4 Things I Learned From My No Spending Month

February was my very first, officially titled, No Spending Month. I had never taken on this specific challenge before, and on Feb 1st, was excited to tackle it and see what I would learn.

I had given myself the following guidelines:

  • The spending ban would apply to extras, not regular bills or necessities (groceries, gas, utilities, rent, etc..)
  • This spending ban did NOT apply to my husband (he may not even be aware that I did it until he reads this!). It was a challenge for myself alone, and did not feel the need to ask him to join me this time. So he was free to buy his extras as he liked, but I challenged myself to not ask him to buy something for me.¬†
  • I purposely chose a month with no family birthdays, travel, or gift centered holidays. For my first attempt at this, I really didn’t want to set myself up for failure.
  • My children are all little (four under four), so I did extend the challenge to them indirectly. No new toys or clothes. Only diapers if we ran out. I don’t think they even noticed…

So 28 days later (and no, I didn’t purposely choose the shortest month of the year…), during which there were no runs to Starbucks for lattes, no movie rentals, no browsing through Target, and no late night online purchases, I had made it through an entire month.

There was only one exception: we bought a new couch. Though, to be fair, this did fall under the guideline applying to my husband. I had promised him that this was the year we could replace our old couch. One sunny Sunday afternoon, he made a fun family outing of looking at couches, and was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to ask him to wait any longer (the poor man has been waiting 8 years..). I felt that that one exception was justified. You know the saying, “Happy husband, more grilled food”! …

Anyway, not only was I proud of myself for making it to the end of the month, a few thoughts struck me along the way:

  1. 9 times out of 10, you really don’t need that thing. Throughout the month, I would still save items to wishlists, but found myself returning to those lists again to diminish said items. Having gone a month without them, I found I didn’t really need them in the first place.
  2. No more thoughtless purchasing. By removing the quick buy trigger, I was forced to consider each possible purchase, both current (groceries) and future (wish lists). Do I really want this? Do I really need this? Will this actually bring value to our lives, or simply become a burden in a short time?
  3. I don’t need to own everything. There is a simple beauty in borrowing something. A ladder from a neighbor, a book from the library, walking to the neighborhood park instead of buying outdoor play items for the kids…I was once again reminding that there is freedom in enjoying an item for a time, then returning it. No need to always buy, always own, always keep. There can be beauty in the temporary.
  4. I want to set a new example for my children. My children may be quite young, but they do observe how I live, speak, interact, and….shop. By showing them that not every trip to the store deserves a treat, I can display not only self control, but contentment. I hope and pray that they learn to value each other more than things.

It was a good month. A reflective month….and I plan to challenge myself to another no spending month again in the future.

Have you taken on such a challenge before? What did you take away from it? –besides extra purchases ūüôā¬†

What You Can See…When the Clutter Is Gone

 

A row of tiny, shiny rubber rain boots. The lyrics of a song that bring back memories of anticipation and romance. The way light pours through old, decrepit windows. A gallery wall of creativity. A hallway, that, although not decorated or changed at all, happens to be one of my favorite rooms in this rental.

And three little fuzzy heads nestled together on the couch, giggling at cartoons.

These are a few of the landmarks within our home that repeatedly bring a smile to my lips.

For when the clutter is gone…you can finally see what makes you smile.

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A Letter to C-Section Moms

Dear C-Section Moms,

You ladies are amazing.

Really. Truly.

I’ve heard the strange comments you’ve received (“It must have been nice to not have to give birth” or “So, you couldn’t handle the pain?” or¬†if you have a VBAC at some point “So great you were finally able to experience birthing”), as if what you did experience was merely some zen form of osmosis.

I’ve seen the look of some of your faces when asked about your child’s birth-guilt, shame, sometimes verbally dismissing the whole experience as unimportant, since it doesn’t measure up to a vaginal birth. You sound apologetic, as if you did something wrong-something less than worthy.

And it breaks my heart.

Because you’re amazing!

You’re body is amazing! You GAVE BIRTH TO A HUMAN BEING!!

You willingly went through major surgery to make sure your child was ok. Then endured weeks of painful recovery while caring for that new tiny life. Your body will forever bear the scars of that sacrifice-that incredible love you have for your child.

You are not a cop out. You are not a failure. You did not “give up” and settle for an easier option.

You fought. You sacrificed. You endured. YOU GAVE BIRTH.

You amaze me.

You are moms, just like the rest of us. Having a C-Section birth did not give you a false start or disqualify you from the “real” moms’ club (and if there is one, I still haven’t figured out how to get in…).

Be proud of what your body has done. Please tell us your birth stories! They’re incredible, and I for one love hearing them! There will be some that will discredit what you have endured, but ignore them, because the majority of us think you are amazing! We want to share the joy in your memories, because the joining¬†of a child to a family-be it vaginal, C-section, through adoption, or fostering-is joyful!

You ladies are strong, beautiful, extraordinary mamas.

And I salute you.

Sincerely,

A (so far) Vaginal Birthing Mom

 

A Note on Kids

So here’s the thing…

I’m still a young mom, and definitely do not have this whole motherhood thing figured out yet (or ever will...), but there are two absolute truths about children I have learned:

  1. If there is a room that is clutter free and open, they will always gravitate there to play.
  2. More toys out and about= more complaining and boredom from said kiddos

(side thought: I’ve noticed many adults function the same way…)

Anyway, our family seems to go through a cycle (and I’m sure many of you fellow moms will recognize it): we have a season of accumulating more toys (birthday, Christmas, hand me downs, visits from grandparents, etc…)-our play/spare room becomes cluttered-kids lose interest in toys/playroom and gravitate to the nearest open space (living room)-more complaining and boredom ensues

We have recently been swept into this cycle once again. Take exhibit A:

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This was two weeks ago. I know it doesn’t look like an overwhelming amount of clutter, but after one container of toys was dumped out, the kids would soon after vacant to the living room (cue whining…).

Enter Mama Bear.

I took some time one afternoon and executed a quick sweep/purge:

  • zebra push¬†toy was stashed on a shelf in the closet until baby #4 needs it (Little Bear is fairly confident in his walking abilities now and rarely notices it anymore)
  • baby activity center (we like to call these the command centers) is also no longer being so used, so moved to guest room along with the empty plastic container for the next Goodwill run
  • play rug is adorable, but I quickly noticed that the kids don’t actually play on it, they just trip all over it while running around. So I rolled it up and stashed that in the closet until my mom’s next visit (she was lending it to us)
  • quickly sorted through toys and removed anything they have not recently played with, and added those to the Goodwill bag

After all was said and done, take exhibit B:

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Again, may not appear drastic, but it always is enough to the draw the kids back into this room. They once again have more space to play, run around, and be more creative with their playing.

I noticed that I’m the same way too! Space to think, create, and simply LIVE is a wonderful thing…but requires seasons of ruthless examination of my own possessions.

But you know what?

I never regret doing it.

 

 

DIY Project-Touchable Wall Art

Here’s the deal: I finally hung frames and canvases in our living to create a gallery wall and LOVE it (even though I have yet to paint one of the canvases….)! Here’s the before:

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Frames and canvases hung-before any changes

 

BUT……a frame and one of the canvases hangs low enough for our little ones to touch.

That’s right fellow moms, I purposely hung something low enough¬†that three kiddos ages three and under would be tempted to touch.

And we both know that no matter how many times I tell them not to, THEY WILL TOUCH THEM!!!

Fine then, I had two choices. I could move the frames, but that would change the entire look……OR I could give them something “cool” to touch.

The frame was inexpensive so I wasn’t too worried about that one, but what would I put on the canvas that would be fun for little hands?

Rocks. BOOM!

Kids and rocks. You can’t go wrong, right? So I gathered up a few supplies and tried my hand at this:

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Supplies gathered (pardon the glare…)

 

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Gluing madness! (I burned my fingers several times..)

 

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A few coats of flat white spray paint

 

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Annnnddddd voila! Crazy, touchable wall art!

 

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Gallery wall with current updates

To be honest, I’m not¬†yet sure how I like it. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not sure if it is quite right….

 

I still have the other canvas to mess with, so perhaps that will bring it all together!

First, let’s see how long this one lasts on the wall…..I’ll keep you updated!

Permission to Say “YES”

Let me set the scene.

It’s one pm-lunch is finished, and all the munchkins are down for their naps. I have some decent energy for once, so I stare at the blank wall in the living room. I’ve been longing to hang pictures on it since we moved in this March. ¬†My brain commences to formulate placements, colors, arrangements, etc…

And then….

“I really should wash another load of laundry.”

“The bookkeeping needs updating.”

“The sink is full of dishes from both breakfast AND lunch.”

“The entire yard needs cleaning up and mowing.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Odds are, if you’re a mom of little munchkins (or children of any age), you too have dealt with the mental battle of duty vs desire. And when you have a VERY TEENY TINY bit of time to handle anything alone, more often than not, duty wins.

Now don’t get me wrong, household chores, meal prep, caring for your husband and children need to be and should be done. It’s one way we show our family that we love them dearly, a way to serve and grow. But they also need us to be…well….US.

I realized recently that I had stopped giving myself permission to do things that I loved to do! Obviously no one had asked me to do so (I did it all by myself..) God has given me passions and loves, and expects me to use them for His glory as well as enjoy those gifts. And I had suppressed them under the guise of caring for my family, when ultimately, my family needs me to be me, not a robot version of what I thought I should be.

They don’t need a wilted¬†Natashya.

So I decided to start giving myself¬†permission to say, “yes”.

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Do not attempt while toddlers are awake….

 

“Yes” to hanging the picture frames.

“Yes” to planning and researching how to¬†decorate this house, even though we may not be¬†in it long.

“Yes” to reorganizing closets (because I LOVE to organize, whether it really needs it or not)

“Yes” to setting aside the chores for a while so I can sit and marvel at the life moving within me.

“Yes” to turning up some¬†Sia and getting my preggo samba on for ten minutes.

“Yes”

And surprisingly, since then, I have found it easier to say yes to the kids.  Jump on the bed for a while? Yes! Drink your morning cup of milk using the play tea set? Yes! Wear your princess dress and dance to Disney music? Yes! Drag out all the beach towels and name them? YES!

Can I tell you something? It feels good to say “Yes”.

Give yourself permission today, fellow mama. Permission to do something you love, no matter how simple, silly, or unproductive it may seem. It will produce more than you know.

Season of Planting

I recently read this blog post at Finding Joy and a mini revelation hit me between the eyes like a Lego brick:

I am once again in a season of planting.

Now, that may not sound like much, but you must understand, lately I’ve¬†found myself fighting against the reality of this current season of my life. Against the constant-no end in sight-mundane tasks and ¬†needs that often seem to yield no great crop.

I imagined myself to be still¬†in a season of harvest, but I’m not…..not yet.

Ten years ago, I was. It was a time in my life where reaping the benefits and results of the prior years was more prevalent. But I had to experience a time of planting, then a time of tending before harvesting was an option.

And here I am again.

Motherhood is still new to me, and I haven’t been a wife for all that long either. Along with planting and tending these kiddos daily, I myself possess tiny seeds that require time, care, and patience to grow well.

With three children under the age of four, and a fourth expected soon, the days can be exhausting in their repetition and demands. The task list is long, the nights short, and the daily work…..hard.

I have returned to a season of planting.

There is grace in that knowledge. Beauty in the slow, sanctifying process. Accepting that slow does mean fruitless, and mundane does not equal purposeless.

And that, ultimately, how and when the harvest is ready for reaping, is not in my control.

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A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot! Rose plot, Fringed pool, Fern’d grot. The veriest school Of peace; and yet the fool Contends that God is not‚ÄĒNot God! in gardens! when the eve is cool? Nay, but I have a sign; ‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.

Thomas Edward Brown