Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Extreme Couponing and the Stockpile Controversy

TLC aired a show tonight called Extreme Couponing. While I don't have cable and are not able to watch it, I thought I would post a reply to a blog post of one of the couponers, Joanie, one of the authors of Pick Another
Checkout Lane Honey. Click here
to read her post on stockpiling. What do you think of her stockpile? This is a photo of her stockpile. Oh, FYI the show had 4 couponers on, one of which had a forty year supply of toilet paper, which I reference below :-)

My Response: Your stockpile is beautiful. It is neat and tidy and very, very SMART! What all of us need to ask ourselves is : Am I being a good steward of what I have? That includes your time and the items in your stockpile :-) Sometime being frugal is the same thing as being a good steward and sometimes it is not. Donating is being a good steward, keeping a 40 year supply of toilet paper is not. Maybe there is a reason that I don't know, but I am thinking defiantly not.

Since you cover a great chapter on coupon ethics in your book, I would say you are certainly a good steward. Remember that people show anger for a variety of reason, usually nothing to do with you, but themselves. Women particularly have problems with the Martha Stewart Syndrome - hating other women that are good at something they never took the time to do themselves.

For myself, I have a stockpile, and I donate. It is fun to hear of how much it has helped people. A couple nights a week instead of watching TV, I like to cut coupons while I listen to an audio book or chat with my husband. I spend just a little more time shopping, than before couponing on a average week. My children actually argue and plea to help me put away items in our stockpile. They are much more aware of the cost of things. It also covers the loss of my part-time job and helps us save for our adoption! None of it would work without the stockpile!! So raise those garage doors honey, and show it off!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is one of my favorite times of the year. There are no activities to drive the children to, homeschooling is on brake, and my husband is home - at least for a few days. With their new toys in hand, my children readily give up their old, un-played toys to bless others. I can clean clutter with speed. After my initial panic attack at the mounds of new toys, I enjoy fining a spot for each new toy, as well as a storage spot for some older ones in our toy library.

The coming new year feels like a new start, and the recent Christmas leaves me with a refreshed sense of hope. Not only is less more, the idea seems attainable.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ponderings ~Karen

What am I cooking?

What am I reading? 
De-cluttering books - Serious nesting mode coming on
Really, the clutter is out of control, and I want to lead a simpler life with LESS STUFF.

What am I praying today?
My friend who just found out her cancer is back.  It is devastating news.  She is a homeschooling mom of 2 children. I am clinging to the hope that God has given me.  While I am not sure of the outcome, I have a sense of tremendous hope for her.  Please pray for her, her family and a miracle healing.  I know God can.  

What can my children do instead of watching TV?
Clean up their toys.  I am overwhelmed by the thought of more toys coming in at Christmas.

What is one product that has made my life a little easier?
Our "new" used Apple computer.  It is soooo much faster than that dinosaur.  My day is usually a string of frustrating events, I am very glad this is no longer one. The question is, will I finally get a hold of my e-mail?

What am I grateful for?
For a Christmas at home while my children are still young, and we are all together.  Someday they will grow up, marry and move away.  But now, we are all together. :-)

What have I done for my marriage lately?

Told my hairdresser my husband is handsome, and then told my husband about it.

What's challenging me lately?
Dealing with my friends illness mentioned above.  My faith is fine, I am just so upset by it. I just could not imagine a mom's night out with out her.  My heart aches for her husband and children.  I remember when my little 5 year asked me if her Daddy was going to die.  It was terrible to see the grief and worry in her eyes, I can only imagine what her children are going through and she has to see that.  

Second, I am completely overwhelmed by stuff.  I don't want to have a lot of stuff, I love to organize, but I have more than I can possibly do. It is very disheartening.  It creates such chaos, and I just don't seem to have anywhere enough time to do what I need to do - not perfectionism, just needs.  My extended family goes nuts on Christmas, and I really don't know where I going to put it.  I have at least 30 file boxes, 6 large totes, and 8 plastic bins full of toys and that is just the STORAGE.  We have a huge playroom and they have toys in their rooms as well.  I should mention, I just donate a tons of boxes to purple heart.  While I am thankful for the blessings, I want a simpler life.  My disorganization has gotten really bad, I almost missed our co-op registration and paying a bill.  There needs to be some extreme changes, so I can meet the priorities God has for me - raising children.

How were you a mission minded family this week?
G has gotten into the Narnia books, and Ed likes to discuss with her the symbolism, as well as why C.S. Lewis wrote the books.  

The Westminster Shorter Catechism to be sinking in, I just heard Z(6) ask his brother(4) some yesterday, and then correct him on his answers. So, let that be an encouragement for a family devotion/Bible time.  Ed tries to do it at dinner, sometimes we miss.  Sometimes it seems the kids are tuned out, but really they are not.  They ARE absorbing the lessons. 

The Family Christmas Letter 2010

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Here is our Christmas family newsletter for 2010:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Here we are again, to catch up on all that has pasted this year. We hope our tidings find you well. This past year has been good to us, and we have great hopes that this New Year will add to our number, our family number that is. Before you walk up to Karen and pat her belly, let us add that we are planning that addition through a domestic adoption. Currently, we have handed in all our paperwork and are waiting for our homestudy to be conducted. The homestudy is 3 separate interviews done by a social worker from our adoption agency, Bethany. After this phase is completed and we are officially approved to adopt, and we can be picked by a birth mother as the parents she wants for her baby. Let me explain this a little in case you are not familiar with this. We create a portfolio of a letter and photos that describes our ourselves and our home. When a birth mother decides to choose adoption, she is given a few portfolios that are a good match for her. It is from these that she places the baby permanently with a family. This also means that we can be picked at any time – 2 weeks or 2 years. Hopefully somewhere in between.

Now, it is time to update the individuals. Ed is still a software engineer at Lockheed Martin, and he has had a very healthy year. Of course, he is still playing on the worship team at our church, he plays the keyboard. It is his passion to try to integrate songs with substantial and sound Biblical meaning into modern church music. This year Ed joined the Christmas choir, which is new for him. He enjoyed it very much. When he is not working overtime, Ed can be found playing with the kids, playing music in his man cave or scouring Craig's list for used Apple products. One of which is being used right now to write our newsletter!

Karen is still homeschooling the children, but she no longer works part-time at the Christian book store. Things are much more busy this year with 2 in elementary school. When she is not schooling, she can be found writing on her blog, reading, facebooking or her new hobby, couponing. Yes, she is one of those crazy coupon ladies with a huge binder full of coupons. In fact, she even taught a class about stewardship of money with her couponing friend. Last year, she never thought that there was anything she normally bought, for which she would use a coupon. Let alone get for free or be paid to buy, it has been quite surprising. The best parts are not having to work part time and donating to those in need at a time when we are saving every penny for the adoption.

G is now 9 and is in 4th grade. This year we are learning about different countries around the world, as well as ecosystems. She still takes Irish Dancing, and got to go to her first dance camp this summer. At her last feis, G won her first medal in jig (3rd). Like the year before, she competed in science fair and took art lessons. This year she started violin and really enjoys it. G is thrilled about a baby, but really, really wants a sister. When she is not doing school work, she can be found playing Wii, devouring the Narnia book series or talking to you about the movie Tangled and a variety of Apple products.

Z is soon to be 7 in January, and is in 1st grade. He also competed in science fair and takes art lessons. Last year, I completely forgot to mention that he was on America's Funniest Home Videos. He was the slightly husky preschooler who had the heart for the hula-a-hoop, but not the hips for it. G made a little cameo too. We didn't win anything, but he got a lot of air time and made a lot of people laugh. Z would like a baby sister because he says baby girls are cuter. When he is not doing school work, he can be found, outside running around, playing Wii, wrestling with his Dad, or playing with his little brother.

Last, but not least, our sweet, adorable JP is now 4. He is in Pre K and constantly informs Karen that he needs to finish his schoolwork, so he is taking it very seriously. JP is a block building, lego creating, thinking kind-of-guy. Z and JP are like two peas in a pod. They play all day together and sometimes even sleep in the same bed at night. JP is looking forward to getting a baby in the house. However, he made it quite clear he wants a boy, and he wants to buy him squeaky shoes and diapers. When he is not doing schoolwork, he can be found playing quietly, helping Karen or not eating what we serve for dinner.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How can we honor Christ as we prepare for Christmas?

This morning I told Rachel a story about a little girl and her birthday party.  There were beautiful decorations, the very best food was prepared, everyone was dressed up, and there were presents everywhere!  Rachel's eyes lit up as she imagined the scene.

But I told her that something very sad happened next.  Even though it was the little girl's birthday, no one paid any attention to her.  No one spoke to her or seemed to care that she was even there.  The grown ups excitedly chattered about how great the party was and they complimented themselves for the delicious food and all of their efforts.  When it was time to open presents, she sadly discovered that not a single one was for her. 

Rachel's eyes widened with the injustice of it all.  She couldn't imagine that anyone would treat this poor birthday girl so cruelly.  And while I had her full attention, I explained that that's what happens to Jesus so often on Christmas Day.  Even though Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of Jesus' birthday, he is often sadly forgotten.  I told her that if we're not intentional, it could happen in our home too.

It saddens me that even though I love Jesus, it is so easy for me to get swept away in the preparation, the buying, the wrapping, the baking...

So as Matt and I begin to form traditions with our young family, we are asking hard questions about the way we celebrate and why.  How can we honor God and make Christmas about the One who it is truly about?

Like we so often do when considering something, we took out pen and paper and made a list of ideas.  I humbly share these ideas with you not because we have it all together, but because I am so burdened by what Christmas has become, and I am so alarmed by how I can almost robotically fall into it year after year.

How can we be intentional about honoring Christ this Christmas through meaningful traditions that involve the children?
1. Celebrate Advent with a Jesse tree each day of December!  The children really look forward to this nightly tradition.  It's short and sweet and perfect for little attention spans.
2. Focus more on giving rather than receiving and let the children help!  This year we baked for a bake sale whose proceeds will help build a school for our missionaries in India.  Baking with a 4 year old and 2 year old is definitely a lot more messy, but they had a blast and it gave me an opportunity to talk to them about children in need.
3. Prepare a Voice of the Martyrs Action Pack!  Choose a country (Iraq, Pakistan, or Sudan) and receive a vacuum bag from VOM and a list of suggested items to fill it with - blankets, clothes, sheets, etc.  After you mail your action pack back to VOM, it will be sent to a person in that country who has far less than we could ever imagine.  This is our gift to my in-laws.  It's not a gift for them, but they are so blessed to know that someone in great need will receive blankets, clothes, a Gospel storybook, and other necessary items.
4. Send an extra Christmas gift and letter to the missionaries or Compassion child you support.
5. Shop with your children for Toys for Tots or participate in a Giving Tree at your local church.  Our Giving Tree supports local families in need.  It's always fun to shop for children the same age as my children.  They get really excited about the gifts we pick out and the amount of compassion a small child can display is humbling and inspiring!
6. Reach out.  Every year we bake cookies with another family and give them to our neighbors as we Christmas carol!  (And no, we don't sing well, but we do it anyway - haha!)

We're still working out ideas for what we can do on Christmas Day, so that post is coming soon.  What do you do in preparation or on the day of Christmas to make Jesus first?  We need ideas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Adopted For Life ~ Book Review

Adopted for Life by Russell D. Moore was a book I read last year and loved it so much, I bought one, so I could highlight my favorite passages. It is about the priority of adoption for Christian families and churches. Besides being about adopting children, it is also about us being adopted by God. So, it is not just a book for couples who are thinking of, are or have adopted, but any Christian. One thing it is not is an informative, how to book about adoption. Here is a quote that sums up the book:

The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world.

One of my favorite parts in the book is when Moore tells a story of an adopting white family that was told by a relative that he wouldn't have a black child in his family tree. In addition to relating that this was sinful behavior, the couple explained that Heaven wasn't going to be just white people. Perhaps if our churches reflected the true diversity of Heaven, perhaps people would understand the beauty of various races in the church body or in a family. Actually, during a conversation about adoption with a family member, they whispered in my ear, "You are going to get a white baby, right?" I am serious. Coolly, I replied that we are very open in the matter of race. Adding, "they are all the same inside." She sweetly agreed and was very pleasant with me. We are all so good at being politically correct, or maybe not so correct, but this adoption has really opened up a hole new view of people's feelings about race.

While I have no idea what our baby will look like, we will have to deal with the unpleasant reality of people's opinions. However, after reading this book and with the support of my friends, I no longer feel that I am selfish. I had felt that in my deep desire for another baby, that it might not be fair to adopt child of "color," if they were placed with white parents because of society's strong feelings on race. This book help me realize that I have God on my side, and all children are a blessing. It is not selfish at all, but completely biblical.

Finally, I would just like to add that the book does a good job of painting a realistic picture of adoption. It is not all roses. It is not charity. It is a reflection of God's adoption of us as his children.

Here is one final quote:

When we protect and welcome children, we're announcing something about Jesus and his kingdom.

Oh, and by the way, we have handed in our paperwork, and are officially onto the homestudy phase!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ponderings ~ Karen

My week was last week, but just did not get to it. Better late than never :-)

What am I cooking?

I have NO idea. After being sick for 2 weeks, and on meds that make me sick for a week, I have no energy for menu planning. We are surviving.

What am I reading? - When I am not brain dead from everything else I have to do ;-)
The Open Adoption by Melina and Roszia,
The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan - Produce all the food you need on a quarter of an acre. Pretty cool, but I am not milking goats,
The Reluctant Entertainer by Sandy Coughlin ( who has a blog by the same name) - I highly recommend this book to anyone who identifies with the title.

What am I praying today?
For a past friend who is not honoring her marriage vows, that God will charge her heart and bring back reason to her mind. Also, for God to help her husband and children. Our hearts can slip so little at a time, we can fall so easily and not even realize it. Please Lord, keep us all from such a fate.

What can my children do instead of watching TV?
There are about a million things at Christmas time. We hope to make peppermint smelling snow play dough when our white paint and iridescent glitter arrives in the mail. Got to love Amazon Prime.

Oh, and I wanted to explain the question. It is not the TV is a bad thing or that I am picking on TV. It is just that too much of it is bad, and sometimes it is hard to think of other things to do with your children.

What is one product that has made my life a little easier?
baseball card holders - to hold my coupons neatly in my coupon binder

What am I grateful for?
a helping husband, yes, again - He has been a great help while I have been sick.

What have I done for my marriage lately?
Not much. I am spent. But I did get my husband some nice things on Black Friday and a nice new coat that he looks very handsome in.

What's challenging me lately?
Everything. I am behind in every which way. It is so hard to catch up when I am so worn out. Hopefully it is from my antibiotics, and once that is done, I will feel better.

How were you a mission minded family this week?
My husband plans to do Action Christmas with my daughter at our church. They go out with the youth group and buy presents for kids who other wise would not get any.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post Holiday Chaos: Transition Days

Teaching your kids after a holiday brake is enough to drive you insane. Everything is messy from the holiday rush. We are all off our schedules. The kids are hook on the expectation of fun and exciting days, where not much of anything is required of them. Those days pale in comparison to the highly focused work of homeschooling, which while shorter then public school, is much more intense. Not to mention the change of Daddy not being home, that alone can make us all a little grumpy.

During my 5 years of homeschooling, I have never believe in teaching the children on days when they were not going to learn anything. I might be able to check it off my lesson plan that I taught such-and-such, but I know that very little, if any, information stuck to them. Today is such a day.

Today was my husband's first day back after Thanksgiving weekend, and I should have know better than try to do school today. So instead of going crazy, I stopped, and went over the basics of our daily schedule. The reason being is that without the children meeting certain basic responsibilities, like getting breakfast or brushing their teeth on time, we cannot get our school work done on time. Also, I did have them do some light school work, but very little. Of course, our general rule of no screen time before lunch.

For our homeschooling day to be successful we need to have our rhythm, when holidays, sickness or vacation throw us off our rhythm, all of our spinning plates drop. It takes a day to set aside to focus only on getting all those plates up and spinning again, to get our rhythm on the right beat. It is well worth the time, and is nothing to feel guilty about.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Stewards: Stewardship vs Frugality

This Saturday I will be speaking to the women at my church about being good stewards of their money, so I thought a blog post would help me get all my thoughts in order. The subject is quite vast. I am choosing to focus on the stewardship verses frugality, and how to go about that in a practical manner. FYI - when I am speaking of stewardship, it is in the monetary sense.

Good stewardship of our money looks different for different people. Cable TV would be frivolous for us, but not for my sports loving friend. There are seasons when time is short and we need to spend money on time savers or hired help, or risk insanity and poor health. How you spend your time can be as important as how you spend your money. It is important to keep in mind that spending time saving money can be well worth it, as it is adds income, which is untaxed and free to save or spend. It is a way in which a mom can stay at home with her children and still add to the household income. Our motives that steam from our hearts defines our penny pinching ways as either stewardship or frugality.

Stewardship and frugality are sometimes the same things and others times not. Frugality becomes bad stewardship when we give cheap gifts people really can't use. Hoarding goods we can't possible use, when someone else really needs them. Donating essentially junk like canned beets or stained clothes. Putting other members of the family under constant scrutiny of money spent. The motive is not to please the Lord, but of self reliance and selflessness.

A good steward lives generously, while using the money in the most efficient way possible in their circumstances. They view everything they have as belonging to God, and their love of God causes their thoughtfulness regarding how they make use of their resources in their charge. They also take time to enjoy life and the blessings God has given them in a balanced manner. A good steward lives their live in such a way as to be financially open to the plans God has for them, whether it be going on the mission field or adopting a child.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Turn! | Catherine

Hi Friends,
This is Catherine posting.  I hope you enjoy getting to know me a little better through the following questions. :)

What am I reading?
 In the Bible, I'm going through Deuteronomy right now.  It sounds like a dry book to read, but I loooove Deuteronomy!  It's actually filled with quite a lot of drama and woven throughout is the amazing faithfulness of our God. 

For fun, I'm also reading my camera manual (yes, I think that's fun!) and anything and everything related to photography!  Check out I Heart Faces and ILP for some great photography forums.  You can also visit my blog to see my latest photo shoot.

What can my children do instead of watching TV?
We're not a no-TV kind of family.  I do permit them to watch one show in the morning and one show in the afternoon.  But when they're not doing that, they can do chores!  Seriously!  The more I involve them in doing chores along with me, the happier they have been.  It sounds strange, right?  But there has been less bickering, more joyful attitudes about helping Mommy (not so at first!), and I just enjoy their company. 

What am I grateful for?
I am grateful for all the little things I take for granted each day.  Healthy children, a roof over my head, food and water, heat when it's cold, and clothes that we're literally swimming in (and have bought literally none of it).

What have I done for my marriage lately?
We're going through Love Dare. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Room for One More

The Christmas season brings to mind the Scripture that details Mary and Joseph's search for a room in Bethlehem to shelter them from the night. Though they knocked on many doors, they only received the reply that there was no room for them. Finally, they found a place that made room for the expectant couple. It recalls to me the birth of my own children and makes me ask myself, do we have room for one more?

There was a time when my husband and I thought we would have a specific number of children, a kin to objects you plan to acquire in life. "How many children do you think you will have," is a question often asked of couples. God has changed our hearts not to see our family as a specific number, but of questioning ourselves if there is room for one more. It leads us to be open to what God may have for us. Now, we take it year by year, child by child, just having our hearts open to another child.

One reason for this was seeing children as a gift, a blessing from God. You can search all of Scripture and not find any evidence that children are a curse, though the demand of day-to-day reality easily leads people to think differently. In fact, children, in the generic term, are always referred to as a blessing in the Bible. The idea that children are an inconvenient drain is completely a worldly notion. While being a lot of work, children are also very valuable. The work they require is really an opportunity to serve and grow in God. Now, that does not mean you have to have 16 children to be deemed truly righteous. It simply means, that whether you have 2 or 20, you are blessed to have children. It also means as a church family, we are blessed to have children in our congregation.

Parents are not the only ones who need to view children as a blessing. While the parents are called to disciple their children*, the church plays many important roles in bringing up the next generation too. One way is by seeing children as a gift to our congregation, celebrating each addition of a new child to our fold with joy. The attitude of the Church on this matter will determine the direction of its members. It is amazing what a little encouragement can do. The cards and presents we received after the birth of our 3rd child gave me tangible evidence that he was a blessing to be celebrated, not a misfortune as the world may think. So, when we meet a family of 6, instead of being shock and feeling pity for them, we can comment on their great blessing.

If the Church does not see the addition of children as a "good thing," then believers will see a family of more than 1.8 children as a misfortune. Making room for one more will not even be on the radar of options. Encouraging adoption will be difficult, or it will be seen as charity at best. Picking up on our negative response, the next generation's perfect family size will shrink and they will not know to delight in children.

Personally, getting a Biblical attitude adjustment towards seeing my children as a gift has made one of the biggest differences in me being able to delight in my own children. By delight, I mean that I truly enjoy spending time with my children, not because I ought to or because they are "good," but because God has changed my heart. So, yes, we have room for one more. There is a lot more to be said on the subject, but the point is that children are a gift from the Lord.

*You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 136:13-16

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. John 16:21

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:10

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sara's Questions

What am I cooking?
By request of my husband, I've been experimenting with chicken on the bone. I usually just do chicken breasts, but he likes dark meat. To my surprise, it was good!

What am I reading?
Just have time for the Bible right now.

What am I praying today?
I was praying for people I met in Bosnia today.

What can my children do instead of watching TV?
Play outside-- My girls can entertain themselves for a while playing house outside. They don't have any brothers, but they each have their own house and visit each other from time to time and go on errands. It's funny. We also painted with watercolors today. That was fun.

What is one product that has made my life a little easier?
I'm not sure about easier, but the discovery of mint chocolate chips that I use in my old chocolate chip cookie recipe has made my life yummier=).

What am I grateful for?
A merciful Savior-- Jesus Christ-- who shows such mercy to me every day—Oh, how I need that!

What have I done for my marriage lately?
Making sure that we have time together just as husband and wife, not just mommy and daddy and two kids=). This has not been easy for us, but our marriage is so much better when we are looking to serve each other and just spend time together. This is something the Lord has been teaching me lately.

What's challenging me lately?
Trying to find time for everything and everyone, knowing how much I should be doing as a homeschooling mom and what can wait. Also, the Lord has been challenging me on some sin issues that are painful, yet so good for me!

How were you a mission-minded family this week?
Well, I guess every week it's the same for us-- Remembering our time in Bosnia for a month and talking about and praying about going there full time at some point. Trusting the Lord that we will or will not go all in His perfect timing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ponderings ~Karen

What am I cooking?
A lot of Mexican food. We are learning about Mexico. Next week Canada. Any good Canadian recipes???

What am I reading?
Lots of adoption books. It is our homework from the adoption agency.

What am I praying today?
A better prayer life and time to pray as a family (more than just blessing the food). I know it sounds ironic to pray for prayer, but I am asking God to help fulfill that desire. Finding the time and building the habit is my major roadblock. I know God will give me the wisdom to fix this problem.

What can my children do instead of watching TV?
Play with wooden blocks and plastic animals.

What is one product that has made my life a little easier?
Hot Dots. They kept my preschooler busy doing a "school" activity, while I schooled the other ones.

What am I grateful for?
a helping husband

What have I done for my marriage lately?
Telling my husband when I appreciate something he has done.

What's challenging me lately?
Celebrating the seasons. I wish I could whip up some tasty treats for fall or have a plan to make Christmas cookies. Life gets so busy, I forget to make some memories for my children. It doesn't help that I am seriously challenge in the Martha Stewart area. My flesh wants to be perfect in every area of motherhood, but I am not. No one is. But, I would like to improve to a reasonable level - to know what to make when having company, a good meal to take to a sick person, actually make Christmas cookies. I need to read the Hidden Art Of Homemaking.

How were you a mission minded family this week?
Reading the biography of Cameron Townsend aloud.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Heart of Frugality

Here's an interesting blog post on frugality by Tim Challies.  It's not what you might expect...

Excerpt: Over the weekend I came across some video of America’s self-proclaimed cheapest family. They got me thinking about frugality, a topic that is all the rage in Christian circles today (or at least in some Christian circles). I have discussed this issue once or twice in the past but want to return to it today. Why? Because a lot of people put a lot of effort into frugality and I think many of them do so without thinking deeply whether what they are doing is right or wrong. They are saving money and this must be good, right? I’m not entirely convinced. So hear me out.

Click here to read the rest of the article.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Our Children Are a Gift from God

While we set out to build character in our children, it is our character that is also built in the process. In fact, I wonder if we learn more about God from raising our children, than our children learn about God from us. Though, the discipleship of the children by the parents may range from non-existent to very active, even when the discipleship is on the heavy end, I bet the parents still end up gleaning more.

This leads to the fact that there is no accidental child in the sense God gave us each child to build certain character traits in us. Whatever that child's sinful bent is that we need to deal with day after day after day, it was meant for us. It was meant to teach us a lesson, so we need to look for what God is trying to teach us through our trials with our children. With so much to do, it is easy to get caught up in discipleship and disciplining, that we forget to notice what we are suppose to be learning as well.

Personally, this helps me see my daily struggles with my children in a positive light. I am growing closer to God. Along with my children's fruit, I will be harvesting my own.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Improvement Reading

Being a stay at home mom, books offer "a peace offering to a hungry mind." I need more than just laundry and wiping noses. Maybe that is why I like homeschooling, because I am using my brain and diving into great books with the kids. Not that there is anything wrong with wiping noises or washing clothes, I am happy to do it. What I am saying is that I personally need more then just those things.

The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer is a treasure trove for me. I actually found myself salivating over her book lists in the second part of her book. Looking forward to reading them, as well as, remembering those I have read. Sometimes we tell ourselves, that this is not our season for such things, but that is not really true. It is just like all the other things in our lives, we have to carve out the time to do it.

I have always struggled with the "nose wiper" job description, leaving my honors behind me. Would my professors be disappointed in me for choosing full time motherhood? It is not that I think it unimportant, but that I miss the intellectualism of a university and motherhood is not usually cast in that sort of light. I suppose that is why I found The Well-Educated Mind's theme of self-education so encouraging. Of course, always remembering that I serve God, not man, helps me to sustain my mom post too. In God's eye's, it is probably one of the best uses of my education and a good reason to continue it in self-study. My faith gives me liberty from the world's good opinion, and lets me focus on the parts of life that have eternal significance, like disciplining my children.

While my faith gives me great purpose in motherhood and homeschooling, I still have to fill that need for intellectualism. For one, finding like-minded moms has helped. In homeschooling circles, I do not have to look far to find another mom who is listening to A Tale of Two Cities while working around the house too. I can find the intellectualism I long for where I am now, if I look for it.

Besides all the "great" books that Bauer suggests, there is the greatest book of all times - the Bible. While wanting to read the works of Charles Dickens is great, studying my Bible must be a higher priority. If I have the yearning for well written works, then I need to seek out books that will increase my knowledge of God. There is such a desire to roll up my sleeves and deeply study His Word. I should remember to make time for it. It will not happen other wise.

Finding the Source of Burn Out

Lately, I have been feeling so burnt out. Perhaps it is being too busy, not having enough help, or unmet expectations. By removing certain possible stress sources, I could see if it made me feel better or worse. We took a week off of school, and that was not it. I took a brake from couponing, and had a week with fewer activities, but neither of those seemed to be the source.

I noticed that I felt better when I was out, but when I was home, I felt overwhelmed and stressed. From here I realized it was the messy build up in the house. There are piles and piles of items to go through, organize, and get rid of. While I am not a neat freak, bad messes bother me. Finding the cause of my burn out helps me figure out my priorities and helps me to focus on the issue.

Also, it helps to learn where I went wrong to get to this point. First, you need refreshment to keep from getting burnt out. Our summer was too busy and our vacation was not relaxing. Second, a homeschooling mother needs help, and I was too cheap to hire any during out summer brake. While I cannot do anything about the last vacation, we are planning our next vacation to be about relaxing and making memories. As far as help, I have decided to hire a sitter and part with my money. You can be too thrifty. What is the use of stockpiling money for our adoption if I have a nervous brake-down in the process. I feel hiring a sitter for 2 or 3 hours a week will give me time to tackle the out of control clutter. Having too much stuff is not apart of the simplistic lifestyle I want to live.

On the bright side, school is going well. Perhaps I will get around to posting about the changes I made this year that have really helped to make a productive and happy school day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Here is some information about an adoption conference in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. It is for everyone - those thinking of adopting, those who want to support adoption, those who want to or in the process of adopting foreign or domestic children, and those who have adopted. There is a link at the bottom from more information.

Adoption and Orphan Care Conference: Precious in His Sight
If you are interested in adoption, or in the process of adopting, come join us for a ONE DAY Conference to learn more about God's heart for orphans and how to actively be involved in the cause of orphans locally and internationally. Keynote speakers include: Chris and Sarah Padbury of Colorado's PROJECT 1:27 and over 15 different workshops provided by Bethany Christian Services and other adoption awareness agencies.

Date: October 2, 2010
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30p.m.
Location: Fellowship Baptist Church, Mount Laurel, New Jersey

For more information or to register, please visit PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT website

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Potty Training While Homeschooling

JP, in his potty training enthusiasm, flushed his cloth diaper inserts down the potty. Fortunately and unfortunately, I was able to pull them out. I knew I was in trouble when I heard the toilet flush and I was with all my potty trained children in the other room, schooling of course. Potty training while homeschooling is challenging. Today, we had to finish the other half of circle time in the bathroom.

I look on the bright side, that my son has finally agreed to sit on the potty without his pants on. We couldn't get very far because he insisted on keeping his pants ON when he sat on the potty. Also, this potty training season will pass and well worth my time since my son just turned 4. Our pre-school children, are a good interruption because they are a blessing to have in the family. It also teaches the older children to be patience and flexible. As mom, I will have to carve out some extra time to help JP train and expect lots of interruptions in our school day. We will get school done when we get it done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unexpected Adventures

Taking the path less traveled can lead you to many discoveries. Following our homeschooling path, I have gone on adventures we probably would have not gone on otherwise. Like the time we took my daughter's violin to be check for a homeschool co-op class. It turned out that the man who checks the violins also makes and repairs violins. We got to go to his workshop. See him fix up my daughter's violin, which we had bought used. The kids were aloud to touch horse hair and a whale bone. The man taught them different things about violins. And by homeschooling, we had the time to stop and listen, instead of dropping it off and coming back later.

The man that so happens builds violins, also planted a butterfly garden in his front yard. Seeing the butterfly garden, turns into a request for a butterfly identification book by one child and a desire to touch a butterfly by another. This will turn into a trip to the natural science museum, where my son can hold a dead butterfly without worrying about brushing off their scales. He will be able to get the close up look he wanted so much. Of course, we have already been to that science museum because I read about it in a homeschool e-mail. It is a great feeling to stop and smell the roses, to love to learn and to have adventures in God's world.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Congrats Catherine

Congratulations to Catherine and Matt on new little baby boy! We hope you have a very happy babymoon.

Between all of us that makes 6 girls (including Hope's sweet Peanut ) and 5 boys, thanks to Catherine's latest contribution. Who will be next? Will we even the score or will the girls take the lead?

I think Catherine's new addition has spike a nesting frenzy in me, while we wait on our adoption. :-) Blessings to the new little baby boy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stay Home Tuesday

With our crazy schedules, I need to pick a day where we do not go out at all. For us that is Tuesday. If I am not home I cannot clean or declutter, and it makes doing laundry very difficult.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's a Fine Line

There are certain decisions we make as Christians about the way we live our lives that fall into a murky gray area. The Bible does not specifically speak on that micro modern detail, and we are left with to use the wisdom of God found in the Bible, wise council and the Holy Spirit to determine what would honor God. If that is not hard enough, in the Bible Paul talks about how God may convict one person not to commit one act, but it is perfectly o.k. for another, such as kosher eating.

Personally, I am filled with so many questions~ I went to a Paul McCartney concert, did that dishonor with God? We let our children trick-or-treat a little, is that righteous? Can I walk through the Art Museum, there are some immodest works? I would never ride a motorcycle, but is it o.k. for a Christian to be a biker? The line between living righteously and living like a Pharisee can get blurry. How can I tell when I am living by man made rules? How do I know when Satan and the world have tricked me with their slick ways? I know the Scripture says to live in the world and not of it, but how does that translate to all those thousands of little choices?

Reading our Bible and praying often is our best defense against the world. It is what keeps us close to God. True fellowship with other Christians who are serious about their faith is another essential. With those items I like to add a set of questions. A sort mental flow chart to prevent me from being either a Pharisee or an offense to God:
  • Am I throwing the baby out with the bath water? There is some pretty bad music out there, but I am not going to ban all music from my life. Nor am I going to say I am only going to listen to Christian music. What about Bach? Instead I am going to take it song by song. Once you say a certain area is safe, you let your guard down against the Enemy. You also do not want to throw the good out with the bad. So I might listen to some of the Beatles songs, but not all of them. I might go to the movies, but not just any movie. We might have a TV in our home, but we do not have cable, not even basic.
  • What it's rating? G or PG, or is it PG13 or R. Personally, I usually only watch G or PG movies, so I extend that to the rest of my lifestyle. If a TV show or a conversation would get a PG13 or R rating, I would not participate in it either. If I go to a rock concert, it needs to get a G or PG rating. I give Paul McCartney a PG :-) Serious, a very clean show.
  • Am I making it a hard and fast rule for all Christians? I don't drink alcohol. I feel uncomfortable around it. However it is not wrong for a Christian to have a glass of wine, it is only sinful to get drunk. So while it might not be for me, I am not going bring judgment on others for my man made rule. As long as it does not go against the orthodoxy of Christianity (Gospels, Ten Commandments, etc.), there is room under the tent for all of us and we should leave the judgment to God.
  • Can I do this with Jesus present? Can I wear this with Jesus present? This is sort of a trick question because Jesus is always with us. God sees and knows all. Of course if Jesus was physically, visually present with us, we would behave in a different way. An outfit that seems perfectly acceptable would become an embarrassment. If I can't wear it in front of the Lord, they I do not wear it. If I can't watch it with Jesus . . . you get the idea.
  • Is it poison? Poison is poison no matter how small. I would define poison as sin deceptively packaged. It is behavior not in line with a Christian walk. It is a large dose of temptation, not necessarily in a large size or amount of time. It can be as short as a commercial or as long as an evening of taking in the clubbing scene. It can be as innocent as a bikini on a little girl or it can be as harsh as husband bashing fest with your girlfriends.
  • If I magnified this, would it then appear sinful to me? An example of this would be, if I took a pen from work, I would not "feel" like I was stealing. However, if I stole a computer, then I would. When, really, they are both examples of the sin of stealing. This would not work on everything. I mean I could eat one slice of pizza sin free, but if I ate the whole pie, that would be gluttony. It works on the "small" sins that people do not feel guilty for, when really there is no small sin.
  • Is this hindering my Christian growth? If we are too concerned with the things of this world we will miss the overall point of our life - to glorify God. Weeds can come and choke our faith. We have to ask ourselves where this path is leading to? If it is not toward God, it is not the right path. This can be hard to discern honestly because our flesh is weak and we can quickly convince ourselves it is not a problem.
It is important not to use any one question by itself, but to ask them all together. We do have to live in the world and interact with people living a sinful lifestyle. No one would ever come to Christ otherwise. If I held others by the Lord's standards, I would not be able to work for a secular company or even have my extended family around me. We cannot stay in a Christian bubble, ignorant of the world outside. It is a dangerous place for a Christian, but we must venture out . . . . just remember your armor.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Felt Food @ IKEA

IKEA's 2011 catalog just came out. They have a whole new felt food toy line named DUNTIG.

The line includes sets of ~ vegetables, fruits, breakfast and dessert. The prices range from $4.99 to $7.99, which is a good price considering how many items are in each set. Making felt food does look fun, but if you do not think you will have time to make it before your kids grow up, this is a very affordable alternative.

On our trip to IKEA tonight I also saw many pet felt toys, like canned pet food, vet kit, food dishes, travel kit and clothes for stuffed "pets."

FYI~ If you do plan to go to IKEA, they have many buy one, get one food items through out the year. The new catalog has a calendar toward the back. This month is a buy one Caesar chicken salad and get one free, though they were all out when we went tonight. However, they still have one free kids meal (drink entree and side) until August 15th I believe. They have also added crepes to their menu ($2.99).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Crazy Couponing = Crazy $$ Part II

You will find it helpful to start small. The first step can be really easy. Just start collecting coupons. You do not even have to start cutting them. Ask family and friends who get the paper, if they could give you the coupons they are not going to use. For example, my mom and my sister give me their coupons. Then, as I got more of a handle of it, we subscribed to the weekend paper. If I like the coupons, my husband will run out to buy some extras for me. For example, when the P & G insert comes out, my husband goes up the street and buys 4 papers. I know that sounds like a lot, but believe me, it will more than pay for itself.

Here are some examples of how & how much we saved:
  • Just from planning my meals, looking at the circular and bringing my coupon binder to the store I have saved $69.44 in one shopping trip to Shoprite in which I only spent $57.57. This means I purchase $127.03 worth of groceries for $57.57. Another time I saved 47.29 and spent 37.98. Most of my Shoprite trips look like this now. We save more that half our bill. It is my coupons that made the difference. I use my coupons on sale items and save big. It helps to plan you meals around what is on sale.
  • You can buy cereal for a quarter. Acme has Cheerios on sale for $1.75. You have a coupon for $.75 off one box. Acme doubles coupon under $.99 up to $1.50. Your $.75 coupon becomes a $1.50 coupon. Bingo, cereal for a quarter. Needless to say, we have a quite a stockpile of cereals. If you think that is crazy, buying diapers for $3 will make you hit the roof.
  • By looking at the blog posts from Krazy Coupon Lady and Living Rich with Coupons, I have been able to get things for free and make money. Like the time I spent $12 at CVS and received $14 in extra care bucks.
  • Rebates are wonderful. Rite Aid has a very easy rebate program, you can see this month's rebates by looking on-line or picking up a paper copy in the store. By checking my couponing blogs, I stay on top of manufacturer's rebates. The blogs list exactly what you need to buy and where to get the rebate form. One time at Right Aid, I bought $65 worth and was paid $18 to do it.
  • By combining rebates with coupons, store rewards (like CVS's extra care bucks -basically money to use on your next trip printed at the end of your receipt), and store sales, you can get some good deals. One time I bought 2 Aveeno 8 oz Daily Moisturizing lotions; 1 Aveeno Shampoo and 1 Conditioner for $1.45 plus tax (totaling $2.81). This is how: CVS had a promotion, if you brought $25 worth of select Aveeno products, you would receive $10 in extra care bucks. However the products were also on sale, which meant I actually had to spend $30 to make the $25 because 3 products where just under the $25. On the $30 purchase, I used a $4 extra care bucks, and 4 manufacturer's coupons totaling $ 6. So, out of pocket I spent $21.45, but then I got $10 in extra care bucks. On top of that, Aveeno was running a rebate in which you would receive a $10 rebate for purchasing $25 worth of Aveeno.
Next post I will explain how I made my coupon binder, and what I do with all those coupons. Later I will post on websites and individual stores.

Here is part one if you miss it:
Crazy Couponing = Crazy $$ Part I

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Crazy Couponing = Crazy $$ Part I

Cutting coupons seemed silly to me. I would have never thought I would get stuff for free by cutting coupons, and I did not even know I could be PAID to buy things I got for FREE. It is crazy! It is not easy. It is work, but is pays very well and it is fun - or at least it is for crazy type A/homeschooling moms like me. However, I do think just about anyone, of any age and gender, would love couponing.

What I am not going to do in this post is tell you how to coupon because people have already done a better job of that. For starters, you can go to Krazy Coupon Lady website and click on and read beginners. Personally, I just read the whole article and gradually started couponing, but you could do it in 10 days. Then, I would suggest you read their book, Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey by Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler, the women behind the website. It is a laugh out laugh way to learn couponing. It is written to our generation, by 2 moms like us. This book was very helpful to me.

Another big help is finding other crazy couponers like yourself. It helps to have someone more experienced than you to ask questions or get tips from. It was through friends that I first learned about couponing, and I have learn a lot from them. However, if you do not know any other crazy couponing people, I think you will find the book mention above as more than acquit to equip you to coupon, and the rest you will learn on your own.

Living Rich with Coupons website is another place you can learn about couponing. She has a whole section for beginners. Later, I will do another post listing all the couponing websites, as well as all about my coupon binder, an essential accessory.

Tomorrow I will post about an easy way to start, as well as some facts and figures of how couponing has saved us a lot of money. Seeing what an average person can do, helps me see how it will fit into my own reality. It was my friends' stories of couponing that caught my ear and made me set aside time to figure it out. It is worth your time. It is money you can add to your income, and it is ALL tax free!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Felt Food

No, I don't know where I will get the time, but I feel a urge to get in touch with my crafting side and make something with my hands that can double as a form of therapy to calm my frazzled nerves. Confessions of a Homeschooler has posted in the past about felt food. She has a link to a site with free patterns and instructions at Lit'l Brown Bird's Passion. Follow the links to view exactly what felt food is and how you go about making it.

Like most of you, I have a very limited amount of "me" time. While that being a good thing, it might take me months to make anything. The point is to refresh myself in a sufficient proportion to the work God has for me, so I am going to go for it anyway and at least I can say I tried it :-) If I do actually finish a felt food project, I will post a picture, though it may take me a few months to get the picture uploaded to the blog ;-)

Click the link here for instructions and tips on felting

Click the link here for free felt patterns and tutorials

Confessions of a Homeschooler has a whole section on her tool bar for felt food. You can find other free patterns from her posts.