Category Archives: Family

Step 1: Eliminate Excess

If you missed the introduction to the Simplify Your Life Challenge, please check it out here. To make a long story short, I am simplifying to help manage my stress and household, so that I can focus on what really matters to me. I have a lot going on and I need the absolute best way to help my family succeed at life!

Simplicity to me means not just successfully surviving but thriving!

You can join the challenge by subscribing to my blog to keep up with each step. At the end of each step we will have a challenge and I would love it if you would join me and post your own progress! (Bonus points for any pictures you can take of your simplification status!) Now on to Step 1 and it probably won’t surprise you:

Step 1: Eliminate excess

 In 2012 I did a challenge with some friends to get rid of 2012 items that year. It was such an eye opener as I realized just how much excess our 1400 square foot home had. That was when I really began to acknowledge my issues with shopping and how the “stuff” was stifling us. What I learned that year really helped me to have confidence in getting rid of stuff this time around.

In a similar way this summer I have been going through every single room and purging, purging, purging. Ruthlessly selling, trashing, re-homing. I’m taking a hard look at items, making sure they are serving enough of a purpose to earn their keep. If not, out they go. For example,  in my living room, I had 10 throw pillows. TEN! On only two sofas .The truth was, every day was frustrating because they ended up on the floor. There wasn’t room for PEOPLE on the sofa! How many do we need? Not ten!

WilliamMorrisquote

The key here is purpose. I have lots of items that are useful (as in they can be used with success) but if they’ve been collecting dust on a shelf or packed away in a closet they do not have a purpose. Think of all the “gadgets” in your kitchen. Which ones are you actually putting to good use? Sometimes this means getting rid of perfectly good, useful items when you realize that the space and clarity they leave behind is more valuable than the footprint they occupy and the chaos they  collectively contribute.

I feel obligated to mention the wildly popular book by Marie Kondo: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I have read it, and I do recommend it for gaining perspective on clutter and minimalism. At the same time, I feel that her method introduces the risk of an extreme and almost compulsive distaste for possessions. I’m also somewhat uncomfortable with the animism that she endorses.

While helpful, her tag phrase: “Does it spark joy?” has encouraged many hilarious memes of housewives discarding their credit card bills and sweeping their homes of all vegetables or dirty laundry. After all, can everything really spark joy?

Well, what if everything around you truly did spark joy or contribute to a joyful existence? How would that change your life?

(Here is a post on whether or not Konmari really makes sense for families. I found the comments really helpful also)

If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend the book Simplicity Parenting. I read it when I first started my parenting journey and I still think about it years later. It so beautifully explains how less is more in the eyes of children and how we can raise them with the gift of simplicity.

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This has by far been my most ruthless and therefore productive purging round, and I have to tell you that I am really happy with the results. If you are overwhelmed with where to start, I suggest  either A) attacking room by room or B) attacking category by category.

Uncertain?
If you want to get rid of items but are worried about needing them later, packing them into storage or the attic might be a good idea. Oftentimes it will be clear when you retrieve them a few months later whether or not they bring value to your home.

Donate
My advice is to find a charity or cause that you really care about and if possible, donate your items to that cause. It’s easier for me to let go of items knowing they are going where they are truly needed. An alternative is to host a yard sale and donate the proceeds to your charity of choice. Sometimes a “higher purpose” is all you need to encourage yourself to purge.

Persevere
Remind yourself that this first step, though overwhelming, will allow every subsequent step to go more smoothly. This could be an EPIC Weekend project or an ongoing, daily effort but either way keep your eye on the prize. Enlist help, get the kids involved, and don’t give up!

Resources:

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

10 Tips for De-cluttering by Peter Walsh (quick read with great tips for beginners!)

How to Declutter your Entire Home Going Room by Room by Elizabeth Larkin (awesome resource with clickable guides to help focus on results!)

Eliminate Excess Challenge:

Choose one room and commit to really eliminating all the excess from it. Look around and imagine how this room would look if it was void of any items that don’t spark joy or add value. Grab some boxes and bags and get to work!

Be sure to check out the other posts in this series:

Simplify Your Life Challenge

 

Dear Target (Part 2),

About that Boycott (2 months later) or Dear Target Part 2

It’s been a couple months since I wrote about my concerns over Target’s announcement that their bathrooms were essentially gender free. With a lot of thought, and significant sadness, I decided to stop shopping at one of my favorite stores. Since then, I have read many responses to this issue and I want to be very clear about where I stood and where I stand now. I would like to say a few things about my stance:

I am not a bigot. Please take my post as it is written, in honesty and believe that I am NOT covering up bigotry with fabricated safety concerns. That is categorically untrue. I would like to re-iterate emphatically that my choice not to shop at Target was not because I have a problem with transgender individuals using the bathroom. IMG_2075Instead it is because I am firmly convinced that this public announcement from Target opens the door to predators having easier access to my daughters and America’s daughters. I do not think that this is a theoretical risk. I am confident that this is a definitive and undeniably dangerous situation that Target is placing the public in. There is evidence of this already being an issue:
*Man uses Women’s Locker Room 

*University of Toronto reverses policy due to abuse

*Man undresses in front of children at Walmart

*Jason Pomares records hours of customers in store bathroom

*Man claims to be transgender to gain access to women at shelters

*Man dressed in wig and bra arrested in women’s room quoted as saying he took “a shower in the girls’ locker room for sexual gratification”.

I am not a half-hearted blogger. I saw a few posts that were making fun of the boycott and saying that if there was another launch of a popular brand (Lily Pulitzer, for example), boycotters would drop their “values” and race with their Redcard to the nearest Target. I can’t speak for any one else, but I did not take my decision lightly. This issue is of paramount importance to me and no discount, event or holiday would change my mind. I have not walked into a Target since my post from April. I have not shopped at Target.com. I have not spent the giftcard in my wallet. It’s fine if you disagree with me, but please don’t attack my character by suggesting I am not sincere. Believe me, if nothing else, I am incredibly stubborn.

Many Rape & Abuse Survivors feel re-victimized by this societal turn. A large segment of society is being ignored. For the most part, Target (and businesses that are following in their footsteps) are ignoring the needs of a LARGE demographic: Rape & Abuse survivors. (Statistics are hard to find for this group, but the consensus is that the numbers are high and vastly under-reported.)  These individuals have been ignored, silenced and often punished for reporting. Kaeley Triller says this much better than I ever could, please read her perspective.

I won’t be quoting the Bible in regard to this. I’m a firm and committed Christian, but I don’t expect Target (or any corporation) to follow Scripture. Target is not Christian and we can’t expect unbelievers to respond the way believers should. However, I would hope they would respond to their customer’s safety concerns as people of all beliefs should seek to protect the most vulnerable of society.

I understand that Bathroom policies are NOT the biggest issues at stake in our rapidly changing world. I have seen lots of people criticizing bloggers like me because there are bigger problems in the world, and that is absolutely true. I am not saying that this topic is more important than terrorism, starvation, child abuse, abortion, or other scores of social issues. I am speaking up about this issue, frankly, because I am a mother of young children, a shopaholic, and I have always been a loyal Target shopper. Also, coincidentally, my Target does NOT have a family bathroom. So everyone saying “just use the family bathroom” needs to realize that isn’t available in all stores.

Target’s response to their customers’ concerns has been inadequate. From the beginning, I never anticipated Target to reverse the policy. I had hoped that they would clarify it, speaking out against pedophilia and voyeurism. I had hoped they would respond with some clear safety steps to prevent what we fear. I had hoped they would express regret that they were alienating a large portion of their customers. I had hoped for sensitivity. Target’s corporate response can be found here.

At the end of the statement, the CEO compares this scenario to Target’s early use of black models in advertising in the 60’s, which was met with public backlash. I can’t even respond to this, because it’s clear that Target is completely ignoring what millions of customers are saying: “This is not about Transgenders. This is about the very real danger of predators, and a Corporation putting our children at risk.”

Target reiterates: “And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target.” Clearly not, in this case. Target’s sales continue to go down but they seem to be blaming it on abnormal seasonal shopping trends, rather than acknowledging that many of us are boycotting.

So for me, I still won’t be shopping there. It will be interesting approaching back-to-school season and the upcoming holiday shopping season, when I typical hit multiple Targets dozens of times. (For those of you who are skipping Target in the future, be sure to follow my blog for all the non-Target deals I round up. ) My wallet will be in better shape from this lifestyle change. With all my spare time not shopping at Target, I’ve managed to do more cooking, a couple of DIY projects, and I even went to the gym and worked out for the first time in four years.

Dear Target, now that I’ve gotten some distance from our relationship, I realize it was never a very healthy one. You were just in it for my money, and you never really cared about me at all. I’ll miss you, but we’re apparently better off apart.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to my daddy Alan who led me to Jesus as we sat together in an orange recliner over twenty-five years ago. No gift could ever be as precious as that, but he has loved me every day of my life and showed it through actions and words. And sometimes by making fun of me.  Despite the loss of his own father as a young child he has been the ultimate example of a supportive and committed parent to his four children. He also loves his four grandchildren with the blinding light of a thousand suns.

Happy Father’s Day to the strong and godly men that have been a light in my life: Mr. Gerald who gave me a deeper understanding of God’s character than I ever had before and has always encouraged me. Mark, my father-in-law, who has shown me kindness since Day One and takes advantage of time with his grandchildren to really get to know them.

Happy Father’s Day to the amazing man who is father to my children: Craig Prescott I love you and praise God for your love for your family!
And here is the kids’ poem to their Daddy:

On this very special day

We have a lot to say

We’re thankful for you

And all that you do

You go to work before the sun

We know your office ain’t that fun

Some days you’re the only one

To stay till all the work is done

At home you press on without rest

Helping us to do our best

Mowing, cleaning, cooking too

Sometimes it seems that’s all you do

Clayton loves the star wars play

You do it almost every day!

You often win at Monopoly deal

But you still care about how we feel

You read to us and make us laugh

You give the dog a bubble bath

You teach us lots and lots of facts

You pay the bills and all the tax

Daddy, we love you and we pray

You have a Happy Father’s Day

Love,

Your family

May Favorites: All my favorites right now!

I seriously LOVE favorites lists. I love favorite baby products lists, favorite back to school lists, favorite cooking utensil lists, favorite recipe lists. No matter where I am reading, browsing, or scrolling, if I see “Favorites” I will stop immediately. I mean, if it’s your favorite, it might be my new “ISO”, and I love my ISO lists! (Check out my post here to learn how I use ISO lists to find awesome deals!)

Here’s my current Favorite list:

  • Salted Caramel Simply Bliss Creamer  I knew the moment I saw this flavor I would love it. Simply Bliss Salted Caramel Coffee Creamer is like a Starbucks Salted Caramel Frappachino, except better because you will be able to pronounce all the ingredients (NONFAT MILK, HEAVY CREAM, CANE SUGAR, NATURAL FLAVOR, SALT) and you can control the sweetness! Love it!
  • Not Your Daughter’s Jeans: do you know how you buy a pair of jeans and then you come home and sooner or later you realize you hate them? Yep, that’s the worst and that’s what happened pretty much every time I bought a pair of jeans UNTIL I discovered jean perfection in NYJD (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans). I have gotten mine from thrift stores, ebay, Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx. You can find them on Amazon also! They have the perfect stretch (without the dreaded waist gap), the perfect snug fit, and lots of great styles. I think I have about 10 pairs of NYDJ and I have been slowly replacing all my other pants. Warning: NYDJ takes vanity sizing to a new level. In NYDJ I wear a size 2, even though my typical size is closer to 6/8. Best part: NYDJ are made in the USA!
  • My new monogrammed Yeti Mug. Thank you Angie, I seriously love it! I have done so much better drinking my water this last week. Ice in the morning is still ice at night! It also keeps hot coffee hot even when I have added a unhealthy amount of that delicious salted caramel creamer. And the monogram is gorgeous!
  • The FastDiet. I am happy that I can succeed at this diet and for me it is totally sustainable. It gives slow and steady weight loss, and gives me back a sense of control over my eating habits. Check out my post on this way of living here.
  • My rescued window that my hubby painted for the mantel. I love it! Knowing how much my hubby hates home improvement projects makes me love it double!
  • Fixer Upper. I actually talked to a friend the other day who had never seen Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines. How can this be? My entire family loves this show. My four year old actually asked if we could call Fixer Upper to help us with our mess of a house. (Joanna, if you want to fly out to the EC, we can give you a “fun” project).
  • Plant Therapy Essential Oils. I have just started dipping my toe into Essential Oils. For the last few months I have been reading about some of the science and safety and I am really impressed with Plant Therapy’s education, pricing, and business model.  We have only tried a few products but I am specifically really loving the Relax Synergy. I have been using it at night before bed and it’s definitely helping my stress levels!

Let’s be honest, I have a TON of favorites, but I will save a few of them for other days. Now it’s your turn, share your current favs in the comments!!!

Dear Target,

Dear Target,

Yep, it’s me, your old friend Leah. I remember shopping at your store when I was a little girl, before you got your makeover and became the trendy discount alternative that you are today. When I got married, I registered at Target. When I had babies, I registered at Target. My Target card is the only store credit card I own. The cartwheel App is on my IPhone and I share Target deals on Facebook frequently. When I was a bleary-eyed mama to baby twins and could barely put one foot in front of the other, I clicked their Graco carseats (from Target) into their stroller (from Target) and I went to Target. My fussy babies seemed distracted by the bright colors and friendly voices. Somehow I felt like my life would go back to normal, as I did something normal with all the other normal folks pushing their red carts from aisle to aisle.

Target

It became a joke on the weekends that my husband just knew he would end up having to go with me there for one thing or the other. I have reviewed and raved about your store brands (your baby wipes are the only ones I will use), I have blogged about my love for your company and I’ve snapped selfies of myself as I enjoy a blissful child-free trip to your store. Your store associates know me, my house is full of white and red handled bags, and my children can navigate your toy department better than some of the employees. And all that was before you added a Starbucks.

I am not alone. Target has become the retail home away from home for many enthusiastic shoppers, and a particular favorite for moms. I constantly run into friends at Target. I have always felt catered to, appreciated, and included at your store. I love you, Target!

When I saw your announcement about the bathroom policy this week, I felt like I had been slapped in the face. Slapped in the face by a friend, no less. A place I had felt welcomed, a place beloved and familiar had just made a change that would alienate thousands of their loyal customers. This has nothing to do with politics or even religion. It is just about common decency, common sense, and public safety. I have no problem sharing a bathroom with a transgender woman. I’ll pass her the paper towels just like I will for any other woman. But opening the bathroom door to male or female regardless of biological sex based on their claim of identity is dangerous.

I had just started letting my nine year old girls go together into some bathrooms, but I am still nervous. Strangers are strangers after all, male or female. With the protected opportunity of entering a female public restroom you are giving a gift to the community; the predator community, which is sadly much larger than the transgender community. Now every customer is vulnerable. Any crime that is committed in a Target dressing room or bathroom will be clouded with confusion because the space is now virtually unisex. There is no way of gauging a person’s motives or thoughts and now it will be harder to prove the guilt of any man because he has been invited to a space where women and children are most vulnerable.  The countless women who have been sexually assaulted and abused by men will now feel like they are being victimized all over again during a simple shopping trip. In effort to show compassion and inclusion to a few, you have alienated a huge group of parents and women. I hope it’s worth it.

I have never participated in a boycott and I didn’t expect to, but this issue is too big, too dangerous to ignore. I will be going to Target today. I will be returning the merchandise that I have at home brand new and unused. I will be deleting my cartwheel app. I will be cutting up my RedCard. I will have to explain to my children why we may be shopping at Walmart, which none of us will enjoy.

Dear Target, I love you. I will even forgive you. But I can’t be around you when you are making such dangerous life choices. Please write if you change your mind.

Sincerely,

Leah Prescott

Real Mac & Cheese in the Instant Pot

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products I truly believe in or desperately want to try.

This is a crazy easy alternative to boxed mac and cheese.

While it’s not a health food, it is REAL food with real ingredients and definitely tastier than the microwave version.

And guess what you cook it in? That’s right…my favorite thing: the Instant Pot (affiliate link). Are you tired of hearing about this appliance yet? Sorry….not sorry. I can’t help raving about something that saves me SO much time. *note: if you want a normal size portion, you are going to want to half this. I supersize everything.

Real Mac & Cheese Instantly

5 cups elbow macaroni noodles

4 cups water

2 cups half and half (or whole milk)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp nutmeg

4 tbls. butter

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)

5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Spray the inner pot with cooking spray and stir in 5 cups uncooked noodles, 4 cups water, 2 cups half & half, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dry mustard and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. Give it all a good stir, close the pot and seal the vent. Push manual 7 minutes or HIGH pressure 7 Minutes depending on your model. When the timer beeps, do a quick pressure release (QPR). (be careful, this spurts up pretty high so I throw a dishtowel over it.) Next stir in 4 tbls. butter, 1 cup of half & half, and 5 cups of shredded cheese.

That’s it….shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes from start to finish. Enjoy!

Sibling Day

Sunday was Sibling Day, and on that day my sister and her husband gave me an unexpected gift. They let me join them for the birth of my nephew. It was a scary, sweet, and breathtaking moment that I will never forget. The experience gave me a new appreciation for almost EVERYONE. I appreciated my mama, for going through that four times. I appreciated my dad for being with her and caring for her. I appreciated my sister for letting me step into that private moment and for her amazing strength and calm. I appreciated her husband for being there for her with so much love. Also, my appreciation for my husband is magnified because I truly didn’t understand the enormity of experiencing childbirth as the support person (I wasn’t even in that role myself, just observing it really). Now I understand a little bit better how that must feel.

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I am sure I will soon post again about my sweet nephew Han. I am overwhelmed with amazement. He is so precious, beautiful, smart and strong. I am also amused at my desire to tell everyone, even strangers, about this new addition to our family. (I have seen this second hand, but never experienced this myself.) Happy Birth week, dear baby Han! And thank you Caroline for the best sibling gift ever!