Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sacrificial season of Lent

The season of Lent is here. Many of you may have chosen to give up something as a way to focus on the events surrounding the Resurrection of Christ/Easter. I too thought I would give up something, so I picked my two weaknesses: Sweets and Coffee. Now I have to say, I am addicted to coffee, and it's hard to pass up dessert. But, my sweetness giving up is a little selfishly motivated (I have GOT to loose weight.) My coffee was more of, I don't usually survive without it, I think it makes me edgy, time to cut back.

WELL...I did refused the chocolate chip cookies the boys got for lunch, BUT absent-mindedly snacked on Fruit Loops a minute ago, and caved into my coffee abstinence this morning because I have no caffeinated tea on hand. What's wrong with me!!

All that to say, it's a good thing we have a gracious Savior, who refused to give into temptation, weakness, even though the end was met with death. Even at the pivotal moment in the garden, praying "not my will but yours (God's) be done"!

And I can't help but think...what would I do if I knew I only had 40+ days left to live. Most of us would probably do everything extravagant we could think of. Go places, see things/people. One last hurrah! After all, we're going to heaven right?! What did Jesus do? He kept ministering, healing, and teaching. Even days before he was arrested, he was still performing miracles. He even had the one who was going to betray him in his midst, and yet he still showed love to him.

So, even if we don't make it through the season of Lent (:-)), we can still learn a lot about where we fall short, and where Christ didn't.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring Cleaning My Life

Those who know me know that I'm on a constant quest to simplify and streamline my life while at the same time enjoying collecting things and living a life in a state of chaos. How to merge these two? I've tried countless organizational systems, had friends come over to help me declutter, read helpful websites, followed the Fly Lady's system, etc. Nothing has really seemed to click as far as a workable solution/system for my current state of unpredictability. 

Until yesterday... when I discovered Simple Mom. Just the title was enough to hook me. I've already been decluttering and cleaning closets like mad in order to recapture some storage real estate that wasn't being used to its fullest potential, so I'm in the zone, so to speak, to declutter and organize. Well, some of the forms and suggestions on Simple Mom have got me thinking... and I think they just might be a good fit for me! Simple Mom is written by a Christian although she doesn't mention her faith on the site; she does, however, claim that it informs her views on things. 

Why am I telling this to the blog world? Well, I'm hoping to spend the month of March doing some "spring cleaning" on my house, my time, my priorities, my task-lists, my routines, etc. I might even do some spring cleaning on this blog (Carrie and I've talked over ways we can make the blog more accessible to people, articles more easily found, etc.--any thoughts are welcome in the comments section). So, you may not hear much from me these next few weeks (even though so many terrific blog posting ideas are floating through my head...). Carrie's busy with home schooling and managing a preschooler, among other things, so we don't hear as much as we'd like from her these days, either. Don't give up on us! We'll still be around and enjoy hearing your comments!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Didn't Get a Haircut... I Got 'Em All Cut

Today is/was haircutting day: 2 down, 1 to go.

Last week, a passerby mistook one of my very beefy boys for a girl.... I knew it was time.... The last time I cut the boys' hair, it was 2008, pre-Christmas...maybe even pre-Thanksgiving. If it's humid outside and they've just had a bath, they look like they have a bad '80's perm....

All three of my children have been blessed with fairly curly hair. This hides a multitude of sins, thankfully, so I've begun cutting their hair myself (after watching good friends and my mother do it in for me). I've gotten better and learned a few things along the way. In case you're inspired to attempt this yourself, keep the following in mind:

  • Videos are a must (our pick today is The Wiggles: Pop Go the Wiggles streamed instantly from Netflix)
  • Proper clothing is a must (fleece is a no no....don't ask me how I know this)
  • Bath-time immediately following the hair cut must be part of the schedule
  • Speed is more important than accuracy--you can always touch up later, but half a head of cut hair looks terrible (again, don't ask me how I know this...)
  • Just do it: just make that first cut without analyzing.... see above point
  • You can always use clippers with a guard for little boys' hair; I haven't because my boys are too interested in little mechanical devices (maybe because their Daddy is an engineer?); it's too hard to try to cut the back of the head when the eyes want so very much to see what is making the cool electronic noise.
  • Time to clean up salon area after said bath-time is also a must
  • Booster seats with confining straps are also a good idea
  • Save an old vinyl tablecloth if you go the indoor/movie route (when it's warmer, we can host hair cutting sessions in the great outdoors!)
Remember, Easter isn't that far away--if you cut now, there is still time for too-short hairs to grow. Don't ask me why I'm pointing this out....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Now Seeds, Start Growing!

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel continues to be one of my all-time favorite books EVER. This is coming from an English major, a former English teacher, AND someone who has an MA in children's literature! So, I've read a LOT of books, especially a lot of children's books.

This particular book of Lobel's features the beloved Frog and Toad in various adventures; one of which is the "The List," about which I wrote before. My daughter and I read this book all the time, so the stories are always fresh in mind. Since I started some of my herb and vegetable seeds last night, I've had Toad's cry from "The Garden," "Now seeds, start growing!" running through my head.

In "The Garden," Toad sees Frog's garden full of beautiful flowers. Frog assures Toad that he, too, can have a beautiful garden, but it's hard work. Toad plants some seeds and commands them to start growing. Nothing happens. He yells at them. Nothing happens. Toad thinks his seeds are afraid to grow. When Frog notices Toad yelling at his seeds, he suggests that Toad leave them alone and let the sun shine on them, the rain fall on them, and so forth. But Toad commences what can only be described as a seed nurturing regimen: he sings to them, he reads them stories by candlelight, he plays music for them, and he reads them poetry. During the course of his "enrichment program," the rain falls, the sun shines, and day and night pass. When he falls asleep, exhausted from his hard work, the seeds begin to sprout. Frog wakes him up with the good news, and Toad exclaims, "You were right, Frog.  It was very hard work."

Isn't this the way we operate with our children? Sometimes we resort to yelling when there's no immediate response. Often we exert all kinds of effort to "enrich" them: taking them sports activities, filling our week with play date after play date, signing them up for little gymnastics classes, starting music lessons early, and fretting over any slight deviation from whatever we perceive as "normal." In reality, kids are like seeds: they need sunshine to shine on them, a little rain to fall on them, regular days and nights, and they will grow! (I could elaborate on the spiritual implications of this story, but that's another post for another day!)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Great Gardening Game 2009

Looking for free entertainment for your wee ones? Looking for a way to be "green" and more "organic" in your kitchen/eating? Looking for a way to get more exercise? Looking for a fun hobby? Look no further! It's time to think about that garden!

Already? You ask. Yes, indeed my friends. You should have been armchair gardening in January and have headed out to Lowe's or gone to Park's for some seed by now for most of the USA (if you're in the Deep South, you could probably have already planted stuff outside by now!).
I took some pictures yesterday of the bare dirt/leaves in our "garden"--the back 40 (feet) as I call it. Always fun to see what it used to look like before we start our (ambitious) garden. We'll be starting seeds in flats in our basement under flourescent lights (really, these are vegetable seeds! Nothing illegal going on here, I promise, although the picture certainly looks sketchy).

It is worth trying to grow a few things this year--get to know the Lord'
s creation a bit more intimately and get a better appreciation for the food that lands on your table. So, I'm encouraging everyone to think about it, to let their kiddos get their hands dirty, and to learn to like a new vegetable or appreciate an old favorite fresh off the vine. It's such a great reminder, too, that the Lord is really the source of our food--when you're watching the weather, trying to diagnose a pest problem, harvesting something--all of it reminded me of who is really providing me with my daily food, whether it comes from a grocery store, the orchard up the road, or my little backyard garden.

To read about last year's great gardening game:

Another Call to Action: Fight FOCA

You can sign the petition to fight the Freedom of Choice Act here. This is another scary piece of legislation in the works. Carrie has alluded to this before, but I don't know that we've put the link directly on the blog. Pass it on to your friends and family! 

What is FOCA? It essentially does away with all restrictions or limits on abortion as currently practiced/allowed in the U.S. There are some scary statistics out there, folks, including the amount of partial birth or late term abortions already allowed due to women's "health" (which can include mental, "perceived" health issues). There's an excellent analysis of what this act includes and what it will restrict here The three most disturbing aspects to me are the elimination of parental consent for minors, the elimination of safety standards for abortion clinics (why would abortion advocates be wanting this??), and the elimination of the legal right of Catholic and other religious hospitals to refuse to perform abortions based on religious grounds (we had all three of our children in places which did not perform abortions--that was one of the reasons we chose those institutions and health care providers!).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Scary Times=Call to Action

If you have been in unpolitical bliss (as I often am!) it is time to wake up. There are some major things trying to go down that we, as citizens (and hopefully Christian citizens) need to be aware of. So I am going to pass along two websites:

1. = If you are unaware, the UN is trying to pass this whole rights of the child bill. Basically, it would give the government much more control over our children and how they are treated. They would have access to all kinds of records (medical, school), they could step in and take the control of raising our kids away from us. It is really quite scary. There is a nomation for David Ogden to become deputy attorney general and he wants to push this. If you don't realize how scary this could get go to the website. Even better, contact (email, write, call) your representatives to oppose him and oppose the US signing this bill the UN has in place. We have not signed it yet.

2. = This is another fabulous sight. Both sites you can sign up for regular emails. This non-profit group is based in Washington. They keep a perspective of family values first, and keep you updated on things happening, bills coming, the whole stimulus thing, etc. It's a great way to stay current on events, especially if in my house, your TV hardly gets turned on for the news due to kids.

I highly encourage you to check out both of these!!! There are a lot of things happening in our government right now. These things could greatly affect us, and how we can and choose to raise our families!! And if you want an even closer touch with what is going on, join a Concerned Women for America group in your area. I have and it's great. I keep current on more stuff, and we have a regular prayer time for all the government things happening. Plus, I get contact info of all of our local and national leaders/representatives. So if you haven't done so yet, voice your opinion. This is our country! We get a say!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Top Five Grocery Savings Strategies (Without Clipping Coupons)

I hear of people who save 60% (or more) on their grocery bills by clipping coupons (like my friend Alicia). I'm in awe of her "deals" sometimes, but have had to come to grips with the fact that I can't keep that up right now. I don't have enough mental power these days. 

Even though I don't use many coupons, I still manage to save money when I shop for groceries (we frequently hit the thrifty level on the average U.S. grocery cost chart). It all comes down to what you buy on a regular basis. For our small family, we buy very few convenience, beauty, or cleaning products. The bulk of the coupons I've seen tend to be for these primary categories. We buy generic goods, have fairly low-maintenance health/beauty routines, and use a limited array of cleaning products (more on that in another post). So, here's how we save money:

1. Sam's (or BJ's, Cosco, etc.). This is tricky.... It's so easy to walk into these stores and come out with legitimately great deals on things you truly don't need (there's a very funny article to this end in the January, 2008 issue of Real Simple magazine). However, if you can use a list and some self-control, there are wonderful savings to be had. We keep a running "Sam's" list and make a monthly run for things like: infant formula (both generic and name brand--don't need anymore, but it saved us tons when the boys were consuming formula), diapers, dog food (even our vet recommended the Purina Fit and Trim you can get at Sam's over our more pricey Nutro), paper towels, toilet paper, ziploc freezer bags, dairy products (especially the 5 pound block of American cheese--a true essential in a house with toddlers), bread and English muffins (great prices on these; put a loaf in the freezer), and meat. The meat prices at Sam's are typically what meat goes on sale for at our regular grocery. So, we stock up on these items.

2. Sales! I don't have the energy to create and keep a grocery price book like some people recommend. But, pay a little attention, and you'll soon notice the regular sales on things you use most. Here's a short list of things I wait for and stock up on: frozen veggies, toothpaste, hot dogs, weird organic cereals that are fun now and then, dairy (you can freeze milk and butter!), tuna, canned tomato products, canned fruit, canned beans..... You get the idea.

3. A grocery list!!!!! Truly a must.

4. A strategy: I've figured out what is genuinely cheaper at Sam's. I get the Kroger weekly flyers emailed to me and make my weekly list from there. I stock up on the food we use regularly when it's cheaper at Kroger than the regular price at Sam's (meat, dairy, etc.). We have a local produce stand we visit for our produce. Benefits: I get coupons from Kroger in the mail for things like $5 off $45 bill, or $2 off $10 of frozen food--things I can use on many different types of products (what's on sale!) rather than a particular brand or size. So, my weekly shopping looks like this: Kroger once a week, Pratt's (local produce market--just down the road) once a week or so, Sam's once every 6 weeks or so. That's pretty much it.

5. Limited convenience foods. These are expensive, folks. I don't make everything from scratch. But I do avoid frozen lasagnas, most boxed cereals, granola bars, chips, etc. unless they're part of a specific meal (i.e. we have tortilla chips when we have chili). I don't have school-age kids, so I'm sure some of that will change when I pack school lunches, but for now, that's how we operate.

I have used more coupons lately because Alicia gives me some, and I've even ordered some from The Coupon Clippers. I'm trying to simplify things, though, so that means I'm heading back to my old, scanty-coupon-use. For some great food-oriented blogs that are geared to money-saving tips, both in shopping and in food preparation, check out $5 Dinners and The Grocery Cart Challenge.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Sad Reminder for Prayer

I just received an prayer request email from our church. A family has some close friends who have just formerly announced to all that they have moved from Christianity to atheism. Wow...The husband even came from a very Christian home. It reminds me that we need to constantly be on guard. We are at war in a sense. And we need to pray for our children as they grow. Satan is alive and well on planet earth!

The following is from Romans 1:16, 20-24 (the whole chapter is good!)

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles."

Blankets and Wool Sweaters are Free!

We like to think of ourselves as opposed to merely cheap. We also happen to believe that when it's cold outside, you pull out the winter clothes. Likewise, when it's hot outside, the tank tops and shorts make an appearance. As a result, we keep our house cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer than most do. This, of course, helps our energy bills immensely! 

What does mean in actuality? Our thermostat is set to 64 degrees 24/7 right now. That's fairly cool; we wear layers, wool sweaters, and warm socks! At night, we bundle up under blankets. Our kids actually do better in the cooler temperature; more dry heat only dries their sinuses out and give them MORE congestion. We began this winter at about 66 degrees and have dropped a degree each month....we worked up to it so to speak. And those sweaters and blankets we already own are free to operate! 

As you evaluate your budget and seek to reduce costs, consider your energy bills. It's amazing how much you can save over fairly small changes: one to two degrees on the thermostat, bathing your kids every other night insead of every night, turning off lights when you leave the house, etc. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Teabag: Unwordly Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

Unwordly peace. Guess what, there was a whole lot of strife, war, fighting, really bad rulers in Bible times. Just look at the kings of Israel. There is a reason they went into exile. This is a promise from Jesus, himself. He is point blank saying this world will not give us peace. But we can find TRUE peace in him. And we don't have to be afraid of our earthly future in the hands of our earthly rulers. But rest in the promises from him. So Peace I leave with you....


In the Old Testament, the Lord commands, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse." (Micah--can't remember chapter and verse and don't have time to look it up...). Anyway, tithing has long been an issue for Christians. Are we still bound to the 10% rule? Do we "have" to tithe at all? What happens if we miss tithing a paycheck? Do we "owe" back-tithes? Will God not bless us until we're caught up?

I won't pretend to know the answers to all the tithing issues, but a few things I do know: our standing before God is dependent on Christ's work on the cross, alone. Period. We can add nothing to our salvation, not even a religious following of the tithe. The Pharisees were chastised for tithing their mint, dill, and cumin (do you tithe your herbs?), but were still guilty of not loving their fellow men and women.

I also know that God loves a cheerful giver, that everything we have is really the Lord's, and that obedience should be a fruit of our faith. That being said, it seems the very least we should be doing is "tithing" ten percent of our income.

We now have a check sent automatically from our bank to our church every month since we kept forgetting. We are teaching our daughter to give when the offering plate comes around. We also help support some missionary friends of ours. I don't think we have to worry about back tithes; I think it is more important that we start obeying the Lord by giving cheerfully right now, today. When you make your monthly budget, don't forgot to include the amounts you are planning to give to the Lord's work. You might even consider stepping out in faith and giving slightly more than you think you "can." (Maybe my parents will write a guest post on their experiences with Faith Promise giving in previous years.)