Archive | February 2013

I went to a mom conference! (my new convictions on discipline, texting, and joy at home)

My cousin and I somehow escaped the madness love and community of our families to attend the Mom Heart Conference 2013: “I Take Hope: Moving from Desperate to Destiny” with Sally Clarkson. We both read Sally’s Mission of Motherhood, and really loved it. The conference was amazing. Close second was the breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Here we are at the conference:


A few general notes:

  1. I love that somehow I look as pregnant as Kelly does in this picture. (She is like 28 weeks).
  2. I did actually have on makeup at some point in this day, and it did actually look good.
  3. There were actually other people at this conference.

400 women, to be exact. All moms, some with little nursing babies, and also, in the same hotel, an “auto parts dealers conference.” It was an interesting dichotomy of attendants. Safe to say I don’t think anyone accidentally ended up in the wrong session for too long.

I learned so much, and am trying hard to avoid being the cliche “mountain-top experience” of people who go to conferences and are changed for about 3 1/2 days and then go back to being their same old mean-mom yelling selves. You know those types.

So, I wanted to try to verbalize what I learned. Once I put something on my blog, it’s like real-life, ya’ll. I never backslide. (Or something.)

The most powerful things I left with were stories, which is interesting because it was a story that brought me to the conference.

In Mission of Motherhood, Sally shared that her youngest daughter, Joy, had asthma. Joy would wake up violently coughing every night at two am, for months on end when she was about two. The only thing that helped was to put her in a steaming shower…So, Sally would sit there with her, and tell her stories. “Joy stories,” of crazy adventures the little girl would grow up to have. Her daughter told her once, “Mommy, when I was a little baby in your tummy, I wished and wished that I’d have a Mommy to tell me ‘Joy’ stories when I was sick.”

I cried because I love that picture of being a mom. I love how hard it is, and how scary, and how amazingly rewarding. And how her little heart was so happy with her mommy, like I know sometimes Sam is that I am his.

As I listened to her stories (her kids are now grown), I made a list of the things I wanted to change in my life. You know what’s funny? They were all things that I’ve kind of been thinking for a while I wanted to change. It’s odd…Almost as if God doesn’t need a mom conference to speak to you. Crazy.

Here are the things I become convinced of:

  • I think God is telling me to re-evalute my discipline policy. For one thing, my spanking policy. I’ve felt for a while that that is just not the most effective way to produce real change in Sam. I’m not saying I’m against spanking now or anything. But I don’t think it will/should be my primary go-to correction method. I don’t have points 1-10 of this lecture worked all out yet. It’s the beginning, but I know that I want less anger, more sympathy, and clearer expectations in the relationships we have with our children.
  • I need some specific “rules” in my life for technology. I want a break from the ties of texting and mindless internet browsing in my life. I do these things because I am bored, and fried. I want to substitute something else as my “go-to” so I can really, really be present, for long stretches of time, with my kids. I’m not sure yet how I will lock-and-key my iphone and computer for three hours at a time, or how people can really reach me if there is an emergency, or what else I will fill my time with when I am just needing a “decompress moment.” But I can tell you this. Today, I didn’t text much all day, and haven’t cracked the computer once. Can I even tell you how free I felt as a person? I felt like I enjoyed my moments. Of course, I had my husband home all day, and my bucket full from this nice little conference. I’m brainstorming how I’ll manage when my flesh is weak on a Thursday afternoon at 3:33pm. Suggestions welcome. But however it happens, I feel a new leaf is turned, and I am fervent in my desire to live a more undistracted life.
  • I want to teach Sam Bible verses. Little kids are just sponges at this age. I feel so guilty that he has so many useless books memorized and not enough Scripture. I’m not sure how exactly I will accomplish this. But again, it’s on the blog, so it’s good as fact now. 🙂
  • Finally, I want to strive to bring joy and beauty into my kids’ lives. Practical ways that this can happen, off the top of my head: pancake and donut parties. (Don’t we all need more of those?) More tickling. Put up more pictures. Play more music. Did I already say the one about pancakes? That was a good one. I’m praying that the Lord fills in the blanks here, but the vision is clear in my head.

Kelly, if you’re reading this, thank you for coming along with me! I would have never gone myself. And if I did, I would have gotten lost irreversibly on the streets of Durham, and have had much less fun.

In case you’re curious, Sally has a new book out called Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe.

image from

image from

I love the idea of this book. I skimmed it at the conference, and actually feel like I prefer the one I read, Mission of Motherhood. Granted, I was skimming, but I am a good skimmer :). Either way, I absolutely recommend her writings. For a less expensive option, you can browse her blog, I Take Joy, here.




what to do when you wash a disposable diaper in the washing machine for the second time in a month

  1. Cry.
  2. Curse yourself (again) for being Eco-unconscious, and hate Mother Nature for such cruel, cruel punishment.
  3. Fish out the clothes, piece by piece, and drop them in a laundry basket, trying somewhat not to scatter the exploded cancer-causing chlorine crystals all over the floor.
  4. Once the clothes are out (including every toddler sock your family has ever owned), stick your hand down in the washing machine and make a swipe around the tub to get confirmation on how many inches-thick the crystallized goop is inside the washer.
  5. Get really, really annoyed and stressed inside.
  6. Spend a brief moment figuring out how this could be your husband’s fault.
  7. Remember there are two young boys loose in the house. Put on a “Bob the Builder” DVD, and defy anyone to argue that this is not a perfect use of 21st-century technology in parenting.
  8. Go back to the washing machine. First, scrunch a glob of the crystal goop up in your hands.
  9. Realize this is more awful than fishing out soggy noodles from the sink strainer, and go get some paper towels for assistance.
  10. Scoop as you can with the paper towels and then fetch the vacuum cleaner, mentally ignoring the echoes of your husband warning of mold in the vacuum if you vacuum up wet things.
  11. Realize you don’t have the right attachment for the vacuum, and decide you need a scoop of peanut butter if you’re going to finish this job before dinner. And a glass of wine.
  12. Then, crane the vacuum into the machine and suck up all those crystals. Take your time, now. Point that nozzle in every little dot and crevice in there. Those crystals are everywhere.
  13. Finish, and take a deep, satisfying breath. Turn around and realize you still have an entire load of wet pajamas with diaper insides all over them, and that essentially your job is about 12% completed.
  14. Cry again.
  15. Lug the laundry basket of contaminated pajamas on the back porch.
  16. Proceed to pick up each and every item in turn, untwist it, shake it out briskly in front of you, and smack it like it’s demon possessed against the porch rails.
  17. Look around and see if any neighbors are watching, and decide it’s just going to have to be okay that they think you are spanking your laundry piece by piece in the broad daylight.
  18. As the toxic diaper snow covers the shrubbery, start to feel really guilty about all the crimes you’re committing against mother earth today, and the little birdies that might try to eat the diaper stuffing.
  19. Remember that video you saw recently about first-world problems and third-world people, and feel both guilty at being such a spoiled brat, and simultaneously annoyed at the crystals sticking to your eyelids.
  20. Move “shower” from the “Maybe” to the “Definite” list for today’s nap time.
  21. Realize the job of shaking out every speck of junk from off of these minuscule socks and pajamas is definitely going to take upwards of an hour. Sing to yourself, “I think I can, I think I can,” for motivation.
  22. Take a brief “break” to make the boys lunch, and feed them while you continue the job.
  23. Worry a little bit that they seem completely unfazed by their mother standing on the porch, covered in messy white mess, waving all of their clothes to the wind.
  24. When their interest is finally piqued, threaten Sam with his life if he steps outside in the hazardous mess.
  25. Realize as he’s standing next to you that you should have picked a more reasonable punishment.
  26. While beating a pair of fleece pajamas, scream and yell at him to get back inside, further solidifying “crazy” status by any curious neighbors.
  27. When the basket is completed, rewash the clothes.
  28. Take an advil, and a nap.

a budget that finally worked for us (the “crazy budget post”)

Yup, it’s the crazy budget post. Intrigued? Every once in a while I get a great idea in one area or another. And just to be clear, I am aware that a good portion of readers think my “great idea” is weird.

There have been a few…You might remember the crazy diet post, the crazy emergency post, the crazy “green” post, or the crazy germ post. I know 75% of the people who read these posts think, “That’s weird/stupid/pointless. Back to my awesome life.”

But, I write for the other 25%. Isn’t that sweet of me. I look out for the little guy.

Cause right now in someone’s living room, a person somewhere is reading this with an antsy feeling in his/her gut – about money...someone who needs a budget, lacks a budget, forgot about their budget, has never even made a budget…etc. etc. etc.

So here I am to the rescue, with a (incredibly simple and childish) budget that has actually worked for us. Yeah, we are on month three of a working, sticking-to-it, real, live budget. (And now I’ve jinxed us.) But here are the steps. I’m starting from the very, very beginning. This is “budgeting for dummies.”


  1. First, figure out how much you make in a month. Obvious, right. Actually this might be easy, or it might be hard. For us it was slightly tricky. Todd gets paid every two weeks, so I had to add all the weeks up and divide by twelve to get an exact amount. Also, he gets a once a month stipend for health care, so then I had to add that in. Then, there are bonuses. I chose to not include Todd’s bonuses in our income. If you want to include your bonuses/commission in your income, I’d recommend choosing the absolute minimum you know you will make. Be very, very conservative.  Total monthly income:  __________________________

    Roby Mikic

    image by Roby Mikic

  2. Next. Make a list of everything you spend money on regularly in a month. If you have monthly credit card loans or medical bills, be sure it’s on there. Also, be sure “savings” is one item on the list. Even if you can only save a small, small amount each month, be sure to do that. Here is a sample list, in case you’re from Mars and have never seen a list of things people spend money on.


    Gas – car
    Gas – home
    Electric, water – home
    Health Insurance
    Cell phone
    Life Insurance
    Car Insurance
    Disability Insurance
    $ to put in savings
    Eating out
    Medical Bill
    Credit Card
    Car Payment
    miscellaneous expenses
  3. Now, some of these things are going to be the same amount every month. Fill those in.
  4. Now, estimate the remaining categories. You could just pick a number that sounds good, but I recommend against that. The best thing is to round up all your paper credit card statements (while you’re listening to music on your boombox, right? Check that…just go online 🙂 and add up everything you spent in that category for the last three months, then divide by three. Or simply even the last month. The point is to get a realistic picture of what you spend. At first, I fill in the boxes with what I’m actually spending. You can always lower your budget later.
  5. The next step seems really obvious, and if you’re one of those really crazy budget people who itemize your excel sheets in mint/quicken/budget apps I know nothing about, then go ahead and make fun of how simplistic this is. (Confession: I actually do not know how to use Excel. Cue the scoffing laughs in the background. I know, I know. It’s awful.) I’m off-topic, though. The next step is to add up all of your monthly expenses. Don’t freak out because categories are missing, like people’s birthday presents or trips to the dentist. We’ll get there. Total regular monthly expenses: ________________
  6. Now, find that number again for total monthly income. Subtract the income from the expenses. Take that number, and put it in the chart at the “miscellaneous expenses” category.
  7. See, here’s how your budget works: Each month, you have that amount to spend on anything else not on the sheet: presents, doctor visits, random kid items, conferences, etc. etc. (About once a week I’ll update that item in my chart and see how I’m doing.)


There are a bazillion other budgets that I have tried. All of them are more complicated. They have more charts, more categories, blahblahblah. I like this because it is simple. How much do we make each month? And, how much are we spending?

A few other tips:

  • car gas: I set my budget for $100 a month and I fill up my car for $50 each time. This makes it easy. And ps, if I’m running low, I don’t go anywhere. It makes me feel really, really frugal.
  • groceries: I take out cash for the month. I can’t even stress what a difference this makes. I divide it up into weeks, and I can see and know exactly how much I’ve spent and how much I have left.
  • Each month I keep track of our total cash position. (Savings: ___________ Checking: ____________ Other accounts: _________________.) That gives me an overall picture of where we are.

Here (Blog Budget) is my actual budget in Word if you’d like the format (don’t rush to open it and spy on our bills…I left the numbers off. Haha!). And ps, if you are in fourth grade or higher, you can make this document in your sleep. So again, don’t kill me with mockery for being so kind as to share my simplistic budget. Please. Have mercy.


“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I think budgets are important. Without a plan, you perish, right? Isn’t that a verse, too?? But also, sometimes I feel like God is sort of laughing a little bit when I scrape together my plans and figures. He is the Lord who takes care of us. When my numbers don’t add up and my plans fall flat, God always shows up. He has been such a loving Father.

Do you live by a budget? What’s the best budgeting advice you’ve ever received?

Additional Resources:

Dave Ramsey’s Free Budget Guide

“Budget – It’s not a curse word”

giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Jessica D! You’ve won a copy of Crock-On! It should appear in your email inbox shortly! 🙂

If you didn’t win, don’t forget you can purchase a copy of crock-on here. And thank you to Stacy Makes Cents for making this giveaway possible!

🙂 Jessica

Giveaway for Valentine’s! Win “Crock-On” Cookbook!

What?? Is it weird that a crock-pot cookbook is a romantic giveaway?

It’s not to me! I guess my view of “romance” has shifted a bit over the last five years.

Case in point: A few months ago, Todd and I left for a date, and pulling out of the driveway after leaving our kids with my parents, Todd said, “Do you want to go take a nap? Let’s just go park somewhere and take a nap.”

Don’t worry, we didn’t go through with it. We did go have our nice (albeit tired) fancy dinner. But I guess I’m just not so crazy and wild as I was back in the day. Which, let’s be honest, was never really that crazy and wild to start with.

Anyway, I think it is perfectly appropriate to give away this rockin’ crock pot cookbook over the Valentine’s Day season. Love = comfort = crock pots. Agreed? Great.

If you are not familiar with Stacy Makes Cents, do yourself a favor and follow her blog. She has the terrific knack to make things like razors and salt seem entertaining, while at the same time you learn something. That’s a skill, y’all. (And ps, everyone knows that when people say “y’all,” they are really telling the truth. No one says “y’all,” and lies.)

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Anyway, I have been really impressed with her cookbook Crock On Cookbook so far. This week I made two recipes from it: Creamy Chicken Chowder, and Stuffed Pepper Stoup. Both were delicious. My family literally devoured the Stuffed Pepper Stoup. As Stacy suggested, I served it with cornbread (my dairy-free, egg-free healthi-fied cornbread, to be exact…stay tuned for that recipe). I was literally shocked at how delicious it was! I can’t wait to try a few more recipes from the book this week!

Here’s what I like about this cookbook:

  • the recipes are original, healthy, and simple
  • it includes great pictures (aren’t picture cookbooks just better??)
  • it includes Stacy’s cute and funny commentary. Might as well enjoy yourself while you’re making dinner.

You can purchase a print copy of the book for $12, or an e-book for $5.

You can also enter to win an e-book version of the book here!

To enter:

  1. “Like” Smartter Each Day on FB, or subscribe via email.
  2. Comment below: What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten out of a crock pot?

Contest ends 8:00am Saturday, February 16, and I’ll announce the winner here sometime that day.

Kids’ Bedroom Chore Chart: The Answer to ALL Your Problems

iphone 2.11.13 049

Don’t you just love when you think of a solution for a bunch of problems at once?!? It’s only happened to me about twice in my life, but, man, it’s the best.

I know you’re finding it difficult to see how that ghetto-looking piece of middle school artwork, affixed to the wall with masking tape, could be such a problem solver.

Oh, but it is!

Here’s how. This poster, which (shocker) I made, is taped to the inside of Sam’s bedroom door. Anytime he wants to come out, either at morning, or after his “nap” (quotation marks essential), he must do all of these items first.

In case my snazzy drawings aren’t clear, the “to-do” list includes: make bed, put CDs in dresser (the CDS are the things that kind of look like breasts), put the balls in the basket, take extra toys to the “man cave” (our word for playroom), take your drink downstairs, etc. etc.

Here’s the best thing. Miracle of miracles, somehow, a chore spoken is horrible/awful/ignored, but a chore drawn, with markers, is FUN! Sam literally made me mess up the room twice during the day so he could do all the chores. It was awesome.

Here’s his room, all cleaned up. And Ty, wondering where all the fun mess went.

iphone 2.11.13 046

Yes, it’s not decorated. Stop judging me.

See, as an added bonus for reading this already-informative blog, you get to feel super, super good about yourselves and all your perfectly decorated, awesomely painted, wooden-initial-adorned children’s rooms.

Because, yes, we have lived in this house a year and my children’s rooms are neither painted nor decorated. It’s a sin, really. Someone should just call child protective services. I’m not sure how you can raise a well-adjusted child in such bleakness but I’m going to try to defy the odds. My excuse is that I don’t want Sam inhaling all those paint fumes and triggering his asthma. And of course, you can’t put up pictures or shelving until you paint. So here we are. Barren.

I think I’ve gotten off topic. Back to the bedroom chore chart. Here are all the amazing things it accomplishes, all at one:

  • Sam hones his work ethic, which, despite all of his time spent in his “work shop,” is a vastly under-developed trait, I’m afraid.
  • His room gets clean. Which makes me feel less bad about the decorating issue.
  • Sam stays in his room longer during “nap” time doing something productive.
  • Sam learns a few sight words.

Viola! Brilliant, right?!

I encourage you to try a little chore chart at home. We’ve also done morning chore charts and evening chore charts. The drawings are essential. And I don’t think I have to tell you to not let your lack of artistic talent stop you. Obviously it didn’t stop me!

Have you ever used a chore chart for your toddler? How did it work?

weekend reading…2/9/13

Happy weekend, everyone! We’ve been battling some winter colds around here (including a nice little asthma attack), so this week was low-key. (Who am I kidding..they’re always low-key.)

This coming week, however, Todd and I have a very romantic Valentine’s Day take-out dinner from Carrabba’s planned. I know… you’re jealous. We might even get some of those mini-desserts too. It’s a crazy life we live.

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week:

This week, also, will start the new renovations here at Smartter Each Day! It should be a few weeks before it’s finished. I’m sure you’ll all be on the edges of your seat. Try to remain calm. Blessings to you and your family this Valentine’s Day week!