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!