I really don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Do you? But in spite of that, today I found myself reflecting over changes we made in our household, and things we’re looking forward to changing in the future. It’s crazy to think how many healthy, budget-friendly switches Ben and I have made over this last year.
But you know what? It hasn’t been a shock to our system. We would introduce one thing at a time, as our schedule allowed. So instead of watching a movie at night, we might attempt a new project. Usually, we’d have fun and enjoy reaping the benefits of each thing we tried, which would encourage us to try something new. Was everything a good fit for us? Nope. Definitely not. But I haven’t regretted a single thing we’ve tried. I’m here to tell you that a few years ago, we were two regular people who shopped at grocery stores, Target, Wal-Mart, and the mall. We bought everything we needed. We still do shop at these places and purchase items now, but much MUCH less frequently. There are still a lot of things we want to try doing or start making ourselves, but for now we’re just fitting new stuff in when we get to it. This post will describe a few of the changes we’ve made, and I hope it encourages you to think about what will be a good fit for your family!
1. Shop at the farmers market or grow a garden. First of all, this produce tastes SO MUCH better than what we would buy at the store. Plus it’s often organic or at least naturally grown without pesticides. That makes me feel better. And it helps out my local farmers. That’s important. I dare you to do a side by side comparison of store-bought and market-bought onions, carrots, and any other veggie of your choice. Hands down, they taste infinitely better.
2. Switch to cloth napkins. We switched about a year ago and I LOVE CLOTH NAPKINS! They are pretty and fancy. Luxurious, even. In this last year, we’ve bought significantly less paper towels/napkins so it’s helped out our wallets. Especially when you think about the fact that you really don’t need to buy more for years. I started out with a few that I found on clearance. Then I found some beautiful and pristine linen napkins at a local thrift store. Then I made some of my own in a fun print fabric that I had in my fabric stash. Now I actually have to hold myself back from picking up more. (Confession…. I may have found 8 more vintage linen napkins yesterday for $2. And bought them. I think I have a cloth napkin addiction.) Plus, every time I have to use a paper napkin now it just feels… cheap. And disposable. For those of you thinking about your laundry, let me just say that you can often reuse a napkin after each meal. Just set it down at your seat and save it for the next meal. And really, the extra amount of laundry is pretty tiny. Napkins are easy to fold, and every time I fold them, I’m reminded how much I love using them.
3. Start making your own laundry detergent. There are tons of recipes online and most call for Borax, Washing Soda, and a bar of soap. We make it every few months while we’re watching a movie. All it takes is a cheese grater and bowl, and 10 minutes. Easy peasy. Plus, it’s so cheap that we are able to provide several of our family and friends with their laundry detergent once or twice a year for the same price that we were spending for just our own liquid detergent. Not only does it work great (my step-dad swears by it when washing his dirty gardening clothes), but it’s also waaay more natural than store-bought detergents with scents and chemicals. You know what’s interesting? I always really liked the smell of some laundry detergents and dryer sheets. Now they give me a headache. It makes me sick to think about how desensitized I got to all of those scents.
4. Wash your hair less. 🙂 Well, I tried the “no poo” method but after 3-ish weeks, I decided it wasn’t a good fit for me. (You can read more about “no poo” HERE). But I sure was tired of washing my hair every day. Yes. Every. Day. Plus blow drying and styling… it was getting old, fast. So I switched to washing every other day. Now I’m up to every three days. And you know what? I save a lot of time every week, my hair is really healthy, and I’m spending less on my shampoo/conditioner which is sulfate free and kind of expensive. I’m thinking I might go for washing every four days soon. 😀
5. Make your own toiletry products. I make my own deodorant (recipe HERE) and toothpaste. A few weeks ago I started making my own bars of soap and I loooooove it. Ben loves it too. In fact, I am pretty sure we will never buy store-bought soap or deodorant again.
6. Learn to sew. (Or if you know how, start using that knowledge!) Ben is a better sewer than me, but I can sew an (almost) straight line. Between the two of us, we’ve made linen bread bags, cases for guns and fishing poles, cloth napkins, a cloth doll, and curtains. I’m sure there is more, but these are some of the items we’ve made recently. As I mentioned last week, we’re hoping to adopt a child in the next year, and this weekend I’m going to start sewing some cute burp cloths and swaddle blankets to prepare for this baby. Rather than spending $4-10 for each of these items, I’m going to spend about .50 each. (And I’ll try to post a tutorial update on this!) You could make cloth napkins out of an old sheet for pennies. Make a quilt out of your kids’ old clothes or t-shirts. You could even use fat quarters from your local quilt shop and recover your throw pillows. Awesome. Cheap. And easy. Below is my first attempt at making a “softie”. Not perfect, but I think it’s pretty cute. 🙂
7. If you are a woman and haven’t hit menopause yet, take a look at these. I swear by them. It made life easier, will save me money for years, and is soooo much more comfortable than the mainstream alternative. I wish I would have learned about these 10 years ago; now I can’t imagine not using one.
8. Eliminate expensive, artificially flavored drinks from your diet. Not only are they chock full of sugars and additives, but they are just bad news all around. We’re pretty much done with soda, though Ben will still drink Kool-aid sometimes. However, one thing that he loves is making iced tea ahead of time. We’ll brew it in mason jars and sweeten with honey, then leave the jars in the fridge so it’s a “grab and go” kind of thing. If you want to turn your jar into a traveling mug, check out the “Cuppow“. Basically, it’s a big kid sippy cup. We bought ours locally at a store in Viroqua, WI called “Tulips”.
Below: Home brewed iced tea is about .10 a jar, compared to about $1.50 when you buy it at the convenience store.
9. Buy your meats from a local farmer in bulk. Have you ever heard of “Pink Slime”? Google it. You’ll probably never look at supermarket beef the same way again, and it’s good incentive to buy pasture-raised, grass fed beef. This year we bought half of a cow from a farmer friend of my parents. Then we had it butchered and processed to our specifications. While it was a bit of an investment at the time we purchased it, our grocery bills have gone down significantly since then. Plus, we’re actually spending less per pound than we would if we were buying our beef from the store every week. It tastes better and it’s higher quality.
10. Figure out what foods you can make from scratch rather than buying. This year we made our own freezer corn, marinara sauce, mustard, soap, applesauce, dog treats, coffee creamer, taco seasoning mix, and more. We made green bean casserole completely from scratch rather than using canned beans and canned cream of mushroom soup. We even started making chicken nuggets from scratch with chicken breasts and panko crumbs. It’s really not that hard and so so so much better for you. Most of the things on this list we attempted for the first time in 2012… so I promise you, it’s never too late to start.
There is a ton more that we’ve done and clearly I haven’t blogged all of it, but my point is that sometimes you need to stop pinning things on Pinterest and just follow through with your big ideas. 😀 If we could make some of these changes, you can too. Start with something easy, like using cloth napkins. Once you’ve got that under control, try something else. For us, the more we try, the more we get hooked on self-sufficiency, healthy living, and saving money. So it’s been a fun challenge for us!
Do you have any goals or projects for the year? Did you try anything particularly memorable for the first time last year? Is there anything on my list that you’d like to know more about? Please comment below!
Last night I dreamed that I was driving near our house. The sky was dark; there were heavy, black clouds that swirled over head and visibility was limited. This darkness felt very pressing and consuming.
So I pulled over to call Ben. As I sat in the parking lot of the apple orchard near our house, I watched a ray of sunlight begin to appear on my hands and steering wheel. I looked up… the ominous clouds were floating off into the sky like a blanket being lifted. The sun and perfect blue skies came out.
I didn’t think much of my dream as I woke up. Then, as I logged onto the computer for my daily devotional (it’s emailed to me via Proverbs 31), I read this excerpt by Lysa TerKeurst:
I watched the grey clouds envelop us.
And then the grey broke.
Suddenly, we rose above the clouds and the sun was shining brightly. The sky was fabulously clear.
The clouds were just a temporary covering. They didn’t stop the sun from shining. They just prevented my eyes from seeing the sun.
I took this photo only a couple miles from the location of my dream. It was taken this past summer.
Psalm 34:17-18, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Whatever you are dealing with today, just remember that there is goodness beyond it. As my devotional pointed out, there are many people who would trade my worst day for their best day. We should all remember that. 🙂
Have a great day, everyone. Please remember all you have to be thankful for.
It’s now been four days since I shared our story of hope and loss. And, I have to tell you, it’s been an amazing four days. The outpouring of messages, emails, comments, and all the sharing of our Facebook page, this blog, and our adoption site has far exceeded my hopes.
The interesting thing is how much I’ve been reassured that sharing our intensely personal and emotional story was the right thing to do. I should tell you that I cried while I was writing and then again before I published the blog post. I was shaking as I shared it on Facebook. I almost chickened out and told Ben that I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. And because I did, I have been blessed beyond measure. So many of you shared your own stories, your messages of hope, and your encouragement. I still can’t fathom how many complete strangers went out of their way to share our page and contact me! There truly are so many GOOD people in this world who have opened their hearts to us. It’s amazing. One incredibly special thing that I’ve appreciated is how many of you thanked me for sharing. Knowing that my words have provided comfort and inspiration to some of you makes my heart especially happy.
There have been a number of questions about our plans and thought processes, so I thought I’d share a few more things here.
Regarding the type of adoption we are considering, I want to share that we are still looking at options. There are so many decisions to make in terms of adoption. Financial aspects very greatly, and finances are something we need to be conscious of. Timing is also something we are taking into consideration. While I’m not sure we are emotionally ready for a baby in two weeks, we also aren’t thrilled with the thought of waiting several more years for our placement. After all, this is the beginning of our fourth year of trying to start a family. This reminds of that quote from “When Harry Met Sally”. (Love that movie!)
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody,
you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
We had a great meeting with an adoption agency (Catholic Charities in La Crosse, WI) and will be meeting with one more agency this week to make sure we choose the best fit for us. As I mentioned before, we are exploring the possibility of finding a child on our own, independently. This could be done in conjunction with an agency and right now we’re planning on moving forward with both options; independent and agency. Several people have sent resources for other agencies, but many of these agencies don’t cover our area.
And, just to throw it out there, we’re still looking into the Foster-to-adopt or Special Needs adoption through the state. At this time, I think we are not leaning as strongly towards this last option, but we aren’t ruling it out. And part of me really loves the thought of adopting through the foster system at some point. But, more than likely, it won’t be right now. Our comfort level as a couple simply isn’t at a point where this seems like our best option, but we are continuing to look into adopting through the state. I did have a high school friend share her experience with Special Needs adoption; her experience was fantastic and encouraging. There were also a few people who sent messages that thought this was the route we SHOULD be taking. While I don’t feel it’s necessary to share our reasoning, I will say that this doesn’t seem to be the best fit for us at this time. In the future, I’d love to explore this idea more.
I’ve also had a few people ask about surrogacy. Additionally, I have some amazing friends (including someone I haven’t spoken with in over 20 years) who have offered to be surrogates for us. That is such a loving and generous offer and so appreciated. Offering something like is such a selfless gift. Wow. But due to our situation (both fertility-wise and financially), I don’t think this is a great option for us. If anyone out there is interested in this option, please feel free to contact me. I may be able to connect you with a potential surrogate mother.
Lastly, we’re leaning away from international adoption. This is interesting to me, because a few years ago when we first discussed adoption, that was the route that Ben thought he’d want to go. But now we both feel that adopting domestically is what we were meant to do. Unless God does a major change of heart for us, I doubt we’d feel any differently. With that said, I have some friends and acquaintances who have had fantastic experiences with their international adoptions. Their families are perfect and this is a great option for so many people. I could understand why so many people choose this option.
Well, I will just share a few quick facts before I end this blog post. 🙂 These numbers were staggering to me and are kind of fun. Plus, I can thank so many of you reading this post for your help with the following things:
- 396 “likes” on Facebook
- 3,800 unique visitors to this blog
- 13,100 page views on our adoption site
- One request to share our story as a guest blogger on the Adoption Resources of Wisconsin blog. (I’m a volunteer photographer with them already!) You can view their blog HERE. I’ll be sharing other parts of our adoption journey, and I’m thrilled to help others in the way that I’ve been helped to get to this point.
- The social workers at both the private agency and at our county that I’ve been working with actually had our blog pop up in their Facebook news feed. Thanks to all who shared! It’s so exciting to know that our story is making it’s rounds across the area. Well, the whole country really. And Canada. 🙂 I’m so hopeful this will be how we start our family!
- I also had a message from my high school English teacher who said she was proud of my writing skills. Holy smokes, that’s awesome. It only took me 12 years past graduation to earn my “A”. 🙂 Ha.
I also wanted to share part of a message that struck a deep chord within me.
One friend said:
“I will never ever be that person to say that it’s God’s plan that all the sadness and sorrow happens. I do say, with total conviction, that God works it all to his glory. Like you mentioned, these trying times breaks your faith and builds it…I imagine this journey will be the greatest testament with those you meet, those you touch, those who just happen to cross paths with the both of you. God’s design is always interesting, isn’t it? :0)”
Bear with me; this post is a little long, incredibly personal, and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. In fact, I’m pretty nervous about sharing something so personal in such a public way. Up till this point, only close friends and family have known our struggle with infertility. But I wanted to share our story. I’ve received comfort from reading stories of other women in similar situations, and feel sad that people rarely talk about miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Besides, the initial reason I started this blog as well as why my husband and I began a transition to a lifestyle with less chemicals and more natural goodness is because of our struggles in infertility. Here is our story.
We’ve been married over 5 years. For three years, we’ve been trying to start a family, but sadly, it has not happened. While I can get pregnant quite easily, I always miscarry. So far, we’ve had six miscarriages. The first one was incredibly sad… while sitting in the ultrasound room, we were told there was no heartbeat. It completely took us by surprise; we were over 10 weeks along and had just started telling a few people. We mourned the loss of our baby, but set out to try again. We kept hearing that it was completely normal to have a miscarriage and that, statistically, the second pregnancy would likely be healthy. Only… that second one was a miscarriage too. So was the next one. And next one. And next one. After that, I was pretty miserable and couldn’t even begin to describe the emotions that I was dealing with at that point. I needed some time off, so we waited a full year before trying again. Just this fall, we gave it another shot, and that ended in miscarriage too. This last one was especially sad because I was due on my 31st birthday, and because I miscarried on Christmas day. Let me tell you, having a much-anticipated pregnancy end on Christmas can make someone feel that they’ve hit the bottom. I mourned the loss of all my pregnancies, but this last one was the worst. I felt like a dream was totally out of reach. All the testing we had done showed completely normal results and doctors could find no reason why we’d lose each pregnancy.
It’s terribly sad to think that you may never have children when you’ve wanted them so badly for your entire life. It’s hard to be excited for friends who are expecting babies of their own. It’s downright traumatic to think about going to a baby shower and being excited for the momma-to-be, when you know that you may never get to experience that joy. And it’s awful trying to explain to a friend why you simply can’t attend a baby shower without crying. That is a quick way to ruin a happy occasion. Of course, deep down I was happy for my friends and their babies, but I’d be lying if I said I never once wondered why something so wonderful couldn’t happen to me… just once. Hearing about women getting pregnant then leaving their babies at hospitals, teenagers getting pregnant with no desire to raise their children… things like that made me cry. They made me angry. I KNEW we’d be good parents, and honestly, I questioned why God would let this happen to us. It’s weird to think that I am a mother of six… yet I have no living children. Even though I never held them or comforted them, their loss is deeply felt and I will grieve for a lifetime.
Franchesca Fox said: “A mother is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the number she holds in her heart”.
I love that. In our society where no one talks about pregnancy loss or grief for babies we never get to hold, it was reassuring to hear that my unborn babies counted for something more than a medical chart note. I’ve had so many people tell me that I’m “so strong”, but you know what? I am sad. I feel this deeply. Sometimes I fall apart. It wasn’t just the loss of another baby… it was the loss of my dream for my life.
So the last few weeks I’ve been trying to find inspiration and comfort wherever I can. We purchased six little crystal angel ornaments in memory of our unborn babies for our Christmas tree. I’ve gotten a lot of comfort from a few things I found through Pinterest, of all places. This was my favorite:
I can tell you that six miscarriages both weakened my faith, then strengthened it. I’m thankful. So very thankful that my faith has gotten stronger. And I’m thankful that my marriage has gotten stronger, too. Something like infertility can easily tear a couple apart, but I have a good man. Though he processes this experience differently than I do, I know it’s something he feels strongly about.
This post isn’t meant to be so sad. I do have positive things ahead… please keep reading. 🙂
One interesting thing about my miscarriages is that they are a “missed miscarriage”, meaning that the baby’s heartbeat and growth stop but my body continues to recognize the pregnancy for several weeks. So for these last pregnancies, I always knew in advance that I’d lost the pregnancy before I actually miscarried. Especially for this last pregnancy, I spent a lot of time in prayer, asking God to either take away this intense desire to become a mother, or to help us find a path to parenthood. My husband had talked about adoption years ago, but now that it was quickly becoming a reality rather than something in the distant future, he wasn’t comfortable talking about it. For the sake of my marriage, I decided that I would not ask him about it any more. If we were meant to adopt, I wanted the path to be clear without badgering my way to it.
Then I received the best Christmas gift, ever. My husband secretly did some research on adoption, and on Christmas Eve, he told me that he made us an appointment at an adoption agency for the following week. I knew I would likely be miscarrying the next day, and honestly, this one little act of kindness that he did made such a huge difference. Knowing that there was still hope for a family someday was a game-changer. A few days ago, we met with the agency and have decided to move forward with the adoption process. For us, this means getting put on the waiting list at the agency, as well as trying to locate a birth mother ourselves. We realize this process could still take years and that there are no guarantees. But, we’re hoping that our friends, family, and those we know through our businesses and this blog might be able to help. It doesn’t really require much on your part, but if you happen to know someone who is considering adoption for their baby or young child, could you possibly remember us and pass us along?
I created a website to introduce us to birthparents who might be looking for adoptive parents. You can see it here and read a little more of our story:
We also started a Facebook page to make it easy to follow our journey: www.facebook.com/beckyandbenadopt. We’re hoping you’ll share it with your friends and family so we can extend our reach. All it takes is one person to share, then the right person reading it. 10 seconds on your part could change our lives, a birth mother’s life, and especially a baby that needs a loving, stable home. Thanks for reading our story, and more thanks for keeping us in your mind and prayers as we move forward.
I loooove Christmas. And while I enjoy Thanksgiving, I really struggle with the fact that, to me, it seems more like a Christmas holiday kick-off than it’s own separate holiday. 🙂 This year we are hosting our very first Thanksgiving dinner for my family… about 17+ of us will gather under our roof. Yikes. In addition to the logistical issues of things like “Where will everyone sleep?” and “Can I actually make a fancy dinner for this many people without disappointing everyone?”, I’m struggling with even bigger issues like “How much will they tease me if I have Christmas decorations up?” Ha! Once I figure out the menu a bit more, I’ll probably share a few favorite recipes or other Thanksgiving goodness. But in the meantime, I’m skipping ahead a holiday: Christmas.
So this year we are making the majority of our gifts. That means that I’m not going to be sharing many of those items here on Simply Driftless unless I’m fairly sure the recipient won’t see it or once they receive it. However, I did want to share one of the companies that we purchased from last year. With all the little kids that we like to buy gifts for (nephews, godchildren, friend’s children), our goals were to keep our gifts local, educational, and natural if at all possible. With those goals in mind, I was thrilled to find Little Sapling Toys, a natural/wooden toy maker based in Wisconsin. Last year we purchased several sets of Skittles, which very similar to bowling. Here is a screen shot of their website… it makes me wish I had little ones of my own to buy some of these amazing toys!
Did all my photographer friends notice the little wooden camera? Adorable. Those wooden cars are pretty awesome, too. And the bowling sets. (Oh wait, I bought THREE sets of those last year!)
Are you on Pinterest? If you are, I started a pin board just for things I want to make. In fact, some of my Christmas present ideas are even on there. Feel free to check it out by click HERE: http://pinterest.com/rebecca_eby/stuff-to-make/
What are some of your holiday plans? Do you have a favorite local/natural source for your gifts? Are you a DIY-er?