Monday, March 31, 2008

Blessed to be a Blessing

The other day I was talking with a young woman who is passionate about serving God and helping battered women and women in trouble. She is a wonderful gal, but she is in difficult circumstances this summer as she is required by her Bible college to do an internship, but the internship doesn't pay. She's from a family that can't help her financially, and she is not allowed to work other jobs here because she is a citizen of her home country, in Africa. She will have literally no money left for college or for living expenses this summer, yet she feels that God wants her to work full-time with a crisis pregnancy/woman's shelter this summer for her internship. She isn't sure if she can send out support letters, and if she does, they will be non-tax-deductible. She was saying that she hardly knows any Americans to send support to, but if she sent letters to friends/churches in Africa, they would scrape and sacrifice direly-needed money and by the time it was converted to American funds it would be around $10 and hardly help her out. She also can't really take a year off of college to work since her school visa is for a set amount of time and when it's expired, that's it. Her goal is to return to her home country and be a missionary working with African women and children.

I was blessed by talking with this woman and hearing stories of how God is providing for her and what He is doing in her life. When I went home I felt God nudge me and tell me that I have been blessed in order to bless others. Being frugal and shopping the deals isn't about hoarding as much as I can for ME, and MY FAMILY and accumulating a huge stash I can brag about. I have so many things stocked in my gift box and in my pantry that I have gotten for free, or for hardly anything thanks to God's blessing. So, at God's leading, I filled a couple of bags for her of medicines, hygiene items, and non-perishable food and sent it back to her college with her. She nearly started crying when I handed her the bags. At first she said she was tempted by the enemy to think that I had thought she was begging when she was telling me her situation the other day. But then God spoke to her and reminded her that HE is the One providing and desiring to confirm HIS plans in her life and it is a gift from HIM. I hope that this small gift can in some way save her money on necessities and show her that God is taking care of her, even in the little things. I also hope we can support her financially this summer as I have a heart for pro-life ministry and yet don't always know how I can help since there isn't a crisis pregnancy center in our town and we don't have an abortion clinic nearby.
I write this story, not to brag about some good deed I did, because I honestly know it was God who laid the idea on my heart, and God who provided the stuff in the first place, but instead to share with my blog readers one way that they can use what they have to bless others. Many of you are coupon shoppers/deal shoppers and I hope those of you will be willing to share with people God brings into your life. And even if you don't have a lot, sometimes God will require to give up something that you would prefer to keep, or share something you think that you can't afford to, but He will bless you for your obedience!

Project Minivan Update

Here is an update on how Project Minivan is going. Starting in April, I will be saving $20 a week of my grocery budget for this fund. God has blessed us with tons of free food recently so I know it will be very possible to do this. One of the Mexican families here left abruptly with very little warning and before they left they gave us a bunch of stuff from their pantry and several pounds of hamburger, some frozen fish, and a whole turkey from their freezer. We were sad to see them go though! One family, the most demanding one, still remains.

Here I was looking for ideas to make a few bucks here and there, and my husband, being the financier of the family, goes and saves hundreds of dollars with the touch of a pen on the budget sheet! However, I'm not complaining! So far, the Minivan Fund is at $766 as of today! Hurray! We got a notice about the Economic Stimulus refund and we are excited about that as well as it should bring our fund up to $2,400. Our goal is $3,500-$4,000, which will buy us a decent used minivan in the Twin Cities (unfortunately the picture above is just for fun, not the actual van we hope to buy!). King Jo's folks have tentatively offered to purchase and drive out a van for us in July or August. That would be wonderful!
With no surprise emergencies, and careful spending in the coming months, we should be able to buy it for cash around the time the baby makes his/her arrival!
What financial goals do you and your family have for this summer?

Try This Recipe!

One of my favorite cooking sites is Looking at the pictures of the things she makes will always make you hungry! I recently tried her homemade dessert pizza and it was yummy! I recommend it for breakfast or brunch. It takes a little time to prepare the 4 layers, but if you love to cook (or eat!) you won't mind. Definitely check out this site if you are one of the few bloggers who isn't already a fan of Tammy's. My pizza isn't that "pretty" but it tasted good anyway!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Guatamalan Gifts

Ali got a backpack purse which she proudly took to church on Easter Sunday. Notice her pink sneakers with her dress. She insisted on wearing them!

Colter sent back a Guatamalan baby carrier for me as my birthday present. Grammy models how to use it with a startled Jeremiah!

A beautiful woven wrap-around and an embroidered top to match it! I may have to save this outfit for post-pregnancy!

A pretty little coin purse with some spending money inside. Thanks Mom and Dad!

My folks spent Spring Break in Guatamala with my brother who was a missionary. They had a wonderful time and many interesting experiences. My dad, who is a business owner/carpenter/craftsman, got a kick out of the enthusiasm of the merchants in the market. They would throw candy at you and then expect you to pay for it. The merchants in the dress shop were so eager to sell my mom a dress, even though it didn't fit her, that they ripped the dress apart and re-did the seams for her so she would buy it.

To quote my brother, regarding their bus experience, 'It was jam packed and so we had to squeeze ourselves in and stand up holding onto the bar on the bus roof. They kept packing more and more people in and I kept getting forced tighter and closer to the woman behind me. At one point two large women were sitting on each side of the isle and I could barely squeeze my legs through between their thighs. It was quite a ride!" There were about 120 people on a bus built for 40!

My folks also got Jeremiah a soccer ball, Ali a little embroidered apron, Josiah a hacky sack, and our new baby some cute little woven booties.

Odds and Ends

Here's a weird question, but one I haven't found an answer to yet, so if you have a suggestion, please let me know:

Is there a "healthy" alternative to Ramen noodle soup? I get hungry for it every now and then and it's such a fast fix for lunches but I don't want my kids to grow up on MSG either! I had it a lot as a kid and like it, but was wondering if there is a better alternative?

Note to "The Momma": I appreciate all your wise advise and comments here! I've tried to comment on your blog but my computer never lets me. I was so proud of your cute shoes you posted a while back and I thank you for the tips on sugar. Even though we tried to control the Easter candy, it was a hopeless cause since everyone else gave our kids sugar and that is likely why they were so awful on Monday!

Where did I find the great books I recently posted on? I saw them in a CBD homeschoolers resources catalog and asked my in-laws to buy them. They either bought them from or If you plan to homeschool, you will find yourself drooling over everything in the CBD catalog!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sweetest Gift

My husband really blew me away this year with his wonderful gifts! He got me a gift certificate to buy some new Crocs, which I love to wear and my old ones have all the tread worn off. He got me some dark chocolate sticks to enjoy and some money for some books I've been wanting. But the highlight of my day, and perhaps the sweetest gift he's ever given me, was a homemade puzzle he made in the shop at work. He wrote all kinds of beautiful, mushy stuff on it about the day I was born and how God has worked in my life. He had sent me out of the house on Saturday to read at the park while he and the kids worked on this present. He dipped their fingerprints in paint and had them paint the puzzle. What a special gift and something I will always treasure! Ali even managed to keep it a surprise which was shocking since she told me most of my other presents (he took the kids shopping with him!) I'm not usually emotional about gifts, but I cried when I read the puzzle! Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones!
I love my darling husband who is my best friend in the whole world!

The tulip card is so cute I had to feature it on my blog. My friend Jessie made it and I plan to copy the design!


Yesterday we got a surprise package in the mail from our MN friends, the Hansons! Alathia was overjoyed with the lacing book she found in there for her. Jer got a page of Thomas the Train stickers and he proudly walked around carrying them, saying, "Too, Too" (choo choo). I enjoyed the chocolate and bookmark (a bookworm like me can always use a bookmark!) What a sweet and thoughtful friend!

P.S. I realize that almost every picture of Ali is taken in this ballerina outfit. Believe me, we are sick of it! It is her favorite thing to wear and I am so relieved when it is in the wash. She has about 30 cute outfits from hand-me-downs from church but of course she has to wear the same few things over and over and over........

Great Resources for Parents

I'm so excited about my new books. Especially after my rough evening with the kids (see yesterday's post!)

I've always been a Josh Harris fan, so of course I love this book by his father, illustrated by him when he was 18. My mom had the 21 Rules on our fridge during my teen years and I think they are great! We've already started memorizing them and coloring the pages and talking about them.

The book, Hints on Child Training is a good one for me. I enjoy hearing the wisdom of older people who have been there and done it and this guy is great! H. Clay Trumbull is the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Elliot, and he was an evangelist, a Civil War chaplain, a biblical archaeologist, and Sunday school pioneer who raised 8 children of his own. He wrote this book in 1890 but it's still practical for today. I was blown away by his chapter on denying kids things because he was talking about how many things kids "nowadays" are given and how many toys they have and how many are over-indulged. I thought, "Man, what if he could see our kids in 2008!" I haven't read all of it, but I have been especially encouraged in giving my child more choices, never scolding or yelling, and one of the best points I've read so far is not trying to over-do it. I think sometimes, especially when I'm with people I want to impress or people I'm sensitive around (like in-laws) I try to over-correct and get super uptight about making sure my kids are "perfect" or that everyone thinks I'm doing a great job of parenting. I loved how Mr. Trumbull emphasized sometimes letting the child alone and not being overly conscientious at parenting, like many in our culture today seem to be. Another great point he had was not to break the child's spirit. I've seen so many hard-core books on child discipline in Christian circles and this chapter really challenged me and helped me to see that it's not about forcing them to my will all the time, but training them to choose what is right.

Mommy Teach Me is a book for moms of preschoolers and I'm anxious to read it!

This book, published by Vision Forum, is a good storybook for children, emphasizing the alphabet and stories about Christian character.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mothering with Gentleness.....continued....

Well, after my big post about mothering with gentleness, I was really working at it and thought I was doing pretty good the past few days with the child I struggle the most with. But wouldn't you know, all kinds of scenarios have come up to test me to the limits! Plugging the toliet and overflowing it with too much toliet paper, spilling all kinds of water all over, food messes, etc.

My usually happy little guy has been a whiner and fusser and wants to be held ALL the time! He cried for half of the church service in the nursery just because he thought that I was going to leave him, even though I kept telling him that it was my week to work the nursery! He was fussy at the church Easter dinner. He is fussy sometimes at home when he has no reason to be. I'm not sure if he's teething but whatever it is, it's ANNOYING! Then my friends had a little get-together for me at McDonalds to celebrate my birthday (thanks gals!) and my daughter was being a pest and hitting other kids; kids we don't even know as well as my friend's kids. Embarrassing, but typical! Can I go crawl in a hole and come out when my kid is in elementary school? Then, when we got home my little boy was due for a bath, having smeared himself and me with my birthday cake, and I undressed him and was preparing to give my daughter her additional punishment for being naughty at McDonald's and she was screaming, he was screaming because he was scared and he began running around naked, peeing all over the carpet and the doll on the living room floor! Ahhhhgh! I threw him in his little bathtub and tried to finish up with my daughter but he was screaming like he was being tortured and kept climbing out of the shower (we don't have a big tub) and slipping and falling out of the shower and smacking his head and trying to crawl across a wet floor while slipping and sliding and screaming! I could not for the life of me understand it as he LOVES baths and jumps to take one! So here I am with a kid playing slip-n-slide in the bathroom, getting all banged up from slipping and falling, another kid screaming bloody murder and all the while trying to scrub pee up from the living room all at the same time and live through all of the insanity! I was definitely more drill sergeant-like than gentle during this whole time! I finally got them calmed down and to bed and was so weary I wanted to sit down and cry. I'm just so glad that my in-laws bought me a parenting book I'd been wanting for my birthday. I think I'll go read it right now!

....To be continued......

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mothering With Gentleness

Maybe it's the fact that I have a very strong-willed preschooler, maybe it's pregnancy hormones, maybe it's the fact that we're too much alike or that we're just human beings in general that struggle with sin, but lately I've found myself SEVERELY lacking in gentleness. As I go over the love chapter (1 Cor. 13) and review the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5) it is my hope and prayer that God would help me to exhibit more gentleness, kindness, and patience in my mothering these days. I've been less like the softspoken, wise mothers portrayed in books and movies, and more like a "Drill Sergeant Mommy." I know the reasons for this. It's because being a mom is a job that is endless, with no days off, no breaks, and duty around the clock, whether you feel like it or not. Not only that, but motherhood is physically and mentally exhausting, especially in my condition. Kids can also be frustrating. It's not just that they spilled their milk, but that they spilled their milk for the 10th time this week, and did it after smearing jelly everywhere, 5 seconds after you cleaned the whole house AGAIN and mopped the floor. It's not that they have wasted 5 minutes of your day looking for socks and shoes but that they do the stalling/dinking/whining routine about 5 times a day when you are getting ready to go out or when they want to play outside or go to the laundry room with you. It's not that you hate feeding your kids, it's just that you get sick of filling sippy cups about 12 times a day and fixing 5-6 snacks per day per child and then doing the clean-up afterward.

It's easy to see why mothers, myself a the top of the list, struggle with gentleness. We have SO MUCH to accomplish in a day, that it's hard not to feel frustrated, angry, harsh, and snappy when little someones are doing everything they can, or so it seems, to make our lives harder and more difficult as they create more and more work for us.

Which is why I decided to occasionally post on this subject, to keep myself accountable to grow in this area and to seek ideas from my blog readers on growing in Gentleness as a mother. Here are some of my ideas for getting a start on this:
1. Memorize Scriptures about Gentleness.
2. Post a few little notes around the house with verses/one-word reminders about being gentle.
3. Cut down my schedule. Every now and then I find that the boundaries I've worked hard to create have slipped again and people are taking too much of me. I need to be better about screening calls again (as I have a frequent caller who takes up too much of my time for no reason) and saying "No" to friends who invite us to playdates that will just wear me out. A less-hectic schedule means less hurrying and stressing and less being snappy with the kids.
4. Play more soft music. I had been doing this, but recently we got out of the habit. Playing classical music or soft instrumentals really sets a more peaceful tone for the home.
5. Continue to read books on rearing children and discipline. Sometimes I find myself getting all worked up and treating childish behavior like outright defiance even though it's not the same thing. I need the refreshers on how to be consistent in dealing with disobedience, but not being a harsh taskmaster that expects more out of a child then they can developmentally do.
6. Ask my husband and friends to keep me accountable to this and to check up on me and see how I'm doing in the area of Gentle Mothering.
7. Clean-up the patio and get a sandbox ready for the kids so that they can spend a lot of time outside, wearing off energy without destroying the inside of our house!
8. Me Last. Moms feel like slaves on many a day, but it's interesting how we can still be selfish in spite of our constant chores, constant service, and their constant need for us. Even if I "think" my day is all about the kids, sometimes I have to step back and realize that it's really all about me. It's about getting their needs taken care of us as quickly as I can so I can move on to tackle "my" cleaning list, "my" blogging, "my" reading, "my" agenda for the day and how it should go. I need to re-adjust my attitude so that I see each day as a chance to serve my family with a cheerful heart, realizing that some good things or desirable things may have to go or be saved for a later time when they are in bed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some Guidelines for my Couponing

I have gotten very strict with myself on couponing. I tell myself that just because it's super cheap or free doesn't mean I have to:

A. Eat it if it's yucky junk food loaded with preservatives or sugar
B. Stock-pile it just because I can
C. Bust my butt to get the deals when I'm tired or sick or can't make the trip to the store
D. Beat myself up over coupons I forgot or deals I missed that my friends got
E. Do every deal my friends do
F. Pay for something (even just a little bit) if it's something I would have never bought or would never use but decided to get just because of the coupon. This is tempting because sometimes I can get $5 shampoos on clearance for 50 cents or a dollar a bottle but I REFUSE to buy it knowing that I have about 5 bottles of free shampoo to use up from Walgreens and I absolutely DO NOT need to pay for more that will just sit around forever and will eventually be given away or sold at a yard sale.
G. Take freebies that are worthless to me (air fresheners, denture creams, etc.)
H. Compromise the quality of my life or my family time (not to mention wasting gas) in order to deal shop
I. Deal shop constantly and become a shop-a-holic even if I am a "non-spending" shop-a-holic

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Thanks to blog-reader and former acquaintence in MN, Lyndi, for the 12 packages of wet wipes you sent out in response to my complaining about the prices here! It is such a blessing since Jer has major blowouts and can use up a whole tub in a week. Thank you so much! Also, thanks to my sis-in-law for sending out about 25 little boy shirts for size 3T and 4T. I hardly ever see this size at yard sales and thrift shops and this will help out a lot for Jer in the coming year! In case you're wondering why she's giving me these shirts since she has a son the EXACT same age, it's because she ended up with loads and loads in this size and was willing to share half of them! Nice!

4 Month Pregnancy Pic

Now that a little baby bump has appeared I will post monthly pics. It will be interesting to

see if I get the most enormous with #3 since I'm stretched out from previous pregnancies. It's hard to imagine being bigger than I was with Jer since he was so close to the surface and seemed to go straight out!


I'm not a southern person nor have I been to the South in the last 18 years but lately all I've been craving is good ol' Southern cuisine like fried chicken, peach pie, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Maybe this yummy pic of my homemade peach pie will cause some of you to whip out your rolling pins and get busy making some too!


I recently got out for a night away from the kids. My friend and I and her daughter went to a play in a nearby town at a college and saw "Beauty and the Beast." It was a wonderful performance but my cough bugged me throughout the play and I sucked tons of cough drops. My poor friend though suffered the worst. We had assigned seats and guess who she would be assigned to sit next to? Her male OB/GYN from our town! He was there with his wife and daughter. Now, don't get me wrong. He's a nice guy and did his best to make polite conversation and introduced her to his wife and child. However, there is just something incredibly embarrassing about having to sit through a 2.5 hour play next to a guy who has seen it all and then some! Especially when he asks you how your post-birth bleeding is going! And not only had he delivered her baby 2 months ago, and did the 6 week check-up but he recently did another uterine procedure on her for birth control (*she's not a Christian to those of you who think bc is morally wrong for all Christians) and she has a follow up appointment with him tomorrow. Not only did she have to sit by him, but she ended up standing near him at intermission, and we were behind them in the line exiting the building. We were also behind them entering into the large college parking lot. Just when it seemed that we would never get away from him, we discovered he was parked EXACTLY next to us in a parking lot of hundreds of cars!
I know that as you age, these things don't really matter and with each kid you have you lose a ton of modesty and personal privacy. But still......I am so thankful to have midwives!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hubby is in Trouble!

The last time the pantry got a thorough cleaning was about a month ago when my husband accidentally knocked a bottle of cooking wine off the pantry shelf, resulting in wine and broken glass everywhere. He cleaned most of it and I finished up since he had to go to work. The pantry got another thorough cleaning on Wednesday, when the flimsy aluminum shelf we had bought for the pantry finally gave way. Once again hubby bumped into it slightly (our pantry is tiny and we have a LOT stored in it) and the shelf did a slow, twisting, crumple, resulting in this.....(see above photo.) Thankfully, nothing broke or spilled, which was amazing since we had plenty of open flour bags and noodle boxes and glass jars on it. My husband caught the shelf and I helped him unload it quickly. Then we did a most un-frugal thing and ran out and bought the first sturdy shelf we could find a few minutes before the stores closed in town, figuring we needed it right away and couldn't wait for yard saling season or a chance to get to a bigger town to shop around. I guess this will teach us that buying the cheapest isn't always the smartest! That aluminum shelf was always wobbling and tilting and looking like the shelves were going to break under the weight of canned goods. We now have a sturdy Rubbermaid shelf in the pantry that is a bit smaller, but is rock-solid and unyielding when you bump it. Our pantry holds all our extra food, our garage-type items (car jack, tools), my bread machine, the snowboard, picnic stuff, and cleaning/laundry detergent stuff, the vacuum, the ironing board, the cleaning buckets, and is only as big as a bedroom closet!

Why is it that everything breaks on the same day? My dresser knob broke, and my husband broke my dustpan accidentally all on that same day! I also want to know why it is that when your house is spotless, no one ever comes to visit or drops by unexectedly, but when it's at it's worst, that's when everyone comes, especially people you really want to impress, like your landlords, your folks, or ladies from church?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I love playing with Mom's good deals!

Since it has been pretty nice this week we walked to the grocery store a few blocks away a couple of times. Cheerios were on a great deal. I was supposed to get these 10 boxes for $3, but the cashier I went to is kind of a pain and gave me a hard time about using manufactor's coupons with Safeway coupons. Other cashiers have no problem making it work, but she didn't know how and so I was bummed, but $6.50 is still a great deal for all these LARGE boxes of Cheerios, which my kids eat like crazy, and each box has a matchbox car in it as well!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Heart Check-Up

A few weeks ago, our Youth Pastor, Jesse Blasdel, a good friend of ours, preached a sermon on Romans 12:9-21 at our church. It was the most challenging sermon I've heard all year! The questions are so thought-provoking I wanted to share them here so that my blog readers would be encouraged by them. I could spend a whole year, make that a whole lifetime, working on these things and never have them down completely. But with the Lord's help, thinking over these questions and putting the principles of Romans 12:9-21 into practice will cause a lot of growth in my life.

1. Are you loving others with right motives?
2. Is there evil in your life that you don't hate?
3. Does your passion for following God guide your life?
4. Are you staying connected to God through prayer and living life with an eternal perspective?
5. Do you enter into the real parts of other Christians' lives on a daily basis?
6. Are generosity and hospitality defining parts of your lifestyle?
7. Are you humble in mindset or in circumstances?
8. Are you living in harmony with other Christians so the world sees Jesus?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Making Your Home a Haven Monday

The challenge this week is the kitchen. My goal for this week is to keep the table clear every day this week as it often tends to collect a mail pile that gets bigger and bigger with odds and ends (coupons, tax forms, missions newsletters, etc.) One thing that helps keep the pile down is to have a basket of cards on one of the shelves in the kitchen. I hate to throw away pretty cards and thoughtful notes from friends and family so I save them in the basket and go through it a few times a year, enjoying the cards again and again. To the left side of the basket is a little stack of bills to be paid. Having a spot for bills helps insure that they get paid without being lost or spilled on at the table, and less clutter on the table!

The top of the microwave is another clutter-magnet. I store new recipes I find in the newspaper or jot down from the internet on top of the micro and the pile looks very unruly. I decided to sort through them and throw out the things I'm never going to get around to making and save the promising ones in a cute folder for a neater look.

The top of the fridge was getting very cluttered and dirty. All of the school-type stuff was ending up on top of the fridge (playdough, foam letters, paints, crayons, markers). It was all jumbled up. Next week's project will have to be organizing all of our school/art supplies in a plastic bin. All of our numerous medicines and vitamins were overflowing the basket and box. So, I sorted through them and put the ones we hardly use away in our first-aid kit in the bedroom. I made them look a little neater and put the ones we use often in the box that is within close reach. The basket now holds miscellaneous odds and ends.

Toddler Activity

Thankfully it's getting warmer here and we've been going for lots of stroller walks lately and letting Alathia wear off some energy. I can't wait until it's even warmer so we can set up the sandbox and have lots of outdoor play after a long winter. One activity we discovered recently that our toddler loves is making a circle or long road out of construction papers and letting her hop from one rectangle to the other. She loves this game! Sometimes we say that if she falls off the paper the crocodiles will eat her so this is extra motivation for her to jump onto the squares and has a ball burning off tons of energy hopping around and around. Just thought I would pass it on to you other moms of tots!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thrift Store Deals of the Week

I went to the thrift store only to discover it was once again $2 week. They give you a brown paper bag and you can stuff it with whatever for $2. My bag was QUITE stuffed by the time I checked out. Here's what I got:

A grandma sweatshirt for my mom and 2 little play-dresses for Ali for summertime.

Baby flannel and fleece blankets for diaper making. Also some cotton fabric for an upcoming project.

Lots of adorable little girl clothes and even a can of un-opened formula! My cousin just had a baby girl, so these are gifts for her as she can really use the clothes after having 2 boys!

A shirt for Jeremiah and a like-new basecall cap with a car on it.

A fall dress in one of my favorite colors that looks hardly worn. Also a summer maternity dress and some brightly colored maternity pants for this spring and summer.

Not pictured: 4 checkered cloth napkins for summer picnics in a festive color.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Frugal Friday--Frugal Shockers

We all have different areas we are frugal in. And I don't think we can judge other's choices either. Having said this, I've compiled a list of things that shock ME regarding frugality. You are free to disagree on these things, but these are just some things that I find to be wasteful. In the comments section I'd love for you to share some of your own "Frugal Shockers."

Things That Shock Me:

1. When people mail a letter to someone in town that they see several times a week (someone in my family, who shall be nameless, does this!)

2. Not washing out ziploc bags and re-using them.

3. When people pay $20 to have their hair trimmed straight across, or bangs cut. A layered or styled cut is worth every penny (take it from someone who tried to do their own and regretted it for over a year!) However, any husband or friend or mom can do a simple trim on long hair!

4. Buying a brand new car off the lot. Unless you have loads of money and feel God leading you to do this, I just don't understand this. The only way it makes sense is when business men (like my Dad) buy new trucks for their work because they can't be sure how used trucks have been treated and they can write a new truck off as a business expense.

5. People who don't look at sale ads at all and just buy everything top dollar. There are lots of people like this. I used to be a cashier at a grocery store!

6. Throwing leftovers away at a restuarant when they will keep perfectly well for lunch the following day if you took them home in a doggy bag.

7. Trying to motivate yourself and in the process wasting money. Some people are motivated by the expense of a gym membership, but all too often people join clubs and gyms and other things and never go, never follow through, and just waste money.

8. People who actually buy cereal at the price our local grocery stores charge. A lot of the name brand boxes are about $5 a box!

9. Buying the highest priced toliet paper, diapers, or garbage bags. Why pay top dollar for things you throw away? An exception would be if your child was allergic to the cheaper diapers or you had to have the cushy t.p. for some medical problem.

10. When people don't tighten their belts and they NEED to. I have known folks who have been in financial hardship and yet they continue to eat out, pay for luxuries, and buy fancy Christmas presents even though they barely have the money for groceries and have to live off of the credit card. This absolutely shocks me more than anything on this list! If times are bad, I believe you should live like it; rice and beans, no extras, etc.

My hubby adds:

11. When men buy big toys.

12. Eating out every day.

13. Paying money to service your car if you have the ability to do simple maintenance yourself.

For more frugal tips than you can handle, check out Frugal Friday at today!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Project Minivan

I have many financial goals in mind that I'd like to work towards. I think it would be nice to make a really big effort towards saving for a home and saving up 6 months of living expenses. I think it would be wise for us to have a will and get some life insurance (things we've been meaning to do but haven't gotten around to). However, the main goal I'd like to work towards this year is Project Minivan. This is what I've decided to call our efforts to get a bigger vehicle to hold all 3 carseats. It's debatable whether or not we could smoosh an infant carseat into our Honda, but even if we could, trips to MN would be about impossible and it would be difficult to be this smooshed even for trips around town; especially with the kids poking the newborn who was between them.

So, right now, it seems to me that a bigger vehicle is a need and we've been praying about it. We don't want to take a loan to buy a van or bigger vehicle so we figure we will need about $3,000 for a decent used minivan.

Here are the goals I have towards getting one in 6 months or less:

1. Pray daily about this need and ask for God's provision. Pray about ways of earning extra money for this project and pray that a really good deal would come to us at the right time.

2. Be entrepreneurial and look for ways to earn extra money. I'm tossing around some ideas right now but I also realize that the two kids and one in utero that I already have keep me so busy that it's not wise that I start anything big or get over-committed in this area. I want to be very careful about not taking on too much when it comes to money-making ideas. Ideas I'm tossing around: Blogging ads, writing projects, selling leather shoes, etc.

3. Cut corners and save as much as we can. If my husband can work it in, I'd like to commit to saving $100 monthly to Project Minivan; more if possible. In addition to this I will be continually trying to trim the grocery budget and my goal is to cut us down $20 per week to $85 a week so that we can put an addition $80-$100 a month into Project Minivan. (Though our weekly budget may look like a lot to some, I buy diapers, stamps for my newsletter (costs anywhere from $30-$50 per month), household products, gifts, medicines, and clothing out of this grocery budget. I also have two kids who are voracious eaters!)

4. Put our tax bonus that is supposedly coming towards Project Minivan.

5. Sell our Toyota Camry, which we could probably get $500 for.

6. Put any extra gift bonuses towards P.M. If hubby gets a raise or a bonus for some overtime hours or if someone just happens to randomly give us money (when does that ever happen?) we will put it into P.M.

I'll keep you posted on Project Minivan as the weeks and months go on. Having this posted on my blog will help keep me accountable to this endeavor.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Couple of Good Reads

Here are a couple of great things to check out on the web.

One of my favorite bloggers, Amy Scott from Amy's Humble Musings, wrote a post today about balance and love on the issue of the "Quiverfull" movement. It's one of the best, if not THE BEST, articles I've heard on the subject. So please read it here.

Also, it's hard for Christian women to find good info about how to continue to be a godly Christian woman in spite of the challenges of dealing with PMS, postpartum depression, or menopause. I have so appreciated the series done by the Girl Talk bloggers on this. Check it out here. It has been an ongoing series of posts for a couple of weeks.

The Mommy Report Card

Sometimes it's hard being a mom. You don't get paid or recognized for your work and it's sometimes hard to gauge whether your kids are actually getting the stuff you are teaching them or not and whether or not you are doing things right.
I took my daughter to the pool this weekend for some fun Mommy/Girl time and I felt like I got a glowing Mommy report card. No, it wasn't because someone walked up to me and told me I'm a great mom or that my daughter was the most angelic they've ever seen. I wouldn't have believed that! It came about after I observed what my daughter wasn't doing!

There was a little girl about 6 years old playing in the kiddie pool with us. She proceeded to fight another kid over one of the ride-on toys and shoved this much smaller kid down. Another mom got after her. She was being really agressive and hanging on to the irate's mom's son, who was about her age, and kept rough-housing with him to the point that the irate mom said firmly, "Don't touch him anymore! Keep your hands off him!"

The girl returned to the pool after a few minutes in the bigger pool and began fighting the same boy for a toy. She was dumping water on him and his mom. So the mom took the toy away and said "No!" The girl kept grabbing for it, which shocked me, because she was defying an authority figure who was clearly saying no. I heard a mom yelling at the girl from the bleachers, but she was oblivious to it. The lifeguard came over and lectured the little girl. The mom of the girl came down from the bleachers and told her daughter it was time to go. The daughter wouldn't leave. The mom, a very large woman, took off her shoes and came into the pool room door and tried to persuade her daughter to leave. The girl took off, so the mom started rolling her sweats up and attempting to get in the kiddie pool and chase her daughter. A young teen lifeguard then took up the chase and another mom in the big pool helped corral the girl and tell her to listen to her mom. The mom drug her out of the pool room, no doubt fuming and that girl was probably in deep doo-doo when they got to the car!

I sat there watching all of it and realizing that while my daughter has tons of energy and while she does sometimes embarrass me and bop a playmate over the head in front of their mom or some such thing, she is only a brand new 3 years old and behaves 10 times better than the 6 year old at the pool. It's not because I'm a perfect parent. There are so many times when it's hard to be consistent or I'm at a loss with how to handle her. But being mostly consistent and doing the best that I can, however little, has paid off in the way she acts publicly. If I called her at the pool, she would come. And if another adult tried to reprimand her, she would listen. And I can't see her wrestling a strange adult over a toy they took away or dumping water on their head at the age of 6. I haven't had to get a posse together just to wrangle her out of the pool.

This experience was a little window into motherhood for me. All the behind the scenes work really does pay off and you will get your "Report Card" someday. If your child learns manners, obedience, sharing, and is generally a delight around other people, both friends and strangers, then you can count yourself a blessed and hardworking parent! Being a good parent is not about raising kids that are the top athlete, the valedictorian, or kids that became famous or wealthy. It's not about your kid being in all the right programs or having all the newest toys/gadgets or becoming a pastor or missionary (although that would be wonderful). The badge of honor for a parent is the child's character. I realize that children are born in sin and that sometimes in spite of the parents' loving instruction, a child will turn away from the Lord, as with my brother. But even though my younger brother isn't a Christian right now, he still speaks respectfully to strangers, has a compassionate heart, and stands up for the underdog continually. He works hard and believes in right and wrong and justice and is one of the most giving people I know. He's good with children, is doing a job he loves, and deep down, I know he knows the Truth and I believe he'll come back it to it one day soon.

If a child is belligerant to authority, talks down to other kids, or doesn't lift a finger to help with anything, it's a reflection on their parents. If a youngster is consumed with material things, uses filthy language, or has racist or chauvenistic views, they're probably mimicking what they see at home. If they don't listen to their mom when she tells them to come (like our Mexican neighbor girls who are 5 and 6) it's because no one has ever enforced those commands, so why should they listen? One of my friends' who is a teacher had a student who tried to manipulate her with tears at every turn. When my friend didn't give in, the student was pretty shocked! The tears must work the parents over well at home! Other friends who are teachers in the public school system have talked about how the biggest hindrance to the kid's learning nowadays is the lack of discipline. Classrooms are like warzones these days as parents don't discipline (which means training) and teachers have policies and rules against so many things that there is hardly anything they can do except try to reign in the chaos!

Note to parents of toddlers: Life with toddlers is so unpredictable, I hope you don't take this post to mean that if your child throws a fit in the grocery store due to being tired or hungry or just himself, that you are a bad parent. The Mommy Report card concept I've discussed here is talking about kids of elementary school age on up, though hopefully you do see some results, like I do in my daughter, earlier than school-age. Our kids will never be perfect and they will always challenge us, and sometime humiliate us, but overall, the training you do at home will be reflected in how they act in public. Toddlers are still so little and so self-consumed. Believe me, I've had a few of those grocery store moments myself! But as Ali gets older and out of the "toddler years" I see her putting into practice more of those things that I've been harping on for a long time!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Trip that Almost Was But Wasn't

Thanks to all of you for your well-wishes and prayers in the loss of my Grandpa. I made a monumental effort to prepare for the trip and I was simply amazed at what a little pressure can cause one to accomplish as I flew around on Friday running tons of errands,doing final loads of laundry, packing, cleaning, cooking up a storm, and dealing with phone calls, last minute details, trip plans, etc. Of course that was the day I also took Jer to the doctor at my hubby's insistence because a cough he has had for a couple of weeks just isn't going away. The doctor discovered he has an ear infection and mentioned that RSV has been going around. They gave him a decongestant for the cough, but it's viral, so it's just a wait-it-out sort of thing. I still had plans to go to MN after that visit since he didn't seem too sick and we had the meds in hand. But that night he hacked and coughed miserably (the medicine seemed to make his cough worse) and I laid awake half the night praying and agonizing over whether or not to go. I had so many cousins counting on me to be there; people I hadn't seen in many years, and I knew my in-laws were looking forward to a quick visit from their grandkids too. My brother was excited to travel with us and he's been really nice to me lately and I was hoping we could talk about spiritual things (he's not a Christian). I wanted to be there to hug my Grandma and mourn with others who loved my Grandpa too. I wanted to be there for my Dad, who is suffering one of the hardest pains of his life and I wanted to see for myself that Grandpa is really gone. So, back and forth I agonized and prayed, knowing with each terrible bout of Jer's coughing that as a Mama, the best thing I could do for my child was stay home. Finally, an hour before we were to leave, I made the final decision not to go. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, but boy am I relieved that I did! All Saturday and Sunday Jer fussed and started acting like he really did have an ear infection and wanted to be held. Can you imagine 36 hours in a car with that? His coughing bouts have been scarier and scarier at night and it looks like we're in for another trip to the Doctor today or tomorrow as I'm pretty sure he has bronchitis or bronchiolitis and would like to see if they can give me a breathing treatment or something to ease his choking, breathless coughs. Due to the missed sleep because of his coughing bouts, I've been extra tired and nauseous for the last few days (my nausea becomes aggravated by fatigue). So, when I think of our circumstances right now, I'm thankful God laid it on my heart to stay and help me make that tough decision.
One blessing is not having to be apart from King Jo, something I always hate! When he goes on a snowmobiling trip away or I go away once a year for a Ladies' Night or something it is always hard to be apart, especially if it's half a week to a week. I even had 3 e-cards all lined up to be sent to him once a day to tell him how much we missed him while we were gone. I had stuffed the fridge to the gills with casseroles, homemade bread, and things for him to eat. No, he's not a helpless male that can't boil Rice-A-Roni or make a frozen pizza but something about grieving drives me to cook, and huge quantities of food at that! So, he would have been set for over a week, but the good news is that now that we all stayed home, I haven't had to cook for a few days while I've been dealing with clingy, whiny, Jeremiah.
Alathia had been so excited to see her cousins in MN that we eased the sting of not going by taking her to McDonalds' with one of her playmates and then I took her on a Mother/Daughter swimming date to the pool.

I appreciate Lyndi's offer to trade wipes with me from her couponing stash and hope that offer still stands since my Pa-in-Law will be coming out in less than 2 weeks to snowmobile.
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