s clothing? What are your strategies for where and when you buy?

Battle of the BPA-free Sippy Cups

We've all heard about BPA in everything. We now know that not only is it found in our Nalgene bottles, but also in our canned foods, and even in our sweet babies bottles and sippy cups.

As a concerned mom, when I found out about this, I immediately wanted to throw out all the plastic in the house and replace it with anything I could find that seemed to be safe. Problem was, figuring out what was out there, how to choose between the different options and was it really worth the ludicrously high price tags that seemed to accompany everything that wasn't dangerous for us? 

I decided to do my research. I've spent the last 4 or 5 months gathering BPA-free sippy cups (a few I bought myself and most were generously given as samples by the companies). I have two expert testers, namely Abbie (4) and Caden (21 mths) who have gladly tested them out for your benefit. :) Now we're ready to share with you what we've learned!

For those wanting more info on BPA in general, here are a few links of interest for you:
Bottles, sippy cups and BPA- oh my!

Bisphenol-A (wikipedia)

Consumer Tips for Avoiding BPA

BPA is Toxic at Low Doses

And now, on with the battle of the sippy cups!

Klean Kanteen

Klean kanteen sippy
Ease of use: 9

Few pieces, simple to put together and take apart.

Ease of cleaning: 8

The spout comes apart so easily, and all the pieces are dishwasher safe. After a while, the spout eventually got some mold spots on it, so I had to replace it, but the replacements are available at most stores and weren't too costly (they're made by Avent).

Practicality: 7

It occasionally leaks a little, if not kept upright. Because it is completely stainless steel, when it is used for a cold drink, it sometimes becomes a little bit too cold for children's hands. Also, it looks great and we all found it visually appealing, but the 100% stainless steel design means that when (not if, but when!) it gets dropped on a hard surface, it will dent or scrape. Still functions, but doesn't look quite as pretty anymore. Also, as the child gets older, the sippy top can be replaced with a screw on or sport top, which makes it a versatile option.

What my kids thought of it: 8

Both kids really enjoy using this one, although I think sometimes they don't like the feel of the metal on their hands. They like it's spout the best (the same spout as the Avent Magic Cup), but given the choice between this one and the plastic cup, they'll usually pick the plastic, although they will pick this one over the other cups.

Cost: Silver $10.95, Colored $12.50-$19.99

**(this cost and all of the others are based on the current price at Amazon.com
)
**

My overall rating: 8.5

This is a cup that I like to like. I feel good about supporting the company. I like that it contains little plastic (except in the top/spout). I like that when they're done with the sippy style cup, we can simply buy a new type of lid. I wish the all-metal design was a little more practical, and that it didn't hurt so much to fork out the money for one of these (or stress me out each time I think I've lost it!).

** Thought they're not quite the same cup, for a much cheaper version of this cup (yes, Klean Kanteen, I know they're not the same as your cups!), check out The Tickle Trunk, which specializes in affordable stainless steel products for food and drink! You'll need to buy your own spouts to add on to it as they don't come with spouts, but the cup looks and functions virtually the same.

Sigg bottles
Sigg

Ease of use: 5

Very difficult for even my 4 year old to open and close the spout. I usually had to help her do it, otherwise it wasn't closed all the way, which resulted in leaks. My 1 1/2 year old found it difficult to drink from, and could not open/close the spout at all.

Ease of cleaning: 7

The top comes off quite easily, and only comes apart into two pieces (though I had a hard time figuring out how to separate the two when I first got it). It seemed to do fine in my dishwasher, although once I noticed a bit of a crack in the aluminum on the bottom and wondered if that was from the heat? Luckily it didn't affect the lining or the seal, and the crack was pretty superficial. To wash by hand, you'll need a thin bottle scrub brush, as the neck of the bottle is very narrow.

Practicality: 6

It's a really nice size and doesn't get as cold as the stainless steel cups do. I like that it has the flip lid for when I put it in my diaper bag. But it wasn't terribly practical in that I constantly have to help Abbie with it, and worry about whether it has been left open or not.They do come in several different sizes, 10 oz, 13 oz and 20 oz. We have the 13 oz, and it's a perfect size for my 4 year old, but a bit too big for my 1 1/2 year old.

What my kids thought of it: 7

They love the look of it! It's definitely a gorgeous cup (and there are so many adorable designs and colors), and my daughter was so excited when it arrived in the mail! Despite the difficulty with the spout, she still doesn't mind using it. I don't even bother with it for my son, as he can't open it and finds it a little more difficult to drink from.

Cost: $19.50-$21.99 for most designs

My overall rating: 6

Though this was the one I was fairly excited about, it actually disappointed me the most. Additionally, I am not satisfied with not knowing exactly what the liner is made out of, considering the bottle is made with aluminum (which is toxic). They claim that it is absolutely non-leaching, and it may well be, but the problem is that I just don't know enough about it. It seems to be quite a hush-hush secret, that silly old liner, and I just have this thing with wanting full disclosure regarding the things I am buying for my kids. Call me crazy.

Foogo
Foogo (by Thermos)

Ease of use: 8

My one complaint with this cup is that sometimes it's hard to get the two top pieces properly lined up so that it screws on correctly. It usually works, but is sometimes finicky and takes me a minute or two.

Ease of cleaning: 8.5

Though the lid has 4 components, it's not too time consuming too take apart and put back together. It's easy to wash, and I found it one of the easier ones as far as getting the spout thoroughly clean so that mold doesn't build up.

Practicality: 9.5

It's a really nice size for little hands, with the double handles that make it easy for young ones. What I loved the most about it is that it has the safety of stainless steel, but the handles and the top and bottom are covered in plastic, so the cold metal is never touching the kid's skin. The colors are also nice and bright, and I find it appealing to look at. It doesn't leak much either. It also comes in a handle-less version, for those who prefer it that way.

What my kids thought of it: 7.5

This was my area of sadness. Though this cup had so many great features, my kids didn't really go for it as much as I thought they would. They'll use it, but they don't tend choose it when asked which one they want. However, both the 1 1/2 and 4 year old will drink from it without an issue, which is great, and they do like the colors on it.

Cost: $11.95

My overall rating: 9

It may not have been my kids favorite, but nonetheless, it's a great cup! It has so many perks, works well for little ones and somewhat older ones. Cleans easy, travels well, not plastic, easy to hold. Overall, I think this is a good choice.

Born free sippy
Born Free

Ease of use: 8

Depends on how you want to use it. If it's for a younger child, there is a special two-part attachment to help reduce air bubbles, as well as an optional double handled piece, all in addition to the regular two-part lid and spout. However, I usually ditched the special attachment, as well as the handles, and then it was a simple two piece deal, which made it easy to put together and take apart.

Ease of cleaning: 7

It's easy to put in the dishwasher, but I recently discovered that despite being washed in the dishwasher or being scrubbed in hot soapy water, it has developed mold spots on a sort of hidden inside ring that I didn't notice right away. Most of the plastic spouts do seem to develop mold eventually, but I guess this inner portion is not cleaned thoroughly by regular dishwasher use, so now I need a replacement spout. As well, the opening on the top is bottle-sized ao you need a special scrub brush to do it by hand.

Practicality: 6

This was one of my least favorite spouts. It has a funny opening cut out of the plastic (rather than open holes with a stopper attachment, like most sippies), and the kids found it especially hard to suck out of when we first got it. Neither of them seem to really love the spout- maybe it's a bit awkward of a shape or difficult to get a very steady stream of liquid? I think the idea is that the kids shouldn't have to suck as hard, which can create uncomfortable ear pressure build up. Also, because it's just a slit that allows kids to drink from it (not a controlled, vacuum style spout), leaks are inevitable. It doesn't leak like crazy, but you definitely have to keep an eye on it.

What my kids thought of it: 6

They don't really love it. They'll use it, but I think the spout really turns them off. My son loves his cups of raw milk, but when they're in this cup, he doesn't tend to even finish them.

**Side note– When sending me this sippy cup to try out, Born Free was kind enough to also send me two of their bottles, as well as two pacifiers. Though I had never really used a bottle with either of my kids (going straight from breast to cup), I didn't think much of it. I decided to try giving one to my son, though, just for the sake of reviewing it. I was so surprised to find that he fell in love with it, even at nearly 18 mths old (and never having used a bottle before, ever!). These are fantastic bottles, if you're looking for BPA-free but not wanting to use glass!

Cost: $10.99

My overall rating: 6.5

I wish that I liked this cup more than I do, but it just didn't do a whole lot for me. If my kids don't love it, it's hard for me to love it. The fact that it does leak makes it less desirable to use (it does come with a separate plastic, snap-on lid, but I find it impractical to use). It's a relatively affordable option, though, especially for those looking to stick with plastic, and the removable side handles for little ones is a nice feature that I haven't seen on any other cups.

Avent magic cup pink
Avent Magic Cup

Ease of use: 9.5

This is the simplest of the cups I tried. It has the least amount of pieces, which I must admit, makes it very handy. It's also a really nice size for my kids to hold and use, both my son and daughter.

Ease of cleaning: 9

Again, because of few pieces, this one is a snap. The top is slightly narrow, but I can at least get a dish scrubbie in it pretty well, or else I toss it in the dishwasher. The lid and spout are simple to clean. It does have the issue of the other plastic spouts where mold builds up eventually (this just seems to be the nature of these BPA-free plastic spouts, unfortunately), but as with the Klean Kanteen, the replacement spouts aren't too costly and are readily available everywhere.

Practicality: 8

Very minimal leaking, handy size for little hands, not many pieces to lose. Overall, I like it a lot. My biggest issue with this one is that although I know that it's BPA-free, I still have these lingering doubts in my mind, since it's fairly cheap and made by a company that doesn't specialize in more natural products. Call me skeptical, I suppose. I'm sure that it really is BPA-free or they wouldn't be able to market it as such. As well, it looks like they now have some with optional handles, as well as some smaller (7 oz) ones for very young babies.

What my kids thought of it: 9.5

This might be their favorite. They love the bright blue (it comes in several colors, but that's what we have), they like that it's plastic and easy on their hands, they like the size and the spout. This one is often requested/fought over when I open up the cupboard.

Cost: $7.99 for a twin pack

My overall rating: 8.5

If you're not wanting to shell out the money for one of the more expensive ones, and are okay to stick with plastic, this might be the cup for you. It's definitely kid-friendly as well as wallet-friendly. Guess that makes it mom-friendly! Overall, I do like it and it gets a lot of use and love in our house, though I have others that I prefer more in an idealistic sort of way. :) 

There you have it, ladies! The result of several months of cajoling for free samples and trying to test them all out fairly (I know- what a hard life I have!).

Wondering about my overall top picks?

Plastic: I love the Avent Magic Cup. Especially if your budget is small and you don't mind that you'll eventually have to get some new spouts, I think this one is a real winner.

Non-plastic: For me, it's a bit of a toss up between the Foogo and the Klean Kanteen. The Foogo is just an incredibly practical, durable cup, so easy on little hands and it's pretty similarly priced to the Klean Kanteen. However, the Klean Kanteen holds a bit more liquid (yet isn't too big for a 1 year old), and has that great ability to grow with your child by switching up the lid, as well as having a spout that my kids seem to prefer just a bit over the Foogo. Hmmm… it's a toss up!

(As an aside, if you are thinking of buying one of these cups through Amazon.com, would you consider using this link to get to Amazon, in order to support this site? The individual product links weren't working for some reason, but you can use this link
instead. Thanks so much! :)

Care to weigh in with your own thoughts and experience with any of these sippies? What did you like about them? What didn't really work for you or your children?


Always trust your husband!

This week, I have had a lesson strongly reinforced to me: God has given us our husbands for our protection, and when they have an intuition about our safety, we should immediately trust them and their judgment without question!

You remember the situation the other week and how my husband asked me to take the kids to his family's house for a little while? Turns out his intuition was right. We're not dealing with gang issues, but we're certainly dealing with other issues of a very serious nature. I don't feel like I should get into the details of the situation, but suffice it to say that we would covet your prayers for our safety and for the swift removal of the new tenant.

I'm sorry there's no real post today, but between this issue, settling back into home after being gone over a week, adjusting to watching a 1 year old who is more than a little bit
mommy-sick and working to help him adjust to our home and routine, life has been just a bit hectic these last few days. I do, however, have a great post in the works that I hope to have done tomorrow- the long awaited "Battle of the BPA-free Sippy Cups"!

Calling all moms of 3 or more: Car seat input needed!

Today, I confirmed something that I had been wondering about. We seriously need a new car seat strategy for when baby #3 comes along this summer!

I am watching another 1 year old boy for the next three weeks, and today I had a car at my disposal so I decided to take all three munchkins out to our meat store in the country and to pick up our raw milk. By the time I had all of the car seats arranged in the car and all of the kids safely buckled and strapped in, I was ready to turn around and just stay home. :) All three car seats are on the larger side, and I could barely get my daughter's booster in the middle strapped in, as I squished both my growing belly and the baby on whichever side I was using to try to get it done up.

The issue is that we own this car, a Mazda Protege5:

Mazda protege5

We really like our car and it has quite a few years of life left in it. We don't want to upgrade to a van yet (nor do we want to be a two-car family), and though we were considering selling it and purchasing an SUV, we've decided that with the current economic situation, we'd be better off holding on to what we already own and keeping our savings.

So, here's the issue: We need to fit an infant seat, a toddler seat and a booster seat in the backseat of an only so-so roomy car. It is a sport wagon, similar to the new Mazda 3 wagons, but it's really not a big car. We're planning to put a roof rack and storage pod on top of the car to solve our storage issues, which is fine. However, it doesn't solve the fact that we currently own two very large car seats, and the infant seat we got when Caden was born is quite a large one as well. From my experience this afternoon, I now realize just how tight of a fit (or even potentially a non-fit) this is going to be!

My question to all you moms of 3 or more (especially those of you who did it without going mini-van style), is what types of car seats did you use and how did you arrange them to make it the most comfortable/convenient for getting them in and out?

Thanks in advance, ladies! I can always count on you for great answers to questions like this! :)

Home Sweet Home (and my first menu plan in ages!)

Mpm green

I'm back. Ahhhh… There is no better place than home. :)

We got in very late last night, so I am a bit wiped and hoping for an early bedtime tonight. Ryan came down in the afternoon on Saturday to pick us up, and we intended to be home by around 8 or 9 pm. Wouldn't you know it, right as we were about to get on the freeway, we suddenly had a very sick little girl in the backseat, all over everything (and I do mean everything). Poor thing!

We rushed back to Grandma's (fortunately only 5 minutes away) and spent about 3 hours, cleaning up clothes, pillowcases, briefcases, duffel bags, her car seat, and of course, the backseat of the car. Not so fun. Finally, everything was clean, dry and little girl was feeling well enough to get back in for the 3+ hour drive home. We made it home uneventfully, coming in just after midnight.

Tired as I am (Caden woke me at 6:40 this morning, and though I tried, I couldn't get back to sleep), I am just so grateful to have our family back together, to be back to puttering around my own kitchen, to worship and fellowship at church today (and see my good friend's sweet little newborn, whose arrival I missed on Tuesday morning). Although we had a wonderful time with my husband's family, it's good to be home.

We also had a guest arrive today, an old family friend who is down here taking a 3 week course and needed a place for herself and her one year old son to stay (her husband is currently studying as well, in a different city). While she takes her course, we get the privilege of caring for her sweet little boy, who we've never met until today but have already fallen in love with. What a doll he is! You should see him dance, lol!

With all the excitement of being back and having a full house, I'm definitely back to proper meal planning! Here's my first real attempt in months (I've had loose menu plans during my morning sickness, but they weren't worth sharing- honestly!). I'm trying to save all of the food that I had bought just before we left for Seattle on very short notice, and just make meals with what I have on hand as best I can, before everything spoils if it hasn't already!

Breakfasts

  • Toast and eggs
  • Pancakes/waffles x 2
  • Baked oatmeal x 2
  • Breakfast wraps (scrambled eggs, potatoes, fresh tomatos and cheese in a tortilla)
  • Cinnamon Raisin scones

And, a green smoothie (kefir or yogurt plus various types of fruit, blended up with dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale) every morning. We are trying to make a new habit of having these as a regular part of our breakfasts. We often have fruit smoothies, probably 3-5 days a week, but we are working hard to get more fresh greens in us, and this is a great way to start our days! Check out Lindsay's recent post on green smoothies for more information about what they are and why they're so good for you!

Lunches

Mostly leftovers, bits and pieces from the fridge, yogurt with fruit, sandwiches, etc.

Dinner

Monday: Salmon, sweet potato and broccoli chowder, with a chunky vegetable salad (no green leafies, but lots of cucumbers, peppers, carrots, cauliflower, etc. in small chunks. This is my husband's favorite type of salad).

Tuesday: Pizza (homemade soaked dough) with chicken, spinach, peppers and whatever else strikes me, plus a green salad.

Wednesday: Spicy Meatloaf (from Nourishing Traditions), 12 Clove Butternut Squash, and some kind of grain (probably quinoa or millet).

Thursday: Burritos with beans, rice, and cheese, plus fresh guacamole.

Friday: Spaghetti squash with Janet's Tomato Sauce, and coleslaw.

Saturday: Out to a birthday party for our daughter's friend (this family invites whole families over for dinner and a fun evening, rather than just a kids party- isn't that a great idea?), and we're leaving a bit early to take the kids to auntie and uncle's house so that we can have a late dinner date for ourselves before he leaves for New Orleans on a 5 day business trip. :(

Sunday: Macaroni and Cheese with cauliflower (from the latest issue of Real Simple), plus spinach salad.

Find more menu planning inspiration at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Living Simply Saturday: “A Mother’s Work is Never Done”

Lss

Welcome to this week's edition of Living Simply Saturday- The "A Mother's Work is Never Done" carnival (and gosh, isn't it true?).

This week, I'm so eager to hear all about your answers to these questions I posted last week (see that post for more background on the point of this week's carnival):

** How do you keep the weekends (or whatever your family days are) simple? Restful? Worshipful?
** What techniques do you employ to keep your kitchen or other housework minimal?
** What ways do you pre-plan or prepare during the week, so that your load is lighter?
** Anything else you'd like to share with us along this topic!

As for myself, here are a few of the ways that I work to give myself a bit of a break on the weekends, so that I can enjoy relaxed, focused time with our family during my husband's days off, and  strive to have a Sabbath day where we get to church as prepared and unstressed as possible, with time for rest and/or fellowship with others afterwords:

~ I plan out my weekdays so that all of my major cleaning tasks are taken care of by Friday afternoon. This includes having all of the laundry finished, folded and put away by that time as well (though I sometimes have a basket still sitting around come Saturday- life happens, of course!). The only cleaning I expect of myself is general tidying, meal cleanup, and unexpected messes. I do my best to turn a blind eye to whatever else needs to be done!

~ I make my larger and more work-intensive meals from Mon-Fri, so that I usually have some leftovers in the fridge by the time the weekend hits. This helps to make for easy lunches, and also cleans out the fridge a bit for the upcoming week.

~ For Saturday nights, I usually chose something really simple and throw-together, like sandwiches, pasta with sauce, pizza (which I've already made the dough for), etc. For Sundays, I try to make good use of my crockpot and put something in while I'm cooking breakfast that morning (or even prepare it the day before, and just put the pot in the fridge until Sunday morning). My favorite Sunday meals are soups, stews, or things like chicken or roasts with veggies. Delicious and filling, but I can walk away. My kind of cooking. :)

~ I find it helps to give the kids a bath on Saturday morning or afternoon, so that they don't need one on Sunday morning. I like them to be freshly bathed for church, but it's a bit too much to do it on Sunday mornings.

~ Most Saturday nights, I choose and lay out complete outfits for both of the kids. That way, it's already been decided and I know that everything is ready, I'm not surprised by a mystery stain or realize that the matching tights are in the wash, etc. I also try to do this with my own clothes, or at least think through what I would like to wear the next day and make sure that it's clean and ready to go. I don't know about the rest of you, but if I don't do this I am likely to try on 4 or 5 different things in the morning, losing valuable getting-ready time!

~ Yesterday, I took the kids out to the zoo for the entire day, and I was reminded of something really valuable. It is easy to let weekends and days off turn into just another day to do errands, stay around the house, do projects, putter around, etc. Not that those are always bad things, but sometimes we just need to be intentional about making plans to actually do something with our families! I often actually feel like I've had a more refreshing and enjoyable weekend if we've made specific plans to get out and do a family outing of some sort. Making those kind of plans in advance can be especially helpful, rather than letting the weather or my mood or energy level prevent me from suggesting something fun we could go and do. I think it also serves my husband if I think ahead and plan these things, rather than leaving it up to him on Saturday morning. 

~ I try to avoid my computer past Saturday mornings, once I make sure that every is going smoothly with Living Simply Saturday. It's too easy to get sucked into doing work, and I would rather push myself to try to get it all done during the week, and if I run out of time, then not at all. Sundays are even more important to me to try to leave the computer turned off, to keep the day truly restful and focused where it should be.

~ Though I'm not typically much of a napper (I just lay awake thinking of all the things I could be doing instead of sleeping!), the one time you might find me asleep is with the entire family on Sunday afternoons. It is not uncommon for the lot of us to conk out for a couple of hours after lunch, and what better day to do this than on the Sabbath, the day that God has given us to rest?

I think that's it for me… now it's your turn! Please, share your ideas, wisdom, tips and suggestions with us for how you, as a mom and/or homemaker, find the time to rest, relax, focus on relationships and keep the Sabbath.

________________________________________________________________________

Living Simply Saturdays
are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and
purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back here
and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the specific
post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that you
include in your post a link back to this post. Thanks so much!

If you don't have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

Don’t forget! The “A Mother’s Work is Never Done” Carnival is Tomorrow!

I'm so excited for tomorrow's "A Mother's Work is Never Done" carnival (part of Living Simply Saturdays) and to read all the wonderful tips and wisdom from the moms out there!

I'll be putting together my own post with some of the things I do that help to make my weekends and "days off" more relaxing and focused on enjoying my family. I'm sure that so many of you have come up with a lot of great ways to to the same, and I'd love to hear them!

The carnival linky will be up by 8 or 9 (PST) tonight for any early birds. For more information on what the carnival is all about, make sure to check out the intro post from last week.

Clothing Kids Without Breaking the Bank

Garage sale kids clothes

*An example of my loot from a successful morning of garage sale shopping for my son last summer*

Find the next two posts in this series here:

Part 2
Part 3

Inspired by my own recent efforts in stocking up on affordable children’s clothes for my two little ones, I thought I would share my own methods for making sure that we have all the clothes, shoes, jackets, etc. that they need, for as little cost as possible.

The larger our family grows, the more important it is for me to stay on top of this area if I want to keep from spending a fortune (and wow, what a fortune can be spent on children’s clothing if you’re not a careful, frugal shopper!). To this point, I have found it easy to clothe our two children, fast growing as they are, for around $100-150 a year total (not including gifts given by grandparents, of course). We probably actually have too many clothes for them and could buy even less, and both are usually decked out in name-brand, attractive clothing.

So how do I do it?

1) By keeping good tabs on what I already have

At least 2 or 3 times a year, you will find me sorting through what the children are currently wearing and what clothes they have coming up in the bins/storage bags of their next-size-up and next season clothing. I write a careful inventory of everything they have that will still fit for a while and every thing that they will soon grow into. Then, considering the season and the particular clothing needs for the weather, I am able to use that list as the basis for another very detailed list of exactly what I think they will need in the upcoming months.

2) By using what I’m given

Although we haven’t been given too many hand-me-downs for our daughter, we have received oodles of bags of clothing for our son. Though not all of it has been in nice condition or was clothing that I would necessarily use (no, I’m not a clothes snob, but some baby and kids clothes are just too dated, worn or out of style for even a frugalite like me!), by carefully sorting through everything I have been able to find many good items and set them aside for future use.

3) By storing my clothes carefully

I used to use Rubbermaid bins for storing kids clothes, but over time found them to be too expensive and too large to store. In recent years, I’ve switched over to the XL and XXL Ziploc bags instead. These are so much easier to store underneath a bed or a crib, or up on a high shelf in a closet.

I store clothes by gender and size. For instance, I’ll use one bag for Baby Girl 0-3 and 3-6 mths, and another for Toddler Boy Size 2T. Keeping it organized this way will serve me in the future, for our next baby (because this will be our first baby that will
already have bagfuls of clothing waiting for them!). I also use this system when I receive clothing of mixed sizes, so that it is all sorted and set aside for when my kids reach the next size up. I just pull out the bag I need, and find out exactly what clothes we already have and what we still need.

4) By shopping ahead

This is probably the biggest thing that saves me money and hassle. When I go through and do my clothing inventory, I note exactly what the kids need for the upcoming season and in what size. Then, if I am out and find clothing on a great clearance sale, or stumble upon an incredible garage sale, I can stock up and know that I am truly buying what I need.

I have done this so much in the past year, and can really see the positive effects of it. Last summer, I found several garage sales with an abundance of toddler boys clothes and a bit of girls clothes for my 4 year old. I bought a really good mix of clothing in several sizes too big for my son, including pajamas, shirts, pants, shoes, winter jacket and hat, etc. I tried to guesstimate what size he would fit in which season (up to two years ahead of his size at that time) and bought accordingly. So far, everything has been just perfect, and it is so wonderful to open up a bag and discover how many great things I already have for him.

By always staying ahead of the game, you save yourself so much money and time. I only buy when the opportunity is right, and then I try to really make the most of it. My husband is happy to let me do it by myself, because it’s such a game and a challenge for me, and I have a feeling I get a bit obsessive about it (or maybe a lot obsessive), but he is always impressed with the stash I walk away with at the end. The photo at the beginning of this post is from a garage saling day last summer, when I spent a mere $16 and walked away with everything you see on that coffee table!

Another great perk to this is that I don’t need to stress out about finding what they need at the last minute, nor do I ever have to run out and pay full price for necessary items. This winter, I have focused my attention on really stocking up on everything the kids need for not only spring and summer, but for the fall and into the beginning of winter as well. I know that life will be hectic this summer, especially with a large garden and lots of preserving, and then a new baby in August! I want to have one less thing to have to think about come September!

Next week I’ll share more about where I shop, how I plan my shopping trips and specific techniques I use!

How do you clothe your kids without breaking the bank? What techniques do you use for organizing their clothes and knowing what to buy when you find great deals?

More frugal tips to be found over at Biblical Womanhood!

Living with PCOS: More Q&A

Continuing on from Monday's post

Leaf
3) Do you have the insulin problem (insulin resistance) and if so, how do you deal with it?

I
do have insulin issues, although mine are not as pronounced as some
women's. This may be because I have been able to maintain a healthy
weight, ever since I began to drop the junk foods I had been accustomed
to eating and turned my diet to focus on whole foods instead. I think
that keeping my weight maintained is crucial for improvement with
insulin resistance.

Other things that I have done, or would recommend for those who especially struggle with this area are:

  • Avoid all refined sugars and grains, as these are the worst offenders for insulin and blood sugar imbalances
  • When eating anything with sweeteners, even natural sweeteners,
    eat some protein and/or fat with it (such as a piece of cheese, a few
    spoonfuls of yogurt, a glass of milk, a handful of nuts or seeds) at
    the same time, as this helps to maintain more steady blood sugar
    levels.
  • Try using supplements such as Chromium and Cinnamon (both readily
    available at any health food store), which support healthy blood sugar
    and insulin levels
  • Get active! I notice that I have more difficulty with my blood
    sugar balance during seasons when I am less active, such as in the
    winter. Any sort of exercise or activity is beneficial, whether it's
    going to the gym or for runs, or simply taking a walk or doing some
    gardening (or even vigorous housework!). Every little bit helps, and the more regular, the better.

4) What advise would you give me to treat PCOS naturally?

My biggest pieces of advice would be to:

  1. Avoid conventional/pharmaceutical treatments, such as birth control
    pills or Metformin or others. I do know some people who have used Metformin
    briefly to start getting their insulin under control and begin to lose
    some weight, and then get off of it once they have seen some progress.
    This is one way to use Metformin more sensibly, although I
    cannot think of any way that birth control pills will contribute to
    long term healing or balance. Generally, I would say to avoid these and
    instead begin to pour your efforts into lifestyle changes.
  2. Begin with your diet. Here are my Top 3 nutritional changes
    that I would recommend to anyone starting out and looking for a few
    things to begin to change. Some great reads to get your going are The Maker's Diet
    and Nourishing Traditions,
    which will help to explain a lot of the why's behind what they are
    suggesting. Don't expect to make all of the changes at once, but pick
    one or two things and get started!
  3. Try to find a reputable Naturopath. There are so many wonderful
    supplements, herbs, homeopathic remedies, etc. out there that can
    really make a difference, but unless you have a lot of time to spend
    really digging into the research yourself, it can be a bit overwhelming
    at first. By seeing someone who works with these issues regularly, you
    reap the benefits of their experience and recommendations and it gives
    you a great starting place.
  4. Bring it before the Lord. We don't deal with this on our own, but
    only with the help and grace of our good God, who knows us and our
    bodies intricately. I am grateful to God for the teaching and resources
    that He has brought my way, and also for the continual reminders to
    bring all of my efforts back into submission to Him. I am learning to
    trust Him as my Healer, and not myself or anything natural that I do.

Now that I'm getting back into this series a bit, are there any particular concerns or questions that you would like to have answered? I definitely do not have all the answers, but I'll try my best!