Sunday, April 29, 2012

Marrying Prince Charming

I went to see Mirror, Mirror with my mom and sister-in-law last week.  While I had a great time at girls' night, I couldn't help but think about Snow White marrying her prince.  Isn't that what almost every little girl dreams about?  One day marrying a prince, having babies, and living happily ever after.

My prince and I grew up together.  Our parents were/are great friends.  Hubby and I joked about how our parents betrothed us at birth.  Growing up whenever I would talk about liking a boy, my mom would say, "There's always Hubby".  Whenever Hubby talked about liking someone, his mom would say, "You could do a lot worse than Lisa."  

I distinctly remember the first time I realized I liked Hubby.  I was in tenth grade and went on a youth retreat with my church.  Hubby and I both got there early to help set up.  I remember it was his birthday, we were joking around, I probably gave him a birthday hug, and I went away from that weekend with the seed of love planted in my heart.  In twelfth grade I got a job working at a fast food restaurant.  Hubby started working there, too.  I flirted like mad with him.  He ignored me.  We were washing dishes in the back room one day and I must have said something to him about us because I remember him telling me that kissing me would be like kissing his sister.  (I'm guessing he wasn't as into me as I was into him)

My sophomore year of college, Hubby came over at my apartment with some other friends for dinner.  He mentioned that he liked to cook.  I told him that I was going to marry him because I wanted to marry someone who could cook.  He laughed.

Fall of my junior year of college, we took a bowling class together.  Every day after class we would hang out before our next classes.  We went to coffee shops, went for walks, I flirted a TON with him and he never got the message.  One day we were sitting on a bench on campus and I said to Hubby, "I'm going to marry you."  He looked at me and said, "I don't think so."  Amazingly, we remained friends after that:)

Spring of my junior year, Hubby and I were at a party together.  We were sitting on the front porch of the house talking.  He said, "Lisa, I've changed my mind about you.  I do like you."  One week before we both were starting a year of mission work--me in Michigan, Hubby in Belfast, Ireland.  

We sent a lot of emails back and forth, chatted on IM, wrote letters, and even a few phone calls.  I went over to Europe with a group of fellow mission workers in February and spent as much time as I could with Hubby.  Saying good-bye was one of the hardest things ever knowing I wouldn't see him again until May.

Hubby came home in May, asked my dad for permission to court me the next day, and then officially asked me out that evening.  He proposed to me on December 13 in the exact spot on campus where I had told him that I was going to marry him.  We were married in June.

After we were engaged, Hubby told me that he was going to be so romantic that he was going to make all my girlfriends jealous.  He has kept that promise even after 10 years.  He surprises me with flowers, he surprises me with dates, he cooks dinner once or twice a week, he goes to work every day so I can stay home with the kids, he builds me garden beds because it makes me happy, he gave me three beautiful children who he plays with and is a great father to, but best of all--he loves me and tells me so every single day. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Meijer Matchups

My favorite sale matchup site is Bargains to Bounty.  I do my main grocery shopping at Meijer which is one of the stores that Bargains to Bounty covers.  My favorite part of the matchup is that if a sale price is a rock bottom price, the price is in green.  This tells me if I should stock up on something if I regularly buy it.  It also lists the various coupons needed to get the best deal.  I have saved hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars since discovering this website.  Here are five of my favorite deals for the week of April 29-May 5.  Click here for the full list of deals.  All I can say is "Ya, baby, bring on the sweet corn!"

A few good deals on cereal this week in case you have a child like mine used to be--Joy at age 2

$2.50 Ore-Ida Potatoes, 19-32 oz (excludes twice baked, easy fry)
*Buy 4, get $3.00 off instantly at the register. Limit 1 offer per transaction.*
$1.75 each when you buy 4 after instant savings

$2.50 Kellogg’s Cereal – 17-20.5 oz Frosted Flakes, 18 oz Corn Flakes, 18.2 oz Raisin Bran Crunch or 15.5-16.3 oz Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats
-$0.50/1 Kellogg’s Corn Flakes printable coupon or
-$1.00/2 Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats printable coupon
-$1.00/3 Kellogg’s printable coupon

$1.50-$2.17 each after coupon

$1.88 Dannon Danimal Crunchers Yogurt Multipack
-$0.50/1 Crunchers coupon (from 3-18 SS, exp 4-30!)
$0.88 after coupon

$2.79 Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeat
-$0.50/1 Meijer mPerks digital coupon (limit 1 use)
-$0.50/1 Natural Choice printable coupon
$1.29 after coupons

$0.20 Sweet Corn, each

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pushing vs. Waiting

I started my soccer mom status when David was 4 years old.  He spent his first season picking dandelions on the field and touched the ball maybe three times the entire season.  But he has always loved soccer.  He has since improved dramatically and is now a very good defender, his favorite position to play.

Lizzy started playing soccer when she was 4 and spent her first season much like her brother but threw in some girl chat, cartwheels, and spins.  

Rain or shine, we're there to cheer on our team(s)

Joy is playing her first season of soccer, also at age 4.  Yesterday she played her first game.  While she didn't pick flowers, talk to her friends, do cartwheels or show off her dance moves, she did spend a lot of the game just standing there looking clueless.  She managed to kick the ball three times, so I considered it a successful first game.  

I have always just assumed that my kids would play soccer since Hubby and I both played soccer, one season even on the same team.  This past fall, Lizzy put her foot down and said she was done with soccer and wanted to do something a bit more "girly."  She chose gymnastics.  Never have I seen a girl more excited and happy than Lizzy at gymnastics class.  She was terrible, uncoordinated, and inflexible when she first started.  Within a few weeks she was actually pretty decent.  She had visions of being a famous gymnast which I gently had to squash due to her genetics--she's most likely going to end up between 5'8" and 6'0", not exactly gymnast size.

I admit I was a little sad that she'd tossed soccer aside.  But I didn't want to push her into something she didn't seem to be very good at anyway (after 3 seasons she still spent almost all her time picking flowers, talking, and just about everything else except actually playing soccer).  

The only part Lizzy liked about soccer was playing Goalie

This spring Lizzy decided to take up soccer again.  She seemed excited, but I had my doubts due to past experience.  I don't know if it's that she's matured since last year, or if it's due to having an excellent coach (a family friend), or that she's now playing on a larger field with larger goals (vs. tiny goals and a small field for 4-6 year olds), but after her first practice she said that she loved soccer and couldn't wait for the next practice.  Last night she had a really big smile on her face while playing in her first game, she was doing her best to get to the ball, and did a pretty decent job for a girl who has never really played soccer (I'm not sure the last 3 seasons really count as playing soccer).  

While at the time I thought that Lizzy was giving up soccer completely, I'm glad that I let her make that decision for herself and didn't push her to do something unessential that she really didn't want to do.  It makes her joy this season so much sweeter.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are Chores a Thing of the Past???

Joy helping me clean the tops of the cupboards
I hung out with a few of my girl friends last night as we helped a friend pack up her house in preparation for moving.  We started talking about how we needed to expect more from our kids after one friend shared that her children stopped telling potty jokes while Grandpa and Grandma were visiting.  Obviously they were capable of curbing their humor for Grandma, therefore they should be able to all the time.

Another friend said that as a culture, we have low expectations for our children.  We discussed examples from classic literature--In Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, Farmer Boy, the children went to school and then came home and did farm chores.  I mentioned reading a book to my children where a ten year old pioneer girl had to stay alone over night at her cabin in the middle of the wilderness and take care of her eighteen month old brothers while their dad took their mom to the doctor eight miles away (by horse).  In today's society, she isn't even old enough to stay home alone, let alone babysit.  And she had to cook their meals over an open fire, cooking from scratch (does anyone even do that anymore these days???), and her dad left her the pistol which she ended up using to scare away a bear.  Imagine what would happen to that family if this were to occur today--the kids would be in foster care and the parents would be in jail for neglect.

This morning this article was posted on Facebook.  Rural kids, parents angry about Labor Dept. rule banning farm chores.  "The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families' land.  Under the rules, children under 18 would no longer work 'in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.'"  If passed, this rule would make the chores done in Farmer Boy also illegal.  

How is a parent supposed to teach their children a good work ethic in a society that tells us that all kids should be allowed to do is go to school, buy stuff, plug into all types of media, and act rebellious and misunderstood?  Where chores are now regulated by the child-labor laws?  

Well, I am here to say that my children do chores and they will be doing chores until the day they move out of my house.  Whenever I am tempted to think that they are too young for something, I let my children decide.  I hand them a tool and if they can't handle it, they're too young.  Last summer Hubby attempted to show David how to mow the lawn.  He wasn't strong enough to turn the mower, so he wasn't ready.  This year David mows the backyard on his own.  I thought putting new sheets on the bed would be too difficult for Lizzy, but last week I asked her to try it herself and she did fine with a little help from me (she sleeps on the top bunk so it's more challenging than a regular bed).  

David pruning a pine tree
If you want to raise dependent children who aren't capable of taking care of themselves, go ahead and do everything for them.  Listen to the people who tell you that you should let kids be kids and not expect anything from them.  If you want to raise children who grow into independent young adults who can manage a home, hold a job, and make wise decisions with their finances, have high expectations for them now.    

I have a list of chores/skills that I want each of my children to master before leaving my home:
-Cook and bake from scratch and use the grill
-Laundry (including sorting, water temperatures, folding, putting away, and ironing)
-Grocery shopping (including menu planning, shopping list making, couponing, and stockpiling sales items)
-Basic mending/sewing (if not more)
-Basic home repairs (plumbing, electric work, how to use tools appropriately, etc)
-Basic auto maintenance 
-Financial planning (including budgeting, how to balance a checkbook/rectify a bank statement, how to avoid debt)
-Lawn care
-Garden care
-Home care (how to clean an entire house, not just one area)
-Childcare skills (how to change a diaper, feed a baby, babysit, etc)

There are many more chores/skills I plan to teach my children, but this is a starting point.  There will be no nose wiping of teenagers in my house.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unrelieved Boredom

"As I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something.  Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me."  ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

People choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons.  Some people do it for religious reasons.  Some because their local public schools are less than satisfactory.  Some for social reasons.  And then there are those, like me, who have chosen to homeschool so their children do not have to suffer through thirteen years (we have to do kindergarten now) of unrelieved boredom.

Before their parent-teacher conferences this past fall, I asked my children if there was anything they wanted me to discuss with their teachers.  Both children told me to ask for harder work and more homework.  Every day they would come home from school complaining that school was SOOOO BORING.  I think they were feeling the effects of unrelieved boredom.

My goal for my children has always been to pass on a love of learning.  A love of reading.  To want to find the answers to their questions. To dig deeper and really study something.  Sure, this occasionally leads to trouble like over Easter weekend when my son decided to dismantle his grandma's Wii console to see how it worked.  But I love that my children are curious and ask questions.  I love that they want to know how something works.  I love that when they ask questions, they want real scientific answers.  I love that they ask to watch science movies on TV and check out non-fiction books from the library.

Taking apart his bike to see how his chain works
Today we went to our homeschool science co-op and the topic was on monocots and dicots, a rather boring topic if all we did was read about it.  But after explaining what they were and how to tell the difference, we all went outside and went on a search through the yard to identify the plants that we found.  All of the children remembered what they had learned and were able to distinguish if a plant was a monocot or dicot.

We are learning about the pioneers right now and what it was like to travel the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails.  To engage my children in this, I told them at the end of our unit, they would have to decide which trail they would have wanted to take and why.  As we are learning about the states in the order that they ratified the Constitution, we regularly vote on which state out of the ones we've learned about so far would we actually want to live in.  So far it's between Vermont and Maine, but we've only just crossed the Mississippi so that could change.  (And yes, I am sure that my life long desire to live on a homestead in a log cabin surrounded by woods might have swayed them a bit in what states they prefer)

Homeschooling makes reaching my goals a lot easier.  But even then, I know that school can't always be fun.  Sometimes it is okay to be bored.  It is important to teach in such a way that draws a child to want to learn the material.  To teach in such a way that fosters a life long love for learning.

Dressing up for Mystery Week at preschool
Yes, homeschooling makes reaching my goals a lot easier, but it isn't the only way.  No matter how you choose for your children to be educated, you can still foster a love of learning.   Don't just read about something, actually engage in it--go outside and experience it in nature.  Go to a museum and see it for yourself.  Imagine what it would be like if you were the one crossing the country in a covered wagon.  Watch a documentary about things that you can't physically observe yourself (my children are currently loving Discovery Channel's Frozen Planet).

Do not settle for thirteen years of unrelieved boredom.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sell Everything and Follow Me

Luke 18:18-25

A certain ruler asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered.  "No one is good-except God alone.  You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"

"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.

While praying this morning, I felt God telling me that He was going to shake things up.  I started wondering what that could mean.  I know Hubby and I have jokingly discussed selling out and sailing around the world like Gregg Granger and his family did as described in the book Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home.  Or Hubby quitting his job and relocating to a spot where we could live off the land.  Absolutely not something we would really do.  But the possibilities were running through my head.

I thought again about my missionary friend, what it would mean to sell almost everything you owned and move to Mozambique.  If God called us to be missionaries, what would that mean for us?  I started thinking about my house.  Would we rent it?  Sell it?  What would we do with our stuff?  Sell it?  Put it in storage?  What of my stuff would I want to keep?  What would I part with?  

In the past, whenever I have read the above passage from the Bible, I always thought that the rich ruler was weak.  Jesus was standing right in front of him, telling him to sell all and follow him.  He should have jumped at the chance to follow Jesus.  I never took the time to apply it to me personally.  If God were to ask me to give up 95% of my things, keeping only the things that are essential, would I say yes? 

I'm not rich.  I don't have a lot of fancy things.  While I could happily part with about 70% of the things I own, I realize that I have a lot of attachment to the other 30% that would make it a real sacrifice to give away.  I have a sleep number bed and a log bed frame.  I love them.  I don't sleep well when I am away from home and I am always very happy to return to my own bed. 

Then there's my kitchen.  I could part with a lot of things in there, but I really like my cookware.  I've collected a few favorite pots and pans over the years and being forced to use something else would be hard.  I'm also rather partial to my new computer.  

Maybe the rich ruler wasn't so weak after all.  Maybe he was just normal.  Like me.  Simple purging can make me sweat buckets over whether I should keep something or not.  It would be very hard to whittle down my house to just a few boxes of essentials.  I pray that whatever God has in store for me that I will say yes without looking back.  That I will do better than the rich ruler who went away sad.  That I would actually sell all and follow Jesus.

Friday, April 20, 2012

When Homeschooling Hits a Rough Patch

David is seriously contemplating the grass

Spring soccer season started last week.  My kids play through a homeschool league where all the teams practice at the same time so there are a lot of homeschool parents sitting around chatting for an hour and a half.  For the first time, all of my kids are playing soccer which means that while they have soccer practice, I get to do what I like best about soccer--talk to the moms.  

Because it is a homeschool league, the question inevitably comes up--how is homeschool going?  I was telling my friend about our challenges this week after two weeks of a light schedule.  After I was done, she told me that she was so happy I'd shared about our struggles because she's been having a rough patch as well and needed to know that she wasn't alone in it.  So in case there is anyone else out there who needs to know they're not the only one struggling, I will share about our week.

On Monday David cried over his math because he got five problems wrong, all silly errors.  On Tuesday he cried and said he was stupid at math because he got four wrong.  After two days of him missing a lot of problems, I decided to have him step back and do only half a lesson a day until his error rate improves.  Before he can correct his answers, he has to go over all his problems again and check his work.  Did he copy the problem down correctly in the first place?  Is his math correct or did he forget to carry a number?  So far the strategy is working and he's had no errors the last three days.  

 Lizzy hit a hard spot in math this week that has been a real challenge for her.  Math has resulted in a lot of tears, me wanting to pull my hair out, and finally deciding she needed to slow down until she really grasped the new concept.  She is weak in her math facts so is struggling with harder subtraction.  My friend suggested a website,, that is a great way to review math facts and I had Lizzy try it out today.  I am hopeful it will give her the help she needs to get those math facts down.

On Wednesday I made Lizzy cry because I wouldn't let her do her silent reading first.  She was in the middle of a book that she wanted to finish, but it was time for me to teach.  On Thursday and today David cried while trying to classify sentences because after two weeks of no grammar, he apparently forgot the newer things he had learned.  He is having the hardest time remembering the different types of pronouns.  And right now he is throwing a fit over his vocabulary that I can't even figure what the problem is.  Is it really that hard to look a word up in the dictionary and write down the definition?  Sometimes I wonder.

Lizzy wasn't happy a few minutes ago when I told her that she needed to read one of the books I picked out from the library instead of one of her Disney Princess or Fairy books that she picked out.  Apparently well written books are not her favorite.

Yup, some weeks I really wonder why I fought so hard to do this homeschooling thing.  Sometimes you have to take a huge step back because your kids aren't getting a concept.  Sometimes your kids make you want to scream with their attitude.  Sometimes you make them cry.  But despite the setbacks, despite the bad days, overall my kids are learning, they are happy, and they are growing.  And I wouldn't trade this life for anything.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Craft Time on Ladybug Farms

After unearthing my sewing desk, I discovered a few unfinished projects that were just begging to be completed.  So I cracked out the thread and got to work.

I am in the process of teaching my girls how to sew.  We started with something very basic that involved only sewing straight lines.  Pillows.  Pillows for dolls, stuffed animals, and other assorted toys.  Lizzy had already made two before Joy decided she wanted to try making one--unfortunately she made this decision about a half hour before dinner, so we only got two sides sewn before I set it down and forgot about it.  But, we finished it up and now she's a happy girl.

The next project I finished up was a hand bag that I started back in December and had almost completed.  It only lacked a strap.  I was going to give it to one of the girls, but they both really want it.  So I will be putting it away until Christmas and will have to sew a second one for the other girl.  I plan to sew their initials onto their bags.

Side B modeled by Joy
Side A modeled by Lizzy

I'm thankful for...

Big boxes.

I got my REALLY BIG planter today in the mail and it came in a REALLY BIG box.  The girls are having a lot of fun playing with it.

Trees in bloom.

The tree outside my window came into bloom yesterday and it is beautiful.  Too bad I'm allergic to said tree, but it is pretty through a glass window where the pollen can't get to me.

Clean water.

My missionary friend posted a picture on his blog of where they get their water.  It is a well that requires them to lower a bucket into the ground.  It reminds me just how lucky I am to have both clean water and indoor plumbing, something that the majority of the world does not have.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clearing Off the Desk

While Hubby was setting up my new computer, he told me that my desk was a disgrace and that he had no idea how I could even work with all the mess.  Well, pppssssstttttt to him!

BUT since Lizzy has been begging, begging, begging until I want to put ear plugs in for me to let her have my old computer once we scrounge up a new monitor from somewhere, I decided that MAYBE I should clean off my sewing desk since that's where the computer would need to go.

I have NO IDEA what Hubby was talking about.  My desk was perfectly clean to start with.

See???  Clean.  Just like I said:)

Okay, maybe Hubby had a point.  It does look a lot better now.

I am thankful...

For Sunshine.

It rained almost all day yesterday and was cloudy.  Today the sun is shining bright and the flowers on the tree outside the office window are beautiful in the sunlight.

For Friends.

David and Lizzy had their homeschool science co-op class this morning.  It's only for an hour, but they always have fun and get to spend that hour building friendships with the other kids.  As a homeschooling family living in a neighborhood with few children, most of my kids' socializing involves me driving them somewhere.  So I always treasure the opportunities where my kids can interact with their peers.

For Normalcy.

After two weeks of chaos due to spring break and a week of sickness, life is back to normal.  Routine is a beautiful thing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I'm Thankful...

For health.

My whole family was sick with a terrible cough.  David got hit the worst due to his asthma.  He spent 4 days pretty much laying on the couch and sleeping.  It made my mommy heart hurt just to listen to his coughing.  The rest of us were sick, but not nearly as bad.  Hubby and I still have a little cough, and we both sound wheezy, but we're almost better.

For Hubby.

I got the "blue screen of death" one too many times on my computer (it was a third hand computer), so Hubby bought me a new one.  He then spent a couple hours over the weekend setting up my new computer and then networking all the computers together so they can share a printer.  Which means I can now print 2 sets of every coupon I want from each computer.

For Lizzy.

While Hubby, David and Joy were out yesterday afternoon, Lizzy stayed home with sick me.  She decided she was going to help me make dinner, clear and set the table without being asked, and doing whatever she could to be helpful.  All with a very cheerful, happy spirit.

Today we decided to stop playing "hermit" and got back into our daily routine.  Joy went to preschool while Lizzy and David did their full course load of schoolwork.  I can't say there weren't a few tears shed, but that's to be expected after two weeks off from our routine.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

After lunch the girls wanted to create their own secret reading places, so Lizzy cleaned out half of the closet and I helped with putting up sheets to make little cubby areas.  The girls were pretty happy with their idea.

Peeking out of their "secret" hiding places

Joy reading an old birthday card from Grandma

Lizzy with her nightlight reading lamp--her side was a little too dark

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Little DIY

Our main bathroom seems to be falling apart.  Last weekend the sink broke.  Lizzy came out of the bathroom yelling that the pipe broke and that there was water everywhere.  Upon further investigation, the drain pipe had completely rusted through and severed, leaving the sink water with no where else to drain but into the cabinet below.  I left this project to the Hubs because plumbing and I have little experience together.

Rusted through sink drain--Hubby said it's from 5 years of kid spit:)

Severed sink drain
Yesterday David came out of the same bathroom holding the toilet flusher in his hand.  The plastic flusher handle broke off from the arm that holds up the chain.  Since it was 8:00 pm at night, I wasn't about to go out to the store and buy a new handle immediately.  But as the only other bathroom in our house is through the master bedroom, we needed to come up with a solution or risk middle-of-the-night visitors into our room.  Enter a coat hanger and duct tape.  The kids thought it was the most hilarious thing ever.  But it worked.

This morning I ran out to Walmart and bought a new flusher and replaced it.  The kids were a little sad to see the hanger go.  They were having fun telling a stupid joke about it.  "What do you get when you combine a hanger and duct tape?  A flusher!"  Ya.  We've been trying to teach the kids about the art of telling FUNNY jokes, but so far our efforts have been in vain.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Few Good Deals

I have been keeping my eye on a few products that I really want to buy, but have been waiting for a better deal.  Today one of those products finally went on sale.  Woot!  I've been reading a lot about the benefits of coconut oil, but Hubby would only approve a few specific varieties due to the way that SOME coconut oil is processed (lets just say it involves bug residue, ewwwww).  If you aren't careful, you can get sick off contaminated coconut oil.

A deal came through today on and I knew it was time to buy.  So if you are like me and have been waiting for your chance, today's the day.  If you buy it using subscribe and save, you get it even cheaper (and you can always cancel your subscription at any time).  I can't wait to try out my new coconut oil on my cast iron cookware.

My cast iron dutch oven that I saved up Swagbucks gift cards to buy

I love cooking with fresh herbs, but hate having to buy cut herbs every time I need them, letting half of them go to waste because I can't use them up fast enough.  We grew basil in an indoor planter last summer and it lasted through the entire winter and is still growing strong.

My basil plant

My oregano and chives are outside and I'm already able to use them in my cooking.  But what I really want is an indoor herb garden with cilantro, basil, oregano, parsley and thyme, which are the main fresh herbs I use.  Yesterday I bought two more potted herbs (thyme and parsley) that need to be repotted, so I went searching online to find the right planter.  I wanted a long window sill planter so they can go in the window above my kitchen sink.  I found a 36 inch sand colored planter that includes a saucer for only $14.67.  Pretty soon I'm going to have one really cool herb garden right at my fingertips that will save me money all year.

Thyme, Parsley, and my attempts at starting Cilantro from seeds

Thursday, April 12, 2012

When Purging Efforts Are Thwarted

Hubby cleaned the garage this past weekend.  While he was putting the snow shovels up into the attic, he found a few outgrown toys to add to our garage sale pile.  I thought that these toys would be uninteresting to my children.  I was wrong.

Look Mom!  I can still ride my old bike even if I can't sit on the seat anymore!
 The girls also found a creative way to utilize their old sled on a nice, sunny spring day.  Poor David is always being roped into being the brute strength.  

Come on Rudolf!  Go faster!
It never ceases to amaze me how my kids can go months/years without touching a toy even once.  But if I dare to put it into the purge pile, it's suddenly the BEST TOY in the world!  After two years of no use, I decided to sell our plastic climber on craigslist.  I pulled it out to clean it up for the woman coming to pick it up the next day.  My kids spent the entire afternoon playing on it.  The next day when they found out I had sold it, they were horrified and wanted to keep it.  

But my favorite time was when I was getting ready to sell one of our portable cribs.  I washed the mat and set it up in the sunroom to dry out.  The next thing I know, I find this little photo-op.  

Please Mom!  We LOVE it!  Don't get rid of it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

There Has Been a Change of Plans

Hubby likes to make fun of my side of the family because we are a family who likes to celebrate.  We will throw a party for anything and everything.  A birthday does not go by without a family dinner.  A holiday does not escape a party.  If you do something great, like get a new job, have a baby, whatever, we throw a party.  Holidays are not just a two hour commitment.  If it's Easter weekend, we don't just have a meal and call it good.  We hang out the entire weekend.  So holidays and birthdays have always been a really big deal to me.

The week before Christmas, I kept my family home.  I didn't let my kids have play dates, we skipped the library, I did my best to keep my family away from any germs that would prevent us from joining in the Christmas festivities.  I thought we had escaped the winter cooties.  We went out for dinner on Christmas Eve with my family and all was well.  We rushed home to pick up our presents before going to my inlaws' house for their family Christmas.  As we were walking in the door, Joy threw up.  And since it was Hubby's family party, I offered to stay home with the sick kid.  The next day I was feeling a little icky so we had to cancel plans with my side of the family and stay home.  We ended up having a good day, it's the first time ever that we've celebrated a holiday with just our immediate family.  But it was different.

Enter Easter.  We spent Saturday with my side of the family, visited the Butterfly House, had a family dinner.  But our plan for Easter day was to have lunch at my inlaws' house and also celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.  My kids did have runny noses all week, but I figured it was due to allergies since the pollen has been flying.  Sunday morning I made a nice breakfast and the kids had an Easter Egg scavenger hunt.  When it was time to leave for the party, I found David asleep on the couch.  When I went to wake him up, I felt his forehead and he definitely had a fever.  So once again I volunteered to stay home since the party was Hubby's side of the family.  Once again I missed the fun.

The Never Photogenic Family Picture
 After missing the second holiday in a row, a girl can't help but start to wonder if there is some lesson God is trying to teach me.  I got to thinking about what holidays used to be like when I was a child.  We almost always went to my Grandparents' house in Chicago.  My Grandma did it up big--great food, candy, presents, outings, the whole nine yards.  Holidays were a grand event and I loved it!

Things started to change when I got married and had to split holidays between two families.  Then Grandma moved and lives right down the street from me so there aren't weekend visits to her house in Chicago.  While we still have fun, it's not the same.  Add in a Hubby who is not that into family parties and all my childhood expectations have pretty much been thrown out the window.

And now God wanted to take it one step further.  I had already let go of the weekend-long family party.  Now I think that God wants me to let go of the party period.  To start my own family traditions and not rely on my mom or mother-in-law to make all the fun.  This past year, we did a Jesse Tree with daily scripture readings and an Advent chain with the names of Jesus leading up to Christmas.  For Easter we did a Lenten series of scripture readings that went through the life of Christ along with the Resurrection Eggs that Joy brought home from preschool.  I've already been paring down the consumerism of our family holidays big time--less presents, less candy--and have shifted the focus onto where it should be.  Jesus.  This year we took the time to keep the focus on the reason for the parties--the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Lizzy reading the scripture for the next clue on the Easter egg scavenger hunt
Of course we will still be attending family parties, but I will be holding them more loosely in my hand.  My own family traditions will be the bulk of the fun and the big family parties will just be the icing on the cake instead of being the entire cake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Do You Save Money?

As I was hanging my clothes up on the clothes line yesterday, I got to thinking about the many small changes I have made over the last few years that have cut down on our expenses.  When taken individually, each small change doesn't seem very significant.  But when you add them all together, as a group they do make an impact.

I decided to start a list of all the little things I do to cut expenses.  I know there are a whole lot more than what I came up with off the top of my head, but this is a good starting point.

1. Turn off the lights when not in use.

2. Use natural sunlight as much as possible.

3. Turn off the dry cycle on the dishwasher.  Instead, pull out the racks and air dry over night.

4. Use wash clothes for napkins. (Or cloth napkins, I just prefer wash clothes because they are more absorbent and cheap)

5. Line dry laundry.  (My line is in the sunroom because we have pollen allergies.)

6. Wash most clothes in cold water.

7. Before buying something new, try to find a solution with what you have.

8. Use the library for books, movies, etc.  (Since January 2010, we have checked out 1953 books and movies for free)

 9. Buy used as much as possible.

10. Unplug appliances when not in use.  (Even if it does drive Hubby crazy)

11. Start a pantry--stockpile when things are the cheapest so you rarely have to pay full price.

12. Cook from scratch.  Find recipes for your favorite convenience foods, seasoning packets, etc.

13. Grow your own herbs indoors for year round use.  Nothing like fresh basil in the middle of winter.

14. Plant (and tend) a garden.

15. Buy things that will last--do your research before making any major purchase.  Sometimes it is worth a few extra dollars now to buy quality.  I have started buying shoes, boots and swimsuits for my kids from Lands End because of their 100% unconditional guarantee.  When David wore out his tennis shoes before he outgrew them, I took them back and got him a brand new pair for free.

What are some things that you do to save money?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Living In a Land of Excess

I have a friend who is a missionary in Mozambique.  We went to high school together.  When I was in high school, I wanted to be a long term missionary, too, but God had a different plan for my life.  While in high school, I did go on three short term mission trips to Honduras, one to Mexico, and spent a summer doing mission work in Detroit.  I always came back determined to live a simpler life.

Today I read my missionary friend's blog update and it included a picture of his son's birthday celebration. In the background you see the kitchen (extremely bare bones--no fridge, microwave, dishwasher, cupboards--you know, the things that we are used to here in the United States).  I think to myself, it sure would be nice to have a bare bones kitchen without all the excess clutter.  For my friend, there is no CHOICE.  In another post the wife shares what they eat--mostly fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, and eggs.  Here I sit thinking how I'd like to lose weight, how I should eat a healthier diet (pretty much what my friend is eating), but I have a CHOICE to eat like my friend, it's not necessity.

I have occasionally forgotten the conviction to simple living since my missionary travels.  Then I will read a blog update on my missionary friend that will touch my heart and rekindle my desire for simplicity.  Or I will see a picture.  Read a book.  Watch a movie.  They all tug at my heart strings, begging me to live simpler so that I have the resources to help those who truly have great need.

In a land of plenty, it is a challenge to live simply.  I am surrounded by excess, bombarded with messages that say "buy this" or "your life is not complete without this."  Choosing to live simply is a real choice that has to be made daily, hourly, by the minute.  It's a constant battle to only buy what I truly need when I am in the grocery store.  To not buy that package of meat because it's more than I want to spend, to put back that shiny toy on sale that we don't need.  But I have a CHOICE.  There are millions of people who do not.

At this point in my life it is very doubtful that I will ever be a full time missionary in a third world country (I won't say it's completely out of the question, but it pretty much is).  Yet that doesn't exclude me from the call to live a simple life so that my excess can be shared with others.  Yes, couponing, deal-seeking, and simplifying are fun activities for me, but they're just a hobby if there isn't a purpose behind them--to help others.  In Matthew 6:20, God calls us to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal."  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Butterflies Galore

We took a family field trip to a butterfly garden this morning.  I've only been to one once--My mother-in-law and I took the kids to a Monarch butterfly garden last summer.  The kids loved it, but Lizzy was beyond thrilled.  She is my child who loves pretty insects and treats them like her personal pets.

My parents took the kids to the local garden last weekend because they were watching them for the weekend while Hubby and I were away on an adults only vacation (we try to do this annually for a little grown up time with our friends).  My kids loved it and wanted to go back and share the experience with their visiting cousins.

Lizzy loved every minute of the trip.  They have little stations where you can dip your finger in a solution that the butterflies like so you can try to catch a butterfly on your finger.  Lizzy must have caught over 15 butterflies.

David tried his best, but he is just not as patient as Lizzy when it comes to slowly letting the butterflies crawl onto your finger.  He wanted to catch them between his hands.  He did manage to get 6, but he got pretty frustrated in the process.

Joy really wanted to get a butterfly on her finger, but she wasn't very good at it.  She spent the first half of our visit pouting because she couldn't catch one.

When she finally managed to get one on her finger, she was very pleased with herself.

 I will definitely be putting an annual butterfly garden visit onto our yearly field trip roster.  We had a really fun time.