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Monday, July 21, 2014

10 Ways to Save Money

Nathaniel loves his fruit! 
And Mom loves him eating free fruit ;)
After peach picking, make homemade preserves
and peach lemonade!
 1. Cut your own hair and your children's.  You can buy hair cutting scissors anywhere from super cheap to super expensive, but I've enjoyed my $10 ones.  I know this gets more complicated the shorter your hair and more layers you have, but if you already have short hair it's not going to hurt to do some tiny snips for a trim to practice as you can always go in and get it fixed. Mostly ;).  Long haired women, there's not much to it for a trim.  And your child's hair, I've done his while he sleeps and/or while watching a video.  They're not in beauty contests, so they're great for practicing on!  And you might as well learn now how to do it from the beginning.
Peppers are easy to grow in the south, and great for freezing!
2. a. Garden!  Don't have a field?  Pots work just as good if not sometimes better because you can control the weeds one by one.  I have a 10x10 garden, but it's been trial and error of what plants grow well, how to keep it weed-free, and not have to spend time every day tending to it. Still worth it though once you figure out what saves you money!  Plants that you can freeze from over-production are my favorite as that'll save you the most money in the long run.
b. Plant fruit trees and berry bushes vs any other tree/bush.  Do you research as some need at least another of the same kind to pollinate with, but the harvest is SO worth it come spring!  Strawberries late spring, then blueberries, peaches early summer, then apples...shall I keep going!?  Even better, see if you can go to a plant swap or know someone who is willing to let you dig up a couple bushes.
3. Couponing.  Now this is an area I have slacked on, but know many people who have saved 100s off making this part of their week.southernsavers.comis a great start.
4. Use self control and don't go out to eat as much!  I know this can be really hard when you want to spend time with friends, or want a night off from cooking.  Or heaven forbid you have a child, or more than one, and you're exhausted!
But get creative!  Have the friend come over to your place for spaghetti, left overs, frozen pizza, etc. (still cheaper probably for you to feed you both than pay tip somewhere, and the gas to get there!).  Exhausted?  Always have quick backup plans.  For example, every time I make lasagna or certain casseroles, I split it in half and freeze half for another day.  Or think of meals that take under 10 minutes to prepare (salads, breakfast for dinner, sandwiches, sautéing whatever vegetables and meat you have and throwing it on rice).  Rice cookers are awesome investments.

Turn an uh-oh mess into an education counting moment!
And since he licked them, use them for HIS homemade
popsicles instead of buying popsicle sticks ;)
5. Your children grow and it ain't cheap.  Once again, not in a beauty contest.  Consignment sale their clothes, and don't give in to the temptation that they always need a new toy.  Feel like they need more educational toys? Go to yard sales, take them to the library and check out books, or google educational activities for home.
6. Breastfeed and/or cloth diaper. I am aware not everyone can BF, but if you can don't give up after a couple weeks because it's painful.  Get help, and know that the pain DOES subside if you're doing it right.  It's the best for your child up to the first TWO years of their life (according to the World Health Organization), and you'll save thousands! Don't forget the time you save in not having to make bottles or clean up afterwards.
Cloth diaper cow pattern for his cow outfit on
Cow Apprecation Day= free meal!
Cloth diapering is intimidating, but by my calculations we started saving money only after  9 months of buying them and will continue to do so since I'll use them for child 2 and so forth.  Yes, you're having to deal with poop twice as much, and they're not as easy to travel with.  However, they're super cute, easy to get the hang of, and totally worth not having to run to the store for disposables.  The right kind also acts as a swim diaper, so you won't have to buy those!
7.  Make home remedies/substitutions.  Ran out of windshield wiper fluid?  Use 1/4 vinegar plus 3/4 water.  Don't have buttermilk?  1Tbs vinegar or lemon juice added to 1 cup milk-after 5 minutes gives you homemade buttermilk!  Have a small infection? Once again breast milk can save you money here as you can put it on small cuts, my earring holes got infected from using the wrong metal and breast milk cleared them up in a day, or say your baby's eyes are getting gunky...put some milk on those ducts!
8.  Ask God to reveal ways in which you could cut back or cut out money-munchers.  Maybe you could designate certain days you don't drive anywhere to save money on gas and get stuff done around the house?  Can you buy things in bulk and split with a friend?  Also, use all these ways in which you're saving to not be selfish, but wise and possibly give to others. 
9. Drink more water, or at least wait for the drinks you do like to go on sale, and be patient by drinking water until then ;).  When you go out to eat, resist the urge to order that amazing sweet tea or soda you're addicted to.  Remind yourself that it's ridiculous to pay $2 for a drink that you can buy a 2-liter for $1 at the grocery store.
10. Need a vacation? Sure, everyone needs a break/rest.  But you don't have to spend more than a few hundred dollars even for a week if you play it right and practical.  Ideas: 1. Cabin in the mountains if you have a connection with a friend or coworker who can hook you up for free 2. Drive to the beach if it's a reasonable distance and you know someone you can stay with for free not too far from the ocean 3. Watch flight price patterns and you'd be surprised the places you can go for around $100 round trip.  Wherever you go, make sure you can stay with someone for free and try not to eat out as much if possible. 4. Find a "getaway" place a short distance from where you live.  Maybe you have some good friends 45 minutes away that welcome a weekend stay-cation, or if your parents live near they could watch the kids for the day while you go to the lake/pool/whatever your idea of rest is.  Ultimately, you can make a place of rest wherever you allow your mind to rest.  Heck, your bedroom can be made an amazing stay-cation if you and your spouse set it up for each other that way (candles, get the idea).
5. Count your date night as a vacation, rotate watching someone else's child(ren) so you never have to pay for a babysitter, and split a meal or make a picnic.
Our super cheap trip to NY (helped that N was under 2, so free to travel)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mentoring and being mentored

David "mentoring" N who's in absolute awe

Recently I feel God has been bringing to my attention the importance and value in discipleship, mentoring, and being mentored.  Over the years I have had the privilege of all three, and have seen damage AND growth come from them depending on how they're taken on.  Maybe we need some definitions to help?

Mentor-someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

Disciple-(other than the first 12 in the Bible of course)-To teach; to train, or bring up.
To make disciples of; to convert to doctrines or principles.

Back in high school, I had a rough experience when our small group leader explained that we in the group are accountability partners to each other. Although the purpose was to keep one another encouraged, we were not all trained in how to communicate and how to listen to each other regarding how to address sin in our accountability partner’s life.  Unfortunately, my friend and I were unsure how to go about this, and when she attempted to encourage me, she ended up telling me unproductively, and I did not know how to productively interpret.  So after one week, I thought I could not nor had I ever done anything right with my life.  And if anyone knows me, they know that I am much more sensitive to critique than I seem at first.

Thankfully I have an awesome Mom who encouraged me and helped me heal from the tough words I felt.  She also (thanks Mom!) talked with the small group leader about us being an accountability partners.  I should also say that my Mom, although biased toward her own child, didn't write off all the "errors of my ways," but encouraged me to really reflect on the possibility that I may actually have sin to deal with.  That maybe I don’t have to be defensive and I can think about how I can pray for the Lord to help me in the things I may not see on my own.  Since then, I have learned how to be a friend back to much more sensitive people.

I am now 27, I mentor a high schooler, lead a small group through our church, host a mom group, and am pregnant with #2.  Although I would say I have mentors in my life (my Mom, some friends that are a little older and/or more experienced), I am realizing there is much to be said about meeting with someone on a regular basis that can mentor from an experienced and loving view.  So finding this person is my "next step" (as our church likes to call them). 

Mom Group...can't imagine adding another boy in this pic

I encourage you to find someone who follows God's commands:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Titus 2:3-5

Pick someone who is looking to follow God in every step of their day, who has shown fruit in their life (try to live out God's Word, and are humble in their walk), and are reliable to meet regularly. Also, if you are married and your spouse loves Jesus, check-in with your spouse and make sure you both are in agreement with who you will be meeting with.


N learning drums from Dad at church

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dramatic lives mean what in the end?

Stepping on egg shells-symbolic?
 As a child, everything is a big deal.  Temper tantrum for not getting the toy first, having less candy than any sibling on Halloween, going to bed earlier than your friends, etc.
As an adolescent, you're learning some things are not all about you, but you're still focused and freaking out if you're getting taller/not growing at the rate it seems everyone else is, or being in a higher math/English/ and/or social studies class than your friends (well...used to be your friends as you may no longer "fit" or see them).

Teenagers, you know not everything is about you, but you love when they are.  Having your friends throw you a party, a boy/girl liking you, getting a license/phone/computer/ car/job, and all the drama in between.

 College, hopefully by now either a pastor, friend, or God Himself has made it pretty clear life is NOT about YOU.  Sure, it feels good when it is, but dang is that temporary and drained out like sand in a hourglass only leaving us wishing there was more.  You may learn this the hard way through "living the college life" like I did, or hopefully you were wise enough to learn from people's mistakes.

John 4 tells the story of the woman at the well where Jesus concludes with “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
How powerful and comforting that SHOULD be!  But learning to grasp the true meaning behind this, and the so many other times Jesus tries to explain how we should live our lives, isn't easy.  It isn't a dramatic 180 change either.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Psalm 26:3
Perfect peace?  That sounds nice! But first I have to trust in Christ :/...once again not this dramatic "oh Lord I trust you and all is well now!"  It's the little things that may even go unnoticed by the outside.  Like our attitudes.  Body language. Quick responses.
Nathaniel "at peace" for a moment

I've been reading in a book called Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic about how we as the parents are responsible for exemplifying grace, love, and walking daily with Christ.  One chapter is about our language.  Like any adult around children, we have to watch the words we use, but I am afraid that sarcasm, jokes, and slang are becoming "respectable sins" (the title of another great and convicting book) to make huge of a situation that should be small.  She shares of a morning trying tend to her 5 children under 5, and how the chaos of it all is "overwhelming".  For her, she has decided to cut that word specifically from her vocabulary.  Kinda silly sounding, huh?  But it gave her room to say "But I can't" when God wants us to have joyful hearts always.  It doesn't mean moments weren't overwhelming, but the words we say have so much more power over us and those around us than we realize.
I'm sure you know people that exhibit overly dramatic responses to life, just so, in turn, someone will agree with their dramatization.  After all, what's wrong with venting?  But, I wonder what would happen if we spent more time venting to Jesus, and venting to the people close to us who can then point us to Jesus?  This may be a much better approach than publicly venting and looking for affirmation, because it is far less likely that our source of true strength is going to come from our public dramatizations. Heck, I've been tempted to publicly post some thoughts just because I'm ticked, tired of, done with x,y, and z. But instead, I have found a great reward of peace from Christ when I am able to depend on him and vent directly to Him, or my husband or close friends, who, in turn, encourage me back to Jesus.

1 Thess 4:11 and 1 Timothy 2:1-4 talk about the value in living quiet lives.  That we would reach out to those around us in love, but quietly.  Any attention drawn for selfish reasons is drawn away from Christ.

Friday, March 21, 2014

You know you're pregnant when....

1. You're baby is only the size of a shrimp and you're already taking an extra pee stop in the middle of the night

(Meet Almond!  Due September 14th)

 2. 10 hours of sleep still leaves you tired

 3. You crave things like soup, and anything not in the house.

 4. Your milk supply goes down if you already have a child and are BFing, but that child doesn't seem to care.

 5. It gets harder to control your responses to sensitive subjects.

 6. You tear up from any family related movie or talk. 

 7. Your poop changes. Enough said.

 8. You can't remember if you said something out loud or only in your head. Or really you can't remember at all!

 9. Your list of things to do before baby only multiplies as due date gets closer.

 10. If it's your first, you think you're having The Chosen One and you've taken pictures every month . If it's your second or so on, ain't nobody got time to reflect on being pregnant! Haha...well, at least not without your other child(ren) making it close to impossible.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Over used, stressed, and put out?

(a moment of peace while N is learning to be gentle with Grayson)                  (a moment of chaos while holding Grayson)

There is always going to be something asking for your attention, time, money, thoughts, help, etc.

Question is, where is my heart when I feel like I am giving giving giving, and not receiving much of anything in return?  

Heart Check 1.  Matthew 6:1-4 talks about giving as to receive a reward from God and not from the praise of man.  So there goes seeking a pat on the back :P.  And fact is God is patting me on the back like a parent does when a child does something right- and that's all I need!  Getting to be in a relationship with Him IS my reward.

Heart Check 2. Galatians 6:9-10 " Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
The Bible has so many places like this where God is trying to encourage us to keep going!  This is the kind of verse worth memorizing so that when I am exhausted and have a headache I can remind myself why I am doing it.  It's so easy to get weary sometimes and want to make excuses to be impatient, lazy, or feel entitled to just give up - but that's exactly the opposite of what God calls us to do!

Heart Check 3. The lyrics to Ginny Owens "I am nothing" are so sobering to me.  We do all these things, but if we don't love....if we aren't joyfully doing them for Christ, they're meaningless.  How many times do we expect a listening ear back when we've listened to someone through their vent/struggles?  How many times do we tell ourselves we deserve things?  I am so glad Jesus didn't have that attitude. "You know what, I have been healing people all day, so I think I am going to sit and listen to a bunch of people praise me for my awesomeness and eat ice cream."  Yikes!

(Fishing attempt, only minutes later though, he was bottom-soaked from sitting in cold wetlands....sheesh)
So next time I feel like Nathaniel has taken ALL of my energy or I have done too much in a short period of time -I hope to think more of these 3 "Heart Checks."  And maybe learn to slow down a little too ;)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dealing with the In-laws

The holidays are over and, if you're like me, you spent them with a bunch of family.  To make things a little smoother among my side's currently 25-person roster, it was decided to rotate the holidays between spouse families.  This year - Thanksgiving day and Christmas Eve with my side of the family and Christmas day with my husband's side.  Next year, we flip the order. However, this formula always gets a little bit more complicated than the set plan.  Something always happens where it ends up being half days with each side of the family all week.

Maybe splitting holiday commitments sounds familiar to you?  It's hard to please all family, especially when the families are not very far from one another.  In our case, both my side of the family and my husband's live within 30 minutes of each other.  Now, add in whatever drama that is unique to your family (and we have some too), and suddenly it feels like someone put you on top of a spinner. 

Don't get me wrong, I love both sides of my families and even like them :).  But it is hard not to be biased toward my biological side.  Especially considering the fact that you have had however many more years of holidays and experiences (good and bad) than what you married into.  So how do you make sure that both sides feel you don't hate/ aren't avoiding them?  You can't! Fully at least. 
What has worked from my experience...
1. Make trip plans known and clear
2. Spend quality time with both sides if quantity isn't an option
3. Do not put it all on you if it doesn't work out.  It happens, spending quality time with every single person is like getting a straight flush in poker.  And some people would rather sit around in quantity time anyway!

Also, don't forgot Genesis 2:24 - "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."  Being married and having a family of our own eliminates the "ok, you can go back to doing your own thang when we are doing this or that."  Gatherings will become complicated as the family grows, but you still have to take care of your own family.  David and I make sure that even in all of the hustle and bustle of spending time with family because it allows us to make sure our relationship and family is healthy - which provides us with the opportunity to truly enjoy our time with family.