A Time for Striving

(waiting on their breakfast)

Daily life...it's crazy! Just feel like I'm barely staying afloat lately.

I was reading this passage from Ecclesiastes this morning and although I've read it many times before, it resonated with me today.

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil?

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11

This post was originally titled "Checking In" and then as I re-read it, I realized why I'm feeling so scattered. Lots of changes, lots of striving. Hopefully things settle down soon as we find our new groove. In the meantime, this seems to be a time of Striving.

Here's what we're working with lately.

Budget. I know I've shared before that I am typically not a budget-minded person, but have been making more of an effort in this area. Nick and I sat down recently and went over what we've allotted in each area per month, and made tweaks as necessary.

I'm a low-tech person, so this is my method of tracking the budget: For the areas where I'm consistently way over (groceries, clothing, Amazon purchases) I have a note in my phone with the reminder of what I can spend in each category each month. When I make a purchase, I subtract it from the total and keep my running tallies in my notes.

This has been eye-opening! It's only 6 days into the month and I am about $19 over in the Amazon category (this is where we buy diapers, wipes, Pull-Ups, hand soap, face wash, vitamins, etc.). And despite great efforts, I'm still not able to stick to our groceries budget by a long shot, but I also think our number is low for a family of five. We eat a lot of whole, organic foods, and we rarely eat out, so this may be an area we need to further tweak.

It's also making me more mindful of my clothing spending. Knowing that I have a certain amount to spend each month is making me better anticipate and plan future needs. For example, I tend to spend a lot in this category in March and April--kids raincoats, rainboots, swimsuits, and spring clothes for all. Because I'm anticipating those expenses, I'm trying to go as lightly as possible this month so there's an overflow for the spring months.

Budgeting is hard! Do you have a budget, and if so, do you stick to it? How?

Baths. Are the worst. Not many things make me yell more than bathtime. It gets really silly and really splashy fast, and it usually coincides with that time of day when dinner is on the verge of burning in the oven, the house is a mess, Nick has texted me his daily ETA (which is almost always late anymore) and we're all totally exhausted.

To ease the madness, I've started to give "the little kids" their bath one night and on the alternating nights, Eloise showers alone. Even though we're now doing some kind of bathing each night, this system has really helped manage the insanity. George and Mimi love their bath and it stays a little calmer, and Eloise gets some needed alone time with her shower, which helps her feel like a big kid. She can pretty much complete the process autonomously, which is a huge help to me. And I haven't been yelling as much, so it's a win all around.

I'm sure this will change in the spring/summer months when everyone is playing outside more and we'll be back to a big tub of wild children, but for now this system is serving us.

Vitamins. We spend a lot on vitamins. Despite the aforementioned budgeting exercise, I can't bring myself to add up how much we spend each month in the vitamin area--it's too scary. I never thought much about WHY I emphasize vitamins so much, aside from trying to keep my family healthy and build immunity, but recently I had Amelia at our favorite doctor and we got talking about how he feels that the benefits of vitamins, multivitamins in particular, are overstated.

I have had a renewed commitment to bringing more fresh fruits and veggies into our household lately (thanks to this book), and with it comes an added cost, so I'm strongly considering ramping down our vitamin intake to offset the cost. He advised that since my kids eat well, their nutritional needs are taken care of, and suggested that immunity isn't necessarily built from a multivitamin.

A quick Google search does seem to yield a ton of articles on the uselessness of multivitamins, but I'm still hesitant to pull the plug. Thoughts?

Sleep. Has not happened around here in forever, and last week we finally bit the bullet and did some good old-fashioned Cry It Out with Georgie, complete with me sleeping in the basement for a few nights with earplugs in. It "took" for a couple nights, and now the past several nights he's waking anywhere from 3:30-5am and screaming, sometimes for 45 minutes straight. What is this? Is he hungry? Is he in pain from teething? Having separation anxiety? Is he getting used to sleeping 12 hours straight?

No one tells you that number of kids does not an expert make. I am clueless. And exhausted. And it's the first time a baby is waking the big kids, which is compounding the stress. HELP!

Potty training. Jesus take the wheel. Amelia has been potty trained since last July, and lately she's back to having multiple accidents a day. It has become a total battleground. She'll clearly be uncomfortable from holding it, so I had been reminding her/sometimes forcing her to go, and then yelling at her for having accidents.

My new method: Do nothing. Don't remind her to go, don't scold her or help her change herself after accidents, and don't praise her when she gets it right. Put the control back in her hands. We are two days into this and it seems to be working.

I still don't know why two-year-olds get such a bad wrap because in my experience, three-year-olds are a way more difficult animal!

Diet. I had Amelia tested for dietary intolerances recently because of a nonstop cough she'd been dealing with, and cow dairy and gluten came back really high. These are overwhelming changes to make, so I'm easing in and starting with dairy elimination from her diet.

I've successfully replaced cow's milk with almond milk (the unsweetened vanilla kind), and yogurt with coconut-based yogurt (So Delicious and Chobani Dairy Free brands both seem fine). Up next: cheese. I wish our grocery store carried shredded goat's cheese--I'm on the hunt for it. And I got a couple boxes of this "cheeze sauce" which may or may not be gross, we'll see. I'd love to find a local place I can get my hands on goat cheese-based alternatives to cheddar, mozzarella, etc.

And then the next step: gluten. Any tips for me in this area?

Are you in a time of striving?

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