Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tithe

Tithe… on it’s own it’s an old word meaning a tenth, but the fuller meaning is to give back the tenth to God.  Do you tithe?

When Shawn and I started attending church, we’d toss the occasional “offering” into the plate.  Oh, we’d feel all good and generous about tossing in the odd $20.  But really, compared to the amount we were earning/spending/wasting, it was nothing.  Unlike the widow Jesus praises in the temple, it didn’t really cost us anything.

As our faith and commitment to Christ grew, so too did my conviction that this was not enough.  We began hearing a lot about this word, tithe, and it floored me.  “ What? People give that much to a church?!”.  I spoke to a lot of Christians that I knew and began exploring this idea.  Really, it’s a recognition that God gives you everything you have, including your salary, and that He asks you to return the “first fruits”, 10 %, back to Him. 

I began to question… 10 % of what though?  We talked to a lot of people about what they would consider income to tithe on.  Your pay? Definitely.  Child tax? Some say yes, others no.  That birthday check your parents gave you?  Probably not.  If you received a gift instead, you wouldn’t calculate the value and pay 10 % of that to a church.  Some do, though. Tax refund?  Again divided… if you’ve tithed only on your take home pay, this is income you haven’t yet tithed on, but if you tithe based on your gross pay, you have. That leads to my biggest question… tithe on your net pay, or gross??

Many years ago now, Shawn and I both felt that God was telling us to tithe and watch how he would bless us.  We worked up to tithing on his take home pay, my child tax and our tax refunds.  This was our personal decision and goal, and I am by no means telling you what to do, but I would also have to say that this is a very direct Biblical standard. I think this is something that each of us has to take to God, and not set our standards based on others or what they tell us.  If you feel an inkling that you should take this area of your life to God, pray about it and see what He tells you.



So, for several years, we have loved the fact that our church will direct withdraw the same amount from our account each month.  I figured out what an average month’s take home pay with everything included is and set an amount.  I don’t even have to remember to write a check!  I have, however, realized that when Shawn earns overtime, we are not great at calculating what more we should be tithing.  Slowly, an idea has been settling in my heart that we are not quite being faithful to this principle.    When I looked at the total gross income to this house, and looked at our total amount given to the church, I realized that it was under 5%, not the 10% we thought we were doing. 

Recently God has used several things to get my attention about this. Some excellent sermons at church, as well as that inner voice.  Next was a book I read called “ The Generosity Ladder”.  The author makes this point:  It’s called first fruits for a reason.  You are supposed to give this 10% first, before anything or anyone else is paid from what you make. Tithing on your take home pay is technically giving the first part of your income to the government, and giving God 10% of the left overs.  It’s not the first portion. 

As often happens when it’s a “God thing”, Shawn’s been thinking and feeling the same things.  We’ve talked it over and are in agreement.  It is our goal to work up to tithing a full 10%. 

I admit, this feels a little scary.  In a time where there is not a lot of wiggle room in our budget, working up to double what we are currently doing seems impossible. Part of me, the selfish and doubty part, would rather use this amount to pay down debt, or save or increase our monthly budgeted amounts for certain categories. However, I can look back and see how God has blessed our first efforts at this, and how I have never regretted it.  Not even once.  I can trust that He will also bless us as we seek to follow his command to give the full 10% back to Him.  This isn’t money just laying around looking for a budget column though, so we didn’t feel able to get there instantly, we need to change a lot of numbers to accomplish this.  We’ll be increasing once right away in the New Year, and then making it our goal to increase again, reaching the 10% mid way through this year.

Instead of focusing on how scary this feels, I am going to trust in God and look forward to seeing what He is going to do in my life this year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Lovely Little Guilt Trip

This year, I have not been able to stop feeling guilty about  Christmas presents.



Did I over spend? Nope.  I got some awesome deals, and was able to get what I wanted at prices I wanted to spend.

Am I doing some things to help those for whom Christmas can be a difficult season?  Yes. 

Have I focused our home on the true meaning of CHRISTmas?  YES.  We are enjoying celebrating advent with a Jesse Tree going through the Bible to see how it all builds towards Christ’s birth.   

So what do I have to feel guilty about?  I’ll try to put it into words.

I LOVE to give gifts.  I love to watch my children with joy on their faces as they see that they have gotten that much hoped for toy.  I enjoy giving them both toys and opportunities to do something as gifts.  This year, I have a huge pile of things that will delight them awaiting wrapping paper in my hiding spot.  Shawn is building the girls a Barbie house.  Which, to those of you who know him should read : He has another  project on the go, when it’s finished it will be huge and beautiful.  It won’t cost much, though since he can build it mostly out of pieces he has in the garage… which to those of you who know him is a whole other story!

In years past, I have restricted gifts to one for each child from us, one from “Santa”, the stocking, and one from the other siblings combined.  But you know what?  I hated that.  It put a lot of pressure on me to make sure that the gift was “the” thing they were hoping for.  If you’re only giving one, it had better be the biggest item of the wish list!  They still got piles of presents from grandparents, friends and other family members, and the pile looked huge enough! I usually ended up thinking “ Why should the grandparents get all the fun of being the ones who got the awesome toys?”.  I just felt this was the thing to do to keep Christmas from being too much about the presents, so I kept planning this way anyway. 

This year, I did not even attempt such a limit.  We have saved ahead, bought items over time and made room in the budget for several large and dreamed about items for each kid. I bought a lot of the items used, and we planned which things we could make ourselves. We even ended up with several for Bremen, who at just six months will have no idea what is going on!  We weren’t going to do much, but still, there has to be something to write in the baby book as the item he received from us for his first Christmas, and the kids would notice if Santa didn’t leave Bremen a gift and stocking.   Then they insisted they wanted to pick out something to give him too!  Now, we have many gifts for each of them.

But, as I looked at it, I wondered: Is this too much?  So many people have so little, or are not able to feel peace and joy at Christmas.  Why do I feel bad that I can give my children good gifts? 

As much as I want them to enjoy the surprise of all those gifts, I also don’t want them to think they need those things to be happy, at this or any time of year.  I don’t want them to be materialistic, always wanting more or bigger things.  I want them to happy with the simple things, enjoying what they do have.  I don’t want them to forget about the real reasons for all the traditions, but I still want to give them the gifts! Can I have it both ways?

Should I feel bad that we will celebrate an idyllic holiday complete with a turkey and piles of presents? Is giving them a pile of presents more about me wanting to be proud of what I’ve given them?  I don’t think so, but still I can’t help feeling that this year, they have way more than they need.


The mom side of me also had a panic attack when I realized I would have to find homes for all these things!!!

I want to be able to just relax and enjoy the fact that all my planning, hard work and bargain hunting have led us to a year that will delight them all.  But I keep stumbling over my own feeling that the amount of money, though it may not be large in some people’s opinions, really could have been spent more wisely.  That I could have done more for others instead. That my kids don’t need more things! And that maybe the truth is, in the end it would have been better to put the money on debt and pay it off faster, something that no doubt would have paid dividends much longer than the Littlest Pet Shop set out in the garage.  I just can’t help feeling that when it comes down to it, I have chosen the lesser thing.

How to I find balance between my desire to lavish my kiddos with gifts they are going to love and my feeling that it has all become too much?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Hat Trick of Nifty Thrifty Gifties

Ok, I have been meaning to get a few more gift ideas up before Christmas gets any closer, but just haven’t found the time to sit down and blog.  So, instead of making this into three separate posts, I figured I’d slap ‘em all together and share ‘em with you faster!

DSC_0225 1. Make your own paper dolls.
I happened upon this neat site once, looking for some craft idea or another, can’t quite remember!  ANYWAY!  I think these little paper dolls are so sweet!  You print off the outlines of the dolls ( or you can choose to print them in color) and choose from hundreds of sheets of hair, accessories, clothes and themes.  There is a complete nativity set, including animals, pirates, princesses, doctors, holiday themes, seasonal sets, cultural themes, the ideas go on and on.  I printed out a pilgrims and natives set right before Thanksgiving and used them as part of a quick study on the holiday. 

The site is www.makingfriends.com .  There are craft ideas, the paper dolls and lots of activity ideas based on theme or age group, definitely worth checking out if you craft with young children!

I got a cute flowered folio from the dollar store and printed off a pile of the outfits and accessories. I’m including some popsicle sticks to glue onto the backs once they are coloured.  They’ll make neat puppets in the puppet theater of a certain little girl I know!  Quick and easy, or hours of fun colouring and designing outfits for kids !  I don’t know how to price this gift, it’s basically just the cost of printing it off at home ( which for me with our photocopier is less than 1cent a page).  Whatever it costs you to run your printer, this is still a cute and easy gift.

The site also suggests you can laminate them after colouring and use a repositionable glue to hold the clothes in place.  Then you’d be able to change outfits instead of just gluing them in place as I’ve done with my kids.  I haven’t found this repositionable glue ( but I haven’t really looked too hard either).  If anyone tries this, let me know how it works for you!

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2. Nail polish and stickers.

Ok, nail polish is not exactly a ground breaking gift idea, I know!  But, I like to give the little stickers with it.  I think adding the extra of the stickers makes it a fun gift for a little girl who I happen to know will love them!  I like to buy what (for me) is at least a decent nail polish, as opposed to a super cheap one that will not go on well and chip fast.  Added to the stickers, this gift cost me about $10 all together.


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3. Mini dish cloths and doilies.

Lots of little girls love their play kitchens.  It takes no time at all to whip up a mini doily or cute fun sized crochet dish cloth, and give them some special “linens” to play with.  I made these out of some left over cotton I had, so there is no real cost to speak of.   My girls use theirs as place mats, table cloths, dish cloths… you name it!  Send along some new play food or little dishes for a sweet gift!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Switch Gears or Stay the Course?

What do I know about choosing curriculum for my kids?  Apparently, not much!  As we are approaching Christmas, I have been evaluating what is working, what isn’t, what the kids like, and what they don’t.

One thing is unanimous, they love Apologia science, right now we’re using the Astronomy book with Junior notebooking journals.  I can’t say enough good things about it. Love it! Fun!

So far, mixed reviews on Learning Language Arts Through Literature.  I like the concept of this set.  I like that it’s all in one big book, but in reality, it’s not working that well for us.  The big book is hard to work in, directions are sometimes unclear.  There isn’t the right continuity for us.  Spelling words are given at the beginning of the week, and not reviewed.  Then, they suddenly pop up a week later, as in “ which of last week’s vocabulary words fill in this blank?”.  It’s frustratingly slow for Colleena’s age level, and I find myself skipping most of the activities. We already bumped her from the kindergarten set to the grade one set based on her ability. Yes, that is the beauty of home schooling, but if I am skipping all of it, what is the point?  I find myself admitting that I won’t use that level again unless I happened to have a child who was still really struggling with what sounds the letters make by grade one.  Time required is very inconsistent.  Some days they need an hour, some days 10 minutes! 

And, mixed reviews on the ABeka math.  Baden finds it distracting that the pages are colourful.  They tend to put questions where they can fit them on a page, and it’s not always linear or consistent. Baden keeps missing questions because he just didn’t see where they were.  He doesn’t feel there is enough teaching sections.  Colleena loves her math book and is flying through it, but doesn’t seem to retain enough of it.  She is able to kind of float along and answer the questions without really understanding enough of the concepts. That could just be her fear of being "put on the spot" though.  She tends to freeze when she is afraid you're testing her and she might be wring.  I  add extra activities to make sure she really is getting the concepts.

They love the Bible course from Alpha Omega, but I am frustrated at the use of the King James Version.  It’s just not functional for us, so we have to reference a more familiar version.  Not a huge problem, and they are really learning some neat stuff that they retain well.

So, I am now asking myself… switch gears or stay the course with what I’ve got?   Baden has requested a plain math text with more questions and less pictures. Seriously buddy?  So, he looked at Saxon Math and loved the samples.  I tested him with their placement test, and he flew through grade 3 and into grade 4.  Do I make him finish the grade 2 that we have now?  I also looked into “Christian Light” math.  It appeals to me, especially with the smaller books, but it may be distracting to him still.

I also like the look of the Bible, Reading and Language Arts programs from “Christian Light”.  I am torn about just what my kids should study for “English”.  Do they need grammar rules already?  Spelling lists and practice?  Comprehension activities?  Read alouds?  All of the above? 

French is still the most difficult issue.  The Easy French Junior level is good for Colleena, but far too easy for Baden who does already speak French well.  I did find today the set the school uses to teach in Kindergarten and grade one at the Carrefour Fransaskois and I am able to borrow it for the year.  I think I'll begin using that on top of what we have.  They also had awesome games, books and cd's to borrow.  love the local French library.  I also want to find some activities and work sheets that would be the equivalent of Language Arts in French.  Still looking into a few recommendations I got.  It's hard to know what should be taught in which order.  Anyone know what they should be learning in grade 2 for French?  Is it still just vocabulary building?

I know this is my first year, and I knew that I would have a lot to learn as we went this year, but I really thought I knew my kids and their learning styles better!  Have any of you had to switch gears mid year?  Was it a positive change, or did you regret it?  Have you used Saxon or Christian Light programs?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let It Begin, Let It Begin!!

You know that little hamster from “Bolt”, anxious to begin the adventure?  Well that is how I have been feeling about our kitchen reno.  Now that I have accepted the fact that I will be living, cooking, and schooling amidst drywall dust and paint samples, I want to just get started already!!!  It’s killing me that my much loved new lino is still sitting in a roll in my garage.  We have a few things that have to get done before it can go in, but every time I wash this ( much despised) white floor, I get irked!

So, this week as I sat staring at hideous green wallpaper, I thought “ This is it, I have had ENOUGH! I am tearing that down TODAY!”.  But then it occurred to me that Shawn might resent that.  He might feel as if I was forcing him to move the kitchen things up in priority on the to-do list.  We’ve been feeling so overwhelmed, over scheduled and over committed lately.  So I emailed him at work, wanting to gage his reaction before doing anything.

“Hypothetically speaking… If you came home and I had ripped the “chair rail” off the wall, your reaction would be: A) HAZAAA!!  An item crossed off my to-do list  OR  B) What the happening?!?”" ( Which by the way is Lily’s way of exclaiming and it makes us all laugh).

Ahh, but my hubby knows me well, so he replied: “ Based on the fact that you are asking me, I am assuming you’ve already done it, soooo… A”



After swearing to him that I had not yet started anything and thatDSC_0216 I genuinely wanted his permission, he assured me he would still choose “HAZAA!!”.

I wasted no time, boy!  I hate this ugly faux chair rail that was really just baseboards haphazardly nailed half way up the wall and the green wallpaper.  The kids thought this was the funniest job on earth! “ You mean we can rip it all off?”  DSC_0217They gleefully helped pull off all the paper.  Then Baden manned the steamer and we got the glue and backing off without much effort at all.  It was awesome to see it come down!!

Then, we painted a couple of color samples and are test driving them for a few days before I commit to painting my whole wall a very dark rust.DSC_0219




Also coming together are the plans for the built in bench!!



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And, I did remember to take some “before” pictures a couple weeks ago.  This is as clean as it ever gets around here, I was going to REALLY clean it, but then I figured that most of you have seen my house in it’s real state  (much much worse than this!) anyway… Haha!  Plus, I figured, why lie?  This is what it looked like!

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Nifty Thrifty Gifty: UV Sensitive Beads

I first heard about these beads in our Apologia Astronomy book that we are using for science this year.  They were recommended as a neat extra project to learn about the sun’s rays and how UV light exists even when we think it’s cloudy or not overly sunny out.  I found them in lots of places throughout the states, but it took a bit more looking to find them in Canada.  Once I ordered them, I got to thinking : Not only is this a fun science project, it would be a great gift idea!
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This is the item that helped me to stubble on www.science-is.com, the neat site I mentioned in my earlier post.  The owner is great, they have awesome customer service and I would recommend checking out their site for all kinds of interesting science related gizmos!




The beads are white when they are in no UV light.  This package of about 100 beads is enough to make a few bracelets, or a couple necklaces alone, more if you mix them with regular pony beads.  DSC_0230



Once exposed to UV, they start to turn color.  These are the beads after sitting in the sun for a few minutes on my kitchen table.  It’s winter light here, so not bright, and it was through the window, so it’s amazing that there is still enough UV to change them!  Still, you can see how the colors start to appear.

My kids have t-shirts that work the same way, and they have always loved them.  They are looking forward to making bracelets and “testing” to see how much UV light there is in different situations.  Homeschool-wise, there I think there are several interesting projects I’d like to try with them.  You could smear your sunscreen on them, and see how much UV is really blocked by your favourite brands, or put some behind your sunglasses and compare them to a set right out in the sunlight.  Either the kids will learn the value of wearing the sunscreen and sunglasses, or maybe I’ll learn that they aren’t providing as much protection as I thought!

Gift-wise, I think they are just plain cool. I mean, common, they change color!  So many little girls love making bracelets etc. from beads.  This would be a more unique kind for them to play with, or share with their friends.



These bags were $5.95 each.  Granted, this is more than regular pony beads cost, but I think it’s worth it to have a few of these to play with.  I found them at www.stevespanglerscience.com too.  They are in the states however, and I figured that any cost savings on the beads themselves would be erased by the extra shipping, exchange and fees.  That site has a lot of cool science games and experiments too, and I may try ordering from there in the future.  If any of you do order from them, let me know how it went!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nifty Thrifty Gifty: Rainbow Glasses

I stumbled upon these neat glasses while looking for some supplies for a school project.  I thought they’d be a funny add-on to our study of light so I had a bunch sent with my order from www.scieDSC_0151nce-is.com.  Basically, they diffuse light and break it into the separate colors so you can see a “rainbow”.  It’s like wearing a prism on your face. 

Even Shawn and I have to laugh when we’re wearing them.  It’s just good silly fun.  While I probably won’t give them as a gift all by themselves, I think they will be a unique little thing to add with our packages this year.  They were only $1.95 each!  And in case you’re thinking of popping over to Science Is to order some for yourself, maybe wait a day or two until my next nifty thrifty gifty post, I have another neat item from this store coming up.  I just wanna give a quick plug for this store.  DSC_0141It’s a neat little store in the Calgary area that carries a ton of interesting gift and project supplies.  Some of the items I bought from there, I couldn't track down anywhere else , so it`s definitely worth a few minutes of browsing!




                                                          
                                                My dining room light fixture through the glasses.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exciting Purchases!!

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Guess what this is???  It’s my colour scheme coming together!!
FabricLand is having a huge sale this week, so we decided to head over and grab the upholstery vinyl we want for the bench Shawn is building in our kitchen. He roughed out a plan last night so we would know how much we need, and I am very excited that he is at the design phase!!  I decided to wander around and see if I could find anything that caught my eye since everything in the store is 50 – 70 % off right now.  The orange cushions we had purchased a few weeks ago to be the back of the bench. I’m planning a buttery yellow wall colour. 

DSC_1537 I’m planning to use this one for valences over the two windows and a few matching pillows on the bench.



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This one is a heavier fabric that I’ll use for pillows on the bench too.


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The cushions are shiny and silky so it was hard to get the colour to show well in the picture.  In real life, though, it matches almost exactly the orange in the two materials.  I plan on having one wall painted this orange.




Mwahahahaha, I love it when a plan comes together even though I’m winging it!!

Is It Supper or Dinner?

You know, that meal you eat at the end of the day, the one that tends to be the biggest one of the day?  Around here, we’ve always called it supper.  Unless you’re eating at a restaurant, and then it’s going out for dinner.  Semantics aside, soon we will be enjoying this meal at lunch!

It occurred to me yesterday, “ Why am I trying to cook a large meal at the most stressful time of the day?!”.  I couldn’t come up with a real answer, besides, of course, that is what we’ve always done.  In our families, and probably most of yours too, the big meal is the one at the end of the day.

This wasn’t always the norm, though.  People haven’t always eaten a quick breakfast, dashed off to their days, stopping for a quick break mid day and returning home to the large meal.  For long amounts of time, breakfast, or the noon meal was the largest.

Our family is going to give this shot, and here’s why I think it will work for us.  Firstly, Shawn comes home for lunch anyway, so we’re all here.  We’ll be consuming our calories before we need them, especially Shawn who burns a gazillion calories working a labour job outside year round.  Instead of loading up our systems at the end of the day and then feeling stuffed at night, we’ll use the energy we get from the food.  I can cook and do chores first thing in the morning, when no one around here is alert enough to want to concentrate on anything anyway.  Then, after a nice meal, the two little ones can have a nap, and we’ll settle in to some school work.  I’ll be able to concentrate on lessons, because the work for day will be done, and I won’t be distracted by having to make a meal.  I won’t have to juggle tired kids and cooking at that hour that always seems to be the most stressful around here – 4:30.  When Shawn gets home, we can have a smaller meal, which for us was usually left overs anyway.  If he’s late, we won’t have over-tired and over-hungry kids melting down.  When we have evening activities, we won’t be in as much of a rush, since the quick meal takes less prep and less clean up.  When the evening activity is sports, the kids won’t have to run ( or dance) around on very full tummies.  I think we’ll end up feeling as though we have more family time in the evenings to do something together.

I’m sure it’s going to take a while to get used to not having the large meal at night, and we may feel really snackish the first couple days.  I’ve stocked up on lots of healthy finger foods to help us top up if we feel hungry.

Well, this is what I think is going to happen.  I’m trying to find ways to re-order my day to feel calmer and help me get things accomplished.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cost Breakdown: Home-Made Coffee Creamers

I stumbled upon this site a few days ago and have been sooo excited to try her recipes.  The writer wanted to come up with home made creamers because she is trying to cut out everything that isn’t natural or organic from her diet and she couldn’t stand DSC_1208knowing what is really in those flavoured creamers in the bottle.  I can’t blame her, I don’t like what they are made of either, buuuuut they are so yummy!  I however, am not worried about the complete absence of any real food item in bottled creamer, I’m just cheap!

She uses lots of fancier ingredients, which I freely and guiltlessly substituted for what I have on hand.  The first recipe I tried is for Pumpkin Spice.  Many of my friends are loving this flavour right now, and there is something about fall that makes me crave pumpkin… plus I had some left over pureed pumpkin in the fridge…

1 cup whole milk ( ahem,  2% worked just fine for my purpose here)


1 cup heavy cream ( table cream)
3 Tblsp pureed pumpkin ( I had about 1/2 of a cup left over, so I just chucked it all in)
1 tsp pumpkin spice ( I don’t buy the blend, so I threw in some cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger)
4 Tblsp maple syrup ( I don’t buy the real thing, I use the NN fake stuff because it’s super cheap, but I figured this is how she is adding sweetness and a bit of thickening.  I used corn syrup and it worked perfectly!)
1 tsp vanilla extract ( for this I did use my real vanilla)

Wisk ingredients in a med pan over med heat.  Cook until milk starts steaming then pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.  You don’t want to actually boil the milk or you’ll scold it, just get it so its starts steaming lots.

Let me just say YUMMY!!!!!  Because you are cooking the milk, it will store well for a bit in the fridge.  With this one, I got about 750 ml of creamer once all the ingredients were added and they thickened that bit on the stove.  I don’t know what you pay for creamers that size?  Anyone help me out on that one?

The great thing is, this creamer took maybe 5 minutes to make, and from stuff I often have on hand.  If you’re making pies with pumpkin, keep out 3 tablespoons and make a batch! 

So, wanna know what it costs?  $1.30. Yup, that’s it!!!  I’m totally guessing the cost of the spices and pumpkin, since those are things I had on hand.  The cream cost 82 cents and the milk cost 28 cents.  That’s $1.10, so I’ll generously round up to $1.30 to account for the spices.  It’s nice to have the cream in it, but if you didn’t care that your creamer wouldn’t be as thick, you could always make it with all milk, and the total cost would be a measly 56 cents plus spices, so maybe 75 cents.

The next one I made was Peppermint Mocha, and it was just as delicious!!  Most of the creamers on the website will work out to the same price.  If you, like me, already have most of these ingredients on hand, it’s incredibly fast and super cheap to whip up a batch!  And hey, throw it in a pretty jar, it would make a great present for any coffee drinkers on your list this year…

Tomorrow I am making the caramel one Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Here’s the link to her page so you can copy all the nummy recipes(Deliciously Organic)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cloth Diapers Again??

Every time I have had to buy diapers lately, I’ve set off on a huge rant.  The rapidly rising cost has got me thinking… is it time to consider going back to cloth?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did all kinds of reading about how to choose between cloth and disposable.  I know, I know, but I have warned you all before that I am a nerd!  Plus, I had tons more time then, and the decision seemed so important.  We chose cloth, despite taking a lot of teasing about it and hearing lots of predictions of our future failure at it.

My mom sewed me several sets in different sizes.  They look just like disposable ones, except they have velcro at the waist.  I found great breathable diaper covers and a really cool “diaper pail” bag.  Instead of a big pail, there are these neat bags in various sizes.  You literally just dump the whole thing into the washer and toss the bag in too.  I loved it. 

You know, I really liked cloth diapers.  I packed them with us and took them when we went on trips.  I used the flushable liners to make clean up easier.  I used small baby cloths to wash instead of wipes.  I hung them on our clothes line and enjoyed the look of them in the breeze while the sun naturally bleached out all the stains.

I eventually topped up the pile my mom had made me with some store bought ones.  When our second child was born, I decided to use disposables through the new born period.  We then switched to cloth, and continued with cloth diapers for both kids.  But then, we started going out and about more often.  Workers in the playroom during church or play groups didn’t really know how to deal with them, or really want to change cloth.  It became easier to put them in disposables if we were leaving the house.  When I was having trouble with my kids waking up a lot at night, another cloth diapering friend of mine was surprised that I was using cloth through the night.  She used disposables at night, she said, because then they weren’t being woken up by a cold wet diaper.

Then, my oldest was mostly potty trained and we were home so little.  Our daughter might only use three or four cloth ones over two days.  You couldn’t leave the diapers longer than that, and we had to run a full laundry cycle for just those few diapers.  The conviction that cloth was better softened and before we knew it, we were using disposables exclusively.

With our third child, we never even got them out of the bin.  I have to be honest, I didn’t plan to use them now with our fourth either, I just left the bin in the storage room.  But rising cost has got me thinking about this again.  A year ago, the regular cost of a box of 140 sz4 huggies (our fav brand) was $29.  They were $32 when the store pumped up the prices for a busy check weekend, however there were sales on a regular basis where you could snag a limit of four boxes at $20 each.  I would just wait patiently for a sale and stock up.  In the last few months, the price has risen steadily and the sales are no more.  Regular price is now $39, and today was the first time I have seen them marked down in about six months.  I was O-U-T of diapers and had to buy them no matter what they cost. $32 is the sale price now.

I did muse about going back to cloth a few months ago and Shawn just laughed.  He can’t see going back to the extra washing and the small changes in planning for outings etc.  However, my disgust at the cost of a box of diapers, as well as what I see was highway robbery for a box of wipes makes me want to consider it.

Here is what I personally see as the pros and cons of each.


Cloth Pros:


Better for the environment.

   It just is.  No manufacturing, no untreated waste in the landfill. 



Free… almost.
  I already own them, so now there is no real cost.  Washing a load of diapers might add up to about 70 cents in cost, which is less than buying three diapers.  As long as I am washing more than that, it’s cheaper.

Can never really be out of diapers.
No realizing that you are out of diapers and the stores close in ten minutes.  You always have them there.

Some say it helps potty train earlier
.  First, let me say, this was not the case for me at all!  But some say that the feeling of being wet will encourage kids to train earlier.  It also helps with the recognition that poop belongs in the potty as they will see you emptying it out of their diaper and into the toilet.


Disposable Pros:

EASY.  Change bum, throw out diaper, forget about it.  Easy to take in diaper bag, easier to dispose of while out and about.  Others that may care for your child are comfortable with them. 

Everyone else has them too. If you run out while at a friend’s house, they probably have one you can borrow.  For a long time, a lot of our friends all had kids wearing the same size diaper, it was like an awesome safety net, someone always had a size 4!

 

Cloth Cons:


Can be more work.  You do have to wash them, which is adding another thing to the to do list. Changing #2 diapers can be more work to clean out before you toss the diaper in the wash pail. 

Not always easy to use in public places.  You can’t just chuck them in the nearest garbage pail, so you need a plan for changing in public spaces, like a bag within your diaper bag.  Others who care for your child, in the church nursery or at a play group for example, may not want to deal with cloth diapers. 

Baby feels wet. Even if baby only has a little tinkle, they are going to feel the wet against themselves and will need to be changed sooner.  If you use disposables, you can delay changing baby until they have filled the diaper more.  This, however, could also be a pro as older children may want to potty train sooner.

Clothes don’t fit. Ok, it’s silly, but it is something to consider.  Because cloth diapers are bulkier, not all clothes fit your baby as well.  I did have to search out clothes that were cut wider to fit my little man, who was quite a moose even without diapers!


Disposable Cons:


Expensive.  You are literally throwing away money each time you change your baby.

Can be used up.  Last night was not the first time we were running around the house saying “ check the diaper bag, there must be two or three in there!!”.  I find it easy to forget that I have opened the last clip in a box and be completely out of diapers at the worst times.  But don’t worry, I always have those cloth ones I can grab in an emergency!

Sooooo?
I know that there are many more things that could be added to this list, but I think this gives a pretty balanced idea of what is in my head.  While I am not quite ready to go back full time to cloth, I’m not certain I won’t either.   Paying $26 for a box of wipes that last us around a month is the most galling to me right now.  I may have to make a point of using the little baby cloths and warm water when we are at home. In the mean time, I will just continue to rant and rave about the cost of disposables !

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If You Were At My House Today…

You’d have seen me dancing around, giddy happy and laughing like a crazy frenchman, mwahahahahahah! Hee hee hee!! All because of this:
DSC_1078

 



That’s right, it’s my new lino arriving at my house in the back of my brother in law’s truck!!!

                                    

 




                                    Right now, the floor looks like this:


DSC_1080
                             But very very soon, it’s all going to look like this!!!!!
DSC_1079

Monday, October 17, 2011

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas…

…Everywhere you go!  Just kidding, I’m sure the snow is not that far off but I don’t want to think about that yet!!!  It is, however, the time of year that I start planning for my favourite holiday, which just also happens to have the potential to be a real budget wrecker!

I really enjoy giving hand made gifts at Christmas time.  I have always enjoyed planning them out and working on them.  I get the kids involved, which requires a lot of prep time on my part.  So this fall, I’ve been dreaming about this neat little sewing project.  I had planned to take the one idea and make basically the same item for all the kids on my list.  I began to plan out the pattern and was setting out to acquire the material when it dawned on me:  I don’t have time for this!



Who am I kidding?!?  When on earth am I going to sew, make hand made ornaments, and make a pile of gifts?  Our fall has felt so busy with activities, schooling, appointments and life in general.  How can I squeeze more in?  The answer is, I can’t.  Not without being a frazzled mess and getting frustrated while trying to work on the things with the kids.

So, I am facing the reality this year that I cannot make presents as I usually do.  Another change this year has been that I wasn’t out garage sale-ing this summer.  Most years I stock up on small, neat gifts at garage sales.  I’ve used these as stocking stuffers and gifts for the kid’s friends etc.    This year, though, because of Bremen being so new and little, and Shawn working so much, I wasn’t able to get out there.  I may have to plan a bit more budget for stocking items this year.  I have managed to accumulate a pile of presents from the consignment sale the mom’s group had and from a few good catalogue toy sales.  I’ve been ordering the odd thing here and there to put away.  I have a pretty good start on the presents this year, but I still have a few biggies left to plan for.

I think for the annual grand-parent gift of ornaments from the kids, I will buy a kit.  I still want the kids to make something, but I can’t put the time in to find an ornament idea and prep and pre cut all the steps.  I’m going to make it easier on myself and head to the craft store to choose a simple kit.  A brand new Michael's just opened in our city…which might just be the biggest budget busting temptation of all!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Warning…Renos Ahead!

image  This is the first in a new series of posts that I plan on using to chronicle our attempts to renovate on a budget.  I am at the same time excited and dreading starting this process.

I’m no stranger to renovating, we’ve done this before.  In our last house, we spent the entire six years we owned it slowly renovating.  Now, I don’t regret doing it, we made a lot of money off our house when we sold, since we had done all the labour ourselves.  Buuuut this means I am not ignorant of how annoying and challenging it can be to live in an on-going construction zone.  I had no fronts on my kitchen cupboards for over a year ( yep, a whole year, really) last time.  And, I had a nine month old when we started, so you can imagine the mess!  Baden loved to pull everything out of the cupboards, and there was really no way to stop him.  So, to save my own sanity, I stopped trying.  I left all the dishes and pans where he last played with them, walked around them, and just washed them again as I needed to use them. 

When we moved, this house we moved to was finished.  I wanted it that way, it was our deal, see.  I made Shawn promise me that we would have a finished house, even if I hated every colour in the house, for five years.  After we moved in, we painted only the bedrooms and decided to ignore the green everywhere else.  And I mean literally EVERYWHERE else.  This house was painted the same shade of hideous green in every single room, except the guest room.  Every piece of trim, every window frame, even the doors are painted the same green.  I think they bought one giant can, then mixed it with white in some places so they could have three different shades of the same green.  They painted everything that would hold paint.  The door bell cover, the thermostat, the towel rails in the bathroom… all GREEN!  You know that shade of green that went with peach in the ‘80s… kind of a “dusty” green… well that’s the one!  I used to like green, and maybe it’s not the worst shade ever ( could be lime green afterall) but the overwhelming reality of the same green everywhere is what makes me hate this colour. 

And the lino! What was she thinking??  I know for a fact they had three kids when they chose to install it.  Every lino in the house is the same… WHITE!  No pattern, no squares, just all white, in the kitchen, in the PORCH and even both bathrooms.  I seriously hate this floor, I have cursed it since we moved in.  Not only does it show every single speck of anything, the finish is all worn off so it always looks gross.  Their grandson, over for a visit one day, decided to attack the floor by pounding a butter knife into it… so there are tiny stab marks all over which collect dirt.  Where Shawn had to peel back a bit to install the dishwasher, it cracked… another spot collecting dirt!  Recently, Shawn set down an oven rack he believed to be cool on it… but it was hot and melted into it.

Despite our agreement, the reality is that after three years of living in this house with (now) four kids and the dog ( up until this month, she’s gone now), the house is showing signs of wear.  We took out two built in bookshelves to wall mount a tv and never finished the drywall.  A piece of baseboard was under a leaky window and needed to be removed.  The wiring for said tv is draped across the curtain rods ( yes Shawn does work for the cable company but the last thing he wants to do when he gets home is more wiring!).  I cracked the moulding when I took it off to paint our room.  We ripped out the carpet because of the dog ( a whole other post about that here ).  We scabbed together the railing after Lily fell through it.  Water leaked into the downstairs bathroom ceiling and made a paint bubble.  The upstairs bathroom needs a total overhaul. The porch addition wasn’t done properly and doesn’t have heat, so it freezes in the winter. This is only a partial list, but you get the idea.  It’s just time to stop ignoring the list.

So, as much as there are difficulties to living in a reno, we’ve decided it’s time to start.  It means that we may not be making as much progress on paying down the debt, because some funds will have to be allocated to the renos.  We’ll have to do it slowly, piece by piece to avoid going into any more debt.  The good thing about having done this before is that I know the end result will be worth it.

We’re starting in our kitchen.  It’s the room that annoys us the most, and now that we are homeschooling we are in it even more.  It’s not large, so we have to make the best use of space that we can.  So far, here is our plan:

#1: REPLACE LINO!!!! : Because it will make me so much happier, I placed this at the top priority.  Funds are going to this first.



#2: Build banquette seating around table.  We only own five chairs.  We bought the kids some really cool adjustable chairs from Stokke, but they are expensive and we don’t want to invest in another one.  However, we now have 6 people in our family… and Bremen needs to start eating soon.  The Stokke chairs can be made into a high chair, but that would leave someone without one.  For the same cost as one chair, Shawn can build the entire bench.  We decided on the bench, and it will include storage for things like our hot tub towels ( door to hot tub is beside table area) and homeschool supplies.  I am already gathering materials for this project and plan a post on it by itself when we reach that stage.



#3: Install pocket door at the end of the hallway where it meets the kitchen.  This will cut down on noise when kids are sleeping, and let us visit with company in the kitchen more often.  The downside is, we need to remove all the drywall off one wall to install it.  We’ll have to repaint almost the whole house to finish the work.  We were originally going to attempt this project on it’s own but realized we couldn’t until we were ready to start a full out reno.

#4: Repaint.

#5: Refinish kitchen hutch and cupboards.  This project scares me the most, since I remember all too well living without cupboard fronts last time.  I can’t afford to replace them though, so we are just going to have to fix them up.  At least they are oak and so a great starting point!

#6: New Countertops ( new sink and taps at this stage).  The counter was peeling and separating when we moved in.  The previous owners apparently did not know what a cutting board was for, and the entire counter top is marked with years of knife cuts.  It’s lifting at both corners ( it’s a U-shaped counter) where they seamed the top.  Very gross.  Then, I added my own mark to it when I accidentally set a mini torch on top of it.  I thought it had an automatic off , but it didn’t and it burned a hole through the back.   That is a whole other story though…

That about sums up my plan for the kitchen.  Right now, I have money set aside for the floor and the bench.  We already have the supplies for the door, bought when we first started thinking about that project.  Hopefully I will be able to squeeze enough out of my money for paint too.  That way the kitchen will feel mostly finished as we save for the counter tops!

I’m scared and excited all at the same time!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wrap Style Baby Carrier

DSC_0986Ok, I have to start off by saying that this is not my favourite picture of me, but it does have a funny story which I will tell you first and then get to the point.

I was at our local museum with our homeschool group and decided that it would be much easier to carry Bremen in the wrap than attempt to get a stroller around.  There was also a press conference going on that day, and the local politicians were all there.  As I was walking by, our mayor stopped me and grabbed my camera.  “ I remember when I was a parent, there are never any pictures of moms with their kids, let me take a picture for you!”  I later found out that Jim Scarrow is a real photo bug, but it totally surprised me that he would take time out of his day to take my picture with Bremen.  I was talking to Darrel Hickie, our local MLA at the time.  Bremen was trying so hard to see what was going on that he looks like his neck is twisted!  Anyway, that is the story of this picture…Now I’ll tell you about the wrap itself!

I happened upon an article on a blog I’ve been just loving lately (Raising Arrows) about making your own wrap style carrier.  I LOVE snuggling babies, and it seemed like a great carrier for me.  It allows me to have two free hands, and it’s become a must have for grocery shopping, fussy days and outings.  Haha, not that happy Bremmie has had many fussy days, but you get the point.  After reading her super simple directions ( trust me, read the article.. ridiculously simple!) I set out to get material to make a wrap.  I bought a cotton that is made for sewing pyjamas, so it only stretches one way.  There are lots of cute patterns, and it won’t sag when baby gets heavier like a jersey knit would.  This is important to me, since my babies get big fast, in this picture Bremen is 3 1/2 months and just under 20 pounds already!

So, to make one, you buy 5-7 yards of material ( depending on your height), and cut it to about 20 inches wide.  Off of one piece of fabric, you should get 3 wraps.  I bought this on sale for about $50, so the wraps only cost about $17 each.  That’s way less than buying one!  If you want to, you can seam or serge the edges.  I just did a quick zigzag stitch.  There are lots of videos on YouTube and articles all over the net about different ways to tie the carrier.  Once you try it a couple of times, it’s really easy!

The wrap is so comfy, it feels just like baby is cuddled up against you for a nap.  The material I used is breathable cotton, so it doesn’t get too hot.  I tucked a diaper and wipes into one of the layers so I didn’t have to carry anything with me at all.  When baby is older, there are even ways to carry them on your back with it!

The first time I wore this, Bremen was just a day or so old, and we went on our epic grocery shopping trip.  Everyone kept remarking on it ( they still do) and how sweet he looked all cuddled up comfortably against me.  I ran into my sister-in-law who at that time was still pregnant ( our boys are just 7 days apart).  “Oh wow” she said" “you bought a wrap, I was looking at those, but I don’t think we can afford one!”.  “Really!?” I replied, “ Well, I made this one, and I can give you one too!”.  It felt really great to be able to give it away!  I still have the third one here, ready to be a gift to the next person who needs it!

These make a quick and easy gifts that anyone can make, even if they don’t sew. You may not have need of a baby carrier anymore, but you could always make some up to give as baby shower gifts! 

Getting Everything Done

Well, the first month of Homeschooling is done now, and I have been evaluating whether or not there are some things I need to tweak in our schedule/routines.

If I were to list all the things I need to juggle, it would be exhausting, not to mention boring to read!  As a mom with four kids to care for, a wife, and a homeowner there are just lots of tasks even without the homeschooling.  I’ve been coasting along for a while now, not quite getting everything done.  I have a new baby! It’s summer!  But realistically, I can’t let it all go forever, so I need to find ways to make it a bit more manageable around here.

We have fallen into a routine of when we get certain tasks and subjects done each day, and being flexible is working quite well for us.  We have made progress that we are all satisfied with in all the subjects.  I have to admit that the schooling is taking more time of each day than I thought it would.  Because each child has their own separate material for most subjects, I am having to spend more time at it than I had planned.  I make the school time a priority, so it’s the other things that I need to figure out!

I badly neglected my yard work this year ( see above excuses), so I am kind of glad that gardening season is over.  Soon enough, snow will come and cover up my weed filled flower beds and I will have successfully put off that problem until next spring… when I am sure I will regret having left myself such a mess.

Bremen is about to be 4 months old, and I have yet to go for my “six week” post partum check up… I know, I know.  I’m just not sure how to get that organized with four kids in tow!  I’ll have to ship them off to a friend’s I think.

I thought I had been doing a good job of getting my kids in to the dentist, until I realized that one of them was a year over due for a check up… oops!  Oh well, we are up to date now!  Baden has had three appointments in the last three weeks, with one more in two weeks from now, to have a lot of work done.  Despite being opposed to using electronics as a babysitter, I took the laptop to the office with me so the girls could watch a movie while we waited.  Occupying three kids including a 4 month old for over an hour is hard in a dental office!  I’m just doing whatever it takes to get it done right now!

I’m working on getting Bremen settled into more of a daily routine too.  Some of the other areas will settle into more of a pattern if he is having predictable naps.  I hate this stage of parenting… sleep training.  I have never liked letting my babies cry even the littlest bit, but have regretted it more when I haven’t.

Mommy time has been non existent, or spent prepping things for school.  This is the reason my blog posts have been so sporadic.  I’ve been managing ok, but I do need to figure out some time for me to relax too!

The main thing I want to change up right now is my chore/laundry system.  Growing up, my mom always cleaned the house end to end in one day while doing laundry. At the end of the day, it felt wonderful to have the whole place feeling so clean and fresh.  This is what I did when I worked, and probably up until we had two kids.  Now, this is just impossible!  I am trying to figure out a system that will work because lately our house has just been getting messier and messier!  I need to find a system of routines that will help me keep up not only on the day to day stuff, but the weekly cleaning as well as things that should be done monthly or yearly.  It’s time to start “fall cleaning” but I haven’t finished “spring cleaning” yet.  Maybe I’ll just start with the rooms I never go to in the spring?

Right now, I’ve been trying to clean a room a day.  I have to admit, it’s not really working.  I am always a day behind, or more, and end up doing the last half of yesterday’s chores, then some of today’s etc.  We keep talking about having a tidy up time each day so that things don’t get so far behind, but we haven’t been consistent on implementing it. 

I try to do at least two loads of laundry each day.  It keeps me from getting swamped under mountains of dirty laundry, but it’s not really working too great either.  Sometimes it’s piled all over my couch because I folded it while the littles were sleeping and didn’t want to wake them up going into the rooms to put it away.  Sometimes, I got it through the machines, but didn’t get it folded, so several baskets of clean clothes were piled up waiting to be folded.  Sometimes, I went through all that work only to find it bunched behind the clothes in the closet because I gave to the kids to put away.

I can never keep caught up on dishes either!  My idea was to do at least one sink full during the day and then the rest after putting kids to bed when Shawn could help me.  Except that Shawn has hardly been home because of working so much and I don’t want to spend my only time with him washing dishes!  Now, my fingers are getting dry and sore with eczema again ( a regular winter phenomenon ) so I can’t wash dishes or risk split and bleeding fingertips.  Those of you who know Shawn should know what this means: I have to wait for Shawn to wash dishes… and wash floors.

Ok, so that’s my belly aching about what hasn’t been working, but now I want to move on to what I want to do about it!

I can’t do much about the dishes, other than wear gloves and wash the few that I can. 

Laundry wise, I am wondering… do you have one day where you tackle it all, or do you try to do a set amount of loads each day?  Do you keep on top of putting it away as you fold each load, or wait until the day’s laundry is done and put it away all at once?

I know that many tasks would go smoother if we found a good time, or two, in the day to have a tidy up time.  Having a daily chores time and keeping on top of toys and “stuff” that is left out would make cleaning a lot easier.  Anyone have tidy up at a time that they have kept up?  Wondering when in our day this could stick?

One of the ideas I read on a blog is to set a task for each day, instead of a room.  For example, dust all rooms Monday, vacuum Tuesday, etc instead of clean kitchen on Monday, the playroom on Tuesday.  I’m wondering if that would work better for us?  Does anyone manage their cleaning this way?  How do you find that?

Lastly, how to manage those chores that only need doing monthly, or annually?  Do you keep a binder or notebook, jotting down when that filter needs to be replaced? 

What systems are working for you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What is the Deal With Extreme Couponing?

Ok, just caught part of that show on extreme couponers.  I have to say, I don't get it!  What is the point of having a two year stock pile of junk anyway?

It looks to me like these people are just super organized hoarders.  Doesn't most of that stuff expire before they can make use of it?  Doesn't that mean it's just a huge waste?  What I noticed was that most of the "groceries" they are getting aren't real food.  "vitamin" water, candy, salad dressings, enough toilet paper to last 20 years... it's not actually food.

And the time that goes into that! Seriously, it's a full time job finding and organizing the coupons, then planning the trip itself.  I'm all for saving money, but I just can't see myself doing this.

As Shawn and I were discussing this idea, it occurred to us that even if we wanted to, it would be hard to attempt this here.  We don't really have coupons.  There aren't coupon flyers that come with the paper, like the places in the show, and our stores don't have double coupon days.  Oh sure, Superstore has that wall of coupons for some of their brand's items, but that's not really the same thing.

Where do they get the millions of coupons that they are sorting and filing so carefully anyway?  I saw one lady dumpster diving for them, another knocking on her neighbor's doors.  Do they have websites that they get them from?  Do they pay for that?

So, I'm curious, have any of you ever set out to coupon like crazy?  How do you do it? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post–By Shawn

i don;t konsw wjkskN  





 

shift+enter starts a new paragraph

i love you!!    

SD



I have been having trouble getting Live Writer to work, i just couldn’t figure out how to start a new paragraph and the old short cut key wasn’t working.  Shawn obviously updated it for me.  When I opened my computer this morning, this is the cute note I found!

Love you too hunney!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

So, Can You See Progress?

Having coffee with a friend of mine last week, we were talking about my goal of paying down debt, and she asked me "So, can you see progress?  I mean, can you see real, measurable improvement since you started?" I've been discouraged lately that our progress has been too slow, but when I took a second to think about her question, I realized that, yes, we have made huge progress in the last 14 months!  To encourage myself, and maybe you too, I thought I'd take a moment to sum up what we have achieved so far!

We have found a "budget sweet spot" that works for us.  Enough structure to avoid surprises with enough flexibility built in that we don't freak out over a few dollars over or under in a specific category.  I make a plan at the begining of the month, trying to leave a bit of room in case something does come up.  But I have given up on trying to track every single item with a software program.  I just didn't have enough time, and being behind was just one more thing to feel guilty about.  I know it wouldn't work for everyone, but this middle ground way is working really well for us - right now anyway! I no longer worry that we won't have enough to cover expenses because I have a plan to save ahead for things we know are coming up.  Less stress all around!


We are working together.  When I was the only one paying attention to the bottom line, I resented being stuck with all the responsibility and Shawn felt left our of the decision making.  Now we have more equal input on where money is allotted.  I know when we need to spend on groceries and he knows when we need to spend on vehicle or home maintenance.


We welcomed our fourth child, and made it through a pregnancy and newborn period without overspending!

We celebrated halloween, Christmas and all the birthdays in our family without overspending!

We started homeschooling and adjusting to this new way of life.

We payed off over $6,000 that was on our visa, and burned the cards! ( fun pictures here! ).

We lowered the interest rate on our mastercard, and have paid off about a third of it.  We sold some belongings to pay it off faster and continue to make progress monthly.  Our goal is to have the remaining $7,990 dollars paid off by next October.  We were so excited to get that number under eight thousand!!

We put aside an emergency fund and have been able to leave it intact!!

We have saved ahead and paid cash for all the activities our kids wanted to participate in, which at different times has included ballet, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, 4H and piano lessons.

We bought a piano and built the girls a bunk bed.

Yes, I'd say we have made lots of progress in 14 months!  We still have a long way to go, like paying off the mastercard, then tackling the credit line, but when I look back, I can really see how well we've been doing!  What's up next for us?  We'll be continuing to sell some items, working out a plan for Christmas which may include a trip to BC this year, and we need to start work on renovating our kitchen.. besides all the normal stuff!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sometimes It Really Sucks Having Only One Vehicle...

Sharing one vehicle is a decision Shawn and I completely agree on, and for the most part we are really happy with it.  Whenever we have considered owning a second one, the added cost far outweighs what little benefits we would experience.  Partly this is because he drives his work vehicle home because he is permanently "on call" and so I almost always have unhindered use of our own stylin' van!

But there are times when sharing our vehicle really sucks!

One of the worst was right after I had our third child. Shawn's boss decided that he didn't have to be permanently on call, and so he would not need to drive his van home for two weeks out of three, while others were on call.  During this period of time, I had to pack up three kids, including a newborn, at 8 in the morning in order to drop Shawn off at work, and race back to the school to drop off our son, who could not be here for bus pick up times without making his dad late. And yes, some mornings, I was driving in my PJs...and feeling thankful that no other coworkers park at the same location he needed to! Then, I had to pick up Baden after school, come home, start supper and pack everyone up again at 5 to pick Shawn up at work.  Just soak that in for a sec, I'm sure you can imagine that was fu-un! 

As much as I enjoyed the fact that Shawn wasn't on call as much, I really hated all that extra driving!  It wasn't long, however, before Shawn was once again on call at all times, freeing me from the daily driving.

The other thing that causes havoc with my hogging of our vehicle is... hunting season, and alas it is upon us again!  I am glad Shawn hunts for several reasons, super healthy meat at a very low cost is the biggest one. ( Curious what it costs? Check it our here:Cost of Our Family's Wild Meat   ) The other is that it is Shawn's major stress relief.  I've been known to tell people that Shawn is just not much fun unless he has killed something recently, whether it be fish, foul or game.  However, it does make it hard to share our vehicle!

If Shawn needs to take the van to go on a hunting trip, I cannot use it that same day.  If he is going on a longer trip I may be home with the kids without a vehicle for a weekend, or the better part of a week.  I do not live within walking distance of a grocery store, so this requires some real planning! If I had something planned and he can somehow get a day off, I need to cancel my plans where possible.  It's been so hard for him to get days off lately that he has to take whatever opportunities come up!

And so, this is what I find myself thinking on this week: How to share the van over the next few months.  This week, our mom's group is having a consignment sale.  I need to drop clothes off Thursday or Friday, work at the sale Friday night and pick up left over items on Saturday.  Then, I would like to be in Church on Sunday.  Oh, and I have a hair appointment on Thursday. Shawn was going to take Thursday through Sunday off to hunt.  Maybe it's actually good news, then, that work is so busy he can't get away?  It doesn't really feel that way, and it's only putting off the schedule juggling for a few more days.

I'm sure we'll figure it out, just like we have in past years.  Do you and your spouse share a vehicle?  What are some ways you've found to make it all work?  What challenges do you face?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So, I Wanted to Have a Garage Sale...

For almost a year, I have been planning on having a garage sale.  We had one several years ago, and I thought then that I wouldn't do it again.  It's a lot of work, and a big commitment the day of the actual sale to devote your whole day (or days) to standing in your front yard.  Despite, this, I decided it would be a good idea to do it again.  As I cleaned out and pared down room by room, I added things to boxes intended for a garage sale.  The pile of boxes filled up all the floor space in my office, so I moved it to my garage this summer, and started planning.

I guess I decided to have a garage sale again for two main reasons. One, it would get rid of the stuff, and two, it is one way I can earn a little extra money to either help with our goal to pay down debts, or save for Christmas.  I put a lot of time into this, making sure items were clean and set out nicely.  I hung clothes on hangers and put them up so they would be easy to look through.   I went through all the girl baby clothes, keeping only what we wanted for mementos, and decided to sell the rest. I borrowed some tables and set them all out according to size.  I was selling all my maternity clothes too.  Piles of cute shoes, and many many household items. Kitchen things, craft things, books, toys, garage stuff!  Friends of ours who were moving dropped off several boxes to add to the sale.  I had some large furniture items too, a desk, a trundle bed, a stroller and a rocking chair, and even my old car was up for sale that day.

Once I had things all layed out in my garage, we could barely walk in there, and knew we'd be spreading a lot of things out down the driveway in the morning.  It took me about two weeks, working when I had bits and pieces of time, to get all the prep ready.  We kept having to move the day we wanted to have the garage sale, because Shawn's schedule kept changing.  Out of the 10 weekends of summer, he worked 8 1/2 of them.  We finally chose a Sunday, knowing it wasn't the best garage sale day, because it was the only day he would have off in August, and I wasn't putting it all away now that I had it set out!

I had to let the kids entertain themselves a lot in the days leading up to the garage sale, and I'm sure I was short tempered with them, trying to get it all ready.  I had to keep them out of the garage, since they kept whining about the toys they saw in the pile.  I had to make a trip to the bank to have a float ready, and as you might imagine, that is not easy with four kids!

Even though we had agreed on the Sunday, we both felt that a garage sale was a dumb reason to skip church.  That morning, we got up, set out the signs and dragged the tables out to the driveway.  The kids kept coming out and trying to sneak things back into the house, causing me endless frustration.  They went through the things that had been dropped off by our friends and acquired new things.  They tried to chat up every person who came up the driveway.  I tried to send them to play in the back yard, but, left to play unattended and unhappy about not seeing the garage sale, they were stinkers who fought with and bugged each other.  Every few minutes, someone's voice or cry would require attention and Shawn or I would have to go see what was up.  It was a relatively slow day, and at the end of it, all we made was..... $125.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have $125, but I don't think it was really worth it.

I have a huge pile of boxes left over to take away to Value Village.  I could have been dropping it off bit by bit as I decided to get rid of it through the year, instead of storing it and having to move it around.  After the sale, I rounded up the clothes that I don't wear anymore and gave them to a friend.  I told her to pick what she likes and get rid of the rest however she wants to.  I listed the big items on Kijiji.  While that has some frustrations, like people who say they are coming to pick something up but don't show up, I have sold some of the items and made $50 with less effort.  If I sell the other couple of things that people are interested in, that figure will go up yet.  I sold my old car to my brother, and the desk to a friend.  I set the maternity clothes and baby clothes aside to sell at our mom's group consignment sale in September.  I gave some of the toys and games to the neighbors. Ignoring the housework to get the prep done left me with a huge mess to clean up, on top of having the left over items to deal with.

In the end, I don't think it paid for all the effort and hours that went into the garage sale. Maybe it would have done better if we'd chosen a different day.  My time would have been better spent playing with my kids and enjoying my family that day, and the days I used to prep.  I guess I should have given stuff away bit by bit and sold the other items individually, just as I ended up doing anyway.  I was also looking forward to feeling as though I had done something to earn money for our family, and it's frustrating  and disappointing that I didn't earn more than that.  I don't even want to think about how quickly Shawn would earn that much when he puts in overtime. So after I finish cleaning up from this garage sale, I'll be leaving the money earning up to Shawn, while I focus on the homeschool year.  No more garage sales in the near future!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Missing Out On School Photos

When I decided to home school, I knew there was going to be some things we'd miss out on, and one of them was school pictures.  Like most parents, I have relied on the annual school photos to have up to date portraits to send to friends and family.  I have been considering what I would like to do instead this year. 

I looked into taking the kids to a local Wal-mart photostudio to take advantage of those back to school special packages.  But, I can't order four separate packages at the sale price, and I want each kid to have their own portraits.

Now, those of you who know me, know that I am an amateur photographer, and my favorite subject to capture is my kids!  I decided that when the mood struck me, I would attempt to take some pictures myself.  This way, I can order only the exact prints I actually want ( instead of those school pre-set packages).

Today we realized that the public schools started back to class.  Shawn had the day off, so we decided to have a NOT back to school celebration.  We headed out to Little Red River Park to run around and enjoy the nice weather... with camera in tow of course!  The light was perfect, and I was able to get some nice pictures of each of the kids.

So, this is a sneak peak at what the grand parents will be receiving this year for annual photos...



Baden

Grade 2









Colleena

Kindergarten

















Lilyanne

Age 2











Bremen

2 months
















So what do you think?  Will anyone miss the school style portraits?  I've already ordered prints, which means they will also be in the mail a lot earlier than usual too!  Not only do I like my portraits better  (I'm allowed to be biased) than what I had gotten from the school, but they are cheaper!  Because I was able to order only what I wanted, portraits for all four kids cost me only a little bit more than what I paid for Baden's alone last year.  Besides what I ordered for each set of grandparents, they can always have printed what ever sizes they want!

Maybe we're not missing out after all?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Thank You Loaf

I am a huge fan of the good old fashioned art of writing a thank you note.  Don't get me wrong, I still fail to keep up on writing my own, but I am going to ask for mercy because I have four young kids at home.  I try to keep up, I honestly do! I think it's a little courtesy that has been going out of style and that's a real shame.  It's always good to take a moment and thank those who have done something nice for us.  I have a stack of postcards that I ordered from VistaPrint ( 250 of them for FREE) that have "Thank You" printed across them and this has helped me for sure!  But the title is not a typo, it says loaf, not note...so here's my story.

We've recently adopted ( or been adopted by?) our neighbors.  They're about the right age to be "grand parents" to our kids and they are very sweet.  Last week, they gave our kids the most beautiful child sized garden bench I have ever seen!  Within minutes of seeing it, the kids decided it was a train station bench and played "waiting for the train" all morning.  I wanted to find a way to thank "Nannie" and "Poppa" for their thoughtful gift, and a post card just didn't seem like enough.

I had baked some banana bread that day, and decided to send a loaf over with the post card.  I realized, though, that I didn't know what to wrap the loaf in.  I didn't really want to just put it in tin foil, and I didn't have a ziplock bag the right size.  Then, this idea struck me.



I got a piece of the flour sack tea towel material and fabric markers and had the kids write "thank you" all over it.  Then, Baden and Colleena each wrote their names, Lily scribbled across it and I added Bremen's name as well.  We wrapped the loaf in the towel and carried it over next door. 


It turns out that "Nannie" used to embroider and decorate tea towels as well, so she appreciated the flour sack material.  I think it turned out to be a bit more personal and a nice way to show our gratitude.

It didn't cost me anything to make (because I am the strange sort of person who has flour sack material on hand), but it turned out to be a priceless gift idea I'll probably use again in the future.

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