Monday, June 30, 2008

Diaper Deal

After today's Walgreens diaper deal, I feel like we are adequately stocked up with diapers for the two boys for the next few months, even if we don't get any diaper gifts (I don't expect to be getting baby gifts with the third one!)

Walgreens diapers are on sale for $5.99. Use a coupon from the July EasySaver and get $5 off of 2 packages. Buy 3 packages and get a $5 RR. So, for around $7 or $8 you can get 3 packages of diapers! Some folks have found even more coupons, enabling them to get all of the diapers for free, but I asked at Walgreens and they didn't have the extra $2 off-a-package ones. I still feel like I got a GREAT deal by getting each package for under $3! Also included in this deal is Children's Motrin and Children's Tylenol, which we needed. So, on one transaction I got 2 packs of diapers and one Motrin for a total of $7! On the next transaction I got 3 packages of diapers for $8! Just be sure not to try to "roll the deals." Don't use your RR from the first transaction to pay for another diaper transaction or it won't work. I did a total of 3 transactions, starting with the diaper deal, then doing all the rest of my stuff and paying part of it with RR, then doing the final diaper deal, which gave me a RR to use for next time! I spent about $50 at Walgreens today, which is a LOT, but considering I stocked up on diapers, toliet paper, Kleenex, Paper plates and a bunch of other stuff that will last a long time, it was worth it! I saved $58!

Summer Fun!

We enjoyed a pool party with friends on Friday afternoon! It has gotten really, really hot here!
Jeremiah absolutely terrified me at this party because he has no fear of water and is reckless and crazy in the water. He enjoyed continually diving headfirst into the big pool and rolling around underwater a while before he would stand up. Even though I'd beg him to stay in the little tiny pool he kept doing this over and over. Then my friends were telling me about "dry drowning" and it really freaked me out since he goes underwater so much and voluntarily swallows so much water! This condition kills a few thousand kids each year when they go to sleep after swimming and "drown" in their sleep due to swallowed water. Scary stuff!
After 3.5 years, Ali's hair is finally starting to grow slightly so I put two tiny braids in for the first time ever on Sunday for church. To look at the stubborn set of this little tyke's face, there is no doubt that she is our "spirited" child. She seems to behave the best if we do tons and tons of physical activity or she has lots of stimulation (swimming lessons, library program, crafts, etc.)

Thanks Laura!

Laura made this pretty flared one herself!

This is a lightweight broomstick skirt.

This wraparound works great even with a belly! This was a very non-photogenic face day so I cut my head off in the pics!

What a blessing it is to have friends so willing to share and give things that they have but aren't using in order to bless others! I am so thankful for the wonderful friends God has given me, even though some may live very far away and some may be those I haven't even met in person or haven't spent much time with!

Laura, a friend in MN, sent me a surprise package on Saturday that was FULL of goodies! For one thing, she sent me FOUR beautiful skirts, 3 of which I can wear while pregnant as well as not-pregnant, and a maternity top too! Thanks for passing those on to me; I can truly use them! She also sent me 3 jars of her delicious apple butter and crab apple jelly since she has more on hand than they can eat (you should see how much this gal puts up every year!) And to top it all off, she sent me a stack about 2 inches high of coupon inserts! I can't tell you how much that made my day considering our local paper hasn't had ANY coupons at all the last 2 out of 4 times I've bought the paper at the grocery store. I was clipping like mad! And included in that were 2 booklets of organic coupons. Thanks a million Laura!

Making My Home a Haven Monday

Yes, this post is a little behind since I'm posting it Monday night, but it's been a pretty busy day that has left me very little time for even trying to make my home a haven. The day started off with me getting my first ever cavity filled at 8 a.m. and I handled it without anesthesia. It wasn't all that painful and was over quite quickly, but I still think dentists are some of the scariest people on the planet, what with their whirring instruments and little drills they stick into your teeth! I think the smells were harder on me than anything!

Ali's swimming lessons also started today at 9 a.m. and she will have them M-T for 3 weeks straight. It is fun to watch her be all "grown up" and sit on the edge of the big pool while I watch from the bleachers and see her actually obeying her teachers and having fun. She is excited about going and I think she will learn a lot. It seems like almost every mom in town is there so it's nice to visit with other moms for an hour while we watch. Of course Ali had to do one of the gross-est things in the world (she never fails to amaze me with how many absolutely nasty things there are out there that kids can do) and slurp some water off the dirty pool floor during her lesson! Eeewww!

Since my mom was going on a big excursion to the big town I decided to go along. I was planning to wait until Thursday but jumped at the chance to split the gas money and have some help with the kids for the mega shopping. I got tons of stuff stocked up so I shouldn't need to hit Wal-Mart again until after Justus is born! And since Walgreens had some amazing deals on diapers, toliet paper, and paper plates (all things I was hoping to stock up on some more) I'm pretty much stocked up on everything that's really important now! Yeah! The kids did wonderful during the 4 hour trip and I even managed to squeeze in 2 loads of laundry and some vacuuming today after hauling everything in and putting it all away.

Tomorrow I really need to focus on making my home a haven since there are endless stacks of dishes to do, as usual, that I don't have the energy for tonight. I'm finding it harder and harder to get dishes done as I get closer to the end of the pregnancy, especially since it's a bit awkward to try to stand next to the sink with a big belly and it hurts my back to bend over the sink for very long. Oh to have a dishwasher! Someday......

At least I have a headstart on the 4th of July now that I got my shopping done at the beginning of the week. Thursday will be a salad-making day as we have 3 picnics to attend in 2 days and will be bringing potato salad and pretzel/jell-o salad to all of them!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Project Prep--Freezer Meals

This time around, I'm doing something a little different for my food storage for post-baby meals. Having had winter babies previously I have made a lot of soups and stews and hearty casseroles in the past, which really hit the spot for us in the winter! However, this time around, I have a hunch we will be very, very hot and craving different kinds of meals! I planning on doing things that will save me lots of time, like having cooked meats and beans on hand as well as cooked pasta and shredded cheese. This will help me keep supper-making simple when there are 3 little ones around. So, here's what I have stocked up so far and what I plan to stock up on:
What I've Done:
2 bags of homemade pancake/waffle mix (makes 12 batches!)
1 loaf of homemade bread frozen so far
1 chicken brocolli rice casserole frozen
1 pan of chicken enchiladas frozen
4 bags of cooked hamburger frozen
4 bags of cooked black and red beans frozen
1 batch of homemade muffins
What I Plan to Do:
Freeze about 6 bags of shredded cheese to have handy for snacks/meals
Freeze 10-20 lbs of cooked spaghetti and pasta noodles for quick spaghetti/macaroni salad/mac n' cheese for kid snacks or lunches
Freeze more loaves of homemade bread
Make 5-10 homemade frozen pizzas
Make 20-30 homemade frozen bean and rice burritos
Stock snack crackers, frozen fruit, dried fruit, and frozen muffins and cookies for quick snacks
Freeze a minimum of 5 more casserole/main dish type meals
Cook a bunch of chicken breasts and dice them and freeze them for quick chicken meals
Due to the fact that our apartment is so small, our deep freeze in our storage shed. So, I have limited space to work with, but I have squeezed 20 frozen meals in there the last go-around! If I need to, I can put some of my frozen food in my parent's freezer and hope my brother doesn't eat it! If I had a deep freeze you would see about 30 more things on this list!

Project Preparation

Blogging is such great motivation! Knowing you have to "report" on your blog keeps you going sometimes, doesn't it? I'm happy to report that Project Preparation for Baby Justus is going well!

Here is what I've done so far off the very large list:
*Food storage/Freezer meals (I have a good start on them, more to follow in a coming post...)
*God provided a Graco carseat (for FREE!) and it's washed and ready
*Our van has made it safely to MN and should be coming out the 3rd week in August with King Jo's parents! We've started paying from our cash stash for it!
*Our diaper supply is slowly growing. We don't have as many as I'd like stocked up but this week I scored a couple of Luvs coupons for $2 and $5 off a package which should help out with this!
*I've bought tons of nursery supplies to stock the church with this Sunday so I won't have to worry about that for a while.
*Though I haven't written down all the clothes my kids' have, I have them organized and sorted enough to know that each of our 3 kids are TOTALLY "covered" for about the next year clothing-wise!
*Baby clothes are sorted, and all the 0-6 month stuff is ready and washed and folded!
*The diaper bag for the hospital is mostly packed!
*Our A/C went into our bedroom last night and our room has been organized to make more room for the bassinet and baby stuff.
*Jer's name letters are painted (and so are Ali's) and hung up on the wall.
*We're stocked up on everything for after-the-birth household-wise except toliet paper

Here is what still needs to be done:
*More freezer meals
*Stock the pantry with snacks and stock toliet paper
*Make a ton of homemade laundry soap
*Make sure I have plenty of thank-you notes on hand
*Buy Ali and Jer a Big Sis and Big Bro gift (this is fun!)
*Put my sewing machine in the closet and use the sewing desk/corner for baby carseat/diaper bag, etc.
*Prep my fall Newsletter
*Pick out baby announcements and have a list of addresses ready as well as stamps
*Work on Justus' scrapbook
*Pack my hospital bag/list of friend's phone numbers
*Convince King Jo that my middle name choice is best =) We're still working on it!
*Wash bassinet linens
*Make a chore chart for Ali and organize her "schooling" drawers/learning projects
*Get b-day cards ready for relatives' having b-days in August and September
*Get family birthday gifts together for those months and pack up anything going to MN that needs to be sent back out with my in-laws for friends/family

One MAJOR disappointment was finding out that my midwife is no longer delivering. So, with only about 6 weeks to go, I have to meet and get acquainted with one of the 2 doctors in town that deliver babies. On the plus side, we have decided to let my Mom watch the birth this time and so she will be there as added moral support, even if my midwife won't!

One other HUGE bummer is that we got a letter saying our Economic Stimulus check is only going to be $1,200. We were hoping for more than that, but I guess that's what you get when you have a lower Federal tax liability. In spite of this set-back, we should still have plenty for the van once we sell one of our other cars.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Living Debt Free--Part 5

Taming the Person in the Mirror
I truly agree with Dave Ramsey on how taking control of your money starts with taming the person in the mirror! So true! Have I mentioned how much I love this guy's books and radio show? *s* Teaching ourselves to grow up, do hard things, and limit our insatiable wants and desires is vital to being financially free.

Sometimes I'm confused by the people around me. I know people who are always complaining about lack of money or who are feeling desperate and panicky because of their current financial situation. Yet, I will often see these same people ordering pizza once a week or more, buying new large toys, and "splurging" in a number of different areas. While I'm not the judge of how they spend their money, it doesn't make sense to me. If your husband is laid off or you are having to live on credit cards just to pay the bills, shouldn't you be eating "rice and beans"? Some people I know would rather work 4 jobs between the 2 spouses (and they have kids) rather than learn to control their spending!

Another friend of mine goes on shopping sprees 3-4 times a year to outfit her kids in the latest clothes. She was extremely bummed when her husband only allowed her $250 for herself to blow and $300 for her kids for new toys and clothes out of the Economic Stimulus Check because he wanted to put half of it down on credit card debt. They make nearly twice what our family makes and yet they are still paying on their honeymoon, their wedding, and the food they ate on credit cards while her husband was going to college for 8 years! These same people have $10,000 worth of DVDs (many of which were gifts, but still....).

I saw this same thing going on in college. Almost every student at my college was taking student loans for school. However, they could somehow afford to go on midnight runs to Perkins several times a week, buy expensive make-up, go shopping at the mall, etc. While I think it's okay to have some fun money in your budget, provided you are working while going to school, I look back and think, "If you can't afford school, and thus need some loans, then how can you afford this or that luxury?" The answer is, you can't! You are spending money you don't have! If you do have the cash in your pocket from your part-time job, shouldn't it be going to pay your outstanding debts, even if they are currently interest-free? Just because your loan is currently interest-free doesn't mean it's not still there! You are still in the negatives! Most college students have no idea how hard it is to pay interest later on greasy restaurant food they ate 10 years ago, but they are about to find out!

I'm not against fun. I love eating out. I look back and realize that even if I was pretty frugal in college I splurged too sometimes and could have lived off of even less. But I didn't because I got caught up in doing what a lot of other people are doing. I am against living a life of luxury and spending on things that you can't afford. If you have consumer debt (credit cards, etc.) you have a negative amount of money. Until you get busy paying them off and being debt free, you don't have any money to spend! You're behind and paying for things in the past so quit buying in the present! It's that simple! Yet, most Americans can't get control of the person in the mirror and they continue spending and continue spending because it's so easy to throw down the plastic and so hard to say no to themselves.

On the contrary, some people get really intense about taking control of their finances and it's admirable. There were a couple of guys at my college who demonstrated this. I'm not sure if they both went to school entirely debt-free but they were sure trying! One guy realized there was no rule in the student handbook saying that you couldn't live in an ice house. So, he camped out in a friend's shed in the fall and then lived in a little ice house on the lake next to the college during the winter. He showered in the guys' dorm and hung out there often with friends, but he "technically" lived in the ice house and saved himself a bundle on dorm fees! In Northern MN temps, this guy was tougher than tough! Needless to say they made a rule the next year about students not being able to live in ice houses! Another guy declined being on the meal plan and cooked all his meals in the dorm lounge. His meals mostly consisted of frozen pizza and Ramen. While I don't endorse that diet (ick!) he did save himself a lot of money! I like that these guys were creative in their approach to get an education without throwing money to the wind. That resourcefulness and ability to sacrifice will come in handy for the guy who ate in the dorm since within 2.5 years of marrying a gal from college they had 4 children!

While I will probably always have friends who won't tame the person in the mirror, I also have some friends who are doing an amazing job at living frugally and shopping deals and bargains. They inspire me to go even lower in my budget and be even more careful in order to save for emergencies and buying a home. Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration to me in living financially free!

*In talking about debt in this post I'm not referring to a loan on an asset, like a home, which appreciates in value, or on loans that come because of unavoidable circumstances, like medical bills or catastrophe. Due to the reality of unexpected expenses, I think it is vital to have some sort of insurance and a large emergency fund, as I've discussed in a previous post. My husband and I have been there, done that when it came to some unexpected hospital bills on Jeremiah's birth. Thankfully we tightened our belts and were able to pay them off by his first birthday, by God's grace! No matter what kind of debt you have, whether it came from foolish purchases or unavoidable circumstances, I think it's important to live frugally and carefully until it's paid off. What I'm mainly harping on in this post is consumer debt or living luxuriously when you absolutely cannot afford to do so!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Gentle Mothering Support Club

How have you all been doing in mothering with gentleness? I'm still working on Col. 3:12 and plan to have it completely memorized in a week. So be working on it and say it for someone so you can leave a comment letting the rest of us know when you have it memorized too!

I have my good days and bad days but mostly bad days. It's very difficult for me to be gentle with Ali (and even with the neighbor girls) because it seems like every time I turn around she is pushing my buttons, yelling or screaming, fighting with her brother, or making a mess. Some days I feel like my overall grade as a parent is a big fat F. Some days I feel like all I do all day long with Ali is correct her, chide her, train her, scold her, discipline her, etc. etc. I teared up leaving the library yesterday because one mom was struggling with an unruly toddler. She had a baby hanging from a little sling on her back, another daughter about 6 and a very naughty little 3 year old daughter screaming at the top of her lungs and throwing a fit in the library. The mom was doing everything she could to control the child and threatening spankings (In public! That's how desperate she was!) and trying to check out as fast as possible while looking like she was mortified and in absolute misery. I got a little teary as I headed out because I have felt her pain so many times. I have been in her shoes more times than I care to remember, feeling like everyone is watching you as you try to figure out how to handle an incredibly tough situation. I said a little prayer for her and was reminded how difficult this job of parenting really is.

Over 10 years ago I read a book called, "Lord, Change Me" by Evelyn Christianson. Parts of that book have stuck with me over the years and especially one phrase she often prays before the Lord. I have decided to be praying this phrase throughout this week, as it has always helped me to turn things over to God in a tough situation.

Lord, please give me the attitude you want me to have for this person.

I really can't be gentle with my kids on my own. I often don't have the attitude I should have for my spirited little girl. I can't love my instrusive neighbors in my own strength. I need God every day, all day!

Wonderful Recipes

I've mentioned before how much I like Her recipes are both frugal and delicious! Last night I tried her Saucy Chicken Brocolli Bake and her Italian Cheese Bread! Yum! Yum! Yum! My brother had requested that I fix his final "home cooked" meal that was part of his birthday present this year since he's laid up and hurting a lot this week. So, I doubled the recipe and was able to get a freezer meal out of it, feed my brother and parents for a couple of meals, and have more than enough for a hearty supper and hearty lunch for our family!

Give them a try! They are addicting!

*I used Ranch dressing instead of Italian when I made the Italian Cheese Bread. I also mixed the dough in my bread machine and let it raise for an hour instead of what her recipe said.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wooden Names Project

I mentioned before that I finally found wooden letters for Jer's name at a craft store in Billings and wanted to get them done before the new baby comes. So, last week I got busy painting while we watched a weekend movie and found it to be a fun, easy, and adorable project. When Ali was a baby, I found letters at the local dollar store for her (they only had letters for her nickname, Ali Joy, and not her full name) but I was tired of the sick, pasty pink color that really doesn't fit well with her vibrant personality so I painted them a bright pink with green circles.
You may recognize one of my yard sale finds put to use! this little dress frame was only 50 cents brand new and I put the cutest current pic of Ali in it as an added decoration for her side of the room.
To get the wild green circles, I dipped one of Ali's pony-tail holders in green paint and sponged the circles onto the letters.
Since Jer's letters don't have little loops or holes for hanging them, I used a flat metal tack to tack a ribbon to the back of them (they are very thick) and then used push-pins to hang the ribbon tabs on the wall.
The name/footprint cross-stitch was a baby gift from my friend Hannah. I painted a cheap 5X7 frame we had around the house with the same calypso blue I used on the letters to frame it.
The paint cost 50 cents-$1 per tube and Jer's letters were only $1.50 each. This makes for a very economical way to decorate considering that buying painted letters from many catalogs will run you at least $50 and sometimes more if the name is long!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Update on Life

I was looking forward to this week being a little slower since we've had some really busy ones lately. But life never slows down, especially in the summer! My relatives gathered this weekend to divide up my Grandpa's things and it was neat to see them and remember Grandpa C. through the rock collections, arrowheads, and ancient scrapbooks that he had an abundance of. I think he was one of the first scrapbookers since he had an album of newspaper clippings and photos he had put together in the 1920s! Our baby is due about exactly a year after his death. I also lost a great-Grandma and my other Grandpa within 6 months of Grandpa C.'s death.

On Sunday my 19-year old brother Grant was camping and climbed a 40 feet tree in the middle of the night (don't ask me why; I have no idea and perhaps he was under the influence of alcohol) and he fell 35 feet. So, we visited him in the hospital and were amazed at how well he's doing and that none of his limbs are broken. Just 3 ribs in his back and he tore his lungs away from his rib cage. Other than some scratches and bruises, he appears to be fine, and very blessed not to have been hurt worse! Today I need to get busy making him his favorite cookies and he requested one of my home-cooked dinners for supper since he'll be out of the hospital today and will need some comfort food. It's amazing how life's little tragedies and hardships can draw a family together. I was mad all last week at Grant over something (and I truly believe that I had a right to be) but when I heard he was hurt that small matter didn't even seem that important and I realized that no matter how much our personalities may clash at times or how much he may irritate and needle me, I love him so much and my first response was to go help him out and take care of him when I heard he was hurt.
*Oh, and here's my Dave Ramsey plug of the day: Grant doesn't have health insurance so he asked right away when he went into the hospital about costs. They said it would be around $8,000! Yikes! One night in the hospital and no major injuries! This is why it is ABSOLUTELY crucial that families have an emergency fund set up because little accidents or unexpected bills are always going to happen in life! Health coverage of some kind is important as well as having a large emergency fund. My goal is that we will build our E. fund up from $1,000 to $6,000 in the next couple of years.*

Today is our 5th Anniversary! It's funny because we don't even have any big plans for today and that doesn't even bother me because I know we'll get around to celebrating in a week or two with our first-ever weekend getaway since we became parents 3.5 years ago! Due to my lack of energy and motivation at this stage in the pregnancy, I don't want to go anywhere far, but leaving the kids with my folks for a night will be a vacation in and of itself! I will say that the last 5 years have been wonderful and I really think marriage just keeps on getting better and better! The time sure went by awfully fast and I am just in amazement when I look at our growing family and think about the little treasures God has given us as a result of our marriage and love. If we hadn't said those vows, there would be 3 little eternal souls that wouldn't exist right now!

In Making my Home a Haven today I am busy de-cluttering from the weekend (as usual), making up a few pounds of hamburger to freeze for post-baby meals, and catching up on some weekend laundry. I'm slowly working my way through my enormous list of things to get done before baby and am confident that all of it should be done in the next 7 weeks!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just wondering?

Am I the only one who tears up every time a family yells, "Freedom!" when I'm listening to the Dave Ramsey Show online? Is this just a pregnancy hormones thing?

Frugal Friday--It's the Little Things

Lately I've been thinking about the "little things" that add up. I wonder how much you can save if you make conservation and frugality in these little areas a habit throughout a lifetime! Here are some "itsy bitsy, teensy weeny" little ways that I cut corners.

*Almost every Saturday we walk to the grocery store and kids receive a helium balloon for free. When the balloon falls to the ground then next morning I snip the colorful ribbon off and throw it in my gift stash! Free ribbon!

*I save the Sunday comics for wrapping paper. I am a stickler about saving gift bags and tissue paper when I have a shower and if I see others throwing them away at their showers, I ask for it!

*Disposable stuff isn't the MOST frugal way to go, but when you are pregnant and without a dishwasher, anything that saves on dishes is nice! Instead of using a paper plate for my toast in the morning, I use a small paper towel.

*Being more conscious of how much TP you use. I can be one of those people that mindlessly bunches up way more than I need. I'm trying to be more careful in this area.

*Re-using foil and ziplocs. I've mentioned this on here before, so sorry for the repeat! If you wash off foil that's been barely used and re-use your plastic ziplocs, you will save 5 cents per re-use!

*Taking your own grocery bags to the store gives you a discount of 5 cents per bag!

*Taking two minutes to pour some water into a re-fillable bottle before I go on a big outing or shopping trip usually saves me $1 since I'm not tempted to buy a drink while I'm away from home.

*Every time I bike to my folk's house, which is a little under a mile away, I'm saving a quarter and benefitting my body!

*By buying at yard sales, I try not to pay more than 10-25 cents for nice, new greeting cards for relatives' birthdays.

*Paying attention at the grocery store usually helps me save $2 a week as there are often things that ring up at the wrong price or coupons that haven't gone through and the cashier didn't catch it.

*By regularly popping into the thrift store on our street I have found so many things I've been looking for at a mere fraction of the retail price. For example, this week I went in to look for nipple/bottle tops for the glass baby bottles I got at a yard sale last week. For 5 cents, I got two whole tops that looked brand new, making my glass baby bottles a grand total of 27 cents each!

*Whenever possible, I try to hand-deliver letters and cards to people I will be seeing that week at church instead of using a stamp. I save at least $20 a year this way, if not double that!

*I try to borrow/swap books with people or buy used from Amazon if there is one I really want to read and my library can't get it.

*Adding water to my dish detergent bottle and the baby shampoo and hand soap help them to stretch and make it easier to rinse the soap off/out.

*I recently discovered that I can save LOTS of time, and probably money too, by washing my hair every other day instead of every morning. My hair looks and feels healthier, and oddly enough, less greasy and I'm saving on shampoo!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands and thousands of little ways you can stretch things in your household. Feel free to list some of your favorite ideas in the comments section!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Hubby!

Just hangin' around! Did I mention that my hubby loves doing Jr. boys' ministry fits in sooo well with them?


Today the man I love turns a quarter of a century old! I am so thankful God brought us together, from a thousand miles apart in two different areas of the country. I remember back when my mom was nervous about me getting married so young (at age 21 to 20 year old King Jo) and she didn't really know him very well. She said, "I think he'll be a great husband at age 25, but he's sooooo young!!!" (My parents always said growing up that we had to be 25 to get married; half jokingly, half not!)
Well after 5 years of marriage I can honestly say that she was right! King Jo is a WONDERFUL hubby at 25! But, he's always been a great husband, even though we may have started our life together very young! We have our moments of irritation with each other and we've definitely grown up a lot since our first year of marriage and learned a lot, but it has truly been the best 5 years of my life and I'm so thankful for my guy!
I admire the way he serves our family and works so hard to take care of us. I love the way he takes time for his children and showers them with hugs, kisses, and praise and makes it a priority to teach them about God and pray for them. It's so much fun to have someone to share both the frustrations and the joys of parenting with. He adores tiny babies and it's fun to watch him fall asleep with a new baby on his chest. He never tires of hearing the latest capers of our kids or the cute things they said throughout the day because we're in this thing together and we both love our kids unconditionally. He's the type of guy that will read stories to his unborn baby and talk sweetly to them through my belly. He's the type of guy who likes to just hold me in his arms or lay there just watching me sleep and still says I'm beautiful even when I couldn't look any worse in the morning. He's the type of guy that seems quiet or reserved with most people, but is amazingly goofy, interesting, and wise when he's with the ones he loves. He's great with money and keeping us on a steady budget and yet he's not tight-fisted and always gives me plenty for the things we need. I love that he doesn't watch TV or play video games and isn't a sports addict or doesn't feel the need to buy himself big toys to have worth as a man. I love the fact that God is the most important part of his life and he has rarely, if ever, wavered in having his morning devotions with God and he takes the time to memorize the Word.

I love the way he can "push my buttons" to get me riled up and the way he teases me to keep life interesting! I love that even though the newness of marriage has worn off, he still brings flowers home to surprise me and that he gives me back massages several times a week and babies me when I'm pregnant, even if this does happen to be my third go-around!
There are so many reasons I am thankful to have King Jo in my life! I truly feel that God blessed me with a kingly hubby (thus the title of this blog!) I am a better person because of him and I hope I can honor and bless him throughout a LOOOOOOONG lifetime!

Happy Birthday Honey!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pregnancy Woes

I haven't taken a belly shot in a while. This was taken about 2 months ago!
There are many great things about being pregnant. It is a condition that not everyone experiences, in other words it is a priviledge, and it's exciting to know that a human being is being formed inside you. People treat you extra kindly and the anticipation and excitement is almost more than you can handle sometimes. But, pregnancy, at least for me, is definitely not fun. And while this pregnancy has probably been my easiest thus far, there are still little things that I look forward to being done with in a couple of months. Such as:

*Snagging your belly-button on stuff. When your bb pops out like a turkey timer, you sometimes forget your proportions, so you'll be walking past a doorjam or chair and...YIKES! The shirt offers little protection to the poor tortured belly button!

*Leg cramps in the night. I have gotten these with every single pregnancy and they are awful. All of a sudden you are jolted out of a rock-hard sleep by a cramp that will not go away no matter how much you jog around the living room in the dark, or flex and stretch and rub and squeeze your muscles. I have had them last for up to a half hour and they are excruciating! Yes, I recently bought lots of calcium to take, and this is supposed to help prevent them. Mine can be so bad at times that desperate prayer is the only balm to make them go away. I have been known to take a hot bath in the middle of the night for relief too!

*Bending over a watermelon! I stole this phrase from my friend Lesley. One day I was trying to bend over in the car and pick up coupons off the floor and it was an impossible task! Sweeping and mopping are very challenging at the end of the pregnancy too. I'm glad Jer can follow directions and stand up when you tell him to because bending down to get him out of the baby bathtub is a killer!

*Bone-Numbing Fatigue also known as Moving-in-Slow-Motion. When I'm pregnant, life still goes on and I still have to carry out my daily chores and take care of my kids, but your body just always feels like it's about to drop dead and no matter how many hours you sleep at night you still wake up feeling like a truck ran over you. I guess building a human being is the toughest work there is!

*Having to go potty often and having no bladder control when you sneeze, cough, or laugh hard. I'm thankful I'm not getting up to go potty in the night yet, but I remember what it's like to have to get up about every hour when you're about 9 months pregnant! It's good prep for having a newborn! There is nothing like trying to explain to your 3 year old why Mommy wet her pants when she sneezed! Ali later told her Grammy that the baby pushed down and wet my pants for me!

*Functioning with half a brain. I am about the spaciest person alive when I'm pregnant. I'm really getting sick of living with half a brain! I'll forget to return movies or library books, thus incurring late fees, when I've reminded myself a hundred times that day to do it. I've double and triple-scheduled myself for things more times than I can count..."Oh, sure I can do a playdate on Friday...I have nothing planned!" Oops! My hubby is normally the ultra-forgetful one in our family but he looks at me with deep pity and says, "Wow, I don't look forgetful at all next to you when you're pregnant!"

*Feeling like your body is going to fall apart. I'm at the stage where all my pelvic bones are loosening up and popping so I waddle when I walk and have a sore tailbone and it's uncomfortable to roll over in bed and hard to find a comfy sitting position anywhere. At least I don't have pubic bone dysplacia YET this pregnancy (and hope I don't get it, as it's not fun! It feels like someone kicked you very hard in the crotch and lasts for several weeks leading up to the birth.)

*Ill-fitting maternity clothing. Just ask my friends and they'll tell you I wear my denim maternity skirt every day with one of about 3 different tops. There's a reason for this. Whoever decided that low-rise maternity capris were a good idea? All it means is that you constantly are jerking your pants up and feeling like they are falling off and if you bend over you end up showing a plumber's crack the size of Texas! Most of the shirts ride too high at the hem-line, exposing the pouch on your skirt or pants, and have plunging necklines that you are constantly jerking up. Since your body is constantly changing, the clothes that looked adorable last month look goofy this month! It's just not easy to find cute and comfy clothing when you are pregnant!

In spite of these temporary discomforts, I am so glad to be blessed with an opportunity to have another little child, who is a gift from God. He will be worth any and all the unpleasant aspects of bringing him into the world!

What are your least-favorite parts of pregnancy?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hot Deals This Week

Safeway had a great Father's Day deal going. You buy $20 worth of quality beef (and the beef is half price!) along with 4 of the Father's Day special products and you get $10 off your order!
Now that the weather is finally starting to warm up, it's nice to have our favorite brand of ice-cream in the freezer! Breyer's was buy one, get one free and was part of the meat deal. So, we got about 11# of the leanest hamburger and round steak strips, plus four ice-creams all for $23! A perfect deal for this week since we have Father's Day AND King Jo's birthday and he loves ice-cream more than any other food!
Yard Sale Deal
I'm trying to be really careful not to buy things I will not use or don't truly need at yard sales. I really wanted to get a couple of baby bottles that are glass because of all of the stuff people are saying about plastic bottles contaminating babies. Though I plan to breastfeed, it's nice to have some bottles on hand in case I want to pump a bottle. So, these glass baby bottles for a quarter each were a great find! One helmet was $1, and one was $2, brand new, still in the packaging. I've been really wanting to get some for my kids since we bike all the time and it's so much safer for them to wear head protection. The new photo album was 50 cents and is the exact kind that I like to put baby photos in and costs $9 at Wal-Mart. Now, I just need to glue a boyish piece of paper over the flowers so it looks more manly for Justus!

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Answer for Bonnie

Blog Reader Bonnie writes:

Mrs. Jo I was wondering if you might post about what your view is about Christian young people who go to secular colleges, whether away or at home. Like what would you advise your children to do. Would you restrict them to Christian only and how would you go about helping them find a "good" secular college. Mainly what are your thoughts on it?? I am 15 and will hopefully graduate a year early and this has really been weighing on my mind and your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!!

Dear Bonnie,

I can't say for sure how I would counsel each of my individual children in this area because a lot of it will depend on their spiritual maturity and the degree or training they want to obtain. While I've said in previous posts that I'd like them to be homeschooled or Christian schooled to get their foundation, I think that the choice of college is up to them, and I will not be a parent that orders them to go to Bible college. It is nice to go to a college where your faith is upheld and strengthened and where you can participate in a lot of great fellowship with other young people (that's how I met King Jo, after all =) Of course I will fully support their decision to go to a Christian college if that's what they want. My cousin who recently graduated took a lot of college courses from the local state college in her town as a homeschooled high schooler. While she was able to get a bunch of credits out of the way cheaply, she really felt the classes were dry and meaningless and she is excited to go away to a Christian school this fall where she can study the Bible and be in a better environment. I've known lots of homeschoolers who have taken classes at a community college and have benefitted from being able to live at home and go to college for free, or nearly free. After they got their generals out of the way, they were able to go on to a Christian college to finish up and get in their share of Bible/Theology/Christian perspectives courses too. This is a smart option for financial reasons! If you are looking for a secular college, I would advise you to find a community college close to home since these are usually the cheapest for locals.

If my child was pursing a non-ministry related career, like mechanics, nursing, business, law enforcement, etc. I would advise them that it's fine to go to a secular college if they could obtain the degree they need for that career field. I would definitely warn them about the temptations of living on a secular campus, and would prefer that they live at home or in an off-campus apartment with Christian roommates. You can still be a bright light for the Lord without living in co-ed dorms and going to wild parties. I have had lots of friends who have been bright lights in their secular colleges, bringing the Gospel to their classmates though they lived off-campus.

One thing I will tell my children is that college is not necessary. I was raised with the idea that all young people go to college so it wasn't IF I'd go, but rather, WHERE I'd go. Recently I've come across more and more Christians who are encouraging their kids to avoid college and rather be apprentices to learn a skill or start their own businesses or for daughters especially to live at home until marriage. I think more young people today need to hear this message. College doesn't make you an adult. College doesn't necessarily mature you. I don't believe every single person is cut out for it. You CAN be successful without it. Though many vocations do require a college degree, some don't. A good work ethic is every bit as important as degree. My grandpa never went to college but became quite wealthy due to his strong work ethic and personal motivation. My youngest brother has never been academic or college-bound, but he's an amazingly gifted mechanic and recently purchased his own bike shop at age 19, after apprenticing there for 5 years.

So many young people today feel the pressure to know what they want to do and are pushed into college before they are even ready for college. Sometimes the most dedicated students are the older ones who have experienced life a bit and then finally decide what field they want to study for sure. My mom is an example of this as she went back to school a few years ago and got her teaching degree. After 20+ years of teaching her kids as a stay-at-home mom and teaching Sunday School, Children's Church, and AWANAS she realized teaching is a passion of hers and she wanted to be able to work as a teacher now that her kids are grown.

I plan to give my kids the option to choose college or to not choose college. I would love for my daughter(s) to stay home until they marry and help the family, perhaps branching out with home business ideas, learning how to run a home efficiently and helping with various ministries in the church according to their gifts. My sons will grow up knowing they will need to choose a vocation to support themselves and their families someday, but whether or not they train at college or through another method is up to them. We don't plan to let our kids be idle or overly dependant, but neither will we boot them out the door at 18 as most parents in the West do (including mine).

If you are really torn when it comes to college choices, I would encourage you to:

1. Keep praying about it. Ask for the Lord's direction for this area of your life. He will lead you and open and close the doors.
2. Seek the counsel of your parents. What do they see as your strengths, passions, and gifts?
3. Think about what you would like to do after high school. Does the thing you want to do require a degree? If you aren't sure what you would like to do, but are interested in studying the Word more, consider doing a one-year Bible college program where you can grow and study the Bible while you take more time to figure out what's next.
4. If you do want to get a degree or apprenticeship training, figure out if there is a way to start working at it while you live at home so you can get through school as debt-free as possible.
5. Relax! There is soooo much pressure for high schoolers today that I feel the need to continually remind my high school senior friends that they do NOT have to decide their entire future by the time they graduate. It's good to have some ideas of what you want to do or might do well, but life is constantly changing. They say the average person switches careers/jobs 11 times! A lot of people have changed jobs even more frequently than that in a lifetime! As you grow and develop more and more you may change your mind about various colleges or majors and that's okay! Meeting a spouse or feeling God's call to a particular vocation or ministry may come within the next ten years and life will change drastically. Almost everyone I know is now working a job they never expected they would be working when they were 18 or younger. So, don't feel like your whole life is riding on this one decision!

Hope this helps Bonnie!

Living Debt Free--Part 4

Housing and the Debt-Free Life

This area I have absolutely NO experience in but I wanted to bring it up so that blog readers could share their ideas with me on this issue. Housing nowadays is so expensive that there are no easy pat answers. I know some people who rent for years and years, preferring to pour money into stock investments and others who buy right away and are swallowed up in big mortgage payments. I know people who are determined to pay cash only to build a house, but the saving up is slow, as building materials continue to sky rocket, and very few can actually do it completely loan-free. Who would deny that paying all cash for a house is the best way to go and yet who can actually do it? If living expenses take up most or all of your income, it's next to impossible.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that Dave Ramsey recommends putting 20% down on a home when purchasing. I think Crown Financial Concepts (Money Matters) recommends about the same, especially putting down at least 10%. Thinking of the cost of fixer-uppers in our little town that would mean King Jo and I would need to save up about $30,000 (20%) or $15,000 (10%) to put down on a house. At our current rate of ability to save ( a few thousand a year max) that would take us a lot of time and in that time home prices will have gone up even more. The only way I see this happening soon is if we were to receive a large inheritance or if King Jo suddenly got an amazing job that paid double the money he makes now.

Some people live with family members for a while, some people build, some start off in trailer homes, and some buy with nothing down, preferring to start building equity right away. Whatever you have chosen to do, you know that housing is expensive and buying a home is a huge committment. In our dual-income world it is especially difficult for families with a stay-at-home mom to purchase a home.

So, what's a young couple to do?

While I'm not sure exactly how or when God will lead us into buying our first home, I do know this:

1. We will buy only what we feel we can reasonably afford even if it will take lots of work. Even if the bank said we could have a loan for twice the amount of the cost of a fixer-upper in town, we would still take the fixer-upper provided it was a good buy and live-able.

2. We will make it our goal to pay off our mortgage as soon as possible. I like how Dave Ramsey says on his radio show, ".....Where the paid off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice." Rather than take pricey family vacations or blow unexpected bonus or tax refunds on shopping sprees or personal wants, we will try to put any extra money towards our mortgage. It will take a lot of time and a lot of dedication, but being completely debt-free (including the mortgage) is the goal.

If you have advice on buying a home or a neat testimony of how God has taken care of you in this area, please share!

Making my Home a Haven Monday

I don't know about you, but Mondays my home usually feels anything BUT a haven so it's good to have this emphasis to get weekend clutter cleared up. I don't know what it is about weekends that makes me feel like a zombie, but I have very little motivation sometimes when it comes to chores on weekends!

This week, my goal is to work on developing a Summer Schedule in my binder. I'm finding it harder to stick with my Spring schedule now that the weather is nice and the kids are begging to play outside the minute they are done with breakfast. I have decided that although we will still keep working some with alphabet and numbers in the summer I will avoid trying to do a "schooling" activity with Ali each day and rather just let her play outside, have pool parties, and do whatever crafts/games she wants to do as they fit in our schedule. She still colors at least once a day and she still enjoys her preschool activities (skill builders) when she needs something to do, but I'm taking it off of my schedule so that I can feel like it's not an emotional burden during the relaxing summer months.

I also need to refigure our morning devotion time too as it seems to be harder to implement in the summer. Basically, our apartment is pretty hot so we open the back and front door early in the morning, but the minute the kids are down from the table they run outside to play. I need to either get up earlier and eat breakfast with them (hubby lets me sleep in and does breakfast for the kids when I'm preggo) so I can do them right after or plan to do devos before or after naps.

Since starting my home management binder I've found that a lot of chores have become second nature. While it's fun to be able to check lots of things off the list throughout the day, I really could condense my schedule a lot by cutting the "no-brainers" off the list. Do I really need to check off that I made lunch since I'm pretty sure I will do it every day of my life with or without a list? Instead of having 15 -20 things on my list each day my summer schedule will consist of just the basics. For example:
Monday: General Straightening/Cleaning/Vacuuming
Tuesday: Deep Clean the Kitchen Day and Library Story Time
Wednesday: Pay Bills, General Cleaning Day, Read lots of books with kids
Thursday: Picnic at the Park with Friends Day, Clean Bedrooms
Friday: Plan Grocery Lists/Menus, Shop for the week, Date Night
Saturday: Family Fun Day, Yard work, Misc. chores

Of course I still need to include on my schedule various appointments and a reminder to give everyone their vitamins since that is still something I struggle with remembering. I will still keep my weekly and monthly lists the same too and work on those tasks throughout the week as I have time.

Do you completely ditch your schedule in the summer?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Living Debt Free--Part 3

Are School Loans Wise?
Advice for Young People

(Some of you may disagree with my perspective presented here. That's okay! I'm not claiming to have all knowledge and wisdom on the subject of living debt free. I just want to share, as a testimony, what we have learned from our own experiences on this subject.)

I recognize that sometimes school loans do pay off. We know a gal who borrowed $17,000 and got a 4-year nursing degree and immediately made $40,000 a year fresh out of school. Because she didn't marry until 5 years out of school and lived with her parents a lot of that time, she easily paid it off. However, there are no guarantees. If you somehow change your mind on a Major mid-schooling, get sick, or get swept off your feet by an unexpected romance that leads to marriage and you are unable to finish school for some reason, that's still a huge chunk to pay off! This gal could have chosen a local college instead of one of the priciest Christian schools in the nation and could have probably gotten her degree for half of that. But the benefits of going to the school she wanted to go to were worth that much to her and it worked out in the end because she chose a profession where there is constant demand and endless job opportunities. On the other hand, I have another friend who is very frugal and got a degree in a field she enjoys and tried not to take too many loans but ended up owing at least $15,000 after 6 years of college. She CAN'T find a job in her field, didn't marry, doesn't have parents around to live with, and is stuck trying to survive on a minimum-wage income and just meet her basic needs as well as the basic loan payments. It's going to take her around 20 years to pay school off at the current rate!

I think it is up to an individual to weigh their options and decide if they will take the risk of school loans or not based on the education they will receive and the payback in the end. I personally will advise my own kids to try to save up, work during the summers, and take a year or two off as needed to get through with the least debt possible. There are no guarantees when it comes to the job market or whether or not you will be able to finish so I would rather play it safer. My brother told me about a gal who attended med school and took about $200,000 in loans only to discover when she dropped out near the end, without a degree, that bankruptcy does NOT apply to school loans, so by claiming bankruptcy, it didn't clear them as she had hoped it would.

I don't regret going to the college I attended and I am glad my parents did advise me not to take out more loans than I could pay back in one year of working a minimum-wage job. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably have tried to take a semester off here and there or might have worked an extra job in the summer just to avoid any and all loans. If I had been going for a 2 year degree that demanded so much of me (like nursing) that I couldn't work much on the side, I may have still taken a few thousand in loans, with the knowledge that I would have a good job after school to pay it back quickly. I would have paid it off before going on for more schooling.

My personal views are that young people with a heart for ministry or for being a stay-at-home mom someday should look for as many alternatives as possible instead of getting school loans. Don't underestimate the power of God to fund your education! I really believe that God cares about this detail of our lives and wants to build our faith and overwhelm us as we seek His provision for this area of our lives. While I don't think it's necessarily sinful to sign on the line, I do think we are more quick to trust in financial institutions than in God for provision for college. I have been the recipient of an anonymous gift of $2,000 for my education as an answer to prayer! It's amazing how different scholarships and grants came through for me and how God helped me stretch my miniscule budget through the college years. It was great to work in the college kitchen too and get free meals and free leftovers! When we married, we had a combined total of $77,000 worth of Biblical/missions education and owed only $3,000 (my school loans).

One older gentleman pastor I met said he had been paying on his school loans for 30 years and still owed a ton on them. He exhorted me and another college student to do whatever possible to avoid that hardship. I know from personal experience when we were missionaries for a summer, and from my many friends who are in ministry now, that ministry salaries are hard enough to live on without having loan payments!

Though we attended a very small Christian college that cost about half of the price of the bigger colleges, the average student graduates with $22,000 in loans. Most fulfill the joking prophecy that it's a "Bridal" college and obtain a spouse while there, doubling their debt to $44,000. What a way to start a marriage! It would be wise for a young person to choose debt-free living as a way to honor and bless their future spouse. If you have already found the one you want for life, you need to consider how debt will affect your marriage and seek to pay off as much as you can before marriage. It may not seem like a big deal when you're in the fog of falling in love, but it will be difficult if money is tight and hard times hit, putting a strain on you as a couple. Even couples who try to avoid having kids right away, giving them time to get on their feet financially, are not guaranteed that kids won't come anyway. (I have lots of friends that are proof of this!) If you go into marriage WITHOUT school loans, you will have a headstart on life.

I'm very proud of my friends who are struggling with paying school loans back and are chugging away at it right now as they raise young kids, inspiring me with their amazing frugalness and dedication. Their milestones in the debt-free journey excite me and fill me with great joy! Some of them were pushed into signing forms by the financial advisors at school or by a parent or they married someone who had a lot of debt for the same reasons and now they are becoming incredibly resourceful and creative in working towards the goal of being debt-free! Keep up the great work! Share with me your progress, however small it may be!

Did you use school loans to fund your education? If you had to do it over again, would you change how you did things?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blessings from the Lord!

My friends out there better get busy having boys because I'll have LOTS to pass down next year!

I've posted on here before about how we've been continually blessed by folks in our church and our friends outside of church with lots and lots of hand-me-downs. It is so neat to see how God provides for our kids! Just before we went to Billings I was wondering if I should get Ali a few more t-shirts and clothes for the fall while we were in the city. But the day before we went, we got another garbage bag-full of adorable dresses, some with the tags still on them, and now she is again set for another year! I don't think I've ever needed to buy clothes for her in her whole life except the occasional package of undies or pair of pajamas.

This week our friends decided to clean out their baby clothes and bless us with tons of baby boy clothes! Thank you Lora and Shiloh! As you can see from our couch, we have more than enough to take care of all of Justus' clothing needs as well as having all of Jeremiah's old stuff! The crazy thing is that about 25% of these outfits still have tags and have never even been used! Sorting through all the cute clothes makes me more and more anxious to have our baby. For those of you who are wondering, my pregnancy is going fine, I'm perfectly healthy and not horribly uncomfy yet, and I'm THRILLED to be having a boy. Now I wonder what the fuss was all about with me wanting a girl? It's amazing how much your heart can change when you accept an idea and now I would be disappointed NOT to have my expected little boy! I do hope to have a little girl again eventually but if not, I'm happy with what God chose to give us!

Another praise is that we don't have an infant carseat anymore as we sold it at a yard sale a year ago since it had gone through 2 kids and was discovered to be the least-safe model out there. We were hoping to buy a very safe model, the Graco Snugride. One of our friends happened to have one she doesn't want that only went through one baby, is only 3 years old, and is still up to safety standards! She gave it to us for free! God is good! While people may be wondering how we can afford another kid, God is providing above and beyond what we need!

Deals of the Week

Wal-Mart deals! I used $22 worth of coupons there this week! Thanks to internet coupons and MoneySavingMom tips, I got the cereal free, the Kotex free, the Grillin' Beans free, and the organic tomatoes for only 34 cents a can. I got paid 36 cents to buy the K-Y, and got paid over 40 cents to buy the 4 men's trial-size bodywashes. The Cheerio mix wasn't free, but was greatly reduced with my $1 off per bag coupons. The Dove chocolates were buy one, get one with an internet coupon so I stocked up to reward my nursery volunteers at church this week!

Though I doubt there is anyone else alive who has more baby boy clothes than me, I still couldn't resist grabbing these toddler boys' shirts off the $1 clearance rack since we don't have MATCHING shirts for the boys yet. I've confessed in previous posts that I'm one of those crazy parents that LOVES to match their kids. They just happened to have the right sizes for what our boys should be next summer and these are durable, Wrangler Jean Co. shirts!

Yard sale deals! These Sterilite storage tubs were only 50 cents each. Perfect for holding baby Justus' clothes under our bed!

The play computer supposedly really works with new batteries, but even if it doesn't Ali will be thrilled with it since she always pretends one of her books is a computer!

This adorable girl's picture frame was 50 cents brand new, still in the packaging!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Living Debt Free--Part 2

One important step in Living Debt-Free is living within your means.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, it isn't always easy, especially when you are just starting out.

In our third year of marriage, we were desperate to find a rental in a town where there are none, and we took the first thing that came along without realizing that it would end up costing more than our budget could handle since it was out of town (lots of gas), it was an old, windy shack (we burned tons of wood and used lots of propane just to try to keep us a little warmer than shivering), and the utilities were higher than we had expected. Nearly half of our income was going to pay for housing! Yikes! It's no wonder we could never get ahead and never saved and were just surviving paycheck to paycheck.

Moving into town was the smartest thing we could have done. We got a place with low utilities and free water that is very energy efficient and warm in the winter. It's about 2 blocks from almost everything we need in town, allowing for walking and biking. With King Jo's salary gradually going up, as we live in a place that only takes about 1/4 of our income now, we are able to save more and stay ahead when we know a big bill is coming. Though it's a tiny apartment that we will soon outgrow, with less privacy than I'd like, it has been a great option for our family in these years of just starting out.

Though it seems obvious not to spend more than you make, it's getting harder and harder with prices going up, but wages not necessarily going up. It takes LOTS OF WORK sometimes to stick with a budget, plan creatively, and cut corners so that it is possible. One of the biggest hindrances to living within your means is allowing yourself to believe that "you deserve more" or you "NEED" more. Many Americans today, especially those around my age, have a sense of entitlement, or a desire to start off with the wealth their parents have. It's important that people with this tendency sit down and think about what their true needs are and be willing to give up the things that are NOT necessary for survival in order to live on less than what they make. If you want to have fancy things and big toys, then you must be willing to put in lots and lots of work to get them (sometimes 20 years of work)!

It's always good to put things in perspective. When my folks came back from visiting my missionary brother, they told me that 45 Guatemalans could live in our apartment kitchen! Though they were exaggerating a bit, it was a good reminder for me that our idea of cramped might be a mansion for the majority of people in the world! When my sis-in-law was in Asia as a missionary, she said most families had 6 people in an average-size bed!

If you truly make so little that you can't keep from going over-budget, I would start praying that God would open doors for a new job, or some schooling or training so that you can work your way up to a higher-paying job. I have a friend in this situation and she manages by renting her home to other single women so the housing costs are shared, as well as by suplementing her income with odd jobs like pet-sitting and babysitting. She is also considering getting futher training to become a CNA so she can get paid more.

If you are tempted to be jealous of others who have more than you or you struggle with spending with an attitude of entitlement, here are some ideas for combatting that:

1. Train yourself to be thankful. Thank God for each little thing you have. Post notes around the house reminding you to praise God for His provisions instead of wishing you had more.

2. Serve others. Take the time to give, practice hospitality, and volunteer in places where there is true need and suffering. Serving those who are discouraged or less fortunate reminds us of how very, very blessed we are.

3. Stop watching TV (commercials) or reading secular magazines. I have a friend who made a choice not to read women's mags because of the discontent they bred in her for wanting to go on fancy vacations or have nicer home furnishings.

4. Cut up credit cards, stop using your debit card (if you spend more than you should) and go with cash only for a while. When you're out, you're out!

5. Learn skills that will help you live on less. Learn to garden, learn to coupon, learn to cook from scratch, learn to sew, or learn to do a home business skill that brings in extra money. Reading every day is a great place to start!

6. Watch your friendships carefully and don't allow your friends to influence you to be more materialistic. Over the years, certain friends I have had have influenced me to be more materialistic or to eat out more than I should have. I was wanting to "keep up" with their standard of living instead of influencing them to be more frugal. Once I got my priorities straight and back to living for God and not for man, I no longer cared what they had that I didn't have, but instead I wanted to be a light pointing them to the Lord and helping them to learn to save money and be content with less. Ironically, if you are honest with a friend and say you can't afford to go out every week or you can't afford what they can afford for their kids, the odds are that they will open up and share their financial struggles too and often they have admitted that they can't afford much either!

What is your biggest obstacle to living within your means?

Thanks to those of you who shared your stories in the Living Debt Free--Part 1 post. I was blessed by them!

Living Debt Free--Part 1

I've had some thoughts on finances swirling through my head that I wanted to share. However, I quickly realized that writing about them all at once would make for a very longwinded and boring post. So, I'm starting a series, called "Living Debt Free" which I will be continuing throughout the next week or two.

Living debt-free is definitely something my husband and I strive for. I was raised by parents who were very careful about the loans they took out, and King Jo was raised with the mindset that loans are as bad as the Anti-Christ (and I'm only half-joking). This definitely gave us an advantage as we were able to marry only owing a few thousand on my school loans and were able to quickly pay that off even with very low-paying jobs before getting pregnant a year later.

Though we recognize the great freedom in being debt-free we have also encountered the reality in life that sometimes unexpected expenses come up and staying out of debt when you're young can be difficult. This is why I think it is SO IMPORTANT to have at least a modest emergency fund in place. We were so busy trying to get loans taken care of our first year of marriage that we neglected saving for an emergency fund and so every car repair and unexpected bill that came along would hit us hard and set us back. God was amazingly faithful to provide, but it would have saved us a lot of heartache if we had been more diligent to set aside at least $1,000 for those burdens that come along. It's sad to say but when our bank made some mistakes involving about 40 dollars, we were overdrafted because our checking account was that tight! Now, we try to keep a couple of hundred dollars of float money in our checking account, which we don't spend, but we have it there in case of problems like that!

Though we didn't have an emergency fund for the first few years of our marriage, I am so glad we have at least $1,000 set aside for that now. I would like to be able to set aside even more in the future. But for now, I really want to encourage my blog readers to start small and build a emergency fund of $1,000 if you haven't already.

Who should have an emergency fund?
1. High school students (now is the time to be saving since you have few, if any, bills)
2. College students (Too many college students are tempted into easy credit card fixes when the car breaks down and they are living off of Ramen noodles without a dime to spare.)
3. Newlyweds (If I had to go back and do things over I would do everything I could to have an E. Fund in place before getting married. It would be a great thing to suggest when folks ask what you want for your shower or wedding.)
4. Singles, couples, families, retirees, the elderly, etc. Basically EVERYONE! We all get hit with unexpected things, whether medical or home or car or travel related and one of the keys to staying debt-free is to be prepared when things come up so that you are not forced into debt!

Where do I start?
1. If you are prone to spending everything you have, have your bank set up an automatic feature where they take x amount of dollars out of your checking each month and put it into a savings account.
2. If you make plenty of money to live off and then some, then there is no excuse for you to NOT have an E. fund. Budget your needs and get busy with saving and stop spending on stuff you don't need.
3. If you are barely scraping by, then you will need to assess if there is something you can cut back for awhile so you can pad your E. fund. No eating out until it's done? Challenge yourself to bike to work in the summer? Give up lattes? Do you have lots of junk sitting around that you could sell?
4. If you truly don't have an extra dollar to save, then it's time to figure out how to get more cash flow into your life. Do some evening babysitting, delivering papers, mow lawns, or bake and sell bread, but do find a way to make some money that you can SAVE, not spend.
5. Pray a lot. Most of us can save more than we do, but we aren't in the habit or we haven't learned personal discipline and hate denying ourselves the little luxuries we so enjoy. Praying about our financial needs and decisions helps keep us accountable before God and helps remind us to stay on track. When we acknowledge our need before Him, He is faithful to meet our needs and help us.

I really believe the first $1,000 is the hardest! It can be really hard to start saving if you aren't in the habit, but once you get the ball rolling, it becomes easier and easier! Of course the E. Fund needs to be continually maintained because as you dip into it for big needs, that money will need to be replaced. There is always the chance that an expense will come up that will totally level your E. fund and cause you to have to go in debt and for those instances, I haven't the answers, except to say that God is faithful and will provide for our needs when we look to Him. We do the best we can do to be wise and prepared but we ultimately have to trust Him for every area of our lives.

I have been blessed by the wisdom of Crown Ministries and Dave Ramsey regarding finances and setting up emergency funds. Check out their sites for more on this subject.

Do you have an emergency fund? If so, how has it helped you with pursuing a debt-free life?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Project Minivan Update!

For those of you who are wondering how we're doing with Project Minivan: Here's the scoop!

We now have $1,600 in savings for the van.
We have not yet received our Stimulus check. Some of our friends have gotten less than they expected, so we don't know how much it will be FOR SURE, but when that comes we should be at least $500 within our goal. Which means if we can save $500 over the next three months (June, July, August) we will have our van paid for! The cool part is that we will be selling one of our current vehicles when the van comes so we will have an ADDITIONAL $1,000-$2,000 from that sale for our fund so we can likely pay my in-laws a bonus for the gas money they will spend driving it out and maybe pad our emergency fund further.

God is so good to us! He gets all the credit for meeting this need in our lives!

Next project with the van: We need to get it added onto our car insurance THIS WEEK!

Menu of the Week

Meals for the Week

Roast Chicken/Veggies/Baked Potatoes
Cost Estimate: $5.50 for 4

Ravioli topped with mozarella/Salad/Garlic toast
Cost estimate: $5 for 4

Homemade Pizza/Salad/Fruit
Cost estimate: $6 for 4

Crock Pot Chicken on Mashed Potatoes/Salad/Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Cost estimate: $3 for hearty meal for 4 ($7 total, but provided 2+ lunches too)

Bean Burritos/Peas
Cost estimate: $3 to feed 4 (Homemade tortillas and homemade refried beans)

Waffles or Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
Cost estimate: $1 to feed 4

Salsa Skillet/Peas/Jello
Cost estimate: $4.50 because elk hamburger was free

Each of these meals yields leftovers for lunches. Some of the meals took care of even 2 lunches!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frugal, but Filling Meals

I have been trying to find more recipes for meals that are both frugal and filling. I finally got around to making chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes, a recipe I got from Crystal's e-book, Simply Suppers, which I purchased last fall. I doubled her recipe so we would have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. I also made her banana-chocolate-chip muffins for dessert and added Caesar salad for a side dish, along with fresh-squeezed lemonade to drink! It was a very hearty meal and we had enough noodles, potatoes, and salad left over for not one, but TWO lunches!
I estimate that the total amount of food cost us: $7 This includes the muffins and drinks
This fed 2 adults and 2 small children
The muffins not only served as dessert (and late night snacks for the itty bitty belly dweller) but also for breakfast the next morning.
So, I estimate that this meal only cost about $3 to feed all 4 of us for supper! We ate heartily and had seconds too! I will say that I got the chicken on sale (it was a big bag of frozen breasts) so that is one reason it was so cheap. But perhaps you could make it for even less where you live!

Here's the recipe. I've doubled Crystal's original and tweaked it a bit:

Crock Pot Chicken and Noodles

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen)
6 C. water or broth (I used broth made with chicken base I had on hand)
4-6 large carrots, sliced
I large onion
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. basil
1 package of egg noodles (or use frozen noodles if you like)

Place ingredients in crock pot and cook for 8-10 hours. Take chicken out, turn crockpot to high and put noodles in. Frozen noodles need 30-45 minutes to cook, dry noodles need about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut chicken up into small pieces and then put back in crockpot. Serve over mashed potatoes.

I didn't make this in the crockpot, but instead made it on the stove. I let it simmer for about an hour or two, adding the noodles about 10 minutes before it was time to eat.

Preschool Activities

Thanks to the inspiration I gained from the book "Mommy, Teach Me!" by Barbara Curtis, I have been trying to stock a supply of things Ali can use for skill building exercises. One thing we've tried, which she really enjoys (and it keeps her busy for quite a while) is using a turkey baster to squeeze water from one bowl into another, left to right. When she masters that, I will give her an eyedropper to try it with.

These large wooden beads (25 cents for a ziploc bag at a yard sale) are so much fun to string onto a shoelace!

These little foam circles were in the toybox at the thrift shop. I'm not sure what they are, but for 25 cents, they make great color-matching objects. I simply have her put all the rings in the largest square of the meal tray, and then sort them by color into the smaller squares. She loves it! Jer likes it too, and we, being the biased parents that we are, think he's SO SMART to be sorting colors at his age!

Ali enjoys washing dishes in a little basin nearby while I wash dishes. Though I usually just give her plastic, unbreakable stuff, the book encourages giving them breakables too, so I'm branching out with that!

The local library has the neatest programs for kids in the summer! This summer's theme is bugs, so today, after some bug stories, they decorated "bug cookies." Most of the moms with young kids in town go! If they fill out their reading charts, they get a prize at the end of the program! Both of my kids love it!

Playing with homemade play dough is one of my kid's favorite activities. They also love to color, sometimes a few different times in a day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Making my Home a Haven Update

Here are the pics of my anti-procrastination day!
The leftover containers were growing out of control! I had been saving all of my cottage cheese and Smart Balance containers and there were so many that when I'd put the clean ones up there I'd just hope none fell out and slam the doors shut as fast as I could. The cupboard is way above my head so it's difficult to keep straightened when there are that many items up there.
I put some leftover containers in the picnic basket for our weekly picnic. I put some of them in storage in case I make freezer jam this summer and need them. I filled one bag for my mom, who seems to run out of these containers quickly, and one bag is full of ones that I can toss or save for painting/craft project.
So much nicer! Less is better!

Our tiny pantry gets full of clutter quickly as it serves as our garage/utility room/pantry/cleaning closet.

Of course little Jer doesn't help matters as he always tries to sneak back there and rearrange my shelves!

Cereal and baking on top, snacks and miscellaneos, a shelf of mostly tomato products, and extra paper plates, party supplies and plastic utensils on the bottom.

Much cleaner and easier to find things!

Blessings to you as you straighten and organize your homes too!

Making My Home a Haven

Well, it's house-cleaning day again and it always seems like such a gigantic mess after the weekend. I'm not sure why, but it always does!

I usually do a couple loads of laundry on Monday, vaccuum, make bread, and straighten up the kitchen and house in general. Today I wanted to list a couple of projects that I've been putting off because if I promise to post pictures of them, I will be more likely to do them. Anti-procrastination! A blog is a great motivator for me!

So, in addition to general cleaning, I hope to:

1. Straighten and sort my jumbled cupboard full of plastic leftover containers.

2. Straighten up my tiny pantry that gets cluttered way too easily!

3. Organize and sort photos in our My Pictures file on our computer. Every couple of months I try to sort them to various folders so our photos don't get too out of control.

I'll post before and after pics of #1 and #2 later today!

Join me in making your home a haven!

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