Waiting For Pretty

It’s that ugly but exciting time of spring – when everything is brown, but we’re just so happy because the snow is gone, and we know the green growing things are coming soon. I was looking out the window the other day, thinking about how there is so often an ugly aspect to growth and change – the discomfort of shedding the old and reaching toward the new. But it’s the hope, anticipation, and excitement of something fresh and different which carries us through the discomfort, and keeps us going.

So we watch spring creeping in, and we squeeze out every bit of joy from the ordinary little moments. Lately, we’re enjoying:

Early morning snuggles.

Saturday morning pancakes.

Smooth, bare skin.

The eager anticipation of good food.

Creating.

The best seat in the house.

More creating.

More anticipation.

Learning to share and play together.

And I realize once again that when I take the time to grab my camera, there is so much worth capturing, even if we’re still waiting for things to pretty up a bit outside.

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Grocery Budget Bootcamp Update

Back in January, I shared here that I was taking a grocery budget course (affiliate link). I finished up the course a few weeks ago, and I’m back to say I loved it!! It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it.

The course includes 13 lessons, covering topics like meal planning, creating a price book, comparing grocery stores, avoiding food waste, and a number of other helpful topics which you can check out here.

In our home, Ben has always done the grocery shopping, partly because he can do it after work and save me an extra trip into the city, and partly because he is so much better at it! He can remember prices, knows when stuff is on sale, and can figure out the best deal much quicker than I can. Also, I am allergic to Superstore – for real. I walk in there, and immediately, my nose runs, my eyes water, and my head gets so fuzzy I can’t even think straight. I don’t make wise decisions under those conditions, so it works out great to have Ben be the designated shopper.

This made a grocery budget course interesting, because I was the one taking it, but he’s the one shopping! So we ended up talking about stuff a lot, and we also started doing a lot of our grocery shopping online, which is absolutely wonderful! Superstore has a “Click and Collect” site so you can place your order the night before, and pick it up the next day. It’s very convenient, and it’s also allowed us to spend more time talking about what are the best purchases – Ben shares all his shopping secrets with me, and I share everything I’ve learned from the Grocery Budget Bootcamp.

The first month, we saved $50 on groceries, and the second month, we saved $70. I was secretly hoping for more dramatic savings, but the interesting thing I learned was that we were already doing pretty good before taking the course. Part of the course includes calculating what would be a reasonable budget, taking into consideration where you live, what stores are available to you, how many people are in your family, and what kinds of food allergies you’re dealing with. According the the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, our family “should” be spending $1140 on groceries per month! We were averaging $720, so our savings didn’t end up being as extreme as some of the other people I was doing the course with, because we’re already saving a lot. Also, shopping in the states sounds crazy!! We just do not get the same kind of deals.

But Ben and I worked really hard, and it was great to get our budget down a little. I’m also pretty confident that as we get better at the shopping strategies we learned, our budget will go down even further.

The biggest game changer for us was tracking prices for food items in different stores. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal that butter is a dollar more expensive at Superstore than Costco, but multiply that by four for the month, and by 12 for the year, and suddenly you’re looking at saving $48 over the year. I would love it if somebody handed me $48. So we’re making sure to only buy butter at Costco. We have our list of what’s better to buy at Costco, and what is cheaper at Superstore, and are trying to do one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month so that Ben only needs to grab a bit of fresh produce each week. We are tracking prices on Google Docs so both of us can access the list from our phones while shopping.

Ben made an interesting observation – I asked him why he thought the course was worth taking, and he said it made us much more intentional about our choices, which flowed over into other areas of our budget as well. This speaks to how versatile the course is – I was worried it wouldn’t be applicable to our specific situation with food allergies, but the Grocery Budget Bootcamp is all about studying the way you shop, and doing it more intentionally, no matter what you’re buying. I’ve read countless resources on grocery budget tips, and often they involve the hassle of coupons, and buying cheap, convenience foods that we can’t eat at our house. I didn’t want another course telling me to stockpile granola bars and canned soup. We buy our food in it’s original form, which makes it expensive, because how often does fresh produce go on sale?? Well, more often than I thought, it turns out! My favorite day of the week is now Thursday, because all the new grocery flyers come out, and it’s a treasure hunt to find the items we buy regularly at the best price possible. This course is all about shopping smarter, avoiding waste, and being a good steward of your money and your food.

It’s a lot of work to save money on groceries, but I keep thinking about my two favorite pieces of wise financial advice I’ve heard over the years. The first came from Ben’s dad – he said, “If you are having trouble living within your means, you have two choices: make more money, or spend less.” It’s pretty straight forward, but it was something we needed to hear when we were first married. It’s related to the second piece of advice: “It’s better to put your energy into spending what you make wisely, than to use your energy trying to make more money.” One leads to greater contentment, self-discipline, and intention, while the other leads to a constant desire for more. I think about this often as I try to change my mindset about what it means to manage our home wisely and within our budget. I never want to take it for granted that Ben can earn a good pay cheque, and I get to stay home with our sweet kids. That privilege comes with the responsibility of being smart with our money.

I’m so looking forward to improving my ability to budget and shop better, and make wise choices which will benefit us for many years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about Grocery Budget Bootcamp, you can check it out right here. The deadline for registering is tomorrow, so jump on it while you can! And then email me to tell me what you’re learning – discussing grocery shopping strategies has become one of my favorite things!:)

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Decluttering Our Closet

One of my absolute favorite things in life is problem solving. I get gleeful when I find a solution to something that’s not working quite right in our home. I will think and think and think about it until I figure it out. It helps to be married to someone who is great at solving problems in a totally different way than I am. I’ll think for hours about something, whereas Ben will throw out wild, crazy ideas off the top of his head, and some of them are just too wild and crazy to be of use, but some jolt me out of the rut I’m stuck in, and give me a few more hours’ worth of material to mull over. I love mulling.

My latest problem to solve was in our closet. We have a massive closet, which is interesting since it’s my goal to own as few clothes as possible, without getting completely bored of my options. We simply do not need all that space, but you know what happens with space? We fill it. It’s so easy to get careless when there’s so much room to spread out, and I’ve been getting lazy with how I’m storing things.

I walked into my closet the other morning and thought, “This is stressful and unappealing. I want a pretty closet.” When I expressed this desire to Ben, he said blankly, “I never think about stuff like that.”

“I do,” I replied. “Our closet is ugly.”

He said, “I think you spend a lot more time in our closet than I do. I just go in and get my clothes.”

“That’s all I do, too, but I still think it’s ugly,” I told him.

So I stood in our closet and stared really hard at everything to figure out what the problem was, and suddenly it hit me: Everything making a mess could either be gotten rid of, or stored somewhere else. My goal was a bare, beautiful dresser, and zero clutter. And maybe some pretty pictures on the wall, eventually….

I started hauling things out. It has made the hugest difference for me. I can’t wait to go in there each morning, because that wide open space is peaceful and soothing to my soul. Three kids can produce astonishing amounts of clutter which I find difficult to keep under control, but they don’t mess up my closet, so this space stays as clean as I keep it.

Those piles cluttering up my dresser sat there for five years, and I never once thought it would be possible to get rid of them. They needed to be there. Except they didn’t, and I can’t believe, once again, how awesome it feels to ditch the clutter, pare down the belongings, and simplify.

I stand in the doorway to our closet and just look at it. I made Ben look at it, too, and he was moderately impressed, but I don’t know if he would have noticed if I hadn’t forced him to admire it. But that’s fine – I did it for me.

It makes me curious what other clutter areas are completely unnecessary, if I can only figure out how to think outside the box. Now I need to go make the rest of my house look as clean as this closet.;)

What do you think – is there any clutter in your house you’ve believed you NEED, but maybe you don’t?!

 

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Grey Hair, Don’t Care (I Wish!)

It’s time for another grey hair post! Every so often, I need to remind myself why I’ve decided to grow out my grey hair. I’ve reached the uncomfortable stage of this process. It’s been fun and surprisingly painless until now. My hairdresser has been using a variety of highlights and lowlights to blend the line of my roots growing out, and I’ve liked it. Highlights make me feel fancy. But the line’s been blended, my natural hair colour has grown out everywhere except at the top of my head where I’ve been getting highlights, and now my hairdresser says I’m ready to grow everything out.

Taken last fall, when I was still having fun with highlights.:)

Yikes.

I have mixed feelings about this. I love the freedom of less hair appointments, and not having to cover up roots all the time. But there is a lot of junk for me to work through in this process, because my grey roots make me feel old and unattractive. I wish I didn’t care about these things, but it turns out that I do, and it’s something I’m learning to deal with. Because I’m in transition, I don’t know if I’m just feeling the discomfort of having five different colours in my hair right now, and things will get better as everything grows out, or if I’ll still feel this way once I’ve reached my goal.

I look at pictures of grey hair, and I love it. It looks beautiful, but I don’t know if it will look beautiful on me. I’ve always struggled with change in general, so that might be contributing to my discomfort, as well.

Whatever the issue really is, the cure is always the same for me. I give myself a good talking to about what is truly most important in my life (it’s not hair colour!), and then I go find some fun pictures to remind myself to stop taking this all so seriously. It’ll be fine in the end.

Sources: 1/2/3/4

I’ve also come across a couple of interesting blog posts on growing out grey hair:

The Silver Lining – A Guide to Growing Out Your Natural Grey Hair

My Eight Best Secrets For Dealing With the Emotional Ups and Downs of Going Grey

Young and Grey? You Might Want to Just Stick With It

Five Reasons I Stopped Coloring My Hair

And here are the posts I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on grey hair:

My Grey Crown of Glory

Surrounding Myself With Grey Hair Inspiration

Have you ever thought about growing out your grey? Why or why not?

 

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Best Parts of the Day

Each day at the supper table, we have a little tradition called “Best Parts of the Day”. Everybody has to share at least one thing that brought joy during the day. There are a few rules – you have to say SOMETHING, no matter how small it is, and you can’t say the same thing every day (this rule was made after Ben said “Coming home from work” a few too many times in a row – but it’s true, we do have a pretty great place to come home to!). You are allowed to say your favorite part hasn’t happened yet, if you are really looking forward to something coming up that evening (which sometimes has included “bedtime” for me).

I love this. I love that it’s part of our family, I love watching our kids learn the skill of searching for joy in the little things, I love hearing their thoughts. It’s hard sometimes – when Kaylia was younger, she went through a stage where she kept saying her favorite part was “climbing trees”, even though there isn’t a tree big enough to climb anywhere in our area. She just couldn’t bring herself to say something serious. But as she got older, she opened up more, and I love the glimpse it gives me into her thoughts. She is a deep, deep well, that one.

Everett is currently learning the art of “Best Parts of the Day”. Right now he says, “Paying wiff Anka”, or “All day” every time. Then he turns to me and says, “Best part day, Mommy?” I can hardly handle the cuteness of it.

K&EK&EKayliaEverettKayliaMy life at home with these sweet kids is wonderful and beautiful and amazing, but it’s not perfect – there are still times when sickness, lack of sleep, or whatever else can creep in, and we forget how blessed we are. We can become so focused on a hard challenge we’re facing that we get tunnel vision, and can’t see the joy around us, waiting to be discovered in the little things.

Ben and EverettSome days, it’s very easy to think of best parts of the day, but other days, it’s a bit harder. Those are the days when it’s even more important to find something to appreciate.

Kaylia and EverettTogether, we are learning to pay attention. We’re choosing to notice the good things instead of taking them for granted. There are lots of things I hope to pass on to my children, and this habit is definitely one of them.

Blessedsource

 So if you had to say what your best part of today is, what would it be?! I want to hear it!

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6 Thoughts on Decluttering

Someone asked me this weekend if we still have anything left in our house. Ben immediately jumped in and said, “Nope, I only have one pair of boxers left, because she’s gotten rid of everything else!”

After decluttering 2015 things in the year 2015, I’m having an interesting time trying to do the same thing in 2017. Ben has offered to help by going to the thrift store and buying things just so I’ll have more stuff to get rid of to reach my goal. That could be interesting, because he’s also said the thrift store in town is pretty much filled with only our stuff, so I guess he’d buy back our own stuff to get rid of for the second time.

Fortunately, I think we’ll be just fine without taking these drastic measures. Yes, it’s definitely harder this time around, but it’s also better! Last time, I got rid of 2015 things without flinching, and our house looked almost exactly the same, somehow. You would never be able to tell I’d decluttered 2015 items. This time, I’m digging deeper, and really feeling the difference. It’s amazing. Now I’m starting to see the change, and it’s completely addicting. Our house is slowly getting easier to keep tidy, and therefore easier to keep clean, because I don’t have to move as much stuff out of the way while cleaning. I have never been a messy person, but I’ve bought into the lie that we “need” all these things around us.

Take my kitchen, for example. Last weekend, I was ready to do something drastic, so I decided to see how much I could clear off our kitchen counters. Since my cupboards are getting emptier, I had room to store our toaster, mixer, and some other miscellaneous items out of sight, instead of having them sitting on the counter. I moved our phone elsewhere, and only left the the things we use every day. I love it. Even when the kitchen needs to be cleaned up after a meal, it feels neater than it did before. There’s so much open space, it looks cleaner even when it’s messy. All those wide open counter tops inspire me to keep it extra tidy.

kitchen

This was all brought on by my dear friend Natalie, who challenged me to the Minimalist Game. The idea is simple – for one month, get rid of the same number of items as the day of the month. Since I’ve gotten rid of 2015 things in the past, I didn’t think this would be very difficult for me.

Declutter 2015

Oh, my word.

It is hard!! It’s the daily habit that I’m finding tough to stick with. Also, it didn’t sound like a lot of items to get rid of at first, but when you add it up, it’s around 400 things!! Thank goodness it’s February – the shortest month of the year! That saves me from having to declutter an extra 90 items this month!

With all this decluttering and purging, here are a few observations I’ve made this month:

  1. The “Second Pass” is super effective.
    There are many items I almost got rid of two years ago, but I just wasn’t ready. This time I’m ready. If you come across something you’re just not sure about, put it away somewhere and come back to it. It might get easier the next time around.
  2.  Making it some kind of challenge is extremely motivating for me.
    My mom said something wise – minimalism is more about a lifestyle than about the numbers. I agree with this completely. However, some people are motivated by charts or challenges or games, and whatever makes you declutter, it’s a good idea. I still got rid of a bunch of stuff in 2016, even though I wasn’t working towards any kind of goal or counting any of the items. It was still about simplifying my life. But for me personally, having a chart to colour in, or a friend to report to, has dramatically increased how much I’ve gotten rid of. I need to see the progress, and have the accountability. It just works for me. It’s not for everybody. Some people feel that counting the items would slow them down. Fantastic. Don’t count. Do what works for you.
  3. Wherever there is mess, there is opportunity for decluttering.
    When I don’t know what to get rid of next, I just look around for any area of our house that I find hard to keep tidy. I would much rather spend my time getting rid of stuff instead of organizing my stuff. As my kitchen has shown me, keeping things tidy gets much easier when there’s less stuff to keep tidy.
  4. Simplifying my physical surroundings brings more peace and calming to my mental and emotional surroundings.
    Those who have busy minds need calm surroundings. Others are able to handle more clutter and chaos, because they stay mentally calm and at peace. I wish I could remember where I read about this. It’s completely changing how I feel about my home and need for order. I went through a time of feeling overly particular and too focused on a clean house. I can’t stand that poem about leaving cobwebs everywhere in your house because you’re rocking your baby to sleep. Can’t I love my kids, rock my baby, and have a clean house?!! I felt guilty for cleaning, because it meant I was neglecting my children. I’m not thinking that anymore, because first of all, they love playing on their own, and I don’t ignore them all day long, but I do take time to care for our home. And second, a clean home makes me a better mom. I’m not as frazzled when my surrounding environment is under control. Getting rid of clutter makes me feel peaceful.
  5. The more I do it, the more I love it.
    I listened to Young House Love’s podcast about decluttering in which they shared about a study showing that most people actually experience physical pain when they get rid of items they own. Decluttering is often viewed as being unenjoyable. Many people have expressed confusion as to why I want to declutter, or why I find it fun and exciting. My guess is that most people connect decluttering with getting rid of items they love and still want to use. But you know what? I have decluttered 2623 counted items, and many, many more when I wasn’t keeping track, and I still have not gotten rid of anything I love. I have no emotional attachment to spools of thread in weird colours I will never sew with, or gift bags I don’t really like and won’t choose to give a gift in. I can tear a recipe out of a magazine and recycle it. There are clothes I never want to wear, and I keep going back to my favorites. There are books I don’t enjoy reading to my kids, and inwardly groan when they choose them. We have far too many sheets and towels, and more toys than our kids can ever possibly play with. (AND STUFF KEEPS COMING IN!! It just doesn’t stop, although we’re working on that.) I can assure you, there was absolutely no pain caused by removing these things. My life is far better without them. I haven’t reached the hard stuff yet. I don’t believe in forcing anyone to get rid of special, sentimental things they love. My girls used to fear decluttering, because they thought getting rid of special things was what it meant, but now they go through their toys all on their own, and bring me the rejected items because they don’t want to keep cleaning up toys they don’t like to play with. It can be enjoyable! And contagious.;)

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about decluttering lately! Natalie directed me to The Minimalists’ podcast, which has been adding a ton of value to my life this month. If you need some motivation to simplify, you should definitely check it out! I find it very inspiring, positive, and practical. Can’t get enough of it.

What’s inspiring you to declutter? Any thoughts you’d like to add from your experiences with simplifying your life? Or is there anything holding you back from getting rid of stuff you don’t use?

 

 

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How I Met Ben

One of my favorite things is hearing how couples met. Those are always such fun, interesting stories, and everybody gets happy and a bit giggly when asked to share.:)

Even though Ben and I don’t make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, today seemed like a good day to share our little story of how we met:

I was determined not to like Ben long before I ever met him.

I was working on spring staff at Red Rock Bible Camp, and I had someone very different picked out for my future. But one day when I saw the summer staff list, I noticed Ben’s name on the list. I knew that some of my friends had gone to college with a Ben Dueck, so I asked one of them if the Ben she knew was coming to work at camp for the summer. It was the same Ben, but I was not impressed when she burst out with, “Kendra, you’re totally going to date him!! He has a girlfriend, but you’ll totally break them up!”

That made me mad. I was no boyfriend stealer. And I didn’t need any new potential-boyfriend material, because I already knew what I wanted.  And I would prove to her that I would not date Ben Dueck. Especially since his last name was “Dueck.” My last name was Dueck. That would just be weird.

When he arrived at camp a few weeks later, I did my very best to avoid him.

But people kept introducing him to me. I’d try to sneak past the crowd of people with Ben Dueck in the middle of it, but someone would call out, “Hey, Kendra, have you met Ben yet?” I would mutter something polite and hurry away. And then 10 minutes later, I’d get called over by somebody else saying, “Kendra, I don’t think you’ve met Ben yet!” And I would say, “Yes, actually I have.” And then I’d leave again.

Later that day, all of the staff had to go up to the chapel to find out what skills (camp activities) we’d be teaching for the summer. I was pretty sure that I would be teaching canoeing, because I had taught it the whole summer before. What I did not expect, though, was that I’d be leading canoeing together with… Ben Dueck.

And when the director introduced the Head Skill Instructors as “Ben and Kendra Dueck”, I was extremely unimpressed.

The boy that I actually wanted to date was right there. And I was not going to date Ben Dueck. So there was no need to make it sound like we were married.

But… the problem was that the more time we spent together, the more I found out how much we just clicked. I laughed at his jokes, and he laughed at mine. We talked about anything and everything, and I couldn’t help becoming friends with him.

Every year, Red Rock Bible Camp has an Open House. Anyone can come and try out all of the different camp activities, and see what the camp is like. My parents came to visit me that day, and since Ben and I had to be in charge of helping people get set up for canoeing, my parents spent the day with us down by the lake.

And it was so much fun, so natural. But he was the wrong guy! If I was going to spend the day with a boy and my parents, I would not have picked Ben Dueck!

But when my parents left that day, my dad told my mom, “He’s the one Kendra’s going to marry.

He didn’t say anything to me about it, but every time I called home that summer, my dad always asked about “his friend Ben.” This annoyed me, so I finally told him, “He has a girlfriend!!” And my dad replied, “That can all change.”

My determination NOT to date Ben was probably the best thing for our friendship, because we were able to get to know each other without any games or confusion. He had a girlfriend, he was off limits, but he really did make the most delightful friend.

Once summer was over, we went our separate ways. I was back at college with my dream boy, and even when my friend made sure to tell me that Ben had broken up with his girlfriend, I didn’t think it affected me in any way.

But one day, Dream Boy and I got into a fight, and as I sat there listening to him yell at me, all I could think was, “Ben would never do this to me. He would never, ever, EVER do this to me. WHAT HAVE I BEEN THINKING?!!!!” I walked out of that room, went back to dorm, and called Ben. Fortunately, he was gone on a mission trip for a few weeks, which gave me a little bit of time to clear my thoughts, but I didn’t need much time, because everything was suddenly crystal clear to me.

We hung out just as “friends” for a few months, although I think we both had a pretty good idea where things were going. It took a little while to move our friendship to dating status, but I think deep down, I knew from the very beginning that Ben and I were good together. God needed to get us out of where we were, but our relationship has always been pretty easy and natural. We have things to work through sometimes, but really, Ben is just the most wonderful person to be with. I am thankful for every single day that I get to spend with Ben!

Ben and Kendra