The Search for Natural Carpet Cleaning

My OxiClean method of carpet cleaning is great for getting carpets clean. However, with a little one rolling around in the floor these days, I wanted something that was more natural. Cleaning with Young Living Thieves cleaner worked well, but that stuff is expensive and it isn’t the easiest to get your hands on. I got to thinking there had to be something cheap, natural, and easy to purchase that I could clean my carpets with.

Let me start by telling you that I should come with a warning sign that says, “Warning! I void warranties!” If you use anything other than the branded cleaning solution for your carpet cleaner you will void the warranty on the carpet cleaner. I’m just not down with that life. I cannot be limited to only products that say “Hoover” or “Bissel”. It seems like such a scam. Anyway. You’ve been very warned that you can void your warranty if you do anything I do.

My carpets are super dirty. I haven’t cleaned them in a year! Actually, more like 14 months. I have super cheap and very old carpet. We rent, so there isn’t anything I can do about the carpet. It was old and dingy when we moved in 9 years ago and SURPRISE! That doesn’t get better with time.

Also, I am well aware that professional cleaning is probably better. However, I cannot afford quarterly professional carpet cleaning for these old, cheap carpets in our house we rent. If you can afford someone, awesome. If you can’t, keep reading, because you are who this is for.

I started with my dining room. There was slime in the floor from a recent kid experiment. There was some paint, some turmeric, and several spilled drink spots. You start by emptying your room as much as possible and vacuuming the floor.

First I decided to try vinegar. It is super cheap. And I figured it might smell weird, but it might be the magic carpets need. I did two passes over the area with a half a cup of vinegar mixed into my clean water. It cleaned really well but did nothing for the stains. And it didn’t get up the slime, which is weird since it is water soluble.

Next, I grabbed a bowl and filled it with hot water and about a teaspoon of Castile soap. I usually have the hemp almond scent, but the rose was on sale, so we have rose right now. I use Castile soap for all manner of cleaning around my house and can get it right down the road. With a scrub brush, I scrubbed the stains and the gunk (slime) that didn’t come up with the vinegar alone.

This is after vinegar but before scrubbing.

After spot scrubbing, I decided it was time for the rinse portion of cleaning. When I “rinse” my carpet after cleaning and scrubbing, I just put hot water in the clean water portion of my carpet cleaner. No cleaning solution. You can add a few drops of essential oil, but mine was already smelling pretty strongly like rose, so I skipped that step. If you are using essential oil in the rinsing portion, you should be aware of a few things. The first is that you should always add the oil after you fill the water reservoir. If you add the oil first it can mess up the carpet cleaner by getting oil in little spots it probably shouldn’t be settling in. Next, do not use citrus oils, they can break down plastic, which is pretty much the entire carpet cleaner- so skip that one. If you want to use oil, but want to be a bit safer on your machine, grab a spray bottle and fill it with water and a few drops of oil, spray that over the carpet and then rinse the carpet. You’ll still be sucking the oil up, but not in concentrated amounts.

After the rinse, you can go back over the carpet again and not use water at all to suck up the excess water. I usually do this so it doesn’t take forever to dry.

So, the vinegar wasn’t the best at carpet cleaning. It really did clean my carpet. I can tell you, it is very clean. But you can see that there are still a lot of stains. However, I feel comfortable letting the baby wallow around on this. But I wasn’t entirely pleased with the results. So, on to the living room and a different method.

Same story. Remove as much of the furniture as you can. Vacuum the room. This time, I decided to give baking soda a shot. I put 1/3 cup of baking soda into some hot water to dissolve it, then poured that into the clean water.

You can see the little fuzz balls that accumulate. Just pick them up after each pass. This always happens to me, despite vacuuming well before starting. The baking soda wasn’t great. It feels like OxiClean on the floor. A little film going on. But it just wasn’t cleaning all that well. So, I switched tracks again.

This time, I decided to just use Castile soap. I put a capful in the clean water tank and set out to clean again. This time, it did much better.

I still had to spot clean some spots. And not all of them came out. Turmeric stains something awful. But I spot cleaned the same as before with Castile soap and a scrub brush. Then I rinsed the carpet with clean water. Then I went over it “dry” to suck up as much extra water as I could, so it wouldn’t be too very wet.

I am much happier with these results. I feel like the Castile soap got the slime and stuff up much better. The carpet got much cleaner looking. And it didn’t feel weird after. Castile soap is the clear winner. I was a little concerned that it would bubble up too much and affect the suction on the carpet cleaner, but using just a capful in the water seemed to be enough to clean but not enough to make a bubbly mess. (Like that time I put Dawn dish soap into the carpet cleaner.)

If you’re wanting your carpet to look new, use the OxiClean. If you want it clean, but are more concerned about having a kid or pet safe product, use the Castile soap. The Castile soap works just as well as the Thieves Cleaner did. My carpets aren’t perfect. I still wish I could pull them up and put something else down. But they are clean and they look a lot better. And the baby can wallow on them and I won’t worry about the residual cleaning product getting on her.

And to answer the common questions. I do not recommend any one carpet cleaner over another. I’ve used Hoover and Bissel. I have reviewed carpet cleaners for both companies. I’m not affiliated with one or the other. The cleaner in these pictures is the Hoover Powerdash Pet because that is the carpet cleaner I am currently reviewing. But I haven’t ever had one home carpet cleaner that was just stand out better than the others. They are all pretty much the same to me.

I purchase Castile soap at my local natural grocery store. I have purchased from Whole Foods in the past. And I have purchased it from Amazon. I have only used Dr. Bronner’s. It is what I like, so I keep buying it.

I am not a Young Living consultant, but I’m sure you know one if you want to try the Thieves Cleaner method. I was a consultant, but selling stuff isn’t for me, so I stopped. In fact, I need to update y’all about my oil purchasing. Because I still very much use and love essential oils. Need a consultant? Post on Facebook and I’m sure a dozen of your friends will be happy to sell it to you.

**This post contains an affiliate link (for the Castile soap). Using this link to purchase the item does not cost you more, but I do make a small amount from the purchase. Thank you, in advance, for supporting me by using my affiliate links. Support your favorite bloggers by using their links when you want to make a purchase. **

Advice to Large Family Parents

Being a large family can be very lonely. People stop inviting you over. You try to understand. You are an entire party in and of yourself now. It feels like you’re only invited to a party last minute when someone realizes they don’t have great guest numbers. Or maybe you have stopped accepting invitations. You feel like you are just too much and so you stop showing up. Either way, the result is feeling lonely. Here are a few tips for that:

– Stop waiting for invitations and start inviting people over. Maybe it can’t be weekly, but it could be monthly. Your house may not be spotless or quiet, but I bet it is fun and lively. Perfect for a party! Invite friends to eat at your place. Host holiday celebrations on your own. Rebuild your community network by being the host.

– Stop saying no to the invitations that are offered. If someone invites your whole family over, they’re accepting the crazy that comes with a large family. They probably really do want you there. You don’t have to feel bad about it being a little hectic. By all means, try to make sure your kids are completely squirrelly, but accept the invite if you can.

– Start asking family to visit you. It really can be a lot to take 8-12 people into someone else’s home. It can be a lot to take one toddler into the home of someone without kids. But instead of just skipping out on family stuff, ask them to come to you. It is easier to fold a few extra people into a big table than a lot of people into a small one.

– Reach out to other parents you might know and work out moms and dads nights out. Let all the dads hang with the kids at one person’s house while all the moms crash another. Then next time, repay the favor.

– Meet up with friends in public places to eat. Take the pressure off anyone feeling the need to host a large crowd. It can be expensive to take a large family out to eat. It can be stressful, especially if you never do it. But kids typically learn good eating out manners by having the opportunity to develop them by eating out. Consider hitting up a pizza place where you can buy a few large pizzas instead of somewhere where you order a meal per person. Or meet in a park one afternoon with some coolers of ice cream.

You may have to get a little more creative about gatherings and you may have to put aside some hurt feelings over why people don’t want you to come over anymore. But you can still create an awesome community and you don’t have to be lonely.

Another issue a lot of large families face is feeling weird. You perpetually feel like you don’t fit and like you don’t belong. Here are some tips:

– Your family is large. Intentionally, unintentionally on your part, God gave you this family. There is no changing it, only accepting it. You need top accept your family and not feel embarrassed about who you are. I know a lot of large family parents who are perpetually embarrassed about being a large family for one reason or another. This just makes you feel so much worse when the random stranger makes a heartless comment or when a family member passive aggressively slights your family.

– Be proud of your family. Go beyond just accepting it. Rework your inner narrative and be proud of the family God gave you. Embrace and celebrate what makes you different.

– Make new friends. I actually give this advice pretty often. When you feel bad about your life because of the people around you, it usually isn’t time to change your life, but change your friends. Make friends with other large families or at least people who respect your family. When you have six kids, you won’t feel weird at all if you hang with moms who have eight.

– Accept that your family is different in the best way and stop trying to fit the 1.5 kid mold of our culture. There are restaurants I won’t visit, not because I don’t like the food, but because the environment isn’t conducive for a party of 9. There are things large families cannot do and it is easier and happier to just accept those things than continually try to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Family memberships that only include 4 children are never going to be for us. Baseball teams that schedule something every single night of the week are never going to work when we’re balancing schedules for 9 people. Large families come with our own benefits. You can have an entire ball team with just your family. You don’t need anyone to come over to have the best game of hide and seek ever. You can get a group discount without begging another single person to join you. Embrace the benefits. Shake off the small family mold.

– Surround yourself with things that encourage you. Listen to podcasts that help you embrace your role as a parent of many. Read blogs and books that encourage you in your role. Follow other large family moms on Instagram. Link up with others like you around the country on Facebook. Use social media to help encourage you. Make it a point to surround yourself with encouragement for your journey, not someone else’s.

– Our God does not put any shame on your family. Any shame or guilt you feel about your family is not of God. Reject it. Stomp it under your feet in Jesus’ name! Our God says children are a blessing. Our God says you are blessed. Our God says be fruitful and multiply and you have obeyed. The shame and guilt of this world is not from our God. Put that mess behind you. “Get behind me Satan!” Know who you are in Him and know how blessed your family is to Him.

– Don’t get a chip on your shoulder about your family. Be proud in who you are without turning that around as judgement on others. Some families are smaller and that doesn’t make them less that you, just different. Take from that well of grace you’ve been given and show the same. Too often our security in our own life turns and judges others for not being like us. We cloth diaper, so everyone should. We grind our own wheat for bread, so everyone should. We have ten kids, so everyone should. Be as accepting of other families as you hope they are of you. Judgy people are miserable. Don’t be miserable. Be confident in yourself. And love others.

Then there are the practical considerations. The idea that your house must run in a certain way because you are a large family. You read large family books and the main portions are about organization and you feel, well, completely unorganized.

– Know that the authors of all the large family books are not trying to shame you for being a hot mess mama with a lot of kids. There is this perception that all large family moms are these super organized women who run the house like a well oiled machine. Then we feel guilt and shame because we don’t measure up. These women had no intention of shaming you. I mean, I don’t know them personally, but I’m thinking the best of them here. They are sharing their systems to try to help a mama out. They found what works for them and they just want to share it in case it helps you out, too. If it doesn’t help you, don’t do it!

– The best system is the one that works. We all know large families do require a little more thought about the average family because that is just the way life works when you’re adding more little cogs to the works. You’ve got more plates to keep spinning, so you’ve got to figure out how they spin. I don’t think this applies specifically to large families. I remember the first few times I had to venture out in public on my own with two babies. Even something as simple as how to get out of the car and into the car had to be a well thought out process. Who goes in first? Can I leave that one in the car while I walk around to the other side? If I take him out and put him in the stroller, then I’ll have to turn my back on the stroller to get her out but if I take her out first, I’ll have the same problem in reverse. I think parenting just takes a little more thought and the more kids you add to the mix, the more complex things tend to get. You do you, though.

– Be willing to adjust. You find the perfect laundry system and it works beautifully for about 7 months and then suddenly, it just isn’t working. And I know you bought 16 color coded laundry baskets. But if adjustments need to be made, adjust. You don’t have to rework the entire system (preaching to myself here), but you can make changes to make it work. And know, you’ve got about 7 months of bliss while it works and then you’ll be back here again.

– Your version of organized may not look like someone else’s. It is fine. You do you.

– You can’t change your family or the personal dynamic of your family, so when setting up systems for the flow of the household, keep in mind you can’t change the people in the household. If your toddler keeps reaching for the same vase over and over again, it can be tempting to try and change the toddler instead of just moving the vase. You know what is important to you in terms of character building and boundaries with your kids, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about trying to change my kids into someone they are not to make a system work. My kids do not wash clothes. I am super anal about how certain items are washed and on what settings. I’m really picky about the order of importance of things washed. So, I don’t have them wash clothes because they can’t be me in washing them. Instead of trying to change them into little versions of myself about washing clothes, I choose to set up the system so I do all the washing. (They put them away and I choose not to look at how they end up in the drawers.) That is what works for us for now. Just keep in mind that you can change your systems, but not your people.

– Know your priorities. Your priorities might look a lot different than mine. But know what they are so you can live as intentionally as possible. The more people you put in a family, the more opportunities there are for things to take your resources. There is only so much time in a day. There is only so much money in your bank account. Knowing your priorities will help you say “yes” to the things that matter to you enthusiastically and “no” to all the rest without guilt.

– Embrace Costco. Or Sam’s. Or BJ’s. Or whatever buy in bulk place you have near you. I did not want to go that route for so long, thinking, “Who needs a flat of toilet paper?” The answer, of course, is that I do. I need a flat of toilet paper. Now, some things are not cheaper in bulk, but many things are. I don’t know what I would do without bulk string cheese now. Embrace it. These places are made for you. When you start noticing how few Pop Tarts come in a box, time to start thinking about that Costco membership.

What advice do you have for large families? Leave it in the comments!

I Tried Aldi


So many people have told me about the life changing magic that is shopping at Aldi. I have read forum posts in praise of the grocery store chain. I see Pins about the magical budget solution Aldi is. Friends have been aghast that I have never stepped foot inside the place. So, I finally took the plunge. With so many various people telling me about the glory of the store, it was time.
Imogene and I grabbed a quarter and headed to our local Aldi. First, they told me I needed a quarter for the buggy. They told me I would get it back. They did not tell me how to use this magic buggy. It took us a minute or two to figure out where to put the quarter. But we finally figured it out. No thanks to the 3 people than angrily huffed around us getting their own buggies and not letting us in on the secret quarter spot.
We walk toward the door, which is laid out completely backwards. The entrance is on the left, the exit on the right. That isn’t how this works. That is just anarchy. It was maddening to walk through the WRONG right way in. (Have I mentioned I have been diagnosed with mild OCD? I took my therapist’s advice and just made myself do it, despite my discomfort. “Live with the discomfort,” she tells me. And I did. Very much discomfort.)
Entering, it appears they are trying to have an IKEA type system here. All traffic flow moving one direction. No going back. Only this first section looks like a walk through a typical convenience store. Off brand chips and pretzels. Not at all what I am there for. And none are a seemingly good deal.
We get to the dairy case where people have raved about milk and egg prices. I was not at all impressed. $0.10 a gallon cheaper for milk than my beloved Kroger. The doors lead to some abyss that is their dairy cooler. I’m pretty sure the way things are just thrown and stacked around isn’t up to code. I wonder if grocery stores have health inspectors. I worked at a grocery store, you’d think I would know this information. My giant pregnant self has to try to move a cardboard pallet that has a couple squashed and leaking gallons of milk left on it to try to get to the new pallet underneath. The milk on the full pallet barely looks better. But I am squatting and leaning into a grocery cooler and am starting to loose feeling in my toes, so I grab a couple of smashed up gallons and hope for the best. I go to check the eggs. They are the same price as Kroger, but I am here, so I might as well buy these. All smashed. Like someone dropped a milk pallet on top of the eggs this morning smashed. No eggs it is.
We move on to the produce. We’ve heard about the wonderful prices. I supposed paying $0.11 per pound of bananas sounds fabulous, but very few of the bananas appear edible. Every single bag of clementines contains at least one molded clementine. Every single bag of potatoes contains at least one very rotten potato. (Super pregnant nose knows.) The prices are actually higher than Sprouts, but the food is almost inedible. Why pay ANY money for mushy onions?
We scan the canned goods. Dented cans. Prices the same or higher than Kroger. At this point, we decide to just pay for our milk and leave. The store is dirty, poorly organized, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get tetanus from the shelving. We escape before the zombies break out of the back room.
Aldi’s was straight up terrible. It reminded me of the tiny grocery store we had in rural Mississippi, only, if everyone had left the store unattended for a week. The Dollar Store is a better shopping experience, guys. I was told to expect Trader Joe’s. It was nothing like Trader Joe’s. It was like shopping at Mud Tavern grocery, which was located in a single wide trailer. It was super depressing. I asked Imogene her thoughts after. She said she felt like everything was falling in on her and she was sure this was the place of her burial.
So, there. I tried it. I hated it. I won’t be going back. But let me know, is your Aldi this terrible? And if so, how do they even stay in business? But hey, we did return our cart and get that quarter back.

Let’s Talk About Ovulation Tests

Having struggled with infertility, I became one of those crazy pee stick ladies. Not just pregnancy tests! Oh no. Ovulation tests, as well. So, when I had the opportunity to test out a slew of Clear Blue Easy ovulation tests, I was super stoked. If you aren’t aware yet, this post is going to venture way over into the TMI territory. You have my full permission to stop reading now if you aren’t into that sort of thing.

Now, for my family and friends, I have to say that this does not mean we are trying to conceive the seventh. I find tracking my cycles to be helpful, no matter what stage of life we are in. My cycles are on the irregular side, so knowing when I ovulate helps me predict when I can expect my cycle so I’m not caught off guard like a sixth grade girl in gym class.

So, for the past three months, I have been testing various ovulation tests. First, I tried out the Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor. It is the coveted doodad among the TTC crowd. I have always wanted to try one, but never really could convince myself about the price tag. (Currently $103.69 on Amazon!) (This is NOT an affiliate link.)

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This monitor tells you if your fertility is low, high, or peak. It says low when no surges are detected. It says high when it detects an upswing in your estrogen. And then it tells you peak when it detects the LH surge. Most ovulation tests only test for LH. Since this tests for estrogen, it can tell you that your ovulation day is coming long before the LH surge, which only happens the day (ish) before ovulation. You are most fertile before and during ovulation.

You set up the monitor between days 1 and 4 of your cycle. Buy it on day 6? Too bad! You have to wait until next month (or lie to the computer). It tells you when to test. It may ask you to start testing too soon for a long cycle and you’ll use a lot of unnecessary sticks. It only lets you test once a day in the morning. If it does not ask you to test, you cannot test. It is completely in charge of the tests. So, for me, it tells me to start taking tests on cycle day 6. I obey. On cycle day 13, it gives me a “high” reading. On cycle day 18 and 19, I get a “peak” reading after 5 days of “high” readings. It has me continue testing through cycle day 21. So, that is 16 tests for one month that I needed. You can disobey and not take a test when it tells you to. But you cannot take a test when it doesn’t tell you to. The actual test strips were completely indecipherable to me. From looking at them, I couldn’t tell what the reading should have been. The first day of “high” looked just like the day before of “low”. I couldn’t really track the progress with my eyeballs, only the computer knew. For these reasons, this was actually my LEAST FAVORITE ovulation test I tried. It just took too much of the science out of my hands, which probably appeals to most people, but not to me. However, I can see how it takes so much of the guesswork and the pressure off you as you go through your cycle. So people new to tracking their cycles this way or just tired of staring at lines and thinking about when to test will find this extremely helpful.

The next test I tried was the Clear Blue Easy Advanced Ovulation Test. (Again, I got this item free to review. That link IS NOT an affiliate link.) This one was new to me and I honestly didn’t even know it existed.

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So, with this one, you have a handle that comes in a box with 20 sticks. The sticks look super similar to the Fertility Monitor sticks, but they are not, in fact, the same. Believe me, I tried to use them interchangeably, just to see what would happen. It didn’t work.

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You put the stick into the handle. It only fits one way with the arrows lining up for you. You pee on the absorbent end (or dip it in a cup of pee). The little stick symbol flashes. A few minutes later, it either has a blank circle for “low”, a flashing smiley for “high”, or a solid smiley for “peak”. It does essentially the same as the Fertility Monitor. Measures your estrogen and LH, giving you a much better idea of those fertile days BEFORE you ovulate. Now, looking at these, I can see peak and not peak. I can’t with my eye detect the high reading. I like these MUCH better than the monitor. For one, they are much more affordable. ($35.98 for a 20 pack and the handle right now on Amazon.) For another, they are smart, but not TOO smart. You can still test whenever you want, however you want. It doesn’t record anything for you. I’m currently on month two with the handle and the battery is still fine. So, if you are wanting to go the super fancy digital route, this would be my recommendation. I just like the control so much better. Now, this is still not my favorite. But it is better than the Monitor, in my opinion.

The third ovulation test I tried was the Clear Blue Easy Digital Ovulation Test. (I received these free to review, so again, this is NOT an affiliate link.) Again, you have a handle that is reusable with test sticks that you change out. It came with one handle and 20 test sticks.

wp-1481390724840.jpg(The pink one is the regular digital. The purple is the advanced digital.) Your confused right now, aren’t you? Don’t be. This one ONLY measures LH. You get a smiley or an empty circle. A simple yes or no. Now, the LH surge happens about a day before you ovulate. So, this is giving you a much smaller window. You only see the surge, much like a traditional OPK.

wp-1481390710814.jpgThe test packs color corresponds to the test stick. Purple are advanced. Pink are regular. (And the third is my internet cheapie pack.) I can actually visually confirm the results on this particular test. You see the result digitally. You see the result on the stick in the way you are used to. Kind of a best of both worlds kind of scenario. Price wise, they are currently the same as the Advanced on Amazon, so I am not sure why you’d go with the digital over the advanced digital UNLESS you are one of those people who gets a “high” reading for like, 10 days of the month. That would be annoying. My first cycle with the Advanced, I got 5 days of “high” before seeing “peak”. My second cycle, I got one day of “high” before seeing “peak”. I like these. I think they are a good, quick option. You can pee on the stick or in a cup and dip. That makes them more convenient than the internet cheapie. Plus, you’re not going to get line eyes, because it reads it for you.

wp-1481390733341.jpgThese three tests are all positive OPKs. (A positive OPK is traditionally read as the test line- the first line, which is the right line on the top two and the left line on the bottom one- is as dark or darker than the control line. The top is the advanced stick which said “peak”. The middle test is a regular digital, which had a smiley face. The bottom is a cheap internet test that you use your own eyes to read.)

wp-1481390692658.jpgThat brings me to the fourth ovulation test for comparison. The internet cheapie. (That is an affiliate link, because no one gave me these. I paid a whopping $11.99 on Amazon for 50 ovulation test strips PLUS 20 pregnancy test strips.) These are what I started using when taking OPKs. (OPK stands for ovulation predictor kit, which  generally applies to any ovulation test these days.) On these, you’re using your own eyeballs and your own judgement on if the test is positive or negative. Again, positive means the test line (line closest to the pee) is as dark OR darker than the control line. You’ll see the line get progressively darker as you get closer to ovulation. I usually stop once I hit peak. But if you were to continue, you’d see them then get lighter.

wp-1481390749065.jpgI am a crazy person and keep these tests, so I can see the test progress. Also, you can see that I bust the digital sticks free from their casing to include them in my monthly record. Now, they say not to do this. So, don’t do this. But I do this. They are difficult to see, and if I were going entirely digital, I wouldn’t do this craziness. Also, the Fertility Monitor does keep track for you. And you can use any number of phone apps to keep track of the results. But I like to see the progress. I’m a crazy pee stick person. I told you that I was.

Because I am a crazy pee stick person, the internet cheapie is my favorite. I like to test ovulation twice a day, especially when I am getting closer to it. I like to see the progress of the lines. Now, for these, you do have to pee in a cup and then dip the stick into the cup. You cannot pee directly on these sticks. You’ll pee on the dye line and mess the whole thing up. I’ve done it. Don’t do it. wp-1481393241893.jpgNow, if you’re sitting there thinking, why in the world would I do this unless I am trying to conceive, maybe you want to read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. (Affiliate link. I enthusiastically recommend this book even though I do NOT agree with all it says about the topic of birth control and such. It is extremely helpful in learning to understand your body.) Tracking your monthly cycles can give you insight into your overall health. I like knowing. I am not a temperature taker. I track signs and pee sticks. You may not be that kind of person, and that is okay, too. All OPK companies will tell you not to use OPKs as a means of trying to avoid pregnancy. They’ll tell you not to use them for NFP or FAM purposes. I don’t see why not. It is just one of the many signs, so taken in context of the whole, it can be useful for that purpose, as well.

This was actually a fun experiment for me. If there was a science fair for moms, this would be mine!

Christmas Day Devotion

It is finally here! Christmas!

Today, we celebrate the Jesus was indeed born to redeem us. He has come, and He offers us life in Himself. He has come, and He offers us hope in His name.

Our rescue has arrived! Our Redeemer has come!

We lit the candles of expectation, preparation, celebration, and incarnation! Today, we light the last candle, the Christ candle. The Christ candle is traditionally white, and in the center. Our Messiah has come. He is our light. He is our source of hope. He is at the center.

Today, as we celebrate the Savior’s birth, let’s remember that He offers to us the love of the heavenly Father. He who is the delight of the eternal Father came so that we too might be adopted into His eternal family. He wants to make us sons and daughters of His Father. He loves us that much.

While the Gospel compels us to share this message with those who do not yet know it, it also compels us as people who do already realize its wonder to rejoice and shout with gladness. Christ, our Savior, is born!

Christ has indeed come, and Christ will indeed come again! That’s good news!

Scripture Reading:

        Luke 2:1-20

Optional Activities:

·        Enjoy the day!

·        Remember that today is the first day of Christmas. Check back in for personal devotions through the 12 days of Christmas leading to Epiphany.

·        Take advantage of the next 12 days to do all the Christmas things you didn’t get around to the previous weeks. It is still Christmas! Bake the cookies. Make the gingerbread houses. Do the crafts. There is still more time in this season.

Incarnation: Advent Week Four Devotion

He is almost here! Each week, we have lit a candle. We lit the candle of expectation, the candle of preparation, and the candle of celebration! This week, we light our fourth candle, the candle of Incarnation. What is Incarnation? It is the Son of God becoming flesh.

The Christian message is not one of escaping this life so that we can get a better one. The Christian hope is not that we can rid ourselves of our bodies. The Christian story is not of a God who from afar decreed that everything’s okay and we’re forgiven.

No, the Christian message, hope, and story are rooted in the fact that Christ became one of us to redeem us. He really did.

Does that stir you? It should.

The eternal Son of the triune God became a human person, a man, to rescue us. He really did enter the womb of a virgin and cloth Himself in our flesh. He really was born. Forget about what the hymn says; He really did cry when He woke up in the night when the cattle were lowing. He really did get hungry. And when he did, He also really did nurse.

Why? Because He loved you so much that He wanted to become like you so that you would love Him so much that you would want to become like Him.

As we go through this last week before Christmas, let us not let our eyes fill with the desires of this world, on the gifts and the glitter. Let us focus our attention on God made flesh dwelling among us. A baby who would rescue us all.

Scripture Reading:

        2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

        Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

        Luke 1:26-38

        Romans 16:25-27

Optional Activities:

·        Make a nativity. Draw it. Paint it. Use popsicle sticks. I’m sure Pinterest is full of ideas. Just focus on there being real people, a real stable, a real manger, real animals, and real baby Jesus there.

·        Immerse yourself and your family in the songs of the season.

·        Discuss the reality of what Mary would have been going through this week before her son, Jesus, was born. The travel. The hardship. Extend the discussion further and discuss the reality of His humanity. He was really potty trained. He really learned to walk and read and talk. He was really taught Scripture.

·        Watch a Christmas movie about Jesus. The Nativity Story is a great one that really highlights the realness of it all.

Celebration: Advent Week Three Devotion

“Why the pink candle? The rest of them have been purple.” If your Advent candles are traditional colors, you might have noticed that there are 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, and 1 white candle. You also may be wondering why purple and pink at all. Why not red and green? Historically, purple and pink, along with white and gold, are the colors of Advent. Purple is a color that represents royalty and preparation. It is dark and serious. Pink, on the other hand, isn’t so serious. It is a color of celebration and festivity. A color of love and youth. (And if your candles aren’t purple and pink, that is okay, too.)

The first week, we lit the candle reminding us to Expect the Savior’s coming. Last week, we lit another purple candle (maybe) to remind us to Prepare for the Savior’s coming. This week, we light the pink candle (maybe) to remind us to Celebrate His coming!

The Advent of Christ is cause for celebration. Yes, we prepare ourselves. Yes, this is a serious season. Yes, we need to search ourselves for any need of repentance. However, we also recognize that our Redeemer offers us life and hope, joy and peace! He has come, and He will surely come again to put things aright.

And so, in the midst of the preparation, in the midst of our busyness, in the midst of our reflection and contemplation, we take pause and remember that Christmas is almost here and Christ’s return could be any day.

This is no call to weep and panic; this is the promise of the One who longs to put things back together. As His people, we look longingly for the return of Jesus, and we celebrate His presence in our hearts, in our lives, and in our midst.

Scripture Reading:

        Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

        Psalm 126

        John 1:6-8, 19-28

        1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Optional Activities:

·        During this week of Celebration, my family likes to do an act of kindness for our neighbors. We bake cookies, lots and lots of cookies, and we deliver them to our neighbors with our warmest wishes. Some of our neighbors know us really well. Some know us as those Christmas cookie people. We just like to spread some joy during this week. Some people might think it is weird. Some cookies may go in the trash. That doesn’t bother me at all. We are joyfully giving.

·        Have a Christmas party! You could invite some friends, or you can have it just for your family. A special meal, a special dessert, maybe even some balloons. Celebrate the Savior this week!

·        Make cards for people. Send out some cards, not necessarily Christmas cards, though you could include the kids in sending those out. But just make some cards to spread the joy and happiness of the week.

·        Have a Christmas dance party! Crank up the Christmas songs and dance and sing an evening (or afternoon) away! Joy! Joy! Joy!

·        Do something that brings you joy. You can ask each member of the family for one special Christmas thing they love and try to make that happen. Or you can take your list from week one, the expectations, and see if you can achieve any of those. Some ideas to get you started, drink hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie, drive around and look at lights, grab a peppermint latte from a coffee shop, visit a friend or family member, drop off some toys for Toys for Tots. Just something that makes you happy.

·        Remember yourself and your spouse. Do something for you. Do something just for them. They love chess pie, though you hate it? Make a chess pie this week. You love fancy nail polish? Go get a manicure! This is a week of celebration! Not just for kids, but for adults, as well.