Thursday, June 11, 2015

To my email subscribers

Hi Friends,

Several of you are signed up to receive email updates from this site. It's likely you read that I won't be posting here anymore... my new site has a new signup, so if you'd like to continue receiving emails with new posts, please subscribe to receive updates on my new site,

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I'm Moving (websites)

This is about the time of year Ben and I like to move. We have moved every summer except one since we got married. Since we're NOT moving this summer, I thought I'd move websites. You know, for nostalgia's sake.

I'm moving to wordpress. If that means nothing to you, it is similar to the move from a 2 bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor (=blogger) to a 3 bedroom house (=wordpress) we made last summer around this time.

wordpress > blogger

There are still some kinks to work out over there, but who cares!?  Certainly not me, the queen of shove-it-in-the-closet-and-hope-no-one-opens-the-door. [And you thought my house was clean? Mwhahahaha.]

So come on over, check it out. Bookmark it. Like it. Follow it. Subscribe to it. Whatever.

Tunemyheart blog has moved over HERE.

See you there :)

Monday, May 18, 2015

don't give up!

Small seeds planted and watered faithfully over a long period of time will produce something.
It's just a fact. I'm actually a farming expert, now that we live in Nebraska (not!)
But I do have a greater appreciation for and understanding of how that whole planting and reaping thing works. Because I saw some real corn growing a couple times. ["Greater" as in, greater than before. Not great in general. Lest there be any confusion, I have created a clarifying visualization about how my knowledge of farming has increased.]

Moving on. 

Sometimes in life, it seems like you are planting very tiny seeds. And it feels like your seeds will never grow. Like, the next thing isn't ever coming. 
Like you'll never get the promotion 
you're kids will never grow up  
you're boss will never see your potential
you're peers will never accept you 
you will never make a friend in your new neighborhood
you will never be in a different season 
your kids will never come home 

Hard as it may be, lay your feelings aside my friends and cling to this principle that farmers and long-time followers of Jesus know to be true: You will reap what you sow. Your seeds will grow. Keep planting in faithfulness. Your harvest is coming.

This of course begs the question - what are you sowing? 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why I love Aldi

Confession: I’ve use to think Aldi was gross. You only shopped there if you had to. And if you could possibly afford to shop even at Walmart, you obviously would, because ew, Aldi. I don’t know why I thought that, and seeing as how I’ve done most of my grocery shopping at Walmart the past several years, I definitely don’t consider myself a grocery store snob. I don’t exclusively shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, I often buy generic brands, and I cut coupons sometimes. But still, I turned up my nose at Aldi.

Oh how I was wrong. It’s my new favorite grocery store. Here’s why.

1. It’s easy to get through
The store is small. Hallelujah. You know those tiny city markets that all those super cool city dwellers have to pay extra money to shop at? Aldi is like that. But cheaper. Seriously, there are 5 aisles. If I realize that I’ve forgotten something once I’ve made the 1.2 mile trek around Super Walmart and am in the checkout line, I usually have to decide it’s not worth it and do without. But say, that item I forgot is something essential like diapers or wipes or hummus, I then break down in tears and forfeit my spot in line to go fetch said item, thus adding another 15 or 20 minutes to our trip. Good gracious. Even with a categorized grocery list, I always end up needing to walk the whole length of Walmart at least once because I forgot something, or because the fancy cheese is in the front of the store but the regular cheese is 27 aisles away. Help a momma out people! With 2 kiddos under 2, I cannot tell you how much I love the size of Aldi. It’s small. Thus far, my babies have never gotten crabby by the end of an Aldi trip because we can get in and out of there in 20 minutes. 20 minutes, y’all. I WOULD NOT JOKE ABOUT SUCH MATTERS!

2. Cheap organic options.
Now some of my all-time favorite people and best friends are of the organic or gluten-free or paleo-eating variety. I am not. We just try to not eat a ton of crap and call it good. If my family gets a green vegetable at dinner, I consider it a win. That being said, Aldi has a lot of organic options that are cheaper than their non-organic counterparts in other grocery stores. Once in a while, I do end up buying some of the organic options there that I wouldn’t want to shell out for at a typical grocery store.

3. Less choices
Choices is not my forte. Ask my husband what it’s like to sit with me at a restaurant. The waitress may or may not have to come back a few times to ask if I’m ready. At most big grocery stores, there are SO many choices. At our Walmart, here are 11 varieties of peanut butter, 4 brands of cheese, & 5 brands of sour cream. I counted. When you multiply that by your whole grocery list, it can be overwhelming to choose. Even if you know exactly what you like, it still takes a fair amount of time to find the one you want. And to choose what size to buy it in. Enter Aldi. There is one choice for everything. Peanut butter is peanut butter. Just grab it and go. One brand of tortilla chips, one brand of coffee creamer, one brand of eggs, one brand of better. Just one. No price comparing or coupon cutting or searching the 7 shelves of soy sauce for the perfect kind. Just one. It’s easier and faster and less stressful.

[Side note - It might sound like I’m bashing Walmart. That is not my intention. It’s basically my only point of comparison to Aldi because it’s the only other store I regularly shop at. I will write another post on things I love about Walmart.]    :)

4. Fast check out
Depending on where else and what time of day you shop, you may or may not have to wait in long lines. But I have never had to wait a long time at Aldi, no matter how many people are there. From what I’ve observed, the fast checkout lines are mainly caused by a couple things. For one, Aldi is not a one-stop-shop. While they have a lot of basics, you can’t buy EVERYTHING the average household uses, so people tend to have smaller loads to purchase. Also, they have a separate area where you bag your own groceries after you pay, which cuts down on checkout time. And, every employee in the store knows how to ring and is supposed to help keep the lines short. If the lines get long, the guy restocking milk hops on and opens another lane. Which brings me to reason number 5 for why Aldi is the bomb.

5. Maximum efficiency & random acts of cart kindness
Aldi is super efficient. And as someone who appreciates maximum efficiency, I love their philosophical reasons for doing what they do. One of the reasons Aldi is cheap is because they are an extremely efficient organization. (This, by the way, is the fascinating article that convinced me to jump on board the Aldi train. She talks all about their efficiency.) One of those cost-saving policies is the rent-a-cart thing. All the carts are corralled right in front of the store instead of throughout the parking lot. This saves from having to pay employees to collect them. You bring a quarter, use it to unlock the cart from the others, and then you get your quarter back when you return the cart. For me, this is the biggest downside of Aldi. Is it annoying to carry my purse, the baby’s 27 pound carseat while holding my toddler’s hand across the Aldi parking lot in the 15 degree weather? Yes. But, most of the time, I don’t have to. Because Aldi shoppers are so stinking nice. Somehow this policy encourages smiley customers & frequent random acts of cart kindness. No one is grumpy while trying to get carts out - people help each other and give away quarters if needed. If someone is finishing up unloading their groceries in their car and sees me coming, they’ll just walk their cart over to me and I give them my quarter. Often people don’t even accept my quarter though. (Something about my yoga pants, spit-up stained tee, and yesterday’s make up smeared under my eyes screams please just give me your cart for free or I’ll squirt you with the pear-prune puree pouch my toddler is eating.)
I get their cart to transport my kiddos safely across the parking lot & they don’t have to put it back.

Everyone’s a winner at Aldi.

On our most recent Aldi trip, a man gave me his cart and wouldn’t take my quarter. He started to walk away but then turned around. He said to me, “I just came from visiting my wife of 63 years. She has bad alzheimers and doesn’t remember anything of our life together, except that she likes these suckers. [He took a lollipop out of his pocket.] I go see her every day and bring her one of these every day. I have extras at home though. Would your daughter like one?”

Yes I’ll take your lollipop and your cart and your inspirational long-suffering-marriage stories. Can I hug you? Now excuse me while I get in the car and sob all the way home.

6. Cheap
While all the other reasons are things I like about Aldi, the low prices take the cake for me. We are on a tight budget, attempting to pay down our student loans at unprecedented speeds. And so, I pinch pennies and buy over half our groceries at Aldi. And when she rings up my 47 items for $32 I gladly fork over the cash as I try to fend off my toddler from hitting that ‘cancel’ button at the register. Sure Aldi, you can have my money and my smiles and my heart. Because you are small and well-stocked and efficient. And you have friendly workers and polite customers and my grocery budget loves you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

So you wanna get out of debt? Here are our top 3 reasons...

Ha! this makes me laugh. Is it weird to use a meme on a blog? Anyway.........

We read Dave Ramsey's book "financial peace university" and listened to all the teachings from the class when we first got married. We were on board. Debt is dumb, pay cash, blah blah blah. Made perfect sense.

Then we took out a BIG loan for Ben to go to school for one year at Harvard. We really really really prayed through the decision and believed it was where God was leading us so we did it. Debt and all... Knowing we'd put fun on pause for a few years and pay it back as quickly as possible.

Now that we're in the "paying it back as quickly as possible" stage, I still think it was worth it, but phew, it is not fun. [Hind sight 20/20, we would have done a few things differently in the whole loan process, but that's for another day.]

I think the biggest factor in getting out of debt is the mental and emotional side of the equation. We were on board with paying off our debt from day 1, but actually starting the process felt more like a leap of faith.  We think this is right and we're excited to be debt free so we'll give it a go. But as we've started to pay it off, something emotional has switched inside.

When we first started this back in December, we'd get a little extra money from something random and I would be all like, 
"oh, now I can buy those new kitchen chairs I wanted which aren't in the budget because of the extreme debt paydown..."
And Ben would be all like, "uh uh, no way, girlfriend. ALL EXTRA MONEY GOES TO DEBT."
And I would be all like nooooooooooooooo.

But now, when extra money comes in from somewhere or we don't spend all of our budgeted amount for a category - we are both excited to pay it towards our loans. Crazy, right? It's almost addicting. Also, kinda infuriating. Because this random student loan company (they call themselves "Great Lakes," but we have affectionately renamed them "Stupid Lakes" in our budget spreadsheet)... they get our money. Money that could be going to nicer dates, and a down payment, and buying people nice birthday gifts... it's all going to Stupid Lakes.

The more "mad" we've gotten about that, the easier it's been to try to get rid of it as quick as is humanly possible (not to mention a lot of prayer for miraculous provisions to pay it down as quick as is divinely possible). Sure, the motivation ebbs and flows. One month, we have more extra and it's super exciting. The next month, not so much.

At the end of the day though, we're committed. Every extra dollar goes to student loans until our debt is gone.

Why? Why pay it off now? you say...  [I thought you'd never ask.]

I'm so glad you asked. Because I could talk about this But I won't. Maybe.

If you are not a person of Christian faith, you might disagree with this & feel free to skip this point, but we believe that we are stewards or managers of sorts. And that God has given us money to further his kingdom and his purposes with. Debt hinders us from giving generously to meet others' needs. Sometimes, at the end of a more discouraging money date (where we don't have as much as we wished to pay off the loans or we decide to say "no" to something that sounds fun), we picture what we will do when we have the amount of money we're paying towards debt to give to other things. People in ministry we want to support financially, church plants, etc.

Seriously. This should be reason enough for people to pay off debt. (Although, since it's not, it would suggest that perhaps paying off debt, and handling money in general, is perhaps more of an emotionally controlled decision than a mathematically or logically controlled decision.) Our loans are sitting at 6.8%. Ben and I have agreed not to disclose specific numbers on here for now, so let's use national averages for individual student loan debt and talk numbers for a minute. The average amount of debt a college senior graduates with is $29,400. (source)

At our current interest rate of 6.8% if we took 10 years to pay the $29,400 loan, we'd end up paying $338.34 per month for a total of $40,600.14.
5 years = $579.39/ month = $34,763.05 total.
2 years = $1,313.65/ month = $31,527.59 total.

The interest is not in your favor, folks. Some people will say, "well I can get 12% in mutual funds so I should pay the minimums and invest the difference and I'll come out ahead." Ok. But do you? I've NEVER heard of anyone actually doing this. (Doesn't mean it doesn't happen.) I'm sure someone has done this. Certainly he or she is in the minority, right? What are most of the people you know that have debt doing with their above-minimum-payment money? Investing it or spending it?

To me, this is the factor that would motivate anyone. Debt makes me feel stuck. We feel in bondage to our payments. And that's a bad feeling. We don't like being told by some creditor what to do with our money. But every month we have to pay them the money. Whether it's your credit card minimum, or your car payment, or your student loan payment, or an outstanding medical bill, it's not enjoyable having someone else tell you what to do with your money. If WE choose to pay down the debt as fast as possible, then we will again have control over where all our money goes.  And we'll be financially free.

So many more reasons could be listed, but I think those are our top 3.
It's not easy. [Although I have to say, saying 'no' gets a little easier the more you practice...]
It's not "fun" ... for now.
But it will be so much fun when no one is telling us how to spend money.
It will be freeing to not owe anyone.

What about you? Did you get out of debt? Have you thought about getting out of debt? Were you able to stay out of debt in the first place? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When Daddy's Away

Ben has ended up traveling with his job more than we anticipated. We're kinda figuring out what our limits are in terms of his time away, learning how to stay connected while he's gone, and finding things to curb the insanity when I'm flying solo for a few days. This past trip, the girls and I stayed at my inlaws' house for a change of pace and some company! Not to mention, we upped the adult to kid ratio. #winning

Exploring at a park.

They found a new game. There might have been crashing involved. Also - pay no attention to the rusty metal poles sticking out where there used to be a cover attached. #safteyfirst

Swinging in the backyard! 

We played with our new do-a-dot markers. 

I mentioned patterns. She liked to say the word "pattern" but didn't really get it :) 

Dad came home on a Friday, and they watched "Frozen" together on Saturday morning. She lasted about 15 minutes. But she talked about "watching Frozen with Daddy eating popcorn in a cozy blanket" all week. 

We're always glad when Daddy gets back home. 

p.s. these do-a-dots are still fun a few weeks later. not bored yet. she LOVES to put her work on the fridge. oh dear. luckily she hasn't figured out why they aren't there a couple days later. am I a bad mom for throwing them out? what the heck else are you supposed to do with all their coloring pages? please tell me i'm not the only heartless mother who throws out stuff like this? 
[side note - I cropped out the bottom of this pic because, internet, but she's naked on the bottom here! ha! she loves to have "naked buns" at home lately. my little free spirit.]

we hadn't talked about patterns much since a few weeks ago. randomly out of the blue, she grabbed 2 colors and said "i'm going to make a pattern." she got impatient with switching off - the rest of the picture is all red. Frequently, my mind is blown by what she soaks in and remembers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A weekend of poop & a messy house

I recently wrote about ways I keep my house clean.

Lest that post at all communicated that our house is always clean, please know we were a hot mess by Friday night. These pictures are proof.

My friend and I sometimes competitively text each other pictures when our house is messy. We're going to invent a new pinterest where you can only post "real life" stuff.

This doesn't even do it justice... you can't see the other counter and the kitchen table!

This picture was taken at 4:30. I was in the kitchen and noticed Emma had been unusually quiet for a minute. I peeked in on her in the next room to find she had dug an apple core out of our library bag. We had gone to the library at 10:30 and Addie had an apple there...

What? You don't let your kids eat 6 hour old half eaten apples?

All 3 of these people pictured had a nasty diarrhea stomach bug for a few days. TMI? It was rough. Let's just say there was a lot of poop. And a lot of laundry. And a lot of diapers. And a lot of movie watching for the 2 year old.

You win some and you lose some.
Don't give up when you have a losing day.
Tomorrow is a new one and there is grace for each day.

There's a line in the old hymn, Great is thy Faithfulness, that I love...

"strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow"

Whether you are having a messy-house-babies-eating-old-apples-on-the-floor-kind-of day or you are walking through a heavier trial,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. 

That's a good prayer. Even if it's just about diarrhea.