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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Marriage Retreat

This past weekend, Zeke and I went to a marriage retreat hosted by our camp.

At first, we weren't so sure that we should attend. I mean, we've only been married for 8 months, after all... and we've got a lot of other stuff to do... and we should probably go back to our hometown and visit our family... In the end, though, we decided to go to the retreat. Hey, at least we knew the food would be good!

It was, by far, the best decision that we've made in the past couple months.

With everything going on, it's not very often that a married couple can sit down, as a couple, and "check the fluids" of our marriages. Generally, we know when things are going well, and we know when we're struggling, but that's about it. This past weekend gave us the time, the space, and the right questions to really delve into our relationship, to look at what is going well and what needs to be improved. We got to meet other couples with amazing stories of God's grace and forgiveness, and we had the opportunity to really talk like we haven't in a while.

It was wonderful. I got to see his heart like I haven't in a long time, and I got to bare mine to him, as well. We came away from the weekend feeling reconnected, our bonds strengthened, with new goals and priorities.

I urge any married couple (even if you've only been married for 8 months!) to find a marriage retreat near you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ten Minute Tuesday: Disinfecting Garbage Cans

Garbage cans. We know they're dirty, germ-y pits of nastiness. We definitely wouldn't lick them, not even on a dare, but how often do we actually clean them?

Today's Ten Minute Tuesday challenge is to disinfect your garbage cans!

We have four garbage cans in our home- the big kitchen one, two in our bedroom, and one in the bathroom.

Your first step will be to grab your cans and get them in the same room. It makes this process a little easier- might as well get them all done at once! If you have a larger home with more garbage cans, you may want to start with the more "popular" ones- kitchens and bathrooms.

First, take out the garbage.

 If you're anything like me, the bottom of your cans looks like this. Spilled coffee grounds, a random tissue... you'll want to get this out of there, too. I usually flip the can upside down over a garbage bag to get the loose stuff out, and then use a wet paper towel to get the more stuck-on stuff.

 Next, take a rag and some hot, soapy water and wipe down the outside of your garbage cans. Make sure to get the backside and under any ridges.

Next, use hot soapy water to wash the inside of the garbage cans. Make sure you get into the corners!

And don't forget any lids! If your garbage can has a lid, that's the part you touch the most! Make sure to spend a little extra time on these!

Use another cloth and some clean water to rinse the extra soap off of your cans, then let them dry for a little while (2 minutes will do).

Finally, use a disinfectant spray on the inside and outside of your garbage can. I used Lysol because that's what I have around (I'm using it up!) but you can also use a mixture of bleach and water, or if you prefer a more natural approach, vinegar and water works great, too. Again, don't forget to spray any garbage can lids you may use.

Repeat these steps on all of your household garbage cans, wait about a minute, and then re-line them.

I usually do this whenever I think of it, which is usually about four times a year, and this is also great way to stop the spread of germs if someone has been sick. I do wipe down the outsides and lids of my garbage cans almost weekly, as well.

And voila! Another step in the quest for a happy, healthy household!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Making Myself More Efficient: Trap 2-The What Do I Do's

Here at the Little Wife household, I've been very mindful lately about being efficient- especially since I'm taking 14 online credits to finish up my degree this semester!

One of the things that I've noticed about myself is that I thrive on plans. Left to my own devices, after finishing a task (like a chapter of my homework), I'll check Facebook. Or Pinterest. And then I get sucked in, and an hour later, I'm kicking myself for wasting time that should have been much better spent. So then I work on another chapter of homework... and when I'm done, it's back to the Facebook. Or Pinterest.

It's not that I don't want to move on to the next thing, that's not the problem. The issue is that I'm not always sure what that next thing should be. Should I fold laundry, or should I read another chapter? Should I work on my Algebra homework, or should I clean the bathroom? That little bit of indecisiveness leads to procrastination, and that is definitely not being efficient.

My solution is to make a schedule. I have a small piece of cardstock paper (actually trimmings from when I made my wedding invitations), and I write, to the minute, my schedule for the day. It also helps that I know how much I can handle. After an hour staring at the computer doing Math, I need to get up and move a little! I plan small breaks into my day to allow me some "up and around" time.

Here's today's schedule:

6:30- Devotional time, activity with the hubby
7:30- Breakfast, clean up dishes, put away clean dishes
8:15- Dance workout!
9:00- Shower and dress
9:30- Start laundry, wipe down kitchen counters
9:40- Look for last resource- Lit paper
10:00- Algebra Ch.2 section 4
11:00- Switch laundry, sweep kitchen floor
11:15- Lit Reading- first piece
11: 50- Take out garbage
12:00- Lunch
1:00- Algebra Ch. 2, section 5
2:00- 15 minute tidy up
2:15- Finite Math
3:15- Fold and put away laundry
3:30- Lit Reading- second piece
4:00- Lit Discussion Responses

And it goes on. You get the picture.

Now instead of wasting time (and falling into avoiding everything by sitting and watching TV when I just can't decide what to tackle next), I make a list in the  morning, or even the night before, and make a schedule for my day. No more inefficiency! And boy, does it feel good to cross stuff off my list!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Be Careful What You Pray For...

This weekend, Zeke and I went to a wonderfully powerful retreat. With the TV off, Facebook far away, and all other distractions aside, it's amazing how much self-reflection can happen.

I realized this weekend that I've been hiding from God's plan for my life. To be honest, I'm afraid of it. I'm afraid of being rejected by other education professionals, I'm afraid that I won't be able to hack it as a teacher, I'm afraid that I'll grandly and publicly screw up, I'm afraid I can't balance home life and school life and married life and teaching life... I'm just afraid.

And so I've been standing in the way of getting my career off the ground. Not overtly- I'm still working to further my teaching career by taking classes, by subbing here and there, but I've also been turning down jobs, saying no to bigger commitments, not working on my resume and portfolio... in short, I've been far less than intentional about getting started. Because I'm afraid. But we already covered that.

I figured that out this weekend.

And I prayed. On Sunday afternoon, I prayed that fear won't come between me and my calling. I prayed for confidence, and I prayed for doors to be opened.

And then, frankly, I forgot that I'd prayed for all that.

Yesterday, a call came. A high school principal, asking if I would be interested in subbing, long-term, for a Language Arts class. The long-term sub they had already lined up had accepted a full-time teaching position in a nearby town instead, and they needed someone else. Doors opening.

I said yes, set up a meeting, and then sat down after the phone call, still all full of adrenaline making that tingly feeling go up and down my arms, and thought, "Wow. Where did all this come from?"

While I forgot my prayer, the Lord didn't.

Now I need prayers from all of you! I'm a full-time student taking a full load of classes right now. I'm trying to maintain a home and a healthy family, and now I'm looking at adding another huge responsibility to my plate. But I want this. I want it so, so much. I'm nervous, and I'm hoping that the meeting goes great, and I don't know how I'll be able to balance everything. I'm going to need a lot of divine intervention, lots of support, and lots of grace. 

Ten Minute Tuesday: Washing Pillows

Ah, pillows. Those wonderful, squishy yet supportive nighttime head holders. They seem so... cuddly. So... warm and soft. So... safe.

A pillow can double its weight in three years. Because of dust mites, dead skin cells, and other nastiness.

How's that for soft and cuddly?

No need to panic, and no need to throw your pillows out and get new ones. We're all about saving money here at Little Wife.

Just wash 'em!

(Note: I know that this is gonna take more time than just ten minutes, but it's only about ten minutes of "hands on time"- the rest of the time, you can go clean other stuff! Or make fabulous meals! Or, let's be honest, go on Pinterest.)

Here's how you do it!

First, you're only gonna want to do two pillows at a time. I have a top-loader washing machine, so these tips are based on that.

Pick the lucky two pillows to be washed first. Stick them in the washing machine (as shown above). You will want to fill the washing machine on the "full load" or "large load" setting with hot water.

I usually add about a cup of vinegar, along with regular laundry detergent, to disinfect my pillows. Vinegar also helps to get rid of any stains you may have (droolers, you know who you are...). If you have funky smelling pillows, you may want to do another cycle with your pillows and add baking soda (just don't do vinegar and baking soda at the same time!)

Wash the pillows on your "normal" setting, and after the cycle is complete, run the pillows through at least another spin cycle (I usually do two extra spin cycles) to get more of the water out.

In the summer time, I would leave the pillows outside in the sunshine (which is the best for stain removal and disinfecting!) but since it's February and it's snowing, that's not such a great plan.

Then, pop the pillows in the dryer, along with two dryer sheets and a couple of dryer balls. Don't have dryer balls? Well, you should get some. They rock. In a pinch, you can also use tennis balls. You'll want your dryer set to low heat. High heat can melt the fluffy stuff in the pillows! I usually run the dryer twice, then take the pillows out and squish them around. If they're still damp (even just a little damp) I run them through again.

Sometimes the fluffy stuff gets a little bunchy- don't worry about that. Use your hands to unbunch and flatten out your pillows, and they'll be good as new in no time.

I would wash your pillows at least every six months, if not more. I like to wash them after anyone has been sick, and after we have company over, as well as about once every two months or so. 

Ten Minutes to a happier and healthier household!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Maintenance Man Monday: The Rough

My husband is hard on his clothes.

This was, at one time, a coat. Believe it or not.

Notice how you can see the fluffy stuff coming through the inside lining.

And this is the sleeve of said coat. If we can call it that anymore.

Like I said, my husband is hard on his clothes.

But you know what? That's okay. Sure, I do have quite the pile in my mending basket most weeks, and yes, there are times that I really wish that we spent more money on shoes for me than we do boots for him (he typically needs a new pair of boots every 3 months or so).

All those torn, stained, caulk splattered clothes should make me think about is how hard my husband works. When he's changing the oil in the camp vehicles, he doesn't stop to make sure that he doesn't spill oil on his pant leg, he just gets the job done. Those tears in the elbow of his coat are from working cattle on his family's farm. The worn sections in the knees of almost every pair of jeans are from crawling under buildings to check water lines, kneeling to fix plumbing, and weeks of bending to repair electrical sockets.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could just toss out old jeans or coats instead of repairing them, but the fact that my husband is hard on his clothes is a chance for me to practice being frugal, to practice my stitching, to practice patience, to practice gratitude for all we have and to work on being good stewards of our resources.

My husband is rough with his clothing- my challenge is to find the diamonds in the rough.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Making Myself More Efficient: Trap 1-The Time-Waster

I've been a busy person lately. For the past few weeks, my life has been mainly devoted to online classes. I'm trying to stay ahead- I would rather not be surprised by due dates, and since a couple of the classes I'm taking allow you to work waaaay ahead, I'm taking advantage.

It gets to be a huge time commitment, though. This week, I've spent over 8 hours working on just one of my four classes. Whew! Surprisingly, even though I'm focused on school, other things still insist on getting done. Dirty laundry keeps coming, the bathroom still needs to be cleaned, meals still need to be made, and I still want to spend some time relaxing and talking with my hubby... what's a girl to do?

I had to get efficient.

I started by taking a good hard look at how I'm spending my time, and I found that a lot of the things I'm doing are major TW's. Time-Wasters. Like how I fold laundry, for example.

 Folding laundry is one of those lovely never-ending chores, but it's got to be done. Typically, I go into the bedroom (where our washer and dryer are), put the clothes into a laundry basket, walk out to the living room, turn on a half hour show, and fold while sitting on the couch. Then, I take the folded laundry back into the bedroom and put it away.

I've been doing this for years. Folding laundry is always done in front of the TV at my home (actually, I think that's the only way my mom could get us to fold!), and I never really thought about it before, but man! My way of doing it wastes so much time. Instead of walking all over the house (small as it is), why not just fold the laundry in the bedroom?!? I don't have to walk to three different locations- it's all right there! Out of dryer, onto bed to fold, then into drawers! And, I don't get distracted by the TV, and sit with a pile of folded laundry in front of me until the show is over.

Now, this is a small change. I realize that. But folding and putting away two loads of laundry now takes me about ten minutes instead of thirty-five (30 for the TV show, 2 to begrudgingly walk back into the bedroom, 3 to reorganize and put away), which gives me 20 extra minutes to do something else- more Algebra, anyone?

What are your TW's, and how have you overcome them?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Children and Technology

I've been subbing at a school with a 1-1 technology program. If you're not familiar with that, a 1-1 program is where each child has their own laptop to use during school and at home for homework. It's a really cool idea, and it allows the kids to interact with technology, submit assignments online or through e-mail, access internet resources. Like I said, it's a really cool idea.

Most teachers are very good about enforcing the rules regarding the use of technology. Some teachers only use the computers for one or two activities during class time, while some teachers use online sites for all of their lessons and even homework. One teacher actually had all his students get a Twitter account so they could communicate and have discussions online.

I understand that technology is a great tool, and that our students will need to have a good grasp of technology and computer science to do well in the workplace.


I'm not so sure that so much technology is a good thing for our kids.

Sure, there are many blocked sites on the school's network to protect the kids. Of course, YouTube isn't blocked (there are lots of educational clips!), Twitter isn't blocked (for discussion purposes!), and news sites aren't blocked (current events are good for social awareness!).

Keep in mind, YouTube also has lots of clips of people doing stupid things, pornographic things, people harming one another.... and the students can post videos of themselves. Singing to popular songs, somewhat seductively, in their bedrooms with a school poster behind them.

Twitter allows students to see the comments of people who are racist, sexist, rude, immoral... and the more offensive the Tweet is, the more popular it becomes. Oh, and the kids have one more place to bully one another. And they're doing it, and getting attention for their cutting, hurtful comments.

News sites are a great, authentic place for current events, but do our 12-year-olds really need to read about sex scandals? About mass murders? Do they need to see images of children who have been horribly disfigured due to Agent Orange exposure? Pictures of aborted babies?

That's what my 7th and 8th graders were doing on the internet this week IN SCHOOL.

And those are just some of the sites that aren't blocked at school. At home, the internet security is up to the parents. Busy, overworked parents who are just sick of hearing their kids complain that the internet isn't working fast enough, that sites they need for homework are blocked, that Mom sucks and should just unblock the web. The sites are constantly changing and evolving. Parents have jobs- how are they supposed to keep up with all the new ways invented to target kids?

We are being so good about giving our children the tools to succeed in a technological world. Are we being nearly as effective at protecting them? At sheltering their innocence for as long as possible? 8th graders shouldn't have to worry about being bashed online (or worse, having sexual pictures posted of them online). 7th graders shouldn't be exposed to social issues that they're not yet prepared to handle, especially not without a parent to talk to them about what they're learning. We definitely shouldn't have to be concerned that our children may be hurt by some stranger who found them, and all of their important information, online.

Yeah, technology is amazing, has made our lives so much easier, and, let's face it, is fun and interesting. But when it comes to kids, technology can be dangerous.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ten Minute Tuesday: Cleaning the Washing Machine

Washing machines get dirty.

Surprising, I know!

Our washing machine is in our bedroom, which sure is handy, but it also makes for an eyesore when it's not at it's cleanest.

We have a top-loading washing machine, so these tips are for top-loaders! Now, I know that this project will actually take more than ten minutes, but it really only takes about 10 minutes of "hands on" time, so I think it counts.

Let's get started!

First, fill your washer with hot water, to the highest level. Then add 2 cups of bleach. Let your washer go through a cycle. Some people suggest leaving the bleach to soak for an hour or so, but I don't think that's necessary, and could even be hard on your washer, so I just let the cycle start. Note: If you notice that your washer gets really sudsy during this step, it means that you've been using too much detergent.

While it's working, take a rag and some hot soapy water and give the outside of your washer a good wipe down. Make sure to get the knobs and any nooks and crannies that have been collecting dust. This doesn't need to take forever... you'll probably get done before the cycle is through. Just go work on something else while you wait for the cycle to finish.

Next, fill your washer with hot water again. Add 2 cups of white vinegar. Close the lid and let the agitator work for about a minute, then open the lid to stop the cycle. You want the vinegar to sit in there, soaking, for about an hour. While you're letting it soak, get back out that rag and wipe down the surfaces under the cover (like the dispenser areas for bleach and softener).

Ew again.

After an hour or so, close the lid to run the full wash cycle.

Ta Da! You have a clean and disinfected washing machine! You'll probably want to clean your washer every six months or so (but I totally forget... so I just do it when I think of it!)

Ten Minutes, happier, healthier household!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Maintenance Man Monday: Communication

Recently, a friend of Zeke's died. Very unexpectedly. Joe was on a snowmobiling trip with a couple of buddies. On Friday, he called his wife and told her that he was feeling like he was coming down with a cold. On Saturday, he stayed back from snowmobiling to rest. When his friends got back, they couldn't wake him up and he wasn't breathing normally. They rushed him to the hospital, where they put him on a ventilator. His wife flew out that day, along with his parents, and the doctors told them that Joe wasn't going to wake up. They took him off the ventilator yesterday morning and said goodbye.

Joe and his wife got married a month after Zeke and I. They just bought a house. Joe was the same age as Zeke, and his wife was even younger than I am (actually, she's only 21.) She's widowed, after only six months of marriage, at the age of 21.

Even though I didn't know Joe or his wife very well, his death shook me up. It was just so sudden, without any warning, and he was so young. It made me think about how incredibly fortunate Zeke and I are, to be healthy, happy, and together. I told him so.

Now, Zeke isn't really one to express his feelings verbally, and often he gets uncomfortable when I'm "mushy." He didn't really respond, and was kind of goofy for the rest of the evening, actually.

Another person could have seen him as callous or unemotional, but just because he doesn't express himself well with words in times like this doesn't mean that he wasn't feeling the same things I was. He just shows it differently. He may not have said anything, but he did hold me all night. He knows just as well as I do that we're blessed, that we cherish our time together, and that we shouldn't take the time we have together for granted.

He just didn't say it. He told me another way- his way.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Catching Up

These past couple weeks have been a little crazy.

I'm taking fourteen online credits, I've been subbing, and my house is a disaster as a result.

Not even kidding. I can't see my kitchen table.

I'm trying to work ahead in my online classes so that if I get a long-term subbing job, I won't fall behind. That means that I've been putting in about 8 hours of online work a day. It's a lot, and at the end of my study sessions, I just feel like collapsing into a heap or watching mindless TV.

Today, though, it all starting catching up with me. My dirty house has become a huge distraction to me. It's hard for me to be positive and productive when my house is cluttered and messy. I don't feel like I'm being a good wife to my husband, either. One of the ways that I show my love for him and my appreciation for all that he's doing for me is by keeping our home picked up and clean. It's relaxing for him to come home to an orderly home, it's relaxing for me, too.

So today, instead of tackling the Chapter 2 Finite Math exam, Algebra sections 1.6 and 1.7, and reading through my American Lit stuff, I'm going to clean.

Yes, I am a student right now, and I know that I have to get everything done. It is a priority to me. But today, my priority is my home. I'm a wife first and foremost, and sometimes, first things have to come first.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ten Minute Tuesday: Ten minutes to a healthier, happier home

I'm busy.

I'm sure that you're busy, too. Whether it's classes, work, kids, crafts... there's always a lot to do. And sometimes, our homes are the first thing to get pushed to the back burner. Why is that? I know that when I have a clean, healthy, happy home, I'm more focused, less stressed, and I am a generally more positive person. I'm sure I'm not the only one!

Have you ever noticed that you put off something that needs to be done, justifying it because, well, who has the time for that? I've noticed, at least in my own life, that most of the tasks I avoid really aren't all that time consuming... I just feel like they are. If I just sucked it up and got it done, I'd be a happier person for it, my house would be just a little bit more functional, and it really would have only taken about ten minutes.

That's what I'm going to try to address here. With just ten minutes of "extra" work each week, I'm sure that our homes can function just that much better, our families could be just that much happier, and we check one more thing off of that mental to-do list!

This week?

Let's organize that underwear drawer!

First things first- you'll want to start by deciding what's working and what isn't. My underwear drawer is small. I originally kept socks, undies, bras, and a couple extras (like slips) in this drawer, and it was stuffed. It just wasn't working. Bras got all crushed, there were panties everywhere, and the socks sometimes kept the drawer from closing all the way.

I started out by finding a new home for all the socks. I have a hanging organizer for my closet, and sticking socks into a collapsible basket and putting that into the organizer worked great. In the process, I tossed socks that were holey into the rag bag, and put ones without matches into the sock basket (for socks without matches) that sits by my washing machine.

Then I moved on to the panties. I got married recently and got lots (and lots and lots) of panties at my bachelorette party.   I went through my "collection" and tossed anything that had stains, elastic going out, or that I just don't wear (like a pair I've had for about 7 years. Wow.) Then I organized them by type- lacy, boyshorts...

Bras were pretty easy for me, because I don't have that terribly many! I just untangled them from one another and laid them out so they weren't crushed (which is bad for the elastic and wires).

And... ten minutes later, I have a much more functional underwear drawer, which makes for easier mornings- no struggling to get the drawer closed with ninety million socks jamming it up- and a much happier me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

TV: Is What We Watch Pleasing to the Lord?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.- Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

As good keepers of our homes, we are careful about the chemicals that come into our houses. We take care of our health and watch what we put into our bodies

 But what about what we put into our minds? 

The Bible tells us to think about things that are pure and right, noble and true. And for the most part, I think that I do strive to focus on the good and keep negativity at bay.

Until it comes to television. 

There's so much on TV that isn't right or good or noble. Almost every sitcom on every network regularly portrays something that is definitely impure. For the longest time, I was okay with it. 

"It's just TV. It's not like I'm going to live my life that way." 
"It's comedy! It's supposed to be a little shocking." 
"What's the big deal?"

But really, when I truly think about it, I realize that I'm just desensitizing myself. Sure, I may not sleep around. My husband and I may not have lived together before marriage. By watching shows (and there are a lot of them) that make that kind of lifestyle seem "normal," aren't I being brainwashed in a way to think that living like that is okay? That everyone is doing it? That it's really not a "big deal"?

When I take the time to look at the shows that I enjoy, I can see tons of impurities, lots of wrongs, many things that are despicable, ignoble, unjust. 

I watch shows that promote homosexuality, pre-marital sex, casual sex, women using their bodies to get ahead, alcohol abuse, some drug use; shows that portray men as passive while women truly lead the home, broken families, teenage pregnancy, divorce as commonplace, sex as a tool or as a weapon. 

How can I possibly say that this doesn't affect my attitudes, my morals, my values?

When I starting thinking about what I watch and considering what to delete from my Netflix and Hulu cues, I got a little sad. Almost everything out there, everything I watch and enjoy, is degrading somehow. It seems to me that our culture is making it more and more difficult (and at times, almost impossible) to keep our minds on the right, noble, and pure, through just the tool of TV. 

What do you think about this topic? Have you made any changes to what you watch, listen to, or read because of your faith? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Frugal Friday: Homemade Stovetop Air Freshener

Happy February, everyone one! I don't know about how things are in your neck of the woods, but around here, it's cold! In this bitterly cold weather, a nice warm, pleasantly fragrant kitchen is a wonderful thing to be blessed with.

I love a nice smelling house, I love simple, and I love cheap, so this homemade air freshener is just perfect for me!

1. Take a pot of water (I use a medium sized pot) and fill it up with some water.

2. Add your ingredients.

Here's where you can start getting a little creative. Using ingredients you already have in your home, you can experiment with different additions to get different smells.

Here's what I used this time:

1 Orange Peel (I used the orange for our smoothies this morning)
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 Tbs ground cinnamon

Other suggestions for ingredients:

Lemon Peel 
Vanilla alone
Slices of oranges or lemons
Grapefruit slices
Cut open a tea bag, or use whole tea leaves

3. Heat mixture to boiling. If you're worried about your concoction boiling over, lay a wooden spoon across the top of your pot. 

4. Reduce heat and allow to simmer. Depending on the size of your pot and on how long you simmer the mixture, you may lose a lot of water. If this happens, just refill the pot with more water and keep going!

A great benefit to this stovetop freshener is that it also acts as a humidifier- it releases moisture into the air- which is great for the dry air of the winter months!

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