Laura Rennie

Contentment Challenge Update

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At the beginning of January I committed to a three-month fast from unnecessary spending. I'll be honest — I did not expect it to be as hard as it's been!

Almost immediately after publicly committing to not spending money, I felt the urge to buy anything and everything. After months of not spending on home decor because I simply didn't think about it, guess what? Decorating was all I could think about. Spending money was all I could think about. It didn't help that post after post on social media highlighted items at Target that I l-o-v-e-d. I began wanting to buy clothes for Chloe, even though she has a ton of great hand-me-downs. I started buying groceries online because it was fun to browse and I could justify groceries as a need.

Most people that know me and have gone shopping with me would say I have good self control. And in a way, I do. I don't go crazy with spending. But it's become very apparent that I go crazy with looking. I never saw looking-and-not-buying as a problem before. Now I'm realizing how unhealthy it is! It's a waste of time and energy, and I'm actually embarrassed by how much I've done it.

My Personal Guidelines for January - Check in:

• I will not purchase home decor items (sniffle), books, clothes or accessories for anyone in the family or shoes for myself for three months. I will only buy toiletries and cosmetics that we've actually run out of. - Fail. I bought Chloe three items of clothing and bought myself one top. 

• I will not cross the threshold of any retail store in January unless it is to buy a gift or return something I bought in 2016. (I'm not counting grocery stores or pharmacies.) - Check-ish? I forget I was going to be in a photoshoot and the instructions were to wear something Spring-y, and not wear small prints or stripes. I dare you to find something in my closet that would work. I dashed to Target in a panic to try to find something and was terrified that someone who reads my blog would see me there. Haha! (This is when I bought myself the top.) I'm calling this one an overall success.

• I will continue to receive “play money,” (an amount of cash my husband and I both receive each month for things such as eating out with friends, golf or a pedicure) -- BUT I will put all of my January play money towards paying off my laptop. - Check! 

• I will be ruthless about unfollowing social media accounts that tempt me to compare or judge or make me question if I am missing out. - Check!

My Personal Goals for January — Check in:

• Sell some home items and clothes to put away money for a new dining room chandelier - Fail.. I'm tired of storing things while waiting for them to sell, so everything may end up at Goodwill. Most of my clothes have already been donated.

• Spend time daily reading my Bible — a habit I regretfully have broken — and expressing gratitude for my many blessings - Check! I've missed a day or two here and there, but I'm mostly on track with having morning quiet time. 

• Get back into the habit of doing a yoga workout — preferably three times a week. - I've done just okay on this one. I've been sick a ridiculous amount this month. I'm optimistic! 

• Clear out all areas of the house that have gathered *stuff* and trash, donate, sell or organize! I’ve already taken one load of adult and baby clothes to Faith House and multiple bags of various items to Goodwill, but there’s sadly much more to go through. - Semi check! I still have more *stuff* to go through, but a lot of progress has been made. It feels great. I cleaned out the twin guest room I mentioned in my first post — whoo hoo!

• Read "Grace Not Perfection" by Emily Ley, "Simply Tuesday" by Emily P. Freeman (a book I started ages ago and need to finish) and a daily devotion from "New Morning Mercies" by Paul Tripp. - Semi check! I'm doing my daily devotion and really enjoying it. I have started "Simply Tuesday" and "Grace Not Perfection" just came in for me at the library.

I think the most difficult part of this challenge is that depriving myself of spending has made me think of it even more than I used to. One thing I'm grateful for is that if I just get out of my head and go look inside our closets and drawers, I see proof that we have plenty of clothes! I take a good look at our rooms and see proof that I don't *need* any decorations. I simply have to keep reminding myself that I have enough.

For February, I plan to continue my January goals and guidelines, except for one: I might use my "play" money, but I won't use it on any material thing — I might spend it on a pedicure or dinner with a friend. 

Are you doing the contentment challenge? How is it going for you?

Dear Chloe (8 months)

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Just two days after turning 8 months, you cut a third tooth and started pulling yourself up on furniture. We can hardly keep up with your milestones — it seems you are doing something new at least once a week. I don't take this granted. In fact, I constantly think of your brother and sister in heaven and the struggles they would have had if they had lived. After carrying two babies with major health issues, I can't tell you the gratitude and joy I feel when I watch your little body move with ease.

You will hear this over and over for the rest of your life: you are a gift.

Your eighth month was full of special memories.

- You met your best friend Caroline for the first time in person. Caroline's mom Amy was one of my roommates in college, and our friendship has deepened greatly over the past ten years. God's timing with your birth is extra special because you were born one day after Caroline. I never expected to experience motherhood at the same time as Amy. We both cry whenever we think about it! The four of us met at your grandma and grandpa's house and they watched the two of you one night so Amy and I could go out to celebrate our 30th birthdays. The next morning we took you girls to Target and you both screamed and cried in the car, but were absolute angels inside the store. Maybe we just weren't driving to Target fast enough? 

- We saw your birth mom! She ate lunch with your grandma and grandpa while we were at Target, and we all got to see each other when we got back to the house. She was amazed to see how much you'd grown. She held you and talked to you, and you were very comfortable with her. We joked about your feet, which look just like hers, and your head of hair (which has been trimmed three times already).

- We celebrated your first Christmas at the cabin. It was so fun to watch your face as we opened presents! You received lots of fun gifts, but your favorites were a "Turn and Learn" toy and rubber ducks for the bath. It was adorable to watch you crawl over to your Turn and Learn over and over throughout the day. You pull it towards you, honk the horn and shriek with joy! You loved all of the attention you received from family and I loved handing you over to your grandma and grandpa in the mornings and going back to bed. :) I wish I had video footage of the reactions on everyone's face when I would bring you into the main room after getting you up from a nap. You're probably going to have some type of complex when you get older because we treat you like you're a huge celebrity. But let's face it — you're a pretty big deal. And we adore you (even though you had multiple middle-of-the-night blowouts and decided to cut MORE teeth and by the end of the trip had FIVE in your mouth). You are crazy!

- Our friend and worship pastor worked with us to put together a beautiful video about our family's story, and it "aired" at the Christmas Eve service. There wasn't a dry eye in the room! You were a trooper sitting through the service. Your aunt Katie got a hilarious picture of you on your daddy's lap looking super bored.

A few other things:

- You started going up stairs during your seventh month, but this month it was aaaaall you wanted to do! You're very confident in yourself and think you should be able to go anywhere you want. You like to climb over things, especially your daddy. We call him "daddy jungle gym." You discovered you can climb up on the bottom shelf of our end table in the sunken living room in order to get to the stairs that go up to the dining room. (See video below for proof!)

- You started saying "mama!" YAY! One time I came in your room to get you up from a nap and you grinned big and exclaimed, "mama" in a happy voice. It was the best. You said "mum" a lot in a pitiful voice while cutting three teeth over Christmas, and you say "ma!" when you want something. It reminds me of a Will Ferrell quote — "Ma! The meatloaf!"

- This month we put you face-out in the Ergo and you LOVE it! You seem to like feeling the cold air on your cheeks. You squeal and talk and kick your legs, and it's just the cutest thing ever.

- You love most of the foods I've given you, but your favorite is butternut squash. Peas are a close second!

NOMO FOMO :: The Contentment Challenge

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I first read about The Contentment Challenge by Nancy Ray a few years ago, and the idea has stuck in my head ever since — mainly because I get easily overwhelmed by STUFF, yet, I continue to buy *stuff.* 

Last fall I purged a room that we had hoped would be a nursery, and turned it into my office. It was emotional, but it felt great to get rid of all the stuff that had piled up! I moved on to organizing three closets in the house and, after all that purging, finally got to a point where every room in the house was tidied up. It was wonderful to walk through my home and see the pretty bedspread on the twin guest bed instead of seeing nothing but piled up clothes and random gift bags. I could give people house tours if they asked instead of walking past multiple closed doors, praying they wouldn’t ask to peek in. It was such a great feeling that I did a decent job of keeping up with putting things back in the correct space instead of throwing things in a guest room and slamming the door shut.

Then we decided to adopt a baby. With one week’s notice.

Good news: my office was turned into a nursery! Bad news: everything in that room had to go somewhere else in the house, and then new things had to come into the space. We moved to Virginia for a couple of months for the adoption and came home with boxes and boxes of donated and gifted baby items. It was thrilling, and also overwhelming.

That twin guest room now? Yeah. It’s not pretty. I haven't seen the bedspread in 8.5 months.

My point is, we have a lot of stuff. We don’t need all this stuff! My home is crying out for another round of purging and I am crying out for a break from things I do.not.need. I will not be missing out on anything if I don't have a pretty linen shower curtain. I will not be missing out if I don't have white couches. I will not be missing out if I don't have that "perfect" lip color that "looks great on everyone." I have a weird habit of shopping online for hours (especially after any "Beauty Uniform" post on A Cup of Jo), but I don't end up buying anything. I literally put things in an online shopping cart and then click delete delete delete. It may sound like self control, but really it’s just a waste of time. It also reveals that a part of me craves more, and I want to crave less. The Contentment Challenge is an opportunity for me to appreciate the many things I already own and exert self-discipline when it comes to unnecessary spending. I’m going to share more about the spiritual side of this challenge later, when I share my “Word” for 2017. 

The Contentment Challenge by Nancy Ray

We will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and “stuff” for 3 months, to focus our hearts and minds on the root of true contentment. We will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace our addiction to material things.

The Guidelines:

• For the next 10 days, your homework is the following: prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months.

• Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time.

• Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.

• Necessities are okay! Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have.

• You must actively pursue something – anything – that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it. 


My Personal Guidelines:

• I will not purchase home decor items (sniffle), books, clothes or accessories for anyone in the family or shoes for myself for three months. I will only buy toiletries and cosmetics that we've actually run out of.

• I will not cross the threshold of any retail store in January unless it is to buy a gift or return something I bought in 2016. (I'm not counting grocery stores or pharmacies.)

• I will continue to receive “play money,” (an amount of cash my husband and I both receive each month for things such as eating out with friends, golf or a pedicure) -- BUT I will put all of my January play money towards paying off my laptop. 

• I will be ruthless about unfollowing social media accounts that tempt me to compare or judge or make me question if I am missing out.

My Personal Goals for January:

• Sell some home items and clothes to put away money for a new dining room chandelier

• Spend time daily reading my Bible — a habit I regretfully have broken — and expressing gratitude for my many blessings

• Get back into the habit of doing a yoga workout — preferably three times a week.

• Clear out all areas of the house that have gathered *stuff* and trash, donate, sell or organize! I’ve already taken one load of adult and baby clothes to Faith House and multiple bags of various items to Goodwill, but there’s sadly much more to go through.

• Read "Grace Not Perfection" by Emily Ley, "Simply Tuesday" by Emily P. Freeman (a book I started ages ago and need to finish) and a daily devotion from "New Morning Mercies" by Paul Tripp.


Nancy designated separate themes and challenges for each month of the challenge. I don’t plan to blog about this portion of the challenge, but I will try to pop in here and there with an update on how I’m doing! If the idea of doing this challenge intrigues you, I urge you to 1) um, just DO IT, and 2) Google “The Contentment Challenge” and read about other people’s experiences with it!

Was I nervous to commit to doing this? Yes. Do I think I’ll regret it? Not for a second!

Who wants to join me?

 

Dear Chloe (7 months)

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Sweet bunny, I never want to forget the way you shut your eyes tight when I turn the light on in the morning and then open them with a big smile on your face.

You kicked off month 7 by saying "dada," which we thought was a really big deal, and then five days later you started crawling! You constantly amaze us. It was as if a switch went off in your brain and suddenly you knew how to move your arms and legs just so. You take little breaks and rest on your side like a model, and then you're on your knees again and ready to go.

We celebrated your first Thanksgiving at Meemaw's house and your Aunt Melissa snuck you a taste of whipped cream while I wasn't looking. People love to spoil you — they see those chubby cheeks and sweet smile and can't help themselves! Thanksgiving day was fun, but the night was AWFUL. You had your first cold and refused to sleep in your pack-n-play because you couldn't breathe. You could only sleep propped up between your dad and me, and you would rest for all of twenty minutes at a time before waking up screaming bloody murder, legs kicking and arms flailing. I thought I was going to lose my mind. Your screams made my heart hurt and I cried with you. I also desperately craved sleep. Your dad was a saint through it all and sang to you and walked you around the room while I wept tears of exhaustion. You've been a great sleeper since day one, so I guess we're due a few miserable sleepless nights.

Speaking of sleeping, you're still on a three nap schedule. I've read 7-month-olds can go 2-3 hours between naps, but not you, bunny! Two hours is pushing it with you. You started WAVING this month when I take you upstairs for naps or bed. I don't know who or what you're waving at, but it's adorable! You are almost always thrilled to be put in your crib and you immediately pop in your wubbanub pacifier and snuggle with your lovey.

You're one busy bee! Now that you're crawling, you are constantly on the move. It only took two practice sessions for you to learn how to climb the two stairs that separate the living room and dining room. We have to keep a close eye on you because you know how to go up, but not down. We haven't yet baby-proofed — our current method has been, "Wait! Stop! Put that cord down! Don't tear the leaf off that plant! Don't stick your fingers in the dirt!" It works some of the time...

You've recently started making a super goofy wrinkle-nose face (captured in one of the pics below) and you'll make a rapid blowing noise that sounds like a woman in labor. It's ridiculous and hilarious and I thought you were SO WEIRD, but then we found out your friend Caroline does it, too! You're not alone in your weirdness, bug.

Your fluffy pooch remains one of your favorite things. You squeal when you see her in the morning and always try to crawl after her. Casey likes you the most when you are in your high chair and you drop Cheerios and other foods on the floor for her to gobble up.

As the month has gone on, you've added a few new consonants to your repertoire. You've mastered "dada" and now say "ba" and "la." I joke that you are calling me by my first name when you say "lala."

Your mama turned 30 this month! I imagine this birthday would have been hard if you weren't a part of our lives. You're the best present I could have ever asked for this year — and what a happy surprise you were/are!

We truly delight in you, Chloe Mae. 

 

 

 

Dear Chloe (6 months)

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Dear Chloe,

I read this on Instagram recently and thought it perfectly summed up how I felt during your sixth month of life: "A good mom has bad days and great days and normal days and overwhelming days and perfect days and supermom days and just being a mom days and a whole lot of love and real and crazy motherhood days."

(Let's be honest, I feel this way all of the time.)

Month 6 has held a lot of changes and new experiences.

Sleep: As most parents will tell you, as soon as you get on a good schedule, your baby decides to change it! A month and a half ago you went to bed between 8:30 and 9. Now you go to bed around 7 and wake up at 7! You go to bed so early that by 8 or 9 p.m. I'm already missing you tons. Sometimes your dad and I sneak in your room at night and pick you up for a snuggle. We can't help ourselves. :) You now take your naps in your crib, and you usually take three naps a day... though your last nap is usually only 30-45 minutes long. You sleep more than what I read is "normal," but I'd rather have a baby who sleeps than one who doesn't! Plus, it's no wonder you're tired — you're growing SO much!

Eating: You've always been a great eater. You make excited noises when you see me get your spoon out, and you almost always burst into tears the second you realize you've sucked all the milk out of your bottle. You currently eat peas, unsweetened applesauce, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pureed meat and veg, pureed meat and rice, pears and mangos. I recently started giving you two or three Cheerios on your tray to keep you occupied while I cook and you love to pinch them and push them around. Sometimes you get one in your mouth, but you mostly drop them on the floor for the dog to gobble up.

Playing: One of my favorite things to do with you this month has been sitting out on the stoop and enjoying the fall weather. You sit in your bouncer and play with your feet and I read my book, and it's absolute bliss. EXCEPT, you recently started leaning forward and almost tipping out, so bye bye bouncer. We've also removed your play mat, which no longer kept you contained. We have three main areas of play for you: your room - where we keep most of your books along with a stacking toy and rattle, the living room - where we keep your ball and crinkly book and a few board books and the den - which has your beloved jumperoo. We recently added a johnny-jump-up to the main floor, and while it's a huge pain to get you in and out of, it's worth it because you love it so much! 

Growing: You are now 16 pounds 12 ounces and 26.38 inches long! I can't believe you haven't cut a top tooth yet because you have been teething CONSTANTLY! You started sitting up on your own right at the six month mark. Being able to plop you down wherever is fantastic. You aren't crawling quite yet, but you scoot yourself around and end up in the craziest places. I've found you under your crib, under the living room chair and under a table. You recently worked your way completely around the couch by scooting backwards. Oh, and speaking of growing — you've had two haircuts this month! TWO!

Saying: The day before you turned seven months you said "dadadada" multiple times. I thought your daddy was going to burst with pride! You continue to chat, grunt, razz and squeal, and you've been experimenting with volume — so much so that your grandma and I found ourselves shouting to each other in the car once just to hear each other over the sound of your loud babble. It isn't hard to make you laugh, and you often wrinkle your nose when you think something is funny. 

Firsts: One of my favorite parts of parenthood has been enjoying all of your "firsts." This month you went to the pumpkin patch, experienced swinging and going down a slide, wore your first Halloween costume, sat in a restaurant high chair, sat in the front of a shopping cart and sat in your stroller (instead of carseat).

You bring us joy every day. You light up our life, baby girl!

 

Cooking, reading and watching, lately

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What a wild season of life we are in. It's been stressful at times to juggle opposite work schedules with evening work events and doctor's appointments and get-togethers with friends, not to mention mothering an infant and trying to keep up with a home and feeding my family. Andy has been an incredible partner and father and I'm proud of the way we've been working as a team. Plus, I know millions of people around the world are juggling the same things and we're all figuring it out in our own way. Thank goodness for grace and coffee!

Here's a bit of what I've been up to outside of working and mommy-ing:

EATING

I usually cook meals that I don't need recipes for (or we get Pizza Hut), but I've recently tried two dishes worth sharing:

This Coconut and Chicken Curry Soup was a new favorite the second it went into my mouth. I almost always tweak recipes, but the reviews are great for the original so make it how you like! I wanted more liquid and less chicken (one breast per cup of liquid seemed odd to me). I used only 1.5 cups of rotisserie chicken, added a second can of coconut milk, upped the curry powder, lime juice, ginger and S+P and used red pepper instead of green. I served it over jasmine rice.

We also loved this Game Day Beer Chili! My tweaks: I only used one can of beans (pinto), I used only one bell pepper (orange), and I used ground turkey instead of beef. For the sausage, I used spicy ground Italian pork sausage. I also left out the tomato paste, but that's only because I didn't have any. This chili was crazy yummy! The spiciness of the sausage plus the sweetness from the maple syrup made for killer flavor! I used a cream stout, but any dark beer should be fantastic in this. And in case you're wondering what chip to pair this chili with, the answer is Fritos. (Update: if you happen to forget the ground turkey at the store, there's good news! Just add another can of beans and you're set. We didn't even miss the turkey.)

I work with two other women, and we're all obsessed with Panera's Autumn Squash Soup. A friend claims this copycat recipe is just as delicious (if not more so). I can't wait to try it! 

READING

I'm not having the greatest year in terms of books. 2014 and 2015 were amazing "book years" and I'm wondering if the difference is that I'm reading less these days, instead of the fact that my books aren't great choices? I'm not sure. Anyway, the best book I've read recently is "Present Over Perfect" by Shauna Niequist. I devoured it! Niequist writes her books almost like blog posts — each chapter is a short essay of her thoughts. People either tend to love that style or hate it. 

If you have any book suggestions for me, please share!

Also, I continue to adore Erin Loechner's writing. This post really blessed me. I'm thankful to not feel like I'm drowning 100% of the time, but I certainly have "underwater days."

"If you’d ask me for proof of my current life, of recent existence, I’d point to daily artifacts: BOB books on the credenza, cracked egg shells in the compost, burp cloths piled near the washing machine.

Me and my smallness. Holding fast to the ledge, clinging to the brick."

WATCHING

I re-watched Downton Abbey on Amazon over the summer, so, this. What a great final season. I like to watch 10-15 minutes of a show while I feed Chloe her bottle and often have something already pulled up on my computer for easy access. After I finished Downton Abbey I watched the newer version of "Upstairs, Downstairs" and then "Home Fires," which isn't being renewed. I'm mad that I got attached to the show! Now I'm watching the 1995 "Pride and Prejudice" mini-series. What should be next?

You better believe I'm watching "This Is Us" and that I cried at the end of the first episode. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who is taking their sweet time with catching up, but I will say this: bravo to the writers. I'm thankful certain events are part of the story and certain feelings are expressed. Vague, I know. Maybe I'll touch on that more at some point.

Project Runway is back! YESSSSSS! Make it work!

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While I have you... I'm on the hunt for cozy, affordable clothes for the chilly days ahead! If you have anything you love that's still in stores, let me know. And if you've been wanting to give Stitch Fix a try, use *this referral link.* 

k bye.