Author Archives: Kimberly Rackley

About Kimberly Rackley

I am a sinner, miraculously saved by grace, living by faith, and pressing toward the mark of being more like Christ. I absolutely love being a stay-at-home mom! I'm also a caterer for a few weddings throughout the year, a baker, and a party planner. And I love to play in other people's kitchens as well as my own! My husband, Chris, just finished his studies for his MA degree in Pastoral Studies. He's a wonderful (and super smart!) daddy - and the most loving and supportive husband. My two beautiful daughters, Chloe and Kami, are the joys of our lives! We pray that they both would be greatly used of the Lord. Throughout their short time here on earth, we have learned so much about ourselves, our God, and the gratefulness we have towards our own parents, who raised us in the ways of God's Word. Our third unborn child is a blessing as well - even after its recent pre-diagnosis of Trisomy 18, or Edwards Syndrome. This blog has kinda turned into a little journal of sorts of our dark journey down this rather uncommon road. I stay busy cooking, cleaning, gardening, and raising the plants I killed back to life, and homeschooling. I blog when get the chance. :) We are always happy to have visitors, so please stop by anytime! Although, if you do give us a call first, we'll make sure to have some fresh cookies and sweet tea available when you arrive!

Our smart money kids adventure! (Part 2 – the 50 minute Dollar Store Edition)

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Our smart money kids adventure! (Part 2 – the 50 minute Dollar Store Edition)

 

 

So here we are a week into our Smart Money Kids Adventure. (Go read part 1, if you missed it!) Dave Ramsey has been pretty influential in our lives. I even got to be in a live video chat with him and his daughter last week. That was a blast!

Meanwhile, on the home front, the girls are doing fantastic!

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The jobs for my oldest (age 7) are, by her choosing:

Clean her bedroom. (She has as separate checklist for this hanging in her room.)

Sweep the floor.

Clean the guest bathroom.

Empty small trashcans.

Set the table.

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The jobs for my youngest (age 4) are, by her choosing:

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Clean her bedroom. (The girls share a room, so they share the checklist I mentioned above.)

Wash the dishes. (This is definitely a tag team event between the two of us – but it’s her favorite. And she’s starting to get really good at it!)

Dust.

Sort the clean sliver ware out of the dishwasher.

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I used this job chart and printed it twice, slid it into a plastic sleeve protector and they put stickers up for each job they complete. They know that every five stickers = $1.00 earned.

Saturday evenings are paydays. They love Saturdays.

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For both of them for now, we put their money in a glass Mason jar and let it pile up. Dave Ramsey said he’d crumple up those dollar bills and let them look really big in that jar to really get his kids excited. Our girls definitely get excited! For now, we are just implementing a glorified piggy bank with the jars. In a few weeks, we’ll start sharing with our oldest about the concepts of saving, spending, and giving away her money. She’s good at all three of these things, so giving them a title will be more of an art project opportunity than an actual learning lesson.

Funny Story – Kami spends her first earned dollar.

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So, my five year old and I headed into a nearby dollar store to spend her first dollar. She spent almost 25 minutes walking up and down every aisle wanting to pick something for her sister. This was serious business, folks.

Then, when she had gone through the entire store, she decided that in fact, she wanted to buy something for herself. So she needed to look through everything again. Of course. She’ll be a blast at the mall in a few years.

She finally settled on some My Little Pony look alikes – there were two in a package so it was a perfect share-with-sis sorta buy.

She walked up to the counter to buy them. She couldn’t even see over the counter. But she held her dollar up in the air for the cashier to take. The cashier said, “Thank you!” in such a sweet voice – Kami responded, “Oh, Ma’am! You are having a really good attitude today!”

Which made everyone in line behind us laugh. And she laughed too.

The joy she got from spending her own earned money was fun to watch. And I saw the connection between working for something and having the freedom to spend it start to form in her little mind.

This is what works for us – not necessarily what may work for you! This job list I found helped me determine what jobs were appropriate for what ages generally speaking.

Meanwhile – you only have a few days left to preorder Dave Ramsey’s new book, Smart Money, Smart Kids! (You can download the first two chapters for free here!) You’ll be so glad you did!

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Bridges over Troubled Waters. (Part 1)

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So I haven’t blogged much about my husband’s brain tumor. For several reasons. But now that we seem to be past it, I thought I’d document a bit. (Because, really, this is just an online journal to pass along to my girls one day.) So this thing: Untitled   What a fine specimen we have here, right? If you look closely – you can see the brainstem right in the center – the thing that controls breathing, heart rates – important stuff. That tumor, if you can see it, is actually cutting off the brain stem – thus the problem. Had we chosen to not operate, my husband had 12 months to live before the tumor was large enough to completely constrict spinal fluid flow to his brain. So, we chose surgery. And I chose stress. And fear. At a rate of rapid tumor growing speed, my joy and peace was constricted – to life threatening levels. See, fear constricts, strangles, steals joy. I ran a 1/2 marathon 3 years ago. A few months ago, i could hardly get out of bed. Much less walk to my mailbox.  I was basically energy paralyzed. I went to my doctor.  There had been some baby boys in the waiting room and watching them while waiting had done me in. So when I got to see the doctor, I was in tears – and told him “I promise this isn’t an emotional problem.” While I was crying. What a strong doctor he is to not have laughed out loud at me at that moment. Untitled He gave me slip of paper that said,  “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” and “Severe Depression”. I almost laughed. Those things didn’t happen to me. He did some extensive blood work at my request, and there was strong evidence to support some major endocrine system deficiencies and injuries. adrenal fatigue, causing thyroid fatigue, causing exhaustion, moodiness, lack of energy…..the list went on and on. “Your chronic stress has caused this.” And it had stolen my joy.  See, while, there is a HUGE part of my body that was dealing with chronic stress fatigue, and I desperately needed the medical help I received, I know deep down that the way I was responding to stress wasn’t always the best. In fact, many times the way I was responding to it all was sin. See, Christ said in John 14 as He told them about His death in the next several hours. “Trust in God. Trust also in me.” He was comforting others in the moments before His own death. I’ll have to let that one sink in another time. King David comes back from winning a war. A war where he fought against his own son – and his son died. He sits on his throne, a victor of war, but a loser of family. He says in Psalm 40 – “Oh the joys of those who trust in the Lord.” Paul says to the Corinthians under awfully tyrannical Roman rulers,

“I pray that God will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.”

So, peace and joy are possible, in the face of death. And hard. And life hard death.

Because faith, a noun, what we all have, is the ability to trust in something unseen, unfelt, unheard audibly…

Believing that God is real. And that He can do what He says He will do.

But it’s not just a conscious “ok, I believe that”. At least, trusting isn’t just that. Faith is. And demons get that. They do it. But they don’t trust in God.

Trust – is a verb. It is doing faith.  It is a very real, day after day, moment by moment, trial by trial action of trusting.

And the people who wanted most desperately to follow Christ asked Him, “What should we do to do the works of God?”

Christ told them – He didn’t say, “preach the Word.” or “heal the sick.” or “cast out demons.” He said,

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Smart Money Kids Adventure (Part 1)

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SMSK-instagram-spoiled   So a few weeks ago, I got quite the email from Dave Ramsey’s daughter – Rachel Cruze – asking me to join in the book launch team for their new book coming out on April 22nd. I was beyond excited to join this team of bloggers and speakers and influential people. Maybe some of their greatness will rub off on little ol’ blog-from-her-pj’s me! We got an advanced copy of the book, Smart Money, Smart Kids – one of the fun perks of this group – and I can’t tell you how much it has helped us in the last few weeks pinpoint areas where we as parents need to step up the money teaching for our girls. We’ve been very intentional about so many of our parenting decisions. But teaching our kids about money has been put on the back burner – we feel we’re doing pretty good with our money; we were sorta assuming what we did would soak into their minds without much effort. After reading Dave Ramsey’s book though, we’ve realized that this is another area where some intentionality is not only helpful, but necessary. DSC_0201

We’ve never done chore charts or assigned jobs in our home – well, I guess I shouldn’t say “never” – we tried a few times, but it was too overwhelming for me to keep up with the stickers and prizes and dimes and pennies. i just consciously involved them in many normal activities of the day as their emotions and abilities could handle. But now that the girls are 5 and 7, though, they can keep up with charts and reward systems themselves. So we’ve designed a great plan – based on ideas in the book – for giving them “commissions” instead of “allowances” – basically, we hire our kids. They aren’t required to work for us. but when they do, they are definitely rewarded. (I’ll have more on their specific job assignments in part 2 of this series.)

 

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Our kids have seen the true reality of life and death in a very real way.  They’ve seen how people have given so generously to Kyle’s Memorial Fund, to our family – sometimes keeping us afloat financially while we were sinking emotionally and physically. They want to give back. We don’t teach our kids that money is evil – but rather it can be good because of all the good it can do! So, in order to give, they have to earn. And they’ve been working SO HARD! I’m so proud of them!! If you think this is something you could use in your lives too, go check it out. (Psst – you can download the first two chapters for free - just scroll to the bottom of the page!)

SMSK-instagram-giving   Come back for Part 2 – where I’ll share our job charts, our payment system, and how we’re all holding up two weeks in.

April Fool’s Day Lookback

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Summer 2007

 

My daughter had a few of her jokes published today. Seriously. This is not a joke. They’re good folks. Like, knock knock jokes to make you laugh so hard the cows on the moon would hear you.

It released today. Go buy one.

In honor of such things as published child authors, I give you a post about our April Fool’s Day history.

So this guy of mine – he is a treasure to me. My personality, being mostly extroverted, sometimes introverted, always easily persuaded by humor, and always having a knack for the dramatic, needed a personality like his, one who is easily able to make humor out of everything, honest, and extremely (sometimes irritatingly) down-to-earth.

Our relationship began as a series of April Fool’s type jokes -

I wrote him a “love poem” about the how his eyebrows deepened my appreciation for tweezers.

He sent me a beautiful card with flowers on the front and said on the inside, “These are the flowers I *won’t* be getting you for your birthday. Because in your presence, they would surely die.”

I mailed a giant blue beach ball across the country to him at a camp where he was working – with a long fairy tale written on it. This was back in the pre-9/11 days when you could mail absolutely ANYTHING in the mail. So a giant blue beach ball it was. The guy at the post office slapped my $2.19 postage on the ball and tossed it to the guy behind him – with a smile on his face, he said, “Oh, this will be fun all the way to Colorado.”

The fairy tale ended with, “Wait! Why am I making up a new fairy tale here – there’s already one that perfectly describes us. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!”

HAHAHAHHA! I still crack myself up everytime I tell that story.

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Fall 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

I mean really – how many people read that fairy tale between here and Colorado?! I know it was read to all of the campers at camp during dinner one night.

(I’m still laughing right now. While I’m typing this.)

I didn’t get the last laugh though. He sent me a card a little later that said, “Sweetheart, if anyone ever calls you a beast again, they’ll have me to answer to.”

This went on and on – with giant photos of crazy looking monkeys, a totally fake sappy proposal in front of all my girl friends in college, huge bouquets of lillies on my dorm room bed (that I was allergic to)…

Obviously, the dynamics changed *a tad* and we ended up madly in love – and still are.

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But I couldn’t let a day go by without recalling, briefly, the best joke I played on him – at least, on an actual April Fool’s Day.

He was looking for his first job out of college. It had been a tough nerve wracking search that had lasted around three weeks. (But at the time, it had seemed like forever!)

I was borrowing his cell phone, so I had a friend call and leave a message for him -

“Hello, Mr. Rackley. This is Mr. Bear. We received your application, and we’d love to talk to you. You seem like just the person we’ve been looking for. If you could call us back at (xxx)xxx-xxxx before the close of the day, we can get an interview scheduled later this week. When you call, as for Mr. Bear. Thanks again – we look forward to talking with you!”

I was with him when he called back… .”Hello, uh, is Mr. Bear available? Yeah, Mr. Bear. I was told to call Mr. Bear…”

Hee hee hee.

He had called the Greenville Zoo.

*Now I’m really laughing again. He called the Zoo and ASKED FOR MR. BEAR!!!!!* 

With that, enjoy your day.

(We also love pies. Or I do. At least when they’re in someone else’s face.)

 

Summer 2013

 

May your pranks be fun, safe, and full of love.

(And my paybacks be equally fun, safe, and full of love. Dear Husband.)

 

Love,

Kim

 

PS – the girls got in on the fun today – and colored all over his car when he stopped in for a quick lunch break. They were window markers. We didn’t tell him.

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Our life this week {Instagram style}

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I made a cake for a huntin’ lovin’ couple – I almost *almost* put camo on it. Maybe I will for the nezt one.

I found the best whipped up not-to-sweet-but-sweet-enough buttercream recipe ever – I’ve used it without fail the last four cakes I’ve made now! If you want it too, go see the recipe from my blogging friend, Kate, here. Hint: It starts with milk and flour.

Exciting things going on over here at KimzKitchen – I have a local artist hard at work on my site redesign! So many things are in place for a super awesome launch party coming this summer. For now, here’s a sneak peek of his awesome header image.

My super awesome friend came over after a long day to help me finish up a catering event order that I didn’t get to start working on until after 10PM the night before – 10 dozen cherry cheesecake cookies anyone?!

 

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Anyone else get their toilet paper delivered? It’s seriously the cheapest around – better than costco!  The only drawback being everyone in the neighborhood knows when you had to restock…

(Make sure you click on the $1.50 coupon available as well - that makes the giant box only $21.27!)

Kami builds thrones on delivery day.

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Speaking of, this little one had a birthday this week. Here’s her whole life in a Instagram square. Have a great weekend everyone. Come back Monday for some April Fool’s fun!!!

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Tuesday Tip: Fridge Beauty

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Don’t you just love it when your husband brings home flowers? I’m the kinda girl who likes it even when he buys different kinds of flowers from the grocery store – and gives me the chance to arrange them myself.

Oooohhhh I hope my husband reads my blog today.

I don’t often get to create my own art, though, after digging playdoh out of carpet, magic-eraser-ing paint off tables, and brushing dried glue out of lovely locks of hair.  The one who gives me a chance to be creative, gives me a true soul deep gift.

You need a quick easy soul deep creative gift, don’t you.

Well, ok. Maybe you’re more practical than me.

Do this with your fresh herbs the next time you buy them.

Store your herbs in the fridge in some water - they'll last longer and you get to look at beautiful herb arrangement every time you open it.

Every time you open your fridge, you’ll take a deep breath and exhale with a smile. (Unless your kids left a homeschool science project in there that stinks. Then, well…your deep breath taking won’t be so deep.)

I’ve learned a great lesson in life. Parsley, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, and green onions are all so much happier in a Mason jar of water than they are lying in a dark damp cold corner in a bag. If I were in a dark, damp, cold corner in a bag, I’d probably be forgotten about too.

Store your herbs in the fridge in some water - they'll last longer and you get to look at beautiful herb arrangement every time you open it.

Go for it, though. Trim then ends, and the water will keep them fresh a few days longer. The cilantro leaves may start turning back a bit; they actually do a bit better on the countertop. But mine are in the fridge now. I pretend they are bowing to my creative cooking genius.

*Snort.*

And sometimes, your kitchen looks like this after Tuesday mornin’ breakfast. So you need to open your fridge, and smell the parsley.

Store your herbs in the fridge in some water - they'll last longer and you get to look at beautiful herb arrangement every time you open it.

Yeah, we use towels to clean off our table after breakfast. Rags are for sissies.

(sigh. I’m really trying to convince myself this morning, can’t you tell?)

Store your herbs in the fridge in some water - they'll last longer and you get to look at beautiful herb arrangement every time you open it.

Hey, if you look at it every day, you *may* actually remember you bought that parsley and use it more than once!

Happy Tuesday, ya’ll.

Treasures from around the {Internet} World. v 14.3.1

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There’s golden nuggets all over the place out there. I found a few this week I just had to share.

Grace for Mamas everywhere.

“Yesterday a tragedy occurred. A pregnant mother drove her minivan, filled with her 3-year-old, 9-year-old, and 10-year-old, into the ocean, in what appeared to be an attempt to end life for them all.

But another tragedy took place as soon as this news went viral. We shook our heads, declared the woman a monster, and made self-righteous remarks about the amount of evil that must reside in this women to do such a thing. This, too, is a tragedy, and I think we’d all be wise to reconsider our hasty judgment…” Read the rest of this here.

The World in pictures.

From just this week. Skiing, International Kite Festivals, Mamas, Babies, and dancing in icy waters.

International Kite Festival in India

Wanna read a little faster?

Check out this app that allows you to read at speeds of 1,000 WPM – that’s seriously fast. (The average speed is around 140 WPM)

…What Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading.

The “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters.

The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen.

In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.

The game done changed. Try it for yourself. Seriously, ya’ll. Do it. Try it. It’s unreal.

Happy Friday! 

Love, Kim

A Baptist girl does Lent.

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So this whole idea of Lent is a new thing for me. I grew up never really hearing of it in my church. But my husband came to me this week and asked if we could do it this year. He had a great idea for what he wanted to give up – but for me it wasn’t really a huge sacrifice. I mean, if Lent is supposed to be an act of denying oneself certain luxuries in order to take part – a small part – of what Christ suffered for us, it had to be something that was truly a sacrifice for me.

So… “Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”

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Easter is my favorite day of the year. It’s the reason I can have some semblance of joy in the face of death. Because of Christ, I can smile. I can see Kyle again. I can see my other two little ones again.

I love Easter.

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I grew up a Baptist. And in my particular location, a culture of rules and regulations.  And because I was good at memorizing, studying, and saying polite things, I was hailed as a “good Christian girl”.  I never had basketball trophies on my dresser, but I had plenty of “Teen of the Year” ones.

Truth be told, I just wanted to go to camp every summer to avoid – for just one week – my own consequences at home from a rebellious heart. So I memorized and studied, and took quizzes and tests – and got points on a scoreboard and eventually took a first prize, and the true goal prize, a scholarship to a week of parent-freedom at camp. And I did it every year. Some of you may laugh. There are a lot of worse things I could have done, I guess. But that’s not the point.

The point isn’t what I’ve done or haven’t done. It’s what Christ does in my heart.

And for a long time, He didn’t have room to do anything there.

Don’t get me wrong, rules kept me from a lot of bad. I’ve never smoked and I married a virgin as a virgin. I didn’t go see a movie at a theatre until I was in college. There were clothing styles and shoes that were off limits. None of these rules were necessarily bad, and I don’t regret many of their good results.  My parents did the best they could – and I’m so grateful. They were new to this Baptist-God-strong-willed-daughter-thing, anyway.

The bad though, was that it was all done in the name of what made me more holy than someone else. And as long as I was the holiest in my youth group, or my school, or my family, I was at a sort of peace with myself.  Quoting the book of Philippians from the “correct” version of the Bible, the book of Christian Joy, brought me only the joy of knowing that I could do something many others couldn’t.

But after knowing all those verses in my head, there must be about a quarter of the whole of Scriptures in there by now somewhere deeply buried, shouldn’t I be a perfect saint? I’m so not.

After doing doing doing all these good things for so long, shouldn’t God be satisfied with my good? Can’t He call me a good person by now?

And here I sit, on this first day of Lent, knowing that my heart is in the desert of goodness. That I can bring potted, pre-manufactured flowers of good deeds and smiles and memorize Scripture once more, but nothing good will grow in this desert of my heart as it is without the water of God’s grace.

I feel like I’ve been in the wilderness desert lately. But I didn’t choose this desert for myself.

Any other time I started something like Lent, it would have been a way to show off again that I’m higher on the Holy Pole growing closer to God because of all my good.

But this time, it’s more of a backwards look for me – that I’m going to do something “good” – and know that it’s doing nothing for me. It’s not getting me closer to God. It’s not making better than anyone else. Because only through the gift of faith have I been saved. Not because of any works I’ve done or haven’t done. I could never do enough.

So for once, I’m choosing to do something good. For no reason of making myself holier to others. Or for making God think higher of me.

Baptists generally don’t do Lent. (And really, I stopped calling myself a Baptist a long time ago.)

But I am.

Making your own Lent salt dough spiral

I’m choosing to give up something important to me. Something that really helps me do a lot of pre-manufactured good in my own strength. And doesn’t give God a lot of room to grow something beautiful.

I’m giving up…

{deep breath}

Morning Sleep.

I desperately need so much sleep these days, so I’m not necessarily changing the amount, but changing the schedule of it.

My plan is to wake up an hour earlier than normal and spend that time reading through the New Testament and praying.  Spending the day watering that desert of self manufactured goodness with God’s words, and letting Him grow where He wants.

How to make your own Lent spiral

(in about an hour, and for probably free)

If you’re not so much the crafty type, you can purchase a Lent Spiral here.) You’ll need 4 simple ingredients and an oven set at 350* F, a work space, and some nice background music.

At least, I need the music.

A seven year old to help is recommended but not required.

Note: Please forgive the Christmas pictures. I didn’t redo these photos for Lent with Easter tablecloths. I know, shame on me.

You can forgive right? :)

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To make the salt dough for 25 candle holes at Advent, you’ll need the following ingredients. To make the salt dough for 40 candle holes at Lent, you’ll need to double this recipe.:

2 cups of flour

1 cup of salt

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 cup of water

Step 1: Mix your ingredients together. You may need to add a little more flour – you want a playdoh consistency – not too sticky, but not too dry either.

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Step 2: Once you get it well-mixed, you’ll want to turn it out and knead it a little. Just like you would bread or play doh bread. :)

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Step 3: (This is where the seven year old really knows her stuff.) Roll out all of your dough into a snake.

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I wanted my snake to be the as long as our table was wide.  The exact measurements were about 36″ long and 1 1/2 inches *fat*. This gives you enough space for 25 candle holes. I rolled a second snake a tad shorter to make enough space for an extra 15 candle holes. (Since Lent is 40 days long – not counting Sundays.)

Step 4: Roll it into your spiral shape – on a cookie sheet or stone. Roll your second, smaller snake into a spiral shape as well, so when it’s attached, it makes one big spiral, just in two sections. (This prevents the weight of the larger spiral from breaking later.)

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Step 5: Open your taper candles – you only need one at this point. We just had all of them already (You can get candles for $0.45/each at a Walmart, btw. We are just using one candle and moving it forward each day.) Press your candle into the dough to get a candle holder hole space. We made 25 holes in this section (for Christmas). If you are making the Lent one, you can add 15 more holes to the extra section.

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Step 6: Double check all your holes. (As you make new ones, sometimes your dough can collapse on the ones you made before a little. When we’re finished with all of them, we re-fit the candle bottom in each one just to make sure they are the correct shape.) Then bake it in your preheated oven for 40 minutes. Once it comes out of the oven, it will be hard as clay and ready to use within a few minutes of cooling!

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A few Lent Resources:

By Noel Piper, Lenten Lights – 8 devotionals with candle instructions for Lent

By Ann Voskamp, A Trail to the Tree – Free Lent and Easter Tree Devotional with printable ornaments (Scroll all the way down if you don’t have time to read.)

By several lovely lady blogger friends, A daily devotional about Lent delivered to your inbox every day.

2014 Goals: Progress for February

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So February was a(nother) good month for us!

Here’s a look at my goals for the year and how I’m doing on them:

Personal:

* Pray for my children and my husband at least once a day. – Oh my, do I still have work to do on this one.

* Get on a Scripture Memory Plan.I’ve memorized 6 verses so far using Ann Voskamp’s #JesusProject here - a tad behind, but still 6 more than I knew two months ago!

* Read 35 books.I’ve read 7 books so far this year.

* Train for and run a 5K with my aunt.This is my month. I’m so excited to be feeling better. I did some light exercise this weekend with my family and felt great – so I’m ready to hit the ground. Not really hit it, but…well, you know.

* Pay off our last remaining debts – two student loans – and become debt free!!!! (!!!!!!!) >except for our mortgage< - While we’re applying our debt snowball to our last loan still, we’ve put amy extra repayment on hold for a tad to save for a super special family trip…more on that later! 

Family:

* Have a date night once a month with Chris. Check double yes for February, thanks to a lovely grandmother.  

* Have a “date day” with one of my girls once a month. We tried a date day, but the girls were determined to be together and do the same things. So it turned into a family date day. We were all OK with that.

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* Finish the Chronicles of Narnia Series with the girls. We’re making our way through the Voyage of the Dawn Treader now. I think it’s all of our favorites!

* Eat breakfast and lunch with my girls.

Homeschooling:

* Start school by 9 AM every morning.This has definitely gone much better this month.

* Read aloud to the girls 30 minutes each day before dinner. - This has not happened each day, but we’re definitely moving along better with this as well.

Professional:

* Write 100 blog posts this year.I’ve written 9 blog posts so far this year.

* Read 5 books/e-books about writing and publishing books and ebooks. - I’ve read two of these books this year.

* Write 25 new recipe blog posts.  I’ve written 1 recipe blog post this year.

* Utilize my Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter account daily. Perhaps “daily” was a bit much to take on. But, I’m definitely more involved than I used to be, and seeing the results encourages me to keep diving in.

So there we have it. How are you doing on your 2014 goals? It’s not too late to jump in! Even if you don’t reach them all – you’ll be way ahead at the end of the year than where you are now. That’s what I’m going for.

A book that has really inspired me this year Crystal Paine’s new (Bestseller!!!)

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. It may be something you like as well.

Let me know what your goals are! I’m happy to cheer you on – I’ll update once a month here and we can see how things are coming along for all of us!

Eliminating Stress.

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So there was this moment somewhere in the last two months. A point where my heart and mind totally reached a breaking point. It was odd – after everything we’d been through, that then, at that moment I’d break.

That as we paid a hospital bill in full (thanks to everyone’s generosity, that we’ll never repay. Ever.), paid off a school loan only two weeks behind schedule (and yet 10 years earlier than necessary), and was released from physical therapy after a brain tumor was taken out of my husband’s head, I’d basically feel like I lost my mind.

But I think, because I had been going so strong – to just survive – for so long, I felt like it was time to start thriving again. Now that things were turning around, it was time to get my house put back together and cook a decent meal or two! I’ll be honest with you, though. I just didn’t feel it. I spent hours on the couch from being so exhausted – it didn’t matter how many hours of uninterrupted sleep I would get in a night.

My seven year old cooked breakfast and lunch for us girls for several weeks straight.  My husband would come home from work and I’d retreat to a quiet place to read, sleep, or just chill with some old episodes of Downton Abby, while they played together in the other room.

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After about 3 weeks of feeling lousier than ever, I took a visit to my doctor, who diagnosed me with a minor thyroid condition. (I say minor, because as bad as it was affecting me, it wasn’t a brain tumor, a poisonous snake bite, or a death sentence. Anything less than those seem minor to us.)

Because of the chronic physical and emotional stress my body had been under from three pregnancies, and then my husband’s surgery and the toil his recovery took on me, my body was “stuck” in stress mode. Unable to reset itself in a sense and regulate back to normal levels.

A change in diet, a change in schedule, and some hormone therapy drugs have majorly helped me. And though I’m far from being at my 100%, I’m getting closer every day.

Why do I say all of this?

Well, because for some people, they feel the same way – tired, defeated, irritable. Because of stress. Anything can be a stressor. It doesn’t have to be something big. I wasn’t aware of the toll it would take on me after the fact. But I am now. And I’m becoming keenly aware of seeing it in others.

In fact, I did this Poll the Audience thing on my Facebook page a couple days ago.

What is your biggest stressor and what is your biggest stress reliever?

The answers I got were nothing short of what I was expecting -

Health, money, security ranked in the top 3 stressors.

Every person stresses over something and every person has a special way of dealing with it.

And most everyone’s answers were different.

I used to think that I was strong enough to deal with whatever God sent me, but that was such a matter of disillusioned pride – and my reluctance to slow down and rest caused my own body and my family to suffer for it.

Here’s a few things I’ve done to eliminate unnecessary stresses in my life:

Listen to my Husband - He is the other person in our family who has a good idea of the spiritual and physical heartbeat and temperature of the members in our family, and he knew I was sick. His help, prayers, and loving advice and demands for rest were what snapped me into my new reality.

Communicate to my Children – Instead of making my sweet kids the poor, undeserving victims of my crazy emotional outbursts, I was able to sit down with them and let them know what was going on. They were so supportive.

List my Priorities – They were my relationship with God, my relationship and reactions with my immediate family members, homeschooling my girls, and keeping my contracted working commitments.  Recognizing and writing down these important things made it quick and easy for me to see what wasn’t really necessary – and just filling up extra space (and consuming my small amounts of energy.)

(Brutally) Eliminate the Unnecessary - While it was painful to pass off some ministries at my church, and give up all my scrapbooking things, the stress and energy they cost weren’t worth what I was giving up on my list of priorities to get to them.  And many times, I wasn’t even getting to them. But the mere *thought* of them were sending me to overwhelmed status. And yelling at my kids was not a price I was willing to pay for something that was trivial.

My kids aren’t involved in many extra activities besides church and music lessons. (All they wanna do is play at the park all day anyway.) And even then, we don’t push them too hard to participate in the AWANA-type program at our church either. Our family Bible memory and study plan are completely sufficient and all we can handle at the moment. This eliminates the stress of extra car rides throughout the week and haphazardly memorizing verses on the way to church during rush hour traffic.

While I look forward to getting back to some of those things eventually, I know now is not the season of my life to be going to every birthday party or every extra church function.

One of my stressors is clutter. And I had boxes of things I had cleared out – but was waiting for a good warm weekend to have a yard sale. I opted to donate those items instead of seeing them gathering dust in a bedroom corner for a couple more months. And the freedom I felt as I dropped off trunkload after trunkload at Goodwill was totally worth it.

One of my friends in a similar season of life was stressed over keeping her kitchen floor crumb free. Just the thought of sweeping under those kitchen chairs one more time would overwhelm her. So, she sold their kitchen table and chairs. It wasn’t worth the stress to her. She has since purchased a new table and chairs – but having that month or so break of easy sweeping and picnic dinners with her little ones was worth the sacrifice.

So with a little creativity and aggressiveness, I was able to eliminate some things to get my body and mind back on track. And just now this week, after almost a month of treating my chronically overtaxed endocrine system, I’m starting to see some major improvements.

Do any of you have any other stress relief tips for me? I’ll take ‘em! :)