January goals, and some for 2014

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(photo credit)

The way that people feel about goal-setting is really intriguing to me, especially at this time of year. There are obviously many people who make New Year’s resolutions that will not be met. There are some people, like my husband, who do not do it, nor ever will, simply because they will set a goal and accomplish it on their own terms, not because of a date on the calendar. Then there are people like my dad, who have an intrinsic goal-setting instinct that easily drives them to accomplish what they set out to do. This, I cannot relate to at all, but I find it quite admirable.

Personally, I have spent a lot of years feeling that I’m the kind of person who shouldn’t set goals, because I know I will fail. (Lacking self-confidence much, there?) However, my last few years of life have helped me become more aware of what I can do well in terms of setting goals. I’ve been learning that big, lofty, unspecific goals will probably not be met. Making small, achievable, slow steps is the best way to move toward those larger goals that I have for myself.

A few January goals that I have:

– Find a special way to serve someone once a week. Right now we’re between jobs and living with my in-laws, which means that I really have lots of time that I could be bringing someone a meal, watching a friend’s kids, physically doing a task for someone who needs help, etc.
– Organize my in-law’s fridge and freezer. I’ve been working my way through the book An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, and it has inspired me to do things like prep veggies at the beginning of the week, use up old food that gets overlooked or thrown away, and eat leftovers in new and interesting ways. I highly recommend it if you’re needing some inspiration in the kitchen!
– Organize ALL THE THINGS in the garage. Nearly all our American possessions reside in the garage here, and in the name of minimizing and only keeping necessities, we have a goal to go through and reorganize all of it. We probably have about one or two months left before we leave the country, so the sooner we start, the better!
– Get a job. We’re planning to head back to South Korea to teach English for one or two more years. Our paperwork for acquiring visas is finally almost complete, so we can finally start to look for jobs that will start in February or March. We’re praying that both my husband and I will find good jobs – always a challenge when you are doing it while living half a world away. However, we’re more confident now than when we did it two years ago. I’m thankful that we have some idea of what we’re getting into.

A few goals that I have for 2014 in general, but specifically to be started in January:

1. Reboot my exercise habit. Last year I did a Couch to 5K program religiously for a few months, and it helped me slim down and have a regular exercise routine. Now that it’s gotten cold, I’ve stopped running. We also came back to the US after living in Korea for two years, where we didn’t have a car and walked everywhere. We’re planning to move back to Korea in the next one or two months, so I know that my daily movement will increase once I’m working and walking again, but I still need to get a regular exercise routine going again. Mostly I’ve just been lazy. I received a Fitbit Flex from my husband for Christmas, so I’m planning to use it to at least reach 10,000 steps every day. I still need to decide if and how much I want to run, or if I want to primarily do strength training. I have a great app for bodyweight training that I need to put to good use again.

2. Planned posts for my blog. I think that I want to set at least one or two weekly themes for posts so that I can be posting more regularly. At the moment I want to do a weekly photo post, and I might do one related to what I’m currently reading, too. If all goes well, maybe I can add more later. Baby steps, baby steps!

3. Keep reading what is interesting and engaging. Near the end of 2013, I made a big effort to reboot my love of reading and I haven’t looked back. I’ve found that instead of wasting lots of time on Facebook or my reader feed, I’ve culled my online activity and spent my time with books instead. Right now I have a huge list of stuff to read and not much done, but that’s okay. I’ll catch up someday! I’ve set a goal of 50 books and hopefully that will be pretty attainable.

4. Reconfigure recipe storage. For the last two or three years, I’ve used the web-based subscription service Plan to Eat to store recipe files and reference them when I’m cooking, but for some reason, it hasn’t worked well. It’s handy for storing online recipes but not that great visually, and it’s a lot of work to input recipes from cookbooks. I’m pretty sure that I want to just use a three-ring binder with clear pages that can store print-outs and photo copies, but I want it to be nicely organized and visually pleasing. I’m picky about what I like, so hopefully I can find or make something sooner rather than later.

I’m hopeful that this year I can be more intentional about setting my own goals and accomplishing them. The last two years have been quite focused on raising our daughter, and it’s obviously been a time of big transitions for our family. Now that she’s almost two, my days are much more predictable, and having a set routine will make it easier to accomplish the goals I have. At the moment, we’re working on getting back over to Korea to live and work for another year or two, so it might be awhile before our routine is established.

Honestly I have no idea what our year will be like, but I’m hoping it will hold a lot of goodness, and grace.

– I’ve linked up my January/2014 goals at The Tiny Twig and Creative Home Keeper –

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storing up wisdom

One of my greatest disappointments these days is that I will never be able to cook with my grandma. Grandma March passed away in a fatal car accident when I was 11 years old. She was an amazing woman who married at 17 (or maybe younger?), lived through the Great Depression and her husband’s deployment during WW II, raised 7 children, and persevered despite many ups and downs. Due to her life experiences, I’m sure she must have had tons of good advice on living frugally. The strongest memories that I associate with her are strongly tied to her good cooking and her love of gardening. I specifically remember a meal where she served homemade applesauce, something my mom didn’t usually make. These days when I think of her, I wonder how much I missed out on by not being old enough to have an interest in cooking with her and learning from her. (Seriously… I want to befriend someone else’s grandma who can school me in cooking!)

These days I live far from my older family members who are still living, making it difficult to access their collective memory. So I scour the Internet for recipes, peruse cookbooks, and experiment in order to learn on my own. But there is something to be said for having someone clearly outline methods and tools for cooking healthy, frugal meals for your family. (Just because your mother did it doesn’t mean that you will know how! Especially if you are as bull-headed as I was growing up. God bless my poor mom.) Enter Leila of the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter. She is a Catholic mother of 7 who is probably not dissimilar to my grandma. I love to read her blog and hear her wisdom on all sorts of topics: child-rearing, cooking and meal-planning, keeping a home, and basically any area related to being a mom and wife.

Basically I’ve decided I need to quote some of her wisdom here to start my own contribution to the “collective memory,” as she calls it. I love reading blogs and frankly, my own brain’s memory banks cannot keep up. I will read something she or others write and it stays with me for a out a day, then just dissipates once I start reading again the next day. So, in an attempt to not lose those prized nuggets of wisdom, I want to post them here. Now, here’s to storing into and up-keeping my own memory.

Cherished

5-minute Friday here again…

Five Minute Friday

Join up and link up and be inspired 🙂

Cherished

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[GO]

Kisses on my face from my husband (even when I wanted some alone time)

Kisses on my baby’s soft cheeks

Watching the baby smile and play and give joy to others

Coffee amidst early morning yawns

Eleanor learning the word “up”

A warm fireplace on a cold night

The feeling of just how cold it actually is outside

Danielson playing in the car

A day full of family

Refreshment on the inside from a good talk with friends

Feeling held in the palm of His hand, cherished, blessed, challenged, and given grace, day after day after day…

[STOP]

Dive

Another Five Minute Friday!

Five Minute Friday

My mom took to calling me a “water baby” when I was growing up. I remember many times of her and my brother being out of the pool, ready to leave and I just didn’t want to get out. I loved the water, plain and simple, and I still do. I jumped off the diving board at our local pool earlier than my older brother did. And though I’ve never been a good diver I still remember many cannonballs, flips and crazy jumps off the board and into the water.

My baby is starting to remind me of myself. She watches the bathtub fill up and screams with delight at the noise and the splashing and the feel of it all. Her little legs kick back and forth, over and over and we grin big grins, her single-toothed smile stretching wide. I bask in her enjoyment and sometimes I wonder if this little one will dive better than I ever did. Whatever she does – diving, cannonball-ing, or just delighting in splashing around – she will take on the water and enjoy it in her own way. She might be like her mamma but mostly she will be herself.

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being present

It’s hard to believe that I have been a mom for over three months now. The days drag sometimes – amidst trying to entertain a baby, deal with undiagnosed crying, and naptimes – but the weeks are flying now.

In the beginning it was the hardest. I was trying to do everything right but it was hard to accept that maybe I’d have a different experience than the baby books told me. Tracey Hogg, “The Baby Whisperer,” tickled my ear with her promises of a routine early on, and yet berated me for being in my pajamas all day after the first couple of weeks. Dr. Sears was mostly helpful but still made me feel guilty that I wasn’t giving enough and doing enough. Dr. Weissbluth (sleep researcher who wrote Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) was probably my favorite for his no-nonsense, straightforwardness. I read his words over and over the first six weeks as he assured me they were the hardest, I would probably want to quit breastfeeding, and there would be times my baby would cry and may not be comforted by anything other than nursing.

But as any first-time mom will tell you, it gets easier. Two months ago at this time I would have had the baby attached to me non-stop and be typing with one hand. Today I am able to drink a cup of coffee while the baby takes a nap in her crib. I don’t have a mental countdown always going to keep track of when my husband will get home. I don’t feel constantly overwhelmed. Things are getting easier.

Yet I recognize that in some ways I wished away those first two months. Being a new mom and having no in-person support was very difficult and I found myself not being fully present. I find my memories of that time are already blurred, yet I swore to myself that I could never forget the days and nights of desperately wanting that little baby to stop nursing, to let me sleep, to stop popping off the breast over and over. I think I didn’t absorb the goodness and sweetness very well. I just let myself be too frustrated and tired and overwhelmed. It’s hard for me to see that little baby clearly in my mind – I already am having to refer to pictures sometimes, instead.

Having a child is a race against time. I was never the type to really desire having children, so in some ways, I’m very surprised at how nostalgic I’m already becoming. My baby is not even close to leaving babyhood and I see how grown up she’s getting – teeth threaten to break out of her gums; her noises are becoming more distinct; her body gets stronger and does new things. And I guess I just need to remind myself that I need to make sure I stay present right where we are. It’s easy to think, “I can’t wait until she can do ______” (walk, talk to me, go to sleep on her own…). But there is a long list of milestones and once one is reached, you can never go back. I don’t want to wish away her babyhood by being dissatisfied where she’s at, or being overly nostalgic. I need to just be present and attempt to savor every moment as best I can.

What does that look like, exactly? Well, I’m trying to take mental snapshots – to make the memories in my head so that I don’t forget them or rely on pictures or typed words in the future. I’m trying to stay off my computer while she’s awake so that I give her my full attention instead of dividing it up, even when all we’re doing is reading the same book we’ve read a bazillion times. I’m trying to touch her and be affectionate so that it’ll be familiar and normal to cuddle, snuggle, have a head or back rub.

She won’t be a baby forever, which is both wonderful and sad. I want to look back and be proud of how much I gave of  myself, and not be guilty of only giving the minimum required.

a week 18 update

Yesterday was the 18-week mark for the little one growing inside me. It’s pretty hard for me to believe I’m getting so close to week 20 – that will be 5 months (and about halfway there)!

In case you’re unfamiliar, the pregnant woman’s possibility of miscarriage is generally measured in how far along she is – and the chances greatly decrease as her pregnancy progresses. One thing that I have been amazed at learning is that babies can still survive at a very early point in their growth. According to about.com, babies born at 25 weeks (just over 6 months of gestation) have a 50% chance at survival, and it only gets better from there. That is AMAZING! We are definitely blessed these days with medical technology and information. Fortunately, I have had no reason for any concern so far, and being pretty healthy overall, I don’t really anticipate having any serious issues.

It’s easy to worry, though, and any sane mother-to-be probably does. I honestly have had a very easy pregnancy so far, so sometimes I get concerned that something is wrong since it’s been so peaceful, I haven’t gotten much of a belly yet, and haven’t felt much, beyond a couple weeks of nausea. I think today I might have felt a tiny movement, but when I tried to feel for more, I couldn’t detect anything else. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to the week-by-week development guide recently, so I was surprised at how big the baby is getting already: around 5.6 inches long and almost 7 ounces. The exciting stuff is bound to start happening soon!

I'm pretty sure that belly you see is mostly just weight gain, but I guess I have an excuse...

In other news, things are finally picking up with trying to go to S. Korea. We are awaiting Willy’s FBI background check, which we know for a fact will be arriving soon – probably next week sometime; and we sent off his diploma to the ID Secretary of State to get an official notarization that was required. That should also arrive soon. So within one or two weeks, all paperwork needed for applying for a job will be done! He did send in his application in today – another big step. So we are probably nearly there in terms of knowing more and having more to share with family and friends who ask, “So how are things going with South Korea?” 🙂 It will be lovely to see some progress, as it’s a process that we started in early June. Recommendation to anyone interested in teaching English abroad: start 6 months before you want to leave and you will have much less stress in your life!

I’m starting to get more excited for the future: living in a new place, having our own apartment again, meeting new friends, trying new foods, and starting a new adventure together, completely foreign to both of us in many ways (the baby included)! Life is not what I would ever have predicted, but I’m always willing to embrace change and, with the Lord’s help and his Hope, look for the good in it.

review of the “Nook” e-reader

I recently decided to buy an e-reader, which is somewhat uncharacteristic of me. Frankly, I like books; I always have. My husband probably wishes I liked them less, because every time we move we end up with plenty of heavy boxes of them. However, I bought an e-reader because we are planning to move to South Korea within the next couple of months, and it seems crazy to me to either analyze and decide which books we want to bring with us when we go (suitcase space will be at a premium), or to not bring any, buy some, and then get rid of them when we leave. Of course we’ll probably end up bringing or buying a few, but I like the idea of not having to worry about what cookbooks, references or favorite novels to take with us, and instead being able to store the books I want on this little device.

I bought my Nook a week or two ago, and so far it’s been great. Here’s a short pro/con list as far as functionality goes; and I’m sure you could find better reviews elsewhere, but these are major points that I would make:

Pros:

– Fairly inexpensive ($139 for the e-ink version I bought)
– Touch screen (Amazon’s Kindle that is priced similarly does not currently have this)
– Long battery life, especially compared with a laptop
– Can read multiple document types, notably PDF and EPUB files (EPUB is used for public domain/free books found online)

Cons:

– Amazon’s website is much easier to use than Barnes and Noble’s website

I must write a little bit about e-readers in terms of development and current usability. I feel that right now, publishers, retailers and other businesses are definitely not maximizing the opportunity they have to offer good services and products to customers using e-readers. Right now, if I want to download a book to my reader, it’s rather expensive – on average, most books (not in the public domain) cost $9-12: not much cheaper than a paper copy. Obviously publishers still want to make a profit from what they produce, but considering the fact that an e-book is just a digital copy, I would think they would be significantly cheaper or have better special offers. So far I haven’t experienced that. I also can’t use coupon codes and such when buying books from the Barnes and Noble website. I think I can buy books from Amazon, but I haven’t looked into it yet; I’ve just been trying to understand the B&N system.

There also isn’t a whole lot out there if you can’t afford to buy books frequently. I was really hoping to find some sort of online lending service (where you can lease and borrow e-books for free or a small fee), but from what I’ve seen these are not very developed or are restricted in some way (such as only allowing particular books, or only allowing Kindle users). I also have been looking into borrowing e-books from my local library, but neither the Moscow or Twin Falls libraries have this service yet (apparently it is expensive). I’m hoping I can use my parents’ account for the Las Vegas library system, as they’re more likely to have it.

There are free books you’ll find online – mostly classics that are public domain. This is good, but it really is limited. And sometimes even current well-known books don’t have an e-book version available. And sometimes if they do, it costs more than the paper copy! Also, I’ve found other people mentioning online that the B&N website has lots of free books, but they are mostly garbage. Apparently most anyone besides me who owns an e-reader likes trashy free novels…

I’m not trying to complain about it all, though. I guess I just see a lot of potential for options that doesn’t exist yet. I’m still glad I got my Nook, and I really think that since the number of e-reader users keeps growing, there will be more options within the next year or two. Currently I’m aiming to enjoy my Nook and get the most out of it that I can while being frugal and finding the best options for using it.