What do you do all day?


Say the word “homemaker,” and this is the most frequent response:

“What do you do all day?”

This question is offensive to a lot of at homemakers because it implies that there’s not enough to do to keep an at home spouse off the couch watching Netflix and eating raw cookie dough.  (Not that that NEVER happens. Overwhelm can drive anyone to a Netflix cookie dough binge.  And if there’s any job that’s overwhelming, it’s homemaking.)

I thought about it a lot and I think I can put my job description into one tidy sentence.

“I optimize life for my household.”

Cleaning is part of it, but a tiny part.

I make sure my husband can work, and try to take care of the things that would normally interrupt the working day of a spouse in a two income household.  Things like making appointments, a sick child, meeting a service provider, running errands.

I research, research, research, so we get the right products, get appropriate discounts, and stay under budget.

It’s my job to keep food in the house, and prepare meals that are conducive to health, the budget and shared family time.

I learn new skills so we can hire out less. Skills like minor electrical work, carpentry, sewing, painting, interior design, and cooking.

I advocate for our kids, so their health and learning needs are not passed over. This means more research, a lot of research, and sometimes doing interventions myself when there aren’t professionals available to us.

I manage our stuff so we aren’t buried in a pile of it, and can still find what we need when we need it.  That includes turning our used stuff into cash through garage sales, Craigslist, Ebay and tax deductible donations.

I make sure everyone has clothing, within budget, that fits, is clean and repaired.  Sometimes that means making it myself, shopping online, or visiting several stores. Plus taking care of personal appearances like cutting a boy’s hair or guiding a daughter through  makeup and hair for her first date.

I give encouragement and support so everyone can be their best selves.  This includes helping with music practice and homework, listening to their joys and sorrows and stories, and reminding them how great God made them.

I am a full time dedicated cheer leader for 7 people. That’s my FAVORITE part of the job.

This doesn’t mean I do everything myself.  I’m like a general contractor.  I delegate the appropriate jobs.  Sometimes I delegate jobs to my kids that would be easier to do myself, just because it’s good for them to work.

I take my job super seriously.  I’m constantly researching the best ways to do things and learning new skills. I’m also human and with a job list as long as mine, the big size of our household, and our limited budget, my house isn’t always company ready and the laundry isn’t always folded and put away.  Sometimes my time is better spent painting a room than keeping up with daily chores and I’m so thankful my family pitches in and is understanding about that.

It’s true that we sacrifice a little in available cash for me to have this position, but we gain so much more in quality of life in exchange.  I know not everyone can make this choice, so trust me that I don’t stand in judgement of work out of the home moms.  I was once that mom myself.

What do you think?

Everybody Struggles

When I was thinking about the things I want my daughter to know before she leaves home, I made a mental list of the fastest way to clean X, how to make bread, how to fix a zipper etc…then I realized those are all things she could google.  What she really needs to know is stuff that I’m still trying to grasp.  Things like “everybody struggles.”


About 6 years ago, we drove a few hours north to go to a family reunion.  My husband’s cousin invited us for an impromptu tour of her home that she had built with her husband.  I offered to give her a head start and she looked at me like I had 3 heads.  Her home was ALWAYS ready for company.  When we walked in it looked like a show home.  It was spotless and perfectly decorated, even the kid bedrooms.  I left my shoes outside.

As the tour progressed I made a mental note of the things I could change in my routine to make my home always ready for company. When I got home, I chunked all those ideas in the trash.  Honestly, we could barely make sure we had clean underwear with the size of our family and the number of commitments we were involved with.  I felt like a failure.

The next year, our cousin left her family and filed for divorce.  Her daughter was in jail on drug charges.  Everybody struggles. The truth is life is hard.  What our home looks like is not a barometer on our overall success and happiness with life.  It’s a tiny part of the big picture.


All we can do is our best, with margin for appropriate rest and balance.  God doesn’t expect us to run faster than we have strength.  There are seasons in life that are harder than others and it’s so tempting to judge our performance in the hard season with someone else’s in their easy.  It’s like a marathon runner, sweating and out of breath, looking at someone cheering from the sidelines and saying, “oh man, she’s not even sweating.”  Then thinking of herself as a failure.

That said, there are habits and skills when formed in the easier seasons of life (childhood), that will make the hard seasons a tiny bit easier (3 kids under 3.)  We’ll talk about them too in a future post.


Before She Leaves

I have roughly 21 months left with my oldest daughter living in my home.  In that time she will graduate high school and head off to college; marriage and babies soon to follow.  I lounged on her bed this weekend just talking about the things that matter to her, that give her hope, that stress her out, that make her excited.   Breathing in the time with her, aware more than ever how precious and rare it is.  Read more

How Three Orphaned Kittens Saved My Parenting Fail

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-36-09-pmBefore school started this fall, we made our kids a terrible, misguided, poorly thought out deal.  We told them if they all made straight A’s at semester, we’d get a puppy.  They have been begging for a dog for YEARS and finally we thought we’d consider it.

First of all this deal was awful, because everyone wanted a puppy except for me.  All of my kids have high IQs and were motivated very much by a puppy.  So bad result #1, they get straight As, earn a puppy, and leave me to care for it while they are at school.  (Which would be fine for a few weeks, but long term would be very stressful for me.)


Bad result #2.  My daughter with learning disabilities is working her tail off for a puppy and earning straight Cs.  It’s the best she can do with the mis-wiring she has in her brain, even though her IQ puts her in the gifted range.  It is possible that everyone will earn the puppy except for her, and there’s not one thing she can do about it.   According to our agreement, she could blow the puppy deal for the whole family and bear the guilt and shame on top of everything else she’s dealing with.


We either get a puppy—bad, or don’t get a puppy—BAD!  This is why I should THINK before making stupid deals with my kids.  Good Parenting 101:  Give your kids choices when either option is a win.  There was no possibility of a winner here.

I can’t tell you how many hours I laid awake thinking about this terrible situation and how to fix it and stay consistent with our promises.  I knew I had to get an animal in our house some way that would negate the deal and make this ok.  To make the situation a little more challenging, my special girl has on-going medical expenses that I need to save an extra $200 a month for.  With our new budget, pet food and vet bills aren’t a possibility.  Gah!  What was I thinking?


I went to the local animal shelter website just to see what foster care was all about.  Turns out it’s amazing.  Our shelter only fosters infant animals or high medical need animals, and it’s usually a 1-3 week commitment until adoption. They provide all the medical care, food, and accessories.  We provide the love.  Since we aren’t trained properly for high medical needs, we’re on the infant only list.  I filled out my application one night and the next morning, got a call to come pick up a litter of kittens.  Kittens!!!!!


Abandoned infant animals are a little challenging.  There might be fleas to combat, toilet training, and minor health challenges like loose stools from abrupt diet changes.  But oh my!  They are so cute and snuggly and fluffy and adorable.  It’s so worth it.


These kittens will be available for adoption at some point and prospective parents might meet them at our home.  When they are adopted, we’ll be available to foster someone else.  It might be more kittens, puppies or even a rabbit.  I can handle the care for a few weeks and take a break when necessary. The kids help out when they are home and have a lot of the benefits of pet ownership without the long term commitment.  Now that’s a win-win.


Welcome Fall

Thank you for all your encouraging comments after my last post.  I’m not feeling nearly so overwhelmed right now and I think gratitude and the support of good friends has a lot to do with it.  I’ve found myself running to the journal to jot down things when I think of them–like the song “I need thee every hour,” especially the new arrangement by John Hudson.  Also warm and pleasant jogging weather, and my husband who has known exactly what I’ve needed to hear the past couple of days.

I made some updates to my home for fall, just using some stuff I already had on hand.  If you missed it on instagram, here are a few more photos.  If I were designing a hearth from scratch, I would have done it differently and all the possibilities would have stressed me out and frozen me. Since my rule was to use what I have, it was much simpler (I even used the screws the previous homeowner left in the brick–so yes, the wreaths are slightly uneven.)   I love how limitations FREE us to make the best decisions we can.


The canvas on the hearth was our family picture from 2012. The dipped basket is from hobby Lobby (as is the ampersand) and the pillow from Ikea.  I made the wreaths using this tutorial. The wood logs were dropped off by a tree cutting crew working for my neighbor.  To get these logs I had to take all 4 trees and the wood chips.  My husband was not nearly as excited about it as I was.  He has been chopping it into firewood for weeks already and is still not done.  We have a wood burning fireplace in our basement, but this one is gas.  It’s not very efficient and way too expensive to burn, so it’s we just use it for decoration.  We talked about ripping it out several times….but it’s kind of holding up the whole center of the house–and has historical significance, being made from the bricks of the old Kanas City stockyards when they were torn down.


I did go and help him after I took the photo :D. (Mostly so I could protect the bigger stumps that would make nice side tables or stools for a someday outdoor seating area.)

If you’d like to know how we painted our brick, you can read about that here, and also see what the endcap looked like before we put a chalkboard up over it.


I LOVE the versatility of having a huge chalkboard here. It’s not nearly as dusty as I thought it would be.  It’s visible from the entry so we can put any personal message to guests we want on there, like “Welcome Yeoman Family!” I let the kids design it most of the time, but while they were at school yesterday I added the crocheted pompom garland (with thumbtacks) and words to remind me of my new mindset.  We skip Halloween at our house and go right into Thanksgiving.  


Here’s the view from the front door.  ( I primed the woodwork in here months ago and never painted it. I plan to paint the spindles and woodwork bright white, the walls a light greige, and to restain the wood tones espresso.  I’ve been half started on the woodwork for years….  Ha ha, that’s how you know this is NOT a decorating blog.) I usually keep the baskets under the table full of white blankets for looks, but with young people here, we ended up filling the left one with bubbles and sidewalk chalk since it’s convenient to the front door.


Across from the hearth is a little sitting area.  I bought the white lacy candle holders for Christmas (at Ikea) and loved them so much I never put them away.  I added a few fur throws and pillows, a couple of DIY leaf pillows, and fall themed printables for the clipboards.


(If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t buy a sectional this dark–BUT it fits our family, is super comfy, and the leather is exactly what I need for my allergies.  For the time being, I’m thankful to have it. When we knock some of the more important projects off our list, like a basement office for Darren, I’ll see what I can do about lighter furniture in here.) The cupboard behind the sectional holds all our board games. The coffee table is from Ikea and was only $40.  It has already taken a beating on the top.  I plan to add a stained wood top using this tutorial.  Then after a bit will move it to the basement family room (yet to be built) and build something more expensive looking, like this or this.


This is the first year I’ve been able to pull together a collection of fall items from what I had on hand.  Every year for a LONG time, I would buy just 1 or 2 items that I thought I would hold it’s charm for me. Some were originally meant for Christmas or Spring. I prefer to keep things fairly low key, so it’s as easy to put away as it is to put out. Does fall decorating excite you or overwhelm you?

P.S.  I just saw the nester is opening her self-study cozy minimalist course.  This is the course I took spring of 2015 that CHANGED my life.  She’s opening the facebook group up to students which is what made ALL the difference for me.  I’m participating this year as I finish up my music room and foyer.

My Gratitude Journal

I’m excited about this easy little crafty post, because it has so much meaning to me. Along the journey of life a few years back, we chose to seek out help from a psychologist who said something very interesting: “The thoughts you think, control the chemicals your body releases.  If you are able to change your thoughts, you can change your chemical balance. If you can’t change your thinking, then medication can help make it easier.”


Stress is my enemy.  A little spurt of stress can put me in bed for a few days, too weak to even walk unassisted.  I can’t control all my stress, like when someone cuts me off in traffic and nearly causes an accident; when a bat gets in my house and flaps around my bedroom; or when someone I love gets sick or dies. But there is a lot I can control.

This past week, a lot of stressful things were going on in my life.  Here’s what I wrote in my Fit Yummy Mummy journal: Oh Girls, Life has kicked my tail… My grandma is on hospice and they don’t think she will live through the night. She is 90 and forgot who I was long ago, but I remember who she is. Her daughter, my Auntie, was on death watch for a short time last week, but miraculously recovered for a little while longer and has been moved to a rehab facility. …my mama hurt her leg mysteriously and can’t walk very well…. I tangled with some poison ivy last weekend and am COVERED. Plus the school district has denied to test Heather for learning disabilities even with all the private testing records I sent them and doctor reports. They said they don’t accept any outside of the district assessments and they haven’t observed her long enough to decide what to do about her. I’m so sad realizing that they are waiting for her to fail again before they intervene even though her records transferred from her old school show a clear pattern and need. I’m taking her to another clinic the next state over on Saturday to test her eye/brain connection. It’s so expensive, but if there’s a chance it will help her we’ll find a way to earn the money. I’m trying not to stress about everything, but I’m feeling all the feels anyway and it has zapped my strength. So that’s where I am. Not sure how to pick up the pieces from here while my body has checked out. 

That wasn’t even all of it, but it started to feel ridiculous writing so much complaining down. What if instead of that, I had written down all the things that were going RIGHT?  I can tell you THIS, I spend way more time thinking about the things going wrong than I do the things I have to be thankful for.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with my health struggles.

It’s hard to admit that I am a negative person.  Yuck.  Just admitting that makes me not like myself very much, so I’m making steps to change.  4o years of consistent negative thinking isn’t going to change easy, but I’m choosing my hard.

gratitude journal 2

I’m starting with this fifty cent notebook. It’s just a composition notebook from Wal-mart.  I made a little cover for it by merging this and this.  I printed it on regular paper, then trimmed it down slightly to fit the cover.

gratitude journal wax paper

I placed a piece of wax paper inside the notebook, so I wouldn’t get modge podge all over the pages and stick them together.

Then I put a thin layer of modge podge ($1 in the Target spot bins) over the back of the picture, and stuck it to the cover, starting on one edge and smoothing it over to prevent air bubbles.  Then I took my brush and put a thin layer of glossy modge podge over the top for durability.


Here’s the best part, the brush strokes in modge podge are visible after it dries, giving printed art a hand-painted affect. To take full advantage of this, I went back once more and added brush strokes to the water color flowers, following the natural curve so each flower would look hand-painted.


You GUYS! I’m feeling so clever right now.  When it dried I trimmed the corners and added a matching cover to the back.

gratitude journal drying

Before I thought of this little project, I looked on Amazon for a gratitude journal I could buy.  There were several good ones like this, this, and this. They were each less than $10, but the DIY one was the more affordable option for sure.  Karen at A House Full of Sunshine has a different idea for a DIY journal cover that is darling for all you washi tape lovers.  She also had some good thoughts about gratefulness that are worth clicking over to read.


Here’s what I’ll write tonight:

  1. Heather’s new Irlen filters that are helping her read better
  2. Family cooperating for Grandma’s Funeral
  3. A chance to sing with my daughter and my sister-in-law
  4. Free flute lessons for Heather that make her so happy
  5. Our cars are both repaired and running well
  6. A supportive church family

I’m all about reducing stress, not adding to it, so I’m not writing in complete sentences, telling stories (unless I want to), or giving myself a quota.  If I’m too stressed to think, I might just copy down a scripture verse or hymn that I’m grateful for, or tape in a coloring page. And if I need to skip a day, that’s A-OK, since none of the pages are pre-dated.

P.S.  If you want to hear more about gratitude journals, Sherry talks about hers in the “We’re Digging Section” on episode #11 of the Young House Love Podcast.


Making the Most of Your Christmas Budget


It’s technically still summer and autumn colors aren’t even here, but I want to talk about Christmas just a smidge.  Even though we only give 2 gifts to our kids,  Christmas stresses me out if I don’t plan ahead.  Far AHEAD.  Truthfully, sometimes I still freak out—but this helps.  It’s what I’m doing today, so I thought I’d screen capture a summary of my movements and thoughts as I plan.

I made a little video for you showing how I budget for Christmas and how I buy each item at the lowest price possible.  I hope it helps take some stress off of you this holiday season!

Here are the video notes plus some extra stuff that the video missed:

  1.  Plan to set aside money every month for Christmas Gifts, and know what your total budget will be by the end of the year.

2.  Make a list of all the people you need to buy for and put a dollar amount by each name.  This list total should equal the amount you’ve budgeted for the year.  You might want to add some extra lines for Hostess Gifts or other unexpected exchanges.

3.  Next to each name, brainstorm gift ideas.  I use color codes to tell me if it’s just an idea, or if I’ve placed the order etc.  I also write in the actual amount spent so I can track my spending and not just the budget.  If I buy more than 1 item, I add a line so each item and actual price is on it’s own line.


4.  When shopping on Amazon, first make an account at camelcamelcamel.com.  Then copy the item URL  to camel and ask for an email alert when the price drops to your target zone.  Since you’re planning NOW you can afford to wait for a better price.  This is important because Amazon no longer offers partial refunds if the item drops in price after you purchase it.


5.  I also belong to a discount health and wellness club that as a side benefit has a unique shopping portal.  In addition to providing more than 500 toxin free products for my home and body at great prices, they’ve partnered with hundreds of stores like Old Navy, Target, Home Depot etc.  When shopping through this portal I have access to extra coupon codes and discounts to use in the online shopping cart PLUS I get a cash back rebate in the mail, on every purchase!  It’s only $19 a year for me to be a member, but right now they are offering a $1 special for the first year.  I can’t give all the details in this post, but if you want to know more about it, you can request info here. (Your contact info goes straight to me and no one else will se it, so be sure your best email address is included.)

A Family Friendly Yard on a Budget

Our house has so many projects! My foyer has been primed but not pained for several months now and I’m still not done with my build in bookcases or trim in the living room.  Already my heart is turning outside.  We have a couple of gorgeous months ahead of us and I would LOVE to add a firepit and some swings to our yard and just hang out there with my people.


Two weekends ago we piled our driveway full of brush and yard trimmings, revealed our raised beds and split enough wood for two winters. Then last weekend we built 4 more raised garden beds, and mulched around trees and pathways.


pathway to school

Here’s a close up of the bushy area to the right after cleaning up. The yard is looking almost pretty.  The two days working together as a family was really fun and bonding, except for the poison ivy that I found. It’s the city’s job to keep the fence clean 😛 We can work on our side, but the other side remains a jungle.  I suppose there’s more privacy that way.

under the deck

Darren is talking out loud about building a seating area under the deck.  I’ve been talking about it for years and he would respond with all the reasons why it was a bad idea.  Now, it appears it is HIS idea and I’m all for it. Above is what it looks like today, sigh.  There’s a LOT of work to be done.  But I’m envisioning removing the wall covering on the side facing this, and the side facing the yard to the right.  We’d like to leave the covering on the back wall, because that is the north side and blocks the worst weather for us.

Then I’d like a slew of comfy seating and eating areas where our huge family can gather.  (Just my husband’s immediate family is 28 people.)  Something with the feel Centsational Girl created here:


This will be the most expensive backyard project on our list because we’ll need to jackhammer some extra footings that aren’t being used anymore, and bring in several yards of gravel to create a temporary floor.  Concrete would be ideal, but it would be around $10,000 to pour a spot this big.


Here’s another inspiration photo from Redoingit.blogspot.com. They have a fabulous tutorial there on making outdoor curtains from canvas drop cloth and plumbing fittings.


While we save up the cash for the gravel floor, I’d like to build a fire pit like this.  I go back and forth on the kind of bottom to put in the pit. The flat stones as shown here would make shoveling out ashes a snap, but we have a couple of bags of sand that the previous homeowners left and it would make a free floor that drains well.  The stone blocks are a lot more expensive in my area than described in this tutorial (more than double) but I have seen them on Craigslist recently (I was just too slow to text and they were already sold, sob.)  While we do the necessary clean up work, I’m going to keep watching for another good deal.


This simple swingset can be built for less than $100, even after modifying the plans to make it taller and wide enough for 3 swings.  We had a hard time figuring out where to put the swings with all the trees and tall back fence.  Darren finally had the idea of turning it sideways (we already plan to take out the tree right by the garden beds) so the kids would have more room to swing without hitting the fence.  It’s not as aesthetically pleasing to me as one turned the other direction, but I’ll be able to see it from the house which was really important to me.






Creamy Pumpkin Mousse

I’m so excited about the flavors of autumn! Apples, cinnamon, maple, pumpkin, acorn squash….Yes please!  All of it.

Here’s a super simple recipe that is sure to please your fall cravings, but is still cool and refreshing for those warm afternoons.  It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and is low carb.  If you’re following Trim Healthy Mama, this would be an S. The few carbs that are in it are naturally present in the Greek Yogurt and Pumpkin.

Pumpkin Mousse

Creamy Pumpkin Mousse

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup plain Greek Yogurt (I used fat free but any fat content is fine.)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp liquid vanilla stevia

4 packets Truvia

(If you aren’t counting carbs and just want to use sugar, I recommend 1/4 cup real maple syrup or honey to replace the stevia and Truvia.)

Put everything in an electric mixer with the whip attachment and whip until soft peaks form.  You’ll be able to see the trace of the beater through the mousse and the lines will stay when it is ready.

Transfer to 6 serving dishes and chill until ready to serve.  I’ve found my stevia sweetened things taste better when chilled for a couple of hours.  It helps the flavors blend and makes the stevia less bitter. My kids gave this 2 thumbs up even before chilling.


How to Crochet Wide Pompom Trim

How to crochet wide popcorn trim

The second adorable shirt Heather bought had fringe on it and the phrase, “Life is Beautiful.”  When we were shopping, I loved how she walked right by the snarky shirts and reached for the ones with encouraging messages.

Fringe shirt 1

The swingy fringe fit her playful personality perfectly.  But the first time we washed it, it unraveled and tangled.  Boo. (The screen print looks worn but it was made this way on purpose, so it’s still smooth and soft.)  Read more