A little update... GAPS, the blog, and life in general

Finally hung our stringed instruments. I love it!! Inspired by @kristinrogers :)(photo unrelated to anything, so you can see how we hung our guitars on the wall)

On the blog

First of all, I'm getting super-duper excited because I have a brilliantly talented designer working on a new design and sometime in the next month I will be giving GGH a much-overdue overhaul, update and makeover. All the bloggers out there will understand how nerdily thrilled I am about this.

I haven't been writing much over here lately, but in the next couple of months that should be changing a bit as well. You may have read about all the changes happening and coming to Simple Mom and therefore to the whole SLM network. As Simple Homemade comes to a close as a stand-alone blog, I will be drifting back over to these parts to get back to my roots, while also writing monthly over at Simple Mom (ahem, dreamcometrue).

If you're new around here, coming soon as I relaunch are some book reviews, ice cream posts, and more thoughts on community, creativity (including creative projects), and contentment-- the big three Cs I try to base a lot of my content on around here.

In our tummies

GAPS is going well. We are actually really enjoying breakfast and dinner, although lunch is a bit more challenging as I'm trying to avoid cooking an entire meal, and we don't always have enough leftovers.

I'll be posting soon a more detailed post on what we're eating, but I just wanted to get an overview up here to say that other than social situations, which are challenging, Gigi is doing awesome with the changes. She's totally on board with it theoretically, although still struggles when she feels the cost, such as no pizza day school. I did however make a batch of Paleo Chocolate Chip cookies and made her one with one solitary-cheater-chip in it to make her feel special.

Dinner is ready! #PicTapGo

Her energy and attitude may be improving, but it's still too early to truly tell in my opinion. I will say that her "explosions" have been fewer and farther between and bedtime has improved.

We've all had some out-of-the-ordinary gas and we definitely saw some minor "carb flu" type symptoms during the first week as we were detoxing from all the flour and sugar ("healthy" versions even) we normally eat. I feel like I have much more energy, although that may be canceled out from how late I've been staying up trying to cram everything in I want to do.

Two things: this diet is expensive (You pay now or pay later, though, right?), and time consuming. I really do spend most of my day in the kitchen, when I'm not occupied with the kids, that is.

And finally, do we (the adults) cheat? YES. David and I are definitely on a modified GAPS diet. I drink decaf coffee with a bit of raw sugar almost daily and we still must have our dessert every night. We are getting creative though. It's not ice cream every night anymore by any means. I'm not giving up homemade ice cream, don't worry. :) But we are trying to satisfy ourselves with other things, too, like warm milk steeped with cinnamon, nutmeg and raw honey mixed in (yum!), yogurt with granola & honey, bananas with cocoa almond spread (oops, that's totally not legal!), or a high quality chocolate bar (also ILEGAL but darn good).

In our homeschool

We're down to the basics around here... reading lessons, math, handwriting, our devotional, read-aloud, and not too much else. It's going really well though, especially since we've made the huge shift from morning to afternoon. I would much rather do school in the morning, but right now with an almost 3-year old and a 21-month old around, it's more like crowd control mixed with a bit of school. So we've been doing school when they nap and that's relieved me of a lot of stress.

I keep reminding myself, it's just kinder and I really just want Gigi learning to read primarily. I'm getting excited about the future though, starting Story of the World next year and going more down the Classical path. I'm going to a seminar in a few weeks on Classical education that I'm really looking forward to.

My 3 fish in for a swim lesson! Happy Saturday!

It's swim lesson season around here and our kids are doing awesome!! I love seeing them improving and getting safer and more comfortable in the water.

In our wallets

After years of reading about Dave Ramsey (mostly through Tsh), we are finally hunkering down and watching Financial Peace University and getting serious about paying off my student loan (the only non-mortgage debt we have left) and then starting that fully-funded emergency fund.

It's really exciting. I've been interested in all of this for a long time, but I've been terrible at implementing and actually sticking to the budget. Ever since David took over the money (we still can't figure out why I did it for over nine years) we've been making continual progress, and I'm loving seeing him get pumped on the Dave Ramsey plan. For those of you who know the FPU terms, he's definitely the nerd/saver, and I'm the free spirit/spender.

So that's where we're at! God is good. Questions? Comments?

It's Happy Holiday Mail Time! {Shutterfly giveaway}

One of my favorite things about the quickly approaching holiday season are the cards, letters and of course, photos, that will begin to bless my mailbox.

As if getting snail mail wasn't (rare and) special enough, add in a cute greeting with a photo of a friend and it makes a trip to the ol' mailbox even more exciting.

We love to keep our photos for the whole year, and have done various things with them such as

  • plaster them all over the fridge
  • make wall collages for the kids' rooms,
  • leave them clothes-pinned to the otherwise-boring vertical blinds, or my favorite option
  • fill up a basket with them, and periodically "draw" one from the pile to pray for a friend or family member

I would love to get into a daily routine where each night at dinner, we draw a photo and pray for that person or family as we pray for our meal.

It's also fun to compare photos to see how little friends have grown in the last year {gah!! see Exhibit A above and those tiny babies of last year}. I've heard of other friends putting theirs in an album to look through during the year.

It's funny how Christmas cards have changed over the years. It seems like less and less people write letters or just send store-bought cards, and how photos have become standard. I guess this is because a photo is worth a thousand words?

Whatever the reason, I love receiving the photos (I love the letters that still come, too, of course).

I feel like every year I try to simplify. This year, I'm planning to make more concrete strides. As much as I love photo cards, this is one area I've decided to really pare down.

For the last few years, we've had my brother or my friend Rena take photos of us and then either I design my own card or have my brother do it. They are always beautiful photos, and I love the process of designing the cards and choosing the outfits.

This year, however, I'm handing over my designer/photo-styler card though to the lovely people of Shutterfly.

I'm taking my beloved Instagram photos and making a simple, inexpensive card {we are trying to buy a house after all!} that will showcase some of the fun memories from 2012. I'm ordering early, and going to address those envelopes before we even know where we'll be living at Christmas {in our own home perhaps?! Not holding my breath, but that would be amazing}.

Are you looking for an easy solution to beautiful holiday greetings? Don't have a personal graphic designer or gobs of money to spend on a custom card?

I would love to recommend the lovely gallery of photo Christmas cards over at Shutterfly.

Whether you want to do a simple photo card, or a fancy, designer card, they've got you covered. The designs are beautiful and there are SO many to choose from. Remember the days of picking one out of just a few choices? Not so anymore with photo cards.

One thing I love about Shutterfly's cards is how many photo options there are- just one beautiful photo showcased, a collage of many, or even a greeting card that opens up to more photos on the inside and back.

And as a special bonus, Shutterfly has been generous enough to offer one lucky Gidget Goes Home reader a special discount. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win. It's really easy, just start by clicking where it says "+1 Do it!"

This giveaway has now ended.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

$50 off order of $50 or more (excluding tax and shipping & cannot be combined with any other promos (expire 12/14/2012 – no extensions)

Be sure to visit their special offers page for discounts and sales, too.

Good luck and happy card-making! And don't forget to mail me one! Okay, you don't really have to. But if you want to, you can, and we'll pray for you. :)

Thanks to Shutterfly for sponsoring this post!

For the love of... less stuff, more simplicity and God's sovereignty

Lots for sale! What a whirlwind month we've had. In a crazy turn of events, we suddenly have found ourselves moving, again. Gigi, five, will now be moving into her sixth (for a hopefully-very-short time) and seventh homes in her short life.

We are ready to put down roots in a home for a while, to say the least.

In fact, we thought that's what we were doing here. Oh, how we've enjoyed the space here (and the relatively affordable rent to go along with it). It wasn't our choice to move this time, and that's hard. Circumstances out of our hands (ie our landlords' situation) are forcing us to leave this house at a time when rent is high and availability to rent or own in our neighborhood is low.

We have constantly reminded ourselves of God's sovereignty through this whole process, and seen His hand at work as we searched and found a condo nearby (the only one), on our good friend's street, in our price range, and put down an offer that was accepted, in an unbelievably fast six days.

Then we hit the speed bump. Nothing every goes off without a hitch, huh?

We made plans to move out despite the end of escrow not being yet in sight. We are in limbo as we await some government paperwork to be shifted around and hopefully taken care of, and pray our seller doesn't find a way to back out due to the delay.

And so for the third time in our married life will move back into the home of my parents. We did it for a short few weeks once before kids, then for ten months with Gigi, and now with all five of us, for hopefully just a few weeks. We are beyond grateful for parents that live relatively close by who are willing to take in all of the craziness that is our family.

Collector's item right here.

Today was the first monumental step in the moving sale. The Garage Sale. By far the biggest amount of junk we have ever parted with at one time... and as we piled the last of the leftovers into the truck to drive them to the donation drop-off spot, it felt darn good. We are downsizing significantly, space-wise, and you know what? We're excited about that.

Letting go of stuff has been so freeing for us as we've purged this time more than ever and felt drawn to a little bit simpler existence.

We are strongly fighting against a culture that tells us more, more. Get more for your money. Get more bang for your buck. Move where the big/cheap/new houses are despite how that would compromise your values.

We refuse this. Some think we are financially unwise, but we are trying to follow the Lord and not the world. For us, we value shorter commutes (and more family time), living in community where we feel called, and following our passions, even though that means barely being able to afford a small condo with a simple patio.

We drive around our neighborhood and see open two-car garages piled high and wide with STUFF, much like our own. I pray, Lord, help us detach ourselves from all this stuff. Now that the sale is over, I still wonder, what else can we get rid of that we don't really love?

Born and raised collectors, this has been a long transition and journey for both David and I. We still want to continue to simplify. Through the process of going through stuff, we have often have reminded each other of a monumental lesson we learned from my friend Tsh's book:

"Sometimes, we associate sentiment with an object because we think it holds a memory, when in reality, it's just another thing... Get rid of the things that are just things-- they're not useful, and you don't really find them that beautiful. By tossing them, you're not tossing the fun memories. Your memories remain, even if the objects are removed."

See you later, creepy porcelain dolls. Good-bye, myriad gymnastics medals and ribbons (even that one precious first place ribbon). Adios, painstakingly-collected bottle cap collection.

I did save my American Girl doll to give Gigi in a couple of years. And when David's pog collection didn't sell, we downsized their storage container and saved them to play with. We still have a LOT in my opinion. But we feel better about what we do have.

I'm seeing a little glimpse into God's sovereign plan for us to move in just the pleasure we've been taking in simplifying. The up-till-midnight-packing-every-night-part I'm not that happy with, but in a few weeks it will be done and we'll be playing Settlers every night with my parents while the kids are snug in bed. ;)

Just picked up from the library... Devoured about 60 pages last night.

I devoured 7 by Jen Hatmaker a couple of weeks ago and immediately forced it upon David--I'm trying to convert him to be a reader-- with an emphatic, "You must read this!!" It was inspiring and encouraging and entertaining, especially for where we find ourselves right now, re-evaluating ourselves, our stuff, our priroities.

I highly recommend it. I've probably said this before, but I highly recommend Tsh's book, Organized Simplicity, as well, as it provides a lot of encouragement, but also a lot of how-to for those who want to get started in simplifying.

And Carlos, would you please come pick up the double-wide dresser that's waiting for you in our driveway? Our garage sale ended four hours ago. Thanks, buddy.

The No-Spend Month... It was a valiant effort... Until it wasn't.

Untitled The No-Spend Month seemed like such a good idea when we started out, but I'll be honest, two and a half weeks in and I was over it. In an effort not to be legalistic, we did what any sane family, overwhelmed with the pressures of parenting three little ones and wanting to live in community, might consider doing.

We quit.

Starting Out

We set a goal, a target amount that would cover our budget categories that were flexible (not including things like rent, utilities, tithes, gifts)-- food, gas, spending, dining out, etc. It was a lofty goal, but it was reasonable.

When something came to mind that I would normally head straight to Amazon for and immediately order out of "necessity," I instead wrote it down on a list-- Things to Buy Later. This included things like a new phone case (mine is broken in 3 places), new seat covers for our car (ours our ripped to shreds) and a backpack for Gigi.

We ate frugally, (re)discovering some new and old favorites for simple meals. We've stayed in for the most part instead of dining out, not that we do that as often anymore, because dining out with a 5-, 2- and 1- year old isn't that fun anyway.

I baked from scratch when we needed things (bread, granola, granola bars). We squeezed in small grocery trips for the essentials so we could still cook enough to have friends and family over, but didn't splurge on too many snacks (that's where it adds up sometimes).

It wasn't too difficult. Thoughts of paying off our last student loan cheered us on and encouraged us.

We knew gas alone would probably set us over our goal with driving over an hour to visit family a couple of times, but we did our best on everything else.

The Tipping Point

Then, last week came along. It was a rough week in parenting, and suddenly on top of everything else, there were no easy snacks in the cupboard and I was listening to whining, complaining kids and feeling the pressure boiling over.

The laundry was stacking up and the cloth diapers were just one more thing to take care of. I'd had only one evening home, with help from David to get the kids to bed at a normal time, all week. We ran out of sunscreen and it was that time of the month and Hallee got another fat lip (probably the fifth in her short life) and my hair is so dead it feels like it could break right off and Gigi threw more tantrums than I care to remember.

{deep breath}

Of course I totally realize that not all of that even has anything to do with No-Spend Month, but what it all comes down to is...

Something had to give.

So I told David I couldn't hack it anymore, and with his blessing, I escaped on Saturday morning for an hour at Peet's coffee and a solo grocery trip. {happy sigh} Then, I ordered more diapers (and decided to take a break from my beloved cloth), and bought new sunscreen at Whole Foods.

And at David's suggestion we're heading to Taco Tuesday at Rubio's tonight. :)


Finishing Out July

I'm going to finish out the month with just buying the essentials, but I'm not going to kill myself.

I still have a list of things I "need" that I will wait to buy, and I think I'm actually going to consider continuing the practice of making lists like that, then talking to my budget-man about when I should schedule those purchases in.

We are still saving every extra dollar towards an early pay-off of my student loan, so that Lord-willing we will be debt-free sometime this fall (!!!!!!).

I'm still waiting till August (thankfully, next week!) to get my hair cut and my house cleaned and my car washed.

I enjoy challenges like this, but I also know when to call it quits. It's good to stretch things, but it's not good for them to snap-- if I can avoid that, I will. This stage of life I'm in is a delicate one and I'm learning to be more and more discerning, making wise choices for my wallet, and also for my sanity.

Have you done a No-Spend Month? I'd love to hear your experiences with that. or other times when you felt that something had to give.

Lately... {on simplifying in the New Year}

gigi coloring We've been struggling a lot with Gigi the last couple of months. Mainly through the hustle, bustle and excitement of the holidays, but even since then, we've been seeing some behavioral and anger issues in her that we want to start working though now, so as to hopefully prevent the development of a pattern in her personality.

Of course, even more importantly, in the long run we want to get to her heart, but practically we have some serious issues to work through right now.

Among seeking wise counsel, looking to the Word and how the Lord deals with us and we can model that with our kids, and reading elsewhere, we've been seeking some serious simplification. I might say that that is probably our main goal for the new year... simplifying life.

I recently read the book Simplicity Parenting with some other moms from Gigi's preschool. We are going to continue working through some of its suggestions and meet again next month to discuss it more, because it has been that monumental for all of us.

I hope to elaborate here on what we've been doing sometime in the future, but for now, I just wanted to get something written down to commemorate the journey we've begun. Between significantly paring down our toy collection and establishing more rhythm, we've been making some serious changes around here to try to make life easier and more enjoyable amidst the craziness that is a family of five.

I'd love to hear from any of you who have read the book, or even if you haven't-- what have been some of the simplifying changes you've made that have impacted your family the most?

Oh, we're also working our way through Tsh's ebook One Bite at a Time, as another encouraging resource for simplification.

*affiliate links included in this post. thank you.*

Family Mission/Purpose Statement

live simply As we start the year, David and I are really striving to simplify and de-clutter our home and our life. I am so excited to have an awesome tool to help us as we tackle it, Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living, the new book by my "boss"/editor-in-chief Tsh Oxenreider (aka Simple Mom).

I feel like the phrase "simple living" can really be vague and "philosophical" but Tsh's book is really amazing as it approaches the idea of simple living by giving practical ways to apply the idea of simple living to real life. She's a realist, and doesn't think we all need to live off the grid and away from civilization, but rather teaches us how to apply our values to our own, individual lives.

The first thing we decided to do as we prepare to work through the second half of her book (the how-to section) was use her guide to create a family mission/purpose statement. She has blogged about this before so I've thought about doing it; in fact over a year ago David and I sat down to answer her guiding questions, but never moved on from there.

first family photo of 2011

So this past weekend, we got out our answer sheets and went through them together, finally coming up with the first edition of the Bennett Family Mission Statement. This could naturally change over the years, but for now, this will be the filter we use to pass through all of our belongings as we ponder them, and in the future as we make family decisions.

We, the Bennett Fam, believe that our purpose as a family is to love God and others, and glorify Him in the way we live.

We will:

  • reflect the fruit of the Spirit toward each other {love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control}
  • cultivate a home that is open, laid-back and inviting, and a reflection of our family
  • aim to live a simple, uncluttered, peaceful life

Our priorities are:

  • loving Jesus and radiating His love
  • living a healthy, active, natural/homemade lifestyle
  • caring for Creation and enjoying the outdoors
  • having fun together

Hopefully having something concrete like this will help us attain a lifestyle of simplicity and contentment as we raise our children. I want them to grow up understanding why we've made certain decisions, and I want to give them the tools {thru modeling} to value quality over quantity.

Do you have a family mission/purpose statement? I'd love to hear yours if you want to share.

Wardrobe ReFashion: the Pledge

t-shirt repurposing I've been getting a lot more into repurposing/refashioning lately. So, I decided it was time to make a committment. I headed over to Wardrobe Refashion and signed the pledge for four months. That means that from September until the end of 2010 I am pledging to not buy any new clothes. I will repurpose, refashion, and buy second-hand to my heart's content instead.

If you would like to play along, you have until August 31st to sign this pledge (she opens it up periodically) which will begin on September 1st. Let me know if you're joining up! :)

I, Nicole {aka Gidget}, pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for the period of  4  months. I pledge that i shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovoted, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thy thriftiness brings!